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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.