Saturday, 30 June 2012

Going Vertical.

It seems that growing vertically is now all the rage. The growing walls were featured on Gardeners World at the NEC and probably will be at Hampton Court Flower show next week as they're a great way to grow a lot of produce in a small space.

In my last post I shared the picture from Vertical Veg showing a wooden pallet turned into a small growing wall, so I thought I'd have a go myself. I put some shelves in on a couple of levels, for support and drilled drainage holes in the wood. Then I lined everything with plastic and filled the troughs with fleece and grow bag compost, the fleece is for water retention. The top layers are watered and the water filters down through to the bottom. This took me the best part of Thursday!

Today I tidied the area and put down gravel to hopefully deter slugs and snails. The tiers are planted with pea and broad beans at the top for sprouting salads, and the middle section is for small, quick growing leeks. Lower down are mixed salad leaves and pak choi, the middle level has tumbling toms and at the bottom basil, coriander and chives.

In the tubs I've planted long, early carrots and also some small round carrots. Basically, all the lovely ingredients that you would find in a bag of supermarket salad, but at a fraction of the cost, no packaging and picked fresh when you want it.

The strawberries are fabulous and soooo sweet. I don't know about you, but I get tired of all the bulky tubs that fruit is sold in these days. I've tried re-using them for growing seeds, but really, the simplest solution is to produce your own food, then you don't have to deal with excess packaging or worry about it all ending up in landfill.

Tonight I picked over 1lb (500g) of strawberries from plants that cost me roughly £5.00 last year. The strawberries set runners last year and doubled my number of plants at no extra cost! I'll let them set again this year and plant the new strawberries out in planters. The parent plants only last 3 or 4 years, so when the old ones die off I'll already have replacements. Then I'll give the strawberry bed a rest and grow something else there.

I'm going to see how much food I can produce from a relatively small space as my garden needs to meet the needs of the whole family. I could dig up the lawn and that would give me at least 6 large vegetable beds, but I don't want to do this as it's not just somewhere to grow food but a place in which we all relax and somewhere for the children and animals to play. My Greenhouse and growing area take up roughly 12 feet square, then I have two raised beds, each of about 5 foot square and the small bed which is roughly 3 or 4 foot square. There are 6 or 7 large pots and a couple of small troughs.

When I look back at the food I produced from the field allotment, I realise that although 2009 was my best harvest, I did lose an awful lot of food to the rabbits, deer and slugs. In a garden, these problems are less likely, plus I have running water here, which the field doesn't have, so labour is less. The disadvantage is that I can't grow the bulk crops like onions and potatoes, but I'll just get them in bulk in the Autumn and focus on growing the things that soon add up to a lot at the supermarket.

My goals are:
Good quality, low priced food.
Almost no packaging, other than seed packets. Reduce carbon footprint.
Encourage my children to learn about Permaculture and sustainable living while experimenting with new foods and tastes.
Enjoy my garden.
Produce my own herbs for culinary and health benefits.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Living Simply.

This picture came from Vertical Veg on Facebook.

Do visit Rhonda Jean over at Down to Earth who has so much more experience and good advice, in this post.

My journey towards changing my lifestyle started over 7 years ago, but really I think the seeds were first planted when I was a child and watched The Good Life, with Tom and Barbara in their suburban house/holding! I always wanted to grow my own food, but the real reasons for change only took shape when I started reading blogs and Forums, namely River Cottage and It's Not Easy Being Green.

Suddenly the ethics behind a more thoughtful lifestyle prompted me to make changes. Small, achievable ones! We need to take baby steps, not go out and expect the world to change overnight. It won't and we won't be able to maintain such a sudden shift either.

Start small and keep it simple. I'm going to have a go at making the pallet planter above, as it's such a great way to maximise space but also recycle a pallet or two along the way!

Meanwhile, the garden has been pulled a little into shape.
My pond is looking more settled and I was delighted to find three little frogs wallowing just below the pond weed :D I'm really hoping for some Dragonflies this year. It's not terribly clear in this photo, but the gravel has lots of tiny crystals and coloured glass scattered among it for that faery feel :D

The bricks are temporary around the strawberries and will be used for a small path so that mowing is easier and also a dry place for me to walk in the Winter. Behind the strawberries I planted the straggly beans (fingers crossed).

I needed another raised bed, but can't really afford a nice new one, so I rummaged around in the wood stock and found sound suitable pieces. I don't think this bed will last more than a few years, as the wood is thin and old, but it doesn't matter too much as I'll find something tougher when I need to.

The finished bed doesn't look too bad, despite the back board being slightly longer than the front!!! My sawing skills are as bad as my shelf making, so I just left the wood at an angle. Hey, it does the job!!! The bottom is lined with old wool fleece and then topped with some good old manure from the field. The courgettes went into this bed and I added some leeks and at the back of the greenhouse I finally planted my grapevine. This whole area needed to be weeded as it had gotten a little out of control!!! I may plant the upright planter here, where that bushy thing is. I have no idea what it is, it just arrived one year!!!

I was pretty tired after all that effort, but suddenly got the urge to take Toffee for a bimble along the lanes. I'm so glad I did as the evening was gorgeous.

A quick bath later, and it was time to light the chiminea and indulge in a tall glass of Pimms.

On reflection, it wasn't a very simple day, but one of darned hard work. I think it was one of the best too :D

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Every Holistic Home should have one!

A pretty man to look at that is. Michael Fassbender always cheers me up and it doesn't hurt that he's an amazing actor too :D

The garden is progressing and I'm almost ready to plant some late seeds. My beans and tomatoes are ready to go in the ground and I've some manky old fleece that I'll use to line the trenches.

Now that I'm spinning and learning more about wool I'm realising what's good to use and what's not worth the effort. I have some wonderful Romney fleece which is long and silky and for a while I'll be working with natural colours, but I'd like to play with some natural dyes as well which should be fun :D All in good time though, as I'm also writing up my training manuals to teach Reiki and Meditation! It's all go in this home.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Toxic lifestyles.

Ongoing health issues have caused me to have a good long look at my lifestyle and I think it's something we should all do now and then. A bit like giving ourselves an MOT and putting right the things that no longer work for us. A good deal of reflection is important to show us the things we need to change to make our life a happy one, for us and our family. I know many people who constantly sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their children, but that's a sure way of burning out. Even just a short time every day to meditate or take a walk, have a cup of tea or coffee in the garden or sit and do some crafting will help to top up our batteries so that we have more to give our friends and family.

Earlier in the year I had lots of plans to grow my veggies and let the garden feed us for a few months but my workload and then health issues caused that idea to flounder. Then today I
read the horrible story about Monsanto and how they have genetically modified sweetcorn with a toxin that ruptures the stomach of any insect eating it. They claim the toxin breaks down before humans eat it, but rats fed on the corn have later died of organ failure!!! So my intentions have been renewed and it's a pleasant and calming way to start and end the day with some time in the greenhouse.

I did manage to get to see my lovely ponies at Cowdray Park last week and the filly, Ishy, called out to me, bless her. My little boy, now known as Bo (I'll explain another time) was very cuddly and hardly left my side :D

Sadly though, the little lamb, Button, didn't make it and was found to have died in his sleep :(

Here is one of my favourite wastes of time (and I sing that song to them often). Piper's kittens are soooo adorable and I dearly wish that I could keep them, but as the total number of cats in our house now stands at 10, it's really not going to happen. Moomin has begged to keep the black boy cat and has named it Gigi from one of our favourite movies 'Kiki's delivery service', so it looks like he's staying at least!!!

It has to be said that Piper is not a natural Mum, and reminds me a lot of a teenage pregnancy where the mother is little more than a child herself. At first she was so horrified by her situation that she gave birth and then promptly ran away. With a lot of coaxing and soothing words, she was persuaded that the creatures weren't that bad, but it was touch and go for a few days!!! So long as she's still no.1 Princess then all is peaceful :D

Monday, 11 June 2012

Why Crochet?

As I look around my home at my lovely little crochet projects and talk on line and to friends in the here and now world, I have to ask myself, why is crochet becoming fashionable again?

Not so long ago, it was only fit for ladies of a certain age and the resulting items only used to line pet baskets and beds! In the 1970's the beautiful blankets made by my old Gran, were cherished and would sell for a good price at the 'Jungle' (this was what my Gran called the jumble sale!). We each had one of her blankets for our beds and in the days before central heating, it made getting up in the mornings very hard as our beds were heavy and warm beneath layers of lovingly fashioned wool.

Then, very suddenly, crochet became as reviled as brown painted walls, wooden bannisters and ceiling roses. Everything had to be modern and polyester. It seemed we loved to spark as we walked and fashion sense took a sabatical!

In time and along with return of good taste, crochet slowly began to make a comeback along with the realisation that it doesn't have to be dull. Gone are the dark browns and greens (and oranges) of the '70's and instead we have some truly delicious shades of everything :D

Patterns are more fun now as well and thanks to magazines like Molly Makes and blogs such as Attic 24, we're starting to push forward and ignore boundaries.

I often find myself lost in the bright colours and the hypnotic patterns of the threads when I crochet. It's a sort of active meditation that soothes the mind and allows stresses to slide away into perspective! I often feel so relaxed after a good hooking session that I'm ready to fall asleep!

And then afterwards, I'm left with pretty hearts or flowers to play with, sharing my love for my home and my family with anyone who visits.

Even people who at first don't like crochet, at least smile and make a comment when they visit me <3

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sorting the Home.

Before the weather turned back to cold and wet, we had a brief sense of Summer. My dear son was persuaded to help me sort out the glory hole that had formed at the side of the house. All sorts of building 'stuff' had accumulated there and it was just such a nightmare to negotiate all the obstacles.

A day of clearing and a couple of visits to the tip have made a big difference and now we have a pretty large and usable area. Whilst working here, I realised that it still gets quite a lot of sunlight, so will use it to grow a few things that can't be squeezed into the main garden. Maybe a couple of potato bags would do well as the soil here is terrible. The bark is a great weed suppressant and makes a rough area look nice very quickly.

Cotton's babies are growing fast and have begun exploring the house now :D They are sooo delightful and Manchee is totally in love with them. We just have to watch his great big feet!!!
From left to right, they are Tohky (meaning small one), Fae and Finbarr.

Tohky has the biggest eyes and is just soooo funny. She's really naughty and is in to everything!

Meanwhile, I've been to the wool shop. Despite having a whole cupboard full of wool, I felt I needed something a little special to make a Chakra blanket with. I'm setting up a treatment room for giving Reiki at my home and I want it to be just right. I'm having to go for some tests next week, as my health is still not good, so I need a little project to take along with me. I think I'm going to do this in the ripple style, as it's my favourite pattern. Although getting that first row started was a bit of a nightmare!!!

The colours are quite gentle, but the photo really doesn't do them justice.

Moomin has nearly finished her bag and it's gorgeous. I'm so impressed with how fast she is with a hook. My dear old Gran would be so pleased to see Moomin and I sat crocheting together. My Gran was a lovely lady who could make anything from nothing, had a will of iron and would force me to drink sherry at Christmas and sample her latest concoctions from the kitchen. Several things I've inherited from her, including my love of wool and experimental style of cooking, haha. Every Christmas I now drink my glass of sherry and think fondly of her :D