Plan Z

I had last week all planned out. I was going to do some housework and then start on the re-decorating which I have been promising myself I will do for several months. Part of the delay was in choosing colours. I have studied shade cards and bought tester pots but still not been sure. Each room downstairs is routinely visible from at least one other so it feels important that the colours I choose go well together. My daughter spotted a lovely scarf in a charity shop which had the colours I was thinking of in it and bought it in the hope it would help me. But I could not match the shades to ‘off the shelf’ paint and having it mixed increases the price. Then when I was visiting her to help with her bedroom (read about that here) I found some individual cards with paint shades on and picked a load up. Playing with them I found I could hold one shade against another in a way that is impossible with one of those fold out sheets in a booklet. There were 3 colours amongst them which go well together and would be good for the three downstairs rooms. The bedroom can be tackled later!


the very pale shade should be a pale yellowy green called celery leaf!

But of course what had looked like a quiet week turned out to be anything but.

It all started unravelling on the Monday when I realised that my library books were due back on the Tuesday. No problem thought I – just renew online. But one could not be renewed so that afternoon I went into Cardigan to return it. And since I was there I did a few bits of shopping. As I passed the eco-shop which raises funds for the Community Forest Garden I saw my friend Martin’s van outside so went in and found him doing one of his stints as a volunteer. His partner Jill was there too so we had a lovely long chat catching up with news. By the time I got home and had put my shopping away it was time to feed and walk the dogs. Never mind – plenty of week left!

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Cardigan town from across the river

Tuesday I was due to go to ‘Over the Rainbow’ the guest house run by my friends Marie and Rose. Every Autumn they have a weekend where friends go and help with big jobs in their garden and for the last several times I have pruned the blackcurrants. This year I was away so unable to go but Rose asked me to teach her how to prune them and we had fixed on Tuesday as one we could both do. I went to set off and found I had a virtually flat tyre. The local tyre people could come out and deal with it but not at once. So I asked Rob who lives in the cabin and helps me to take me over to Aberporth knowing that Rose would be coming back this way to teach her weekly yoga class in Hermon later. We had a lovely time together, the bushes got pruned and, as usual, we put the bits we cut off into tubs as cuttings.

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the garden at Over the Rainbow

The tyre chap came out as promised and sorted out my tyre then it was off to my friend Jeni’s for supper – home produced duck with home grown veg – delicious!

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Jeni’s Cottage

Wednesday I had an appointment to have my hair cut in Carmarthen but first had to order some bits of chimney for the new burner in the cabin – lots of looking on the website then going to measure, then having another think…. and eventually sending an email to the company for advice and more information. I got into Carmarthen and then discovered that my appointment was 2:15 not 12:15 – the cats had left muddy paw prints on my diary page and one of the smudges had confused the time! There was no point going home so I treated myself to lunch! When I got home I had to actually order the parts for the chimney then get organised for making a new recipe for the next day’s lunch.

A new friend, a fellow volunteer at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust, came to see me on Thursday and we talked for so long that there was no time for her to look through the workshop stuff I am getting rid of to see if anything would be of use to her – she will have to come again!

And to round off the week Chris from C&M Organics down the road came on Friday morning to see how I prune my grape vines. She is, of course, an expert grower but has only recently planted some vines in her huge polytunnels.

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One of my grape vines

And then my daughter sent through the draft of her first essay for her Open University course asking for it to be proof read – she had reached that stage where she read what she meant to write which might or might not have been what she actually typed.

I was just about to take a deep breath and look for my paint brushes when the phone rang. It was my neighbour inviting me to lunch yesterday. They were having family and friends over to celebrate their adopted daughter’s second Birthday. I felt so honoured to be included but I wanted to take her a Birthday present. I always try to make rather than buy presents so I looked in my pattern files and found one for a soft toy which I could make using yarn I had in stock. (No picture of it until I do the scrap happy post for December).

Maybe next week I will decorate?

It was a fabulous week. I am so lucky to have so many friends and to be able to spend time with them. I love sharing my skills and learning from others. The walls will still be there next week or the week after and I can live with them as they are. But maybe this is why I have not written many blog posts recently!

One Good Turn…

My friends Marie and Rose come over during the Christmas break each year to help me in my garden for a day and twice a year, when they have a ‘slash and burn’ event I go to help them. Some years ago when Marie bought her guest house the garden was a jungle. At the time she was working in an office to pay the bills and work on the house was her priority so a group of her friends offered to visit and spend a weekend working on clearing the garden and described it as ‘slash and burn’, a name which has stuck!. This became a regular event every early spring and autumn and the garden is now beautiful. It also provides a lot of the food (all vegetarian) she cooks for her guests and a surplus which she sells at the award winning St Dogmael’s produce market. You can find out more and see pictures of the house and garden here

Two years ago the opportunity arose to buy the adjoining walled garden which used to supply the house with vegetables and fruit. It too had been neglected for many years. The box hedges were tall trees, self-sown ash and sycamore were growing in the beds and the stone walls were covered in ivy. The apple trees still produced an amazing crop of fruit every year and seemed to be very rare old varieties. The chance would not come again for many years so Marie took a deep breath, borrowed some money and bought it. And so another slash and burn project began!

Over last winter, with the help of next-door neighbour Andrew and one of Marie’s friends who was staying with her the entrance was repaired, the self-sown trees felled, the box hedges cut down and the beds dug ready for planting. When I arrived on the Saturday morning to join the group of volunteers the space looked so much bigger and the apple trees seemed to be breathing freely again!

The job we were given was to clear the base of the back, south facing, wall of ivy and dig out the roots at its base to clear a bed ready for planting with soft fruit which would be trained up it. Pulling the ivy off the walls was a painstaking job but fairly easy; getting the roots out was hard work and Andrew set up his winch on the biggest ones. Molly couldn’t resist having a go with it!

I was not able to go on the Sunday when planting began but I was thrilled to see that some blackcurrant cuttings I had taken off bushes in the main garden when I pruned them at a slah and burn a couple of years ago were ready to be put out in one of the big beds. When I went to one of Rose’s events on the following Tuesday I took some rooted cuttings of Worcesterberry from my garden and a couple of grapevines, also grown from cuttings off my seedless white desert grape. I can’t wait to see the garden when all the clearing and replanting is finished and I love the thought that I have played a small part in bringing it back from dereliction and propagated some of the new plants.

Nature is amazing

Each year I save tree seeds when I can. Mostly these are from fruit I am given or buy to eat although last year I picked up acorns that had fallen on a nearby lane and that I spotted on one of my dog walks. So by late autumn I had acorns, apple pips (mostly from fruit given me by Marie at Over the Rainbow), plum apricot, peach and cherry stones, and rowan berries from the young tree I planted a couple of years ago. I also had some bright red cherries from the tree in my daughter’s garden which are so horribly sour and bitter they are inedible but even the birds turn their beaks up at them so the tree is very ornamental! All these I put into peat or sand in recycled plastic cartons and stored in the fridge to chill over winter.

A couple of weeks ago I retrieved them to begin putting them into trays of compost in the greenhouse to see what would grow. Last year I got quite a few apples, a cherry and a sweet chestnut so I was quite hopeful that something would come of them.

To my amazement when I opened the first pot, which was Apricot stones in dry sand, there were several which had germinated! Only 2 look good enough to survive but even so! Years ago my late husband ate an apricot and found the stone had split and the seed was beginning to grow so he potted it up and later planted it in the greenhouse. It fruited well but because of his poor health he didn’t prune it well enough or consistently enough and it grew too big so had to be taken out. Maybe I can be more successful now that I have more greenhouse space and am able to prune every year. I looked in the second pot labelled Apricot and found that in that one I had used damp peat – no sign of germination there. Maybe they were a different variety of apricot or from a different orchard but I was curious as to whether it was the sand / peat that made the difference.

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Then I opened the pots of apples – some of the ones with damp compost had germinated whilst the ones with sand had not! Again I cannot be sure that any will survive but again my interest was piqued. Was the difference between the two types of tree significant or just chance?

Sadly nothing else was showing signs of life but then nothing germinated in the fridge last year. They are all now in good compost in trays and I will wait and see. I have made a note to myself to be more methodical next year about splitting batches and experimenting with different media to store them in. I still have so much to learn about gardening! One of the permaculture principles i ‘Observe and Interact’ so that is what I shall do – but in a more organised way than usual!