Chapter 35: Part iii. My Orcadian edible forest garden.

Gardening with 20 month old twinkles and a 4 soon to be 5 year old is not for the faint hearted.

Gardening in Orkney is not for the faint hearted.

Regarding both these points, you have to embark upon your gardening sessions knowing chaos could ensue, plants may not be successful: You may plant but pants may be pulled back up again by either the dimply hands of a toddling twin or the whispy hands of a ferocious whipping wind.

I have been blessed with a fair sized, garden pretty small really compared to the average plot of land, but its enough for a good amount of garden, that surrounds the whole of my house.

It’s just grass. Papay grass. Do not underestimate the strength of grass that has to survive a Papay winter (or summer for that matter). It will take all your motherly strength to de-turf that garden.

So far, I have attempted to build a 15+ meter windbreak on the north side planting a double row of willow setts, using 160 cuttings.

I had tried to get local willow but having limited time to research and gather links from folk, but being largely housebound in an Orkney winter with frequently interrupted internet connection to none at all, I only found suppliers further afield. I tried to contact willow suppliers in Northumberland, so I could have a little piece of home grown shubbery, to no avail, so I found a supplier who could send me a good quantity of willow and I went with them.

The four of us planted the setts on a day that I would call “nice”. Back in Newcastle that kind of day would be a pyjama day indoors.

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The winds and rains returned for the next couple of days. Then on another calm sunday I planted another 40 or so cuttings preparing the ground as I went, battling the super strong Papay grass, which has learned to survive in frequent winds notching up a speed of a 100mph.

however fiercly this grass clung to the earth, I was not to be defeated: I WILL grow food fo my children in this garden.

Self sustainability is and always has been a huge part of my vision, my dream life.

So back to the actuallity of gardening.

As I beat the turf and unearthed a range of bits and bobs along the way, including half a chimney pot, I felt triumphant, got the tired twinkles to sleep, checkeed on the 4 year old who was poorly, bless her and resting in bed and I preceeded to treat myself to a jug of coffee (cups kust dont cut it when parenting twins). I felt relaxed, and completely connected to my beautiful surrounds, so i sat chilling on the garden wall, adoring the whistling wind, feeling the actually warming sun on my skin, watching in childish excitement the blue skies and double rainbows, and evesdropping on the geese at the loch, I couldnt quite make out their words, but they were having an awful lot of fun, frequently bursting into raucus goosey laughter. A temporary sense of “wOw sometimes this mothering 3 littles on my own is actually easy” washed through my mind…..

How naïve!! At that very second, I heard twin 1 crying, far too early into her afternoon nap to be normal… so I thought oh no whats going on… lets just say when I got in to twin 2 also rowsing from his sleep and a not so gentle squeaking from my eldest who had actually gotten out of bed for the first time in two days. Before i even looked in the kitchen I knew my temporary moment of bliss was not true bliss just the precursor to the shenanigans unfolding in the house. Little miss had reaked havoc in the kitchen, making snacks for me snacks such as almond milk and chocolate sprinkle soup -all over the floor as well as in a giant mixing bowl, with about 10 spoons so we could share.. yes very cute, no not very helpful. The little darling had then climbed on the bench and got stuck and caused even more mischief.

I had to abandon the garden, I had to somehow apease two grumpy tots, whilst getting an untimely luch prepared, whilst cleaning up a kitchens worth of mess, whilst stopping the grumpy twins from causing even more mess, whilst washing up the 4 year old..

The lesson, if you ever have a moment of rest/calm/ peace in parenting, dont trust it. Chaos is unfolding somewhere.

All the shenaniganary aside gardening with three littles is such a gift, having the children plant from such a young age, connecting with earth and the seasons, understanding the process of planting, growing and eating is a  truly blessed way to live.

I’m filled with gratitude that in this crazy fast paced world where we undervalue nature and overvalue money and material wealth, my littles get to grow in such a wholesome world in such awe inspiring surrounds.

our garden plan.

Year 1:

Winter: Plant living willow windbreak

Indoors: start sowing seedlings. Herbs and trees and all other plants which need to be sowed to in February.

March: dig over the earth in beds. At this point in the year (still in hibernation mode, tired and lacking in energy) I have chosen to only plant edible flowers, herbs, salads, fruit and nut trees, and soft fruit shrubs. Working out the plots of my flower beds, placing plants in suitably shaded or sunny places.

I’ll be doing companion planting, planting different species beside each other in order to naturally help with pest control, or nitrate pulling, planting climbers beside naturally tall and sturdy friends all that shebang. Obviously its the very early days of establishing a garden from just grass and i have my 5 year vision plan at the forefront of my mind when doing anything here at the beginning of working with my garden.

Edible flowers include hardy climbers like nasturtium and honeysuckle to hardy shrubs such as fuscia and forsythia. To a range of green manures: borage, clovers, corn flowers and many more beautiful edibles to brighten our salad bowls.

We also have rose hips from our garden back in Newcastle, always good to bring a little bit of home with you.

Although I have the five year plan I’ll be working on different areas over the years. Hence why starting small. If I’m feeling good later in the year (I’m sure I will be, I might planrt some root veg. But in a climate that can have mild to ferocious weather its good to have an observation period to see what you are working with.

And I’ve only been here for autumn and winter so I dont know what spring and summer can bring.

My garden will be following the knowledge and wisdom of permaculture inspired growing. Creating an edible forest garden That will take minimal gardening the more established it gets, only harvesting, annual rotations, wind damage, and adapting positions and plant partners if we have a problem with pests.

thats it for noo I think.

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5 thoughts on “Chapter 35: Part iii. My Orcadian edible forest garden.

    1. Yeah, its all very experimental. Half of my garden is walled, the northwest aspects where I’ve planted willow will also be backed up by hardy climbers weaved into our wire fence, rosa rugosa and hardy fuscia shrubs which grow really well on our little isle.
      A number of folk have created pallet windbreaks which are really effective, but i dont have that number of pallets or that much space. Its a work in progress… i have a 5year plan to protect us, even slightly from the wind.

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      1. It sounds amazing ( and brave ) I am pretty sure you can get pallets from the farms round about? Also used black plastic sheeting that the farmers wrap there hay / silage in, And if you put in under gravel you don’t get any weeds growing through ( If my memory serves me correctly ) I am in Orkney a lot and if you want anything brought up ( in a car and within reason ) let me know : )

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  1. I wok up this morning to find your chapter 35 open and ready for me to read…..no idea how or why but I was just there on my phone. And…what a lovely read! Very traumatic and it even brought back some scary memories of when my own son lost consciousness and I thought we were losing him? My son didn’t choke he fell down a flight of stairs and bumped his head n a tiled floor. It was so so scary….
    I have never felt so helpless and scared, so i know how you felt. I’m so happy that he’s come through the trauma.
    So well done on your wee blog, I will certainly be o be reading it gain….not sure how I do this on a regular basis but I will figure it out! If only the magic fairy would just leave the page open for me every time you make an entry….
    Ah iv just noticed a ‘follow’ option just below my typing…I will try it
    Keep up the good writing and we’ll done!

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