The Story of Stuff

Moving BoxesThe day of our big move into the smallholding is nigh. Just over a year since we bought The Secret Acre, and after six months of eco-makeover.

So this week we sit among ever increasing piles of packed moving boxes. An alarming reminder of just how much unnecessary stuff you accumulate. The uncomfortable feeling is particularly acute for Emma who moved into the house in Bristol with just a rucksack and no furniture. Now 15 years later we are going to need two large removal vans to shift it all! Continue reading

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This year we will mostly be growing – silage bags!

Veg Bed 1 Silage BagsOf course the whole reason for moving to The Secret Acre is to grow our own and be more self-sufficient(ish). So it is frustrating this year, while the house is getting its eco-makeover and we are not yet living on site to properly tend a veg patch, that our planting plans have had to be made for 2016, which still seems a lifetime off. Continue reading

Upstairs, Downstairs

The Secret Acre - a bungalow no more!

The Secret Acre – a bungalow no more!

When we found The Secret Acre the original 1930s bungalow on site was in need of modernisation.

Our plans for an eco-makeover included creating upstairs space for two bedrooms and a bathroom.

So it was a special moment for us when the new staircase went in. A bungalow no more!

And Emma and I no longer have to sway precariously up and down ladders to measure up upstairs.

 

The Animals (might) go in Two by Two

PaddockSince finding The Secret Acre, what to do with the paddock field has been, and remains, a matter of hot debate.

Donkey cheese was an early favourite with Emma, but it appears to only have a market of one, a Wimbledon tennis player, and the Alpaca and Llama market now seems saturated. Friends even suggested planting woodland or vines. But sheep and/or goats seem the most likely eventual choice. Continue reading

The Orchard Man Cometh

Martin pruning the Bath Beauty 2015A decade and more ago, the Government were paying grants to grub up and destroy orchards. Today there are loads of Government grants and projects to protect, save and replant orchards, which apparently had been disappearing at an alarming rate. It’s what politicians like to call joined up thinking.

So, blessed with a small old orchard at the Secret Acre, prolific in apples and plums, we decided to do the responsible thing and joined the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust, to add our heritage varieties to the County’s register. Continue reading

Our Eco Makeover

Work underwayLike most eco-warriors I had the standard comprehensive list in my heart of eco-bling I wanted at The Secret Acre – PV, solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, green roof, etc.

But having worked at Forum for the Future on pathfinder retrofit projects, I knew in my head that our first priority on a budget had to be insulation, insulation, insulation.

So making it warm and properly insulated for the next 100 years has to come first, and then worry about the bling. And as with every retrofit, you have to work with the existing building you have to do what is possible, practical and appropriate. Continue reading

The (3 Days) of the Triffids

Greenhouse  Triffids BeforeOn collecting the keys for the Secret Acre in July 2014, one urgent task was to excavate the greenhouse and save it from the Triffids.

We’d inherited a splendid 18 foot old greenhouse, but like everything else it was ‘in need of repair’. About a third of the glass was broken, and a dense thicket of brambles had colonised every square inch inside, sprouting out in escape bids through the missing panes, and generally putting so much pressure on the remaining glass that the whole structure looked like a pressure cooker ready to explode. Continue reading