Category Archives: planning

So, it’s 2014 is it?

I’m not really sure where to start this year off…

The year began with such a bang of drama and craziness that all idea of time to reflect and plan got pasted by. None of the drama was my own but for those I care deeply about, and it was badly timed with some overtime shifts which left me feeling completely useless and unable to help.

Still standing back now and counting my blessings reminds me that I have come some way in gaining a work life balance as this time last year if I had been at work I would have been there for at least a week which seems like a life time compared to the day away I was…

The swollen river Wye last week - 17th January 2014

The swollen river Wye last week – 17th January 2014

The swollen river Wye with the first signs of spring: catkins - 17th January 2014

The swollen river Wye with the first signs of spring: catkins – 17th January 2014

The weather this year has started off rather wet. With a second year of flooding over the festival period. Again this was not really something that had any major effect on me personally but it’s something I feel it’s important to record.

There were not really any frosts until after the New Year and even now most mornings are wet and cold instead of cold and frostie. The ‘snow’ word has been mentioned but I am still to spot any on the forecasts for the area; a contrast to this time last year when we had a few feet of snow. This year the ground is just water-lodged.

23rd January 2014

23rd January 2014

I have lots of plans again for this year and will hopefully be able to put them in some order, before sharing them over the year here.

Lambing will be from the end of February… kidding will be in early May… seed sowing with start soon enough.

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Spring signs; Rhubarb

Spring seems to be such a long time coming this year but there are finally more and more signs including the long-awaited shoots of rhubarb

First rhubarb shoots - 5th April 2013

First rhubarb shoots – 5th April 2013

I don’t personally like rhubarb but it is a sure sign that the soil is warming up and that the few seeds I have dared to sow might have a chance of making the garden some time soon.

Last autumn I put an old tyre around the clump of rhubarb and filled it with old straw to help encourage early shoots this year but it is already far later than last year

Saturday, March 30th 2012

Many years ago, when I was being made redundant from my first job which was in a community radio station, a colleague suggested that I should made an audio diary of my day-to-day life. I’ve always liked the idea but as the project folded and I became busy with other work and just general life took over I’ve never gotten around to it but it has remained an idea I’ve liked. I thought I would revive the idea here with a monthly post of what has happened during the day…

Morning: Woke up early as normal but made myself go back to sleep for a while. Yesterday I started a new job (HURRAY!) back working with young people, the shifts are long but not that much longer than I have been doing and fewer each week. When I wake up again I stay in bed for a while watching the end of an episode of A Touch of Frost I started watching the night before and ‘surfing’ (facebook/email and wherever those take me). Outside there is still some snow left but it is only really around the edge of the fields and where trees throw shade over the ground. It looks nice enough but still cold. I get up and go over to mothers spotting a ewe and her lambs we have been trying to get back from the edge of our run (the area of common our sheep roam over), the patch of grass she is on is long enough for her to stay for a while so I carry on back and collect mother to make bring her back easier. We bring her back and check the others. At the bottom of the pen is what looks like a dead sheep but lucky it is a ewe who has cast herself (when a sheep rolls onto their side, normally with their legs up hill and can’t get back up) When I reach her I found a MASSIVE lamb cuddled up behind her. I stand the ewe up, she is very wobbly on her back end not really surprisingly given the size of the lamb. I check the lamb over; he is fine but has only been half cleaned and the ewe (a first time mum) goes straight off to join the others without a backward look. We bring them both back to the house and put them in a pen, he gets a bottle and she gets a bucket of feed and some hay. We carry on with the other bottles, Enchantments and we have three lambs too. Then phone our feed merchant to check what time they are closing today it being Easter weekend. There is time to have a hot drink and hay and water the goats before we have to leave to collect the weeks feed.

Lunch time: We collect feed and a van full of hay and go back home for home made chips and butter bean curry.

Afternoon: It’s still cold and not at all conducive for working outside even though there are plenty of jobs to be done and stopping to eat lunch has made me realise how tired I am, so me and mother agree not to try with any of the extras today. We take hay and water to the ponies. At the moment my brother is fitting a kitchen and we have no outside tap, even if we did I would have thought it would have been frozen, so watering everyone involves filling our collection of 5 gallon water containers with an old plastic milk bottle from the kitchen tap. On the way home we stop by at a neighbours to drop off some feed and have a chat. Everyone is feed up of this weather; the frozen water buckets, the lack of grass, the driving wind that goes right through everything and all the extra jobs it makes. Back home I finish the goats, more bottles and I collect some eggs to take home. We open the bees and place some more fondant in with them, it isn’t really warm enough to open the hive but there was an alert go out the other day about feeding because of the cold weather and when we open the hive to add more they are out so good job we did. The sun comes out and the wind dies down and they start to fly for about ten minutes whilst it lasts. I feed the donkeys and call in on my sister on the way home to drop some bits off and cuddle the baby then home.

Late afternoon/evening: Back at home I get a second wind and can’t sit still for long so occupy myself with cleaning and starting an over due sort out whilst watching more A Touch of Frost. I have too much stuff; too many bags of things saved for craft project I’ve never even started, too many piles of paper work that needs filing and too many bags of ‘recycling’ so as I don’t have to put too much into the landfill bin. I think maybe next month I might try to de-clutter one thing each day; take one item I know I will never use again to the charity shop, put the bag of batteries out for collection, offer the pile of used jiffy bags on freecycle and tick off one of those sort of little jobs to stop hoarding so much of it. I find lots more packets of seeds and fill a bag of egg boxes and borrowed clothes to return to my sister. I stop at some point for some fried egg butties for dinner. It’s light until just gone seven pm and all of the snow seems to have gone from the fields, not so at mothers which still has a layer of white anywhere that is not in the open. I go to bed just after nine pm

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.

Chillies and Self-Watering Planters

Last week I harvested my small crop of chillies and repoted the plants back into their self-watering planters.

Chilli Harvest; a little dried after a week on a kitchen worktop - November 2012

Chilli Harvest; a little dried after a week on a kitchen worktop – November 2012

The harvest wasn’t anywhere near as big as some of those being paraded on the growing groups and forums but a small pot full is enough for to add the homegrown touch to some chilli jam, not that I would say no to a larger harvest of course!

The repoting took place a I realised that the original ‘draw rag’ had rotted away and so the compost in the top was drying out, other than that one small problem these planters seem to be working well and the repoting and harvest (and maybe the heating being turned on had a part to play too) has bought the plants back into flower so a winter harvest might possibly be on the cards?!?

Apache; this chilli seems to be doing the best on my windowsill set-up - November 2012

Apache; this chilli seems to be doing the best on my windowsill set-up – November 2012

Out of the three plants that I have ‘Apache ‘ has been the best, producing the most fruit and continually flowering when the others had stopped. The fruit has also kept the best being the plumper fruit in the photo above and didn’t start drying out on the plant like the others. This is a dwarf variety so perhaps it is better suited to being grown in pots.

I’m hoping that these with overwinter happily enough and be ready for the all go in the spring but I’m thinking I might like to add a couple more plants next year too; just need to have a look and see what is about and if I can save the seeds from the plants I already have as they are grown next to each other.

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

And a new year begins

Recyced Christmas tree; Our Christmas tree and all its decorations were either from freecycle or others rubbish bins before the lights (also others cast offs) were added and the cats let back into the room

Recyced Christmas tree; Our Christmas tree and all its decorations were either from freecycle or others rubbish bins before the lights (also others cast offs) were added and the cats let back into the room

I can’t say that 2011 was the easiest of years; such a lot has changed forever and I don’t think anyone really naturally chooses so many permanent and final changes all in one go but I am still here and there is still much to look forward to.

The end of last year, or maybe more or less the whole of last year, was more than crazy and many of my plans for it have been all but forgotten about, but I would still like to do them and more.

And 2012 is set to contain some exciting projects and hopefully lots for time for blogging.

Happy New Year everyone!

Flowers: Poppies, Sweetpeas & Sunflowers

I’ve never really bothered growing flowers much before but I think as I become less of a ‘traditional’ veg grower and learn more about the environment, permaculture and biodynmaics I am seeing growing food as a whole picture which includes the beauty and other benefits of plants that aren’t straight forward eatables. I still argue that vegetables can and do have their own special beauty but don’t feel so cheated by growing them amidst flowers and my view point that that’s not proper food growing has changed.

This year most of the flowers I have grown have been in the front garden from the packets of hoarded seeds I have scattered and I have been so pleased with the results;

Front garden blooms - 21st August 2011

Front garden blooms - 21st August 2011

The front patch of flowers has completely by accident mostly been red; red poppies, red sweetpeas and a mix of paler shades of pinks all set off by splashes of white and the striking yellow of the sunflowers.

Red field poppies - 20th August 2011

Red field poppies - 20th August 2011Sweetpea wigwam - 20th August 2011Sunflowers and poppies - 20th August 2011

Sweetpea wigwam - 20th August 2011

Sweetpea wigwam - 20th August 2011

 

First poppy of the year - 13th July 2011

First poppy of the year - 13th July 2011

Sweetpeas - 20th August 2011

Sweetpeas - 20th August 2011

There hasn’t really been any time for sitting and enjoying it this year but most of the flowers will have self seeded and I still have plenty of other packets of seeds tucked away awaiting daylight. I have plans on expanding on these as well with Calendula, Nasturtiums, many more Sunflowers, Lobelia, Poached Egg plant.
 
Inside I have already planted Crocuses, Dwarf Irises and Hyacinth bulbs so as the pots can be brought to my dad’s grave and inside when they are flowering.

Full

Life seems very full at the moment but at the same time it is full of *plans* and *maybe’s* instead of definites.

Morning dew on a spiders web - October 2009

Morning dew on a spiders web - October 2009

Each day there is another job to enquire about, an application form to fill in, an interview to go to or a job centre visit to make but I still don’t have any confirmed work, just lots of possibles. With each job I try to work out how it would fit into my life, fit around other work and how much time it will leave for living at the end of each day, week or month. I think I may have to find something full-time, which I haven’t done for so long, but we shall see.

The kitchen, and house, is full of things to be made, done or stored. I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount of produce that has come from the allotment and garden given that I haven’t really grown anything, or so I’d thought. Ok, maybe thinking about it most of it has been forged and not really come from the allotment or garden but as least I can put a lane or track to where it has come from and it shall keep things going for a while.

Wind turbines - October 2009

Wind turbines - October 2009

And my mind is full of everything; lists of jobs to be done, plans for next years growing season, plans for what I should be doing and plans for what I want to be doing all crashing around and making it hard to see one job out before feeling that I should in fact be doing something else instead, something more important, or needed. I’ve started going to bed each night feeling like it has been another day wasted with nothing much getting done and waking up not knowing where to start or which list should take priority.

It is all very tiring but not in a good way.

The goats have started coming into season and already it’s time to be planning kidding in March and that can’t be right, surely things can’t be that far a head in the year already.

Everything it just so full on and urgent at the moment; it would be nice to be given some time to stand still and take a deep breath