Ian joins the Devon Environmental Business Initiative as a Director

Ian has been invited to become a DEBI director, after helping judge last year’s awards. Today is the AGM and the first board meeting. He’s looking forward to it, not least to hearing more about lots of other (and very diverse) green Devon businesses. The picture is Ian with Kevin Frediani at the DEBI awards last November.

Cows go home, autumn 2012

At the end of September the cows have to go home – partly because we only have summer grazing here (we want to protect the field) and partly because they’re due a TB test (fingers crossed). Here’s a short video of them being collected – on foot. Home for them is half a mile up the road at Fiona and Andrew’s farm.

Owl stopped turbine?

Owl stops wind turbine?…. not sliced or diced though.

The turbine has shut itself down a couple of times recently, and when we’ve gone to check it has reported a ‘vibration error’. After a few of the same errors we notified the engineer. When he came and climbed the tower he found the problem – regurgitated pellets, probably from an owl, on the vibration sensor inside the cowling. Apparently it’s not uncommon. Unfortunately they weren’t in a good enough state to keep and examine (or maybe dissecting pellets doesn’t immediately spring to mind if you’re a wind turbine engineer). But Nick’s a ‘country lad’ at heart and so I guess he has a fair idea what he’s looking at. I’ll not be climbing the 18m to see if there’s anything left up there…

He says it’s warm under the cowling and near the gears, and one turbine he serviced ended up having to put wire excluders on the opening to keep birds out!

January flowers

It’s only mid january, but already there are flowers out. The dotty daff is in bloom by the pond again, there are primroses in the garden and lungwort in under the hedges. I’ve even found a tiny violet in flower, tucked in at the bottom of the gatepost near our back door. I never clear out that little pile of leafmould, knowing the violet will flower there. But it’s not usually as early as this.

Meanwhile, Ian had dramatic news from the end of the drive – a sparrowhawk making a kill! It took and blackbird and Ian snapped a pic on his mobile phone – you can just see it, wings outstretched, holding the poor blackbird in the ditch. Looks tiny doesn’t it – it’s real, not a mock up though.
Sparrowhawk taking a blackbird

Autumn animals

It’s definitely autumn now, with leaves on the ground and the hedgerows going tweedy. This tiny newt has taken refuge in my polytunnel. I hope he survives the winter. The hedgehog fell into a drain and had to be rescued. It’s a young one from a late litter, and rather underweight to be heading into winter. If we’re lucky we’ll be able to feed him and warm him. But he was clearly nearly hypothermic they quite often don’t make it. There’s a heavy flower pot over the drain now, to stop the chickens dislodging its wire cover.
Baby hedgehog 2012

August flower and damselflies

Here’s a few more wildlife pictures from our Devon farm this August. I love these damselflies, so delicate yet so striking. And the yellow flowers with the red tinge are Wavy St John’s Wort – from the family herbalists use to treat depression. This particular species is pretty scarce, and it’s one of the plants that make our Site of Special Interest nature reserve ‘special’.

Of course there are butterflies everywhere at the moment. Here’s a beautiful peacock.

And there was actually a real peacock to be seen outside Otter Cottage the other day. We’ve no idea where it came from (or where it went), but it was certainly exotic.

New sewage plant for our eco lodge

We’ve chosen a bio rock sewage treatment system for the new Eco lodge. It uses no power, is good with variable loads and has an excellent discharge quality.

Here it is being ‘discharged’ from the lorry! A bit of a tricky moment for Ian but at least they don’t factory test them before delivery.

Orchids in flower again

Heath Spotted Orchids, Popehouse Moor, Devon June 2012The orchids are in flower on Popehouse Moor again, lots of heath spotted orchids and a smattering of southern marsh orchids. The cows are in to graze again too, but this year there are not many of them and there is a much bigger area for them to graze, thanks to scrub clearing and fencing (supported by the government’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme). So we hope the end result will be lighter and more extensive grazing over a longer period, maybe even spreading wild flower seeds between Popehouse Moor and Lower Newland Moor (where the turbine is).

Buttercup spring

Yellow flag iris, Wheatland Farm, Devon 2012The fields are golden with buttercups this spring – even the lodge field which hasn’t had so many in recent years. Yes, they’re creeping buttercups, and yes, they’re a bit of a weed, but they are spectacular (and do give way to other flowers). Spring is the season for yellow – the flag irises are out in the pond too.

The cows return again

This week the cows returned – at least the first 3 young bullocks that will graze the wind turbine field (Lower Newland Moor) and the nature reserve (Popehouse Moor). These guys haven’t been out of the yard before, and were fairly frisky. But the ground was still too wet to drive the tractor and trailer across the lodge field, so they had to be driven across ‘by hand’. Good thing there were plenty of young legs to keep up with them! This was 7 May – just for the records.

And when they go back to Higher Punchardon Farm at the end of the season they’ll probably be herded the same way. Hopefully they’ll have settled down a little by then!

Reprieve from rain

We’ve had rain for several days now, and only the odd sunny interval, so today was a treat. And the insects were making the most of it too. I think they’re low on reserves after so much rain, and sometimes less likely to take flight, hence the chance to take a close up of this female orange tip butterfly on lady’s smock without out it fluttering away.
And I hardly ever get a picture of the deer, so here’s a more blurry but still notable pic!
Fallow deer at Wheatland Farm eco lodges, Devon

More nests and escaping hens

Sadly the dunnocks didn’t make it. No clues as to what happened but one morning no nest and no birds. What a shame. Still, there are other successes. This is probably a dormouse hibernation nest in a sedge at Plovers Barrow, the thatched cottage at the end of the drive that we’re managing this year. And it looks like it’s already been vacated – you can just see an exit hole. I didn’t prod and poke though as despite todays sunshine there’s bad weather on the way and the dormouse might still be having a lie-in.

Back on our own doorstep there’s a downy brown robin chick flying around the barn, still being fed, a wren has built a beautiful nest in the side of a bale of hay in the old hen house, and I think another wren has walled up an old swallow nest above my freezer and has moved in. It’s too high for me to photograph though.
Entrance to a wren's nest woven into a bale of hay
And of course the chickens are getting into full swing in unexpected places. They’ve taken to laying in some straw in one of Ian’s trailers.
Hens eggs laid in the back of the trailer

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Devon green tourism business network

Ian was invited to the start-up meeting of Devon’s Green Tourism Business Network, held at Paignton Zoo Today. He met plenty of interesting people from other green tourism organisations. The aim is for the network to encourage other (ultimately all) Devon businesses to go green. Watch this space….

Digging up the Spanish bluebells

Digging up Spanish bluebells at our holiday cottage and eco lodges
Maggie has been digging up the Spanish bluebells from our garden again, so they don’t hybridise with the true British native flower in Popehouse Moor SSSI…
Digging up Spanish bluebells at our holiday cottage and eco lodges
Sadly, the Spanish flower is threatening our own more delicate emblem of spring across the country. Unlike the native species, the Spanish bluebell grows fast – one has even seeded itself and bloomed in a neglected flowerpot. So the digging will probably have to go on for a few years yet…