Vegetation, fascination, imagination…..precipitation!

Today I have been totally alone at Riverside. A rare occurrence!

My youngest sproglet has been at a sleepover with her cousins.

ImageDue to this childfree time being such an unusual event I had BIG plans to use this time as productively as possible.

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The plans involved LOTS of outdoor work and gardening and general plot tidying.. and guess what, it has rained hard almost all day!   Sod’s Law!

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It is almost June and  so cold that I have had to light a fire. The cottage was really chilly this morning when I came in from milking Tansy .

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Amongst the jobs that I did complete, in the rain, were the planting out of some young vegetable plants that were in dire need of removing from their pots and trays. I have finished filling up the new wall planter! It will soon fill up as the plants mature and I look forward to having a bit more growing space.The planter replaces a rotten wood fence that fell down in the gusty wind we had the other day. So it is making use of space that was previously unused for growing. Every little helps..as they say 😉

ImageI planted out more baby red cabbages, some kale,both Tuscan Black and a red curly variety that I have forgotten the name of, plus beetroots and bunching onions.

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I earthed up the potatoes again, weeded the pea bed and planted out four courgette plants,that were getting far too big for the large pots they were in.

The hostas and ferns that fill a shady corner here at Riverside have enjoyed the rain today. No slug holes in the hostas yet. Permaculture certainly seems to keep the pest species at bay, as the hardworking hedgehogs and toads that live here keep the slug population under control.

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I have also planted out a variegated thyme, a red bergamot or bee balm, a pineapple mint, which is also variegated and some walking onions!. My first planting of those here! ….and I harvested yet more rhubarb! I am seriously impressed with the crop of rhubarb this year.The mulch of horse manure I gave the young rhubarb  plant last autumn has made a huge difference.

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So all in all a fairly productive day even if I did get wet. But I still have so much to do..

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I have started mulching an area of really overgrown land that runs beside my cottage plot.

I have been using all my spent straw/ hay and goat bedding over the last 6 months or so to deeply cover a completely wild area of thick nettles, grass and other perennial weeds.

Mulching has really helped reduce the nettles and is an ongoing process.

I have also laid some cardboard down to clear a small area ready for a deep bed, of home-made compost but to be totally honest I have a long way to go before it is anywhere near ready and I may just turn the animals out in it, for a month or so, just to eat it down a bit first, before I continue to do anything else out there.

I am feeling a bit despondent that I can’t get it sorted faster. But maybe it is meant to be a slow process, so that I get to work out where I will put plants and so I have time to save up for  the purchase of trees and perennials to fill it!

The weeds are growing faster than I can deal with them on my own  by hand. ..but still the mulching goes on…I won’t give up.

All in all it is about a tenth of an acre. It is set out in a long uneven strip..widening at the bottom as it reaches the slope up to  the riverbank.

Up by the river I aim to plant some willow for goat forage and weaving and so the roots help keep the soil in place.

ImageMy longterm plan is to eventually be able to make a mini forest garden on it.. with a meandering path.. curvy deep beds with fruit trees, underplanted with soft fruit and other edibles.

I want it to be beautiful as well as productive.. but I have a feeling it is going to take me some time to get to that stage.

Luckily I am very patient!

Thanks for reading my random wafflings. It is always a pleasure to get feedback and comments.

I always try to reply to everyone xx

Blessings xx

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Seeds of promise…

Finally after a much later start than usual, I have trays of seedlings growing on healthily in my tiny greenhouse.

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I have pea shoots pushing up through the damp earth, waving their bright green leaves at the sky.

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I have birdsong to accompany me during my early morning milking and to lift my spirits and make rising so early less tiresome.

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I have sunshine in my garden and with it grows the seed of promise for a productive Summer.

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When life throws obstacles at you it is easy to get disheartened, feel total despair and give up. We can learn so much from nature at times like this.

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When the unpredictable weather conditions make it impossible for germination to begin, when nature decides to throw in a googly…the seeds silently bide their time and still they arrive full of energy and life anew. Fresh, unspoilt and ready to take on the world!

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So although my vegetable and flower garden has got off to a slower than predicted start this year, due to the dire Spring we have had……and I, like many others here in the UK atm, are weathering some incredibly tough economic times, I  feel so grateful to have nature to guide me, comfort me and help me through the tough days.

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My garden is not only my sanctuary, my food store, my larder, my exercise, my hobby …….it is my friend too and I love it unconditionally xx

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These hands…..

Plunged wrist deep in damp compost. Stirring in dry gritty sand. Turning and tipping, patting and mixing. My hands provide the medium for my seeds to grow in. The ingrained soil stains the tiny creases in my skin, like rivers marked on a map and it leaves them looking well-worn, like sun-bleached driftwood….the grain showing through. These hands have the patina that comes with age and heavy use outdoors. I like it.

Delicate lifting, seedling transplanting, caterpillar picking and ladybird gazing . Like fine tweezers, they serve me, but strength they provide me. Plunging fork or spade into soil. My hands, my most important tools. These hands, my gardening friends.

Gently compressing an udder. Rhythmic gentle pressure, from one pink freshly washed finger to another, as the thumb and base of forefinger act as valve. Gentle clamping and squeezing. Finger muscles working in unison. A wave-like motion. Smoothly and calmly, as frothing and creamy. These hands extract the milk.

Mixing and stirring, thumping and rolling. Knuckles are needed… for kneading the dough. These hands help produce our daily bread and a way to de-stress.

Lifting and carrying, chopping and sawing, stacking and fetching, lighting and poking. These hands prepare the firewood and tend the wood-stove, that warms my home, my water and my heart.

Tender forehead caressing, tight squeezy hugging, proud and jokey back patting, waving and clapping and secure hand holding. My hands show their love and appreciation to my children and loved ones. These hands never run out of love.

Delicate gathering, placing and carrying. Eggs from geese, hens and quail, are carried indoors to the kitchen. Doors are opened. Full baskets are lifted and into a frying pan, a porcelain shelled nut-brown egg is cracked….neatly in half….just right!  These hands provide the means to gather and cook our meals.

Sweeping and scrubbing, rub a dub dubbing, wiping and hosing with buckets of bubbles , mopping away, your dirt and your troubles. These hands clean the dirt that comes from a life spent outdoors.

Cleaning and washing, wringing and hanging, folding and ironing (although that I do rarely). Piling up, neat stacking, clean linen, fresh smelling. These hands, they allow me to be clothed in fresh fabric, keep my home tidy and bring sunshine inside.

Holding reins, as we trot along lanes, across fields, the wind on your face, carriage wheels turning, you feel every bump and steady the pace, no need to race.  Deep pressure on brush, as you groom away the dried sweat from a morning of traveller’s joy, with the sun on your backs, the smell of horse on your hands and in your head forever more. These hands care for the animals that take me places and make my heart sing.

Holding pen or pencil, crochet hook or knitting needle, typing letter or story, threading cotton through needle, mending and make doing! My hands they communicate and cooperate, confidently, they earn my keep and keep the wolf from the door ………as I attempt self-sufficiency. They try their best and that is all I ever ask of them. I can’t ask for more .

These hands…..

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Bubble-wrap bonanza

Today we have snow and gale force winds. Temperatures feel colder than they are, with the wind chill factor.

After doing all my usual chores with the animals this morning and carrying hay to the pony paddock in the next village, I set about trying to insulate my tiny lean-to greenhouse. Luckily I had been given a large roll of bubble-wrap by my parents last year, so I had the necessary resources available. So staple gun in hand I set about  lining the interior of my little growing space. It feels much warmer already and doesn’t make too much difference to the amount of light getting through. I didn’t cover the two largest windows as they are made from old double glazed patio doors, so they had no wooden frame to staple the bubble-wrap to (old aluminium frames) and they are insulated anyway.

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I have also laid a layer of bubble-wrap over the trays on the hot bed instead of the single layer of clear plastic and used a few rectangles of it on top of a few trays of seeds too.

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I have also baked two spelt loaves today and made two batches of Kombucha tea.

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Fresh from the oven

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Bottling this week’s Kombucha tea.. Made with green tea and ginger.

I also managed to sow a few more seeds.  I shall germinate these indoors by a window.

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The ponies stayed inside and ate yet MORE hay.

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Springtime. March 2013

…and to end today, a cute photo of my daughter with the goat kids. They are growing fast!

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Hope you have all had a good start to the weekend.

Tomorrow is day 1 of milking Tansy. I have sterilised the milking pail, got the udder wipes and  milk filters ready and a lidded jug to store it in the fridge.

I don’t take away her babies completely and bottle feed them. Instead her goats kids are only separated overnight, within sight of her but in a separate area. I do an early morning milking and then they are put back with her all day, until late the following evening….and so on.

I have yet more hay to collect tomorrow and of course there are always logs to saw and split.

This self sufficiency malarky is not for the faint hearted 😉  But I wouldn’t have it any other way x

My hot bed ( no not the sexy kind)

Sorry for the 3rd post in a single day..but I seem to have squeezed a lot in. It must have been all that sunshine 😉

Today I made a hot bed in my tiny lean to greenhouse. I seem to be struggling to get much to germinate, as temperatures have been so low here in East Lincs UK. Apart from the sunshine today we have had an awful lot of snow and sleet.

I don’t really want to go down the fossil fuelled, paraffin heater solution or to have to pay for the use of electricity to heat the space, albeit small, so I decided to have a go at making a hot bed inside the greenhouse.

In theory it should be able to generate enough heat so that I am able to place seed trays on it to get the seedlings off to a good start. Well that’s the theory!

I started by digging out ALL the original soil in the one bed against the back wall. It was compacted and stony, so good riddance.

I will sieve out the stones over the weekend and add the soil to my compost bins.

I replaced this soil with three wheelbarrow loads of partially rotted compost and fresh-ish horse muck.

Steam rose as I dug it out and put it in the wheel barrow which was a promising start!

I shovelled this steaming compost mix into the ditch that I had dug out and added two boards, one above the other, along the front edge edge, in order to prevent all the manure mix from tumbling forward onto the concrete floor.

I then covered the hot manure mix with some horticultural fleece.. and just laid some of my seed trays on top of it. Simple!

It must be generating some heat as not long after I had completed it the clear lids on the trays had steam/ condensation inside them.

Tonight I covered the entire thing up with a sheet of clear polythene, weighed down with bricks at the corners. I shall remove this once the sun is up tomorrow.

So fingers crossed it may help warm things up. I will keep you posted.

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..and now it is time for me to get into my bed..

with my hot water bottle.

Night all x