Tag Archives: vegetable gardening

Taking Time to Enjoy the Good Life

We moved here as part of a larger plan to change our lives and live more of the Good Life. In many ways the Good Life means more and harder work (especially with a young baby) but it is called the Good Life because of the rewards.  One of the keys to living this way is making sure you squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of your life.

(Actually that is just a key to life isn’t it…)

So this weekend I have been relaxing, pottering and really enjoying the life we have made.

This is my short post of good things we have enjoyed this weekend.

1. Shallots


All the shallots are harvested.  About 1/3 of them are dried and the rest are drying.  We’ve got an ok crop this year (but very good for our first crop in a long time!).  I’ll pickle a small amount (because homemade pickled onions are delicious!) and we’ll use the rest in cooking.

Knowing I don’t have to buy onions for a couple of months feels surprisingly good!

2. Barbeque!

The weather this month has been incredible.  In fact both the Summers since we moved to Derbyshire have been glorious and I love hot weather.  (I liked it less last year when I was recovering from a c-section and trying to breastfeed – then the hot weather was a lot less nice.)  But knowing that I didn’t get the most out of it last year has meant I’ve really appreciated it this year.

When we bought the house we noted there was a brick built barbeque but we didn’t think much about it.  How wrong we were not to realise it’s potential.  For some reason this lovely brick built thing makes it a million times easier to have a lovely BBQ in the Summer months.

Josh made marinated lamb steaks and we had Abel & Cole Chipolatas, homemade rye bread, salad, and marinated anchovies.  It was all delicious!

3. First Cucumber


The BBQ also saw us eating our first cucumber of the year.  The others on the plant are all tiny but this lovely sized one was just right.  I’d never really appreciate how amazing a home grown cucumber is before we did our own a few years ago.  They are less wet and slimy and much more crunchy – which I totally prefer.

4. Borlotti Beans – first pods

I’ve never grown these before so when I was feeding the pigs this morning I was so excited to see these two pods peeking out from the leaves! I’m hoping to eat a few fresh but mostly dry them all for the Winter!

They are all small things, but they were all relaxing, simple, fun and pretty inexpensive to enjoy (and yes I do realise they are all food related – but that is just how my mind works!) I hope all of you are taking the time to enjoy your Good Lives and I’d love to hear more about them below.

A Huge List of Things – Part 1

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!

Sock in progress.

Sock in progress.

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.

Garden is coming on (just ignore the weeds).

Garden is coming on (just ignore the weeds).

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!


Another day on the Tinyholding

What a trying day!  Well not really but for about two hours this evening it felt like it.

When the going gets tough, the tough, eat a bowl of Eton Mess the size of their head!

When the going gets tough, the tough, eat a bowl of Eton Mess the size of their head!

I worked hard (at my paid work job) all day, really worked my socks off on a report.  It was a huge chunk of work and I was feeling really good about getting so much done.  Then as I tried to save it to the Network something happened – I don’t know what but it corrupted the file horribly.  The only version which escaped was saved at 10.19 am – I had finally finished the report at 4.30pm. I’ll be spending most of Monday redoing the whole thing.

Much swearing happened. I might appear delicate on this blog but in real life I sound like a proper potty-mouth.

But as soon as dinner was eaten and a fat little baby was sound asleep I was determined to banish the blues and headed out into the garden.  Setting slug traps was a grim therapy but a good job done.

I use a small plastic container (like a small yoghurt pot) filled with cheap, cheap beer.  The sluggy demons have eaten my entire lettuce crop, my entire purslane crop, the best courgette and 3/4 of my Mooli.  I will not be beaten.  I laid a good number down and I have a lot more left to do before this war is over.

On the way down to the veg patch I saw the first dogrose of the year.  I missed making anything with rosehips this Autumn and hopefully I’ll do better this year.

Proto-rose hip jelly.

Proto-rosehip jelly.

Then I managed some planting – new salad leaves, new purslane and a 3/4 row of Chop Suey Greens a sort of edible Chrysanthemum. The Purslane and Chop Suey Greens are from the James Wong range at Suttons. I’ll be interested to see how they do this year (already I know purslane is extra vulnerable to slugs).

The pigs have been in a great mood all day. They are growing in confidence, getting much happier with handling and starting to move into the part of the pen which is overgrown (which we would like them to eat through!). Banking up the potatoes (again!) they came out to see what I was up to and had a good rummage around.

Proto-Damson Jam

Proto-Damson Jam

The damson is covered in little green fruit. I already know how amazing it tastes from last year so I’ll be preparing early to make the most of the harvest in jam, jelly and baking.

After a good 45mins in the garden and a large bowl of Eton Mess all is right with the world again and I’m finishing some knitting.

Bank Holiday Work

So moving up here is a lifestyle choice – which means that instead of going away for the bank holiday weekend we were desperately finishing the new pig pen and doing lots of gardening. But it was all great fun!

Our 3 new Berkshire Weaners are happily installed in their huge pen.  They are so tiny it is really easy to lose them in the pen/pig hutch, so I keep thinking they have escaped… only they haven’t, they are just tiny.

After that it was back to more vegetable gardening.

I have planted out all the squashes now (6 butternut and 1 blue banana), a couple of cabbages (Duncan) and the only 3 sweetcorn that made it.  I think sweetcorn in the North will be a bit of a pipe dream from now on but we will see. The rest of the cabbage and about 5-6 cavelo nero need hardening off over the next week before they go in.

I also caught a couple of beans which had germinated which I missed the first time and chucked them in where I could.

The other big job was banking up the potatoes.  Since we have clay soil here I’m trying a new technique of using grass clipping, they rot down over time so you have to bank them up more regularly but it is a million times easier than trying to hill up our soil. Josh worked hard on mowing the lawn so I’d have enough grass clippings for the job.  So far so good.

The win/lose tally is dipping into nature’s favour though:

Lost 1/2 the last salad planting, 1/2 the purslane and the best looking courgette plant to the slugs.  Pass the beer traps please.

I’ve also had cat trouble – my lovely permaculture circle beds are purrfect litter trays.  I’ll be bringing out the rubber snakes soon! In the meantime I lost a good chuck of carrot seedling.  Maybe I’ll replace with a couple of radishes?

We did get our first tiny pea pod of the year – very exciting!

Potting and pottering

It has been a long time since I did serious vegetable gardening since my last two planting seasons were taken up with a part time MBA and moving house respectively.  So this year I am feeling really excited about the possibilities of my vegetable garden.


Having combination of heavy clay soil and (I believe) the wettest Winter on record I am trying to start as many things in pots as possible rather than sowing directly into the soil.  In its current state any seeds would rot before they had a chance to get going.

So far I have made over 100 pots using a similar technique to this: http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2013/03/newspaper-seed-starting-pots.html

These homemade pots are brilliant because they will bio-degrade over time which means I don’t have to pop the seeds out of the pots and disturb the roots.  Also it means I can make use of lots and lots of old papers lying around which would otherwise have just been recycled (this way they still get recycled but at home and in a way which benefits us more directly).

So far I’ve started off:

1 tray of Green Kale

1 tray of Cavelo Nero

1 tray of Kohlrabi

30 Dwarf Peas

30 French Purple Climbing Beans

19 Golden Sweet Mangetout (I’ll be doing more of these!)

Coriander and Parsley (for the Herb Garden not the Veg plot)

3 pots of chillis including Rainbow Fire chillis.

Lots and lots of tomatoes – 3 varieties: Costoluto Genovese, Dr Pink Carolyn and Gold Medal. So far all the Costoluto have germinated, only 1 Dr Pinks have made it (the seed was very very old) and the Gold Medal are still thinking about things.

But that is really just scratching the surface of my planting plans and I’m sure I’ll be making many many more in the next few weeks.

Next I’m looking forward to doing: Beetroot (Chiggoia and Perfect 3), Celeriac (Monarch) and Cucumber (Miniature White and Cornichon de Paris) but fear not – even this isn’t the end.  There is sweetcorn, potatoes, squashes, courgettes, florence fennel, chard, spinach, salad leaves, mooli and all manner of tasty things still to come.