Saturday, 28 May 2011

May 2011 Smallholding Update

Well. Bloody hell, this baby lark is really getting out of hand. You see, I used to have spare time in which I could do things (including writing blog posts), but now my only spare hours are the last two before I go to bed, by which time exhaustion has rendered me completely useless.

And a lack of photographic evidence makes me feel like any update would be less than complete... But I have decided not to worry about this (that is, if you don't mind too much) - damn it! - I shall plough on, illuminating and illustrating with words alone if necessary. Onwards!

It has been a good month on the smallholding, with many achievements and changes for the better. In no particular order:

Energy: We had the guys from Llani Solar come to install our PV (photo-voltaic) and solar hot water panels behind the house - ironically the day they arrived was the day the weather broke, and since then the sun has been mostly hiding behind a cloud. Nevertheless, our water has been hot, and we have been able to observe our electricity meter at a standstill thanks to being able to use the energy we are producing ourselves. Phil and my dad have been preparing one of the sheds for the wood boiler, which will hopefully be installed later this summer.

The Vegetable Garden: My mum has been an absolute hero and deserves a medal, or at least a very large cake. She has taken on the horribly dull (but necessary) job of going over all of the potato-beds-to-be (newly created this spring by my dad) with a fine tooth comb and extracting all of the evil buttercup roots, as well as the demonic docks and endless nasty weeds. She has very kindly (and completely selflessly) allowed me to waft along, whenever I fancy (OK, whenever Meg spares me half an hour) and do quick, interesting things, things like planting out the squash, or sowing spinach; things which have an immediate feelgood factor, things which tick boxes and which are extremely satisfying. Thus we have mulched the onions with our year-old kitchen compost, planted out red oak-leaf lettuce, thinned the parsnips, planted out four varieties of dwarf beans (or are they French? I don't know, I'll have to ask them) - one of which is especially for saving as a dried bean and is a gorgeous rich brown colour with hints of gold. It's great to see the plants starting to really thrive in these warm, wet conditions. We have all sorts of things in the ground including some asparagus crowns from a friend (thanks, Tall Paul!), beetroot, broad beans, lettuce, onions, potatoes, squash (including Marina de Chioggia from Tom - thanks Tom!), kale, purple sprouting broccoli, parsnip, rainbow chard...

The Polytunnel: And again, my mother has been the workhorse, weeding and enriching the horrible soil (after my dad made some very nice looking raised beds), whilst allowing me to plant out the cucumbers and make little trellises for them, and put the basil in next to the tomatoes for companion planting, though I can't for the life of me remember what each one does for the other... We have only a couple of beds left to fill now, the rest being planted out with tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, sweetcorn, cucumbers, courgettes, white custard squash, coriander... The plants desperate to go in are melon, butternut squash, um... I thought there was something else too, but now my mind has gone blank...

Wild Food: We have been eating the purslane which grows abundantly beneath the apple trees - it makes a tasty salad, and I have heard rumours that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, and even that it is a super food - wow! - isn't pretty much every vegetable a super food?

Pests: There are slugs, millions of mini slugs, living at the edges of the beds, beneath the grass. Their tiny size makes them difficult to spot, so we have to actually seek them out, combing through the grass stems with our fingers, the scissors of death gleaming at the ready in the other hand... Something ate the tops off all of our carrots, and we are starting to feel cursed never to be able to grow a single carrot ourselves. Parsnips yes, carrots no. The cats have been using our newly dug beds as their personal toilet, scratching without heeding our tiny seedlings carefully planted out at precise distances from one another. There was a rat in my kitchen at the beginning of the month, but the rat traps must have scared it away, or perhaps one of the cats managed to corner it. The dock beetles have been turning the dock leaves to lace and laying their little orange eggs on any leaves they can find which do not yet resemble lace, which means that the rainbow chard is no longer its laid back self, and in fact has started to look rather paranoid...

Megan: My big girl cut her first tooth in the middle of the month, and we've had some difficult nights due to the discomfort of teething. Her mobility is increasing daily, she's fallen (gently, and without even noticing, it would seem) off the bed twice (I was only washing my hands very quickly after a nappy change!) and can't stop practising her crawl posture, not even when it's bedtime. She's definitely going to be crawling within the next couple of weeks... Oh dear, we'll need to get hold of a cot and stair gates, as well as shifting everything off the floor and raising it to higher (safe!) storage. Interesting times. Here's what we were up to last year at this time, if you're interested. I'd forgotten all about the epic heartburn I was experiencing, wow, isn't it amazing (and mysterious) how memory works :D

Meggie getting the feel for teeth, whilst working on her comedy routine.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Versatile Blogger

Ooo, look at this lovely green square, proof - proof, I say! - that someone - someone! - reads my blog, ha ha!

Thank you Beth (My Name is Beth) for the Versatile Blogger Award - I feel as though I ought to suddenly cover all-sorts-of-varied-topics-in-vivid-mixed-media-all-at-the-same-time in order to justify it, but fear not, gentle reader - I shall resist the urge.

Now, the Versatile Blogger Rules insist that I share with you 7 items of fact about my person, and I shall endeavour to make them short (yet interesting) before passing the badge of honour to other Versatile Bloggers in need of a lift who are very Versatile and admirable in other ways too. Beth made me laugh out loud with her factoids, though I have no idea which pudding she's talking about in Fact Number 3, I know I should know, and I feel like an idiot with lots of little obvious round things staring me in the face.

1. I played with my teddies until the ripe old age of thirteen, whole-heartedly creating an entire world for them out of (mostly) paper and card and imagination. My brother and I made little (frame by frame) videos on strips of paper for the video shop, we wrote magazines and newspapers by hand in felt-tip pen, and at one time in Teddysland there was a law that every teddy had to wear pants. I could go on and on about it, but I promised to keep this short :D

2. Reminded by Beth's mystery pudding description, I hate seeing little things coming out of little things. Rebecca, who I used to sing with, hates to see little things going into little things. Strange, huh?

3. I am fiercely secretive, whilst at the same time somehow appearing to be open to the point of giving-far-too-much-information. I'm not sure how that works.

4. My favourite writer is Richard Brautigan. He brings new meaning to everything he writes about. For example:

A circle
comes complete
with its
own grave.

Unfortunately he is now dead, and therefore follows the way of the circle.

5. I was once held at gunpoint in Mexico in the middle of the night/nowhere. What surprised me was that instead of panicking, my brain slipped straight into cold calculation, and time slowed down. I remember noticing with interest that the gun had a silencer attached, and was aimed at my heart instead of my head. Raising my hands to signify surrender happened automatically. That night I was SO GLAD I could speak Spanish.

6. Courgette is my favourite vegetable, ever since I had a vivid dream about living in a refugee camp with massive food shortages (in which someone kindly let me have some steamed courgettes in return for looking after their children, but you don't need to know all the details I'm sure, after all, other people's dreams are usually quite tedious).

7. I feel like I get an insight into a person's character by contemplating the shape of their hands and feet. Phil has quite gawky feet, which clearly tell me that he is extremely loyal. I'm sure there's no scientific basis for this, yet the facts remain.

The Versatile Blogger Rules (as far as I can tell) also demand that I pass on the award and spread the love, if that's what it is (which it might as well be - love also bestows awards, demands intimate information and comes with an elaborate set of rules).

I must now admit to being a silent lurker on the pages of these blogs, a reader who repeatedly fails to comment, an ethereal being who adds nothing to the internet experience, a taker instead of a giver... but one who pops by with great regularity thanks to my RSS feeds...

The Smallest Smallholding

Lucy is so enthusiastic about her plans and honest about her challenges, that it's a refreshing read (and one which makes me feel connected to other people like myself who are attempting to live the smallholding dream).

{duck fluff}
Laura is another lovely, down to earth lady - a maker and a mother. I started reading her blog after finding it by clicking "next blog" whilst I was still pregnant with Meg. Laura was pregnant too, but due a month or so earlier. I got hooked waiting for her to pop, and enjoyed reading about her creative projects :D

Zoe lives up the road from me, and has just recently had her second daughter. Her blog is beautiful, and again, deals with moments in a mother's life as well as the challenges of growing vegetables with little free time. I've only just discovered this blog and am finding it really inspiring :D

Now, how am I going to tell them about their award without revealing the fact that I have been secretly reading? I suppose I'll have to come clean, change the habit of a lifetime, and leave a comment... And about time, too.