Wednesday, 14 October 2020

To Rotate or Not to Rotate.

Hello All.

I hope you're keeping safe wherever you are. Today there are some new restrictions for England. Over the weekend some people were taking the chance to have a last party and this upsets meand make we feel anxious. I hope that Wales stops visitors coming from these high risk area. I also hope people follow the rules and things start to improve soon for everybody.

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The posts here on my blog are not generally that thought provoking and I just tend to ramble on wondering if anybody finds them interesting enough to read. However there is a little more to my post today. It was sparked by me clearing the sweetcorm from the bed in front of the poly house/gazebo, but before that I need to talk about how we sometimes listen to other people's advice a little too much and don't always experiment when we are sowing and growing. It has taken me a long time to, sometimes, throw the rule book out of the window and just go for it. Don't get me wrong, I read lots of books looking for 'advice' and am so very grateful for all the accounts and people I talk to on Twitter as I love hearing how they go about things on their little patches of paradise, but sometimes I just think what the hell and give something a go! My very good friend Tracy over at Our Smallholding Adventure inspries me as she isn't afraid to give stuff a go!

Back to the sweetcorn.My plants have grown very well there this year and not too bad two years ago. I was thinking that its the best place to grow it above anywhere else in the garden so I started thinking about crop rotation. In the garden, as a rule, I don't plant things in the same place in consecutive years, and never potatoes, but I certainly don't leave it four years between crops; I read somewhere that if you grow in raised beds you don't really need to practise crop rotation.

So I went on a bit of a research run; didn't fall down a total rabit hole but got advice from a couple of people incuding Hugh over at @engcountrylife on Twitter as well as well as chatting to Kev of @Englishomestead also on Twitter. Generally people said that they are thristy plants and if you are going to grow them in consecutive years to add some good organic matter before planting.

Then I decided to look at some videos after somebody tagged Charles Dowding in a reply to my tweet. He replied, loved that, saying it should be fine to grow again. I checked his You Tube channel about crop rotation and that of Huw Thomas as well. Because Charles and Huw both practice no dig in their gardens, which I pretty much do, in a nut shell the act of not disturbing the soil due to not digging helps to keep the soil structure in a healthy state therefore negating the 'dig' principle.

Charles said he had has some good results when keeping plants in the same spot but other times the harvests were not so bountiful year on year; you can see what he says about it in more detail here. 

Over at Huw Richards' You Tube channel here he talks about why crop rotation is a waste of time. He points out that with frames for bean growing no rotation means no moving of the frame to a different part of the garden or allotment. 

So, I do hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. I'm definitely going to plant my sweetcorn in the same spot next year, I'll look at my planting plans and get ready to open the window and get ready to throw out that rule book a bit more, just to see what might happen!

Bye for now,

take care and stay safe,

Lou.xx

Monday, 5 October 2020

Planning Without Panicking

 Hello

The other day I responed to somebody on Instagram who had been talking about lots of sowing they were going to be doing. I commented that I don't like thinking too far ahead with my sowing and growing. I explained that I love the winding down and changing of the seasons. 

I haven't in the past done lots of sowing in the Autumn but I do always put my onions and garlic in this month and in the last couple of years I've planted some bulbs to make the Aribnb listings more attractive. Even though I now have the poly tunnel to grow things over Winter - I already have peas, cabbage, khol rabi, salad leaves and carrots growing or started in there - I still feel I need a break from the need to always have to be doing SOMETHING outside. If I don't I have a break I get a panicky feeling and this takes the fun out of things for me.

For me Autumn into Winter is the start of the year winding down and here is how I explained my thoughts in another post on my Instagram account.
 
I have to admit my garden is not looking so favourable just now - leaves to be collected and saved for veg bed mulch and pots and trays to be packed away (tricky when your greenhouse is more like a gazebo) but also exciting things like onion and garlic to be sown in anticipation of a tasty harvest next year. Hmmm, next year; good to have some positivity to keep in mind there. Gardening is perfect for that and Clea Danaan in her book Mindful Thoughts for Gardeners tells us 

"The harvest period is a time of letting go. When we go through personal growth the same is true.... we rejoice in our new discoveries, we need also to give ourselves time to grieve and let go. And then, when we have fully released our old selves, we can crack open the fruit before us and discover what lies inside - seeds for the future. This is the nature of a harvest: a release of the past, a gift in the present and a promise of hope for the future." Let's all look to some hope for everyone in everything in the months to come.

I really am going to try and keep this in mind for my STATE of mind! It is wonderful to have things growing all year round, where you can, but the change in the season is about being grateful for the past, appreciating what it has given by way of our harvests, but we and the land need to recover. The land needs to re-charge its batteries and we benefit from that also. The nights are drawing in so we're beginning to have shorter days and less time to work on our little patches of paradise. I love the bright, chilly mornings where I enjoy looking around the garden and now will do so in the poly tunnel, too.

I will be making plans for next year, in fact I'm looking at a few things just now,


but I'm taking my time and enjoying it and not feeling forced to be out there all the time because frankly right now its just too wet!

Bye for now, Lou.xx






Monday, 28 September 2020

Inside and out, this and that, keeping on keeping on, still!

 Hello.

I really am loathe to start with my usual how are you all doing opener. Things are detreriorating with the pandemic in many places just now which is very sad indeed; we really have gone back many steps. I continue to feel very guilty about not wanting to go out more than necessary, yet want the boys to get their education in school as I think that is so important - I can't do a good enough job with the home schooling. I've been shopping and stocked up, sensibly, on top of the shopping trip I made last week so hope to not need going again for a couple of weeks at least apart from fresh fruit an veg if needed until the garden get going with autumn growing.🤞 We're going back a little to how we cooked, baked and ate in the early days of lockdown so I feel this will start to make me feel a little more comfortable. I hope with the nights drawing in that people MAY beginto stay in more and help with slowing the spread of infection but who knows. 

I continue to say we're doing our own thing andTracy at Our Smallholding Adventure talks about here in her latest post, what we are dealing with right now IS right now, normal for the foreseeble and we just have to deal with it - keep on keeping on.

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Anyway, here's me cheering myself up with inside and out of my little patch of paradise. 

If you read my last post the week was set to end with some really warm days and it did, however this weekend there was a distinct change. We'd already lit the wood burner on Friday night...


 and on Saturday morning with this lovely ice pattern on the bathroom Velux window.

the decision was made to light the Rayburn; yes, the old girl was fired up!


I feel sooo cosy just looking at this photo and as I type this my back is lovely and warm! We cooked our chicken Sunday roast in and on it yesterday and I'm looking forward to start baking bread and goodies for the tin.

The woodpile has been ready for this moment for a good few weeks now, even having a third extension plus roof so the Welsh rain doesn't ruin Jon and the boys' stacking efforts, so we're good to go for a lovely warm Winter indoors.


On Saturday afternoon the temperature in the poly tunnel was a surprising 32 degrees but I started work on something Jon and I had talked about; just a little project outside in the garden. The sink outside the poly house was cleared and will have new compost added and the sage, thyme and oregano are now housed in one of the tall planters on the garden side of the veg patch.


We plan on putting herbs in all the three planters so I'll need to check which herbs like living together. I know there three are happy house mates but will have to do a little homework reseach - just may ask the lovely Sara at Hawkwell Herbs for some advice.

I'm planning on growing flowers in the sink and toilet so have to move the two mint plants, replace that compost and get my bumbs organised - I would love to have some cutting flowers.

Also around the garden my multi-sown leeks seem to be coming along very nicely so fingers crossed we can have those on Christmas Day - unlike my second cropping spuds as blight has done for them I'm afraid.
  

Looking around I spotted these strawberries in some  planters I've left outside for some time. 

Still seem to be fruiting and just today I saw these others in the poly tunnel. They are some of  the runners I've planted - obviously one pot had some seeds in it already which I didn't realise!


My tomatoes are just about coming to an end. They are finally ripenening and read somewhere that laying the plants down can help with the process so giving that a go.



We haven't had anywhere near as many tomatoes as we would have liked but what we have had have been much better quality than in the past so maybe I'm getting there, finally!

I'm so pleased that the runner beans are really flowering now but not sure when I might get any pods.


I'm really please that the first lettuces I sowed and planted are doing very well so hope for the same with the ones planted later.


Earlier this morning I took a llittle walk a few minutes from the house and picked a couple of things to go with the crysanthymums and gourds I bought yesterday. A taste of Autumn in the kitchen so brighten my days.


That's enough of my ramblings and, as usual, I say stay safe.

Bye for now,

Lou.xx

Friday, 18 September 2020

Switcheroo In The Poly Tunnel - Times They Are A Changing.

Afternoon!

How are you?

I'm ok although had a little bit of a wobble recently and today I'm not much better here and there. I'm concerned we're surely heading toward a second wave as infection rates are up everywhere- because of this I am having problems with conflicting feelings. 

I'm really happy our boys are back at school as I think they need to be, especially when they were off for so long and also the youngest is settling in so well to his new surroundings. However, I am tentatively preparing for when I really don't want to go out for a while which makes me feel guilty.... We will see how things develop but it doesn't harm to be ready. I don't want there to be another lockdown as the people who will suffer the most are those who are already in financial trouble. 

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The weather here is glorious for September and set to be so for the next few days.

I've dragged myself outside, yes I know I should have more enthusiasm for my little patch of paradise, over the last couple of days to do some jobs in the poly tunnel before its been getting too hot and things are changing in there. (Sorry this is a bit dark.)


I've been meaning to cut back the cucumber and tomato plants to let in the sun and today I finally got the job done. I ended up with a lot of garden waste after these jobs which will find its way down to the field when Jon is having a fire. I was really pleased to spend time doing this even though, as is my want, I was thinking I should be getting jobs done indoors!😖 

(This is my new little trolley Jon got for me from a well known social media platform.)👏👏👏


Another job I've done is to make the fridge pickles out of some cucumbers we were given so this will hopefully encourage me to eat more of our salad along with it!




The runner beans are getting close to flowering, below on the left, and the cucumbers have properly come on in the last few days! Bit late but very pleased. 

I've brought in a few tomatoes now, I can see through the leaves, which were close to ripening but left others to hopefully come on this week.🤞



I have something quite exciting - the first squash I've ever managed to grow!


It weighs 4.8lbs, the one vegetable spaghetti from my triffid of a plant given to me by a friend! Thanks again Karen, this will make some soup for sure! Never mind, I'm curing it in the conservatory and then will store it in the cellar to have in the winter, hopefully.

This is the space I have now cleared, for what I'm not sure.


I sowed Meteor peas some time back and today I put 15 of the plants in, still have some left, and to make the best of the space I've also planted some multi-sown spring onions.


I've planted some Autumn Corvina broccoli where some of the tomatoes were including two which I moved from the bed on the other side so I made the best of the space. I should sow/plant something else here to make the best of the room but I think I've got enough lettuce!


Today the weather is gorgeous and I tried to get outside. I needed to give the usual Friday whip round with the vacuum, I like everything to be lovely on Friday night when we are all having a cosy night together, clothes put out of the way and this blog post finished of course. I also decided I needed two bread loaves for the weekend, biscuits for the tin, dough for the boys' pizza tea and an apple crumble for puddings. I also had a zoom chat with a friend so it was a bit a bit of a busy day.

Biscuits and crumble-  ✅  (Crumble is in the fridge ready to pop in the oven when we need it.)



Dough is in the fridge, too, so I can make the pizzas fresh later ✅ and the bread loaves are cooling. 


Didn't manage to get outside, apart from to feed the chooks and collect the eggs. Never mind, the weather is forecast to be good over the weekend so I'll get stuff done then.

Hope you have a wonderful, and safe, weekend.

Take care.

Bye for now,

Lou.xx





 









Saturday, 5 September 2020

Cooler Weather and Cool Crafting!

Hello all.👋 A breezy and slightly overcast day here in wonderful mid Wales. 

All well I hope.

Not long since my last blog post but I scribbled notes for this post whilst waiting in the car for Jon last night as he broke his hand at work and was three and a half hours in A and E. No cast has been put on but it's strapped up for the next three weeks - he'll be on restricted duties at his day job!

In my last post I talked about the onset of Autumn and of how I love the cooler months. That was on September 2nd and since then the weather has changed considerably. It isn't just the shift from warm to cool but the changes to the physicality of my outside spaces, new beginnings and ultimately the end of some things, ie. this year, which I love and at times crave. I still have problems when we go out, as we did today, and felt myself getting a little emotional when people were impatient, not giving others space etc so the idea of not having to go out a great deal still appeals to me.

The garden is, to be fair, looking a little sad just now. There are some spaces waiting to be filled eg. tyres that previously housed the early spuds where I'll be planting Autumn onions and beds where I'd hoped to grow cabbages but the caterpillars properly got the best of them so that is a no go. There are other beds which will soon be put to sleep until next year with a covering of chicken pooh - managed to clean them out yesterday when the weather was dry. 

However, there are spots of my little patch of paradise which are producing edibles including carrots, spuds (maincrop and 2nd cropping), perpetual spinach, peas and dwarf beans outside. In the poly tunnel I have some longer term projects, as I have always wanted, which are runner beans, salad leaves, turnips and khol rabi. I haven't mastered the art of keeping edibles going all year by any stretch but at least with the poly tunnel I may get more than if I just had the outside beds. 

Last Autumn my boys collected leaves in old compost bags for me so these are now rotted down and ready for when my no dig beds, and perhaps the poly tunnel, will have some mulch put on them along with said chicken pooh. The compost bins should be able to provide me with some lovely organic matter, too.

With the changes in the growing season comes the winding down of part of the garden, BUT hope springs eternal, literally, as I'll be planting bulbs to come through with a flourish in the nearly months of next year hopefully in time for when we begin greeting our Airbnb guests once again. Gardeners and growers of their own like to plan for the future therefore soon I will be thinking about the sowing and growing for the coming year. 


Some people love a spread sheet but I have a simple A5 diary along with a notebook and  piece of graph paper and I work out what and where with those; there is always some wiggle room, a lot of wiggle room actually but I normally get the job done. How do you like to plan your little patch of paradise.

There is always a positive part of the year and, goodness only knows, we all need a bit of positivity and something we can rely on in these still largely uncertain times. Hunkering down for the end of the year is something I never tire of and as a family we all look forward to this time of the year, even hoping to get snowed in; careful what you wish for but that's on our Christmas list every year!

It's also the start of the new school year and in my last post I mentioned about our youngest hopefully transferring to his brother's school.   


Well, we are IN! We had a meeting at the yesterday and he is set to start on Thursday next week! Woop woop! It's going to be a very different experience for our boys and many other children but he is still very excited. They are set to continue school life at everyday normal times but obvious changes to the way lessons are organised and I'm sure, for them, this will become the new normal for the time being.

Once school starts I am tentatively starting to think about the festive part of the year. We are already looking forward to a family visit but I have already begun some Christmas papercrafting as you may have seen on my Instagram account, check it out if not. 


I've managed to do a lot more crafting this year due to lockdown it seems but there is more to come when my very fav US crafting designer, Tim Holtz, launches his Idea-ology Christmas 2020 collection later this month - sooooo excited cannot WAIT! Here is his website to give you a flavour of his style; I love his Idea-ology range, this is from the new collection earlier this year which I love so much as he is so very inspiring with the oh so cool vintage feel to all of his products which are just my thing!

Ok, I have definitely rambled on ENOUGH today so hope you have enjoyed it.

Bye for now, 

Lou.xx

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Autumn School Days and Homestead Harvesting

Good morning everybody.

Well here we are in September with the nights certainly getting chillier and darker quite a lot earlier; I love the colours of the seasons changing, too.


Autumn and Winter are my very favourite seasons and I can't WAIT to get the Rayburn and wood burner lit. The first I think we'll light in the middle of this month. Sooo helps to cut down on winter outgoings as we do as much cooking on and in it as we can, it heats the water and keeps some of upstairs warm, or we put on an extra sweater! The boys love coming home to hot chocolate and cake in the warmth of the living room, curtains shut and I love sitting in there with Jon at night time chatting or listening to music. Even though the TV is only up two steps in a room off the living room it's a lovely quiet space if the boys want to do something else.

I have to admit to loving the winding down of the year and this year is one that surely needs to come to an end so we can look forward to a better, though I suspect still very different, 2021.

My usual question at the start of proceedings is how are you all getting on? I know a lot of people are describing our situation as lockdown having been lifted, but here on our little homestead we are pretty much behaving the same way, still living the dream in our own way here on my little patch of paradise.


(Apologies for the cement mixer but work in progress!)

We're only going to the shops for things we need, no browsing for fun; August Bank Holiday has just passed and we drove into Aber on the Sunday and it was extremely busy so we got what was needed and, as we say, got the hell out of dodge!

Just now shopping involves getting school supplies for our boys. With one who is 14 the week they go back and currently 5ft 4 it's proving a little tricky getting regulation school clothes as we're on the brink of the age range seeing as he's already in 15 - 16 yrs shirts, and don't get me started on trousers! Things will be very different for them, I think I mentioned I'll be driving them to school but I'm still waiting to hear that we can transfer Alfie to join Harry at his school in Aber.🤞 They will be in school next week for two or three days but we have no dates for attendance confirmed beyond that as yet. We expect there'll be some blended learning ie. home as well as in school but again this information has not come to us yet.

Here on the homestead Jon is continuing work on the new Airbnb listing. It's coming on very well indeed and we are just planning the colours, layout and style and as we plan on having some much missed family to stay with us over Christmas, no not apologising for saying it, we're looking forward to it being very welcoming and cosy for them.

Harvests have really not been too bad this year. Still have lots of carrots to come along with the Maris Piper maincrop spuds which seem to be really good already. I was a little concerned about the spuds due to the little tomato things growing on them again this year but was confident it wasn't blight although they also seemed to be dying back a bit early - my diary said they shouldn't be ready before Sept 19 about. Aaaaanyhow, I decided to cut them down to soil level and when I harvested two plants yesterday I came in with 4lbs of quality produce which I thought was a good amount. 

(The bags in the background are the 2nd cropping ones.)



Of course, I have the second cropping ones planted which will be going into the poly tunnel at some point; the growing bags will probably take the place of the butternut squash that took over the corner for so long.



I've been out foraging for blackberries, too, haven't really had to go very far for them,10 minutes from home at the most, and there have been sooo many that we now have a good couple of lbs in the freezer. Great for breakfast with yoghurt - hope to go out again this week and see if they are still in such abundance before the season ends.


I FINALLY have quite a few tomatoes ripening, from different varieties, too; they seem to have taken an absolute age so hope to pick those in the next couple of days; not enough to process into anything but never mind another year maybe.

I took up my beetroot last week; not loads this year but hope to have a late entry of some I have planted outside. I used the fresh along with some from the freezer which I grew last year. I had enough to make a couple of jars of relish, plus some for tasting, from a recipe by Thane Prince, and it was yummy; this will be perfect to go with cold meats at Christmas, oops there it is again! Not much preserving going on but some.





The outside beds and areas are beginning to look a little bit naked. The empty tyres where I grew my early spuds will be for onions and garlic I think, should be enough space. 

One of my great successes this year is definitely the kale. Constantly picking, rinsing and popping it into a bag for the fridge.


Maryline and I from Rural and Rustic were just saying that an eye needs to be kept on poly tunnel temperatures just now to ensure the more delicate things are still happy. I'll be popping out shortly to  feed the toms and few other things when I do the rounds; we're having some rain here today so the outdoor plants should be ok.

Right, today is the last no-screen day for the boys and Wednesday is also Monopoly Day; we normally have lunch then start and play until about 3 or 3.30pm.

Enjoy your day and I hope you enjoyed more of my ramblings.

#stayhomeandstaysafe where you can.

Bye for now

Lou,xx











Saturday, 15 August 2020

Self-sufficiency, Self-reliance And Me Rambling, As Usual!

I'm a bit behind as I started this post on Monday!😂 That was the day Jon went back to work after his annual 2 week summer break.! I have a busy life normally but there is always a bit more going on when he is at home all day.

I'm a planner and he is a doer so we fit together very well; I have to take care when asking for something to be done so I can allow for associated mess and clean up time -  when I ask he has the habit of starting it fairly sharpish!

As I wrote most of this whilst sitting in the garden on the tree seat, it was a balmy evening and the sky was pale blue mottled with clouds after a day of thunderstorms and rain. There was not a breath of wind, Jon was planing a seat made out of tree trunks for our elderly sheep-farming neighbour and our new sheep dog pup was running around as unsure of the noise.

On evenings as such it is so very hard to remember that Covid-19 and the pandemic are still having an adverse effect on our lives. I say adverse as we are generally still managing to live our lives the way we were before. 

I started to think about the following definitions, I think I have them correct, as whilst we have been, and still are, in lockdown we are as ever doing as much for ourselves as we can. I began thinking the other day about these terms and as the UK begins to relax the rules of lockdown. 

SELF-SUFFICIENT 

This is where you produce, obtain or already possess what you need - where you have enough.

SELF-RELIANT

This is about your skills and abilities with aspirations of non-dependency, not about having enough of something. 

We are no where near totally self-sufficient regarding our food but in lots of ways we are self-reliant. I know some people may think the two are the same but they are a little different. We are almost self-sufficient in the food we like to eat in the Summer months. We are self-sufficient in the wood we need to heat our wonderful Rayburn over Winter as we can acquire timber from the sawmill where Jon works. In turn we are self-reliant in not relying on paid-for energy to heat our home or water and, if we so desire, we can cook all our food and meals with the Rayburn or on the top of the living room wood burner; obviously we have other appliances that add to our energy bill.

What we are truly self-reliant in is various skills around the house and our little homestead so we very rarely need to call a tradesman. Thanks to Jon's talents we never need a plasterer, painter/decorator, locksmith, plumber, carpenter, fencer, builder, tiler, roofer, glazier but sometimes need an electrician. Jon has been know to sweep the chimneys but both the Rayburn and wood burner have had the professional treatment once since we came to Bronllan.

I can't imagine how much money we have saved over the 17 years we have been together!

If I'm being honest I was never happier than in the early days; when the PM made the historic announcement 4 months ago  "you must stay at home" I adhered to the rules very strictly. 

We live 13 miles from the seaside town of Aberystwyth and are now seeing more people out and about, including tourists. We're going back to not feeling very keen at all on going into the town so I now wear a mask in the shops; there are opinions about the use and efficacy but it does make me feel a bit more comfortable in places where people are not social distancing. 

So, as far as food is concerned we're trying harder with the self-sufficient thing especially now we have the poly tunnel; that has been a real learning curve as we had it just at lockdown and I'm already looking forward to producing food over Winter and into next year! Planning, always planning.

I hope to preserve some of the things I grow; I've a dehydrator on my birthday list. I've always thought it important to have food in stock in case a situation arises, as recently. There'll always be dried goods in the house and will persevere in our aims to keep us all provided for, be it through sufficiency or reliance.

Anyway, talking of sowing and growing, here are a few photos from the garden this morning.

I've borrowed some bean poles from friends so I can support the runner beans I'm trying to grow in the poly tunnel, not sure how they will do but whatever! I have little rubber hats on top of the poles to protect the tunnel roof.

I've planted out nine more dwarf bean plants as these seem to be doing better outside than in, again, see how that goes. .


Some lettuce seedlings grown in the poly tunnel will hopefully give us more salad for a while yet and these are planted outside, too; I've had another good year with salad leaves!


I've fed the tomatoes with my homemade nettle feed for the first time today. I had to dilute it 1:10 before using it and it will last a while as I made 24 pints of it!

My tomatoes are just beginning to ripen; here are some of the variety Black Russian.

In the back right corner you can just see something coming up and they are Snowball turnips.

The corn outside the poly house is coming along really nicely, as are the beans sharing the bed - can't say the same about the squash in the middle! 



The blueberries are great, sooo pleased with them and picking every other day or so.


This year is definitely one of firsts; tried to grow borage a couple of times but this year actually managed it!

So, today is Saturday just after 8am. Jon is outside painting the listing with the youngest, I've fed the chooks and looking forward to a day of indoor jobs today. It's cooler outside and I've been and taken a quick look at everything. I'll probably go out later and bring in a few goodies like some fresh spuds, kale, blueberries to add to the others in the freezer and salad for lunch; some is going to seed and this will give up some space for other planting to provide us with eatables over the Winter.

As ever, stay safe, enjoy your weekend and hope the weather is not too hot, cold or wet for you in the coming days.

Bye for now,

Love Lou.xx