Where growing, making & good living come together

Five things for Friday

Posted by on Friday 3 February 2012 in chickens, growing, meta | 1 comment

One – COLD!

How can I start with anything other than a comment about the cold weather? I do like cold days – well, cold dry days like now, not cold wet ones – so I’m not complaining. The sun is shining – albeit weakly – and the sky is blue. I like wrapping up warm and walking on frozen mud while we’re out with Lily. However, we have timed all this rather badly – the replastering we’re having done (in the living room, kitchen & downstairs hallway) means we’re down two key radiators & a wood burning stove. Chilly!

Two – chilly chickens

Like last time it was chilly for a couple of days, the chickens don’t seem to be too bothered about the cold. I got a bwarky rant this morning – probably complaining about their water being solid and it being harder to scratch through the chippings because they’ve got a hard layer on top – but otherwise they’re doing fine. Earlier this week we had our first six egg (from six girls – a 100% lay rate) day since the beginning of September — and we’ve had another two six egg days since then. I wasn’t expecting a glut so early in the year!

Three – the 2012 growing season starts here (very soon)

I never really got over my growing “meh”ness from last summer but over the last week, as more people have been talking about their early sowings or plans for the year, I’ve started to form a few plans of my own. I had thought about getting another fruit tree or two in the ground this winter but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I would like to get some more soft fruit bushes in though – some more red berries since the four blackcurrants look like they’ll be fine by themselves – probably following Tanya at Lovely Greens down the Wilkinsons cheap bush path as the ones from last year have grown well. I also want some more strawberries as half of last year’s lot are looking rather pathetic/dead. I must resist the rhubarb crown temptation though – everyone is always talking about how prolific it is at such an otherwise low-producing time of year but we don’t actually like rhubarb. It doesn’t matter how much it grows if we don’t want to eat it.

I am sticking to my “no potatoes” plan so there is nothing to chit but I think I’ll have to dig the heated propagator out of the garage soon to get started on tomatoes and what not.

Four – bacon progress

My bacon looks to be doing well. I am somewhat regretting starting it in a week when I don’t have good access to the kitchen – and also have sore/micro-cut hands so I’m not enjoying the salt rubs at all! But on the other hand, at least I’ve got it started and starting something for the first time is often such a big hurdle for me. This batch will be just about done in its cure this weekend then I’m going to look into the fridge hanging idea that PipneyJane mentioned the other day. I can’t wait to try it though :)

Five – and it’s the weekend

It’s the weekend, hurrah! We have nothing special planned – John was supposed to be away at a conference but is still having to take things easy with his bad back – but I am determined to start cleaning the plaster dust from EVERYWHERE in the house. Those who know me in person will know that I am never determined to clean anywhere: this should show how much dust there is around our house at the moment.

As well as that and the usual stuff that happens at weekends, I’m going to try to get started on my 2012 goals – I need to get going on the generating an extra £2012 in 2012 goal and the “make something cheaper, greener or simpler for us each month” one too. The problem with the latter is that nothing is screaming to be changed right now – so I’ll have to both find something and make it cheaper/greener/simpler. It’s very possible that the latter will be easier than the former!

Do you like – or hate – the cold weather? Have you made any growing plans for this year – or even started sowing? What are you up to this weekend? And finally, have you made anything cheaper, greener or simpler for your household recently? Yes, I just want to steal your ideas with the last question ;)

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If you go down to the woods today…

Posted by on Tuesday 24 January 2012 in green, growing | 1 comment

You might find a pretty much brand new collapsible garden bin.

That’s what I found on my walk with Lily-dog today.

When I first saw it a little way up the hill from the path, I thought it was one of ours but when I got closer, I saw it was bigger and frankly better quality than the ones I use. That part of the woods, which isn’t very popular with dogwalkers but is very popular with Lily-dog, isn’t really near any houses so I didn’t know who it could belong to so … yoink!

Coincidentally, the one I use for cleaning out the chicken coop (carrying the wood shavings from the coop to the compost heap) is just about on its last legs so this was a very well timed find indeed.

By way of thanks to the woods for their offering, I filled it with all the litter I came across on the walk out and back. It was mostly carrier bags, crisp packets and a couple of cans/bottles, but there was also an unused rubble sack which I bet someone lost in the recent high winds. Inspired by Su’s “goals for 2012″ comment on Recycle This the other week, I’d been thinking about doing a litter pick in the woods when the weather got a little better – I’m glad this forced my hand sooner rather than later :)

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Frozen days

Posted by on Tuesday 17 January 2012 in chickens, growing | 1 comment

I took these photos yesterday but between one thing (Strowger ;)) and another (getting obsessed about doing something pointless & time-consuming that wasn’t on my to-do list), I didn’t get around to posting them. However, thankfully it looks just the same out there today – just less sunny and more icy – so I can post them today without it being incongruous ;)

Along with most of the UK, we had our first properly frozen days of winter over the weekend. It’s been so mild for the last month that they came as a bit of a shock to the system really. Because it’s been so mild, the garden is still quite green in parts, albeit mostly weedy green ;) If I was taking part in the Salad 52 Challenge, it would be mostly bittercress at the moment – icy bittercress:

Further down the garden, all the moss tendrils on the stone raised bed walls have their own white highlights and the blackberry bush reminds me it needs cutting back:

Last year, with all the snow, we didn’t have a just-icy period so this is the first time I’ve seen the greenhouse iced up. It’s also the first time I’ve seen frost looking really like patterned window glass.

Of course, the only reason I’m really venturing out into the garden at all is to do chicken things – chilly jobs in this weather. The gate into the run has swollen and is frosty so I have to give it a good wack with my bum to open it, especially when I’m carrying things. I’m glad that I have put so much time, effort and food into developing a bum with sufficient girth to achieve such a task over the last few years ;)

All the structure of the run – including my new roof – is coated in glassy white crystals. It looks so cold:

But the chickens themselves are fine. After four frozen days, I’ve got into a good routine for defrosting their big new drinker so I can do it nice and efficiently before my hands drop off from frostbite. I’m very glad they got a new batch of woodchips at the start of the year though – they don’t freeze as solidly as mud/the ground did last year and so they can still have dirt baths in their favourite spot under the coop and scratch around plenty too:

Looking up from the chickens, the sky was a lovely soft blue yesterday but the sun surprisingly strong (for winter):

It was certainly enough to i) lure Boron-cat from the house and ii) reveal he’s secretly ginger ;)

Is it icy where you are? How are you/your animals & garden dealing with it? And those in the Southern hemisphere: come on, make us jealous by telling us how lovely & warm it is where you are :)

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Book review: Garden Eco-Chic by Matthew Levesque

Posted by on Tuesday 6 December 2011 in green, growing | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, I was sent a couple of gardening books by Timber Press to review here and on Recycle This. This is the first one – Garden Eco-Chic by Matthew Levesque.

I’ve reviewed it in full on Recycle This but in brief/tl;dr –

The book does look nice: it includes lots of great pictures and aside from being overly wordy, is well laid out. It also includes plenty of creative, inspiring ideas and information about sourcing materials and working with them. I imagine it would be useful if you’re interested in garden design theory too as he explains a lot of his choices in great detail.

But if you’re looking for a practical guide or want to create a garden with the emphasis on practical rather than pretty, I don’t think this book is for you.

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Had your first frost of winter yet?

Posted by on Friday 21 October 2011 in growing | 7 comments

Yesterday I was thinking all autumnal thoughts but for some reason, I’m in winter mode again today – possibly because I’m off to the yarn shop with a winter woolly in mind and when I come back, I need to start work on that winter to-do list… The garden is my biggest worry in that respect as gloves can be worn without being washed & we survived last winter without decent curtains in some rooms etc, but plants will die & (terracotta) pots will be ruined if I don’t do something about them soon.

Which leads me to thinking about first frosts…

We were down to about 2C/36F in our bit of West Yorkshire on Wednesday night but it’s supposed to be a bit warmer for the next few nights – only about 8-10C/45-50F – and long term forecasts, which admittedly aren’t as accurate, say similar, so we might not see our first frost until November at this rate.

How about you?

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My ten favourite simple living/growing/cooking/making books

Posted by on Tuesday 11 October 2011 in cooking, Featured, growing, making, wild food | 5 comments

(Inspired by book-aholic buying behaviour this month, I’ve decided to have a bit of a book-themed week both here and on my recycling site, Recycle This.)

Despite living on the internet & using it/blogs for most of my day-to-day info, I’ve got quite a few simple living related books and as you might expect, some are better than others. Some were chosen after careful research, others randomly picks from charity shops & the like – but as is often the case, there is little correlation between that and which are the better books!

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites:


  • The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour – this is a great overview book of so many different things. It’s admittedly more aspiration than practical for me at the moment – and because it covers so many different areas, it doesn’t feel like the most practical book anyway (it doesn’t have space to go into detailed how-tos/trouble-shooting on each different topic) but it’s still very useful. If I was fleeing to escape the zombie hordes*, this is probably the non-fiction book I’d grab.



  • The Vegetable & Herb Expert by DG Hessayon – my first veg growing book and the one I keep going back to over & over again. Not hugely detailed on each type & some bizarre comments about only eating chillis if they’re part of “your heritage”, but very clear, with lots of pictures (very useful when troubleshooting pests/diseases) and packed with useful info.
  • Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larkcom – this book is almost the opposite of the Hessayon – lots of detail but not anywhere near as easy to dip into and few illustrations. I like them together but would struggle with the Larkcom on its own.
  • The Edible Container Garden: Fresh Food from Tiny Spaces by Michael Guerra – I was a little disappointed when I got this as it includes a lot of whitespace, big pretty rather than purposeful pictures and a lot of general overview text — but the 30 pages on “what shall I grow?” made the book worth it – very useful reference information about varieties, pot depths etc. I would recommend it to anyone who grows more than just the basic herbs in containers – but try to find a secondhand one so you don’t resent paying for the padding.
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