Food production is a key area where we need to improve. Frances has done a fantastic job to get us well under way but we have some way to go to be self sufficient. Having secured water supplies and built extra raised beds secure from the goat and any wild animals we agreed to try and extend the growing season. We had a cold frame made of our old house windows but we also decided to try to create a few extra season when it is still cold and risk of frost in February to get the seedlings further along sooner and where possible avoid too much growing in mid summer when both plants and us struggled with the heat.
We purchased a 3m x 2m small poly tunnel to try out how this could work. The risk was that inside the tunnel it would get too hot and the strong spring and autumn winds would destroy the tunnel. After some discussion amongst friends we decided to build a frame around the poly tunnel so that we would secure it and be able to add a roof to keep out the mid summer sun. Additionally this gave us the chance to gather rain water from the roof into a water barrel.
The tunnel was constructed in the direction of the prevailing wind (North East) and set into a terrace to provide protection (this terrace was cleared when we hosted the Hillbillies cooperative work day in October 2022). This gave one of the long sides a south facing perspective. On the colder North side we added insulation to the lower section (see last 3 photos above). Inside we have added a rough stone flooring, a hot bed with horse manure and heat sinks of black water buckets.
First seedlings were put inside the tunnel on the 5th March as we played safe with the frosts as we learn how the poly tunnel deals with temperatures. The horse manure addition has been delayed after a small accident in our van means we cannot collect it. We hope that for next year we will start using in early February.
As you can see from the wooden thermometer in the pictures above the sun during the day raised the temperature to 32C when outside it was 16C. Meanwhile the ´hotbed´ is cooler at 21C and shows the need for the horse manure and a more mature compost from the currently thing layer of rabbit poo and straw.
Frances and Barry Copping bought Xalet Pigall in 2015. They are working towards resilience and self-sufficiency.