Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Silver Linings

It could have been worse...
Monday was a mad, running around, kinda day. We were up early to get to the first of a series of dental appointments for 8.30am - an unspeakably early time for the school holidays, especially for a teenager. Thankfully there was only one child to kick out of bed on time, as the other had been farmed out to Grandparents! Silver linings...
On the way there we got turned around because of a nasty looking road accident - I really hope the guy being loaded into the ambulance is going to be OK. Despite the diversion, and roadworks, and heavy traffic... we still made it to the appointment on time. Finally,the braces are off Child-number-one. The improvement in his face shape, and the smile, is fab. He's growing into a very handsome young man, I just wish he could see it.
Then we had 6 hours to waste kill entertain ourselves.
Shopping was done, a film was watched - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, very good - food was had, and plenty of time was spent just being together. Mum and Son. We don't do enough of that. Note to self: Make that happen more often!
Once we'd been back to the orthodontist for his retainers - which made his gums bleed and jaw ache - we headed home.
I turned the computer on.
It turned off.
I blamed a power glitch, not an uncommon occurence here.
I turned it back on.
It booted up, loaded emails, and turned itself off again.
Hmm.... Check the fuse box and other appliances - no issues.
I turned it back on, again.
Booted up fine, loaded stuff. After about 5 mins, it turned off.
Uh oh.
That's my work, emails, websites, writing files, family pics... Before anyone yells, "BACK-UP" at me, I know. Some was backed up, but not everything. Importantly, the one file not backed up and accessible from anywhere other than the desktop hard-drive was my current work-in-progress - the next generation of Portal stories. I've been working on it for a while, and recently got back into the habit of writing every day. The characters were back in my head, the words were flowing.
Then they were locked away in a box under my desk that wouldn't open long enough for me to find them!
I swore at the thing, dug out my laptop and swore again at the lost passwords, missing software that needed to be installed, and the barrage of updates the thing needed. But I got online and could at least catch up with some of my work.
Tuesday morning... the desktop was still refusing to work, so I took it to a repair shop. They promised to take a look, it was probably the fan tripping a thermal cut out, but they'd let me know by the end of the day.
The moral of this? The fan is fine, just filthy and clogged with several generations of spiders, webs, dust, hair, and other detritus from 2 houses, several furniture rearrangements, multiple desks, at least 3 sets of major building works...
Umm, folks? Take the side/back off your computer regularly and clean the thing. When I pick it up tomorrow I'll be asking how to do that.... Oops.
Sliver linings though: The computer is fine, no parts needing replacing, a small bill, and all my files and pics are fine. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Reclaimed wood planter

I've been collecting pallets. They're really for making a chicken coop and run, but time, energy, weather have been against me so far. I'll get there, give it time!
I also have half a dozen or so tomato plants in desperate need of potting on, no pots the right size or depth, and I don't want to put them up at the allotment - I want some at home too, to see where they do best. So, in between threatening rain clouds (that never actually shed any rain, the sods, the garden and allotment could have used a water today) I ripped apart one of the not so good pallets and made myself a little planter.
It's wonky as hell, the feet underneath are uneven, and the wood is rough and a bit splintery... But I made it, the tomatoes are planted in it, and it didn't fall apart! I'm planning to make another for my pepper plants, and wondering if I can make a chicken feeder too?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Mission accomplished!

Growing failures update: 

  • First lot of courgettes eaten by slugs. Had to resort to slug pellets but got pet friendly ones, hope they're ok.
  • Carrots are rubbish - but we're not alone in that on the allotment site, lots of people have had a complete failure to germinate so far. Might be worth re-sowing soon though. 
  • Cucumbers keep turning yellow and falling off the plants - any ideas? 
  • Runner beans looking pale and anaemic - no clue why, has been suggested they might not like it chilly at night? Or someone suggested a dose of epsom salts? 
  • Mushrooms each did 1 'shroom, and I got all excited and ate them, but then stopped doing anything. 
  • Most of the tomato plants eaten by slugs. 

Having said that, the plot is looking fuller and productive now. Spuds are coming on a treat, and I'm having to resist digging a plant up to see what it's doing! I always have to fight the urge to dig and look too soon. The replacement courgettes are in alongside one of the pumpkin plants, with a liberal sprinkling of slug pellets - must get more when I go shopping. The red onions are tall and strong, and I hope the bulbs are swelling nicely below the surface. They don't look fat enough to pull and eat yet but they're doing well. My peas actually have little pods forming, and I was laughed at the other day when I got all excited about that.

Of the first 6 sprout plants I put in the plot, 2 are doing well (as in the pic), 2 are smaller but ok, and 2 got eaten - blaming the damned slugs again! This week I topped up the sprout patch with more plants so there are 12 there now. I think that might do, seeing as only 2 of us eat them!
Back in February when we this first took on this plot, my goal was to "grow something we can eat." Yesterday we picked the first leaves from the swiss chard, wilted them with a little butter and ate them as part of our Sunday dinner.
Mission accomplished, and although I know there'll be more to eat from the allotment, and the garden too, that first crop tastes so good, and the sense of achievement is immense.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


To grow small, button mushrooms... I think they're button mushrooms? The sort you can buy in supermarkets, small, closed cap, pink gills inside.
  • Buy kit in Poundland - choose from Chestnut or White.
  • Follow instructions carefully - be especially careful not to over water the compost, a plant sprayer used to lightly mist it once a day is enough. 
  • Keep it in a cupboard, somewhere coolish, not too cold, not too warm, out of draughts, not near any direct heat, and definitely not too dry. 
  • Check it obsessively several times a day as if the mushrooms will appear by magic within minutes...
  • Around a week later you'll see white stuff appear up the sides and on the surface of the compost, it may have little nodules: 
  •  Keep checking, misting with water - but don't poke the nodules! They'll be getting bigger - turning into little baby mushrooms.
  • Pick first mushroom when really too small and eat anyway, after all, there'll be more soon, right? 
  • Go and get the other sort from Poundland, just because it's fun.
It's taken just under a month from setting the kit up to the first edible mushroom, and it looks like there are more coming. This first one came up and just grew really fast, and I couldn't wait.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

'Shroom update, and other growing news.

I have little, tiny, baby, barely visible but there... Mushrooms!
I know, you can barely see them, but those little white dots are actual tiny mushrooms, and more are appearing every day. I've never managed to grow mushrooms before, I'm quite excited. I'll keep you posted as they grow, and I'm considering getting a box of the chestnut ones next time I'm in Poundland, which may be slightly mental as I'm the only person here who eats them. But it's fun.
In other gardening news, we have pumpkins growing nicely after a slow start.
We've been using toilet roll inners as bottomless pots for carrot, beetroot, and parsnip. We've done that before and had good results. The seedlings in the pic below are, from the back, Carrot (purple haze), Beetroot (Perfect 3), and Parsnip (Tender & true). They're not ready to go up to the allotment yet, but are outside now, growing well.
We're off to the allotment this afternoon, with this lot to plant out, and armed with fork and hoe for weeding, and more spuds and onions to go in. We're putting half the courgettes up there today, and a few tomatoes, to see how they do. The broad beans need to move as their roots are now trying to escape the pots at the bottom. We also need to put some netting, or something, over the plants up at the allotment so they might survive long enough to produce something we can eat! We're repurposing an old trampoline enclosure. The mesh is tight enough to keep pests out, but should let rain and sun in. We're going to give it a go anyway.
The first French bean is just emerging, and we're hoping for more over the next few days. No peppers are up yet, but I seem to remember they take ages to germinate. And, we got given some cucumber plants. I've never had any success with cucumbers, but they're fun and it's always worth trying again. The cucumbers need to stay indoors, on a windowsill, in full sun for most of the day. They're doing well at the moment, looking strong, and we'll see how they do.
I'll take the camera with me this afternoon and update with allotment pics tomorrow, probably...
Enjoy the sun!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Paper potters, seedlings and digging.

For Christmas I got a large version of the Paper Potter. I've had the original for years and it's brilliant, but sometimes I need a pot that's just a bit bigger. Now I have potters in 2 sizes, and this makes me happy. Armed with the large potter, a pile of newspaper, and some seedlings in need of potting on, I set to work. And the pots stuck on the potter, the wood was just a bit rough, unlike the original which was smooth and perfect straight out of the box. I dug out some furniture wax, and gave it a polish and that did the trick, the pots then slid off and stayed whole. I only made about a dozen, just enough for today, but they worked out well.
The gardener's delight tomatoes were ready to be split and potted on from the seed tray, so they went into paper pots. But the tigrella tomatoes aren't big enough to handle yet, they need another week or 2. The sprouts haven't germinated as well as I'd hoped but there were enough decent seedlings to pick 6 nice healthy looking ones to pot on.
The courgettes are in plastic pots, they need a much bigger pot! There are 3 long yellow, 4 long green and 3 round green, plants. I wasn't expecting them to do so well! I may still lose some to slugs and other things, but they're all looking well at the moment while they harden off outside.
They, and everything else, need to be much larger and more robust before they go into the allotment.The allotment site is quite exposed, a bit higher up than my house, and fairly windy. All this growing is happening at home for now, while we get the allotment ready and the plants bigger. Having said that, we have got 2 rows of potatoes, 2 rows of onions, a row of carrots and almost 2 rows of peas up there so far.
Rhubarb at the allotment isn't doing well, but the crowns in the garden here seem to be thriving, along with the other fruits. Pic below, rhubarb at the back, stick of a gooseberry hiding in the middle, tayberry at the front. Unlikely to see much, if any, fruit this year, but next year...
The other fruit bed at home has the black and red currant bushes and the raspberries - and that one is much greener! Should see some fruit from that this year, and even more next year.

It's getting there!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

More seed sowing.

A bit of a grey day, overcast and threatening rain. Popped the courgettes outside for some fresh air, with the peas, sprouts, chard and tomatoes. Courgettes are looking good, as are the few peas that came up. One lot of tomatoes is looking good too, the other is lagging behind a bit but I think they'll be ok. The pumpkins are showing roots but no leaves yet. The chard and sprouts look a bit leggy and anaemic but I'm hoping some proper sun and weather will sort them out.
I braved the shed, navigated the assault course over 2 bikes, a mower and various chairs and tools, to find the rest of the pots and trays for more seed sowing! Can't beat a bit of seed sowing.
I now have a window sill filled with pots of carrot (purple haze), parsnip, beetroot, cosmos, echinacea, poppy, verbena, french and broad beans, and what I hope will be very pretty peppers.
The variety is Topepo Rosso, and they're a sweet pepper - just as I like them for cooking. They'll go wll with the red onions and mushrooms, I hope. 
It's all starting to happen, I can't wait until I can harvest things!

Having a go at mushrooms.

Today it rained. Lots. The plan of popping up to the allotment to sow some carrots, put in some peas and dig over again didn't happen.
We popped into town instead. I had in mind to grab some more pots to bring things on at home, and I did get those... But I also picked up seed for lettuce, carrots, and some very pretty peppers, and a mushroom growing kit.
I've tried to grow mushrooms before, many years ago, and they've never done well, but I thought I'd give them another go. Allegedly, there may be a chestnut mushroom kit available there too, I think I may have to have a look for one if this one does ok. I may take pics if I get any 'shrooms!
On the windowsill at home I have thriving tomatoes and courgettes. The peas are outside in their seed tray, waiting for a dry enough day to plant them out at the allotment and the chard and sprouts aren't quite so vigorous, I think they need better light so I'm popping them outside for most of each day - which wasn't such a good idea today as a few have been damaged by the heavy rain.
Tomorrow's job will be to sort out more space for seed sowing at home, and to get things started. I have peppers to get going, and some flowers too - pretty and also helps encourage insects to help with fruit and veg pests, as well as bringing bees into the garden and allotment to help with pollination. No pollination = no fruit.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Let the planting commence...

Having cleared the worst of the weeds from the allotment bed, and dug it over once all over and twice over about half, we started planting yesterday.
  • 2 short rows of 6 potatoes - Desiree
  • 2 short rows of onions - Red Baron
  • 2 crowns of rhubarb - variety unknown
We also installed a compost bin and part filled it with hedge clippings and cut grass, with a few weeds from the allotment.
At home some of the seeds are up and thriving.
  • Sprouts
  • Courgette - 3 varieties: long green, long yellow, and round green
  • Chard - Bright lights, multi-coloured
  • Tomatoes - Tigrella (stripey) and Gardener's Delight (Red)
  • Peas - Kelvedon Wonder (Old seed and hasn't generated as many plants as I hoped)
The pepper and pumpkin have both failed to emerge so far. I need to get that lot potted on and a bit bigger before I can harden them off outside before they can go up to the allotment. It's quite an exposed site and the plants need to be sturdy before they go up.
Also at home I've planted one of the apple trees (Cox) by the fence at the back end of the garden, the rowan tree by the wall, and rhubarb on the left side of the path. I'll be adding the tayberry and red gooseberry to the patch where the rhubarb is, so there's fruit on both sides of the garden.
Then there's carrot, broccoli, broad and french beans, to plant. And more potatoes and onions to go in, and a home to find for the strawberries. And that's before I start thinking about the other apple tree, the rose bushes and the other flowers, and at least one child wants to grow sunflowers. It's going to be a busy year, but, I hope, a productive one.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Today the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the year is ticking away. This morning was grocery shopping and the cupboards are now full again. This afternoon was dog walking, and the sun was warm, the breeze not biting and the trees are bursting into green.
What else could I do but dive into the shed when I got back, pull out the seed trays and seeds and sow some!
  • 3 varieties of courgette - round green, long green, and long yellow.
  • Pumpkin - Jack O'Lantern: a smallish variety I've grown before. Not too big and does well, usually, not sure how it'll do here!
  • 2 varieties of tomato - Tigrella (stripey!) and Gardener's Delight.
  • Sprouts - a red variety.
  • Chard - Bright Lights: Multi-coloured.
  • Pea - Kelvedon Wonder - but it's an old pack so not sure how it'll do.
  • Pepper - not sure what variety, it's a pack of seed I've acquired from somewhere, possibly seed saved at some point.
I've not set carrots to germinate yet, or potatoes, and I'm missing beans - broad and french, not sure if I want runners yet. Also need to find window space for parsnips, beetroot, leek and some herbs. And I need to make some paper pots.
It's feeling a bit Spring-like.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

11 years ago, and today.

Early in the morning, on April 3rd 2003, I woke thinking I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. I turned over and went back to sleep...
By 7am I was at the hospital, and by 9.30am I was the mother of a beautiful little girl, a sister to my son.
Today she is almost as tall as me, ending her days at primary school, looking towards secondary school and the next phase of her life and education. She is tagged as gifted and talented in at least 3 subjects and her teacher admits she sometimes struggles to keep up with her.
Happy Birthday, Morgan, I am so incredibly proud of you. 
On Easter Sunday she is giving up her day to help others, again. She's donning the helmet and harness and climbing down a rock to raise money for people with chronic lung conditions - like her Grandmother.
If you fancy lending a hand click the button here:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
Or Text MBAB96 to 70070 to sponsor her £3.00. It's quick, easy, and will really help change lives.Over the time this event has been running, the abseil alone has raised over £35,000 and has been instrumental in funding equipment and support for people living with lung conditions. In 4 years, Morgan has raised almost £1,000. As I type this her total for this year is £245, and I'd love for her to exceed that. 
Can you help? Go on, click the button, or text MBAB96 to 70070. 
Thank you.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Arrival of the compost bins, and a punch bag

A quick round up...
It rained, a lot, again. The sun shone, a bit, on the wrong days when we had to be out doing stuff and couldn't be in the garden or up at the allotment. The cats got spayed, and the stitches came out today. Shadow really doesn't like the vets - hissing and taking swipes at anyone who came close while we were there and then fine once we were home again. Tabs was fine, placid and friendly. More on the cats another day.
Plants and seeds are gathering for the garden and allotment, and the fedge is starting to grow, as are the currants and raspberries - lots of new canes there! I must get out there and take some more pics, set up supports for the raspberries, and get on with planting some seeds if I want to stand any sort of chance of growing anything other than weeds! And the new apple trees are trying to flower and the leaves are starting to come through. I love this time of year.
And I need to get the composting going as the weather warms up so any compost heap or bin I have is working as it gets filled. With that in mind, we took a trip to get 2 cheap compost bins from the local council - most councils do them, go and ask, or look online, it's really very easy. Here, we had to pick up a voucher and take that to one of the main Household Waste and Recycling centres to collect the bins. They're nice and big, 330l, and look like black daleks. One is staying at home, in the garden, an the other will go up to the allotment eventually. The one in the garden is being filled slowly with kitchen waste, torn cardboard and paper, and some garden waste. Times like this, I really miss my chickens - their bedding, and associated poop, made the most amazing compost.
Anyway, while collecting the bins, we spotted a storage unit stacked with stuff people had thrown away, but  was still perfectly good. Why do people do that? We managed to pick up a game (shh, don't tell my kids, it's hidden for now, might tell you about it later, if it's any good!) and a punch bag for my lad, who wants to do more fitness stuff at home. My allotment buddy found herself a thigh trainer/stepper thing, and while we were there someone was loading up with a weights bench and full set of weights. There were books, bikes, sofas, shelves, guitars, toys, exercise equipment... all sorts of useful things, just thrown away.
People, really? Come on, use your local Freecycle, or Freegle, or a list on Facebook, or donate to a charity, don't just throw it away.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


I've started knitting a blanket, this one. Well, mostly that one, but maybe with some of these, and some of these thrown in if I get bored. I have no idea how big the thing will be once I've done, or how long it'll take, but it's a fun thing to try.
The Log Cabin square is based on this pattern, knitted according to the instructions in the first link. It's actually a lot easier than it looks.
I've started by working the squares in 3 colours each - not the same colours for every square because I'm using up a bag of left overs. There are blues, greens, cream and yellow with a few bits of rusty red-ish and beige. I'm no visual artist but I think it'll look good.
The first square is finished, and the second started. With each square coming out at around a foot along each side, that's 30cm, it won't take that many squares for a blanket. Four squares across and it'll be almost the width of a double bed! I'm going to carry on until I run out of yarn and then see how many squares I have. I may have to get some extra yarn to finish it off, but we'll see.
It's going to take a while to do, but it'll be worth the time and effort
Please excuse the cat, she was trying to help, and was insistent that she be in the picture. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Digging Over

About a month ago, I got a share of a small allotment. A friend and I both want to grow some of our own veg and neither of us would put in the time to maintain a full allotment if left on our own. But together we might keep each other going. Since then the weather has been horrid. There were the storms, and torrential rain, and flooding, and we haven't been able to get up there to do anything with it.
Today the sun shone and we had an hour to spare so we took spade and fork and started to turn it over.
It's just one raised bed, but a decent size and there's a gravel space beside it where I can park my car. Handy! The small bed in front of it is ours too, and there's another to the side - not sure if that's ours as well but I can't see why not.Thinking of putting peas or beans in the smaller beds and other veg in the main one.
Someone's started clearing the bed, they'd got about half way before we took it on. The soil's a bit on the heavy side but it's dark and crumbly, and once it's all turned over it'll be lovely to work with. Right now, it's mostly weeds and roots and turning over in large clods.
There's plenty of space and there should be room for a few potato plants, a pumpkin or 2, some carrots, onions, leeks, beetroots, chard, courgette and sprouts. Not many of each, but it's the variety that's wanted.
It's a bit early for sowing seeds, and far too early to be planting in the ground. The allotment site is very exposed, cold and wet, so I'll be starting veg off at home and hardening plants off thoroughly before planting out up there.
Today was clearing and digging over, and between the 2 of us we dug for just under an hour and managed to clear and turn close to a half of the space. It will all need turning and breaking up again, probably a few times before we can plant anything, but we have time to get that done.
We should be able to clear the last section next time we go, and then start turning it all again.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow and Friday, I think I might find my seed trays and lids and give them a wash.

Monday, 3 March 2014


When I woke this morning, it was grey, overcast and starting to rain.
I had plans, I despaired as the rain ran down the windows and the garden got soggier. I put a load of laundry on to wash and popped out to do the weekly shop. We were running out of milk. No tea! Disaster... By the time I'd done that and loaded the car, the sun had decided to show it's face and it was glaringly bright on the wet tarmac all the way home. Grr.
Got home, unloaded shopping, put it all away. Sun still shining, this is good. Hung the laundry on the washing line. Sun still shining, sky still blue! Amazing.
Then to work, and I ache now, just so you know. I took the overgrown, formerly coppiced willow, trimmed a few thicker branches to use as the main supports, and some thinner ones to weave in. Each branch needed pushing into the ground about a foot, and then tied and woven together to form the fedge.
Looks messy now, but as the stems grow and leaves start to appear it'll fill out nicely.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Fedge planning

In my garden I have three willow trees. One is large and good for climbing. One is smaller and just pretty. The last is a mess. It's been coppiced at some point and then allowed to get overgrown so there are a few branches in the heart of it that have grown thick and now it's too big and looks a mess.
My garden is also lacking any sort of decent fence or boundary. There's a mess of cobbled junk on one side, and part of a broken chain link/wire mesh fence on the other. The end of the back garden is open since the storms blew down the badly patched fence there. It's all wide open. The front garden isn't much better. There's a wall at the front but nothing between us and next door, it's like we have a shared front garden.
Next week the weather is forecast for a couple of dry days.
I have a cunning plan!
If I can trim out the formerly coppiced willow and harvest the stems, then I can start a willow fedge (not a fence, not a hedge!) along the boundary lines. Sturdier stems to form the structure and whippy ones to weave in for strength and solidity as it grows. If the stems take and grow the fedge should thicken and form a boundary like a hedge, but thinner. It'll be good for wildlife, more secure against the wind and rain than a non-living fence, and pretty too. It'll also deal with the mess of a willow.
The only real challenges now are deciding where to start, and finding a decent saw to use!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

First day of Spring.

It's the first of March, the first day of Spring, allegedly, and the weather is living up to the day with blue skies and sun. The washing machine is full of bedding, the line is full of drying clothes, and the garden is still sodden. It'll take a long while to dry out to any workable level after all the rain we've had. We've not been flooded, and I'm grateful for that and feel nothing but sympathy for those who have been flooded. But the garden is still swamp-like and there's standing water in places as there's nowhere for it to go. Drainage is very poor.
But, it's my birthday next week and I've wanted apple trees in the garden since we moved here 2 years ago and had to leave my beloved Spartan apple tree behind. This week the kids took me out to choose varieties and we came home with a Braeburn and a Cox, both lovely eating apples but firm enough to cook if we want to. For now they're in large pots until the garden dries out a bit and I decide where I want to plant them.
I have apple trees! That makes me so happy.
My tiny soft fruit patch is expanding as well. Today I trimmed some tangled blackcurrant branches because they would have messed up the bush if I'd left them. Instead of just chucking them I stuck them in the ground. I know it's the wrong time of year, but if they grow then I have 2 more blackcurrant bushes. If they don't then the dead sticks can rot down where they are. It's no gamble really, either I gain bushes, or I lose nothing.
Grabbed a redcurrant bush in Lidl this morning and put that in at the other end of the soft fruit bed. I've wanted redcurrants for ages, just one bush so I have a few for jam making. Redcurrants are fabulous for jam, full of pectin. A handful of redcurrants added to bramble jelly, or strawberry jam will help it set.
The raspberries seem to be spreading nicely too. I have to stake and tie them in soon or they'll collapse when they come into fruit.
There's not a lot of plants there, but the range is slowly growing. We might even have enough mixed fruit this year for home grown jam!
In other garden news, I think my big lavender is dying, but the cuttings in pots are doing well. Two of the rosemary plants died over the winter, but 1 is fine. Also, a few of the bulbs I put in are coming up. I have tiny little daffodils scattered at the far end of the garden.
It's St David's Day, I'm living in Wales, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and I have daffodils in my garden.
Could it be more perfect?

Thursday, 6 February 2014


I appear to have half a small allotment.
The garden here is a shallow layer of topsoil over what looks like landfill. It's going to take forever to sort out and will be back breaking to do. And it's semi-permanently swamp-like and flooded. I keep looking at it and planning to dig, clear, and get parts ready for planting, but it never gets done.
Meanwhile, in the next village the community garden has run out of funding and has to make ends meet and they have a set of large raised beds they are renting out as small allotment/veg plots, and a friend and I have one between us. It needs clearing and digging over, but it's big enough to produce some veg this year!
The plan, amongst requests from the kids, is for a few potato plants, lots of carrots, a pumpkin, some onions, sprouts, courgette, garlic, chard, beans, lettuce, and peas. At home we'll grow soft fruits in the garden; peppers and maybe tomatoes in pots. I already have a blackcurrant bush and a few raspberry canes in the ground from last year - need to trim and tie those; and a red gooseberry and tayberry in pots. We've had an offer of a few strawberry plants too.
I'm already looking forward to the sun on my back and fresh produce on the table.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Is someone there with you?

Back in late October 1995, I can't remember what I was doing, I'm not even exactly sure what day it was, but I do remember the phone rang. You know that feeling when you know something is wrong? When your stomach drops through the floor? Then the first words you hear are, "Is someone there with you?" and you know that the news isn't just bad, it's the worst, that your world is about to fall apart.
My brother and I hadn't been close in years, he lived in Bristol, as did I, but I rarely saw him. I know so little about his life as it was at that point. He was 22, a good looking young man with so much going for him. But, for some reason, he decided that this world wasn't for him. No-one knows the reason, but at that point in his life he chose to take his own life.

When the phone rang, it was our parents, having to tell one of their children that the other one was dead.
He's been gone 18 years now, and today would have been his 41st birthday, and I can honestly say it doesn't get easier, you just learn to cope with it. It gets better, but it doesn't ever really go away.
It tore my world apart. It changed who I am forever.
We played Metallica at his funeral. It's a beautiful ballad. Not exactly ruined for me now, but I can't listen to it without that edge of memory, the knowledge of where, when and why it was played.
I'm the survivor, is that the right word? The one left behind. The one who has to live with the aftermath of suicide. I will live with it all my life.
I'm the one who has to tell my children, when they ask about other members of our family, why don't we have Uncles and Aunts on your side, Mum? I have to tell them they had an Uncle but he died. I have to decide how much to tell them, what to tell them.
Suicide born of depression, from desperation, from isolation and fear, affects so many lives, sends ripples through so many years. I hope none of you have this as part of your lives, but if you do, then please take a moment to talk to someone. A friend, family, your doctor, or one of the helplines available. Someone will listen.
Papyrus - Prevention of Suicide in Young People
Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide
Happy Birthday Simon.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Getting organised.

It's not raining! Yet. The clouds are gathering and the sky is darkening, but it's not actually raining as I type and hasn't been raining since I got up this morning.The evenings are slowly getting lighter and there are spikes of green coming up in a few places. It's not spring, not yet, but the early bulbs are starting to come through.
This morning I have caught up with the laundry and braved the shed - which needs completely emptying and sorting before I put things away in there again. It's a mess, but I wanted my garden fork.
I'm not going to hang the laundry out, the threat of rain is there and the air is too damp for anything to dry or even air properly.
The reason for the shed expedition? In my garden I have 2 lines of raw compost laid as a mulch on the surface in the hope that it will kill off anything underneath and provide the basis of a semi-raised bed. More of a mound than anything more formal, but it's an experiment and it needed forking over to see how it's doing underneath. It's actually doing OK. A light fork through to aerate the mound a bit, mix it up, and I can leave it alone while I add more, and it should be good for late spring planting, I hope. If not, I can skim off the mound into a heap, dig over and plant anyway.
I have, in pots for now, a red gooseberry bush and a tayberry cane and I want to add those to my soft fruits patch which already has a couple of raspberry canes and a blackcurrant bush. All of those will multiply later this year and although I'm not expecting lots of fruit this summer, I should get some.
What I really want is a couple of apple trees, but I need the ground to be less swamp-like before I get them so I can plant straight into the ground where I want them to go. Once I decide where I want them. I say them, but 1 would do if I can find a self fertile variety that tastes good, with a firm, crisp texture. Failing that, 2 to cross pollinate and 2 varieties for eating and cooking. And I want to prune them to a bush, or fan, or something easy to reach and manage.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Planning and Plotting

It's raining. This is Wales, and we live half way up a mountain - it often rains and when it does it settles in for a long stay. At least it's not hail, and the car wasn't frozen this morning. But the garden is sitting under an inch or so of standing water. It's not a serious flood, just saturated ground with a bit of water on top and the surface water is running off down the road. It's just there's a lot of it.
But I'm looking at my garden and it's a massive job to make it work.
There's not much top soil between the grass and the detritus underneath. I started clearing some growing space last summer and it was like digging into a landfill site. The soil is full of bits of metal, recognisable electrical parts, bits of lino and that's before I think about the stones, perennial weed roots and broken glass. It's such a massive job that I really don't want to even start. I've been using a thick layer of raw composting material along the areas where I want the first 2 veg beds in the hope that it will kill off the grass and weeds and make the digging a little bit easier. Or I could leave it heaped up, put in some box sides and make raised beds? I haven't decided yet.
Then last week I heard about the chance to maybe apply for an allotment, to share with a friend. With 2 of us working it we might get somewhere and it would give us growing space while I clear more of my garden for growing at home.
Sounds like a plan!