How We Do It


Earth Care

The Holding

The land is comprised of approximately 42 acres of which 17 acres are semi-natural ancient woodland, 22 acres are pasture and the remainder is naturally regenerating scrub and hedgerows. There is a stream along the most north-westerly boundary.

 Woodlands

The predominantly oak woodlands stand on the west- and north-facing slopes. We have been processing the trees that had fallen in the woods and hedges, including a huge oak by the stream and a large dead oak that was considered too dangerous to leaving standing. The new planting next to the woodland has grown well, with minimal rabbit and deer damage.

 Communal Gardens

In 2014 we continued to expand and improve the communal gardens. They are split into three main growing areas designed into the central living zone of the project. We also have our long Hugel beds that provided an excellent crop of courgettes and squashes for the community and for sale. We have experimented with dehydrating some of the harvest with much success, enabling us to still be eating courgettes through the winter. Other vegetables that were preserved for the winter included some our our home-grown tomatoes (dehydrated and preserved in oils), squashes, onions and garlic.

With further improvement in the growing of communal foods we have continued to experiment in growing varieties and species to fit the site and our needs as a community. In 2014 the communal gardens gave adequate vegetables for approximately 9 months of the year for the communal meals that take place here, as well as for our various volunteers and guests

In 2013 we built our first indoor growing space. We now have a 30 foot x 14 foot ‘Polypod’. The pod is a combinationof local crafts innovation built with a locally sourced timber frame that was the inspiration of local craftsman Rowan Stickland. The design used Permaculture principles and experimentation in both its concept and development. In 2014 this space gave much-needed additional indoor growing capacity and helped feed the community.

Our focus for the 2015 season is to redesign the Mandala beds. These beds have been in use for over 6 years and we feel it is time for a total redesign. At the time of writing we have used the pigs to convert the area to bare ground, have mapped a base map and contours onto the land, and are in the process of designing and landscaping the new area for the development of gardens.

Ponies

The 2 Dartmoor ponies continue to provide diversity to the grazing pattern and, in tandem with the sheep that visit each year, provide large amounts of manure for the growing areas.

The younger pony has now been trained to Long Rein – the basis of pulling a cart, woodland extraction equipment and agricultural machinery should it be required.

The older pony contracted laminitis so grazing management systems have been explored and adapted to suit the needs we must address, as climate change brings alterations to the nature of the grassland. A boundary grazing system has been introduced. It reduces hedgerow encroachment and enables the ponies’ weight to be managed by having a reduced amount of grass available.

A male, working, Gypsy Cob has been introduced to balance the mini-herd dynamic. He is already trained on the Long Rein and will provide an example to follow for the other horses, as well as eating the majority of the grazing area.

A natural horsemanship workshop was run for pupils of Brockwood School, and we held a Pony Om learning day on the subject of Laminitis. There is a Pony Blog on our website, which aims to share some of the holistic training methods we are using to lead the ponies into land-based work.

Goats

In 2014 we had a good breeding season with the birth of 4 females and one male kid. Four of these were sold later in the year to keep a variety of age groups in the herd. We reviewed the inputs and outputs of the goats in terms of milk and cheese, and their contribution to land management, and decided to continue with the goats as a community resource. They also provide us with an educational resource. We currently have 5 females of breeding age.

The milk and cheese is consumed on site, making a strong contribution to our subsistence provision and waste reduction – obviating the packaging and food miles of imported dairy. Successful breeding will also contribute to the land management income stream as some of our kids will be pedigree and of commercial value.

They live in one field but are taken to other sites on the land to help control the bracken and bramble.

Pigs

Our 2 Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs are used to clear ground of invasive plants into the fields, or to create new growing areas. They have a portable house and are moved around the site as needed.

 Chickens and Ducks

Thanks to Carl and Jen, Landmatters now has a menagerie of different varieties of laying hens and ducks. Various methods are employed for housing the birds, including a chicken tractor, moveable pens and a chicken house.

Beekeeping

Since the spring 2012 we have introduced bees to the land. Using natural beekeeping methods and a top bar hives (built at LM) we are really excited by the addition of the bees. They are kept in square field in an area of new coppice and are off the beaten track of the main community but still are often seen buzzing about in the veggie gardens and on the land.

At Landmatters we are using Natural Bee Keeping methods – minimal intervention and a top bar hive.. with a little luck (and a lot of work from the bees) our colonies will build up strength and be a healthy and a resilient addition to the land.

Subsistence goods and services:

Fully self-sufficient in electricity generated through renewable energy

• Fully self-sufficient in water (rainwater and borehole water)

• Fully self-sufficient in shelter and maintenance thereof

• Bulk of our firewood needs met through the sustainable management of our own woodland

• Increasing amounts of food grown in expanding communal and individual growing areas, aided by improved composting, rainwater collection and pumping systems

• Social goods such as shared transport, shared childcare and community activities.

Renewable Energy

We continue to run our holding completely off-grid using wind generators and photo-voltaic panels to produce our electricity. Having been accepted as a venue for Transition Town Totnes’ Transition Together programme, we have 15 photo-voltaic panels on the roof of the barn, doubling electricity generation through renewable resources at Landmatters. This additional capacity has allowed us to run a number of basic technologies, such as a food dehydrator to preserve food grown on the land. We have also been able to offer more reliable electricity provision for volunteers and course participants, and to introduce a more varied teaching provision through the use of electronic multimedia outputs.

Water

We use a hand pump to collect our drinking water from a borehole, and harvest rainwater from our structures for washing, irrigation and the animals.


People Care

Communal Space

Our communal bender is the focus of community life. It provides us with a comfortable space for meetings and ‘Way of Councils’, office activities, shared childcare, cooking and socialising. It is also used by volunteers and for some educational events. It has a custom-made wood burning stove to provide heating and cooking facilities. The rocket stove is a very efficient type of cooking stove which uses only small twigs as fuel. It is an innovative design not commercially available in the UK and is also custom-made. It is very useful when catering for large groups and in the summer when heating is not required. The yurt that has been attached to it for some years started to need some repairs, so we decided to take the yurt off altogether and put in a back wall with a window. This has created a pleasant seating space where people can have meetings or just relax.

Way of Council

In 2009 we began using the Way of Council. This is a Native American practice that uses talking circles as a means of improving communication, addressing controversial or contentious issues and resolving conflict. Since a week-long Council in February 2009, held by an external facilitator, we have met in Council every six weeks, facilitating the process ourselves. We held our seventh week-long Council, with an outside facilitator, in February 2015.

Overall, the impact of the Way of Council has been very positive, and it has become a core element of ‘People Care’ at Landmatters. Having a regular, facilitated space has helped to strengthen common bonds, diffuse underlying tensions, and to make us a more effective and harmonious group. How we live, work and make decisions together is of increasing interest and importance to educational groups and visitors.

Consensus Decision Making

Decisions at Landmatters are made by consensus. This ensures that all voices are heard during the decision-making process and concerns are addressed. We have reduced our weekly 3-hour meeting to 2 hours, allowing the remaining hour to be spent implementing the decisions made in the meeting, project planning with others involved, or doing other communal work.

Children

We have a total of 7 children aged 6 months – 15 years. We have a shared commitment to bringing up our children in line with our philosophy. We hope to furnish them with the skills they will need to help create a healthy, sustainable world.

Home Education

Some of the children at Landmatters are educated at home. While much of their learning is experiential and might involve any member of the community, parents also bring structure to their progress in one-to-one or themed sessions. One approach adopted recently is based on the adult Kamana Naturalist Training from the Wilderness Awareness School. Kamana For Kids is a child-friendly nature awareness programme that uses books, stories, games and activities to bring core teaching to the children.

Communal Meals

The community shares 3 meals together each week. We have historical swapped and changed these about at times (dependant on times of year, childrens various needs etc) but we currently eat communally on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings. Wednesday is a pot luck meal (each household brings a dish to share), while Mondays and Fridays are cooked for by a member of the coop on a rota basis.

Seasonal Celebrations

Its good to celebrate! We believe in the power of a party to unite the community and have fun! Our annual solstice celebrations are the highlight of the calendar – the winter solstice is a daylong “bender crawl” where we go around the coop to each dwelling and participate in a game/celebration/ritual and enjoy each other’s company, share food and drink and celebrate the turning of the season. While in the summer a big party is usually called for! Music, fires, dancing and cavorting are all in order. Other celebrations also mark the calendar – we aim to celebrate the seasons, marking the turning of the year and giving thanks for the changes they bring – this can be anything from Easter egg hunts to tree planting to games on the village green.. all contributions welcomed.

Landmatters community activities and courses

Details below compiled and recorded for our annual report (submitted March 2015)

Landmatters community activities and courses

23rd – 27th February 2014 Way of Council

On-going Shared childcare

On-going Permaculture Diploma work

On-going Way of Council

On-going Home education of resident children

Events for external audiences

2014

20th April TTT Skillshare Bokashi workshop

4th May International Permaculture Day site tour

7th May Heathercombe Permaculture Course tour

10th May Introduction to Permaculture and site tour

14th May TTT Skillshare Sociocracy workshop

14th – 19th May Volunteer Work Week

17th May Open Day tour

20th May Yoga session

27th May Yoga session

7th June Mother and Children Group

10th June Yoga session

17th June Yoga session

17th – 21st June Brockwood School residential field trip

21st June Solstice party

24th June Yoga session

28th June Whole Woman Day

4th July Bicton College and Schumacher College Horticulture tour

4th – 7th July Herbal Medicine Course

12th – 13th July Low-Impact Wedding

19th July Work That Reconnects workshop

22nd July Schumacher Horticulture Apprentices

3rd – 19th September Steiner School Residential Field Trip

21st September National Open Homes Day tour

3rd October Greenspire tour

23rd October Samhain celebration

1st November University of Plymouth volunteers

18th November Heathercombe Permaculture Course tour

6th December University of Plymouth volunteers

2015

5th February Home Education Group tour

14th – 15th February Treeplanting weekend

22nd February WildTime taster session

3rd March Steiner School Structures and Dwellings Field Trip

9th March University of Plymouth Education for Sustainability tour

14th March Open Day tour

21st March National Big Dig volunteer day

28th March Pony Om Laminitis workshop

Summary of external events

There were 36 courses, events and guided visits (i.e. not ad hoc visitors). A total of 850 people attended including children. Of these 378 came from the local area, 331 from the UK and 151 from abroad. There were 43 days when there was a group of over 12 people on the land. These visits generated a total of 404 vehicle movements (not including push bikes) to and from our gate. Many other visitors, friends and interested people came for informal visits, volunteering and WWOOFing from all over the world. They are a constant source of news from other communities, information and new skills, which we welcome all year round.

 

 


Fairshares

Car Pool

We continue to work at minimising car use, and through an increase in lift sharing by community members we have been able to maintain the decrease in vehicle ownership from that of 2010. We now have three cars, and a pickup has replaced the Land Rover, keeping us still below our allowed limit of five vehicles (V.10). Transport movements are managed and minimised via the vehicle booking diary. Vehicle usage is charged at 40p/mile to discourage unnecessary travel.

We continue to make good use of the local bus services (now much reduced unfortunately) and cycle routes.

We have managed our educational, volunteer and course visits with minimum use of private vehicles, and continue to encourage the use of public transport (V.10).

Planning Permission

In April 2011 South Hams District Council granted us a further 5 years’ temporary planning permission. This has enabled us to plan and invest for the coming years, and to commit to providing educational events for local schools on an ongoing basis.

Communal Work

Communal work is an ongoing commitment for the residents of the coop. We each have rota tasks that we commit to, as well as two meetings a week, while also aiming to work approximately 12 hours per week on communal tasks. These can range from gardening, wooding, maintenance, childcare, animal care, cooking communal meals to hosting visitor groups and volunteers.

Low-Impact Living and Ecological Footprint

One of Landmatters major achievements is its continued low ecological footprint. Analysis suggests that cutting carbon emissions drastically within the next decade is imperative to prevent runaway climate change. In 2007 our ecological footprint was independently measured at 1.3 planets (the UK average is 3 planets). This is already a reduction of around 60%. By using locally sourced, sustainably harvested and/or recycled building materials with low embodied energy, and because most of the heating fuel is sustainably harvested on-site, the dwellings have a 94% lower ecological footprint than an average conventional house.

Volunteers and Guests

Since joining WWOOF we have hosted many volunteers, who have made a huge contribution to the life of the project. Each month from October to March students from Volunteering in Plymouth, a network of the University, come for a day. This winter we continued to work on the tree nursery area at the entrance to our land, with the aim of providing local hedging saplings for sale, fruit and a more welcoming area for visitors. Since Christmas, their funding arrangements meant these visits came to an end, but we hope to restart them next winter.

We held a Volunteer Work Week in May to help us prepare for a large school residential visit. We have also been lucky to have a number of skilled and energetic volunteers over the winter months, helping with the communal gardens, the salad business, hedgelaying and woodland work.

Permaculture Association Demonstration Network

In February 2010 Landmatters was chosen to be part of the Permaculture Association of Britain’s LAND project. This means that we have been designated as a Learning Centre and part of a network of Permaculture demonstration sites. We were chosen because the Permaculture Association has identified us as a good example of Permaculture, with research and educational benefits, and because we provide opportunities for volunteers and visitors.

ity for our centres, and the gathering also provided vital opportunities for meeting other local Permaculture projects and networking within our regional area.

Education in Sustainability

Our activities in this area comprise visits and events, with some groups returning each year. We continue to have enquiries from people wanting to volunteer with us, or seeking information and advice on aspects of our project.

We have written articles for, and contributed information to, books, magazines and websites, including the new Diggers and Dreamers directory, and a book of photo-journalism to be published later this year. We featured in an article, “’Low-Impact Communities’ and their value to experiential Education for Sustainability in higher education”, in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, written by Plymouth University lecturers R. Cook and R. Cutting. Quatre Saisons du Jardin Bio, a French organic gardening magazine, featured our polypod on their front cover and an article about us in their January issue. Two PhD theses were completed for which we had been a case study, one dealing with spiritual belief systems in intentional communities, “Religion and Spirituality within Environmental Communities: place and significance in the UK context” by J. Kirby, and the other,Permaculture and the Politics of (Un)sustainability: An Ethnographic Analysis of an Eco-community in the UK” by Hannah Parrott

We have participated in a number of externally organised events, including National Open Homes Day, and the National Big Dig garden project, which aims to encourage people to start growing food for themselves. Next September, the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) comes to the UK, and we are very excited to be hosting both a full Permaculture Design Course beforehand, and a visit by the IPC tour of the southwest by international permaculturalists and teachers

Schools and Colleges:

  • University of Plymouth (UoP): The monthly volunteering day with UoP’s Student Union continued again this year, running from October to December this year, consisting of practical work and discussions of the principles of permaculture and sustainable living. These days are rewarding and entertaining for both groups, and we hope to continue our contact with them into the future.
  • The Steiner School returned for a two-week residential field trip with 30 students.
  • We are very pleased to continue our relationship with Schumacher College, who brought two courses to visit this year.
  • Two venues that run Permaculture Design Courses within 30 miles of us returned again this year and brought three courses.
  • In June we had a residential visit from Brockwood School. This was a 4-night camping trip for the entire school of nearly 100 people. The visit was aimed at giving the school a relaxing time away before the holiday while also providing learning opportunities and experiences for the students. Residents of Landmatters led skill-share sessions for the students, including Natural Horsemanship, Animal Husbandry, Tree Mythology, Scything, Permaculture tours, Cheesemaking, DIY building, and games in the woods. While here, the school was encouraged to have minimal car/vehicle usage and the sill-shares focussed lots of activity here on the land. The visit was incredibily successful and they have re-booked for June 2015.

Subsistence

The subsistence element continues to form an important part of our livelihoods. We aim to provide for ourselves, and from the land, as much of our material and social needs as possible. This provision continues to increase year on year.

The 2007 Enterprise plan submitted with the Planning Appeal documents contained, in Appendix B, estimates of the financial value of our subsistence livelihoods, and the additional savings made by living on site. This includes figures for rent, heating, power, water, food and transport.

Food, firewood, utilities, and most other basics, continue to rise in price. We estimate that in 2014 our subsistence provision would have been valued, at minimum, in the region of £13,000 per adult member per year.

Subsistence goods and services:

  • Fully self-sufficient in electricity generated through renewable energy
  • Fully self-sufficient in water (rainwater and borehole water)
  • Fully self-sufficient in shelter and maintenance thereof
  • Bulk of our firewood needs met through the sustainable management of our own woodland
  • Increasing amounts of food grown in expanding communal and individual growing areas, aided by improved composting, rainwater collection and pumping systems
  • Social goods such as shared transport, shared childcare and community activities.