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A multi-purpose pallet fence built from recycled materials opportunities to learn too. When we first thought about keeping bees, for their pollinating role and for the potential of honey, we spoke to a friend who kept a couple of hives in their garden. They introduced us to another local beekeeper who kindly agreed to put one of their hives in a quiet corner of our land and to mentor me. He offered a wealth of wisdom gained over 60 years of beekeeping experience. His generosity of his time, knowledge and the loan of the hive gave us the opportunity to learn and experience tending a hive and, in the autumn of 2019, he gave us that hive of bees. Last year, his need to isolate meant that he could no longer visit our smallholding and through the local beekeeping association, I found a new mentor. I also decided to buy an additional hive to expand our apiary.

We didn’t set out to become selfsufficient in food, the plan was simply that I would grow and raise as much of our food as I could as my contribution to our family income. Over the last five years, the volume of food produced here has steadily increased and what we choose to eat, the way we cook meals and food storage methods have all changed in response to which foods grow well here and as I’ve learnt new skills. We have also begun to explore other resources that can be harvested, like coppicing hazel and willow as fuel for the woodburners and to use in garden projects and crafts.

I think if we had started with the sole aim of being self-sufficient in food, I would have felt overwhelmed by the perceived enormity of the task ahead. I might have been so focussed on the end result that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the process or taken the time to learn the lessons that were on offer from working gently with this plot of land. The garden we have ended up with may not be described as beautiful in a conventional sense, but it serves its purpose, in a multi-functioning, Nature supporting, food providing, life affirming way, which to us makes it beautiful.

Liz Zorab runs a seasonal CSA veg box scheme at Byther Farm, a 0.8 acre smallholding in Monmouthshire, Wales, with Mr J. They offer training courses and workshops on site and online and can be found on YouTube ( Further information can be found at: Her new book, Grounded: A Gardener’s Journey to Abundance and Self-Sufficiency (RRP £16.00), is available from February. Use discount code: GR-PM107 to receive an additional 10% discount off our listed price: issue 107  spring 2021

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