Slowing time down!

Well my weekly updates have turned in to a bit more monthly!  Had a few issues with uploads of photos and the fact that January has gone by in the blink of an eye!  Hence the title!
Another week, another month is upon us and another plan is forming. We’re trying to fit as much in to each day as we can as they just fly by! I’ve not been very well for the last few weeks, now I’m not telling you this for sympathy at all, but to highlight how vulnerable we are to our reliance on sooo many things. If we don’t have our health, our homes, our heat sources, supermarkets, electronics and so on, where does that leave us. I must admit it has propelled my thoughts around speeding up the process of being reliant on ourselves as much as possible.
With that in mind, these last few weekends have seen lots of work outdoors.  Sowing seeds of plants that we use regularly and that can be sown at this time of year. Kale (purple and green), tomatoes, leeks, lettuce and radish. I’ve also potted on some lavender that looks like it’s seen better days. Not sure it’ll make it.  If it does, it can be used for handmade gifts and smellies. We’ve worked on the raised beds, more on that shortly and generally started cracking on in earnest.
Above is the area in the greenhouse we are (since the photo) using as a seed bed. After this photo was taken, we filled the rest of it with home made compost (feeling quite smug about that). The wires you can see here are heated wires to give a bit of base heat to the seeds.  I like getting an early start with seeds.  That reminds me, I need to order the Alderman peas, we love those and I’d like to have a few different areas with them this year.
It’s been a bit hit and miss weather wise, we’ve not really had a winter yet but it’s been very wet, which has meant we’ve been able to get a lot of work done in the house. The little bedroom which we hadn’t touched since moving in 4 years ago is now done and I am so pleased with it! We managed to come under budget and all in all it cost us around £200! That’s for doing the walls and replacing the carpet with a beautiful wooden floor. It’s used as a dressing room for Grace and I to dry our hair in, so hard floor is easier to manage with people with long hair rather than breaking the hoover again (sorry Ste 🙂 )

We have now started the main bedroom which is a combination of the bedroom and bathroom (en suite).  As with all old houses, as soon as we started it, we knew it was going to be a big task.  We took out the fitted wardrobes as we want to make use of our own furniture that we love and have had for many years.  It’s old, classic items, we aren’t in to replacing things frequently and especially when not needed!


Once the wardrobes were removed, it pretty quickly showed the issue with the ceiling!  You may or may not be able to tell from the photos, but there is a big bevel in it!  Turns out it needed a bit of TLC and re-patching to get it level (ish) and safe again.  Ste and my Dad got to work on it really quickly and in no time at all, the repair was done and we are ready to move on.  Now for the mammoth task of stripping the wallpaper from the ceiling which is a killer on your arms.  Not looking forward to that one.
Back outside once the weather allowed and dear me, another case of where do you start initially.  With a plan, that’s where.  We are done with January’s goal of the veg plot planning of what’s going where but in order to be able to grow these things, we need a nice soil structure to work with and ease of access to the beds.
So we’ve cut a hole in the fence to make a new gate for access to another part of the veg plot.  This is ‘before’ on the top left and Ste working on it and getting the copious amounts of barrowed muck down on the top right.  We’re going for as much no dig as we can from now on, we simply don’t have the time and life is FAR TOO SHORT to keep weeding and losing every year.

 
It looked great when it was finished and a membrane finish below, to keep those pesky weeds reaching for the light.

I also wanted to share with you some life and doggy updates as I feel it’s been a while.  We have some big changes coming at the end of Feb, start of March which I will share with you then.  For now, our 3 lovely dogs are still enjoying life on the smallholding.  Annie will be having a litter of puppies all being well, later this year.  Here she is giving Buster a cuddle.
 
 And watching me do anything and everything!

Rodney spotted something in the rafters in the barn, which frustrated the life out of him!  He had to just sit and watch instead.  Before going to stand on the picnic table and feel king of his castle.
 
 The kids have loved being able to get out more. 
 
 
 
 
We’re so lucky to have all of this literally on our own land and from our own doorstep.
 
 
Above is the view from the kitchen window on one of the light frosty mornings we have had.  I will never ever tire of this view.
Another thing I have taken great pride in lately is how well Grace is coming on with her cooking and household skills.  Jack will follow suit but as he’s 3 years younger, he is at a different skillset right now.  Still, they both are involved in the household discussions, budget reviews (boring but essential), cooking and meal planning etc.  Grace helped me make croutons for the freezer when the breadbuns were too stale.
 

I also made, well, tried to make a jelly from gooseberries and cherries.  It didn’t set, so we now have a kind of cordial, come syrup!  It won’t get wasted, but we will need to be inventive I think!



Finally for today, we have a big birthday rapidly approaching on Friday – Grace will be 13!!! So there’s a cake to make and good times to be had!  Which ties in nicely with my post title, how the hell do we slow time down!!  All thoughts welcome 🙂 

I hope your January was a happy one.  We had a great time and feel in a great place to be starting February.  If it wasn’t, I wish you a happier February.  Take care bloggers.

Growing all year round? Let’s have a go…a new weekly task.

It’s been on my mind that I’ve planned and planned for all of the bounties we are harvesting now and what is still to come through the summer, but I’ve not done quite as much for Autumn and Winter. 
So I’ve decided to put these thoughts into action and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been sowing more things.  I plan on sowing something new weekly for the next few weeks, which I’ll share with you along with their progress.
Lettuce, winter leeks, winter cabbage, basil (red and green), chamomile as I’m curious to see if you can grow them in winter (for gifts), pak choi, autumn cauliflower (not had 1 yet this year!!!), beetroots and spring onion.

 The reason I am starting everything indoors is the blinking slugs or mice, whatever it is.  Pretty much everything I’m sowing direct is not getting chance to take as strongly as I’d like so I’m going to suck it up and transplant anything that can handle it.  The peas have done well on this round interestingly.

Now for a confession, my greenhouse is a tip! 

I must get in this weekend and give it a tidy out.  I don’t have a photo of the back section, which is just as well as all the pots have fallen over and water’s dripped through from watering, there’s boxes with boxes and who knows what else!
So this weekend I promise I will tidy out my greenhouse!  I’m in there ALL the time and I work happily in there, people actually come to visit me in there like Grace is below.  So I need to give it the attention it deserves, after all, this is where it all starts!

The growing season is well underway.

If you want me, I’ll be outside getting on with the growing season!  That’s how this last whirlwind of a week has felt.  We are out of the starting blocks and in it for the long run. 
April is the month when even more seeds can be sown and there can be a false sense of security weather wise when we’re sat in the baking (ok, warmer) sun, without the need for jackets or gloves. 
I’ve noticed new growth all around, replacing the snowdrops and early daffs.  However don’t be fooled. April has seen snow in the past so those of us growing our own need to be ready to deal with it if it’s forecast.  To lose seedlings or plants now after nurturing from seed as far back as January would be devastating.
We’ve been working hard on the new orchard (mini orchard) and feel it is really getting there.  What do you think?

It’s hard to see in the above photo, as I was trying to capture the width of the plot.  The back trellis shows the 10 apple trees we planted on a 45 degree angle and a couple of them are already showing growth.  The conference pear tree (below) is growing ridiculously fast.  These leaves were not there last week!
We have managed to get all but two of the soft fruit bushes in that are going here.  Two are outstanding as they’ve not been delivered yet.  So far we have 2 varieties of cranberry (mountain and ), a honeyberry, 2 varieties of blueberry (north county and aurora).  We have a pink lemonade blueberry, billberry and goji berries due soon.  There’s also another 3 blueberries (Duke) that are going in another part of the veg plot.

The soft fruit has been spaced out around the other fruit trees and planted in large holes filled with ericaceous compost where needed.  For those who don’t know, blueberries amongst other fruit bushes don’t like “normal” soil.  You can buy the ericaceous  soil at garden centres or some people make their own.  I’m short on time for this planting, but plan to top them up with home made stuff.
Blossom is coming thick and fast on the new fruit trees and I hope it’s a good sign of the harvest to come!

 

The greenhouse is well and truly filling up.  My problem now is trying to keep it cool when I am at work.  The doors can be left open but I have to put the mesh door on to stop the chickens going in and eating everything!
My blackcurrant cuttings have rooted but the red and white aren’t doing much.  Also a raspberry runner that I severed and rooted to see what would happen.

The PSB, caulis, calabrese, cabbage, corn salad, carrots, leeks, onions and sunflowers are all looking great.  The tomatoes are growing strong and need to be potted on this weekend before they become pot bound.

I’ve sown more of everything to try and harvest everything at staggered intervals.  Some peas and broadbeans went in directly outside at the weekend, as did a tester row of carrots and beetroot.  Inside the polytunnel I have lettuce, swiss chard, kale, peas, beans, potatoes (earlies) and some marigolds to deter nasty bugs away from my food!  The marigolds are sacrificial plants, no holds barred in this game!
I’ve also got half of my potatoes in to their new beds and a full bed of red and white onions.  I have underestimated how much space I will need for the potatoes though, so I need to come up with an alternate solution!
Finally here’s another addition to the fruit and veg area.  A tea plant (Camellia sinensis).  Steven drinks a lot of green tea for its health benefits and I try to every now and again.  I thought it’d be nice to grow our own.  After all, the idea is to be as self sufficient and self reliant as possible.
 
 

I hope you’re all enjoying the sun which we seem to be having in fits and spurts.  I’m not complaining one bit!  It’s starting to dry the fields out just in time for the horses to go back on them and it can’t come soon enough!

 
 

A productive and wet weekend

The weekend forecast had one word – wet.  We decided to make the most of the rain and go to the cinema!  We rarely do this as a family, so we took the kids to see one of the kids films that is out and then went for some tea at a near by “diner”.  A treat that was enjoyed by all.  Given that it was going to be raining or snowing for pretty much all of the weekend, I hadn’t expected to get many outdoor jobs done.  However we managed to get a lot more done than originally thought.
Ste made me a potting bench, a counter top one so I can move it around as needed.  As usual, he used wood that we had to hand and in this instance, kept a part of the house alive using an old fireplace.  It’s perfect and does the exact job I need.  So I set about to use it.  I had lots of seedlings that were getting leggy, so I pricked them out and replanted them as deep as possible, so they grow nice and strong again, like they did last year.  It is huge, the reason it looks small here is I had my glove in my hand which got caught by the camera.

Below I have kale and spinach in the left hand tray – spinach hasn’t germinated yet, if at all.  Kale shot up so I won’t sow these 2 together again.  Then aubergine and beef tomatoes in the bag.  They’re next to my indoor peas which I sowed at the same time as the ones in the greenhouse (which are just starting to germinate so a week or 2 behind these).  The tray to the right is tomatoes, different varieties and 2 or 3 of each.
I made a bold move this weekend and binned the weaker seedlings and only kept a few strong ones of each.  I felt like I was doing something wrong throwing seedlings out!

I made a start on the plastic bottles that we had saved (Ste uses them for water in his gym) and am keeping them to use as mini greenhouses/cloches for when plants are put out or maybe for direct sowings to help germinate.  I’ve cut the bottom off so canes can be put through the hole in the lid, to support the bottle from flying away.

I sowed some sprouts and some flower seeds (sweet pea, cosmos) as I’d like to do my bit for the decline in bees and welcome them to my garden.  Not the wasps though, they can b****r off 😉 
A few more broad beans went in. These are the dwarf variety “Sutton” whereas the others are “Jubilee Hysor” left over from last year.  The Sutton does not need support so I will bear that in mind when planting out and just plant in blocks instead of rows.

 My bare root comfrey arrived.  I ordered 5 from ebay and to be honest when they turned up, I wondered what on earth they were!  However after a quick chat with Dawn and an email from the seller, I filled a container with damp compost, placed the roots in and covered with a touch more compost then wet newspaper.  I’ll see where to roots grow from then plant them up when the weather warms a bit.

 Speaking of warming things up.  I was like a kid in a toy shop when Ste bought me this beauty for Christmas.  Now I know some people aren’t fond of paraffin heaters but let’s give it a try.  It was recommended by UK here we grow on one of their You Tube videos.  I got it up and running and it had it’s first night on last night.  I’m pleased to say it kept the greenhouse at 6.3C.  I also got the heat bench up and running thanks to Ste, who rewired things so there is now power in the greenhouse! 
The bench heated wire works, so I will be starting to use that over the next couple of weeks.  Between the paraffin heater and the heated bench, the seedlings should do pretty well.  Just as well, as we’re running out of window sills in the house !

One thing I was really excited about was the piquant seeds Dawn sent me when she offered them on her blog.  The seeds originally came from Dani on Eco Footprint South Africa and I shall be offering mine when they are ready too.  I think it’s a lovely way of keeping this little pepper family going.

I have decided to try and get some batch cooking done on a weekend to start giving myself an easier life for week days.  This is my first attempt and scones in a long time.  These have blackberries in from the summer.  The blackberries were past their best when we picked them, so I froze them for use over the winter in puds and things.  They turned out really well so I buttered them and froze them individually for lunches.
After a weekend out in the cold and wet (and by gum it was both), Ste and I succumbed to a sore throat each.  Grace had a bunged up nose, but she hadn’t been out in the elements, so I think it’s a bit of a cold virus too.  I made Ste and I a Hot Toddy each using the following recipe from the internet:
Hot Toddy
1 shot whisky
1 tsp honey (I had 2)
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
off the boil hot water
slice lemon
lemon juice to taste
It was lovely actually and I felt fine this morning.
After lots of family time on Saturday afternoon, we watched another film last night.  Pirates of the carribean – you can see Jack with his telescope!  It was lovely to have the chill out time together.
The dogs enjoyed it too. 
I’ve lots more to write, but that’s enough for today – I’ll update you with other goings on shortly.
Happy Monday 🙂

Picture updates

We have had a brilliant last week which I haven’t had time to post about so for tonight I will just post pictures showing what we’ve been up to. This includes a very successful and happy party, 3 night UK break, veg plot and greenhouse updates and our first chicken ready for the table. I’ll go in to more detail over the next few days. However for tonight I’m chilling and enjoying my time off. Bliss.