My garden in July

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I am a little late with this month’s garden update as we have been away on our hols. We spent a week staying on an Organic farm in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It was a great break. The sun shone (some of the time) and we ate well, walked lots, saw family, visited an island and swam in the sea. We returned to an overgrown garden heaving with produce and weeds popping up everywhere. I have been picking, cooking and eating all week and hacking back some of the exuberant vegetation that was threatening to takeover!

Harvesting Since my June post we have harvested the following crops; black, red and white currants, strawberries and wild strawberries, yellow and red raspberries, gooseberries, cherries, peas, mange tout, spinach, broad beans, beetroot plus its stalks and leaves, spring onion and welsh onions, blueberries, new potatoes and shallot stalks.

Planting I have been planting out a few more bits; butternut squash plants, cutting celery seedlings and kale plants. I have been clearing some spent plants such as the broad beans, peas and potatoes to make space for these.

Thinking The garden has run away from me. One minute I felt like I was almost on-top of things, then it only took a week away to lose control! While we were away the peas and sweet peas went over, the ‘meadow’ area turned into a nettle-filled wilderness and the lettuces ran to seed. I am ok about all this thought, its part of the great cycle of life! I am enjoying the summer hols a lot but only have limited time to garden as I need to devote most of my time to the children. The poly-culture areas are still working well, they look beautiful and are productive. I am trying to get a few more autumn/winter crops in over the next few weeks to attempt to extend the season somewhat.

Feeling I am feeling proud of the produce that the garden is providing us, although I would need heaps more space if this produce was to put a real dent into our weekly fruit and veg shopping bills. The two square areas in the mid part of the garden that I had envisaged as keyhole beds were a dead loss this year really. They are difficult to access, greatly shaded by overhanging trees and full of weeds. I need to re-think these areas in my plan for next year. We use the garden everyday, for the majority of the day. So its full of kids bikes, scooters, hoses, cushions, dens, shoes, drinks and books! I love it.

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Weather stats

Thursday 24th July 2014

Another bright and sunny day with light warm breezes

Sun rise 05.12  Sunset 21.09

Max Temp 26  Min temp 15

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Calendula flowers

Our garden is bursting with Calendula at the moment. I love these flowers, all the different hues and the subtlety of the different petals forms really appeal to me. The bees love them and they are such a useful plant. I told the kids at gardening club that they could eat the petals in salads, they looked at me in disbelief, then proceeded to spent the rest of the session stuffing flowers into their mouths whenever the teacher’s back was turned!

I even like this plant when the flowers are going over and they start to look a little disheveled. They produce so much seed, so its a plant you will only have to buy once and it will pop up in your garden for years to come.

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I collected some petals yesterday and they are drying out now ready to use for calendula oil in a few weeks. What do you use Calendula for? I’d love to try out some new ideas.

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A posy from my garden – Rainbow

We found a rainbow in our garden today. Like all good rainbows, it didn’t stay around for long, but it was beautiful while it lasted. IMG_2668

Goodies from the school garden

My eldest daughter and I have been involved in the school garden this spring and summer. Miss E has attended the gardening club and I have helped out. Its been great fun. The children were all given their own little bed in which to plant whatever they liked. We all mucked in too on the larger plot, planting potatoes, lettuces, tomatoes and flowers.

Yesterday was the last session of the school term and it was harvest time! The teacher in charge is retiring, so we rounded off the session with a treat of scones, jam and cream – oh so British of us!

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Adventures in whole foods – Making my own milk

No I have not brought a cow.

No I am not banging on about the wonders of breast-feeding yet again

I have discovered how to make Almond milk!

For the last six months or so we have switched from cow’s milk to almond milk. My son has eczema and dairy in all forms seems to make his skin far worse. So I decided to cut out dairy from his diet and mine. I am breast-feeding him still and if I ate a lot of dairy products, It did seem to have an effect (OK so I did mention breast-feeding just a tiny bit)

We have been buying Almond milk and noticed that the almond content seemed incredibly low at just 2% This led me to wonder about how this type of milk was made and if it was possibly to do it myself. In a lucky piece of timing, the tutor on my health and nutrition course sent us a video last week of herself making a green smoothie that included her making her own almond milk-perfect! So this morning I gave it a go and I am happy to report that it is quick, easy, cheaper than buying the cartons and very very tasty.

IMG_2658Step 1. Buy some whole almonds

IMG_2659Step 2. Soak your almonds overnight in plenty of cold water

IMG_2660Step 3. The next morning, rinse them carefully. You need roughly 1 cup of soaked almonds to 3 cups of cold water.

IMG_2661Step 4. Put the almonds and water into your blender. Blend on high for a few minutes.

IMG_2663Step 5. Pour the milk into a sieve lined with a muslin. You can buy special nut milk bags  but I found this worked just as well as didn’t cost me any money- which is always good!

IMG_2665Step 6. Pour the milk into a glass container through a funnel. I am using re-purposed lemonade bottles. Store the milk in your fridge, I think it is ok to keep for 3 or 4 days, but it is so tasty I don’t think it will last that long.

IMG_2664Step 6. The almond pulp can be used for baking, composted or I may feed mine to the chickens.

Step 7. Enjoy in your cups of tea, poured over cereals or in a hot chocolate!

The chicken and the egg

Our chicks are now almost eight weeks old. They have passed through the scruffy teenagers phase and are now looking like beautiful young ladies (and gents) This first photo shows all five chicks sitting together with their mummies. The two broody hens have done a fab job of shared parenting. It’s lovely to watch them calling to the chicks when the find something good to eat, the chicks come running at top speed! The babies are almost as big as their mummies now, Ethel, the grey mum is a tiny old bird and will very soon be towered over by her offspring. Despite her diminutive size, Ethel is top chicken in our flock of 12 ladies. I think this has helped ease the chicks transition into the larger flock and they are now all happily running together.

I am pretty sure that we have three hens and two cockerels, you can see the boys on picture 3 and 6 below, what do you think? The three girls are very beautiful, sandy  feathering, fluffy legs and all three have distinct differences in their colouring which will make them a lovely addition to our ever-growing flock. The boys will be given a great life with lots of time spend free-ranging. unfortunately when they start to crow, its curtains for them, unless someone out there wants to offer them a good home? They are French wheaten Marans, beautiful, calm and friendly. I do so love having chickens in my garden.

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Twelve Principles for twelve months- July- Use edges and value the marginal.

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The place where two ecosystems meet is a place rich in life and possibilities. Consider the seashore, the edge of a wood or the margins of a pond. In these areas, one type of environment meets another and provides a bountiful ecosystem that provides more niches for life than either of the environments do singularly.  Edges are exciting and active places and if we can learn how to use this for our own benefits, it can have great effects, both in the garden and in our lives.

I find edges very beautiful. Last autumn I took lots of photographs of edges, looking at lines of textures and colour meeting and blending with others. Here is one example.https://nurturegreen.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/image1.jpg

You can see more in the original posts here. https://nurturegreen.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/use-edges-and-mark-rothko/ and here https://nurturegreen.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/more-edge-photos/ I’d like to pick up this project again and take more edge photographs this month while I am on my travels.

On days when I am short of time, I like to concentrate my efforts in the garden on the edges of beds next to paths that I walk along most often. I have planted a diversity of crops on these edges, one bed has strawberries, Calendula, lavender, mint and tomatoes. These are plants that I like to brush past, touch and smell or admire. I want to keep on planting up edges to make my garden beautiful, productive and a joy to spend time in.

I also want to think about the edges in my life. Three aspects spring to mind.

1. The edges of my days and how to use these effectively to fulfill my personal goals. I want to find just a few minutes each morning for some yoga and exercise. I want to use the hour after my children have gone to bed to catch up on Permaculture work, read and plan for my nutrition course and spend time outdoors in the garden enjoying the light evenings while they last.

2. The edges of my comfort zone. I think you can learn a lot about yourself when pushed to the edge of your comfort zone. I have recently been pushed to this edge and found it a very difficult experience. I think its good to keep pushing but not topple over that edge! I have learnt more about my future aspirations by being at the edge, even though I pulled back from breaking down my boundaries in the end.

3. The edge between myself and others. The children break up from school next week, so I will not have a moment to myself. I always find that rather difficult. So I want to try to explore why I find this hard and try to carve out a way of everyone getting what they need from these family relationships. Likewise with my husband, we very rarely get time to be together just the two of us, so I’d like to find this time and make it special. We have been talking about doing the 4 questions together. I think that would be really good for us to really hear each other without being able to but-in with our own opinions!

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