February 2013


So it is getting a little warmer, the snow is starting to melt and it feels like spring is definitely on the way. The official Polish sign of things changing for the warmer is the first sightings of Storks, there has only been one of these, which can be considered an outlier, so there is still some way to go, nevertheless I can’t hold back any longer.

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I have been putting off sowing the first batch of seeds. From my first year of the allotment I learned a valuable lesson. On that occasion I sowed early batches in Jan (this was in England), I ended up with a lot of tomatoes ready to be planted out, and other things, way before the weather would allow it. I ended up with 50 odd tomatoes plants squeezed into a very small greenhouse that I had made. Looking after them was very time consuming, taking them out of the house every morning and putting them in at night, to avoid the frosts, took 15mins a go at least, not to mention they all ended up a bit stressed out; the batch I planted early April ended up giving fruit the same time as the ones I sowed in Jan.

https://cityandthemountains.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/tomato-dreaming/

https://cityandthemountains.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/tomatoes-re-potted/

So not to make the same mistake twice I have sowed into some trays that I think will keep the tomatoes in good shape for about 8 wks (based on my previous experiments). This gives me until early may. The average last spring frost date here is 26th May, which means I will have to have my poly-tunnel ready and I will have to come up with something clever to keep it over a few degrees in there overnight. I read in John Seymour (guide to self-sufficiency) that you can put a compost heap in the greenhouse, if it has plenty of hoarse manure and other goodies high in nitrogen it will produce enough heat to keeps things snug over night. We’ll see…

I sowed:

Tomatoes (36): 12 each of three varieties.
Aubergines (24)
Globe artichokes (12): Don’t know much about these other than they are perennial. Not sure how long it takes from seed to plate. When I have some details I’ll get back to you.
Red and White onions (seeds) (56 of each).

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Proverbs 24:27

‘Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.’

This has been on our mind a bit. We have a dilemma,  nothing in place for food production and nowhere to stay. There is still plenty of snow on the ground here and the temperature is still below freezing, however, we are sure spring is around the corner. We are getting ready to hit the ground running as soon as the weather improves. There are a few projects which are going to be tricky to schedule, these we are planning at the moment. Getting lots of prices, measuring, working out a budget, what we really need and what we can do without for a bit.

Our main task is to get our food production under way and to make sure we have fuel (seasoned logs) ready to burn next winter.  Below is a list of the things we are getting prices for, finding suppliers, and planning. I’ll give more details on each when I have something presentable:

  • Fruit trees: where to put them, where to get them, who pollinates who (wasn’t aware of the need of pollinators).
  • Forest trees:  to restock the ones we cut over the next few years
  • Polytunnel: I want to make this myself. If anyone has experience with this I would appreciate some guidance.
  • Plan allotment plot: price seeds and tools, and work out long-term crop rotation etc.
  • Work out soft fruit: where to put them (they will be there for a while), how many, where from.
  • Fencing: find supplier for allotment fence, 200m odd.
  • Hedging: find bushes to eventually replace the wire fence around the allotment and to provide more wind protection.
  • Accommodation: Planning materials for making a room comfortable to live in. Until we’re there a bit more regularly, people will keep ‘borrowing’ our things.
  • Tree cutting; working out how to work and service my new chainsaw, and where to get safety clothing.

I thought it might be nice to give you a bit of a look around the land. The map below shows my route. The video is a bit shaky but at least the music is good!

Video Route

Video Route

I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a stock take of the lay of the land and the natural resources on offer. I’ve given a couple of google satellite images and broken them into sections giving names to help discuss them. I might put this up as a page on its own so you can refer back later. I do hope we’ll all come up with some more inventive names, although they may well be in Polish, so these unimaginative ones may be more practical for a bit.

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Large field:

This year we are letting another farmer plant and harvest corn in this area. It is too much for us this year so in exchange for a few quid, literally, the land will be ploughed, sowed, harvested and hopefully manured again.

largefield

Small Field:

This is about 6000m2, and will be the site of our vegetable and soft fruit patches. We are planning to use 1000m2 for this, dividing it into 8 or 9 rows 5*35m. We will use one row for perennial crops, which will stay the same over the years, and then rotate the other rows giving one row a rest every 7 years. Initially we will be fencing this 1000m2 odd to protect from dear and wild boar, not so many rabbits hear as in England. There are a few ideas about the rest of this section, maybe a vineyard, maybe a section of woodland. It is relatively dry and sandy soil. The allotment is the priority this year, so we’ll se what happens with the rest. We would love a vineyard but will have to do a bit of research on varieties that will survive the harsh winter.

Smallfield

Woodland:

I haven’t worked out the size of this yet, but it is crucial to our self-sufficiency plans. Eventually all our cooking, heating and hot water will come from wood. In Poland the forestry people technically own any forest land on your property. You have to ask them for permission to cut down trees. We had our guy come out this weekend and he showed us what we can cut. Most of our trees are no good for anything but the fire (I’m not sure what they are in English yet). We have about 7 decent sized trees to cut, as well as a load of smaller ones. Unfortunately our forest guy found the evidence of people cutting down loads of our trees sometime in the last year whilst we weren’t staying here. This is a shame, but I think we have enough wood for a few years. Our plans are to plant another woodland area with Birch. These trees are cheap here, about 1000 trees for £200, and they are fast growing. Not sure how many we will plant the first year but we want to build up our woodlands to enable us to be self-sufficient in fuel in 5 years odd. Lots more of my wood management education to come. I have a chainsaw now, courtesy of my wife’s parents (excellent birthday present!!), and we need to cut the trees by the end of March. Can’t do it before we are staying there a bit as the wood will just get stolen.

woodland

I’ll carry on with this in another post, I’m sure that’s enough to read for now. Any ideas or comments welcome! I’m off to price up and try to design a poly-tunnel.

Following a period of inactivity on our blog in 2012 we are picking it up again under quite different circumstances.

When we first started this blog we had just acquired our first allotment and were  keen to learn about growing our own fruit and veg, as well as catching fish, foraging and anything else that would help us live a bit cheaper. we have always been drawn to the  type of  self-sufficient life John Seymour describes in his ‘Fat of the Land’. All my ventures in the past, and now ours (with my wife), have in one way or another been with this in mind, always limited by our lack of capital to start any type of small-holding.

Well last year things  started to move forward when my wife’s family bought a small-holding in Poland. We signed up to move over and help work the land. Our inactivity on the blog was due to a few changes we had to make in England to get us into the position to move over to Poland in November 2012. Our allotment suffered a lot due to us moving into a caravan a 20-mile round trip away. Initially I kept up planting by cycling to and fro, but this wasn’t sustainable over the year with work etc.

Sad sight of our allotment after we neglected it 2012.

Sad sight of our allotment after we neglected it 2012.

It was a bit sad but our allotment suffered and we took to monthly visits just to strim the weeds. In summary we packed everything up in England, left our regular jobs, and I moved away from family and friends to emigrate to Poland.

A few months on and we are in Poland, waiting out the winter in the city ready to start restoring the buildings so that we can live there, and working the land. Our goal now is to work towards the type of self-sufficiency John Seymour achieved. This is a loose goal, I see ourselves on a path from our recent way of life, working 9-5 all week and then spending all our money on food and accommodation, to a life of working very long hours on our own small-holding to directly provide the things we  need as a family.

Our families plot. Slightly larger at  70,000 m2.

Our families plot. Slightly larger at 70,000 m2.

I will be providing the technical information as I did for the allotment before. Again I am still not in any way an expert but hopefully our efforts will be of interest to people who are thinking about a similar move. The blog also serves as a way to document things for ourselves and our family to come, its already interesting to look back at our first posts from a couple of years ago when all this was just a pipe dream.

A few pictures so you get the idea:

Barns and Houses in the distance.

Barns and Houses in the distance.

Main house on a sunny day.

Main house on a sunny day.

Largest of the three ponds.

Largest of the three ponds.

Winter view from entrance.

Winter view from entrance.