We had a modest bonfire this year, partly because we are saving wood to create some woodchip for the paths.

TOP Bonfire 2012

TOP Bonfire 2012

Gary brought a warming pumpkin soup, there was Parkin from Kim and Alec. As tradition dictates, Jan baked an Apple Crumble, with TOP apples rushed home that afternoon, Clare made a Dorset Apple cake  that disappeared swiftly (apples from her garden), and Brendan and Tat brought sausages along. I’ve forgotten the rest, it was pretty dark by the time we came to eat.

Lillian enjoyed  sparklers, but was as mesmirised by the sparks flying up from the fire. It was more difficult to see whether Esther in her cot was enjoying it, she was looking wide eyed at the fire, and at everything else.

Ken had been busy talking companies into parting with some unwanted pallets, and Brendan arrived with a couple of tree roots growing on the top of his car. John had been down earlier in the day dropping off some pine that he didn’t need, and whilst Kim whistfully mused that they would burn nicely at home if they only had a grate, Andy was able to sort them a grate that had been kicking around his porch for too long. Such is the power of community.

As further tradition dictates Ron and Ken were the main firestarters, whilst Mark and Gary sat and drank beer. It was good to see familiar faces. Somewhat after the others, Andrew turned up, a welcome friend but unfamiliar visitor to the patch. Sadly he walked through the pond on his way to the fire, up to his knees. So he gently steamed his feet dry whilst being plyed with cake.

Earlier in the day Kim and Alex had been clearing out the greenhouse of tomato pots, Gary fed the compost heap with wet straw and much greenstuff that Harriet and others had been cutting down. Having helped to build it, Dante wanted to stay for the bonfire, but had a firework display to go and see. And Andy arrived in time for a couple of minutes work before dark, another broken pane in the greenhouse to mend, and the gutters to clear.



the herb patch is looking great!

...so does the strawberry bed.

Folk are putting up bamboo sticks as support for runner beans.

this is where the snails are hiding...



inside the polytunnel

a visit from Mr Frog!

beautiful afternoon light on the pond

smoke from storm kettle fire is reflecting in the sun rays...

Queen wasp and hoverfly

Morello cherry tree growing along north facing side of greenhouse.

We built a number of thermal stores into the greenhouse at tatnam patch from the start. Borrowing an Infrared camera from Dorset Energy Advice Centre (DEAC) to study our home insulation was a good opportunity to see how they were working, so I nipped down after dark, about 10pm. The metal baths, and flagstones  positively glow, transferring heat from day to night, and several degrees ‘hotter’ in infrared radiation than the surroundings.

Bath in greenhouse

I also disturbed a load of pigeons roosting in the oak trees

Tatnam Patch trees

High storage in the greenhouse – black painted toilet cisterns

high toilet cisterns

Theresa explaining her design to Mark (and others)

Theresa explaining her design to Mark (and others)

Winter workdays are generally very cold, or pretty wet, and if we are really unlucky, both together. Today, our nearest approach to the Winter Solstice was cold and crisp, a great day for clearing some of the sallow, and pruning the brambles, to keep them in check but also ensure a productive blackberry crop for us and for the neighbours.

Barrow after barrow of bramble stems were trundled to the firepit, by intrepid young Dante, and being shorter than the pile, it often seemed that the barrow was self propelled towards its destination. Marcos and Andy pollarded a Sallow by degrees to avoid the fruit trees below, whilst Kat and Adrian busily cut away the old blackberry branches.

At one point most of us huddled in the greenhouse to listen to Theresa’s permaculture design plans for the central beds. Taking ideas from the early permaculture pioneers, but especially from Sepp Holzer, who farms at altitude in Austria, and gets incredible diversity of crops in a space where conventionally only trees would be farmed http://www.krameterhof.at/en/

Theresa is one of several members now undertaking a permaculture design diploma, which Gary after 6 year of effort has almost completed (target of March 10th for his celebration). Her re-design for what is currently beds 7-14 will attempt to use polyculture, companion planting, and ‘no bare soil’ techniques. The shape of the beds, and the edging is still to be defined. Being a permaculture design, it reviews much of the rest of the site, the availability and distribution of water, how we encourage birds and beneficial insects onto site, hedgehogs and other means to control slugs, and the effort that we can put in, and hopefully produce out.

The audience for Theresa's Design (Gary and Andy out of shot !)

The audience for Theresa's Design (Gary and Andy out of shot !)

We look forwards to the more detailed designs, intended to be complete and implemented this spring !

Meantime, we had a great pumpkin soup, pasta salad, quiche and christmas cake, with chololate covered gingerbread biscuits (sadly the latter was not homemade). Gathering the tools and discarded plates in the darkness, we reflected on another successful workday at the patch.


the new polytunnel

grape harvest

Peggy and Harriet clearing potatoes in tyres

Harriet's set of onions...

fennel blossoming

toad, well camouflaged


ladybird on poppy

Ken, digging & weeding...

evening primrose

greenhouse, grapes, tomatoes...




pumpkins growing

bird protection

bench & flowers

flowers over pond

..and lots of apples

The visiting children were intrigued by Mark's display of insects...

and loved stroking the hissing cockroach...

...and holding the stick insects

Quite a few of us huddled in the greenhouse and did a bit of work in the rain. Came back tonight, and found an interesting site, Wordle, which analyses our site, and gives the following, an equal mix between names of those involved in the patch, and what we’ve been up to, which I guess is how it should be;


tatnam patch wordle analysis

Tatnam Patch wordle analysis

Wordle: Tatnam Organic Patch Community Garden

(clicking on the thumbnail image takes you to the Wordle site)

A group of TOP folks met to be shown by Gary how to grow potatoes in old tyres.

A stack of tyres was filled with compost...
and seed potatoes were added.

To use the space efficiently Gary planted a jerusalem artichoke in the triangle between the three tyres.


A combination of water and comfrey tea was poured onto the tatties...

...and the tyres were covered with sheets of glass to speed up the growing process.


Ruth making tea at the herb group meeting in March

the new herb bed

fig tree growing inside old washing machine drum

Ken planting onions


potatoes being planted with a layer of comfrey leaves on top

pear tree blossom

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