Timber harvest, boreholes and beer

10 November 2017

With harvest now complete, winter conventional crops sown, cattle housed for winter and clocks gone back, the farm is back into its winter routine. Much of this time of year is spent on livestock care with daily bedding and feeding using our own homegrown feeds. Pasture is rested and grazed only lightly with sheep to keep it in good condition for next year. This year we are growing some heritage wheat varieties for Scotland the Bread. Some will be used for future seed and others (provided that they are of breadmaking quality) will be milled and used for baking. The winter milling wheat sown this autumn on organic conversion land will be harvested as our first fully organic crop.

Property maintenance
At this time of year, when leaves have fallen, we begin the rounds of roof checking and rhone (gutter) emptying – making sure that water can get away and blocked drains do not then create a problem with water freezing in downpipes, splitting the cast iron. This forms part of the regular maintenance programme undertaken. Slipped slates from gales will be replaced and valley gutters cleared and checked.

Progress continues at Bowhouse, with renovations of the old farm buildings to create space for a gym, bakery, coffee roasters and a café. This keep many people busy, from roof slaters, joiners and stone masons to plumbers and electricians. These skilled roles are undertaken by local tradesmen who we have worked with over the years and have helped develop old redundant farm buildings into amazing work spaces – providing even more employment in the locality.

Timber harvest
One of the crops we grow on the estate is timber, with over 80ha of forestry, it provides shelter for wildlife while it matures, and we are able to harvest some of the timber after 40–60 years. Not the fastest growing crop, but one that provides fuel for the estate’s biomass plants, which heats some of the workshops, offices and houses on the estate.

Sandyriggs wood was planted in the 1960s with conifers. Over the years, thinning has been undertaken, but this year half of the remaining mature woodland has been clear-felled. Working with modern harvesting equipment, it is amazing to see over 1000 tonnes of wood harvested, cut to length and hauled to the roadside in little over eight days. Working around the active badger setts with this giant machinery has taken some imaginative work by the contractors. However, with this wood ready to be dried naturally at Carnbee Farm ready for chipping over the coming three years, we will replant the woodland with more conifer and native species providing habitat once again.

Borehole water for brewing
Bowhouse farm shares a borehole with our neighbours at Abercombie farm. Water from an 80m-deep aquifer is used for irrigation, but with the planned brewing of beer and whisky at Bowhouse, we have taken the opportunity to adapt the system, filter the water and pump it to the brewery. This will provide clean water, which has no chlorine added, to be used in the brewing process. I am expecting it to make the beer distinctive and will look forward to verifying later.

We have also started to prepare a two acre plot for a new occupier to grow cut and edible flowers. The land will be deer fenced, rabbit proofed and benefit from water supplied by the same borehole. We look forward to seeing the colourful use of land and are actively looking for other businesses who would like to occupy small areas of land for food production.

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