Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 - still moving forward

2016 - still moving forward

Each year I like to look back and compare the past to see if we are still moving in the right direction. Our lifestyle is all about living a simpler and more healthy life, less reliant on money and avoiding the rat race. 

One measure of this is the place we spend most time, the garden, our little field. Having started out with a wet, flat, and blank field, the question is are we moving toward a place that gives us plenty of fruit, veg and a nice environment to just live in. Pictures and numbers seem to show this best and since 2015 I have been recording all the food that we have grown. Since we only moved in in December 2012 we didn't manage to grow much in 2013 and the trees were all too young to produce anything. 2014 saw a lot more being grown but it wasn't until 2015 that all the beds were dug and trees started to produce anything worth weighing.

December is probably the worst month for looking at photos of the field but it is a good time to compare with what we started with.

December 2008
Click on Photos to see larger versions.

December 2015

December 2016

2015 saw us harvest nearly 500kg of food. 2016 has seen this increase to over 800kg with a lot of it being sold and although it is a lot of food it is still nowhere near enough to be anywhere near self sufficient, not that being self sufficient is a goal, but it does show just how much hard work and how much food is required for a family of 5. 

What we have learnt, for our situation at least, is being 100% organic and not using chemicals is simply not possible. Most of the potatoes, parsnips, beans were destroyed by slugs. Carrots and beetroot were destroyed by moles. The bean problem we recovered from after using slug pellets but it was too late for the others. Several hundred Kilograms of food were lost, or simply not grown. Potatoes and parsnip would have accounted for a large amount of food that could have been spread over months. We won't be suffering from slugs again, it is simply a waste of many hours work and loss of valuable food.

Sprouts, Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower were also a total loss due to caterpillars. The loss of sprouts and cabbage was the worst since they are easily stored either on the plant or a freezer but this can be rectified without chemicals. Our netting failed. 

Had we avoided the big failures it would have made a huge difference in the amount of food available and this years total would have been around 1200kgs. Next years goal is to get around this total. This year we managed a 79% increase in harvested food, next year we need the same increase. This is easily possible and as the fruit trees get older I can see 1300 to 1500kg will be possible within a few years.

A bonus this year was the number of eggs we had from the 20 chickens. Enough to eat, make cakes and sell but unfortunately the chickens stopped laying somewhere around August when they started to moult. By the time they got their feathers back the number of hours daylight started to drop and they never started to lay again. Spending money feeding unproductive chickens opened up a new opportunity - meat. Slaughtering birds was a difficult job but one that we over came. By the time they were killed the meat had become tough, only good for casseroles cooked for a long time but the freezer has 8kg of chicken breast meat. This has shown that next year we can have chickens for eggs, then eat them before spending money feeding them through the autumn and winter. The chickens stopping laying also highlighted the fact that they may have become stressed with the heat of the summer, then by the mud as things got wetter. I have dozens of nut trees and more willow to plant around their pen to keep wind off, provide more shade and give them more of a woodland area. All these extra trees will hopefully keep more areas drier in the future as well as provide food for us in the form of nuts.

The field is filling up, becoming more of a garden but is still a wildlife garden. Plenty of messy untidy areas which is good for wildlife.

July 2013

July 2014

July 2015

July 2016

The summer time photos from each year certainly show the field filling up and trees growing. The Willow is particularly noticeable.

This year also saw us create our own jobs. We now have a market stall selling plants, fruit and veg and home made crafts. We also sell home made crafts that friends have made. This year was a test, we started late, in June, and didn't have much to sell but as the summer progressed and we had more crafts, jams and veg the sales went up but by the time we had a full market stall the weather had changed, summer had gone and the footfall in the market had plummeted. We have to stand there each week to keep our place on the market but also to keep regular customers coming back but there is very little money to be made when it is cold. All the earnings will need to come from late spring to late summer but next year we will start with a full stall to take better advantage of the busy period.

Living as we do, in a modern society, is a struggle, more of a fight, but we are moving forward. The struggles are for another post because society and the way it is set up is designed to stop our way of life and make every one conform and be consumers... 


  1. Lovely to discover your blog, and someone who has similar views of the modern world. You've done well with your plot this year I think. Growing is always a learning curve, hopefully this year will be even better. Wishing you the very best of luck.

  2. Producing almost a metric tonne isn't doing too badly! What's the balance of fruit, veg and meat/eggs? I guess mostly veg at this point. Fruit trees take a long time to hit maximum production, but supposedly when mature you can get 50kg+ per tree. I'm looking forward to proving it one day.

    Regarding land required to be truly self-sufficient, I've read numbers of 1+ acre per person, although it must depend a lot on your diet. A low meat diet would likely need less land since you lose a lot of calories in the plant -> animal -> plate chain.

    I try not to use chemicals, but I do sometimes use slug pellets to protect vulnerable plants like seedlings. I've not had problems with most veg though once the plants are big enough. The exception are the brassicas, as you say - I mostly don't grow them because keeping caterpillar free is too much work.

    What nuts did you plant? I have no nuts in our garden since the only ones which don't grow very large are almonds and hazel nuts. Almonds are tricky because of the early flowering, and unfortunately the other half refuses to eat hazel nuts. I guess you have the space for more exciting things like chestnuts and walnuts - although you may have to set squirrel traps if you want to eat any.

    Good luck and best wishes for your continued resistance to wage slavery...

  3. Fruit can be quite high yields (will have to add them up) because we have a lot of strawbs, rasps, currants, Gooseberry, then we have 5 or 6 apple, 2 pears, cherry, quince etc (all young - 5 to 7 yrs old). From memory strawbs last year were 20kg+, raspberry 10kg+ can't remember the others. Maybe 10% by weight compared to veg plus eggs.

    Nut wise, none producing yet, all too young, but 15 or so hazel nut, 5 or 6 walnut, still only 2 years old from seed, Chestnut, raised from seed and Almond. Chestnut and Walnut I'd like to see fruit before I become too decrepit and die :) Hazel may fruit this year or next if I'm lucky.

    Fruit should be a lot more this year as the trees have put on a lot of growth in the last year.

    It's the chickens that make the biggest difference on a small 1/2 acre site. 20 of them were producing 18 eggs a day at the peak, then we have the meat from them.

    As far as getting 50kg from a fruit tree, a friend has an orchard, he planted it 10 years ago, I guess the trees would have gone in at 2yrs old and just by a photo of one pear tree I wouldn't mind betting he's close to that. They did tell me how many apples they got and pressed for juice etc and it was incredible - took a few of them all week to process. He has 20 odd trees.