Category Archives: New house

Winter

The seasons have slide their way smoothly from one to the next here; the mornings have a chill to them and I had began leaving for work in the dawn light before the clock change. The harvest moon bought with it heavy rain and winds to bring down the first swirls of bright yellow, orange and red coloured leaves and since Samhain some of the dark evenings have held the promise of bright frosty mornings but as yet first light has only revealed rain soaked grounds or views hidden beneath a layer of mist.

Changing forest; October 2013

Changing forest; October 2013

The sheep have busied themselves searching out acorns before the wild boar begin to creep closer to the village edge in search of easier foraging and trips out with the goats have been spent underneath the sweet chestnut tree searching out the larger nuts before the goats snaffles them up. Sweet chestnuts are my old nanny’s favourite autumn treat.

Garden

At the end of September I spent some time reorganising my front garden to make it more of a usable space instead of an ‘unfinished projects’ staging area. I cleared the spreading mass of alpine strawberries, cut back bushes and removed a compost bin from the only area of soil and found space for two raised beds. These were filled with home made compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure from the patio’s potato buckets and now boast a mixture of cauliflowers, purple sprouting and leeks. On the table in the kitchen there are paper bags of onion sets to fill in the gaps.

After more alpine strawberry clearing I have managed to turn the rest of the ground I have between the steps and the patio into two separate-but-connected areas; one has been planted with kale (which I hope will recover from the caterpillar attack) mixed with wallflowers and I shall add garlic to the area. The other patch is defined by being between a winter flowering heather and the new raised beds; this area I have added spring bulbs to borage and self-seeded feverfew amongst a few paving stones I have added for access. In the spring I plan to sow poppies, sweetpeas and sunflowers and hope some of them survive the slugs.

Livestock

During the summer we have downsized on the number of goats we have and thankfully have managed to find lovely homes for the three ‘rescue pet’ goats we had. We now have our six breeding females and a meat wether. It’s so nice to be able to spend time out on the greens with them without having to arrange for two people to be there. The reduced feed cost has also meant that we have been able to think more carefully about the feed we use and have changed to a goat mix that has no GMO ingredients; something we are trying more and more to be aware of in all areas of our purchases.

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when with had some sun: August 2013

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when we had some sun: August 2013

Earlier in the year we had scab in our flock of sheep, the better summer we have had has helped them recover but it has meant that none of the fleeces have been suitable for sending off to be tamed and so we are keeping everyone on for this winter. (Fingers crossed it will be mild and they won’t need too much extra feed.)

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

During some time off work in September I also got myself some chickens for the garden at my house. I had been toying with the idea of getting myself some hens for a while, there is nothing like collecting your own eggs from your own garden. Me and mother had gone to collect some hens for her and in amongst the barn of fowl to be rehomed were three small black chicks. I wanted them as soon as I saw them and so they also came back with us.

They have already grown a lot since I first got them and are much more use to people, where they came from was an amazing place where the chickens were safe to just run free (seemingly no fox problem there) and in the spring a lot of the hens had gone off to nest and returned with their chicks in tow a few weeks later. The fourth hen I have I don’t think has anything to do with the  chicks but they were quick to follow her lead and she is very pretty.

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Garden up-date ~ January

It’s been a fair few months now since I gave up my allotments and that time has been working well for putting in the ground work and planning my garden at home; now I don’t feel guilty for making time to spend at the allotments there are so many “half hours”, “spare ten minutes” or even “an hour before I go out” that I have spent out through my back door being followed around by the cats who thought that the jungle was theirs.

The plan for the whole garden has been developing for a while but I already knew where I wanted my main vegetable beds to be. So that’s where I started;

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

This is the very top of my garden and it is a nice 14′ 2″ by 15’4″ sized space. When I started work on this area the weeds where higher than me! The part of me that hates anything to go to waste even weeds started the work and so I was careful cutting everything, sorting it and putting into sacks and taking what could be home for the goats and setting aside the rest for compost or burning – this was taking an age and so in the end I just went in with a pair of hand shears and a hedge trimmer.

The back garden is on a steep-ish slope, it’s by no means the most sloped garden I have seen but still has a good incline especially when carrying sacks of manure up or anything more than hand tools really and the access to it is up through the front garden, through an alleyway around the house and up a set of 11 steps to where the back garden is at almost the same height as the first floor of the house. The soil in the garden seems lovely; dark and rich and crumblerly but is full of old bonfire patches with the rusty nails and springs that go along with them and many pieces of black plastic where it has been covered over for so long the plastic has split and broken up. It has also been left to it’s own devices for many year I would guess.

The top part is now mostly cleared now with just a heap of weeds and hedge trimmings I thought it would be quicker to burn than gather up, carry down through the garden, down through the front garden and to the car to take to the recycling center. I can see why I thought that was the quickest way but I forgot fire and water aren’t the best of friends and it just hasn’t ever dried out long enough for this to work. Time to put Plan B into action I thinks…

Vegetable garden some months on - Decmber 2012

Vegetable garden some months on – December 2012

Above is what it looks like at the end of last month; the first bed is in, filled with manure and covered and has been for the last couple of months now and work is well underway with the second. There is still the bonfire heap in the way of most of it but it is taking shape. I am leaving a path all the way around all the beds apart from the top one and below the second bed there is room for one more and then it is down into the main garden.

When I was first planning this bit of the garden I pictured the beds running down the slope towards the house, I don’t know why but it took a good few weeks of pondering how to make them before I realised it would be much simpler to make them running across the garden instead of down.

The lower part you can see in the photo has also been cleared and cardboard laid in readiness for a row of raspberries.

Raised beds - January 2013

Raised beds – January 2013

Carrying on down the garden a lot of it is under weed suppressant and thick black plastic sheets but there are three raised beds in and filled. These I put in and filled whilst carrying on the clearing work at the top; I have a late sowing of beetroot in one (middle bed) that was just a little too late to come to anything, one (top bed) I have tried growing cabbage and over wintering onions in but the slugs ate the cabbage as fast as they came up and the birds have had the onions sets out that many times I have put them in pots to get going and plant out later and the third (bottom bed) has just been filled ready for spring and is being used by blackbirds as a worm feeding station. I think there will be room for one more raised bed below the last one but need to have a proper look.

The area that is currently covered over I think I am going to turn into a main crop bed that can have rows of things put in that can be more or less left to it between planting and harvesting; squashes, kale, etc.

The other place I have worked on is the bank outside the kitchen window;

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared - October 2012

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared – October 2012

It took almost a whole day to clear it of the ivy, brambles and other things that were completely covering it. The bank runs along side the steps up the garden, doesn’t get much light at all and is even steeper than the rest of the garden. It’s now been planted with wallflowers, which seem to have had it in the first frost, and crocuses. I’m not really sure what to try in this bit as it is so hard to work with and so shady for most of the year. I might try some salad low enough down it to be reached from the path but it would be nice for something further up that would look nice/be useful/keep the weeds down. Mints maybe?

I’ve got lots of ideas and gardening projects planned for this year. I think it is one of the more important things I should be concentrating on, the more I read the more I mistrust mass produced food and I know I probably will never be able to cut it completely out but growing more of my own is step in the right direction and I enjoy it.

October; another one done and dusked

Well October is over and November is here and with it winter. No chance of an Indian summer now I guess but crisp, bright morning are just as good for being outdoors.

October was a bit of a sad month; somewhere near the start I got a text from mother to let me know that Knightshade had slipped a disc in his back, most likely playing ‘silly buggers’ with one of the girls coming into season. I didn’t like having to be away for the rest of the week and not being about to see him myself, it’s one thing being away for births and getting a happy text saying how many and if it’s a girl or a boy but not being there when someone isn’t well is completely different.

He was ok and when I got home to see him he was just his normal self apart from not being able to stand; he wasn’t too bothered so long as he got lots of visitors and we set the house up so the girls could go and share his extra thick bed of straw and watch grey days go by, he got lots of human visitors who would bring him treats, push and pull him about the house and every few days stick a needle in him and he just seemed a bit mystified as to why standing up didn’t happen as it use to.  

The vet had said nothing would really happen for the first seven to ten days and at the end of this time I got a chiropractor to pay a visit; it was like watching magic and by half way through her visit he had regained movement in not just one but both of his back legs. The chiropractor left being very positive but explaining that he may take a while to be up again but she didn’t see a reason why he wouldn’t make a full recovery. Things carried on in this way for another week or so and then he stopped eating and just wasn’t himself. It seemed most likely that where he hadn’t been moving around his rumen had stopped working; we tempted him with treats and gave him a drench to start his system working again but he didn’t pull through.

It’s a very sad loss and has possibly changed the way we are going to keep goats; this year we are going to try artificial insemination instead of getting another male goat. There are lots of reasons why this might be better; I already have two (three including Delta who is for sale) of Knightshade’s daughters Bella and Briony and so Knightshade wasn’t the best male for them to be put in kid to although it didn’t really matter as it just meant their kids had a ‘double-dose’ of Knightshade’s breeding but keeping any of their kids and him would be out of the question. Keeping our own male means that we can put ‘people’ into kid when we want to but really as we have always kept our boys and girls together it meant we did end up with mishaps and kidding being spread out over months, not a problem really but it would be much easier to have all the babies almost the same age so as there is less bullying at feed time or first babies living on their own for weeks (they don’t live on their own, they live in the kitchen and are carried around wherever we go). With AI we can have kids from different males for different goats and it will work out no more costly, possibly even cheaper than keeping our own male and lastly it will leave more room and time for our girls, walking them as we did when I was younger will become much easier, the branches and other greens we collect will go much further with fewer goats and even growing some of their feed becomes more possible and keeping on top of cleaning out will be easier too.

It also leaves more time for raising a calf which is something me and mother would like to do again this time in the way we know works and with a breed we know we get on with resulting in a bomb proof beauty like Primrose again.

Aside from the goats I’ve been getting on well with the garden like I’d planned; onion sets are in and I have bought some more too. Most of the leafy greens are in and, touch wood, have so far escaped any attention from the dreaded slug plague of this year. Leaves have been collected for leaf mould and are waiting in sacks for me to find a more suitable place to keep them over winter. I finished filling the first bed this week and have bought my amazing amount of crocus bulbs which are waiting for the next flower planting day I have off in a few weeks. I haven’t got round to buying garlic sets and I’m not sure that there is time to now either, the first light frosts are here now and I’m not sure how long it will be until my ice pocket is frozen over for the majority of the time.

I house-sat whilst mother went to visit her mum for a few days and spent some time working the veg garden at home and that has helped consolidate my ideas for my garden and be able to see all the small bits I have been struggling to bring together as a much bigger picture.

Hopefully I will have time to put them down on paper ready for sharing and can sort through the photos I have collected on a few different cameras to post on here in the next couple of weeks.

Progress

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close - 22nd April 2012

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close – 22nd April 2012

Last year was most definitely one of massive change for me; I moved house, my dad spent months seriously ill mostly in hospital and then died, I was made redundant for the third time from a job I loved and at a time when unemployment for people my age was rising each month and the relationship I had been in all of my adult life ended.

All of these things have completely changed the shape of my life forever and will carry on doing so for years to come I would imagine but it has also been the kick-up-the-bum I needed for me to take stock and decide what is most important to myself and what it is I really want from my life; a little hillside with my very own ‘hobbit hole’.

 This want is something that has been forming for years now but something over the last year has just clicked and made me realise I can make it real  and not just have it as an “if only…In a prefect world” dream.

Summer blooms - 20th August 2011

Summer blooms – 20th August 2011

I am a strong person and one of the things that makes me strong is the connection to the land I have. I feel most alive when I am out in *it*, cleaning out goat sheds, sowing seeds and watching the sky change. It is what I know and understand and when I am away from it I feel trapped and boxed in…

Willow capkins - 21st April 2010

Willow capkins – 21st April 2010

After my last redundancy I made some bad choices; I was so concerned with having a job I didn’t really consider the reason for working and told myself I could make it work. I was wrong and as a result the job/s I have had since November really haven’t been working, most weeks I worked six days a week and my only day off a week was as a result of me putting my foot down and even then that was often pushed with requests to work an extra shift; I am so much more than my job. I know it is possibly a thought that never even crossed others minds but I am a good carer*  because of the me that I am away from work and working six days a week for not enough money doesn’t leave much room for this.

However this has hopefully now changed and a few weeks ago I started a new job which will hopefully give me some sort of balance between work and home life as well as enough income, and so long as I am careful some left over to put into savings towards my hillside. It does of course come with its down sides; a week on week off rota so I shall be away every other week but hopefully these weeks can be used to learn the skills I am going to need e.g. green building and living off grid and maybe even extra time to blog and share what I learn.

Round house - 24th October 2010

Round house – 24th October 2010

Lots of things are going to have to change; the way I garden and allotment, the animals I keep… Thankfully I have my mother and sister who are happy to look after what I already have whilst I am away but thoughts of more chickens or some quail will need to go on hold for the forseeable future. I am going to need to learn and apply more permaculture methods to growing and storing food and I have questions about what to do about seed sowing next spring if I am going to be away. Growing in pots isn’t going to work as well as it did last year but it is all do able and feels like I might just be moving forward at long last.

*and this isn’t just me being big-headed about myself it is what I have been told by both my employers and something I believe when I have seen the way some others work

Front garden

This weekend has been busy and, mostly, very productive. I have signed up for the village open gardens at the beginning of July and so with a favourable moon day (fruit) and a final idea of what I wanted to do I’ve spent some time planting out and sorting things out.

The front garden is mostly concert steps leading up to a patio area, where all my seedlings are currently, and a sort of raised bed which has some old shrubs in and very poor soil. I’m still not sure what to do with the shrubbed area but have been collecting buckets and boxes for the rest of it.

Alpine strawberrys ripening in front of the house - 22nd May 2011

Alpine strawberries ripening in front of the house - 22nd May 2011

 I bought home lots of wooden fruit creates when I was working at festival earlier in the month and have lined them with cardboard, filled them with pony poo and put them along the wall before planting them up with dwarf french beans and bush courgettes;

Bean box - 22nd of May 2011
Bean box – 22nd of May 2011
Courgette boxes - 22nd of May 2011

Courgette boxes - 22nd of May 2011

I have lined the top of the wall with grow bags, in the top of photo above, which  are filled with ever-bearing strawberry plants and patty pan squashes 

Ever-bearing strawberries - 22nd of May 2011

Ever-bearing strawberries - 22nd of May 2011

I have planters with more strawberries and salads up one side of the steps

Strawberry and salad planters - 22nd of May 2011

Strawberry and salad planters - 22nd of May 2011

And potato planters, planted with Rocket and Kestrel, along the other

Potato planter - 22nd May 2011

Potato planter - 22nd May 2011

And along the patio, as well as all the trays of seedlings, I have cucumbers, salad and a Passion Fruit along with lots of hanging baskets which Rhys put up for me whilst he was on holiday!

More photos on my Flicker

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 25th birthday; I have been on this earth for a quarter century.

May blossom - 26th May 2011

May blossom - 26th May 2011

It’s been a lovely weekend starting on Friday with more seed sowing (peas, beans, toms and the first squash) and then a lovely dinner cooked by lovely friends. Yesterday we started work on my plastic bottle greenhouse, the first two posts are in and ready for the back wall. It is finally becoming really!

Today I booked myself a slow start, mother let my chooks out whilst I spent some time having a shower, a cooked breakfast, including birthday cake and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, and poking at things in my garden where things are taking off fast now. This was followed by a ‘party’ lunch at mothers with jelly and Cornish Clotted cream ice cream then this afternoon we bought a chicken pen back to my house so as I can bring some hens back to clear some ground before planting squashes and rounded the day off with some potato planting and roast potatoes with gravy for dinner.

Milkman

Freshly delivered milk - 11th March 2011

Freshly delivered milk - 11th March 2011

Since we moved we have had a milkman; I’ve never had one before and I love it. It is like knowing you are going to get a parcel with something extra nice in.

Whole milk is different when it comes in a glass bottle too, the top is creamy just like on fresh milk from our own cows or goats.

School holidays

Lemon balm shooting back through - 18th February 2011

Lemon balm shooting back through - 18th February 2011

This week is half term and so a flat out week at work, not really much time for anything simple life-y but I am having a good week. We’ve been doing lots of outdoor cooking; on Monday we made bacon butties and fruit salad, Tuesday and today we have made naan bread pizzas and jacket potatoes and tomorrow we are going to try fruit salad trifles.

At the weekend I finally got chance to try out walking to the allotment and it wasn’t too bad, it took about 10 minutes one way and about 20 minutes another way. I also planted out some of the strawberry runners I potted up at the end of last year, they are in the front garden.

My hens have started laying again it is so nice to have home produced eggs to eat

Allotment plan 2011

The trailer being off the road has held up work on the allotment, I had hoped to have almost finished covering the beds that are being manured by now but as it stands there is still four still to do. I will get there though and in the mean time I have finalised a growing plan.

Plot one (starting from the bottom of the plot nearest the car park);

Bed 1: Garlic. Bed 2: Parsnips. Bed 3: Leeks and beetroot. Bed 4: Courgettes and sweetcorn. Bed 5: Peas. Bed 6: Cabbages

Plot two;

Bed 1: Broccoli. Bed 2: Winter squash and sweetcorn. Bed 3: Cauliflower. Bed 4: Winter squash and sweetcorn. Bed 5: Potatoes. Bed 6: Potatoes

Middle-younger-sister is going to grow all the beans and carrots and more beetroot and at home I am going to grow sprouts, tomatos, kale, strawberries, raspberries and salad.

Left to buy are seed potato, International Kidney (or Jersey Royals if grown in Jersey although I think they have their own variation which has been bred on the island) and Kestrel, beetroot, sweetcorn and parsnip seeds.

Minus 12 days until sowing starts!

Recycling & Reusing; Kitting out a home

Even before we found our house I’ve been making plans for it and working out how we can kit it out in as greenly, which happily happens to be the cheapest, a way as possible. There wasn’t really very much we needed as we already have things like a bed, wardrobe, draws, desk, etc but there have been a few things we’ve needed and I have made sure all of them, apart from the washing machine, have come secondhand.

The things in our house all have history, and right from when we started moving stuff in it has had a welcoming ‘lived in’ feel to the place.

From the wonder that is Freecycle we have received a sofa-bed, flat screen TV, book cases and shelving, pots and pans, a tailors dummie (not really for the house but I now have plenty of room to use it!) and a greenhouse for the garden.

And from family and friends we have received countless kitcheny things, a drop leaf table and chairs, lamps, coffee and side tables and lots of help with the move itself. There are still some things left to move and find before we are completely finished moving but we are in and have everything that we need day-to-day.