Tag Archives: potato

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

Sustainable food

The UK relays on three main foods; wheat, potatoes and rice. Since reading this in Permaculture in a Nutshell I have noticed how true this is, the main staple of most of our meals is one of these, and often a meal includes more than one of these three.

The way that wheat is grown takes a lot of oil; so does the way that potatoes are grown commercially in this country. Rice growing requires a lot of water and land is often flooded to produce rice. When I was in Kenya we visited a wetland that had been reduced to make way for rice paddy fields. Rice is the main food staple for half the world population and although I haven’t found any figures on it, I would imagine that wheat makes up a great deal of the stamp diets of the other half as I did find out that wheat now covers more of the land than any other kind of plant, so a guess that half of the world relay on it as a food staple doesn’t sound so out landish.

Relaying so heavily on so few foods is clearly very dangerous, just imagine what the results of a mass failure of rice one year would cause? Or what the Irish potato famine was like, but then scale that up for half of the world’s population. There are of course other factors that could cause a crop failure, e.g. weather or pollination failure.

And then there are the resources these foods take to grow and the impact that monocropping has on wildlife and soil fertility. I have yet to meet or read about any smallholder, veggie grower or allotmenteer who just grows one crop to get them through the year. Instead I would case it has one of the many pleasures of growing or producing your own food is that you get to try different things, some might not do so well in your area, so you try another, or you might not favour the taste / size / shape / colour of a variety, so you try another. 

It is will all this in mind that I have decided to give up wheat (as a staple) for lent. Why wheat not rice or potatoes? I eat a lot more wheat than rice, and potatoes, well, I like them too much to give them up right now. I am not going to give up wheat completely either, just were it is a main ingredient. When I started to look at what I wasn’t going to be able to eat if I gave it up completely, there was very little left I could eat without buying specialised food, and that really isn’t the point of giving up wheat.

My aim for giving up wheat as a staple is to make myself less dependant on it as a food sources, after all I can’t grow it. Lent starts on Wednesday so if you know of any nice food that doesn’t included wheat please let me know.


Next years seed catalogues have started to arrive, including the potato one and even though our home grown potatoes were basically a waste of time and an even bigger waste of money this year, I am still planning on trying them again next year.

The difficulty is deciding what to grow, and being rational about it. Just from flicking through the catalogue I have found two collections or specials that I want, one of them being the Mimi that ended up growing really slowly and then got blight or drowned in grass so we didn’t get any at all of the verity.

And the ‘specials’ are on top of the first early, second early, early main and main verity that I feel I should grow, I have still not picked out verities but if I grow one from each then I can see which does best, sweet potato and pink fur apple.

I don’t want to grow to many, but I don’t want to grow to few… five Mimi tubers sounds far too few, but is twenty far too many? And I don’t know if to go for old verities like I did this year, or more modern ones that might do better. I like the idea of growing old verities but if they don’t do any thing then what is the point? Should I carry on trying to grow them in sacks or try them in the ground?

I think there is a lot of thinking, planning and reading to be done

Weekend seed sowing

The forecast wasn’t really the best for seed sowing as frosts were due, and there was one, so I didn’t really sow as much as I’d planned.

I did start of early carrots, red spring onions, to go with the white spring onions I sowed last weekend, rocket and kale for trying as salad leaves but if we don’t like them then we can just let the plants grow to full size and eat them that way.

No sign of potato shoots yet, they have had a whole week to come through.

I washed some black sheep wool and bottled a load of pickled quail eggs and some mustard that I’ve tried making with red wine vinegar to see how it turns out too.

In like a lamb

This weekend has been trying, but pleasant. It’s amazing how much more energy and how less tired I feel now I finally know what is happening at work. I woke up on Saturday and couldn’t wait to get out of bed and started on my weekend, I haven’t woke up and not felt tired for I didn’t know how long. It happened again on Sunday, even though I’d been out until after midnight at one of Rhys gigs. It was a completely different story when I woke up this morning and thought about going to work, I couldn’t think of anything better than to be able to stay in bed for a few more hours.

The most trying part of the weekend has been the broken vehicles, first my mothers van broke down on Wednesday night and then my van on Saturday morning so now we are all relaying on my brother to drive us round in his ‘pride-and-joy’ of a car and fit in fixing both our vans at the same time. And what’s wrong with them isn’t small, so I gather, but I don’t pretend for a moment to understand what is wrong with either of them; I have a brother who is very good at understanding these things for me after all.

Whisper had twins on Saturday morning, all by herself and without any help but she hasn’t bounded brilliantly with them and doesn’t have enough milk either so they are having bottles and hopefully her milk will come. Luckily we had some cholosterum saved from the goats in the freezer. Ewnice had a single Sunday evening, again all on her own without a problem, I found her when we went to bring in the ewes and lambs that had been let out to enjoy the sun, she wasn’t best happy that she had to come in with everyone and certainly wasn’t going to share the shelter in the polytunnel with  anyone other than Whisper who was already there, we learnt the hard way the year before last about shutting ewes and lambing into the polytunnel when they just ate or walked their way out of the new skin, so now they are just left with a pen for shelter in there or they can come out and sleep in the garden. This morning we had a lovely badger-face girl born, and Mophead’s sister very sadly had a massive (and I mean massive, and I’m use to big lambs) stillborn lamb but only after about an hour of me and mother trying to pull it out while the vet was on another call and then at least half an hour of the vet trying after she arrived. I think this is our first ever stillborn lamb, which is sad but considering we have over twenty ewes and have kept sheep for over five years now isn’t at all bad but still a very sad milestone to reach. Needless to say she is very sore and up set but has had antibiotics so touch wood should be fine. She knows what has happened and didn’t even look round to see the lamb when it was born and only called when we bought her in for the other sheep until she managed to let herself back out with them which is where we’ve left her as that is were she seems ‘happy.’ Flatlamb lambed this afternoon while I was at work, one of each. A black boy and a white girl, one was born with one of its front legs back but that was all the help she needed.

Other than that I have spent time in the garden this weekend, me and Rhys have planted all the Mimi potato and I sowed some spring onions and generally pottered. We hopefully have two allotments which will be ready in a couple of weeks so I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing in the garden at home. So long as we get the allotments, and I don’t want to put all my eggs in that basket until the field has been ploughed and we have our plots pegged out, it will be best to grow things like salad, etc at home and everything else on the allotment but I don’t want to fill all the space just incase…

I have finally named my kid; he is Hakim which means wise. I picked out a few other names but as he is already beautiful and strong then this one seemed to fit best, he’s already proven on more than one occasion that he isn’t the brightest ever (but very male) so his new name should help him. At the moment he is on a course of antibiotics and hasn’t been able to walk very well because of probable ‘joint-ill’ which is something lambs and goat kids get through their ‘cord’ before it is treated, which is why it’s very important to get it done as soon after they’re born as possible. I’m sure it doesn’t help that when he has a wee he then lays down in it to have a sleep (he’s still in the kitchen by the Rayburn) so often has a wet tummy from it (idiot.) He is recovering nicely and up and about well now. He’s still very greedy and is getting noticeable heaver very quickly.    

I started making some more mustard, I thought I’d try making some with some red wine vinegar instead of white wine to see what it turns out like. So far all is going well but it is still too soon to tell if it is any good.

My Silver Dorking hen is laying an egg everyday now, and my middle-sisters call ducks have started laying. I’ve bought a new incubator, not that I need a new incubator it was one of these things that I couldn’t believe how cheap it was going to be on ebay and talked myself into needing it, we’re both looking forward to it coming and hatching some eggs in it.

Weekend working

This weekend was really good and productive for me, inspite of the weather forecast predicting rain and high winds it really wasn’t that bad during the day.

On Friday I got up late even though I’d plan to get up and start the day, over Christmas I got into the habit of not going to bed until late (or late for me) and sleeping in in the mornings. I have to sort it out though, even though I enjoy a lay in, I also enjoy getting up and spending the day doing things, even just little things, and it never really feels like I get much done if I have a lay in. Me and Rhys cleaned out a goat house, and the goat yard and then in the afternoon Little Miss Green from MyZeroWaste came to visit. She wants to be a farmer when she’s older but is too young to join the young farmers group; I remember I use to get so annoyed with being too young for things when I was her age. I would make up my mind that I wanted to do something, or learning something, find a way that I could and then be told I was too young when as far as I was concerned I was just as able, if not more so, then the ten year olds who didn’t really want to be there. Any way, we spent a nice afternoon with all the animals, went and milked the Primrose, bedded down all the chickens and cuddled the rabbits. 

On Saturday I got up late again and spent most of the afternoon in the veg garden clearing up. Someone from freecycle came and collected a couple of dozen bags of manure, which is good as where I’m planning on planting the sweetcorn is looking, er… big, tall, over flowing, all three really. (photo coming soon…)

I’m still waiting for my Mimi seed potato to arrive, they are a dwarf potato and I’d plan that if I grow them in the poly tunnel we could be eating home grown spuds for Easter, but it’s starting to get late for that so I planted some ‘Charlotte’ and another kind of red potato that I’d saved when our local Lild had a British special potatoes in. I stored then in a draw in layers of news paper and got them out the other day. Even though they’ve been in the dark they have started to chit nicely and aren’t looking light starved. The ones that I haven’t planted are in their draw on top of a book case now. The wind was starting to get up as it was getting dark, and then not long after it had got dark it poured it down.

It was fine by the next morning though; I got up earlier and spent some time in the garden again. There seems to be a lot of garlic coming through where I grow it last year, which isn’t too big an issue but I was going to grow it somewhere else as it had a little but of rust there last year. But it’s too much of a shame to move them now and they seem to be growing well enough.

At about lunch time it started to cloud over so I came in and made some Hob-Nob biscuits. It was the first time I’ve tried baking in the new Rayburn, to begin with it was far to cool and then I put to much wood on and I cooked the last tray with the door to the oven a jar and they still went a little black. Still tasted good.

Boxes by the goats

I had a bit of a rubbish day yesterday, for a few reasons my ‘main’ job is not the funnest place to be at the moment, then on the way home (from my second job) I ‘broke-down’, or let the van run out of petrol. Luckly it didn’t happen until I got to the bottom of the hill, but I did have to push the van all by myself back up a little bit of a hill before I could push it of the single-track road then walk up the hill home.

I was pleased with myself though, yes the van was empty but I did push it and get it moving up (a small) hill, and then walk almost a mile home up a very steep hill in complete darkness and all in about 25 – 30 minutes. And I wasn’t too out of breath when I got home or to cross, walking by myself makes me cross, it always has done. I’m fitter than I thought I was!

When I got home mother made me a cup of tea and gave me a box, that had been left by the goat house. My heritage and heirloom seed potatos, yay! There is 180 of them, all different colours, all seasons for all uses. I won’t be growing all of 180, there just isn’t enough space however much I’d like to, I’ve arrange a ‘potato share’ through LETS and the local Frercycle Cafe but I will at least get a few of each kind to try out.

I’ve still waiting for one more varity, a untra-earily call Mimi. They look like little cherry-potatos and are breed for growing in containers or small sizes. I’m planning to grow them in buckets i the polytennel and, if they would just arrive, we could be having home grown spuds for Easter.

Now all that is left to get, is sweetcorn seed, a problem I think ‘ve solved. For months now I’ve been looking for non-F1 sweetcorn seeds, they are THE LAST seeds left to order for this year now. Unless I find something interesting, which of course I won’t be able to live without, but that really isn’t how I should be thinking, I have far to many seeds to be able to grow them all this year and I hate the thought that even a single one of the little seeds I have won’t be given the chance to sprout and grow.

T&M use to sell a varity called ‘Idian Summer’ but they seem to have stopped for some reason, I’ve tried ebay and the other seeds companies I use but haven’t come up with anything, until I remembered The Real Seed Company, I’m been on their website a few time, they have some very useful information on there about things like seed saving but I’ve never bought anything from them.

They have just want I’m after, two different types of non-F1 sweetcorns that will grow well in the UK. perfect! I even have a plan in my head, I just need to sit down and work through it all to add the final touches.

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!

Christmas Carrots

I know it’s a little bit sad that I’m already planning Christmas dinner, and really looking forward to it, but it would be really nice to have has much of what we can home grown.

I’m going to try potato’s again this year. I tried growing them for Christmas last year but was a little bit late with starting them off and nothing happened until this year, I already put it in as an event in my Yahoo calendar for both when I have to start them chitting and when they need to be planted by.

I thought I’d try in the polytunnel though, which at the moment is still filled with mine and Rhys stuff from when we moved out of the flat. It also has some big rips in the side from when we lambed inside it a few year ago, were the ewe grateful for a nice warm and dry place to have babies in, no, they ate their way out of the sides within minutes (well, maybe it was after the first day, but minutes sounds much more dramatic.) It is completely the wrong time of year to be thinking about clearing it out really.

As well as the potatoes, I want honey roasted carrots, orange and purple ones. Rhys makes really nice honey roast carrots and I think it will just look really pretty. So I have been reading up on carrot growing and think it should work.