We’ve just taken delivery of a load of logs from our neighbour up the street. They were wet through and I’ve stacked them with meticulous care in the alcove around the stove. There’s a fine art to it – each layer slopes inwards, so as it dries, it naturally settles towards the walls – a bit like building dry stone walls. As usual, I get several bollockings telling me that it’s a fire hazard – it’s not. I know exactly how hot the stove gets and how hot it is overnight on its lowest setting. Even if it fell onto the stove, it wouldn’t ignite. No-one believes me but I’ve tried it and of course, there’s a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.
Continuing the kitchen analogy, the huge roasting tin that’s used once a year is stored somewhere deep in the back-yard shed whilst the stuff used every day – pots, pans, cutlery are close to hand – so it is with common-sense gardening. The stuff you need access to every day – working area, planting area, herbs, tools and so on are close by and the self-maintaining wild area is on the periphery. Permaculturists use the term ‘zones’.
I’ve done it slightly differently for a number of reasons. The original 1/10th allotment is shaded on the northern and western sides, so I’ve put all the fruit trees and the bushes around the edges, to allow maximum light in the centre. I echoed this when I bought the field. There’s now a well-establishing hedge around the periphery interspersed with fruit bushes and trees. I’ve also built an inner hedge so that both hedges form the boundaries of an outer roadway for the tractor to drive round.
I put the orchard in the far bottom corner of the field because that’s the most sheltered spot, and it gets the run-off of nutrients from the hillside. I’ve just ordered a load of trees and bushes from the excellent Agroforestry Research Trust. It’s run by a bloke called Martin Crawford, who has been most helpful. Coincidentally, he was on the radio as I was driving home from work yesterday aft. it was a programme about chestnuts and he grows them.