I never realised before that the flowers you get on salad leaves that have bolted are quite pretty… and smell wonderful.
Elizabeth from the Margot and Barbara blog (I can’t tell how you much I *love* that title!) has suggested people write happy posts, about The Good Things.
I wholeheartedly support the idea of recording The Good Things and so here is my first post, as unlikely as it seems…
1. Weeding the Vegetable Patch
Why, on Earth, would this be a good thing?
Well I can tell you it wasn’t always a good thing and there are still aspects of it I don’t like – namely all that bending over. But this is the first time I’ve had a vegetable patch next to a pig pen. It is a revelation! I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to pull up a handful of weeds and casually toss them into the pen only to have the pigs race for the fresh greens as if they were the most delicious treat. Listening to them grunt and snuffle their way through the pile of weeds is so satisfying. Composting weeds is all well and good but having the animals get such enjoyment out of eating them is great and makes me feel closer to fulfilling my Permaculture principles – Maximum yield, minimum cost and effort.
I really think that getting back into my gardening groove has helped our luck. After yesterday’s extravaganza of planting, today I worked out a whole list of plants I can plant now to fill the gap in the brassica section (and bought some seeds to fulfil my plan), I planted 3 large pots of parsley, 1 pot of clary sage and 1 large tray of kohl rabi. I’m starting everything in pots so I can better protect them from the evil slugs.
So the good news is that we met some lovely people today who might… might want to keep a beehive in our orchard! This is very exciting news. It might come to nothing but it would be so exciting to have some bees buzzing around pollinating all our vegetables. I also found a spare packet of basil seeds that I forgot about!
When we first moved here the house came with a shed. But it was far too small for our needs. Keeping pigs and planning to keep hens comes with a need to store equipment, straw and feed. Then we have all the garden tools you would expect from people who have a huge garden and vegetable patch. So fairly early on this year we bought a new and bigger shed to which we transferred all most of our gardening equipment and the broken chest freezer (thanks Freecycle!) we use for storing pig feed.
But I was determined to keep the old one, it was the green thing to do after all. The new-old shed was in good working order, just a little small, and I knew we would outgrow the new shed very quickly. We keep 2-3 bales of straw around at a time and I really wanted somewhere to put all that straw – somewhere that was not our verandah. Verandah’s are for lounging on with cool minty drinks, not for storing straw, kindling and other bittes and oddses (ours is a work in progress!)
After successfully scavenging free concrete slabs for the base of the new-old shed, Josh was fired up to get it up as quickly as possible. In a relatively short space of time he’d finished putting the shed up and filled it with the bales.
I feel like we have made incredible progress on our Tinyholding in just the last 6 months and having the pig hutch, the new-new shed (with water and electrics) and the new-old shed all up and working contributes a lot to that. We are not DIY naturals but Josh in particular is getting really good and picking up new skills all the time.
Looking down the garden now I can just see the end of the new-old shed begging for a bit of bunting to cheer it up!
In other news I went up a ladder and had a good squeeze of our Parma Ham which is drying the verandah. This is the first time I’ve dared do it (I still haven’t opened it up for a sneaky peak). To my delight it was really solid and hard with no soft or spongy sections (which I’m assuming would imply it was rotten). We only have about 1 month to go before eating it!
Yesterday I wrote about a number of minor setbacks catching me on the raw. Thankfully they were all silly and minor but obviously minor things don’t always feel that way.
I was determined to make sure I had a great day today… no matter what! I made sure of it 🙂
Firstly our roof was fixed. It has been leaking for ages, we have been through many temporary fixes and this time I think we have cracked it. Fingers crossed. Getting the work done was simple, quick, painless and not too expensive.
Secondly it was Transition Chesterfield’s repair cafe today. I didn’t sit on the repairing crew this time (next time I’ll volunteer for clothes mending). I won’t say too much about it as I want to do a separate post on the whole Repair Cafe (which was awesome!) but I got most of my bike fixed (and I know what is wrong with the rest), I got told what was wrong with an old bottle steriliser (should be simple to fix once we get a small part) and I came away with 2 replacement courgettes, and a bag full of denim scraps for patchworking and mending some of our own jeans.
Then we walked back in the sunshine and I took a quick break before hitting the garden… and hitting it hard!
I potted out the 2 courgettes from C, 4 tomatoes, 1 mountain mint, 1 french tarragon.
I sowed 4 pots chives, 2 pots summer savory, 2 pots of basil, 1 pot of bergamot.
I’m starting everything in pots because it is easier to protect them my Nemesis – the slug!
Then I had a quick visit to the pig pen and admired my mangetout and redcurrants – they are both so very nearly ready and looking grand!.
AND I got another sock mended. Back down to 10 socks to mend.
“Catching you on the Raw.” It’s a funny little phrase we have in our family for describing something minor which happens when you are already feeling low and spirals into something which feels much worse than it really it. Or when lots of little things add up and you get the same effect.
Today things have been mostly catching me on the raw.
I know I am lucky that we have a decent income and don’t depend on our tinyholding to feed us. I’d like to source most of our veg from the tinyholding but we don’t have to and on some level I know we need to build up slowly to get where I want to go. But as I sit and watch a million and one prolific and abundant vegetable plots emerging throughout blogland at this time of year I will admit to feeling tired, jealous and a little down.
I decided I would write a post about the days it goes badly – with all the glorious bad pictures, because otherwise blogland can look unattainably perfect. Once I’ve put this all out there I can pick myself up, plant some more seeds and move on.
Thing the first… bread making
We make all our bread in a bread maker. Maybe one day I’ll get back to handmade bread but for our current lifestyle (read: busy chasing a baby down every 5 seconds – how can he crawl so fast!!!!) a bread maker is perfect. We can time it so that it is fresh and ready to eat when we get up and we still avoid eating any bread which has more than 5 ingredients in it (unless we add something weird like sun dried tomatoes or raisins!)
But sometimes the bread maker doesn’t work and this is the “bread” you get.
The kneading part of the programme failed and when that happens in a bread maker you lose the whole loaf – you can’t rescue it as you might with hand kneading. Mostly our bread maker is reliable. But sometimes it isn’t. Annoyingly I’ll have to make another loaf to check if it was a one off or a wider problem and risk wasting more ingredients. It also mean another guilt ridden trip to the expensive mini-tescos. Gah!
Thing the second… Slugs
I know I’ve been mentioning my hatred of them on this blog for sometime. But this morning when I went to feed the pigs it was just a disaster. The brassica patch (the largest part of the veg patch this year) has been decimated. Maybe some of the seedlings will pull through but I just wanted to cry.
All over the place everyone’s vegetable gardens look amazing. Mine looks bare, with plants that are struggling to get established or half eaten. The peas and potatoes are doing fine but everything else looks terrible and just today I have been struggling to maintain optimism about it. I’ve been growing veg on and off for a while, so I can’t claim to be a beginner but it just looks like I don’t know what I’m doing. This morning all I could see was all the time, energy and money (on seeds) which was totally wasted. I’m not even keeping a tally of what the slugs have eaten now it is too depressing and measured in whole packets of seed gone to waste, I can literally cost out how much money they have eaten.
Thing the third… holes in socks.
I’ve a big post planned on darning socks. I had a pile of 12 pairs to mend a couple of days ago and managed two pairs in the last two days getting the pile down to 10. As of this morning it is back up to 11. Darning feels never ending at the moment.
I’d be able to take more joy in the simple work if a) there wasn’t so damn many of them! and b) the bread and the slugs. But when I get through the whole pile I will feel amazing. So I guess I have a date with a darning mushroom again tonight.
I know I need to get back out there and sow some more stuff. I know the only thing I can do is push through this, keep going, plant more, put down more slug traps, go out in the evening and pick them off one by one. I know gardening is a slow process and what happens this year will be different to next. I know I just need to have faith. I’m just glad that I’m not having to rely on it to feed us.
I’m not looking for advice, I just wanted to write out the frustration . If this blog is going to be worth anything to me I need to write the bad days along with the good days.
I’ve got a 101 solutions to try next year. But sympathy is much appreciated.
I did eat my first peas today. A little early but sometimes you need a pick me up!
I’ll start with a quick picture of my mortal enemy. Sorry about the bad lighting. The sluggy body count is over 150 now. I hope I’m making some headway. This is a leopard slug which thankfully seems to prefer a rotting orange half to the tasty cucumber plant next door. It did not survive long after this photo was taken (Sorry but I couldn’t take any chances).
[Apologies for the bad lighting – it was dusk.]
We have a few small building projects in the pipeline at Westwick all in the name of greening:
1. Putting up the old shed we want to put up in the Orchard to keep spare straw, chicken feed etc. in (when we get chickens).
2. Making a chicken run and putting up a hen house.
3. Building a couple of brick plinths to stand our water butts on.
4. Making another cold compost heap in the Orchard.
All of these require materials, time and possible money and we are trying to be as inventive and green as possible in making these happen. So when I noticed that five of our neighbours down our (very long) road all had a skip outside I was very, very interested. Although I consider myself quite green I’ve never really considered looking at skips before. I know that it is a good idea to ask permission (and so we did) but after a quick 30 mins work we walked away with the following:
9 Concrete slabs for the base of the shed and the hen house.
37 Bricks, some for the base of the compost heap and some for the plinths.
It probably didn’t save us that much cash but it was more about re-using other people’s waste. As I looked at the skips I was suddenly struck by and filled with sadness about the levels of waste. I know we have had building work done and skips of rubbish taken away ourselves and there are probably things which can’t be recycled in this way. But the further we go on this journey the more I notice these things.
We are probably going to go back and get more bricks and the rest of the composter at least will be made from pallets we are sourcing from a local friend who has a farm. But I’m still on the hunt for some of our other materials.
But it also feels good to know that a little bit less landfill was created today and there is a little bit more money in our pockets that there would have been.
Make Do and Mend Year has written a blog post called “Taking Stock” which is one of the assignments on her blogging course. It sounded like fun and I could do with some writing practice myself so I’m giving it a go.
I’ve split it into multiple parts though as it was a very long list!
Making : I have two main projects on the go at the moment. Socks for Josh and bunting for R’s birthday. I love the speed of sewing but it requires some set up and I don’t always have a clear stretch of time to get stuck in. Bunting I can sort of do bits here and that (especially the cutting out) but my first love is knitting, portable, easy to pick up and put down and no minute of waiting at the doctors or for a bus is ever wasted.
Cooking : It’s Josh’s turn to cook dinner tonight not me but I know we are having a vegetable tortilla. Since we have guests coming tomorrow though, I’ll be cranking up the bread machine and getting a loaf ready. Our standard loaf is 50% strong white flour and 50% wholemeal spelt flour and it is very tasty!
Drinking : Diet coke – my main vice. Terrible stuff and (I’m sure) horrible for the environment. Something I am still working on.
Reading: I always have a million and one books on the go but the main thing I’m currently reading is “The Wizard Hunters” by Martha Wells. It is part of a huge box I got from a friend when they were downsizing their book collection and it’s taken me ages to get round to reading it but it is good solid fantasy with a slight steampunk twist and several interesting and well-drawn female characters. Just my sort of thing.
Wanting: Chickens! We are in the planning stages for getting chickens. First working out how big a coop to build, then sourcing the materials and building it, then buying a hen house and finally a feeder, food, water thingy and actual chickens. We are still a way off getting them but we almost have a plan!
Looking: For some replacement Courgette plants – the slugs have done for ours and the garden centre has sold out.
Playing: We recently bought two new board games (we have a huge collection of board games and role-playing games) Race for the Galaxy and Ghost Stories. We have been playing them a lot! Definitely getting our money’s worth.
Deciding: How high the fences for the chicken coop should be and whether we need a lid on it.
Wishing: Death to slugs. They are decimating the garden, I lost two most cucumbers to the little monsters this morning. My slug traps are doing well in the veg patch but poorly up with the courgettes and it is hurting.
Much of my current garden news is above – mostly am in full blown war against the slugs. My perennial enemy. They have now decimated 4 cucumbers, 2 courgettes, 2 squashes, all the chillis, one entire salad crop and one purslane crop. I hates them precious.
Currently I’m deploying my standard beer traps, but the weather has been so wet and mild for so long I bet this is going to be bumper slug year. So I’m reading this article with great interest especially the bit about Indian Runner Ducks!