Sunday, 5 July 2020

Projects, plants and progress.


Before I start I hope everybody is still staying safe. Thing seem to be changing quite rapidly in the outside world just now - not really affecting us to the point that I sometimes don't know what the new rules are as I don't intend to do anything much changed since lockdown began. However, thinking of everybody as people start to get used to the new normal in whatever part of the country you find yourself and in whatever form it is found.

Today is Sunday. It's blowing a bit of a hooley out there just now but this is the view that greeted me at the cellar back door this morning.

I have a list of things to do but a lot of them are outside jobs and that is why I'm ducking out of most of them today, to do with what I'm posting about just now. I have however planted out the two dahlias which came as my fab swap for a bag of unwanted brown rice and my first time multi-sown leeks a la Charles Dowding but I am done with the wind now.

First thing yesterday I took a look in the veg beds and came inside with some Arran Pilot first early spuds which we had for lunch with mint from the garden, some herbs, salad leaves and radish, Pinks flowers and a couple of eggs. As it was Saturday I fetched one of my loaves up from the cellar freezer; we tend to use my bread as the family prefer sliced bread in the week with mine delish with our own eggs and butties for brekky on the weekend!

My handy hubby completed a job we've been talking about for a while. It got done because he'd already started an improvement job on our septic tank soakaway and, because he needed materials for that, he brought home what was needed for the other job more close to my heart. Have to say chuffed with our two boys as they have helped with the job by doing some digging of the trench during the week - not fun for them but definitely went towards some well earned pocket money.

Job number two was finishing the path in the poly tunnel and making the outside a little more presentable, along with stopping it getting swamped due to being at the bottom of the garden on an ever so slight slope!

I won't provide you with photos of the septic tank job😁... but here is the poly tunnel before and after.

I can't WAIT to pitch my pink and blue stool outside and enjoy my little patch of paradise, check on jobs to be done, feel chuffed with myself when things go well or commiserate with when they don't quite come off as I had expected! - pretty much a reflection of life in general. I do hope gardening is still helping you keep mentally healthy and giving you the chance to get outside in the fresh air, between the rain showers.

As we looked around the garden yesterday we talked about other projects and plans we have. We don't plan on having any Airbnb guests staying with us until 2021 so will take the time to get stuff done! Our calendar is blocked off and we don't anticipate welcoming any new guests before next February. I recieved this from a previous guest just this week in the form of a post card via Airbnb - 

Hi Louise,

I was really looking forward to coming back to Ystrad Meurig to stay with you again (during the Eisteddfod) but hopefully we can do so next year. I spent the wet winter recalling my daily cycle rides during the hottest week of July. Fantastic! I hope you’ve all be managing during the lockdown and have stayed well. Let’s hope some kind of normality returns soon! Best wishes, Neil.

So very, very kind. Apparently guests have asked for ways to send support to their favourite hosts.

Now please don't be offended by the next photo. This is the frame of my beloved poly house built by my husband not long after we moved here. It has been through two covering projects but the last one we decided was THE last one as far as polythene goes. So here is the poly house as is now....😒

We have a separate job to be done first, this summer with all things crossed for its completion, which will allow us to do this one pretty much for free - always good! That job is a new roof on the conservatory. I am not a fan of conservatories in general, however on wet days I can dry clothes, dry herbs, garlic as I am just now, there is a pool table in there, it works as a boot room and we have the door we use to come into the house - anybody else not use their front door apart from for some guests, the post and other deliveries?

This is the conservatory, taken from the garden.

So, the process will be to clad up the sides of the poly house to a total of about three feet then take the Perspex - like material off the roof of the conservatory to add to the roof and sides. This will be fantastic as right now I don't have a potting shed/ building in the garden to do bits and pieces in and have to wait for good weather to use my outside bench.

Regarding the conservatory, once the Perspex roof is off it will have boarding and waterproofing etc topped off with some FREE tiles we have had "in stock" for a good while; the sides will also be clad with room left for a window on each side, too; this will make the room more usable all year round.

As we wandered around the garden yesterday I took a look at a few things and some photos. The sweetcorn is now just over 2ft tall. It's doing better than a couple of years ago because of me planting it in the same spot as the very first year I grew it - outside the poly house where it gets great sunshine.

I did a plant swap a while ago and one thing I was given was a pumpkin; not sure of the variety but I do know it is white! I've been thinking where I can plant it so it has enough space. I've decided to put it toward the back left as you look at the poly tunnel. 

I took a quick look in one of my compost bins and I hate the sight which greeted me. Rather stupidly I put some rogue spuds out of the veg beds in there and look what happened?!! I could really kick myself as I am going to have to pull them all out when I give the bin a turning over.😖 REALLY mad with myself.

Whilst meandering we talked about the trees in the garden. The previous owners planted a LOT of trees during their time at the house, but as we've gone on to do different things with the outside space they need taking back and even removing.

This tree is just enormous and will need some work as it worries us at time when we have had some really windy weather that it made head toward the house!

Then this collection, including a couple on the left of the photo, over shadow the poly tunnel a little so will need some work.

So onto today, I went to feed the chooks and had a look at any wind damage from over night - not too bad; I had to re-stake the broccoli netting and saw that the maincrop spuds in the tyres had taken a bit of a battering but I'm sure they'll survive. 

These next photos show one of my cucumber plants, teeny tiny cucumber just now?! plus some I've sown to grow outside which I might need if the ones in the poly tunnel don't buck up their ideas!

Here are the PSB which I've potted on until their final resting place is ready. The caulis in the bed behind the poly house are looking very healthy. Keeping an eye on them in case they need to be netted.

These are a very welcome sight, my dwarf beans in the poly tunnel. Earlier in the week I was having a bit of a panic as some of the beans seemed to be going mouldy; this I am certain was due to me not ventilating the poly tunnel enough - rookie mistake with being a first time poly tunnel owner. Things seem to be improving which is great.

These two photos are of opposite sides of the poly tunnel, gaps which I really need to do something about. On the left is a solitary aubergine, next to the fig tree, which I think is really struggling. On the right to the right of the planter housing a butternut squash Butterbush are three pepper plants which, again, are struggling. I did use the plastic bottles as mini greenhouses and they seemed to help a bit; I think we need a bit more warm weather to help these plants along a bit. 

So, I think that covers everything for now. Please do accept my apologies for the ever changing colours and typeface, just getting used to a faitly new laptop... 😒

#Staysafe, look after yoursleves and bye for now.


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Jobs Between The Showers.


How are you all doing? Not too bad here; there have been some and will be more changes to the coronavirus restrictions regarding lockdown here in Wales. However, as a family we are not rushing out to the shops or anywhere else any time soon - staying home and staying safe is still our motto - but our boys will each be attending school one day a week from the beginning of July. We are confident that both of their schools are putting in place the necessary precautions needed to keep them safe; I'll be taking them to school myself, leaving more space for children who may need to travel by bus - I am lucky that I can do this sort of thing because I don't go out to work.

This week was my monthly trip to the wholesalers which we do along with a weekly shop and deliveries now and again from a local butcher, mainly for their gorgeous sausages. We're now fully supplied with flour of all sorts, plus we have plenty of other dry goods like rice, oats and pasta in stock.

I like the big tins of beans and chopped toms we get as with the boys being home they are great for lunches, adding to pasta dishes etc. ,with these basic items we'd never starve!

The weather has been quite wet at times this week so Wednesday was also a day for baking - chocolate and marshmallow biscuits (winging that one as didn't have all the ingredients normally used in the recipe!), cheese scones and almond pound cake with a little dried fruit. I always kid myself that this will keep my three men going through the week but I think the biscuits were gone by Thursday afternoon but I still have one cake in the freezer and three of the scones. Not too shabby. 

I also managed to do some more papercrafting on my junk journal which I'm absolutely loving. I'm gradually getting pages completed but still have around ten to do; here are a couple of pages I particularly like from this week.

So to outside. This is the polytunnel at the start of the week but as you all know things change very quickly.

The butternut squash in the far right corner has turned into a monster, I have the first tomato fruit - a ciuor di bue - along with the peas getting lots of pods now and the kale is doing brilliantly

Today the rain has been on and off since about 10am, but yesterday was a great day and I was able to get lots done outside. I didn't really do that much outside this last week as it has been so wet, but warm, too, so this weekend has been great as yesterday was lovely and today I did manage to get a couple of things done between the showers one of which was sowing more khol rabi. 

Yesterday consisted of planting more dwarf peas but outside this time and some peppers in the polytunnel; I used some old drink bottles as mini cloches for those as well as the one aubergine plant I am nurturing! They seem to be having a positive effect already.

I did other little jobs like pinching out the tomatoes, potting up a sunflower and also doing another round of sowing swede, not a good result from the last one so hope this one works.

I noticed that my broccoli is now too tall for the frame I had covering it and I've spotted pesky cabbage white butterflies. Therefore I have created a slightly Heath Robinson-esque protection effort until my delivery of butterfly netting arrives middle of next week, thank goodness. I'm determined not to lose this or the caulis and cabbage. Talking of cabbage, the bed where they will eventually go still has quite a lot of onions in it but I took a couple out up yesterday as they hadtheir little gone-to-seed hats on; I took a few other things into the house from the garden - soooo love having lots of salad and herbs.

A few weeks ago I put a load of nettles with some water and today was the big day to sieve them and bottle up the goodness. Here it is after going through the sieve... 

and the sludge went into one of the compost bins. 

I now have six four pint bottles of feed which I can use on the tomatoes, leeks, brassicas, courgettes and cucumbers. Very pleased with my efforts.

The sheep were put into the flock this morning from the garden which means I can now leave the polytunnel door open without the netting, if I choose to, but I can also have things outside like the cabbages and PSB before them are planted out. 

Ok, today is Fathers' Day and I have the fixings to do on a coffee and walnut cake for the man of the moment. We'll be enjoying it with a brew whilst watching a film in a little while; we are done outside for jobs today even though the weather has cheered up a bit.  

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings and that you have a good rest of the weekend. 

Bye for now. 


Friday, 12 June 2020

How Are You All Diddling?


Its been just over two weeks since my last confession blog post! A lot has happened at home and in the outside world, too.

Here in Wales the schools have said they will open on June 29; my boys may not be going back until later in the proceedings or at all; we just don't know which children are going to go back in first. I think it would make more sense for the vulnerable ones to go and catch up with their teachers along with those choosing options and the ones who were expected to take their exams this year. Fortunately, neither of our boys fit into any of those categories and a lot can change from now until then as shown by the English primary schools no longer opening before the summer holidays.

Ooh, just have to say I am typing this post on my new laptop as the other one went caput at the weekend. It is lovely!!

Anyhow, where was I? 

Yes, changes in the outside world. With restrictions being lifted in England, which is all the 
P M talks about and pretty much ignores the rest of the UK, Wales has had some unwelcome visitors in various locations, there have been openings of certain places for the public to visit and some rules have been put in place for seeing family and friends. 

To be honest, we are not changing any of our habits really; I'm still happy to stay close to home generally. I remember thinking that when we get back to a sort of new normal people will have to be different, live their lives in a changed way with an altered mindset because of how we have been forced to live. However it doesn't seem to me that people are willing to "pause the system" as it is sometimes described. Seeing the queues a mile long and more  just for people to get a McDonald's takeaway does not fill me with hope that people have considered what they can or cannot really do without in the grand scheme of things.

Aaaaanyway, onto here at home and our little patch of paradise.

We've had a mixed bag of weather over the last couple of weeks - sunshine, showers, wind, hail! - which in the most part for our sowing and growing has helped bring on things which have been planted outside as well as those in the poly tunnel. I can't believe how different it looks. The first photo is me planting up the dwarf beans on May 9th and then today which is just about five weeks after that!

There are still trays and pots of things waiting to be potted on and planted inside and out.

These include more dwarf beans and peas, cabbages, PSB and peppers.

In the outside beds and tyres edibles including the courgettes, sweetcorn and broccoli are all coming along nicely, as are most of the potatoes.  

I've chosen not to make public the Heath Robinson-esque netted frame I have over the broccoli! 

We've been eating lots of salad leaves and had our first radishes this week. 

The carrots are looking healthy although Wednesday was meant to be the June day for last sowing but the weather was not too clever then, or for the rest of the week it seems, but hope to get those in by the weekend. (Not bothering with a photo as not too clear.) Recent new sowings have included radishes, khol rabi, marigolds, chives and garlic chives, parlsey plus two varieties of basil. I've planted out caulis, an established khol rabi I was given and potted on peppers.

In the poly tunnel I've been pinching out the tomatoes in the mornings, supposed to be the best time to do it, and there are flowers on the four biggest plants; I have some nettle feed soaking so when I sieve that next week I'll feed them with it, will need a mask for that! 

The peas, even though they're a dwarf variety, need supporting so held them up with some hazel sticks. The third and final kale plant has been put in as well as an aubergine; the whole of the poly tunnel is coming on really well and I just can't wait to see how it looks at the end of this month.

The onions are so close to coming up; 

needed to use one the other day, the top of which had completely fallen over. Can't wait to get the cabbage in here but need to sort our some netting to keep off the retched cabbage whites!

At the weekend we unfortunately lost the smallest of the orphan lambs we've been looking after. To be honest it was not right or well from the start, struggled to take any milk, had an issue with its back and front legs, seemed to have a couple of fits towards the end and we even think it may have been brain damaged. He spent his last hours, luckily, laying in the sun with the sound of the chooks in the back ground and drifted off to somewhere without pain we hope.

Today a lovely thing happened. I met a friend who lives about 20 minutes away from me; she was going to Tregaron to fetch a prescription so we socially distanced and had a lovely chat! She brought me some PSB and perpetual spinach - love that - which is now in the bed with the cauli,

and I swapped with a Jerusalem artichoke! 

I just HAVE to show you the fig tree now it has been in the poly tunnel a few weeks. I'm sooo chuffed it's doing this well!

So, I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings, but more importantly that you are all keeping well and safe but seeing family and friends when it is safe to do so. 

Bye for now, Lou.xx