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We are in the final stages of construction of our first new "eco-pod" cottage - a 64m2 open plan cottage which will have shared access (with a second eco-pod due for construction later this year) to an outdoor cedar hot tub and sauna. Photos and booking will be available soon.
The pod is situated in the orchard area, and we will shortly be converting this into a permaculture forest garden.
28 April 2014 - bees move in
Our new beehive is now occupied by a nucleus colony of native Manx black honeybees. The hive is situated well out of the public areas, so don't worry if you are nervous of bees. The colony seems to be doing very well so far, returning to the hive laden with pollen.
26 April 2014 - new wildlife-friendly hedgerow
We have finished planting over 150 native Manx trees (including hawthorn, holly, dog rose, hazel, crab apple, wild pear, wild plum, cherry plum, and birch) to form a new wildlife friendly hedge across the back of the property which will also act as a windbreak. Hard work but will be well worth it!
12th January 2014 - our first eggs
One of our Welsummer chickens laid our first home-produced free range egg this morning. And this afternoon we had a second one. So hopefully now there will be no stopping them, and our slightly younger Lakenvelders shouldn't be far behind. Subject to availability that means we will be using eggs from the farm in our B&B breakfasts from now on. [Update - all seven birds are now laying, so we have a steady flow of eggs!]
6th January 2014 - Dark skies!
Great news today that the Isle of Man has been accredited a further 19 Dark Sky Discovery Sites, which are locations which have sufficiently little light pollution that you can see the Milky Way. There are not many of these in the British Isles, but the Island now has 26! Even better is that one of them is at West Baldwin Reservoir, just behind Ballawyllin. You can certainly see the Milky Way from Ballawyllin so this isn't a surprise to us. If you're interested in star gazing, bring your telescope with you and gaze away!
9th December 2013 - managing the orchard
Just finished laying a new windbreak hedge in the orchard area. This will have the dual function of protecting the fruit trees from wind in the winter, but should also supply a great harvest of rosehips for a variety of preserves, syrups etc! To add to our existing apple, plum and blackberry harvests. I am also starting the process of mulching some areas of the orchard to allow the grasses and various weed-type plants to die back so we can plant more useful plants in the area. Mulching this way is pretty much the only "organic" way to kill off the weeds and grasses, but it takes quite a while. I have also been putting down rather a lot of mushroom compost, sourced from Greeba Mushrooms (great mushrooms, and great compost!). Once the weeds are clear next year we'll be planting lower level shrubs for fruit etc as well as ground cover plants that keep the weeds down and also improve the fertility of the soil for the trees. All this work is based on Martin Crawford's really excellent book "Creating a Forest Garden - working with nature to grow edible crops" - again this is a long-haul project but one which will hopefully lead to a self-sustaining ecosystem providing a wide range of foods for us, and a great environment for local wildlife.
1st November 2013 - working on the wildflower meadow
My son and I have just finished clearing the cut grass from the first area of our newly managed wildflower meadow. We will be planting some yellow rattle (provided by Andree at the Manx Wildlife Trust) next week - this is a semi-parasitic plant which weakens grasses in order to allow other plants to thrive. This should enable the wide range of native wildflower species which have been clinging on in gaps between the grass to flourish and become much more visible.
14th October 2013 - wildflowers
Andree Dubbeldam from the Manx Wildlife Trust (and author of the great guide to Manx wildflowers "The Wildflowers of Mann") visited us this afternoon. We spent a great couple of hours looking at the amazing diversity of wildflowers lurking in our (former) paddocks and getting advice from him as to how to manage these gradually into a flourishing wildlife meadow. It will be hard work but hopefully well worth it!
1st September 2013 - more chickens
Our second batch of chicken pullets arrived today, again thanks to Ruth at Pet Poultry. To add to our four Welsummers, who have been growing fast, we now have three lovely little Lakenvelder pullets. They have been introduced to each other, with some "hen-pecking" resulting (as is to be expected) which will hopefully settle down soon....
3rd August 2013 - first chickens
We welcomed our first batch of chicken pullets to the farm today - a group of four little Welsummers, who are settling into their new home in our orchard. They are currently in a covered enclosure to protect them from gulls, crows etc, but once they grow they will be free-ranging around the orchard. We'll be raising them on organic food etc to provide eggs for us and our guests.
7th June 2013 - bats!
We spent a fascinating evening last night with Bob Moon of the Manx Bat Group identifying our flying visitors nesting in the roof of the main house. Turns out we have a maternity colony of lesser pipistrelle bats. We counted at least 50 pregnant females coming out on their evening hunting flight. It's great to be sharing our property with such fascinating creatures - I didn't know that female bats are pregnant when they go into hibernation and then carry their growing babies through the spring and early summer, in maternity colonies consisting entirely of pregnant females, until they give birth in June/July. (The males go off and do their own thing...!). The colony then breaks up and they go their separate ways in August.