Photos from this week

IMG_0743 IMG_0754 IMG_0760 IMG_0782 IMG_0791 IMG_0794 IMG_0797 IMG_0800 IMG_0809 IMG_0817 IMG_0818 IMG_0830 IMG_0831 IMG_0842 IMG_0846 IMG_0848 IMG_0847

Baby S turning one year old! (and turning into The Gruffalo)

Snowdrops

Crocus

Blowing bubbles

Ditto

More Snowdrops

Early Spring sunshine

Muddy paddling

Helebores brought inside

Planting my first seeds of the season

Washing drying outside

Rhubarb

All-in-one waterproof

Buds on the fruit trees

5 eggs everyday from our happy hens

Whoops, almost lost one!

Cheeky chap

Advertisements

Random assembly

Yesterday I attended the first session of a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) led by my Diploma tutor, Hannah Thorogood. I was a participant on this course two years ago and found it hugely inspiring. I am planning on going along to most of the sessions this year to help out, revise my skills and observe the tutors, with a view to possibly teaching a PDC myself in years to come. The observing of the course fits in well with my ‘Twelve principles for twelve months’ project as February is ‘Observe and Interact’ month!

We were looking at design tools, so the session was very useful for me as I am heading into this stage of my first diploma design project. I have come away wanting to use a number of design tools to help me with the analysis stage of my planning.

The first tool I have used is called ‘Random assembly’ It is a simple and fun way of beginning to consider the possible links and interactions between elements in your design.

IMG_7811

How to use random assembly

* Write all the elements (Annual veg/ chickens/pond/path etc) you have decided upon for your design down on a piece of paper. Place them face down on the table.

* Write six linking words down and number these 1-6 (Under/ on top of/ next to etc)

* Pick two elements at random and roll the dice to pick one linking word to place between them.

* See what you have come up with.

Some of these combinations will be good, some will be bad and some will be downright nonsense, but it is a fun process and throws up some ideas you may not have thought of. I wrote down all the ideas that were generated and used another design tool PNI (positive, negative, interesting) to grade them for future consideration.

Some ideas I will be using…..IMG_7812IMG_7822

And some I won’t ………….IMG_7814IMG_7821

I decided to try taking this one step further and assemble multiple elements together to see if any interesting ideas were thrown up. This provides even more opportunities for nonsense, but I actually quite like the one pictured below. I can visualise this working in an area of my plot. A drain pipe off the shed leading to the pond to keep it full, overflowing to water the perennial vegetables which are planted under fruit trees. IMG_7827

My garden in February 2014

IMG_0618

Harvesting The chickens have upped their game. We are getting 3 – 4 eggs each day from our 10 chickens now. The longer days have been making a noticeable difference from shortly after the winter solstice. The herbs on the deck are being put to good use, as are window-ledge herbs, greek basil, mint and flat leaf parsley.

Planting I have ordered and received my seeds and am chomping at the bit waiting to get planting. I hope to plant out the seeds that need a long growing season as soon as possible. Chilis and various types of tomatoes will be sowed into seed trays and put up high in the conservatory out-of-the-way of a certain rampaging toddler. My broad bean plants are getting a bit leggy indoors, so they are in the greenhouse tonight, I just hope they are ok, it’s a chilly night out there now.

Thinking I have been thinking hard about my plans for the edible beds in my garden. I am taking this as my first design for my Permaculture Diploma. This is great as it making my diploma really relevant to my life. The additional time and thought given to layouts, plants and sustainable systems will make the garden far better than if I took my usual haphazard approach to garden planning.

Feeling I have been feeling sorry for the chickens. The storms had ripped a section of the felt off their shed roof. So the break in the weather today saw J and I clambering up the shed and nailing a new roll of felt into place. I am planning on fixing the guttering too this month and making the water run off into a tank for watering, with the overflow going into the pond to keep it topped up. I hope to rig up a soaker hose to this too and direct this around the vegetable bed in front of the chickens run. I am feeling full of ideas and enthusiasm for the garden and my Permaculture Diploma. I am also feeling frustrated not to have more time to devote to both activities. IMG_0626

Midday in my garden, on Thursday 13th Feb 2014. Bright sunshine and blue skies

IMG_0651

The same view at 2pm, a freak hailstorm turned the garden white in seconds!

IMG_0614

IMG_0615

IMG_0625Verbena shooting upIMG_0623

I have just chopped down the old growth to make way for the fresh new shoots of Fennel. This plant has beautiful skeletons I like to leave to stand all winter.

IMG_0622

This tree I think is an ornamental cherry. My husband and I have a row every year about whether to chop it down or not. It has dark leaves and casts a big shadow over the upper part of our garden all summer long. But I love it simply for its early spring flowers. You can see the buds appearing here. I like to cut armfuls of branches each February and bring them inside. The warmth of the house fools the plant into flower within days. I currently have a vase full of pink blossoms on the mantlepiece. The tree holds its place in the garden for this alone. It reminds us that spring is not far away now!

IMG_0619Tiny leaves unfurling on the Clematis.

Weather stats

Sunday 16th February 2014

A bright and sunny day with blue skies. The wind dropped leaving a still calm day

Max temp 8 degrees  Min temp 3 degrees

Sunrise 07:20  Sunset 17:18

A garden visit. The botanical gardens

Earlier this week on a rare sunny morning, I paid a quick visit to the local botanical gardens. I love this place, it is just off a busy main road, but feels like a real hideaway. Being winter, there was not that much plant life to see. The herbaceous perennials were just beginning to poke through in the long boarders. The highlights of my visit were the crocuses and the Hamamelis Mollis featured in my previous post. The bleak beauty of winter with an extreme lack of flowers and foliage, automatically focussed my eye on structures in the garden. It was good to look at how the garden was laid out and the clever creation of garden rooms, all with a different feeling about them. The formal box hedges are not usually my cup of tea, but they did look smart against the old brick paths. I enjoyed taking some time just to ‘Observe and Interact’

IMG_0570

IMG_0568

IMG_0569

I like the rough textures and patterning in the weathered brick paths throughout the garden

IMG_0567

IMG_0566

The carpet of crocus was stunning. The flowers were just starting to open. They looked like a ground covering of snow when seen from a distance, then the lilac colouring caught the eye as you approached. So beautiful. I wonder how many years a show like that took to establish?

IMG_0605

IMG_0575

IMG_0577

IMG_0576

 

On a sunny February morning, you can feel the approach of Spring.

IMG_0610

IMG_0606

IMG_0600

IMG_0603

IMG_0604

Plant Love – Hamamelis mollis

I love this plant, it is a real late winter gem. It seems to glow from within with the low February sun shining through it. I spotted this beauty on a visit to a local botanical gardens yesterday (more about this in my next post) I also love its name, Hamamelis mollis, try saying that out loud, it is almost as beautiful as the plant itself. Happy Valentines Day xIMG_0597   IMG_0592 IMG_0589 IMG_0580 IMG_0583IMG_0594

Taking stock

This week I was hoping to spend some time thinking about our food choices and looking into how we could improve how we shop and eat. However, I was ill over the weekend with a sickness bug that laid me low for 2 days and put me right off my food. I didn’t want to eat anything and I certainly didn’t fancy reading recipe books or trekking around the local shops, farmers market or supermarket. Yesterday I felt a bit better and reflected on being ill and changing my plans for the week had actually put me onto a more useful path.

There was no food in the house, or so I thought. On Tuesday a comforting bowl of plain pasta with a few fresh herbs helped to ease my stomach back into the wonderful world of food. Today I am almost back to my greedy self and Instead of doing my normal super-sized family weekly shop, I decided to be a bit more mindful. With my monthly Permaculture Principle of ‘Observe and Interact’ in mind, I decided to start by tackling the ‘there is nothing to eat’ feeling by looking at my cupboards and seeing what we actually have.

DSC_8293Citrus fruits to brighter a dull February day

I checked through my cupboards, pantry and freezer and wrote down what I found. I was going to record the entire list here, but it was an embarrassing amount of food. I am ashamed to admit quite how much we had in the house. Here are some of the highlights of what I found when I went shopping in my cupboards;

5 different types of rice, brown/ basmati / risotto /pudding /sushi

9 tins including beans/ tomatoes /chickpeas / kidney beans

5 boxes of cereal

3 loaves of bread

5 bags of different types of flour

Bags of mixed nuts/ seeds/ dried fruit

Frozen blueberries/ black and red currants/ raspberries/ plums

Vegi sausages/ burgers and two types of tofu

I could go on but I am feeling ashamed. So many people don’t have enough to eat and here we are, hording food without even being aware of it. Even as a family of five who can eat a whole bag of pasta at one sitting, I think we could comfortably survive on the rations in the house for about 2-3 weeks. Albeit eating some rather carb-heavy meals!

DSC_8294A fabulous loaf made by my clever Baker brother. He is involved in a new local bakery opening soon. The Tiny Bakery. More details to follow!

I am glad that I took the time to take stock before heading back out to the shops. I will try to make this a regular part of my week from now on. When I did go shopping today the only things I brought were fresh vegetables and fruit. My bags were lighter and my purse heavier!

Yesterday we had stir fry veg with tofu and rice followed by homemade plum crumble (Using lovely plums, red currents and blackberries from our garden that I had frozen and forgotten about) Tonight we will be having butternut squash soup made with heaps of garlic, chili and ginger and finishing up the crumble with ice cream for pudding. Tomorrow will be a busy evening so its quick pizzas and salad on the menu and Friday will probably be a vegetable curry.

Hellebores

In February I really need to know that spring is on its way. This winter has been amazingly mild, I can count the number of frosts we have had on one hand. But many days have been wet and windy, not the greatest of weather for heading out into the garden. So here are some photos I took at my local garden centre of their beautiful Hellebores. They represent the coming of spring for me.

I was a lucky girl and got a new camera for my birthday. I have been enjoying trying it out. I am pretty pleased with how it copes with close-ups. I intend to take lots of photos of plants this year so the close up function is an important one. I have my eye on a Macro lens too once I can afford it.

IMG_0258 IMG_0259 IMG_0255 IMG_0253 IMG_0266 IMG_0263