We (Aranya and partner Jules) have been living in Trelowia now for over 3 months and learning a lot about the land and buildings. While we're really excited about developing the site we know that's it's important to spend plenty of time observing before making any big decisions.
For instance, we've had some interesting fungi come up across the site, including Giant funnel (pen added below for scale). While at first glance the different areas of lawn all look much the same, on closer inspection the top area is hugely more diverse than the others.
We've also been observing the wind patterns, where the rain flows and how the shade lines move across the site while the Sun is low in the sky. We just go out on a sunny day early, around midday, and late afternoon, and photograph the shadows. It'll help us determine where to plant different species over the coming year.
We've been working out how much rainfall flows down each gutter downpipe, so we can determine the sizing and placement of rainwater tanks. One downpipe in particular delivers a massive 57,000 litres per year and it doesn't even empty into a drain - it just dumps it all straight on the grass.
We're planning to plant a number of fruit trees over the winter and many of the plants we brought with us in pots in the spring, so we want to learn as much as possible about the microclimates across the site before deciding where they should go.
In the meantime we've been growing some salads and winter greens under glass, while planning much more production for the spring when the weather warms up again.
One thing we immediately knew we needed is a good windbreak hedge to the west, so we started planting it earlier this month. While the low drystone wall there doesn't give much protection from the wind, it will protect the new saplings for a year or two. Here Jules is marvelling at worms while we're planting self-seeded rowans from Heathercombe on the edge of Dartmoor. We'll be filling in the hedge with more species as the winter progresses.
Winter is also highlighting the energy challenges we have living in a converted barn, with its solid stone walls and 1980s insulation. While we do have good passive solar gain, we still have much to improve from an energy efficiency perspective One thing we've done so far is have a solar array installed (a big thumbs up to the guys at Flexeco who did the job despite strong wind and heavy rain). The new array is already supplying much of the electricity we use day to day, while putting the surplus into heating.
And if you'd like to see Trelowia for real, we've set dates for our first permaculture design course here - 22nd August to 3rd September next year. We're really excited to finally be able to host courses at our home.
Watch this space for more updates on our progress.