Tuesday, 6 July 2010

June Smallholding Update

It's been a busy month!

The Vegetable Garden: We've started having a special meal every Tuesday night, consisting of only what we have grown ourselves or found growing on the smallholding... So far it's been a huge success! The meals have been simple, but incredibly tasty - the potatoes (although not hugely prolific) are amazing, the salad leaves fresh and flavoursome (especially with the addition of herbs such as basil, chives and parsley), the beetroots rich and sweet. I have started making fresh drinks from lemon balm, mint and elderflowers, which have gone down a treat. We now have 17 fully planted deep beds - the additions this month being: a bed of purple brussel sprouts and turnips; rainbow chard and celeriac; leeks; and a bed containing two spare squash plants and three cucumber seedlings.

The Orchard: The massive, old apple trees (which were here when we arrived) are laden with fruit, by now the apples are about one and a half inches in diameter. I don't yet know very much about fruit trees, but it would seem to me that these are all cooking apples rather than "eaters." I have winter pies in my mind, but Phil and my mum are getting very interested in the idea of making lots and lots of cider!

Pests: Still no major signs of slugs, partly I suppose because it's been so dry. There have been some mysterious scratchings and diggings in some of the beds though, which has resulted in the loss of several of the celeriac seedlings. I wondered if it might be our naughty toilet-making cats, but have been assured that "no poo has been found in the disturbed areas" so we still don't know who or what is the perpetrator.

The Polytunnel: The first red tomatoes have been eaten! I think we've had about seven or eight in total so far, so don't get too excited. The plants are heavy with bulging trusses, however, so we're ever-hopeful that we might at some point be overwhelmed with fruits... The cucumber plants have exploded in size and are climbing rapidly up their supports. Though they look healthy, the fruits have been turning to mush before they really start to develop, so we're not really sure what we're doing wrong. A quick look in The Vegetable and Herb Expert shows that this can be caused by over- or under-watering, so we are none the wiser. The courgette plants have also grown exponentially over the last month, and there are several mini golden courgettes waiting to be eaten in our special meal tonight, as well as a stripey green one.

Water: It's been so dry, we're starting to realise how lucky we are having our own water supply. If we were threatened with a hosepipe ban, our vegetables would certainly die. I have friends who have to carry all of their water up a steep hill to their vegetable plot, and there's not enough time in the day (or energy in the body!) to fully provide for the needs of the thirsty plants. In the house, I've started drinking water from the tap (water which comes from our borehole) as the sulphurous smell seems to have gone away - perhaps both houses making use of the water has cleared out the staleness in the collection tank, and allowed fresher water to enter the system. It's good water, and has none of the chemicals we had to put up with in town - it's a pleasure to drink :D

Plant Feed: The comfrey tea was great, but after a while we started to realise that some of the tomato leaves were curling up at the edges and looking rather ropey. When we investigated the causes of this, it turned out that comfrey is really great for root development, and what we hadn't noticed was the fact that the affected plants had developed ridiculously excessive roots. They had grown out of the bottom of the pots, and along the surface of the soil on the polytunnel floor, and were hating having nothing to cover them. We covered them up with more compost, and set about making a new nutrient tea, this time one full of nitrogen (good for leaves): one made out of poo.

Wild Food: The elderflowers are out, and elderflower cordial has been the flavour of the month! It's so easy and quick to make, yet I've not had time to get around to it these last few years, so it felt really good to be back on track, and enjoying seasonal delights.

Baby: At 34 weeks, I've finally got my head around what we have been given and what we still need. I spent a day researching washable nappies and their components (I have been given some Fuzzi Bunz pocket nappies, but nothing to go in the pockets!), and found a great list of what I'll need. My advert on the Machynlleth Swapshop brought loads of promises of nappy and baby bits, so I'm really pleased. I also spent a day (yes, it took a whole day!) going through all of the clothes we've been given, ordering them into sizes/ages and washing everything from 0-3 months. It felt really good to be getting everything in order, and so exciting to be holding these tiny and incredibly cute garments... I can't wait to put Squiggles in them! Here's how the bump is developing:

Things can only get... bigger, I guess! Er... :D


  1. Bump!! You look fantastic, Emily, and no wonder with all the fresh air, exercise and fantastic food you seem to be having:-) I'm so glad you're going to be using washable nappies, because (depending what type you're going to use, and if you ever get back to me to tell me what colours you like!) I can knit you a soaker or some longies. I'm knitting SProg a green stripey pair (home-dyed wool!) at the moment and they are stupidly cute. Only 6 weeks to go eh? :-D

  2. Hey lovely lady! I reckon I love ALL of your colour options - I know what good taste you have! :) Stripey is also a favourite of mine (as you well know!) and greens are great, as are turquoises, purples, reds, etc... I am convinced that you would make something completely gorgeous without even trying. Now I just need to think about making something for YOUR bump! When are you due again? Big hug, lots of love, xxx

  3. Loving those baby colours too :) Squiggles is going to look ace!

    The smallholding is looking beautiful too. I love the Tuesday special meal - I wonder if I could use that idea here. We can't grow anything much in our garden, but maybe our special meal could consist of purely local and organic food. Hmm. Thanks for that Emily :)

    Beautiful bump :)

  4. Ooo, I like the special meal in translation, Ms Wordsmith! Let me know how you get on with that!

    Citrusgirl, I've realised that I already know when you are due, sometime around the middle of November. Plenty of time... though I guess I'll have my hands full soon! :) Must... start... thinking... x

  5. you are looking wonderful :D a lovely mamma in the making! also its nice to see people being so helpful and generous with baby things, hope the next 6 weeks go well and without a hitch! cant wait to see a picture of the lil sproglet when she/he arrives xxx
    p.s. i love the new profile flower pic :D
    p.p.s the garden is looking great, shame the comfrey tea didnt work out but at least you wont have that horrid smell x

  6. Aw, cheers, BriefEncounter! Yes, people have been great with their baby stuff, I think partly because we have a pretty well-established swapping thing going on around here, so probably most of what we've got has gone through many different pairs of hands! Glad you like the new flower pic, I have a normal cheapskate digital camera, but the 'macro' function really makes a difference! I <3 macro...