Monthly Archives: September 2008

What do men know any way

Me sat on bed flipping through a gardening magazine: “shall I get the five free strawberry plants?”

Rhys laying on bed, unable to move with bad back: “I don’t know, what do you have to do to get them?”

Me: “Send them £3.95”

Rhys, starts with chock of laughter: “You are actually the kind of person to take part in a wonderful opportunity to send someone £35, aren’t you?”

Me: “only if they send me some nice plants free”

What does he know about anything any way! All he’s house plants were almost dead when I met him.

Catching up on the last couple of weeks

Well my wish was granted, I had the last two weekends off and both have had good weather. It’s been so nice to be able to be out doing things.

The last week or so has felt very strange, it’s been busy but is hasn’t necessarily felt like it was busy. Everything feels like it is slowing down for winter now.

The weekend before the one just gone was mostly spent re-doing the goat pen, putting up a new pallet fence and digging out the wet mud that’s built up over the last two wet summers. There’s now paving down over half of it and we’re going to try grass seeding the other half and see how it takes.

We also threw a surprise party for Rhys, it’s his 30th this year and even though his birthday isn’t until this week his party was last weekend as I couldn’t get the hall I wanted for this weekend. It was a good party, lots of his old friends came and he didn’t know a thing about it until me and him got to the hall. Keeping him out the way broke up the time on Saturday in a strange way, when I have time off I hate leaving home unless I really have too as I always have something that I want to be getting on with even if I’m not getting on with it, so we don’t normally go out together much, especially in the day, but it was a nice afternoon. We went and picked somethings from freecycle up and then had a picnic.

Sunday I had a cold and Rhys was hung over so not much work got done. I started cutting back all the caterpillar eaten purple sprouting and sprout plants and sprayed them with a mixture I made up from a recipe out of an old gardening book, boiled tobacco, to see how well it works. The plants have started growing back and I think they will come back but of course they are going to crop late. I’m still not daring to plant out the kale or spring cabbage just in case but I will have to do it this week really, there is only so much growing on they can do in pots and it always takes them a while to settle after re-potting. 

I got my strawberry plants; I had bought 50, not 30 like I thought from ebay. I can’t remember which day they arrived, or which day I potted most of them up but they are really nice plants all very well rooted and not at all dried out from being posted. The last few plants are in a bucket of water waiting for me to finish the job off. I started off by sorting all this year’s plants and runners out, I got 5 free plants from a magazine and they fruited well this year, even though they were left in the same bucket I had put them in ‘for the time being’ when I got them last autumn and they’ve produced some good strong runners. We’re going to have so many strawberries next year!

During the week I’ve carried on with freezing courgettes, the plants still have plenty of fruit coming on them and, touch wood, the sweetcorn should be done soon as well. The chickens have started getting on the bed (the old muck heap bed) and seem to like the mystery squash plant that’s on there, I don’t think it’s going to manage to fruit. My bucket of Christmas carrots are doing really well, it looks quite impressive.

I’m going to sow some more carrots in buckets and start them off in the poly tennel, they should over winter in there alright. I’ve been picking a few runner beans as well, the plants went in really late, at the time that other plants put in at the right time started fruiting but they are doing well and still have plenty of flowers on. The bees seem to like them as well.

On Friday I had arranged to go and see a male goat, I need to get a new one this year as my last year kid is ready to breed from this year, but what sounded like a much better one for me came up, so after pottering in the garden, I finished cutting back the sprouting plants and did some weeding, I went to see my half sister and helped her start putting up her poly tennel. It was a really nice afternoon.

On Saturday me, mother, middle-sister and my brothers girlfriend went on a puppet making workshop which was really good fun, then we came home and I ended spending ages washing up, not the normal day-to-day washing up but emptying the cutlery draw and cleaning that out and the plate racks.

 

And on Sunday, this is very exciting, I got my new stud male goat, Kniteshade. He’s gorgeous. A few years ago I saw a male who I really liked call Holdbrook Ghost, his farther, Fungus was breed champion and also nice but I really liked Ghost. I never stood a chance of getting him though has he was exported to a herd in Holland (or somewhere like that) not long after I had ‘found’ him. When I bought my last male, the breeder that I got him from also had Fungus. I bought a female from him that was put in kid to him, Fuscia, but she started to kidded over a weekend when it snowed, we knew something was wrong with her but we weren’t 100% sure she was kidding. We called the vet but they had just called all the vets back in as the snow was getting worse. We did all the things they suggested, including give her lots of sweet black tea to drink which she now loves and will do anything to drink if you go near her with a cup, but she wasn’t ‘open’ at all so we hoped that one of the kids was just laying in odd way and she was uncomfortable. A few days later she started to kid properly and pushing, but again was having problems and after me, mother and middle-sister had done all we could (me and my sister have been kidding and lambing since we were little and my mother has for even longer) the vet was called again and after a lot of trying delivered three massive male kids, all dead. The vet said that two of the kids had tried to come out at the same time, one over the top of another, and got very stuck. They were all very pretty but none of them were like Ghost. Any way, Ghost is the grand-father of Knitshade, and his great-grand-farther is the half brother of my first goat who I lost during foot-and-mouth. So not only is he gorgeous, I would have had him just for his breeding even if he didn’t look as good as he does.

(Photo of Knitshade taken from his breeders website)

In season this week #9

VEGETABLES

artichoke | aubergine | beetroot | broccoli | butternut squash | carrots | celeriac | celery | courgettes | fennel | garlic | kale | kohlrabi | leeks | marrow | onions | peppers | potatoes (maincrop) | pumpkin | radishes | rocket | sweetcorn | turnips | watercress | wild mushrooms

FRUIT & NUTS

apples | blackberries | chestnuts | elderberries | figs | grapes | melons | pears | plums | quince | tomatoes

MEAT

duck | grouse | guinea fowl | lamb | partridge | rabbit | venison | wood pigeon

Credit Crunch

This morning on breakfast news there was an interview with a woman, it was something to do with the Labour conference, and she was talking about the credit crunch and how it was effecting her and her family, prices for things have been going up, interest rates are rising and how bad it was, etc., all reasonable points but her main point seemed to be that she was now having to think more carefully about her food shopping, where she is going to do her shopping and only buying the basics, which is surely a good thing?

I think it’s a good thing, if people are ‘only buying the basics’ then they won’t be wasting so much and they will be thinking about what they are eating more, it might even start a few more people thinking more seriously about where they’re food comes from and why it costs what it costs. If you are thinking more about what you’re buying then hopefully people will be cooking more, or at least thinking about what they are cooking.

I know the credit crunch isn’t a good thing, and some people are finding it hard but I really can’t understand why having to think about your food shopping is a bad thing. When she was asked by the presenter if she’d had to make cuts backs she said yes, they had. When she was pressed on this she said they no longer eat out or buy take-a-ways as often as they use to. Also not something that I think of as a ‘bad thing.’

Each year the number of people, mostly older people, who die from lack of heating increases. That is a bad thing, that is a terrible thing, and that is only going to increase with fuel costs rising. Surely that should be the main focus for how the credit crunch is effecting people, not whether or not people can afford take-a-way for dinner.

Food prices are a concern, and they are affecting many people, but I can’t help taking it all with a pinch of salt. There was no way food prices could stay as artificially low has they were/ still are, if it costs more to produce something than you can sell it for then that product is either going to be discontinued or, when it is something that is needed, the price will have to rise, surely that is just common sense.

Milking Film

I’ve just loaded a film of me and my youngest sister hand milking Primrose on to YouTube.

Hand Milking Film: YouTube

I hope our hands only look black and blue on my computer screen!

Darkness world

On September 17, 2008 from 21:50 to 22:00 hours.
Proposes to turn off all lights and if possible all electrical appliances, so our planet can ‘breathe’.
if many take part, energy saving can be massive.
Only 10 minutes, and see what happens.
Yes, we are 10 minutes in the dark, we light a candle and simply watch it, breathe with our planet.

Remember that unity is strength and the Internet can be very useful in creating a worldwide impact.

Spread the word, if you have friends who live in other countries send this message to them. Set your mobile phone calender alarms to remind you. xx

When the sun is shining…

I’m working.

It feels like every time there has been even just one day of reasonable weather, and I don’t even mean sunny weather, I’ve been in the middle of working flat out for one reason or another. This weekend is was because the museum that I work for was taking part in Heritage Open Days, up and down the country buildings or sites with ‘heritage’ interest were open for free to encouraged people to visit. Of course unless you are a museum in Wales (and Scotland ?? ) or are run by a council and are luckily enough to have all your running costs paid for, if you’re not taking money on the gate for visitors you have to some how make some money to cover running costs.

This time it was a ‘Forest Fair’, we had duck races round the mill pond, face painting, milk a cow, hoop-a-frog, etc. and the weather was good, not sunny all the time but it wasn’t overcast or about to rain and at some points the sun was even out. Which made the event even better, but I did keep thinking about all the out door things I could have been doing at home.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I really enjoy my job, I get on with the people I work with and the site is beautiful but now that the nights are getting darker again then days off are becoming more precious, and days off when it’s not pouring with rain even more so. A weekend of dry weather could have made a big difference too, at the moment we are re-doing the gate pen so as it drains better.

Last weekend it poured down, and when it wasn’t pouring down it was building up to the next down pour, but still me, Rhys and middle-sister were out there.

A few more sets of water-proofs are on my list of things to get when I next get paid.

There is also a large corner of the veg garden that needs the nettles pull, a bonfire and a few tip runs with the rubbish from it, it’s half a dry days work. And then there’s the private tree that needs cutting out, and the strawberries to re-pot… and I want to sow a few more buckets of carrots to grow in the poly-tunnel… and so on.

It wasn’t all bad though. One of the days another LETS member came in and I’ve got an order for some more paper pots for the next meeting, which is a nice ‘watching-TV-in-the-evening’ job, and I do like working. I can’t imagine not going out to work at least part-time, I just wish that I could enjoy the work and have more time for the outdoor things at home. With the same (or more!!) pay.

Local vs British

For an ex-mining market town, our local town is full of life. It has two green grocers, four butchers, two chemists, two florists, two DIY/household type shops, a whole food shop and two supermarkets, one a Lidl and the other a Co-op.  

You can pretty much buy anything there you might need, so long as once you’re past the age of about nine you don’t mind wearing second hand clothes from charity shops or paying horribly expensive price for new clothes from the ‘department’ store in the town. You don’t really need to go anywhere else, other than for a change of scene.  

It’s not often that the town centre isn’t busy, and the supermarkets seem to live along side the town centre shops quite happily but that all looks like it’s about to change. For the last ten years Tescos have been trying to build a ‘superstore’ there, at first they tried to get planning permission on a site on the industrial estate. I’m not completely sure of the details of why it was turned down or whether it was on the same scale as the one that they are trying to build now but thankfully it was turned down.  

As what I imagine normally happens in areas where large changes are proposed, there was/still is a lot of debate about if this is a good or bad thing for the town, protest marches were staged by both sides, petitions produced and lots of letters written to the local newspapers. People on both sides do feel very passionate about the subject. The argument for is that it will bring employment to the area, 300 jobs are planned, people will come into the area to shop, the store will help regenerate the town and the two supermarkets that the town currently has are rubbish. The argument against is the proposed store is far to big for the population of the area, it will kill off the small businesses and shops in the town centre and possibly the other two existing supermarkets (the site planned is right next to the Co-op), the traffic will be horrendous, Tescos are in no way community minded and if people want to shop at Tescos they can always use the free bus they provide to get the existing store locally and possibly the biggest reason is this store is planned to sell EVERYTHING, all in one place and that is not a good thing for any town.   

Although the argument against basically hangs on the fact that Tescos are “baddies”, I’m not giving away any prizes for guessing which camp I’m in. The only good part of the plan is that the store would create jobs, the flip side to that is it will be destroying other businesses in the area who also offer employment and honestly if I have to be a shelf stacker or shop assistant I would much prefer that it was in a small business than a facelessly-owned supermarket. I do want to mention, however, that I do sometimes shop at Tescos.

 Any way, that is the long way round to explaining what I’m trying to post about.

With all the above as background, the other day me and mother were out buying vegetables for dinner, we were using one of the green grocers in town and needed carrots, I can’t remember what it was we were having for dinner, I’d gone round picking out the English onions and potatoes but the only carrots that they had were from Spain, we did buy them but I do know that if we’d gone down the road to the Lidl then we could of bought British carrots no problem, they only have British carrots in stock at the moment. We bought them from there because however poor we might be at times we do normally try to buy from the local shops and then whatever can’t be bought from the smaller shops (or is much cheaper) we buy from the supermarkets.

In the ideal world we should be growing our own carrots, the next step away, in my thinking, is buying our carrots from friends, neighbours, etc. then from local shops, then supermarkets, but I’ve never really thought about where the carrots come from in the local shops. Just that it is better to buy from smaller businesses than supermarkets.

I suppose the ideal in that situation is for smaller shops to have local/local-ish/British produce, but when they don’t which one is best? The green grocers is only going to stay there, when and if Tescos get here, if people like me buy the Spanish carrots, which increases demand (OK, a very small demand, I don’t eat that many carrots) but Lidl’s, which sell British carrots, does stand a better chance of staying in the town than the green grocers.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of which is best?

In season this week #8

VEGETABLES

artichoke | aubergine | beetroot | broccoli | butternut squash | carrots | celery | courgettes | cucumber | fennel | garlic | kale | kohlrabi | leeks | mangetout | marrow | onions | peppers | potatoes (maincrop) | radishes | rocket | runner beans | sweetcorn | watercress | wild mushrooms

FRUIT & NUTS

apples | blackberries | damsons | figs | grapes | melons | nectarines | peaches | pears | plums | tomatoes | walnuts

MEAT

duck | grouse | guinea fowl | lamb | rabbit | venison | wood pigeon

Thank you Eat the Seasons


Look at the camera, now smile!

This is the photo my middle-sister took of me with my basket full of courgettes at the weekend, all harvested just minutes earlier from the ‘muck heap’ garden. I’ve never been keen on having ‘look at the camera’ photos taken, no matter how real your smile might be they always seem to have a fake ‘oh-my-god’ look about them.

The real point of the photo is the courgettes, other than the few potatoes that I’ve still digging up they’re the only produce being harvested from the veg garden. The purple sprouting, brussel sprouts and kale have all been caterpillared badly, I’m hoping that they will make a come back but that is going to take some time. I still have some kale and spring cabbage plants waiting to go out but I haven’t dared risk them yet, it wouldn’t take a day for them to get eaten with the amount of caterpillars still around. I took all the tomato plants out at the weekend as well; we haven’t had any fruit from them but they have been left pretty much to get on with it and seem to have blight and too many side shoots to have produced anything and what little fruit were on the plants were very small and turning a brown colour. Next year I’m going to grow bush types, then maybe they will fruit better just being left with out having the side shoots taken off and staking. I’ve already bought 100 yellow Tumbling Tom seeds from ebay and am looking for some red seeds as well. There is also a container tomato called ‘Garden Pearl’ which I’d like to grow as well.

On the plus side though we have had a few fair sized onions from the old spring onions I put in last year, we get old waste veg sacks from one of the local green grocers for the goats and often there are old bunches of spring onions in them. I only put them in to break up all the brassica plants to avoid cub root getting in but they’ve done well. They need eating now as they only have thin skins so won’t go through the winter. My free magazine-give-away strawberry plants are producing lots of runners as well, so that will mean extra fruit next year. I need to re-pot the older plants now as they still haven’t moved from the old bucket I put them in ‘for the time being’ when they arrived. The boxes that had potatoes in are coming in handy for potting things up and on, it’s turned the manure that they were grown in into really nice soil.

It’s a strange time of year really, there are still things that need doing in the garden but most of them are planning and preparing for next year jobs. Everything has started winding down a bit as well, the nights are drawing in and there is hardly anytime for good weather left, I’m still ready to get going and waiting for summer to happen and it’s already been and gone really!