Allotment visit 8th April 2016

Despite the weather being a bit hit and miss, Ashley and I spent several hours at the allotment today. We emptied out the compost bin in the back garden and took it all down to dress the beds. We thought a whole compost bins worth would be enough – how wrong we were! We’ve managed to give about half the beds a meagre covering each. It’s a good job we have another compost bin at home that should be at least half full of well rotted compost! There is another compost bin full down at the allotment, but it is barely a month old so won’t be ready yet.  It’s amazing just how much compost is needed to refresh each bed. I will have to check on our bags of leaves soon to see how well rotted/broken down they are so far. We took the chickens with us today and they  were more that willing to help by scraping the freshly laid compost around!

Ashley had the good idea of using the damaged poly tunnel frame as a frame to net our raspberries. We considered trying to fix the rips in the cover, but they went pretty much the full length and width of the cover in some places. We have brought it home to try and reuse some of it to make a cover for our little seedling bed. We also thought that we might be able to find some suitable material to re cover the frame, but it is quite bent and leaning to one side. One of the base poles has also snapped. I thought that the only remaining conclusion was the tip, but Ashley doesn’t like to waste a thing and so came up with his idea. We got as far as moving it and placing it over the raspberry bed today.

Ashley built another compost heap at the allotment from some old wooden pallets that had been hanging around. We’ve never had an open compost ‘heap’ rather than an enclosed bin before; I hope it’s efficient enough to break down the vegetation in a reasonable amount of time.

I was so pleased to see that the rhubarb is starting to grow again. You may have seen in a previous post that it disappeared completely over winter and just a few weeks ago, there was still no sign of it reappearing. My little gooseberry bush that I got last year has produced lots of new leaves and I can even see some very tiny gooseberries beginning to form. The small plum tree is also sprouting – these are both in pots and I thought that I may have neglected them too badly last year and over winter for them to survive. They seem to be tough old things! I must remember to add some fresh compost to all of my potted plants soon!

Today was very much a day about finding uses for old, damaged and previously unused (by us) things. There is a certain satisfaction in finding you have all the things you need by just being a bit creative. Admittedly, Ashley is much better at this than me!

Thanks for reading!

Dreaming of flowers

We are finally getting some colour in the garden! Wasn’t that a long and dreary winter?! We are still seeing plenty of rain and it’s quite chilly, but at least there’s some sunshine in between!
Tulips and daffsSome of my seeds that I planted a few weeks ago are showing through, brave little things that they are! There are some sunflowers (variety ‘Shock-o-lat’), peas and sweet peas showing so far. The peas already have some slight slug damage, so I will have to keep a closer eye on them and remove any little visitors when I see them. I decided that I would sow some more seeds yesterday, so two types of Scabious went in, mixed Dahlia’s and some Rubeckia started. I suddenly realised that for all the allotment space we have this year, I’ve sown very little in the way of veg! I must be very excited at the prospect of having lots of flowers at the allotment and home, but the plan was to grow vegetables! So I popped a few Kale (‘Curly Scarlet), Tomato (Black Opal) and Cauliflower (Romanesco) seeds into pots. Most of what I planted yesterday has come inside to live on the kitchen windowsill for a few weeks as it’s still a bit chilly out there. We really need a more suitable solution for starting seeds, we may have to go back to one of those plastic covered shelving things to keep at home.

 

seedlingssunflower seedlings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait for some more colour in the garden, I have some very old double poppy seeds which I think I’ll pop in the back garden border just to see what happens. They might not germinate, but you never know! Need to get started on the several packs of wildflower mixes we have too. I feel some Guerilla gardening coming on…

 

5 Things I’ve learned…

The first year on our allotment and chicken keeping has taught us many things, here are 5 that spring to mind:

Leeks

 

You can’t plant leeks too deeply…  I thought I had planted last years plenty deep enough, but there’s not much white ‘stem’ on them and the exposed tops have really suffered over winter. If they were deeper, they would have been more protected – simple!

Nothing is safe from the chickens!

 

 

Nothing is safe from the chickens…  Chickens will eat, peck at, scratch up anything within their reach. And if it’s not in their reach, they will climb on and knock over things until they get there!

 

swiss chard

 

We don’t really like Swiss chard that much…  Or broad beans… or courgettes. They’re all easy to grow, so you feel ‘successful’ at gardening. But we just don’t use them and an awful lot goes to waste.

 

damaged brocolli

 

It’s worth protecting crops from the very start… This is an obvious one, but it’s easy to underestimate the damage rabbits, pigeons, blackbirds and those pesky cabbage whites (or rather their offspring) can do to freshly planted peas, just ripe fruits or brassicas that look like they’re doing really well. It’s so disheartening to lose crops like that. So cover early and properly!

 

BBQ on the allotment

 

 

Sometimes, just being there is enough…  An allotment on a sunny day is a wonderful place. And sometimes, even if there’s things to do, you just want to be there and sit quietly. I’d often wondered at people who go to their allotments and just sit – I always thought, what’s the point? Now I know!

Brilliant Bees, Fabulous Flowers

Whilst the main aim of having an allotment (for me) is to grow more vegetables than I could possibly squeeze into my tiny little garden, I would also like to grow some flowers there. For one thing, I just like flowers and secondly, the more food for the bees the better really! I am in the pesticide free, #savethebees camp although I don’t think I do nearly enough about it. In an effort to do more, I treated myself to these seeds today – Rudbeckia and two types of Scabious. I bought a small Scabious plant a few years ago and was amazed at how many bees would scramble all over this little plant every single day. And for a very small plant, it provided copious amounts of flowers over a long season. I managed to keep this little plant going for about 2 years before it faded to nothing. I also have a Rudbeckia plant, but would love more and buying them as plants is an expensive way of doing it so thought I’d try the seeds. Both are recommended as good plants for attracting bees and other pollinators, which is obviously great on an allotment! We already have several lavender plants dotted around the allotment, one of my favourite plants alongside Scabious, another fabulous plant for bees and other insects.

Bee friendly seeds

I’d love to be proficient enough a gardener to grow a huge variety of flowers for cutting, but my current gardening skills and dedication does push me more towards growing simple to care for, but effective plants! Bushy plants that I just dead head, then cut back and protect over winter seem to work well for me – and it’s a good job we live in the relatively mild climate of North Cornwall as I regularly neglect to protect plants over winter! Good job we haven’t really seen much in the way of frost this year!

Unfortunately, as mentioned in my previous post, the poly tunnel didn’t survive the winter on the allotment (it gets pretty windy there) and we haven’t sorted a replacement yet. So starting seeds will have to be done at home. The trouble with this is space and a lack of protection, but we will just have to try and see what happens!

March 2016 trip to the allotment

The sun shone in Cornwall for a good few hours this weekend! Ashley and I have been meaning to get to the allotment for several weeks now, however bad weather and a dislike for standing out in the cold meant that we kept putting it off! The last meaningful visit to the allotment was just before Christmas to dig up some parsnips for our Christmas dinner!

We were greeted by a flattened gate and we were already aware that the poly tunnel hadn’t survived the winter. There was little other damage which was a relief! The aim of the day was to clear weeds from the beds. Working at a leisurly pace in the sunshine was a joy – I was a little worried that I had fallen out of love with the allotment already, but it turns out it was just the weather that was the problem!

3 hours of weeding later, all but one bed was weeded, the autumn raspberries had been cut right back (leaving a few new shoots that were already growing), and we moved some wooden boards to mulch different parts of the paths between beds. We completely filled the (previously pretty much empty) compost bin! It felt very much like a job well done and it’s great to have the beds cleared ready for this years seedlings.


We already have some cabbage, kale and purple sprouting broccoli growing that were planted last autumn. The unused parsnips are still in the ground to be dug up as we want them and there are also some leeks left in the ground, although they aren’t looking too great. I thought the leeks would be fine left in the ground over winter – maybe it’s just been too wet for them or maybe I should have stored them some other way. I will have to do some research for next year.

At this time of year, it seems quite exciting to see the purple sprouting broccoli in its glorious colour!


I am ever so pleased that the autumn raspberries have spread, but I’m a little concerned that the rhubarb doesn’t appear to be showing any growth at all after dying right back before Christmas. We will see soon enough if it has survived or not, and there’s nothing I can do about it now.

Next, planning when to start seeds off and get planting at home. Thanks for reading!

An Eco-Friendly Christmas?

A little while ago I saw this article via Twitter about a ‘Merry Eco Christmas’ and it prompted me to think about my choices around this time of year. I’ve commented on a few of the points made below:

The first item on the least deals with food waste, something that I don’t think is any worse in our house at Christmas than any other time of year. That’s not to say that we don’t waste food, unfortunately we do, but mainly vegetables that can go into one of our compost bins. At Christmas, with it just being Ashley and myself (and occasionally a friend) eating Christmas dinner, I don’t bother with the traditional Turkey. Even a small one would be far too big for us and I’m quite happy with a good quality chicken on the table. Even so, there’s usually leftovers but a curry, risotto or stir fry usually takes care of that! This year we have our home grown parsnips to roast, but I don’t think our Brussels sprouts have grown enough to produce by Christmas – but you never know! I will try to make the effort to buy some local fresh veg – there are plenty of farm shops around here to choose from. To be honest, I can’t see any mince pies, puddings or cake being wasted around here! Ashley and I have made our own Christmas cake and I have promised myself I will make my own mince pies rather than buying them this year!

Christmas presentA few years ago, I decided to try to use mostly brown paper rather than pretty Christmas themed wrapping paper. I did add little bits of wrapping paper to brighten things up, but mostly it was brown paper. I thought that I was being more ‘eco-friendly’ and maybe I was, but realistically it’s down to the recipients of those presents to bother to recycle it. Our paper recycling bag sits in the corner of the living room each Christmas day to encourage us to put used wrapping paper straight into it.

 

The point about turning the thermostat down a degree is irrelevant to us! We don’t have our heating on at all as a rule! The wood burner in the living room does a grand job of heating most of the house (it’s only little), and we only put our central heating on if it’s unbearably cold – which is rare in Cornwall, and not generally until late Jan or Feb.

 

I must admit, I’ve never chosen Christmas cards based on whether they come from recycled sources or not! I usually buy a few at least, even if I’m making the bulk of them, so this year I will try to pay more attention to whether or not the card used is recycled. I always recycle cards that we receive though our normal council recycling.

 

On a final note, we don’t host a Christmas party or have friends/relatives to stay so no extra waste on disposable party plates etc!

All in all, I don’t think that we do too badly on the points mentioned in the article I read…..

….HOWEVER…..

There’s a lot more that I feel we could do; changes to how much we spend on presents and the types of things we buy, how much extra food we buy at Christmas (even though not much goes to waste!) and I’m sure many other things. I’m just not too sure on how prepared I am to make that leap into a much less commercial Christmas! But I must try…

Meet Penny!

  
This is Penny, the newest addition to the garden! She’s a pretty thing, isn’t she?! Unfortunately, ‘Red’ passed away a few weeks ago but soon after, this little lady was offered to us. She’s fairly young and had just started laying before we got her. Penny has been friendly from the start and will follow us everywhere! ‘Blue’ took a few days to tolerate Penny, then a week or so to really relax in her presence. We were lucky to never experience any real fighting between the two, and the worst Penny got from Blue was a few pecks. Now, they cuddle up together at night and stay pretty close all day so I think their bickering days are behind them! 

Happy Anniversay!

  
Today it is 7 wonderful, busy, trying, exciting and love filled years since I married my best friend! Our wedding day was filled with love; our love for each other and our friends and families love for us. As a relatively young couple getting married, we didn’t have a lot of money. Without ever asking, our loved ones contributed in their own way to make our wedding day special. From an old school teacher who (along with his wife and father in law) documented our day in photos and video for free (the video was a blessing as my Grandad was too ill to attend after major surgery, and my uncle stayed to look after him) to our friend, Nathan, hiring a posh car and being our chauffeur for the day (we weren’t bothering to hire cars as my Mum lived right next door to the church – a hired car was a big expense that we didn’t feel was worth it). The vicar, who we were friendly with, did his best to keep all of the church fees as low as possible for us and (we didn’t know this prior to the ceremony) said that the collection for the church during the ceremony would go towards paying fees. Another friend kindly played the organ for us, and a colleague of mine did a great job of my make up (I’m useless at it!). There were many more acts of kindness from friends and family that really made our wedding day so special, and made love the focus of the day rather than money. I think it also set us on a path to a wonderful marriage, where we have been able to appreciate some of the simpler things in life. We have certainly had some tough times, and a man with less patience than Ashley may have left me long ago! If Ashley has faults, being loyal and strong are not amongst them! 

I don’t think we just ‘had a wedding’ or ‘got married’ – from the very beginning we created a partnership, a marriage, a life together. And every step of the way, our friends and family have been there for us and Ashley and I have been here for each other. May there be many, many more years of happiness and hopefully some more adventures to be had!

Celebrating my 30th birthday!

Ah yes, 30 years old…. Something I have sort of dreaded but also sort of not been worried about at all! I’m aware that doesn’t make sense at all, but there you go! As my birthday fell on a Monday, I decided to spread out the celebrations over the weekend before. Dinner was at my best friend’s house on Saturday, with flowers, fizz, presents (a gorgeous necklace and earrings), birthday cake and handmade cards from my Godchildren. Sunday saw a visit from old school friends; a Chinese takeaway, more cake and reminiscing over old photographs! Monday, Ashley pretty much waited on me hand and foot, we relaxed at home opening cards and presents (and stuffed ourselves silly with chocolates and leftover cake!) and went out to the garden centre to replace some pots that got broken recently – but once there, I had no desire to buy anything and was feeling a bit blue to be honest 🙁 Later, we went to the cinema to watch ‘The Martian’ in 3D (enjoyed very much) and stuffed ourselves with pick and mix sweets! Overall, a great weekend and so far, I don’t mind being 30 one bit! Ashley and I are both feeling pretty fat today though! And the diet starts again!

Planning ahead

September is when I generally start thinking about admit that I’m thinking about Christmas! Sorry, I said the C – word. Some people can wait until December 1st to even consider it, but for me (and I’m sure many other crafty types), late September is the ideal time to start working on those handmade gifts and planning others. 

I usually try to make a bag of homemade food items for friends and family to add to their (often) shop bought gift. This year I hope to make many more presents than usual, alongside the usual food ‘hamper’ – wish me luck! 

  I’ve started with a couple of jams and jellies that have Christmas spice flavours, such as an apple jelly with cinnamon and cloves and a plum and mulled wine jam. The former has worked well and looks great in the little jars, but the jam hasn’t set properly and I think I may have burned it a little. ? I’ll have to try again I think. I’d like to find another recipe for something similar with Christmas flavours to make a trio of little jars to give. I’ve also started a gin flavoured with blackberries and apple. That was very simple to put together in a jar and needs to be left for about 4 weeks to infuse the flavours before bottling.

I’ve recently taught myself the basics of knitting and have a tutorial for a basic fingerless glove that I have tried so that’s probably going to be a gift for a sister in law or two (or three)! I learnt to crochet a couple of years ago, although never really made it past making blankets or other very simple projects. There are some great ideas out there on the Internet for crocheted gifts so I’ll probably look at those again. 

 I think I’ll be getting my little sewing machine out before Christmas too!

Cards are something else on the handmade Christmas to-do list. I started making my own greetings cards a few years ago and for a couple of years made all birthday, anniversary, Christmas and other celebration cards. For the last year or so, I’ve found it far too time consuming to make all of my own Christmas cards and have just made a few for immediate family members. These days I seem to really struggle for inspiration and motivation to make cards and have used a lot of shop bought birthday cards this year. But I will make the effort this year to make as many Christmas cards as I can; a few more elaborate cards for immediate family and I think I’ll try to come up with a fairly simple design that’s easy for me to replicate over and over for more distant family and friends.

I think my biggest challenge this year is going to be actually finishing all the projects that I start. I have a terrible habit of getting distracted by a new project halfway through the last, and ending up with five half finished things!  

Do you have any ideas for handmade gifts? What would you like to receive as a handmade present?