Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Planning permission approved

Two months later than the planning office deadline, we finally got approval for our plans to build a polytunnel, large tank for rainwater capture and a barn. Hurrah. Immediately we dusted off the project plan and started making phone calls. I am very glad we took the risk of getting the main access track in place as this week it rained and the areas of the field where Mike  has been working turned to a very sticky clay bog within hours.  Clearly the weather is now going to have an impact on progress (curse the planning delays).  Never the less, we would still like to try and get the polytunnel in by Christmas and power by January.  That gives me still some chance of an initial crop to sell for late spring.

The first job is still to finish the ground work; continue building the track into the main field and adding a turning circle; foundations for polytunnel and tank; more trenches for services. Then we can start putting in the structures.

While waiting for planning permission my husband has recently been diverting resouces by buying some sheep! These have needed additional fencing, which then caused some ditchwork to be brought forward in the plan. Still they are here now and its nice to feel like we are beginning to occupy the site.


Exchanging contracts to buy the land

We are back to that really painful yet inevitable stage where wording of contract clauses needs to debated and agreed in detail.  It is so slow but also quite important to get it right:

  • do we allow the seller to still have rights to access any services we put on our land from the field he will still own next door?
  • are there any clauses that might stop us building something we need later?
  • etc

In our case this is made worse by our seller not being on email and so everything has to be typed by the secretary and then posted snail-mail back and forth.

We just agreed the last bits of principle and now need to solicitor to send out the final land transfer paperwork for signing,

We are very confident that this will all have a happy ending very soon. We were hoping it would be this week so we have taken the risk of ordering fencing materials, gates and a digger for the weekend.  Now we just need to wait .....again. 


Bramble blossom - summer bee-food

This year (2011) the brambles have bloomed earlier than normal - as have most flowering plants - after the warm dry spring. They normally flower in July and August but the bees are very happy to have had the benefit of extra food during the slim pickings of June.

Brambles provide both nectar and pollen; the latter is a pale grey-buff colour and when you see it in the hives it can appear as if the comb is going mouldy.

Right now the hedgerows in our area are full of bramble flowers flowing outwards on their out-stretched arching branches.   In our new field (fingers crossed) one of the boundaries is a wall of bramble rising up about 10 feet.  I think this is a indicator that the bees will be very at home here.





Bee plants - the trial plot in May

What a change! To look at the bee-plot now you would never know it had only be planted last September.  I did pack the plants in closer than I would normally recommend but it is now almost completely filled out. The succession of flowering is also going well with the Oriental Poppies and the Geranium Pratense picking up from the Doronicum and Erysimum.

The self-seeding section also appears to be working with the Borage beginning to power up through the Mysotis as it is ending its month of flowering.

This May has been a good few weeks ahead of normal so I am anticipating the 'June Gap' might be early too.  In the general area, the rape is over as are the Hawthorn and most of the flowering trees.

The Elder is approaching full bloom right now but after that comes the tricky time for bee nutrition and so I am hoping the bee-plot will pass the test supplying pollen and nectar in the gap.

Look out for Junes update for find out if it does!

Still searching for land to buy

Its been a while since I updated the blog on our progress with getting this nursery off the ground; that's because I have been too depressed to bring myself to write about it. I guess I am getting over that. Inspite of not having anything particularly positive to say I have been very busy working on it: Back in February we had a major set-back. The farmer who had agreed to sell us a perfect 5 acres near our house changed his mind. This wasnt a big surprise as he had been getting increasingly difficult to deal with and was dragging his heals at every step. But still, it was a disappointment not least because we wasted 5 months and some money.

Since then I have been doing the tour of all the other landowners who have any appropriate local sites. It's hard going as this is essentially cold-calling: "Hi, may name's Rosi.... would you consider selling me that field?".

Anyway, most say 'no' but a few have been prepared to have a conversation, and then mostly say 'no'. I am down to the last two possible options around our village and one firm option that is a few miles away.

The only firm option has to be accessed by passing two sets of locked gates, past a couple of large barns being used for a variety of light industrial purposes. Not ideal for a small 'green' business and research site. If this turns out to be my only option I genuinely do not know what I will do.

The farmer who owns this site is a good guy and I am hoping to be able to persuade him to sell me a different and more suitable site....if he ever responds to my emails.

I will keep you posted and please wish me luck.