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?