One of our aims in moving to Colemore Farm was to live in a way that is sensitive to the environment. As anybody who has tried it knows, achieving sustainability is a journey rather than a destination. Although for many reasons Colemore Farm is a great starting point for that journey, we still face challenges.
Our goal is to become as self-sufficient as possible, growing as much of our own food as we can, and generating as much renewable energy as is feasible on a site this size. To be honest, this isn't just worthy idealism; it's driven just as much by the need to manage the cost of fuel and food. In practice, we start with just suburban experience in growing herbs, a few vegetables and some fruit. And we are currently dependent on an ageing oil-fired boiler to drive our central heating system.
We're taking guidance from wherever we can find it. That includes our neighbours and anybody who knows anything about trying to live a greener life, including the Centre for Alternative Technology in North Wales.
As an example, in October this year we commissioned a Renewable Energy Feasibility Study from the Low Carbon Enterprise team at the Marches Energy Agency. Their report has truly helped us see the wood for the trees (in more ways than one), and we are now in the process of incorporating the report's recommendations into the plans for developing the farm.
Practical steps to more sustainable energy
The MEA report has helped us focus on three practical things we can do to make progress towards a more sustainable future for Colemore Farm.
Firstly, we need to improve the energy performance of the farmhouse itself. Its age and its construction mean that heat is lost through the thin walls and draughts play through gaps in the construction. With a little investment we will quickly be able to reduce energy usage, particularly by improving the insulation in the loft. Wherever possible we'll use natural materials, such as sheep's wool, which is in keeping with the historic nature of the farm. Careful design will also help manage future energy usage in the barns.
Secondly, the redundant barns in the upper paddock give us a great opportunity to generate our own electricity from photovoltaic solar panels. Of course, these will have to be chosen carefully to preserve the rural look and feel of Colemore Farm. However, the south-facing aspect of the buildings means we should be able to achieve efficient production of a decent amount of the electricity we need at the farm.