Where growing, making & good living come together

A few things from the week

Posted by on Friday 30 December 2011 in meta | 5 comments

One. Whenever we tell people we don’t celebrate Christmas, the first question is often “what do you do on the 25th?” – we don’t do anything special, we just treat it like a normal day. A few years ago, when the 25th fell mid-week for a few years, we worked – it was a good day for doing things to busy websites or the like. Last year, it was a Saturday so we had some equally unobservant friends around for pizza and to watch dumb movies – a common Saturday event.

This year it was a Sunday so after a lie-in and a lengthy Lily-dog walk, I cleaned out the chicken coop as I do every Sunday morning – it was so warm that I was fine out there in just a t-shirt, quite different compared to last year! – then hoovered (the new bale of wood shavings had ‘leaked’ as it was carried through the house), then spent the afternoon gaming. Just a normal Sunday really.

Two. I spent that afternoon – and most of the last week in fact – in the World of Warcraft. I’ve jokingly called it a “holiday in Azeroth” – it’s changed a lot since the last time I was there two years ago and I wanted to have a look around to see what’s new – but it’s actually been more of a holiday than I reckoned. It’s as absorbing/disruptive to normal life as being out of the country for a week! I do like that I can create a character that cares about nature and spends as much time looking for herbs, crafting things, cooking & fishing as she does killing things :)

Considering there is a lot of WoW which feels like chores, it really pushes my buttons and I can play it non-stop for hours and hours. I’ve been complying a list of ways it does that – along with ways that my other favourite video games do too – to see if I can transfer some lessons from them onto my real life — make my real life to-do list as fun as running around killing murlocs.

Three. While I was gaming on Sunday, John went for lunch with his family – as he does whenever they all gather together – and returned with a huge pile of leftovers for us, so we’ve been able to join in the “when will we finish all the turkey?” game even without celebrating Christmas ourselves ;) We’ve had turkey & ham leftovers each day since then, and I made a turkey & chorizo jambalaya (like the one mentioned on here) last night which was yum. John also brought home leftover meat from people’s plates for Lily-dog & the feline duo, and leftover veg & fruit (including a LOT of melon) went down to the chickens. Glad we could use it up rather than it all going in the bin.

Four. The chickens’ new roof is working well – and by the amount of digging that’s going on in that area, I think they’re enjoying having a new dry part. If anyone sailing about 700miles south-east of Invercargill in New Zealand (the antipode of West Yorkshire) spots some chickens, they’ll be mine – having dug right through the earth.

Five. I bought some forced hyacinth bulbs a couple of weeks ago as and aside from getting a bit leggy/too heavy for their own good, they’re pretty – and so fragrant – at the moment. I am regretting it a bit though – I prefer plants to cut flowers but while these are in soil, they’re essentially as disposable as flowers. I will plant them out in the garden, to see if they’ve got enough energy to grow again in the future (apparently hyacinths are more likely to grow again in future years than something like tulips), but I’m not holding my breath over them.

What have you been up to this last week? Had a mountain of turkey to get through too? Any tips for helping my hyacinths along?

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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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Declutter November mini-challenge – your greenhouse, garden or shed

Posted by on Tuesday 1 November 2011 in decluttering | 1 comment

Here’s the first mini-challenge of the Decluttering in November challenge: in addition to your usual one thing every day, find five things to get rid of from your greenhouse, garden or shed.

I was going to leave this one until later in the month but, if last year is anything to go by, our worlds might be under a blanket of white by then so I’ll decided it would be better to declutter while the sun shines :)

So anyway, for this one, you need to get rid of five things from whatever garden/growing space you have.

This is going to be easier for some people than others. If you’ve only got a few houseplants or herbs on the kitchen window sill, you might struggle but do you have any unwanted old plastic plant pots lying around? decorative planters/pots or even vases you no longer use? multiple half bottles of BabyBio that could be condensed into one? Or even the plants themselves – anything you don’t want any more? People often give large plants away on our local Freecycle/Freegle group.

For grow-your-own people with more space: it’s the pretty much end of the growing year so think about what you’ve not used in the last 12 months – any pots, container or tools you could get rid of? Anything broken beyond repair? Because we growers love to reuse things, many of our gardens/allotments resemble junk heaps of possibilities: I’m not advocating getting rid of those planks that might become raised beds next year or the barrel than might become a waterbutt but to look at everything again: be realistic and honest with yourself, and think if someone else might get better use out of it than you. This sort of thing isn’t going to sell at charity shops but, again, all this sort of thing regularly turns up on our Freecycle/Freegle list and there are an increasing number of gardening community groups that might be grateful for resources.

On a smaller scale, what about your seed stash – anything you’re not going to grow again that could be passed on? Half bottles of feeds/fertilisers that are taking up shelf space? And what about spare/old growing books?

Have a look around and see what can go :)

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Flu and what-have-you

Posted by on Tuesday 27 September 2011 in growing | 3 comments

So I got myself all stoked up to do stuff and blog about it to get myself back into the swing of things then I got the flu. The only thing that’s been productive around here in the last two weeks or so has been my phlegmy chest. I’m still not running at full steam but I thought I should try to hop back aboard the blogging train before all the carriages race away from me and this metaphor goes off the completely off the tracks ;)

These last few weeks have mostly been spent slumped on one sofa or another, watching a whole lot of films and eating a whole lot of soup. But in my slightly-better moments, I’ve done some sewing after getting a new embroidery book out of the library just before the virus hit (book review coming soon) and wandered down to see the chickens, lamenting about the sorry state of the garden and wondering if things will fruit/ripen before the frost hits.

The latter put me in a bit of a “I’m a bad gardener” slump until I realised that even with all the dead things, the things that won’t quite get there this year, the things that didn’t stand a chance and the lack of any summer sowing whatsoever, we’ve still got at least ten edible things growing in the garden that we can/will eat: achocha (outdoor – will pick soon), tomatoes (greenhouse & outdoor), courgettes, marrows (ok, so they’re essentially the same thing but we used them differently), cucumbers, peppers, chillis (all greenhouse), leeks, pumpkin and swiss chard.

And that’s before we get onto the wild greens/fruit (predominantly nettles but there are also some bullet-like blackberries at the end of the garden and the dregs of elderberries on the trees near the kitchen), the technically-edible-but-I-probably-won’t-eat-them-now things (like the new leaves/shoots on the squashes & the achocha, or the marigold leaves & heads) and herbs (rosemary, lavender & mint still going strong outside, basil & chives inside, and things gone to seed both outside & in that are still usable just not as good as before they flowered, like dill & oregano).

And it’s also not including eggs – the six girls are still kicking out on average five a day, which is nice.

When I’ve got a bit more energy/less mucus, I’ll write more about our growing year here – lots more lessons learnt and things to definitely not do next year – but this has made me feel a little better about things, that there have been some successes as well as the many failures.

What’s still on the go in your garden?

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Last of the potatoes

Posted by on Saturday 10 September 2011 in growing | 6 comments

(Like Last of the Mohicans, except starchier.)

After expressing my meh-ness the other day, I actually had a productive few hours in the garden today. It’s John’s fault – after carrying down some chicken food for me, he stayed in the garden tidying some stuff at the bottom and I felt kinda guilted into staying out there too. I did a little weeding but then prioritised stuff that needed harvesting, namely the titular potatoes, some tomatoes & a gorgeous courgette. Some of said potatoes:

As I said a few weeks ago on Twitter, I don’t think I’ll grow potatoes next year. I’m restricted to growing them in containers at the moment and while it does have some advantages (diseases are contained and no digging!), it has plenty of disadvantages too. Most importantly, they use up a lot of soil and I don’t have access to a lot of soil at the moment, so to grow them means there is less soil/compost to go around everything else (or at least I have to buy it in – and it’s too expensive to buy in to use on potatoes). Growing them in containers also means they need more watering than they do in the ground, which isn’t terrible, just another job to do. Being in containers does, well, contain them a bit too: they don’t really get to stretch out to full capacity so the harvest isn’t as bountiful, either in number or size, as it would be in the ground. And of course, there is the diseased Satan gonad issue.

But the most important thing really is that we don’t eat a lot of potatoes – we cook with them no more than once a week, probably closer to once a fortnight. This last week we’ve not been eating wheat so our usual pasta/noodle/bread staples have been out but still, we’ve not actually eaten any potatoes (I was supposed to have jacket potato on Wednesday but had leftover risotto instead). If we were aiming to be completely self-sufficient then I suspect we’d eat more as it is easier to grow them than cereals but right now, we don’t need a whole lot of them and it seems a risk to grow a lot to use so gradually when we can buy the few we do want locally and/or organically ones for a frugal-friendly price. I’d rather use my limited soil and motivation/energy elsewhere.

Having said that, if we did have bed space for them, I’d probably be tempted to give them another go, or in a few years when I have more than enough homegrown compost to spare, I might try containers again. For future Louisa’s information, the Orla maincrop did well this year and have resulted in some good spuds, and the Charlotte-esque basic seed potatoes I got for next-to-nothing at Home Bargain also turned out well.

As for the other harvested stuff today: I collected just over a kilogram of tomatoes, mostly cherry tomatoes but a few big Romas too, for ripening inside since their home plant were looking worse for wear. Some are already orange-y but most are green; if they don’t seem to be getting with the ripening programme in a couple of days, I’ll turn them into Aurora’s chutney. There is probably about the same again out there and in dribs & drabs, we’ve (mostly John) has probably eaten about that so far. Three kilograms/six-and-a-half pounds isn’t a huge haul considering how much space they took up in my small greenhouse – some plants have been very productive but others not at all. John has *loved* the sweet cherry ones though, so I’ll definitely grow them again.

The courgette I picked was our first in our second wave of the squashes: we’ve had a few almost courgette-free weeks because I’ve been feeling meh so not picked the nutrient-hogging now-marrows from the plants, but there are lots of baby courgettes again now. The taste of summer still lingering on.

Have you been harvesting anything this weekend?

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