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Caring for the Countryside

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Bees We are very lucky at The Sign Maker to be situated in the heart of the North Devon Countryside, surrounded by our own land and other farms. Living in the countryside, one has a responsibility to look after it. Our aim is to make Yelland Farm a wildlife haven. We are rewarded with hares and deer in the fields and lots of wild birds around the offices and workshops.

Best of all for us, are the bees, it is wonderful to see them buzzing around. Without bees the countryside would be a very different place and it is so important that we make every effort to look after them.
Wild flowers on the farm

In addition to looking after our bit of rural England we must also think of our planet. To this end we recycle everything we can, buy FSC certified timber from sustainable sources, use eco-friendly inks along with using our own green energy.

Green Energy

When we moved from Little Knowe Farm to Yelland Farm there was lots of work to do - converting old stone buildings into offices and modern farm buildings into workshops. We decided though, it was important to produce as much of our own electricity as we could. Therefore just six months after moving in our wind turbine was up and running.

Three years later we also invested in a wood burning biomass boiler to heat all the buildings. This uses locally sourced timber along with our own waste timber. We are also planting biomass willow & popular which should ready to cut in five years.

Wind turbine
Planting trees

Planting Trees

As well as planting over 1500 willow and poplar for the biomass, we have planted over two hundred other trees. They may not look much yet but they will look amazing in the future. When planting trees you are always looking to the future. Time flies though and it surprising how quickly they begin to establish. The willow will provide an early nectar crop for honey bees and other insects.

We have also planted a number of Devon hedges with mixed planting of shrubs recommended by the RSBP. These should provide food shelter and nesting sites for the birds.

Healthy population of sparrows
Woodpecker helping itself to peanuts

Feeding the Birds
When we first came to Yelland Farm it was very bleak. There were very few trees and virtually no shrubs, climbers or gardens. With no habitats, we hardly saw a bird - there was not even a resident robin.

This has changed - Every autumn we seem to find spots for more and more planting! Not only is this lovely for us, but it provides nesting sites and food for our growing bird population. All the more common species use the bird feeders constantly, but now we are regularly seeing more unusual birds such as woodpeckers, siskins and goldfinches on a regular basis too.

Goldfinch feeding off the niger seeds
Yellow rattle in wild flower meadow

Wild Flower Meadows

We have set aside about five acres of land for wild flower meadows. The fields were already very old pastures so had a good diversity of grasses and flowers. We have added lots more wild flower plugs and will continue to do so each year for several years.

We have also sown lots of Yellow Rattle which helps keep the grasses down and allows the wild flowers to flourish. The grass is cut every August and turned into lovely hay.

Wild flower meadows

Pond for wildlife

Wildlife Ponds

At the bottom of one of the fields Shaun has created three wildlife ponds with his JCB. We were lucky to have a belt of clay to line the ponds with. The ponds are still new and will take a while to mature. We have planted lots of marginal and oxygenating plants so hopefully this wont take too long.

The ponds are next to an ancient wood and so will be a oasis for wildlife - the first newt has already arrived.

Bees

We love our bees! It is wonderful to see them collecting the pollen and nectar from all the flowers, flowering shrubs and trees. The lavender hedge is a favourite with bumble bees while the cotoneaster bushes hum with honey bees.

We have just set up our first hive for honey bees and hope to set up five more before next season. We will take some honey out, but for the most part we leave the honey for the bees. Bees travel up to 2.5miles to forage so we are sure they will find plenty of pollen and nectar at Yelland Farm and around the surrounding farmland and woodland.

Bumble Bee on Lavender Bush

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