Agro-forestry smallholding

Agroforestry is a system that combines trees and arable crops in order to boost productivity and biodiversity.

Andrew began creating this scheme in 2010 and has planted approximately 5,000 trees and bushes to date. A rotation of cereals, grass and vegetables thrives in the broad alleys between strips of trees, which are grown for food (nuts, berries etc.) for shelter and (coppiced) for timber for the wood-fired oven and wood-burning stoves in the farmhouse.

Cereals - small areas of heritage varieties of wheat and oats are grown as part of research into the balance between yield and nutritional content, with the triple aims of acceptable yield, bread making quality and nutritional density.

Vegetables - we grow a wide variety of vegetables to feed the household, volunteers and the participants on Bread Matters courses

Fruit and Nuts - there are nut trees in the agroforestry strips, a permanent area of fruit bushes and an orchard. Mixed hedges bear fruit and berries. 

Grass - is grown to sustain a flock of organic geese. In 2013, thirty nine geese are grazing the strips of grass and the orchard, in rotation. 

Progress on the smallholding

During 2012 our work outside included:

In 2013 we made even more progress, including:

wheat seedlings Feb 2013In March, 38 trays of wheat seedlings (from 13 Shireff varieties) were brought to Macbiehill from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, where they had been germinated under controlled conditions. They had a temporary home in the greenhouse before being planted out here and on organic farms in East Lothian, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.

 In an article published by Nourish Scotland on 2nd September Andrew describes the beginning of this Scotland The Bread project to re-create a Scottish flour and bread supply that is healthy, equitable, locally-controlled and sustainable. This year is mainly about bulking up the supply of seed grain so that next year we have enough to do serious trials with the flour. 

Several WWOOFers have helped to transform the smallholding; weeding, mulching, composting, planting, making hay and tending the geese. We have hosted two Sourdough Exchanges. The first group, in May, planted a wide hedge of aronia (choke berry) bushes, which frames the view from the baking studio and attracts bees whilst providing a habitat for small birds including the sparrow and meadow pippit. In September the Exchangers were able to harvest the rye, thresh it and winnow it and, the next day, to mill it and bake sourdough rye loaves. It was an unforgettable total immersion in bread from the seed to the slice. 
Summer was kind to us all and we have eaten soft fruit every day since the first strawberries ripened in the polytunnel during May. 
The courtyard has become a large herb garden and there is now an abundant patch of alpine strawberries close to the house. 



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