August 09, 2021
Over the next few years we will have many updates from our new HQ, New Barns Farm, as we gradually bring it to its full, regenerative potential. Here is our first post!
On the 2nd of August, 2021, we were granted planning permission. This permission has two parts, we will now be able to build our new workshop (more on that later) and also construct our wetland sewage treatment system. Elvis & Kresse move pretty fast, so three days later on the 5th, the diggers arrived and the wetland started to take shape almost immediately.
I could talk about sewage all day - how poorly we treat it, how often we simply expect our rivers and seas to absorb it, and how much of a resource it is. Most rural properties in the UK have septic tanks which require constant emptying, or which leach waste water into the ground. On our farm we wanted something truly world class, an entirely passive nature based solution, and after months of research we found Biologic Design.
Jay and his team, Kenton and Dilwyn, have been with us for a week now, carefully constructing swales and ponds, working with the natural contours of the farm land. Our waste will first go through a passive separator, the solid will go to a chamber filled with worms (and in 4 years it will be the most beautiful compost) and the liquid will enter the wetland where it will pass through soil and plants along 120 meters of swales before it ends in a stunning pond, a biodiversity hotspot, where believe it or not, you can swim. Jay, Biologic's founder, is a microbiologist, a permaculturist, and has been building wetland systems for over 20 years. He knows what to plant, and where, to ensure that we have a diverse mix of species which can each do its job to clean our water. His wife, Clara, propagates and grows the plants.
Our wetland will take a year to fully establish. We are building it now, so the groundwork is done. This fall we will do some of the planting and next spring we will finish the planting work. By next summer we will be both in full 'flow' and in full bloom.
None of our sewage will leave our site. And the precious water which we will be treating (with Biologic's expert help and nature's millennia of experience) will be available for wildlife, swimming, irrigation and giving back to our aquifer. Instead of losing the nutrients in waste water we will be retaining them to grow thousands of plants, from sedges and reeds to willows to walnuts.
The wetland is crucial for our regenerative mission. Water brings life and biodiversity. Water means insects, amphibians, and birds. Holding water on site will make us resilient. Our worm based solid compost will feed our soil.
Did we need diggers to construct the wetland? Yes. But once this is built we will never need to move sewage from the site again, ever. Once this is built the winner will be nature, and yes, we will sleep just a little bit easier.
If you want to come and see the system, just let us know. Even unfinished, it really is a joy to behold. Within hours of the first pond being dug, the first visitors arrived... dragonflies.