December 10, 2021
Although no one could ever accuse us of being conventional, sometimes we even surprise ourselves. Lets just say that the last few weeks have been amazing.
In a normal December Elvis & Kresse generally don't make anything new, we are busily packing up and sending out Christmas orders. Of course we continue to make our beautiful pieces and packaging from decommissioned printing blankets, failed military-grade parachute silk panels, and tea sacking; we have several hundred tea sacks arriving from our friends at Clipper Tea tomorrow in fact! But this year is different, this year our Research and Development has continued at pace.
On the 4th of December we had our first anniversary as farmers. It was on this day in 2020 that we became the custodians of this incredible hillside farm in Kent. And a year later we were marvelling at the progress we've made but also the work that is still to be done.
The Most Beautiful Sewage Treatment System in the World at our new farm
After 8 very slow months planning permission for our new eco-workshop came through, we broke ground almost immediately, but it will take months to finish. Apparently we are building the largest straw bale structure in Europe? It will also be solar powered and air source heated. Digging a foundation has certainly caused a mess in the farmyard, but we also did a lot of digging in the top of one of our fields, where we have sited the most beautiful sewage treatment system in the world. It is a nature based solution, requiring gravity, a centrifuge, some tiger worms and a series of stunning swales (long ponds) which deploy a hugely biodiverse planting, and crucially the roots of these plants, to treat all of our own waste water. Just a few months in and it is already a hotspot for birds, small mammals, and insects. We also built and turned, and turned, and turned the blackest treacly compost I have ever seen. Our compost is made entirely from local organic wastes, so never think the circular economy has to be an urban thing! The ingredients for our treacle are organic cow manure (this was a tough one to source!), spent grains from Mad Cat Brewery, wood chip from Invicta Tree Care and food waste from our favourite local farm shop, Macknade Fine Foods.
Elvis & David building the compost - adding organic orange peel from Macknade.
By this time next year we will have our workshop complete, our vines (we will be planting 11,668 vines in April!) in the ground, and we will have had our first summer of market gardening. What an adventure ahead!
So, back to the last two weeks and the two things we have been working on. Both of these make our souls sing and certainly tell the tale of our two big Covid adventures, the Farm and the Solar Forge.
On the left you will see a vial of our freshly brewed compost tea. The reason we needed the compost in the first place was to wake up our very neglected, lifeless, soil. This farm has thin topsoil (according to local legend one of the previous owners sold it off via a turf cutting enterprise); it was also super-compacted, full of weeds and contained only 3% organic carbon. A healthy soil can contain up to 50% organic carbon! Our precious compost, the one we spent eons turning and lovingly feeding, has been designed to produce a cornucopia of microorganisms. When we brew it in giant 2kg tea bags and drench our farm soil with the water (i.e compost tea), this is how we awaken the soil and bring it back to health. Before we drench our land with this compost tea we checked... David, our newly hired co-farmer and vineyard manager, put this precious tea under the microscope to make sure it was teeming with healthy, balanced, life. We are very happy to report that our brew is a roaring cauldron of life! Exactly what our soil needs.
On the right, next to the vial of compost tea, is a lump of 100% rescued, melted, and cast aluminium. I think it looks a little like a rooster, perched on a ball (yes, a little like the Tottenham Hotspur crest). I love it. This week I cast this myself, it is my first rescued aluminium piece from our solar powered aluminium forge. The forge works, but as you can see, my casting needs improvement! Here is a picture of me with our beautiful forge which is still in the lab at Queen Mary University, but it will soon be on its way home to our farm and new Head Quarters...
For these two new products you could say we were 50% successful. The tea is ready to go, but the rescued aluminium casting is still a work in progress.
Wow, what can I say. We love December!