Thursday, 13 March 2014

butterflies and sandpits

Last months Permaculture Design course saw another group of inspiring people come to Ragmans Lane, and leave with many new friendships and a lot more to think about! We do several different site visits on the design courses, one of which is to the Oaklands Park Camp Hill Community in Herefordshire. Here we are met by Mark Moodie, co-author of 'Sewage Solutions: Answering the Call of Nature', and expert on environmentally sound, small scale sewage treatment. Many people have heard of reed bed sewage systems which consist of a series of ponds containing layers of gravel and, of course reeds, and Mark was one of the pioneers in developing this and similar systems in the UK. At Oaklands he talks the group through the reed bed system there and how it works. He is a great character and always has the students enthralled by what could be considered an unappealing subject!

Mark Moodie with the PDC students at Oaklands Park
The garden is growing fast here at home, especially with the beautiful sunshine which has followed the months of rain!
Suddenly there are butterflies everywhere, visiting the cherry and plum blossoms and the daffodils and primroses. I've seen brimstones, red admirals, peacocks and commas mostly.

Comma on platic bucket - it could have stayed still on something more photogenic!
Last weekend Doug was setting out into this extraordinary March sunshine to cut some one-year willow and two-year hazel coppice in the woods here at TO. There are many ways in which we would like to  use such a resource in the future, many dreams and schemes and creative projects, but this year time is a precious and limited resource as we still have much to do with our renovations. So we were wondering how to make best use of this years harvest.
A willow stool on the edge of the woods

 As we scratched our heads and pondered this, Robin was running around our legs and I found I was distracted by the need to entertain him so I could get some work done in the garden- perhaps finish the aforementioned conversation! This was when the lightning bolt struck. Ever since our last trip to the beach with Robin I have been wanting to build him a sand pit. He LOVES the sand and can entertain himself for hours just digging it, throwing it, pushing it around and probably eating a certain amount as well. At that moment I was imagining creating something akin to a beautiful woven planter made for us by Carine at the willow bank- a large ring about a foot high which can be filled with earth and used as a small raised bed. Carine had recommended lining the ring with weed-stop fabric to prevent soil escaping through the small gaps in the willow weave, and i guessed i could do the same for the sand pit.

Doug was on board, convinced by the joint need to use up the willow and contain our son, so he set off to cut me some hazel poles for my uprights and some long willow lengths for the woven sides. 
A semi-pollarded willow on the edge of the woods
We chose our spot just in front of our smallest greenhouse, which has had all of the glass removed so we can rebuild the wood frame. Infront of the lawn-facing wall is a small paved area which we plan to lift and create a rose bed in its place. We have a great selection of antique style patio roses that we bought in for our wedding, and have yet to find a home out of their pots.


I trimmed off the small side branches from the hazel and willow poles.

 Marked out the shape I wanted to create (approved by Robin),


And hammered in hazel uprights about 18" long, about 6" in to the ground. I didn't use willow for this job as would would simply take root and start growing. A living sandpit was not the plan, although I'm sure it's been done somewhere!


I then did a simple in-out weave using the willow lengths. I am not a weaver, although I'd love to learn.


Some would say I need lessons! But it took shape pretty well.



I finished with some pretty thick lengths of goat willow to make the rim nice and strong.


Next (morning) I lined the pit with some weed-stop fabric and simply folded the edges under.


Our 5 bags of sand (25kg sacks @ £1 each) were just enough to get Robin started, although I think we could easily put in another 5 bags.....especially considering how much gets transported out in his wellies.

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