Wyrdwood Acres

Follow one families adventure as they build a new life of self-reliance and sustainable living, embrace permaculture and undertake a mammoth task of self-building a straw-bale forever home in the sun.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Wyrdwood Manor

It's been a while since we shared our plans with our awesome readers here so I thought I'd spend 5 minutes to bring you all up to speed.

This was our initial basic layout for the plot when we very first bought the land:

Wyrdwood Acres Permaculture Retreat Initial Layout Plan
Starting from the road access on the left, we will have:

Farm Market Stall for fresh produce and products with an honesty box

The first box will be parking for residents and visitors
The second blue box will be the kitchen garden which will supply annual crops to the house
Then we will have the tool shed for storage
Next is the geodome for starting seedlings and extending the growing season
The four blue boxes next are the fields that we will eventually rotate our chickens and goats in
Everything after that will be allowed to go somewhat wild as a food forest, with the classroom and yurts for visitors among the trees. We'll be running courses and workshops for visitors so the classroom area is essential for us. Each yurt will have it's own outhouse with compost toilet but the shower block and kitchen areas will be communal.

We've also included a pond although we are not sure that there is enough rainfall in the area to sustain it, we'll have to wait and see.

We hope that over time we'll be able to establish a living fence around the entire perimeter as a shelter belt and another source of edibles. It will be interesting to see how the layout and plan changes as we go forwards, one of the reasons we're going to be posting it all on here is so we can look back on it in the future. Hopefully we won't have too many mistakes to learn from!

Carly has painted a beautiful watercolour impression of the initial plan:

Wyrdwood Acres Permaculture Retreat - Watercolour Layout

Where Wyrdwood Manor will be located on the land

We've shared these plans before in the past, but one thing we haven't shown you all yet is what we're designing for our forever home. We already had our hearts set on building with straw bales when we moved out here and were lucky enough to find an architect that specialises in sustainable building particularly with earth and straw and with her help we have been able to create a one of a kind plan for the house. Our land is planted almost exclusively with Almonds, so we thought it was only fitting to honour the spirit of the land by drawing inspiration from the patterns in nature that are right in front of us, afterall humans are not designed to live in tidy little boxes, there are no straight lines in nature. For the shape of the main house we drew inspiration from the almond tree flowers,  for the separate work studio we will build it in the shape of the almond nut:

Design for the Almond Flower House and Almond Nut Studio
When it is built it will be truly unique and a stunning example of what can be done with natural materials. The walls will be built using straw bales and then lime rendered on the outside and earth rendered on the inside. All grey water will be directed through a reed bed filtering system and put back into the land, the house will take care of all of its own waste and electricity needs and be as self sufficient as possible.

Wyrdwood Manor Design Layout
 There will be a three bedroom house on the eastern side of the building for my family, the west side is a self contained 1 bedroom annex for my mother-in-law and father-in-law. The are both connected by the central pentagon, this will be a library /study/ meditation area with an open roof covered by a geodome at the top.

South and North Elevations of the house
I think the central area is what I am most excited about, being able to see the sky during the day and the stars at night will make it quite a spiritual place, sheltered within the house but still connected to the natural world.

Cross Section Of The Centre Of The House
The roof will be an earth covered green roof planted with wildflowers to provide additional habitat for all important pollinators, I'm hoping to put a bee hive or two up there as well eventually.

3D Artists Impression
 So you see it will all be really quite stunning once it's finished. We're planning to do all of the building ourselves so will be inviting anyone that wants to come and help and learn to join us in this undertaking. The roof of the Studio will house all of our solar installations so as not to impact on the aesthetics of the main house, so the studio has been specifically designed with this in mind to house batteries and such at one end.

Work Studio

Studio elevations

At the moment we have submitted plans to the town hall, they have already told us they have no problem with any of it as our architect is in constant contact with them so we expect to have our building permission back by the end of September so we can really get moving with the project physically. Now to design a kitchen garden that will be worthy of such a project!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Article in Permaculture Magazine

Tricky Wolf -  Permaculture Magazine Article
We've had an article published on Permaculture Magazine!

It's a quick article explaining a bit of our background story, how we got to where we are and what we're hoping to achieve, if you'd like to catch up with the article follow the link below:

Click here to read the full article

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Slowly but Surely

Things finally feel like they're happening. After months and months of what feels like endless waiting around, we should FINALLY be signing for our land next week. 

This is it. this is the beginning. No more scheming and dreaming. Now it's time to start putting the wheels into motion.

We're going to be sharing all about our adventure. The highs and, possibly more importantly, the lows. I feel it's important to be transparent about this process and discuss our triumphs and losses. We have no need for secrecy and if our experiences can help somebody else who is hoping to do something similar to us, then that's amazing in my eyes. 

So, deep breath. Let's do this!


Saturday, 18 March 2017

5 Ways To Test Your Soil Without A Kit

So many people go about their garden with a sort of haphazard, hope for the best approach without observing what type of soil they are working with or having any idea what sort of problems they may come up against.

Since it's almost time for people to get stuck in to their gardening this year I thought it might be useful to share with you some different ways to test your soil so you have a rough idea of what you're working with, which will allow you to figure out maybe what amendments you may need to apply and help you get the most from your Garden this year. Most of these methods were covered in my Permaculture Design Course and are easy to do at home without forking out on complicated professional soil testing kits or specialist equipment.

You can collect soil for different parts of your land and mix it to give you an overall picture or you can target specific parts of the garden to get an more intimate knowledge of your soil.

1 - Glass Jar Soil Test

Take a clear glass jar and fill half way with soil. Fill the rest of the jar with water leaving a 1" air gap at the top to allow you to shake the mixture. Attach the lid and shake vigorously for a minute to break up any clods in the soil and allow all particles to become suspended in the water. Put the jar in an out of the way place to allow the particles to settle undisturbed

Glass Jar Soil Test
The next day your sample should have settled in to something vaguely resembling the photo above. If you look closely you should be able to see the separate layers that make up your soil. Sand are the largest particles and make up the bottom layer, Silt forms the middle layer and Clay is the smallest mineral component and falls on top. By looking at the ratio of each you can build a rough picture of what type of soil you have, in my photo example the soil is from the part of our land where the kitchen garden will go and you can see that I have almost equal parts Clay, Silt and Sand which classes my soil type as Loam - one of the best soils to garden with.

The perfect combination for garden soil is 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand.
If the combination is 30% clay, 60% silt, 10% sand = It is a Silty Clay Loam soil.
If the combination is 15% clay, 20% silt, 65% sand = It is a Sandy Loam soil.
If the combination is 15% clay, 65% silt, 20% sand = It is a Silty Loam soil.

To confirm your results if you are unsure you can couple them with the next technique:

2 - Hand Soil Test

Hand Soil Test - Form A Bolus

The following test when used in conjunction with the jar test can help form a picture of what type of soil you really have, it's time to get our hands dirty!

Use the following infographic to find out your soil type using your hands (click to see full size)

Hand Soil Texture Test
Hand Soil Test - Forming A Ribbon

Knowing your soil makeup can help to foresee what you might expect to come up against. If your garden is predominantly Clay then you will find it may be prone to waterlogging in the winter, backbreaking to dig in the summer and difficult to grow things like carrots, although brassicas will thrive on the high nutrient content that it provides. If you have mostly Sandy soil it will be fast draining and may not hold enough water for thirsty plants like tomatoes but will suit long rooted plants like tomatoes/parsnips perfectly. 

Once you know the texture it is a good idea to find out if you have acid or alkaline earth with the next soil tests

3 - Alkaline Soil Test

Collect 1 cup of soil from your garden and put 2 spoonfuls into separate containers. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH probably between 7 and 8.

4 - Acid Soil Test

If it doesn’t fizz after doing the vinegar test, then add distilled water to the other container until 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. If it fizzes you have acidic soil, most likely with a pH between 5 and 6.
If  your soil doesn’t react at all it is neutral with a pH of 7 and you are very lucky!

5 - Worm Test

The worm test requires a bit more energy and enthusiasm! Worms are a good indicator of your overall soil health, and it's easy to test your soil at home with a worm test. Wait until soil is warm and moist, mark out a 12 inch x 12 inch square then dig out a 12 inch cube of soil and place the earth on a tarp etc, Sift through the soil and count the earthworms. If you have at least 10 worms (the more worms the better) then your soil is healthy and passes the test. If your soil is low on worms it could be an indicator of underlying soil problems, it could be down to lack of organic matter, contamination of chemical pollutants or high salts and worms will also die if your soil is consistently too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, too acidic, or too alkaline.
Since these wriggly subterranean helpers do so much to improve the soil in your garden it is well worth giving them a favourable environment; Earthworms adore damp organic matter like compost and love to chill out beneath mulch and no till gardens in general. 

Whatever your soil type do not despair, there is no type of soil that cannot provide an abundance if given the right TLC. I have yet to find any soil that does not benefit from good quality compost and organic matter, after all you can garden on top of solid rock/concrete with raised beds of good compost!


Friday, 17 March 2017

Permaculture Diploma

It seems like forever since I updated everyone! over the next few days I'll bring you all up to speed, sorry for leaving you all hanging!

Today I took the next step in my Permaculture journey by joining the Permaculture Association and submitting my application for a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.

Harvesting Bamboo in the Spanish Mountains

Permaculture has been such a massive positive energy in our lives since I completed my Permaculture Design Course in 2016 and has been the driving force in us completely changing our lives for the better. I'm really excited to be working with my old mentor Graham Burnett, he is a published author, writer and owner of Spiralseed as well as being, in my opinion, the Yoda of Permaculture!

The Diploma takes a minimum of 2 years but I am going to give myself 4 years to complete it, I think that the fact I will be building my own house & homestead would leave me too time poor to attempt to do my diploma portfolio any quicker than that, and it gives me optimum time for reflection and evaluation of my designs. I will be writing more about my permaculture designs on our website for our homestead, Wyrdwood Acres which we home to build in to a flourishing permaculture centre over the next few years and can't wait to share our progress with you all :)
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