Projects


Over the years the Apricot Centre has run a wide range of events related to sustainability, child family and community wellbeing, Permaculture Design, sustainable agriculture (Biodynamic, Permaculture, Organic), Process Oriented Psychology, reskilling work, Transition Towns, working with schools and more... 

On this page you will find examples and writings about many of these events (Unfortunately they may not be in chronological order as the many of these writeups were lost with the previous website). 




Establishing a Biodynamic Farm at Week, Dartington - Community Land Shares - The Apricot Centre is involved in a pioneering project with in partnership with The Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) with view to establishing a 36 acre Biodynamic farm on land at Week in Dartington Devon. With our now more than 25 years experience in working with Biodynamic, Organic, agroforestry and Permacultural methods of food growing, Week Farm would be a unique integration of these compatible approaches. We are fully confident in our ability working with the land and community to design and develop a vibrant farm, and are comfortable with communicating these concepts and ideas to a broad range of people. The project would also involve a continuation of our creative work with children and schools in participation with nature, and will be closely linked with our wellbeing work with children and families. 

Project snippets

  • Transition schools project The Context Ardleigh primary school is small with 100 children in four classes, deep in the Essex countryside. Just on the edge of the beautiful Constable countryside and the Stour ...
    Posted 15 Aug 2014, 23:43 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Ardleigh School Visit to the Apricot Centre May 2014 Posted in: News | Jun 03, 201418 eager children, and several lucky staff and parents, spent a wonderful and jam-packed day at this fantastic local nature centre.  After registration ...
    Posted 2 Jul 2014, 15:11 by Mark O'Connell
  • Yurt making at the Apricot Centre with Ian Harper (2007) Youtube video Yurt making at the Apricot Centre with Ian Harper. October 2007. A great time was had over several weeks prerparing different parts of the yurt.
    Posted 22 Jun 2014, 11:25 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Robin's Cookery Course at the Apricot Centre with the Earth Oven and Kids (2007) In 2007 my brother Robin came and gave us a great cookery course here at the Apricot Centre, preparing and cooking pizzas on the Earth Oven with children. 
    Posted 22 Jun 2014, 11:19 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Hooper's Hedgedating - 'Ways and Means' (Dedham) w/ Val Belsey - Reskilling the Valley Project Val Belsay in this video gives us some interesting information on dating a hedgerow.Val is a good friend of ours and author of  Discovering Green Lanes [Paperback]
    Posted 22 Jun 2014, 11:28 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Case Study: Sustainable Garden Design at Willy Lott's Cottage, Flatford Mill Download as full quality pdf
    Posted 1 Jul 2014, 04:08 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • A Design process for Sustainable Farms and Small Holdings - January 2014 Over the last 25 years I have designed many large scale horticulture / agriculture systems, Two of these I have implemented as my own( School Farm Dartington and Apricot centre Essex ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:49 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Our new woodstore We have just built a new wood-store and filled it up with split logs and boxes of kindling – it is immensely satisfying and makes you feel warm and safe ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:42 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • New Roots Project ... or making a couch potato In spring we were asked if we would like to work with the Colchester museum service to create an allotment and an installation in Castle park in collaboration with themselves ...
    Posted 27 Nov 2014, 12:08 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Apples and Plums at the Apricot centre .... (Not to be confused with 'Oranges and Lemons') We have 4 acres of fruit in total. Outside the Apricot centre and as you might imagine there is an apricot tree but the rest of the orchard is full ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:32 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Brick Lane to Hungerdown Lane Brick lane is a few minutes walk from Liverpool street station and is famous for its curry houses and Bangladeshi community. Hundgerdown lane is half way between Manningtree and Colchester ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:22 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Making a Dragon at Ardleigh Primary School The Apricot centre was asked to make a dragon story telling seat in the school grounds from designs the children had done, only using materials from the immediate vicinity – aka ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:38 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • The Medlar Middle of November and we picked the medlars – they are not yet quite ripe, or “bletted” but this year I have @ 30 kg and this is quite a marketing feat ...
    Posted 22 Jun 2014, 11:31 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • The Land Settlements in East Anglia - Article written for 'Managed Retreats' magazine The Title “Land settlements in East Anglia” conjures up images of early settlers arriving in boats from Europe thousands of years ago. But as recently as the 1930’s parts ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:44 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Reskilling the VAlley - March 2010 Over the next 20 years we need to cut back on the amount of oil we use, because of climate change and because we are approaching “peak oil”. The point ...
    Posted 31 May 2014, 13:25 by Mark O'Connell
  • April 2011 - Workshops with Primary Schools Over the year we approached 3 schools offering a range of workshops on the theme of food for no cost, but only 1 school Nayland Primary School actually took up ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:28 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Local Food production booklet and 30:30 food challenge. - Recipe Collection - The 30:30 Local Food Challenge – Eating Food from 30 Miles for 30 Days In order for the 30miles for 30 days food challenge to go ahead we realised that people would need information as how to do this. We collected and interviewed @ 20 ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:25 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • 2011 - Reskilling Workshops (download full booklet below) We ran the following workshops; 1.      Apple pressing at the Nayland Fete with promotion of both the 30;30 food challenge and the workshops, in support ...
    Posted 22 Jun 2014, 11:38 by Marina - Mark O'Connell
  • Local Food production booklet and 30;30 food challenge. In order for the 30miles for 30 days food challenge to go ahead we realised that people would need information as how to do this. We collected and interviewed @ 20 ...
    Posted 31 May 2014, 13:29 by Mark O'Connell
Showing posts 1 - 19 of 19. View more »

Transition schools project

posted 15 Aug 2014, 23:43 by Marina - Mark O'Connell

The Context

Ardleigh primary school is small with 100 children in four classes, deep in the Essex countryside. Just on the edge of the beautiful Constable countryside and the Stour Valley. The village itself is still fully functioning with a church, pub, couple of shops and a post office, a Doctor’s surgery and a Tractor outlet! It is surrounded by arable fields growing wheat, and rape seedand it is just down the road from the local land settlement of 80 small holdings specialising in early glasshouse strawberry production.  Not really a hot bed of all things transition – but almost because of this a really good place to have a go at doing it.

The real driving force behind this pilot is the school staff themselves. The deputy head Mr Tucker has a strong interested in sustainability and having been born and brought up near Totnes he was familiar with the Transition movement. Ms Parker the head is keen that the school be more sustainable in its infrastructure. She has developed the school so that the children have a wide range of outdoor learning, vegetable gardens, forest schools and an incredibly strong  sports provision. These are integrated with topic lead and subject lead teaching. This means the children are being taught by such diverse learning styles as PE maths, and PE grammar. Daily feeding of chickens has become an integral part of the Community award, but requires literacy and art work to illustrate it. Topics such as Bridges span learning about maths, physics, model making, literature (the Bridge of Trebitha), and art work and ITC.  All of the staff are wonderfully friendly and incredible teachers, clearly a strong team, with little staff turnover.

The school also uses a system called “Learning Power” developed by Guy Claxton. He was a founding member of Schumacher College and a visiting professor at Bristol University who is well versed in the concept of Eco literacy. Guy Claxton developed educational tools for children to learn different methods of problem solving – and creative thinking – the Spider thinking is about making connections, the Cat is about curiosity, the Tortoise is about taking time and reflection…. in effect the children are given the tools to be creative and how to think from a very early age. They are also taught group skills.

And of course the meals are cooked from scratch every day with good quality ingredients, by the wonderful Ruth.  I could go on, but the point I am trying to make is that the school has many of the ingredients needed for a transition school already embedded in its ethos.

The Project

I live locally and my children have gone to Ardleigh school.  I have attempted to start and develop the Transition Stour valley group over a number of years. I am also on the Transition Training pool for when trainers are needed in East Anglia and London. I worked with Creative Partnerships for many years before the funding stream was cut, to develop outdoor learning as a way of teaching creativity, and delivering maths, science, literacy and many others subjects via this medium.  I am also a permaculture trainer and designer. 

Last year we ran the 30 miles for 30 days food challenge across East Anglia, and Ardleigh school joined in, giving out charts and stickers to the children to map their local food intake, and Ruth the school cook cooked a local lunch one day (quite an achievement in a school locked into a procurements system). I went in and pressed apple juice with the year 1and 2 children. The co-ordinator of the 30: 30 project is Lucy Drake, the sister of Isabel Carlisle – the Education co-ordinator of Transition network and Lucy suggested that we could pilot Isabel’s “Transition school concept”  here at Ardleigh.

The outline for this project was developed for the Schools in Transition programme that has been piloted over the past two years, first by four secondary schools and now by three primaries. The journey for Schools in Transition, devised by Isabel, together with other educators and in consultation with schools and Transition groups, has been of embedding in place, embedding in community and then taking action outside the walls of the classroom to do some real world problem-solving. Last year Isabel adapted the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Food Web Mapping programme for Primary school use and invited three different primaries to try it out. Ardleigh is the first to complete the pilot and is sharing its experience with Marldon Primary in Devon and Ashley in Walton on Thames. Come the autumn, Transition Network will have a simple programme that any Transition group can take to a primary school to promote local food growing through mapping food webs and making a directory of local food.

I had already carried out a Permaculture design for Ardleigh on a voluntary basis and  this design was based on three levels:

·       The infrastructure of the school

·       Developing more teaching resources for the school and the children

·       Having a visible resource for teaching about sustainability

On top of this  the Transition model was requesting that the school take this one step further and take this work out into the community. A tall order for hard pushed schools! But as it fit into the ethos of the school that is all about strong community,the school kindly agreed to the pilot. This is the plan we came up with ( for 8-10 year olds):

We explored the local food in a session in the hall. I had bought a huge basket of local food and carefully chosen non-local food. (It was March, so amongst others I had fruit; local rhubarb, bananas and blackberries from Mexico, lamb from roundthe corner and lamb from New Zealand, a tub of margarine made from rape oil, a crop that is grown around the school, and other staples). I also had a shoe, bike helmet, toy car, toy boat and a paper plane as transport props. And on the floor we made a huge map of the local area, with large labels and props to show where farms and shops were. Around the walls were large cards with place names: New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Dominica, India. The children ran around the hall emptying the basket,choosing the appropriate prop to transport the food to the place it was from. We then re-arranged the food into a shoe pile, a bike pile, a car pile, boat pile and plane pile. This lead to a discussion of why some food on a boat or plane  from hot countries like bananas and tea, and about seasonality, why we were buying blackberries from Peru in March. They then made menus from the food in the boot and bike pile, that is the local food. This lead to further sessions on making a local food directory a few weeks later.

Mr Tucker used this topic to develop the concept of eco-literacy with the children. They studied the plants growing in the playing field, made cordial from

elderflowers,and used “The Man who Planted Trees” story as a basis for their own illustrated version based on Ardleigh. Mr Cole the lollipop man came and told stories of how he used to work in the local cucumber nurseries and with the Land Settlement Association’s site at nearby Foxash. We made a clay oven and the children celebrated with a meal. They also created games for local food and Mr Tucker developed methods of integrating ecology and eco-literacy with local food. In particular, in one session he played the game of the “Web of life” with the children, giving them roles as trees, blackberries, owls, worms and fungi etc. with a length of string to connect them all up. [SEE PHOTOS] The next week he asked them to do the same for an apple tree, allowing them to apply the ecological thinking to a food system.

The pedagogy used in these sessions was diverse, often kinaesthetic and tactile, sometimes reflective, sometimes discursive, sometimes class-based groups or individual work. Sometimes just reading, writing and a bit of maths!

The Outcome

I have just been to the school open evening and seen the whole room full of wonderful written and illustrated stories, of reports of Mr. Coles and his cucumber glasshouse, elderflower cordial recipes, soil samples, slide shows of the clay oven making. The children were proud, the parents interested, there was a buzz in the room.

In the autumn the children will design their own 30:30  foodchallenge and take it home to their parents with games and recipes and local suppliers – even if only for one meal.

On reflection it has been quite a journey, to translate what are in reality incredibly complex ideas around local food, and where it comes from and why we should eat it – so that an 8 or 9 year old can understand it and then explain that to another. We have  introduced the ideas of eco-literacy in theory and practice. It has been done in a way that has been a huge amount of fun, has delivered good standards of literacy and maths and numerous other skills at the same time. We are hoping to continue this work in the future to develop more ideas and lesson plans in partnering with other schools and CPRE to develop a toolkit that can be used widely.

My conclusions about the project can be summarized in the following observations; that this is a complex multilayered process, from governors through to the pupils and families including the infrastructure of the school, the pastoral care of the children, the community and the pedagogy, and the subjects taught, and the resources that are used to convey the teaching. Most importantly it is about the teachers, and their ability to work in these complex ways with the pressures on modern schools to focus on literacy and maths outcomes. It is a journey that all schools will start in a different place. It will need careful partnership working and support and a little bit of trial and error to develop these techniques further. It will also take time as, most importantly after this year of working with the school, I have realised that this is just the first step in the journey.

 

Marina O’Connell, Director of the Apricot Centre (MsCEnv, BsCHort - Organic and Biodynamic Farmer/Horticulturist. Permaculture Designer. Teacher of Sustainability and Sustainable Agriculture.)

For more information about the Transition Schools Primaries Food Web mapping contact Isabel Carlisle, Educator Coordinator for Transition Network: 01803 847976 and isabelcarlisle@transitionnetwork.org

Ardleigh School Visit to the Apricot Centre May 2014

posted 2 Jul 2014, 15:11 by Mark O'Connell   [ updated 2 Jul 2014, 15:11 ]

Posted in: News | Jun 03, 2014

18 eager children, and several lucky staff and parents, spent a wonderful and jam-packed day at this fantastic local nature centre.  After registration and a story, we all went off to explore our

surroundings, collecting anything “interesting” en route.   The children observed may trees in the vast orchard such as apricot, plum, elderberry; plants such as blackberry, gooseberry, nettles, roses, sticky willy, fennel; animals such as hens, a toad, mice, worms, caterpillars, slugs, snails, woodlice, spiders; as well as a big pile of compost, a compost toilet, a massive greenhouse, and loads of bricks, pots, trees and sticks!  They spent a busy day using stacked crates to create a “bug hotel”, inviting for the animals because of all the collected natural resources they industriously packed it out with.   This will be transported to the pre-school garden for the children to continue to look at and learn from.  We also had breaks for snacks, toilet stops, hand washing and lunch, and later ran around the woods at the back, busily collecting fallen branches and leaves to make a brilliant den.

In addition, the did some pond dipping, directed a giant lawnmower(!) and were able to touch a real sheep fleece.  Many great photos were taken, which I imagine we’ll be able to get a good look at soon.  The children enjoyed their activities greatly, and learn a lot about a variety of things – not muse the physical side of nature and all the things they saw growing and living in the orchard, but also the fact that most of the day required real teamwork.  As a parent, I found it an invaluable experience, and enjoyed spending time getting to know all the children a little better and sharing a very special day.  A big thank you to our staff (Lizzie, Jenny, Rowany, Lucy), the other mums who joined us, and Wayne and Marina from the centre, for a truly exceptional and educational fun day out.

C. Ross (Parent).

Editor’s Note
A big thank you to Mrs. Rossfor kindly writing this article.  It’s a nice change to be able to offer you the views from the parent/carers perspective.  If you have anything you would like to write about for our newsletter we would love to see it.  Please send your articles to business@ardleighpreschool.co.uk.   Thank you.   Jenny.

Yurt making at the Apricot Centre with Ian Harper (2007) Youtube video

posted 22 Jun 2014, 08:57 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 22 Jun 2014, 11:25 ]

Yurt making at the Apricot Centre with Ian Harper. October 2007. A great time was had over several weeks prerparing different parts of the yurt.

Yurt Making at the Apricot Centre with Ian Harper


Robin's Cookery Course at the Apricot Centre with the Earth Oven and Kids (2007)

posted 22 Jun 2014, 08:54 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 22 Jun 2014, 11:19 ]

In 2007 my brother Robin came and gave us a great cookery course here at the Apricot Centre, preparing and cooking pizzas on the Earth Oven with children. 

Robin's Cookery Course at the Apricot Centre with the Earth Oven and Kids


Hooper's Hedgedating - 'Ways and Means' (Dedham) w/ Val Belsey - Reskilling the Valley Project

posted 22 Jun 2014, 08:46 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 22 Jun 2014, 11:28 ]

Val Belsay in this video gives us some interesting information on dating a hedgerow.
Val is a good friend of ours and author of  Discovering Green Lanes [Paperback]

Hooper's Hedgedating - 'Ways and Means' (Dedham) w/ Val Belsey - Reskilling the Valley Project



Case Study: Sustainable Garden Design at Willy Lott's Cottage, Flatford Mill

posted 13 Jun 2014, 10:59 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 1 Jul 2014, 04:08 ]

A Design process for Sustainable Farms and Small Holdings - January 2014

posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:46 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 9 Jun 2014, 14:49 ]


Over the last 25 years I have designed many large scale horticulture / agriculture systems, Two of these I have implemented as my own( School Farm Dartington and Apricot centre Essex), others have been for other people. My method is based on the Permaculture design process, experience, a sound horticultural knowledge and Organic and Biodynamic understanding. After many years of designing and co-designing market gardens, farms and orchards an outline of my method for doing this is below. Of course it is very simplified and this process takes a year of observation ideally and weeks of work to get the "pattern" in place and weeks more to fill in the detail. But here goes anyway with a taster ...

The process follows the pattern of Survey; the site, the farmer/ group the marketplace, the wider social environment, Analysis of these details using a toolkit of tools, Designing. Creating an Implementation plan- for a larger site this would be spread over 3-5 years. and then  Maintaining the site it but also "tweaking" the parts that have not work quite as well as hoped.

My aim with these designs it to pause before the work begins, and plan the layout of the site to; make the most of the peoples energy going into a site,( growing food for a living is exhausting at best so the idea is to lighten the load a little),  make the most of the materials and resources that are being used on site (can they be produced on site with some foresight, can a local waste product be used to reduce costs),  to grow the business gradually and allow for the developments at later dates.  The aim is to create a resilient system that can flex and bend with the people the  weather and the economy. To be kind to the people in the system, and the earth, and to create livelihoods that are sustainable.  

These farms are designed to be complex systems that  work on a food production level, an economic level and a social level.  In the Biodynamic world a farm is thought of  as an organism in its own right, and as this organism comes into being it will interact with the farmers and the local community and things will often happen that were not expected,  the project will grow and develop in all sorts of way not anticipated. This needs to be borne in mind as the development of the site  happens and space left in the plan to accommodate this, the design is in reality only the first step of the process.

The Survey stage.

This part of the process should really take a year to do, and as much information should be gathered at different times of the  year. I have broken it down into 3 parts the survey of the people who will be running the farm, a survey of the site, and a survey of the business environment.

The Farmers interview;

The "farmer" may well be a community or a group or a partnership, and all the voices should be heard as much as possible. some of the simple questions or things to think about are;

  • ·       The aims, objectives and values  of the group.
  • ·       Visual – what do you want it to look like - can you think of other places that you like and identify why ?
  • ·      Feelings level – what do you want it to feel like - can you think of other places and ask yourself why do I like them ?
  • ·      Cultural links and ties with the local community or distant communities.
  • ·      Monetary financial needs for income and capital costs available - this can be quite specific, and I would encourage people to think about how much money they would need or like to earn as a starting point to aim for.
  • ·      The skills mapping of the group; what skills are present in the group, the practical ones, of growing vegetables or raising sheep, keeping accounts  but also the more ephemeral ones such as people skills, networking, listening ... making a good cup of tea ...  
  • ·      What is missing ? If there is a skills gap for what you think you might want on your farm  and you can be trained to fill the gap or bring in another person to fill this gap?  
  • ·      The Things you want / need / desire on the site, these are things such as a polytunnel, a veg field, pasture, an office, a compost toilet, a fire pit .... a list basically.  A need is something that the site must have ( a field, water, a compost toilet  , a want is something that would would be really nice if you had ( a shed/ yurt for a cup of tea and a place to get warm) and desires - the slightly outrageous things that you could have possibly one day.
  • ·      The Functions of the site with the hierarchy of need/ want / desired.  The function of a site is more general  such as to grow vegetables, to produce meat (which kinds), to produce milk, to make jam, to be educational .... to support wildlife...
  • ·      The Events for the site  need/ needed / desired; Are you thinking of open events,( 50 plus)  school groups, (30 plus) training groups (10 plus) or a few apprentices( 3-5 plus). Do you want to celebrate any events and if so what space and for how many do you need it. What would Things do you need if you hosted these events - disabled toilets, car parking, paths, seats, shelter.

Survey of the site;

  • ·      Soil - type of soil texture and structure, drainage, and condition  does it need anything added, and improvement, tested for pH and nutrients.
  • ·      Aspect; north / south facing ?
  • ·      Location
  • ·      Wind direction; where are the prevailing winds and the cold winds, the eddys and turbulence.
  • ·      Sunshine hours; how much sunshine is here in the year and what time of the year where does it fall, where are the shady spots and sunny spots  
  • ·      Rainfall; how much and when does it fall ?
  • ·      1st and last frost of the year averaged out, 
  • ·      Microclimates-  are there any cold or hot spots on the site ?
  • ·      Electrical / water supply -is there any and if so where
  • ·      Planning permissions / constraints - what can you not do ?
  • ·      Scale drawings - make a detailed scale drawing of the site with the slopes shown and mark as much of the detail above on it with overlays.
  • ·      Entrance and exits - how does the food, people flow onto and off the site ?
  • ·      Existing plants, trees, animals, structures. what is there already, and what do you think you might keep or not want to keep. what does it tell us of past use and the information above ?

Market survey;

  • ·      Potential markets; identify where you might be able to sell your produce. If it is Demeter then where are the Steiner schools, where are the farmers markets or wholesale outlets ?
  • ·      Numbers of people - how many families are in these schools or go to the farmers markets.
  • ·      How much will they spend / do they spend - what is the average spend per family on food - of the type that you will be selling ?
  • ·      What do they want to buy - you might need to do a market survey at this point and interview sample people to see if your ideas are based on reality ?
  • ·      Out of the box – what else is there ? are there any other markets  you might not have thought about in other places ?
  • ·      Food processing  - can you add value to your produce or sell to someone who can ? sausages, pies,  Ice cream, jams, juices, etc.
  • ·      Who else is in the market place, what is the difference between your produce and theirs, and price differential.
  • ·      Training - can you offer training,  is any on offer already ?
  • ·      Education -  what groups might like to visit ? how much might you earn from this ?
  • ·      Farm visits - possible HLS funding for  farm and educational visits from DEFRA
  • ·      Care Farming - is there any skills or potential groups that might come to the farm for care rather than training ? Is there any funding for this activity ?
  • ·      What is already there / supplied in the area ?
  • ·      Volunteers - might any come to help out ?
  • ·      An income from multiple threads needs to be created for resilience  I often think of this as "plaiting an income"

 

Business Legislation Survey;

This can be quite daunting when starting out and it is important not to let this put you off, most of it is quite straightforward but has a cost attached that need to be taken into account. Which of these will you need  ? What does your business need to have in place to function as any of the above;

  • ·      Insurance  - what type and what does it cost Public, employers, product ...
  • ·      Health and safely risk and benefit analysis
  • ·      Policies that need to be in place -  if open to the public ....
  • ·      Food processing; environmental health, food hygiene certificate, labels designing  and comply with trading standards.
  • ·      Register with Demeter/ Soil Association  - fees and inspection criteria and records and files that need to be kept from the start.
  • ·      Register for holding number with DEFRA - register for HLS.
  • ·      Business structure  - what form will the business trade under - this needs to be registered with local authority / companies house, HMRC
  • ·      Accounts and record keeping - setting up systems for annual accounts and invoices, PAYE.
  • ·      Logo and looking presentable to the public.

Links;

  • ·      Support and networks
  • ·      Other agencies to link up with
  • ·      Affiliations
  • ·      Grant sources
  • ·      Finance sources

 

Analysis of data

Once you have carried out the survey you have a huge amount of information and you need to make sense of it. We use a number of tools and methods to do this of which I will share a few

Input output analysis of all elements and functions

For the site to be as ecological as possible you need to "bend round" the inputs and outputs on the farm - close the farm gate and start building the soil fertility  from within . All the outputs generated should become an input for another part of the farm, and if possible you should grow or produce as many inputs for the farm as you can. For the physical site this process can be done with  a series of overlays and flow charts.

Multi-functionality

Resilience of the system is built by each function being supplied by more than one "thing" so for instance the water supply might be supplied by water harvesting, mains water and reduced use through mulching and windbreaks. A windbreak might also supply coppice wood for pea and bean poles.

Flow and movement

The flow on the site is very important and should be intuitive and also conserve as much energy of the people on the farm as possible.  You dont want to be walking miles each day because the pack house is not near the parking for the vehicles or trudging miles to move compost from one spot to another.  The "things" should be placed next to where they flow naturally and make it easy for us humans !

Flow of Energy from outside the system

Make the best use of the energy coming onto the site, such as sunshine, water, wind.  Put the "things" that like the sun in the sunnier spots, and put the things that dont like or need the sun in the shady spots, likewise the wind can be ameliorated with windbreaks, but if you are sitting a wind turbine it will need the wind. This can be sited on the drawings that you have made.

Constraints

There are always things  that you cannot do and these must be added into the pot.

 

Designing ....

This is the stage where you gather all of the information above and chew the end of your pencil for some hours ! This is when you  decide where all of the "things" in your list above go onto the site, the car park, the storage, the pack house, the water harvesting, the pasture, the tunnels the veg plots....site them so that they are in the right place for the people on site and the right place for the energy coming from outside of the site.  Then go back over it again and again to imagine the wind and the sun, the rain and the people and the animals and the flow of produce on to and off the site - will it work ?

 It is really important at this stage to work from Patterns to Detail - I often find people are afraid to fill the whole space if it is  a large site.  Starting with the periphery and the paths that flow around the farm,  then generalise  where will the animals be, where will the large scale horticulture be where will the intensive horticulture be where will the people sit for their tea break where do people come in and out. At this point with lots of rough workings you can ask yourself does the design fulfil the functions listed above  ? ( there are many other tools and methods to use at this stage but this is just a taster of the process)  

There are two main methods for representing this work at this point, one is the scale drawings and overlays, the other if on a larger scale with a group, with plasticine, twigs, gaffer tape and string, make a model on the floor and move things round discussing as you go how it fits together. Either way in the end it is good to have drawings to scale that you can work from for costings and implementation. It is good to have a written description as well.

 Then go back to the group and get feedback and then tweak

Implementation plan

To work out the  implementation plan, imagine your design is complete in 3-5 years and then work backwards - again remember pattern to details -so the details will come towards the end of the implementation stage. Structural implementation comes first even though sometimes it feels counterintuitive, then day to day implementation including detailed cropping plans and rotations comes further along. The development of the site happens in the winter months and then the maintenance and growing happens in the summer months. Once this is done it can form the basis for the costings, the capital budget and the cash flow as income is generated gradually till it is complete.

Presentation

I would present detailed scale drawings and detailed written overall plan, with broken down implementation plan, costing, sources of where to buy the inputs that are necessary. Business plan, staff training, developing links. Grants applications and suggestions.

Remembering that once the project begins it will begin to evolve and be tweaked all through the process.

 

MOC Jan 2014

Our new woodstore

posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:41 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 9 Jun 2014, 14:42 ]

We have just built a new wood-store and filled it up with split logs and boxes of kindling – it is immensely satisfying and makes you feel warm and safe just looking at it.

So why am I telling you this ? Apart from the huge sense of showing off the lovely new structure ? It is a permaculture wood-store and it tells a story.

The log store itself is placed on the north side of the apricot centre giving is shade in the summer and keeping out of the driving rains mostly from the south west, it also adds an extra layer of insulation on the cold side of the centre from the bitter easterly winds that whip across our farm.

The kindling is from coppiced willow grown on the south west side of the glasshouse this gives extra wind protection to the glasshouse in the winter (and yes it needs it ) as well as creating a woodland feel for the chickens underneath. We harvest the coppice in March when the worst of the winds have died down and to let the light in for the newly emerging  spring crops. (this is called multifunctionality)

The broken up wooden boxes have come from next door, where they have been used to import strawberry plants form the Netherlands. I buy them from my neighbour and use them for a few more years for my fruit crops and finally when they are completely   finished with we smash them up and use them for kindling. (this is called input out put analysis)

We burn this wood in the Apricot centre in a beautiful ceramic stove that we load in the morning  or evening and burn @ 13 kg of wood – the flue is then closed and the heat builds up in the body of the stove heating the room for about 12 hours. If you have been on a course in the centre in  deep winter you will know that you also need a jumper in the morning and sometimes we have to supplement this with a bit of electric heat, but on the whole we heat the 80 square meters with this stove through the winter.  We also have a rayburn in the house to supplement our central heating that is currently oil based but hopefully soon  we will switch  to an air source heat pump( this is called resilience) .

Some of the wood is harvested from our own small farm where we grow coppice hazel, willow ash and sweet chestnut after only 10 years we have a small fuel harvest from the site. The rest of the logs we buy in from a local forester who manages a woodland of coppiced sweet chestnut less than 10 miles away where a colleague of mine produces organic lavender. ( this just feels friendly)

So our lovely new wood store tells a story of permaculture principles and practice all on its own ! 

New Roots Project ... or making a couch potato

posted 9 Jun 2014, 14:37 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 27 Nov 2014, 12:08 ]

In spring we were asked if we would like to work with the Colchester museum service to create an allotment and an installation in Castle park in collaboration with themselves nad the homeless people of Colchester. So we did. You can see the results as a Google Storyline

The allotment was created on the Big garden site, in High wood park in Colchester, over 3 weeks we put up a poly tunnel and made 8 raised beds in the cusp of the spring and then started planting frantically.

Ciera the curator and creator of the project came every week with lunch and tea and coffee and taxi loads of folk ready for a few hours of gardening. Aidan worked fantastically creating and then planting then making scarecrows ... and most of all Ciera listened to the stories that come out to make a series of exhibitions about the stories of these hidden people.

A key part of the project was the installation – that was to be created above ground at the back of Holytrees museum in Castle park in Colchester. I am not sure how it came about but it was decided that the containers for the plants would be furniture from Emmaus, a homeless project, and we would somehow make a room outdoors. After much thought the creative spark comes when least expected , and one hot lunch time on a playing field in a school I realised that we could plant the sofa with potatoes to make a “couch potato” once this idea was given the crew at the allotment the ideas came thick and fast. “a bed of roses”, chillis in the gas fire, leeks and peas in the toilet, marigolds in the sink, lavender in the draws.

So we gathered the furniture and in one very surreal afternoon planted the bed of roses and the couch potatoes and so on, we grew this all on for a few months and then put it all together to create a room – a kind of bed sit outdoors at the back of the museum

It looked beautiful, it made people laugh as they clocked the associations of plants and furniture, it made people realise how difficult it must be living outdoors without a home as the furniture got wet, and above all it gave the people who made it a huge buzz ! 

Apples and Plums at the Apricot centre .... (Not to be confused with 'Oranges and Lemons')

posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:32 by Marina - Mark O'Connell

We have 4 acres of fruit in total. Outside the Apricot centre and as you might imagine there is an apricot tree but the rest of the orchard is full of lots of other fruit.

The Orchard starts a few yards away from the training room, and as you go through the gate you walk through a procession of trees ordered and structured according to permaculture principles. Slightly chaotic to  the untrained eye but all beautifully performing as they should 15 years after planting.

There are 7 “pockets” of fruit arranged into Harvest zones, so that we start picking the top fruit in the 1st section in July and end up at the top section in October.

The fruit is planted in polycultures  to reduce the incidence of pest and diseases and varieties are chosen to maximise the resistance to disease. We encourage functional diversity into the orchard, cow parley, fennel, to attract hoover flies, nettles home to lady birds, hedges to house birds, and allowing longer grasses and grass heads to feed the birds who yes do eat a bit of fruit but seem mainly to mop up the aphids and caterpillars for us. Clover on the floor of the orchard feeds the trees with nitrogen.

We are registered organic, we apply the Biodynamic preparations regularly, and we are registered as a LAND site demonstrating permaculture principles. Look us up on www.apricotcentre.co.uk 

The varieties that we grow are;

Early august section;

Jubilee and Belle Plum

Late august section;

Oolins gage, Cambridge gage

Discovery and Scrumptious apple

September section;

Saturn  and Red windsor apple

Laxton cropper plum

Conference pear

Merryweather damson

October section;

Monarch , Winter gem and Red Falstaff and Egremont russet apples

Marjories seedling plum

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