Monthly Archives: August 2010

Willow talk

Last week I went to a talk about willow and it’s usefulness. The talk was meant to be a tour around The Willow Bank but because of the bad weather it was held indoors with a slide show. These are some of the things I learned:

Willow catkins - 18th April 2010

  • Willow will hybrid itself very easily and if you have a few different willows in your garden they will often cross themselves resulting in a hybrid that could well be unique to your garden, this is how some of the most popular varieties of have been breed
  • Willow travels mainly by seed, similarly to dandelions, but also travels by cuttings which is why willow is so often seen along river banks and around water as if anything as big as a small twig up to half a tree falls into the water is it very likely to root and plant itself wherever it alights upon earth
  • In spite of the fact willow travels the countryside by seed the seed does not store well which is why most cultivated willow is grown from cuttings. This is essentially cloning and so probably means that popular cultivated willows could be traced back to a small number of ordinal ‘hybrids’
  • The planting season for willow is December – March, with the growing season being March – November. Cuttings are normally between 90% – 100% successful.
  • Another reason willow is often found growing along river banks or in fields that flood is the they have cells in the roots that hold oxygen which is why they can stand being water-logged for longer than most other plants.
  • There are thousands of willow verities but one of the easiest to grow is Viminalis as it will do well in most soils and withstand water-logging.
  • Plantations of willow can have up to 50 years worth of productivity, but 30 years is recommended.
  • Willow is traditionally planted around orchards and market gardens as a shelter and also because of the early flowers attracting benifital insects

The willow that I was kindly sent by Gwen at World of Willow is doing well, and I now have lots of plans for growing lots more.

A little change to tea time

Evening cup of tea - 15th AUgust 2010

We drink a lot of tea as a family. “Put the kettle on” is often the first thing shouted in the morning and a proportion of each day is a signed to our traditional banter over whose turn it is to make and pour the next pot.

In the past month or so we have made an important change to our tea drinking habits as we now drink tea mostly made with tea leaves instead of tea bags. We have always composted tea bags but recently mother found out that although most of a tea bag composts down very easily there is something in the glue that is used to seal the bag that can take up to a hundred years to break down completely.

Using loose leaf tea also means less ‘factory time’ is need and less resouces too.

We still do have a box of tea bags in the cupboard for use for that single cup of tea made in the cup first thing in the morning, or for grabbing a handful to take to work (making tea in the middle of a field with loose leaves is not so easy) but the majority of tea is now made in the loose leaf fashion.

Sparkling in the sunshine

Glitter leaves - 11th August 2010

We have been making ‘glitter leaves’ at work this week, which I LOVE. I am going to have a think about how I might be able to do them on fabric to add them as patches to clothing or hangings. Can you get fabric glitter?

We have tried lots of different leaves; these two are a Sycamore and two Sweet Chestnuts. I think the Sycamore is my favourite.

The importance of good health

Middles & Baggy; our oldest and youngest cats - 7th of August 2010

This last week as been completely dedicated to work, with almost no time for anything but a mad dash around the animals in the morning and a break from paper work at some point in the evening to do the same just before it gets dark. Yesterday was the day of The Forest Fun Festival quite possibly the biggest event in my work calendar and this year made extra important by the sad fact that it may very well be the last due to one funding programme ending and it not looking hopeful of there being much, if any, funding for such things next year.    

This morning I am tired, but not overly, literally too tired to move, tired. And this morning I realised I haven’t burst in to tears once this week* which has made me realise how much better I am from a few years ago. A few years ago I just wouldn’t have been able to cope and would have spent the week busting into tears if anything went slightly wrong, this week things have gone wrong, I have been pissed off and grumpy about them and fixed it.    

And the reason for me being able to cope? Vitamin b12. Such a little imbalance in my general health (last year I found I cannot absorb vitamin b12 as effectively as most people) has had such a massive impact on what I can achieve and be able to cope with. I can now spot the signs a mile off that lack of vitamin b12 have on people, the most commonly being people sitting in the sun, almost word for word quoting me from a few years ago “I don’t tan, I just burn and then go white again”. Vitamin b12 is needed to absorb iron which is needed for skin to tan.    

Since my mega course of vitamin b12 from the doctor last year I have carried on taking a vitamin b12 supplement, I have to get it as an individual supplement as even in vitamin b complex it is often missed out.    

One of the interesting parts of Our Farm was a chapter about how the vitamin and minerals levels in food have slowly lessened as time has gone on. The best example I can remember of this is the enormous size herbivorous dinosaurs could reach due the levels of vitamins and minerals that could be taken up from the soil by plants. Radio 4’s Food Programme has recently dedicated a whole programme to vitamin d and the ill effect too little of this can have on people, the programme makes very interesting listening and begins by giving an example of an ice hocky team who after being found to be deficient in vitamin d were put on a course of supplement and eighteen months later won the cup.    

One of the few things that I have found time for this week was naming the kitten that we are keeping, she is to be called Midnight, or Middles for short and is already by far the smartest kitten from the litter. 

*ok, there were tears last night but these were completely down to the whole chillies including seeds that I ate. Nothing to do with not being able to cope with life

Marching onwards

Last month I didn’t write much, well hardly anything really.

It wasn’t that nothing was happening or that I was too busy to write anything but everything felt ‘samey’ and as though I would be repeating myself. Feeling behind with everything, planting out plants, shearing, etc… Well they are all things that happen all the time year in year out.

It is a comfortable feeling; knowing what is coming next but always having room to improve, try and learn.

I guess it is a feeling that anyone who grows their own food or keeps animals of any sort. There is a pattern to the year that continues into the next year and onwards…

This month I am going to try to write more, and make sure I am doing interesting things in between surviving the summer holidays!!

Introducing you to…

There are a few ‘somethings’ I have been meaning to introduce.  

Jones hand sewing machine - 1st August 2010


 I think it is beautiful and I much prefer it to the look and sound of electric machines which have put me off from learning to use a sewing machine for a long time as I worry about stitching my fingers!  

I have tracked down a local sewing class/group where I have been learning how to use it but it would seem that it needs a new shuttle before it will work probably, something which I still haven’t managed to track down so I have borrowed mothers electric machine to get started with.  

Yesterday was pay-day so I went on a little shopping trip and came back with these:  

Pay day shopping - 1st August 2010


I am going to try making some Log Cabin patch work pillow cases to start off with (I have been told not to try doing a full-sized blanket as a first project as many people do) and I am going to make some fingerless gloves with the giant balls of wool that I just couldn’t resist.  


Biscuit and her kittens eating their first ever proper meal of scrambled egg - 1st August 2010


The other new arrivals are a litter of kittens! At Christmas me and Rhys were given a kitten that need a new home, she is all black (like my cat who went missing last year) and we named her Biscuit. We didn’t plan to have kittens but instead didn’t get her to the vets to be stayed in time. 

I didn’t think I have ever even seem very young kittens, let a played with them so it is nice having them around. They are different from other kinds of baby animals, at two weeks old they still seem too young to play but will happily purr if you stork them. 

Today we gave them their first real meal as they have started eating fingers when being held, they had scrambled egg which two of them gobbled down, one wasn’t too sure about and the other was to busy trying to get a sneaky extra feed from its mother to take much notice.