How does my garden grow?

I have noticed that my garden has not been mentioned for quite a long time! Not because it hasn’t taken up much time but because it has looked rather unkempt and nothing dramatic has been happening. However just before the rain came I took some pictures to share with you all along with an update.

2 years ago I grew 3 dahlia plants to see if they grew OK here and if I could keep them overwinter. By bringing the pots into the south facing lean-to greenhouse that adjoins the living room and wrapping the pots in bubble wrap they survived so this year I bought more. Unsure which flower types I would prefer I bought a ‘collection’ of each. There were no labels to say which tuber was which colour so they went into the pots randomly and placed out ditto. They have thrived and although some of the colour combinations are not great they look pretty and colourful. I will try to find a way to label each tuber so I can do more artistic arrangements next year.

The roses have done well too. Most are either over or have got badly scorched in the heat but this one on the West facing end of the shed on the veg patch has bloomed consistently for months. I actually know the variety – danse du feu!

Without a heated propagation space my tomatoes and cucurbits have been slow but at last there are tomatoes formiing and I am just beginning to pick cucumber and courgette

I have picked over 7kg of blackcurrants and made jam, vinegar and bottled them. There is about 1 kg of raspberries in the freezer on top of those I ate. Rhubarb did well too and I could still pick more if I chose. The grape vines are heavy with fruit and even the apple trees, whoch have not produced for several years have some forming. Apricots formed but dropped off whilst still very small – a late frost combined with a broken door on the greenhouse? But the Peach will give us fruit.

I have been able to keep myself in salad leaves for months by using a mixture of foraged and grown. But now there are also sugar snap and maincrop peas and dwarf french beans.

I bought 3 types of carrot seed and Laura planted some of each in a big tub in the greenhouse so we could see which did best. The biggest are almost ready.

In addition to our efforts Nature has helped by self seeding. A large patch of parsley materialised and 3 beds have had a generous crop of volunteer poatoes! Way back I grew some purple skinned ones and discovered the hard way how difficult it is to see them against the soil. The tiny ones particularly escape me and grow again!

So there it is. Untidy, disorganised but generously productive.

Sadly the raised beds are beginning to rot so over the next few years I will need to gradually remove them. They were built for a 6 foot tall man and on the assumption that he and I would work on them for half the week. I am finding it hard to reach the middle of the bed and my energy is not as great as it was then. Even with Laura helping me 2 days a week it is hard to keep on top of things so I will redesign the plot so that it works better for me.

Scrap Happy July 2022

It is the 15th of the month and time to join Kate, Gun and the rest of the group for posts about things made from scrap.

My contribution is the last of the chairs for Mrs Snail’s shop. This one is the third made with fabric and is a small proddy rag rug. I worked it on a piece of hessian left over from making a rug to go beside the spare bed and the tufts are from some old duvet covers and sheets my neighbour gave me a few years ago. They had been on her children’s beds so were rather pilled and marked but used like this none of that matters.

Do go and see what the others have done – there will be plenty of inspiration for using our own scrap pile.

KateGun, EvaSue(me), Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

Kelly to the Rescue

We had three power cuts last week on three different days. None of them lasted more than about half an hour but all 3 coincided with me stopping for a cup of tea or coffee. As everything in this house is electric apart from the woodstove that meant no way of boiling a kettle unless I lit the fire and it was far too hot to do that. Luckily I have a Kelly kettle. These cunning devices were reputably invented by an Irish fisherman as a way of brewing hot drinks on a wooden boat in the middle of the sea. They are sometimes called Storm Kettles because they can be used in any weather.

The top part consist of a tube which is the chimney inside another tube enclosing water. This stands on a base which holds the fire. You fill the jacket with water through the spout. The bung keeps the water clean until you are ready to use the ketle but must then be removed or the steam fires it like a missile!

Put paper in the base with a bit sticking out through the air hole and cover it with small pieces of dry wood, stand the top on it and set a match to the paper. Then you feed more bits of wood down the chimney until the water boils. I always have plenty of shavings lying on my workshop floor which are perfect for this but and small dry twigs or kindling will do. Once you have a proper boil lift the top off the fire (an oven glove makes it easier) and use the bung on its chain to tilt the spout so water pours into your teapot or mug. Simple but very effective! I could have boiled just one mugful but I chose to fill the top up to the spout as it is then easier to see that it is boiling and put what I didn’t need into a flask in case the power was a long time coming back on.

Llama, Moo and an Awful Lot of Windows

Last weekend there was a workday for the Carmarthenshire Permaculture groiup at Llama and Moo’s plot in the South of the County. And, No, neither of them had really weird parents who gave them those names – they are nicknames which have stuck. Llama’s came from something on the radio which he and a group of mates were listening to and Moo’s is a shortening of her surname. They are a really lovely couple and if you also read my blog ‘Going Batty in the Woods’ you will have met them here (https://goingbattyinthewoods.wordpress.com/2022/04/07/a-last-hurrah) making gates and a shavehorse for their plot.

A few years ago they bought a gently sloping field graced with 2 dilapidated static caravans and a lot of grass on the outskirts of a large village and began the process of applying for One Plant Development Planning permission, a planning consent unique to Wales which allows for a house to be built in an area not designated for housing if the owners can demonstrate that they will build and live sustainably including obtaining a lot of their needs from their plot. You can read more about it here (https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/the-power-of-a-good-planning-policy). Permission was finally granted just over a year ago. Whilst they were waiting for it they did a lot of work designing what would go where, planting trees and a garden, and accumulating scrap materials with which to build a home and outbuildings. They also clad the better of the 2 caravans with wood to make it less of an eyesore and they use it as their ‘site office’ – somewhere to shelter from showers, have a cuppa or their picnic lunch, and to store materials which cannot tolerate rain. For now they are living in a house in the village until they can build their dream home.

The advantage of being near the village is that there are a number of industrial units in it and these have proved a fruitful source of waste materials. One double glazing firm must have had a contract to replace all the windows in a big building or housing estate because Llama and Moo relieved them of over a thousand UPVC framed, single glazed windows and some double glazed ones which would otherwise have gone to landfill! The best ones will go in their new home. There were several huge ones with blinds between the panes which will make a wall of windows on the South elevation. Some have been carefully split apart to glaze a huge greenhouse on the back of the wood clad static – the greenhouse frame is made of scrap wood too. And some have been joined to make raised beds – now that’s a new one on me! They have also discovered a lot of materials in skips outside houses which are being refurbished. I was quite envious – around here I rarely see a skip and if I do all that is in it is rubble!

I missed the tour because I had to walk Roo before setting off so that when we arrived she was less energetic. But I was in time for the first task which was to form a human chain and move timber from the poorer static which Llama uses as a workshop to another shed and then sort stones, which will form the base of the greeenhouse walls, from lumps of concrete block which will be saved for another job. Then it was time to stop for lunch. We always have a ‘Bring and Share’ lunch and we take our own plates, cutlery and mugs so that our hosts don’t have to provide them or wash up. It always proves to be a feast with masses to eat and time to sit and chat so a lovely social occasion.

In the afternoon we laid cardboard around newly planted Kale which is being grown primarily for seed although any poor specimens will be eaten! A group of smallholders have organised themselves to grow different types of seeds and sell them through a co-operative organisation. You can find them here (http://www.seedhub.wales) The cardboard was then covered with a layer of chipped wood – the way they use any scrap wood not worth saving and deadwood from their field. This mulch will reduce the amount of weeding required and eventually rot down and enrich the soil.

We all left at about 4pm, tired, but having had a lovely day with friends and with plenty to show for our efforts.

Scrap Happy June 2022

It’s the 15th of the month so time to join Kate, Gun and the crew for Scrap Happy, a collection of posts where we show things we have made from scrap, any kind of scrap but, at the moment, mainly textiles.

My makes this month are chair covers for 3, 4, and 5 for Mrs Snail’s shop (see the link to Jan below).

Number 3 used the squares I wove on the pin loom and showed you last month. I wish I had had brighter colours but these were the scrap I had.

Number 4 is crazy patch – the quickest of all of them to do.

Looking at the photo I can see I misjudged the size (or placed it wrongly on the chair) and there are a couple of raw edges showing. Maybe I will retrieve it next time I visit and correct that. They are made oversize and stapled to the underside so taking them off is not a huge job.

And finally for this post Number 5 is Paper Pieced Hexies.

I’m not sure how well this one will wear as the hexies are light weight cotton. If it falls apart or become holey I will replace it. Now that I only have Roo I took her with me and she enjoyed meeting up with Daisy again and exploring the shop. She was, however, determined to supervise me as I fixed the covers on in the stockroom upstairs!

One more cover to go! Actually I have come up with so many more ideas I may have to persuade Jan she will need more chairs!

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

A Sad Quicky

I am sorry to have to tell you all that I decided to have my lovely lurcher Orchid put to sleep last week. I had got her from the rescue center as a deeply traumatisd dog who had clearly been neglected and abused in the past. With time and patience and the help of my kelpie, Roo, who I got as a puppy to show Orchid what normal dog behaviour was, she became much more confident and trusting. However every trip to the vets or leaving her with other people set her back. It was as if she said to herself ‘I knew it couldn’t last’. So I promised her that if the time came when she needed lots of painful procedures or life was no fun I would let her go. Last week both came together – severe arthritis, bad teeth, both managed with painkillers, the beginnings of dementia (which luckily she was unaware of!) and then a sudden massive wheight loss which the vet thought probably indicated a cancerous tumour somewhere. Plus for a week she had been reluctant to go for walks, standing a lot because lying down on her bed or sofa was difficult and getting up was worse and generally being miserable.

Roo and I miss her and I will get another dog in the Autumn. With no secure garden a new dog would mean keeping all the doors shut and in summer that is difficult.

Meanwhile the cats are outraged! Because of Orchid’s bad teeth I gave her mostly tinned food with a little kibble whilst Roo had kibble with a garnish of tinned. When the weight loss became apparant I gave Orchid extra tinned food and every day there was at least one empty can which the cats licked out very thoroughly. Now a tin lasts longer and they are not pleased!

On ‘her’ sofa

Toasty!

Way back in February I told you all that I had bitten the bullet and ordered a new wood burning stove for my sitting room. (If you missed it you can find the post here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2022/02/20/building-resilience/) One big enough to heat the whole of the downstairs and allow me to use my Air Source Heat Pump less thus saving on my electricity bills which are becoming ridiculous.

A conversation with my friend Lindy, who heats her bungalow entirely with a wood stove from the same company I chose, made me realise that the new fire would work much better if the downstairs was more open plan. I should explain that my house has a really weird layout. It is very long and thin with the rooms opening off each other. You come in through a new porch to the kitchen, then my workroom, the sitting room and finally a spare bedroom. It is all because it was originally 2 small cottages which went derelict after WWII, were bought in the 70’s, and renovated with an extension either end to give a garage at the kitchen end and a bathroom at the other. When we moved in my workroom and the sitting room, the downstairs of the larger cottage, were open plan. As both the owner and the builder doing the renovations smoked a lot of cannabis the ‘renovations’ were a bit odd, shall we say! We replaced the kitchen, knocked the 3 very cramped bedrooms upstairs into one generous bedroom with en suite, turned the huge downstairs bathroom into a single bedroom also ensuite and put up a stud wall to divide the open plan livting room into two as we needed more wall space and wanted a cosy sitting room. The picture on the left has the new stud wall to the left and the stairs wall to the right in my workroom. The right hand picture is the sitting room with the small wood burner lit.

I didn’t want to go back to the original single living space – I have tried having my desk and / or my sewing machine in the sitting room and I find it hard to relax with ‘jobs’ in my eyeline. So after much head scratching and with Lindy’s thoughts to help me, I decided to take down the top half of the wall. It was clearly going to be a job that needed 2 pairs of hands – one to cut and one to hold – so she very kindly offered to help. There were some very useful electrical sockets on the workroom side above the cupboards so we decided to make the cut a little higher and just hope that the cables could be re-routed. But as I had an electrician coming at some point for another job all was not lost if they has to stay as they were for a while. It took 2 days and made a lot of mess but Ta Da

Apologies for the poor lighting but it was late when we finished and most of the small lamps had been moved to safety! There is still some filling and touching up of paint to do but I knew that the fire installation would make more so chose to do it all at the same time.

Then last week the fire arrived. Alek and Jason from Beacon Stoves were brilliant! I had cleared the room of small stuff and moved the furniture out of the way but they put down dustsheets over everything and cardboard to protect the floor then got the old fire and the flue liner out. They were quite impressed by how little soot or tar there was up the chimney – that told them that I only burn well seasoned wood. Then we had a discussion about how I wanted the new stove installed. I could have the flue coming out of the top which would push the stove to the back of the space meaning I would only need the hearth extended slightly. Or I could have it coming out of the back which would mean the stove sat close to the front of the existing hearth and a bigger extra piece would be needed. I would also need a bigger insert into the wooden mantleshelf to prevent it getting singed. But forward would mean the heat was less likely to get trapped in the enclosed space and would be easier to put pans on (a bigger surface area and easier to reach) so I decided on that option. They cannected it all up and put the first lot of cement round the flue pipe where they had had to cut away to get the old one out.

The next day they returned and Alek had found a piece of slate cut in a curve which he thought I might like for the hearth although he had some other pieces he could cut to another shape if I preferred. He put it down in front of the fire and we all stood back to look – it was perfect! Then I had to consider the piece to go in the shelf. Could he cut one to match the curve on the Hearth? He was a bit surprised – he hadn’t been asked for a shaped piece for that job before – but, yes. So he set up his bench and cutter in the carport and used the hearth piece as a template. The mantleshelf is not solid – it is boards cladding a shelf constructed of cement and old roofing slates. So the fascia board was cut away and the piece of slate inserted. A final tidy up of the making good around the flue and the job was done. But the fire could not be lit until everything had dried. So the following afternoon Alek came back to carry out a check that the flue worked properly with a smoke bomb and lit the fire demonstrating how to operate the air intake and so on. We both knew that I was perfectly capable of lighting fires and knew about using well seasoned wood but we both had to sign that he had done his job so we went through the procedure!

The photo I took of it lit was out of focus! So this one was taken today.

It was a mild day so I didn’t stoke the fire again after he left but the stove was still giving off heat almost 4 hours later. Toasty!

Scrap Happy May 2022

Not a chair cover this time – as you may have realised I have been rather busy lately! But I have not stopped working on the chairs. I have been exploring the possibilities of the peg loom I bought for the third yarn based cover.

Following the instructions that came with it I used Aran weight yarn and diagonal weaving but thought the fabric was not dense enough to make seat cover which would last.

So then I used the yarn doubled which gave a better result but was quite tough on the fingers. I will probably use these.

Now I am experimenting with what my book calls ‘flat weaving’ which is much more fun because I can play around with stripes, checks, different weaves, even possibly ‘tapestry’ type stuff. Again the weave is quite loose so maybe I still need to use heavier yarn (not much left in my scrap box now!) or double it. More experimenting to be done.

Scrap Happy is a collection of posts curated by Kate and Gun (see their links below) to celebrate making things entirely from scrap. Not everyone posts every month but all are inspiring.

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

A Quick Update

Several of you were kind enough to wish my son well in his attempt to buy a cottage at Auction. The rules of buying in that way are that once your bid is accepted you are legally committed to go ahead and buy the property – contracts have been exchanged and you have a brief time to hand over the money. He immediately applied to increase the mortgage on a house he owns and rents out in order to have funds to cover the bid he planned to make. As he had overpaid the mortgage for a long time he was assured there would be no problem but the paperwork confirming that his request had been approved did not come through in time so he dare not bid. He is being pretty philosophical about it and will keep looking. With the funds p[resumably available soon he can move immediately if another auction comes along or as a deposit on a private sale.

Thank you all for your support and I know he appreciated it too. If he finds somewhere else I will be posting about it.

Adventures

It has been a busy couple of weeks packed with adventures of various kinds.

My son came down to look at a cottage (read about it here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2022/04/21/a-day-out/ ) and stayed on to work on his campervan. He wanted to build some big drawrers on heavy duty runners to slide under the bed and make the storage there more accessible. I helped and his Savannah cat supervised,

Next up was the culmination of a process which began last Autumn. In a newsletter, my bank, Triodos, asked if any customers were willing to share why they had chosen that bank for their savings. It would involve an interview and having some photos taken. They would reward me with vouchers to spend or a donation to charity. Since I was very clear why I had chosen to bank with them it sounded easy and something that would be fun to do. Because of my hearing the ‘interview’ consisted of a series of questions in an email to which I sent in answers. Their PR chap, Joe, then edited them into a piece which was emailed back to me for approval. I mentioned in the answers that I was treasurer at Dyfed Permnaculture Farm and Joe looked up their instagram feed (I had no idea we had one!) and asked if the photos could be taken there. The management committee were happy with that, he chose a photographer and we found a date that suited everybody. So I spent a day being photographed; digging out weeds, tickling sheep, carrying hay and then logs, admiring Phil’s garlic and just generally standing around. Tess, the photographer, also took some shots of the roundhouse and barn as a gift to the Trust for our own publicity. She was such a lovely young woman and I really enjoyed meeting her. A few days ago the photos came through – an awful lot of them and sent via a file sharing site I had never heard of. Another new experience! So for those of you who like to know what other bloggers look like here are 2 of the ones she took. I have no idea which ones Triodos will pick for their use.

Barley saturday ia an annual event in Cardigan, a show involving competitions for horses and vintage vehicles in the morning and they are then all paraded along the High Street in the afternoon, which involves closing the roads in the middle of the town. I have been to it a few times – it is quite a spectacle when the stallions are run to show off their paces! When I discovered that my friend Lindy had never even heard of it I decided to take her to this year’s event. You can read more about it here (https://www.cardigan-bay.com/whats-on/events/barley-saturday/ ). Because I knew that town would be very busy and all the car parks full I chose to start our outing in Cilgerran, a village 2 or 3 miles from Cardigan and walk to town through the Teifi Marshes Wildlife Reserve which includes part of the track of the now defunct Cardi Bach railway making a good, level, tarmaced path. Find out more including pictures here (https://www.welshwildlife.org/nature-reserves/teifi-marshes ). Just as the horses started to pass where we were waiting at the end of the old bridge into town a wedding car came over the bridge on its way to a reception in the Castle and had to wait quite a while until a pause between the horses and tractors allowed them through- the happy couple and their guests got a huge cheer from the assembled crowds!

Then I went to visit my daughter who lives in Basingstoke and since it was a Bank Holiday weekend and there is very little parking available near her I decided to go by train. I bought my ticket online and discovered it was an e-ticket to use on my phone! I was chicken and printed it out onto paper just in case! However it all worked fine and was much easier on my brain than driving. On the Monday she, her new partner and I went to London for the day, again by train. We had coffee in Covent Garden, explored China Town and had a delicious lunch there, then walked to Tower Bridge, over the river and back along the other bank to Waterloo for the train home. Both of them had pedometers on their phones – one said we walked 9.5 miles, the other that it was 10 miles! With stops for coffe, lunch and a glass of wine on the way back we all managed it with no ill effects. On the Wednesday evening my son was supposed to join us and take us out for a meal but the M3 was completely closed by an accident. He realised that if he came he would arrive just as we were all going to bed! So I took us out instead and my daughter suggested a restaurant recommended by some friends of hers – The Olive House (picture below right) and it was excellent – Turkish food, family run and packed out on a weekday night. A lovely end to my stay.

Because my daughter was working from home during the day I got a lot of knitting done and finished a pair of socks from Kate Davies’s book ‘Bluestockings’. I learned how to cast on at the toe, turn the heel in a new way and do stretchy cast off! It was also the first time I had done pattern stitches on a sock.

I have enjoyed it all immensly but I think I could do with a few days (weeks?) of being quiet now! However today the installation of my new woodstove is beginning, Ted has been to see his bees and Openreach are trying to fix the fault on Laura’s internet!