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.


  1. Thankyou for the update Glovecat - it is comforting to hear about other people branching out into the world of eco-smallholding living. You are ahead of us but we're getting there! And your little girl is adorable x

  2. Amazing hard work, well done to all of you and yours. And well done to Meggie on getting a tooth, may many more follow in the most painless of fashion.

    We're nearly at the last molar now, and I cannot WAIT until it's finished. Poor loves.