Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pegs and Paper Pot Peas

There’s no denying that summer is over. Coming home in the dark after work is probably the most frustrating part of the winter, although the weather comes a very close second (particularly this week). Despite a busy few weeks work-wise, we’ve been determined to ride the wave of enthusiasm associated with our upgraded house, and have tried to make the most of what little “outdoor” time we could find.

The pegs in context
(with stool)
Coat Pegs - simple and effective
(well, they haven't fallen down yet!)
As we were thinking about being more self-sufficient at the same time as thinking about all our wood (see previous post), we thought it would be a “Good Idea” to try and make more wooden stuff that we could use. We did – the lovely “Not-Quite-Shaker-Style” pegs for the new front-door cloakroom. Beautifully simple and free to make, yet completely functional and, as they’re for hanging coats on, completely obscured by the coats so unappreciated by anyone. At least WE know they’re there.


November Greenhouse
(Broad Beans, Peas and Onion sets)

Newspaper Pot Peas
Continuing on the increased self-sufficiency theme, we also decided to try some newspaper pots for some of our late autumn sowings. In truth, two other rather more fundamental things happened that contributed to this decision. Firstly, we found the newspaper pot maker in a pile of other stuff. This was an unused Christmas present from … a while ago? It is one of those things that sounds wonderful, but when you actually see it you think “that’ll never work” and consign it, unused, so some pile of stuff somewhere. The second factor was that normally we’d sow peas in guttering in spring. Given that we’re being all enthusiastic at the moment, we decided to sow lots of peas and only have one gutter cover (actually, an old office strip-light cover, but never mind) so needed somewhere else to sow them We didn’t have enough toilet roll tubes and the small pots were all being kept for onion sets, so newspaper pots it is! Having made 116 of them over the weekend, they seem surprisingly strong, and we’re regretting discovering this present so late (although its still possible that they’ll disintegrate over the next few days, consigning the newspaper pot maker back to the “pile”).

Garlic "Cristo" growing well under fleece

Apart from sowing the Peas (58 each of “Meteor” and “Douce Provence” in the newspaper pots and 32 MangetoutWinterkefe” sown in the guttering) the GarlicCristo” cloves potted up last month grew very well, and have now been planted out under a fleece. Perhaps surprisingly (well, we were) we’ve never grown garlic before, probably because we’ve never been organised enough to get the cloves planted in time in autumn, so looking forward to seeing how these perform. We also managed to pot up 132 OnionRadar” sets and all four varieties of Broad Beans sown last month have germinated. Finally, and a bit late, but hopefully better late than never, we sowed a few Broccoli Green Magic F1” , CauliflowerAll The Year Round”, SpinachGiant Winter”, CabbagePixie” and Lamb’s LettuceElan” onto the windowsill propagator.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Fresh Crop (but just ideas)

Well it’s been a busy summer and, as usual, we’ve rather been swept away by everything. This year we’ve been extending and renovating the house and, as a result of moving out and all, the whole place has been somewhat neglected. That said, with everyone now back home, the building has a “new” feel to it, and this will hopefully encourage a similar wave of enthusiasm to get stuff done outside. The depleted bank account will also hopefully help this push for more self-sufficiency.

Part of the Logpile
(Note the building site sign still up on the left - we might leave it...)

Apart from the neglect, one of the major legacies from the build is lots of spare timber. This is in no small part thanks to the removal of the decking that surrounded the house which had, in the last couple of years, become somewhat treacherous - the decking was so slippery we could probably have made a bit of money renting the place to folks with unwanted, elderly in-laws, but I digress. We like timber. Timber can be used to make lots of things that we’ve wanted to make since we moved in like beehives and chicken arks. Whether we make them or not, of course, remains to be seen, but there are lots of exciting possibilities. First up will be a decent saw-horse to cut up everything we want to cut up, and the bigger bits will probably be the edges to some new raised beds. The downside to this is removing all the screws and nails from the timber to make it at least half-safe – three weekends down, and its nearly done…

Garlic and beans in greenhouse
Of course, there’s plenty of distractions to keep us otherwise occupied. As we discovered at the start of the year, the orchard needs to be moved at some point this winter and we haven’t decided to where yet. We’re hoping to plant Willow to supplement our firewood, having identified the long-overlooked “Piggery” as the perfect place to fail doing this, so need to start collecting Willow cuttings from around and about – we reckon there’s room for about 300 (perhaps we should re-name the Piggery as Thermopylae – I suspect the Willows will be outnumbered by the weeds!). The list is rather endless… We have at least managed to plant and sow some of next year’s crop: GarlicCristo’ and four Broad Bean varieties (Aquadulce Claudia, The Sutton, Jubilee Hysor and Red Epicure). This is the first time we’ve remembered to sow Broad Beans in the autumn, and the first time we’ve planted Garlic (although everything is in the greenhouse at the moment) – hopefully a sign we’re better organised already?

Saffron Crocus
(the most beautiful veg?)
Saffron harvest
(This IS a bumper crop!)
On a final note, we’ve had one great success this year! So-called “gourmet” veg has generally been disappointing for us (although I still hold out hope that we’ll actually get a crop of Asparagus next year). However, we did manage to grow and harvest some Saffron, which is continuing to crop as I write. We got the Crocus sativus at the Ploughing Championships, and put them in pots until we can think of what to do with them, and lo-and-behold have started producing flowers. Of course, it isn’t exactly a high-yielding crop – the stigmas are small enough fresh, and shrivel to even less when dried (which we’re doing by placing them between kitchen towels and leaving them on a shelf in the kitchen – it seems to work!), but the supreme one-upmanship you get from being able to say we’re growing our own saffron usefully ignores this fact!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Still going, just...

We've been meaning to get back into this blog for ages. In truth, we never meant to give up on it in the first place, it just kinda happened due to time pressures - something had to give. However, it remained our computer home page, so we never forgot about it. The story about our garden fascinates us (and probably no-one else). So, without further ado, let's start telling tales again.
New Orchard (in 2012) with newly-planted hedge in front to screen septic tank
2013 was a good year - we got lots of new beds dug in the spring and the good summer meant a decent crop. Broad and Runner BeansPeas, Turnips, Leeks, Chard and salads did well. Soft fruit was generally good (although the Redcurrant did get cleared in one day by birds) and Rhubarb was brilliant. Onions, Brussels Sprouts, Tomatoes (as usual) and Courgettes didn't do so well. Biggest disaster (of several) was Strawberries - having specially dug a bed and filled it with 50 plants, only one survived a severe frost the day after it was completed! The other major concern is the Orchard. This is located around the septic tank area - we thought this was a brilliant idea. However, we have since been advised in (ahem) strong terms to remove it before the tree roots block all the pipes in the percolation area - oops! Sadly, the ground is too wet for a transplant yet, so maybe next winter...?

Greenhouse (March 2014) - early days but Broccoli "Purple Sprouting" and
Lettuce "Little Gem" already pricked out
Fast forward to 2014. Wet. Very wet. You think it's bad in England? Okay, it is, and probably worse in the South-west than here for a change, but this is Ireland where they have 23 words for rain (someone commented to me recently that they found it "concerningly damp"!) and an infinite variety of ways to describe it (not actually infinite, but many are unprintable). Nothing has been dug as it's been too wet to dig (although admittedly we usually find excuses not to dig in most years). The over-wintering onion sets have overwintered in the bag in which they were bought, as it's been too wet to clear the bed to plant them. It's also been uncharacteristically windy. Trees have been blown down, the greenhouse was destroyed and we haven't yet managed to locate the cold frame. we have managed to sow a few seeds - Broad Beans (The Sutton and Aquedulce Claudia) in toilet rolls, Pea 'Meteor' in guttering, and a small array of others, including Leeks and Onions in the greenhouse, and some early sowings of brassicas (Brussels Sprouts, Kohl Rabi and Broccoli) and salady stuff (Perpetual Spinach, Lettuces, Pak Choi and Celery) on the kitchen windowsill.

Old seed box - yukkety yuk yuk!
One thing we did do, which we hope will help keep us going for the rest of the year, is replace the old seed box with a new one, cunningly crafted from a wine box and a bit of wood in the middle for a handle. We also put in some wooden inserts to separate the different types of seed. Something of an improvement, and totally free - you can tell we've been to the Copenhagen Design Museum!

New seed box - Mmm wine, lovely!

Hopefully the fact that we now have an attractive seed box, that's allowed in the occupied rooms of the house where it can be seen, will keep us reminded that we need to get out in the garden a lot more. Of course, with the rain this probably won't happen. It could also remind us (as if this was required, but then few of us are getting any younger) to have a glass of wine. Win-win!