Tuesday, 4 August 2020

John Lennon Had It Right.

Ok, usual opening.

(Sorry about typeface issues.)

Good morning, I hope you're safe and well? Things regarding the pandemic seem to be changing quite rapidly here in Wales. We've now been instructed to wear masks on all public transport and if we collect food from a takeaway establishment. My delivery of facemasks came this week so I'm now wearing at all times when I go shopping; I intend to keep them by both doors to ensure I always have one with me.

As more people are out and about I feel they are not always observing social distancing. I now feel safer when I have on a mask whilst still taking care myself to stick to the 2 meter rule. This applies especially in the supermarkets as this is really the only one place I go to. I find it quite difficult at times, though, when customers appear to be browsing in the stores and not concentrating on getting their shopping done and getting home again; the masks do help to cut down on my anxiety.

Stay safe, and stay home, where you can.


Right, onto sowing and growing.

I checked back in my diary for this time last year and was rather pleased to read that progress wasn't much further forward in 2019 than just now.



I started this post about a week ago so better get to it!

Today is Tuesday, as I type this the time is 9.15am, but obvs I'm not getting it done quickly!😂Chooks have been fed, there's no washing or bed changing to do today and I've taken a chocolate brownie out of the oven. The weather is a little overcast and chilly, compared to the last couple of which was very pleasant - need to close the poly tunnel door a little. This means we've got some jobs done outside but I'm having an indoor day today - need those now and again.

Yesterday Jon finished refurbishing his trailer so it is better equipped for fetching feed for the sheep in Winter;

he has treated himself to a new Milwaukee impact drill so was giving that a proper outing with the boys dying to have a go, too. In the good weather he's also mended the large lime spreader so that job could be done on the farm.

**I feel at this point I should clarify that we do not ourselves own a farm. However, our sheep farming neighbour is 81, fairly agile but age has its limits, obvs, so Jon is basically the one taking care of the sheep, helping along with our boys at lambing and shearing time and making sure all the maintenance is done around the place. He works full time at the moment, is currently in his second week of two weeks off though, and in the future may become the caretaker of the farm. Right now he is more than happy to be there to help and our neighbour is very appreciative. **

In line with this we have a new member to the household...

Belle arrived a week ago last Sunday and was eight weeks old yesterday. She is already getting to enjoy the garden and the big outdoors.

He will shortly begin the tiling of the bathroom in the last Airbnb listing after making the shelves for the walk in wardrobe yesterday. We have out listings 'snoozed' at the moment so people are unable to contact us until we are ready after refurbishments, new photos and obviously Christmas. I'm more than happy not to have guests staying with us just now; we were looking forward to welcoming old and new guests for the Eisteddfod but that will come again next year and well worth the wait for participants and visitors alike.

Ok, lets get onto other things.

I have some flowers growing in the garden; not my usual thing but I love Nigella so very pleased these are now out.

I planted dahlias for the first time last year outside the Studio but this year only one has come back, still lovely though.

I took delivery yesterday of this hydrangea, the variety which I saw on Gardeners' World when the lovely Adam Frost was hosting - hope he gets to do that a bit more.

A member of our Facebook Community page which was set up at the beginning of lockdown swapped a fairly big bag of brown rice for a couple of different dahlias and one of them is flowering. I love the colour and can see it from the top kitchen window.....

... along with these.

I just nipped out to take a few photos of the veg beds and a video of the poly tunnel. Sorry there is no sound but I really don't like speaking so do hope the visual is sufficient.

There might just be enough beetroot to pickle along with some I still have in the freezer. I still have trays and pots of seedlings - salad leaves, parlsey, khol rabi, dwarf beans. Highlights are all the flowers on the tomatoes but none ripening yet.... The dwarf beans have all but finished, in part due to some aphids which I seem to have under control now with a spray of diluted washing up liquid. The one huge squash continues to grow. Finally have some small cucumbers, kale is amazing. More seedlings of cauli, basil, a few spring onions plus wallflowers and broccoli pricked out and potted on yesterday. Runner beans? more kale? I moved the blueberries into the tunnel as seem to have lost some ripening ones to the birds for the first time. Still lots of salad Mazur and herbs including coriander, lemon balm and oregano.

Outside the courgettes are doing really quite well, both varieties here and I also have Goldena and Zucchini, not the dodgy ones, in containers, too.

The broccoli is doing really well, so happy that I netted it. Need to keep an eye on this as I don't want it to blot whilst I'm hoping it will get bigger as happened with my cauli last year.
(Talking of netting, I have lost almost all of my cabbages because I DIDN'T net them but plan in sowing Spring cabbage shortly.)

The carrot patch is looking very healthy and we plan on using some of those really soon.

I have dwarf peas in the poly tunnel but it seems, as with last year, for me they do better outside.

The Charlotte spuds are really very good this year; dying back so pulling those up every couple of days and eating pretty much daily.

Oooh, nearly forgot, on Saturday I planted all of my Christmas spuds, 12 tubers.

Well, I think that's it for me just now. In between starting and finishing life stuff has happened again, I've washed up, we've had lunch together and now it's time to get on with my other jobs then I can go and do my crafting, which DOES involve the festive season, soooooory!😂

Hope you enjoyed my latest ramblings.

Take care

Bye for now, Lou.xx

Thursday, 16 July 2020

A Few On Fursday!!

Hello there.

Before I start I just want to check, as usual, how everybody is. I hope, wherever you are, that you're keeping safe whatever the restrictions are for you and yours. xx 

Yesterday I took my eldest for his last "check in, catch up and prepare" day at school, which also happened to be his last day in Year 8. He's very excited about being in year 9 from September, best year in school according to him, although more excited that he has NO MORE HOMESCHOOLING to do and can have a lie in, obvs minus the fag!😁
Image result for lie in bed cartoon
The youngest has his last day tomorrow and will feel the same way about the issue of homeschooling, but is an early riser so he'll find something to do until he persuades his elder brother to play tennis in the garden or drags him to the next thing on the list of jobs to do, which they will STILL have during the holidays as they have done alongside homeschooling!

Image result for home chores for tweens

I admit to having found the whole assisting the boys with lessons really quite stressful at times so I will also be glad to see the back of them. I love the mornings when I can get up unnecessarily early just to have some time to myself, organise my day and enjoy a whole pot of coffee uninterrupted by empty-legged tweens on the hunt for food. 

We've been informed that the youngest will be back in school on September 10 and the eldest on the 9th but for how long and for what regular days we are unsure just now. Also no confirmation about transport yet - I've been running them these last few weeks but by then they may be taking their bus routes, but I'm happy to be taxi service of mum if needed.

I was chatting to my very good friend Tracy from Our Smallholding Adventure the other day saying I'm more than a little anxious about a new outbreak of the virus. As the summer holidays begin, the children are no longer 'in school' and relaxations are made on quarantine for returning travellers there may be a new spike. I also went food shopping yesterday for what, I hope, will last for at least three weeks - not even bothering trying to get a delivery, never had one yet as others are more needy. I'm still happy to stay at home now as much as possible. Jon will be on leave for two weeks from July 24 so we'll all be at home together, safe, and it will be exciting, too, as we are gaining a new member to our homestead, a sheep dog for Jon.👏👏👏

Ok, after that little ramble my blog today is also about the garden and poly tunnel, as normal. I never really manage to do the Six On Saturday on social media, hence the title of this blog post.😀

The weather these last few days has been changeable; we've had rain, not much sunshine but humidity so this has been causing me a little anxiety regarding my poly tunnel. Why, you may ask, well since I had issues with a bit of mould and mildew I've been keeping a close eye on it.

This morning I took a turn around the garden to take the photos and see how everything is doing after some rain and the weather today being a little warmer than yesterday.

Starting in said poly tunnel it is looking quite healthy just now. I have some gaps  but still on that learning curve but getting there. The new path is much safer now. I am wanting some floating shelves put up on either side for trays, tools etc but that is a job that can wait until Autumn I think.

The tomato plants are doing fairly ok. Some of them have leaf curl which I get every year; sometimes the leaves then go really tough and no flowers appear so I have taken them out of planters and the poly house before as no good feeding them when there will be no return. However, there is good fruiting from two of them which are Tomande in the background and the nearer ones are Cuor di Bue which are two of four plants given to me.

Now finally I have some growth on my Marketmore cucumbers; I really  was beginning to panic! 

Here is the biggest fruit from my butternut squash Vegetable Spaghetti plant given to me by a friend; it is coming on very well but I did cut back some of the leaves at the weekend as it is enormous.

At the side of the poly tunnel my boys have cleared a patch of ground where I hope my pumpkin will grow. The space is a meter square with plenty of room for spread. As the ground is not in super condition I'll put some compost there ready to plant and see what happens...

This is the plant, given to me by friends.

Across from the poly tunnel, alongside the poly house, I have three tall planters and all have beetroot in at the moment and all looking pretty much like this.

Here are the maincrop spuds flowering, funny that the second early ones which can be taken up any time from this coming weekend are not flowering at all; I'll be leaving them in a bit longer I think.

I have extra dwarf beans growing outside in the crate as well as those in the poly tunnel. They are just flowering so I do hope they'll be providing soon.

The bed at the back of the poly house is looking great! The perpetual spinach at the front, given to me by the same friend as the tomato and butternut squash (pattern developing here where donations are doing quite a lot better than my own grown!)👀 . is doing very well. Chuffed with the caulis at the back along with yet more salad leaves.  

In the bed in the far right corner of the growing area I have my three broccoli plants and two courgettes. 

Very excited indeed to see that the head of broccoli has become visible. Eeeek, I've never managed to grow it before; just hope my netting and my Grazers Eco Spray will continue to keep away the cabbage whites.🤞

The Tondo di Piacenza are showing and hope this one doesn't fall off like one did this morning! Love these stuffed!

The Goldena did not do well last year but I have a few on this plant here (there are two more courgettes in planters, too - another Goldena and a Zuchini (not from Mr Fothergill).

Finally, I have the first bloom? on my multi-headed sunflower...

and one of the dahlias I planted outside the Studio last year has come back to life so very pleased about that.

Things seem to be taking a little longer to come to fruition, fruit and veg, this year or it could just be my usual impatience!

The weather this weekend is set to be nice and warm so hopefully this will bring on a few things and harvests will improve beyond the salad leaves and dwarf beans!

Stay safe everybody, if you are staying at home over the summer as we are I hope you enjoy your own little patches of paradise and I look forward to seeing lots of trug shots of your wonderful harvests.

As always, take care,


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.