Hügelkultur beds, suddenly it’s all happening …

First of all, thank you to all those who have been asking what has happened to the Blog! I’m trying out a policy of writing when there’s something happening, instead of following a strict monthly regime. But it’s reassuring to know that somebody out there is reading what I write!

And something really has been happening here in the last month! I had been waiting for the diggerman for the last few months to create the trenches for the planned Hügelkultur beds (see the last three Blogs for the background to this), and he finally turned up on February 9th; it was quite a wait, and I felt as though he was never going to come, but it was worth it! In just over an hour he created the three trenches for the new beds with great skill, and with the minimum of instruction (see photos below), and the bill was a lot lower than I was expecting!

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The year in perspective …

I think 2022 was the year that the climate crisis really sank in for me. Quite apart from all the extreme events the world over, served up in copious helpings by the drama-hungry media, if I look back over the year, the one thing that really stands out is the drought we experienced here for over four months. As I wrote at the time (Blog, October 1st, 2022), it was a shock! It made me imagine all sorts of scenarios, right up to whether the land here would be able to support the Forest Garden Project if this was repeated regularly in the future.

The good thing to come out of this was the idea of installing hügelkultur beds in the Upper Garden, coupled with rainwater harvesting. This is still planned, but I am no further forward, waiting for the digger man to arrive. Unfortunately he is very good at his job (he has already done some work here), and so I think I must be further down the waiting list. I will wait until later on in January and then try him again. If that’s still no good, I will have to consider looking round for someone else, as the beds really need to be done before the spring. This involves such a fundamental change of direction, both physically and mentally, that until I can start, I feel as though things are in limbo, although my enthusiasm for the Project as a whole, and my overall long-term hope for an ecologically viable future for the planet, remain undimmed.

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Very welcome rain, at last, and I move indoors …

November has been wet, so a quiet month in the Forest Garden, although there has been plenty of activity indoors. Soup- and bread-making continued, and I have been improving my understanding of both the levain and the dough, and trying different flours. The one I am using at the moment comes from a water mill close to the Pyrenees, where they still use the traditional stone ground method. Fascinating to see, and the flour is good, but sadly it is the only mill of its kind left in my département.

I have learned to refresh the levain for just a few hours (four or five) before starting the dough, so that it is at its peak activity. And I have tried making and baking in a single (long!) day, as well as leaving the dough to proof overnight in the fridge and baking the next morning, as mentioned last month. On the whole, the overnight proofing seems to work best, as there is more time to fit in other activities during the day with this method. It also gives the yeasts and gluten a longer and gentler development, and the resulting loaves seem to be more consistent.

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