I had a few days at the land last week, just enough time to work through a few little jobs on the allotment. We had a good bit of rain Wednesday, which was much needed and saved me what would have been a considerable amount of time watering.

First a little experiment: When I planted the sweetcorn I decided to compare a method of preparing the beds that I’d read about in John Seymour. He’s quite enthusiastic about a method called ‘Bastard Trenching’ (honestly). It involves digging a series of deep beds (about 12inch deep). The procedure is as follows:

  • Dig a trench across your bed &  put the soil to one side.
  • Fork the bottom so that it is loose then add a load of manure into the bottom of the hole.
  • Dig the next trench to the right of the 1st one. You put the soil from this trench into the first hole; topsoil in the bottom, then the rest, thus filling the first with the soil from the second (I suppose this is where the bastard bit comes from).
  • Continue for however many rows you want.
  • Fill the last row with the soil from the first.

Also refereed to as the ‘Deep Bed Method’ it is apparently a good way to grow heavier yielding crops in a smaller space. The theory is that the roots more easily penetrate the loose, deep soil and thus go down rather than out. You then sow stuff closer together, which has the added advantage of creating dense foliage that connects when the plant is mature creating a canopy over the soil. This helps to keep the moisture on the ground in dry climates. I have definitely benefited from this with our broadbeans. They are very close, with no gaps between foliage. When the other beds are dry this bed is still moist.

I decided to run a little test with the sweetcorn. Half in the deep bed and half on a normally dug section. The results so far are below. The deep bed section definitely looks healthier.

Sweetcorn experiment. The left section was Bastard trenched (deep dug) with manure, the right just dug over.

Sweetcorn experiment: The left section was sown using the ‘deep bed method’ & the right section was sown in to a regular bed.

Below are the pictures from some of the other potterings I did over the few days:

Ctonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all of otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Stonka; Pronounced Stonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all off otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Ctonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Stonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Tied up outside Tomatoes.

Tied up outside Tomatoes. These are the ones that suffered early on. Looking OK now.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes in Poly-tunnel.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

First Tomato

First Tomato

Re-potted strawberries from shoots.

Re-potted strawberries from shoots. Using pots means once the shoot is established you can cut the cord and plant where you like.

Planted out asparagus.

Planted out asparagus. Dug 12 inch deep trench with manure in bottom.

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Tied them up ready for training.

Took down broken Mk 1.0 Poly-tunnel & tied up grape vines  ready for training.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

Not sure what this is, I can't remember sowing it.

Not sure what this is, I can’t remember sowing it.

Can't remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Can’t remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).
First small harvest of peas and broad beans.

First small harvest of peas and broad beans. Very tasty! Should have a load by the end of the week.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now. Makes for a nice Polish breakfast.

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Panoramic of the allotment mid June.

We’ve been having trouble with our new, old car, so haven’t been able to get to the land much over the last couple of weeks. This coupled with very dry and hot weather meant that I was a little worried I might find the allotment looking a little withered and sorry for itself. We haven’t had any rain for 4 weeks now and the temperature has been around 30C for a while with no foercast of rain despite a few villagers predicted some soon. We’ve missed the band of storms which have spread through the south of Poland, which I’m glad about, I drove through one on the way to Warsaw and experianced hail stones big enough to make me think my windscreen was going to brake. The wind in these parts had also caused a lot of the crops to collapse, hopefully they will recover. We need rain, but I’d rather not a storm like this if possible.

Anyway the plants are doing ok and we had our first decent harvest of small cucumbers (Ogorki) and yellow courgettes. The ogorgki plants are producing loads, I think we should have plenty for eating fresh during the summer and for pickling.

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.

    sitebreakdown

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.