We had a great time at the "setting up a yurt campsite" course in Wales, learning lots and inspired by others planning similar ventures. And staying in the Mongolian Yurt was fantastic - so much so that we've ordered it, for collection in October. They are wonderfully snug, with thick felted wool lining and a cast iron stove (you can see ours here, puffing out wood smoke in the early morning). Our group of 6 spent a couple of hours putting up a large yurt, as a practise run; I just hope we can remember how! Amanda and Peter advise that they come with full instructions and illustrations.
The bluebells are out in the woods at the end of the field, though I think it'll be necessary to take a scythe to the cow parsley, which is jockeying for position (and threatening to win). There are still celandines out around the pond, and with the occasional burst of sunlight, it's looking beautiful. Our challenge over the summer will be to identify the trees and work out a management plan - not as onerous as it sounds, as the trees are 4 rows deep, and about 30 years old, from what we know of the past ownership of the farm. We found a hedgehog sunbathing here earlier in the week (do hedgehogs sunbathe?) A male pheasant was doing something similar over by the gate - completely flat to the soil, and still as a statue until I'd gone past with Jet, our small black dog.
The willow cuttings all seem to have taken, and this one is sprouting really well. The rabbits have had a go at a few of the rods, but even those seem to be putting on growth. We planted 134 rods in all, in 6 different beds, grouped by colour or use (basket weaving; autumn colour; flower arrangement etc) and can't wait to see them shooting up. We continue checking on what we hope is our yellow rattle seed, the bedrock of the transition from field to meadow. Some of the squares where we removed turf and sowed seeds are looking promising, but it'll be a few more weeks before we know for sure that it's the yellow rattle growing rather than random weed seeds.
We spotted what we thought was a marsh harrier hunting in the field behind us on Friday; we checked with Minsmere, and they confirmed that marsh harriers can be spotted a few miles inland (we're probably no more than 6 miles inland from the coast and even closer to the Blythburgh estuary area, which has plenty of marsh harriers). Simon Barnes says that we have buzzards in the area too, so we're keeping watch...
Our English yurt has been delivered (a marathon trek across country from Bodmin - thanks Tim), the raised decking and plywood base are almost complete, we've been on the "how to set up and run your own yurt campsite" course in Wales, and plan to place an order for our first Mongolian yurt within the next few days!
The yurt looks beautiful inside - all steam bent ash poles and beautifully crafted. We're really looking forward to getting it set up properly and having people to stay (after we've had a go, of course). It comes with its own log burning stove and oak front door! The skies here are beautifully black at night, so watching the stars through the crown will be a delight.
We've begun the process of evolving the field into a meadow; the first stage was to sow the yellow rattle seed in squares where we've cleared the top soil. The field hasn't been used for grazing or stock for quite a few years, as far as we can establish, so we're hoping that the soil won't be over fertile and that we can get the basic meadow seeds and flowers going within the next year or two.
We are lucky to have masses of cowslips and violets (including some white ones) in the adjacent Goose Paddock, so we're hoping to encourage those to spread to the field. I shall be out with my trowel as soon as the flowers have set seed.
We're working to encourage a range of wildlife - we've already got barn and tawny owls visiting the field, and the resident ducks and moorhens on the Goose pond and moat. We're hoping to spot some great crested newts one day; we should have the ideal environment, with nice damp ditches, a pond without fish and plenty of places to hide. We stacked piles of shrubby stuff against the out-building walls at the beginning of the winter to encourage hibernation. One of our mallards made use of this for a nest, and we've seen what looks like a weasel dashing into another stack (collective nouns for weasels includes "a confusion" and "a sneak" - it would be great to have a family - a confusion of weasels!).
The elders, rowans and blackberries are now planted in the field, along with the crab apple (Dolgo) and damson (Merryweather). We've got groups of willow cuttings dotted around, in theory acting as elegant dividers between the plots we plan to use for the yurts; we hope that they'll also double up as raw material for basket weaving and flower arrangements, either for courses that we might run in the barn or to inspire creative craft activity on the part of our yurt guests.