"The Earth needs our help...The Earth may be large, but it is most sensitive. And it feels the tender caress of even a single human hand. Oh, how it feels and anticipates this touch!"- Anastasia Book 2
LOVE Growing our food is a fundamental part of the reason we are here on our own land. Food that is grown by your own hand knows you and feeds you in ways that commercially grown, perfect-looking produce simply cannot do. Even if it is Organic - it has never met you, doesn't understand your needs and sensitivities, cannot respond to you in the moment and cannot feed you from the love of one who it feels is part of itself. Because you have no control over the sourcing of shop-bought produce your body can never get familiar with the precise chemistry of any particular variety or tree of any particular product and so cannot choose the perfect moment to pick and eat. Unless you can pick by your own hand the fruit or vegetable you wish to eat you will never get it fresh, either.
Since arriving eight years ago many fruit trees have been added to the orchards: plums, peaches, persimmons, pomegranate, figs, apples, medlar, cherries, almonds, hazelnuts, and also blackcurrant, redcurrant, raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry bushes, grape vines and kiwi vines.
Ravenwood already had food growing when we acquired the land. Wild plum trees, a very old established apple orchard, walnut trees, sweet chestnut trees, elder, blackberries, fungi, and an amazing variety of wild meadow herbs. Identifying the meadow plants has been a wonderful adventure. As well as having medicinal properties, many we have discovered are edible. We toss into salads chickweed, dandelion leaves, wood sorrel, yarrow leaves, red clover, St Johns Wort leaves and many others that we know are edible but haven't identified them yet. Plantain, dock and nettles are excellent greens for cooking. We use them in soups, pasta sauce, stir fry and omelette's. Other wild food we have discovered living on the land are rose hips which we dry in a net over a wood burner as we do sweet chestnuts. Below our spring wild watercress grows. In springtime when they are young we gather and dry fresh nettles so that in winter we can add them to soups. For salads young primrose leaves and flowers are good, chickweed and wild sorrel, violet flowers and leaves too. From the elder tree we have made chutney from the ripe berries, and the blossoms can be battered and fried as a special sweet treat.
We have tried and continue to implement a variety of techniques, systems and philosophies around the growing of food. The "Nice Idea" of being self sufficient has proven harder than we imagined when we first set out. Although we continue to get a large portion of our veg from our own land each summer we have yet to extend to grains in quantity or produce a reliable potato or onion harvest, mostly due to our beloved "Small brown furry things" who don't know we didn't grow it for them! In the beginning we didn't even have enough compost for the seedlings but we managed with leaf-litter and urine to get things started - then the next issue: where to plant? A big question where no-where is flat, and everywhere has something growing there already (about an acre of bracken and another of brambles, 2 of chestnuts, one of birch, one of meadow full of baby wild plums .....) We do irrigate by hose, but because the water comes out of the land about half-way down and all the gardens are above that (at the moment - there's a plan to start another garden below our other houses lower down). We must pump the water up to 60m altitude above the spring to store in 1000L boxes.