Friday, March 21, 2014

Birthday jumper, maniacal gardening

 I knitted this v-neck pullover for Franklin for his birthday.  He wore it for a full week before he let me wash it♥  It's my own pattern and is made from a nice lambswool/nylon blend yarn.  I'm trying to replicate the pattern with merino yarn but this one's taking me ages--I'm not quite as dedicated to my knitting now there's outdoorsy stuff to do.
 I remade two adjacent raised bed into one big u-shaped bed, using the hugelkultur technique: that is, logs and sticks piled underneath, soil on top.  I moved most of the strawberries onto the new bed, plus some other random self-seeded plants from various places around the garden including a foxglove, some daisies, and a feverfew or two.  That glass shower door against the garage wall is my cold frame, but nothing's growing under it at the moment. 
 My cute little almond tree blossoms.  The photo shows pretty much all the flowers on the tree.  It has a couple leaves poking out too.
My tiny pond, southeast of the almond tree by about two feet.  The wire guard on it used to be a little greenhouse shelf/rack. 

For the past week we've been eating the last of the winter cabbages;  I picked about 7 for the fridge and let the chickens into the vegetable patch to tidy it up for me.  After a week, it's looking a little more bare;  I think I'll give them one more week inside, and then I'll move them out and start planting stuff.  Well, start planting more stuff, anyway--I began in January really.

I sowed about ten trays of seeds earlier in the month, both vegetable and flower; planted a tiny blue false indigo (crossing my fingers for this one--very small); planted some bamboo rhizomes and a hydrangea sourced from the local freecycle network; got delivered a flowering quince, a baby rooted fig cutting, and three itsy Chilean guavas (even tinier than the blue false indigo) which need to grow a little longer before planting.  Partner thinks there isn't enough room for it all, but there is.  And more (cue maniacal laugh)! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Garden, chickens, quiet birthday

 The view from my dining room.  We've had several warm days in a row, and the grass is growing again.  I can tell because we cycle the chickens through the different sections of the lawn, and all winter it's been pretty sparse!  Though it's grown slowly through the winter, its picked up suddenly this week and is actually green again.
 The ladies, all watching me!  You can see the orange temporary fence;  we move it every one or two weeks (depending on the size of the current area).  We don't want them to destroy everything--just give things a good trim.  I've noticed that when they return to an area, usually after 4-6 weeks, those trimmed plants/grass/weeds/etc are back to the original size, or if it's summer, even bigger.  Free chicken feed, and they harvest (and fertilize) it themselves.
I don't have a photo at the moment, but my almond tree is now in flower:  so pretty!  Since the sky was clear at sunset tonight, I decided to play things safe and cover the blossoms in case of frost;  I took a pillowcase and slipped it over the flowering branches and clipped it on with a few clothes pegs.  The tree is still small, so only one pillowcase was necessary.  I'll take it off in the morning so insects can get to the blooms.

We celebrated Franklin's birthday fairly low key this year;  I had to work on his birthday so we did it all on the day before instead.  My mother had a tradition of hiding our presents around the house, with a long string showing the way from one to the next;  I did this for Franklin last year and again this year, and he had a great time following the string to find all the gifts.  I made a vanilla and plum cheesecake, and he ate almost all of it himself--he loves cheesecake.  He also had drinks and a brownie at the Leeds Museum tea room, and got to explore the museum. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Lots of garden photos, more shrubs

 One of five Brussels sprouts in my garden this winter;  they're much less pungent than store-bought ones!
 Franklin showing off his new scarf and gloves I made.  He chose the colors.  Both are made from cashmere/silk blend yarn:  super soft and warm.
 My tiny new pond, unfilled.  It now has water and a wire cover over 2/3 of it (so small people don't fall in).  The two large stones inside are to help amphibians or any other small creatures get out of it. 
 My new almond tree has buds with the bright pink petals just showing.  It won't be long before it flowers, I think.  Excited!
 New growth coming out all over, including this yellow peony
 and plenty of daffodils.
 I planted this window box up last spring and (from left to right) lobelia, parsley, and calendula are still going strong.  I was hoping to replant this spring, but it looks like I'm stuck with it!
This white hellebore, along with a pink counterpart, snuck under the fence from the neighbor's garden.  It's a nice big one, too.  Free plants!

Partner dug up some rooted lilac branches from the hidden lilac and I've potted some up to grow them on, but two were planted straight in the ground:  one in front and one in back.  Hopefully they continue to grow.  If the potted ones survive I may transplant them, or possibly give them away/sell them.  I've not decided.

I also planted another alder and two broom plants this week.  Broom is nitrogen-fixing, like alder.  And it's a nice little shrub with pretty yellow flowers.  Apparently it's classed as an invasive in some parts of the world, but it's a native plant here.  When it comes to natives, the more the merrier:  at least I know they'll grow!

My permaculture plan to plant more perennials is plodding along perfectly.  I hope to get even more things planted this spring.  I sold my fabulous faux fur coat for a nice sum on ebay, and I'm spending it all on plants!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New trees again, pond, Franklin

So since my last post I've received my order of six shrubs/trees, and I've bought a further three fruit trees (a kordia cherry, a williams pear, and an opal plum) going cheap.  And a couple other non-edible ornamentals going cheap.  I've been planting up a storm this month.  Even sowed some seeds while I was at it.

And I put in a very small pond in the corner next to the new almond tree.  It's the bottom third of a 50 gallon steel drum that Partner cut down for me.  I dug a big hole and placed the drum in it and surrounded it with large stones (and put a couple in, as well).  I hope it tempts a few frogs back.  I still feel guilty about all those poor frogs we displaced when we filled in the old pond two years ago.  I kept finding them hopping around the garden, looking confused.  Even last spring there were still a determined few, searching for their lost home.

Franklin had a week off school, and Partner and I took a few days off work too, so we had a visit to London to see the grandparents.  Franklin loves London and he got to play all day with his cousin Grace there, and then all day for several days with his grandad.  We didn't really go anywhere;  we just hung out and socialized at their house, ate their food, and enjoyed having someone else entertain the 3 year old. 

Actually, Franklin's 4th birthday is approaching very soon!  In some ways it seems like we've always had him, and in others, I can hardly believe he's not still a tiny baby.  My life changed so much when I had him;  those pre-Franklin days seem so distant and uninteresting.  What did I do for fun before Franklin?  Sat around and stared at the walls, I think.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Permaculture plans

So far this year I have planted three trees out back in the garden:  one almond tree and two alder seedlings.  Alders are nitrogen-fixing trees, and one of the seedlings went right next to the almond to act as a nurse tree and windbreak.   The almond tree has formed buds since I planted it last month, but as for the alders I'm not sure yet if they survived the transplant.

Lots of things sprouting and growing now--I can hardly believe it.  We have snowdrops, lots of daffodil and hyacinth buds (none open yet), daylily shoots which both Franklin and I like to munch, garlic (also tasty!), a few new tiny broccoli heads, a surprise lilac cutting with buds on it.  I cut back the overgrown lilac last fall and used some of the branches as temporary stakes;  it seems one is still alive.  Maybe I should check the others;  I love lilacs.

We did eat that cauliflower for Christmas, along with its greens, and a handful of Brussels sprouts. Then the week after Christmas, Partner persuaded me to buy another turkey from the butcher, on special.  It was even bigger than our Christmas one!  And at 2/3 the price, I didn't mind eating turkey for two weeks solid.  The Christmas plum pudding was also well-received;  I serve it with brandy butter (or hard sauce), which is really just flavored whipped butter, alcohol optional.  So good. 

Partner gave me two permaculture books for Christmas, and I've got lots of new things I to try.  Planting a nitrogen fixing tree next to a fruit tree was one of those things.  I also have six new shrubs/small trees on order--up until now, my garden food production has been mostly from annual vegetables;  I hope to plant more perennials, both food and non-food perennials. 

The food perennials I have now are:
  • Morello cherry 
  • Spartan and Loxton Fortune apples,
  • Herbs: rosemary, hyssop, oregano, sage, mint, lemon balm, chives, garlic
  • Almond
  • Blackcurrant
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Nettle
  • Daylily
  • Nasturtium (technically an annual, but self seeds prolifically)
  • And the less palatable, but still edible: mallow, rose, dandelion, (I think Partner might put nettle in this category but I like it), campanula, passionfruit
I once had blueberries and asparagus too, but the chickens destroyed the former and the latter died out on its own with no apparent cause;  I never got a good harvest from it (or the blueberries).  And on order, hopefully to arrive by next week, if not sooner:  wild pear, crabapple, black mulberry bush, pea tree; and two non-edible natives: laburnum and broom.  I'm excited to get them in and growing!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A music video

I didn't share this when I first uploaded it: 

It's my final project for the short film class I took in 2013, and is a collaboration between myself and Partner (though the concept for both the song and video are my own, and I did the editing). And here's the behind the scenes video:

I wanted to remake my music video "Hopscotch" which I originally made with my family several years ago, but I wanted a new take on it. The original was a pop song; this is more of a soul sound, and the lyrics are mostly new. Franklin's been walking around singing "Pop pop pop popscotch; me and my sister" for the past month--too cute.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

2013 garden mini-review, goals for 2014

I can hardly believe it's a new year again.  I wrote down a comprehensive 2013 garden review in my own personal journal, of which the main points are: 
  • Almost no harvest of root crops:  no carrot, beet, winter radish, fennel, rutabaga, celeriac, onion.  Only turnips (small) and garlic (few).  Fennel and celeriac still growing, but no bulbous roots formed.
  • Fantastic year for leafy greens including kale and cabbage, particularly self seeded cabbage, but also lettuce and other salad greens.
  • Great yield on new strawberry plants, and 10 apples each on the two new apple trees.   Cherry tree covered in cherries this year (hilarious to watch chickens jumping up to grab cherries).
  • Tomatoes in garage produced enough fruits to eat, but not enough to preserve.  Flavor not worth the effort.  Cucumber and peppers in garage also gave small harvest, but better flavors.
  • Very nice roses again this year, lots of red peony flowers, nice clematis display, great lilacs.  A good year for flowering shrubs.
  • Lawn very lush with almost no weeds, and needing little mowing--thanks to chickens;  also fewer weeds in garden beds.  However, quite a few veg seedling losses due to chickens scratching.
Thinking about the coming year and new goals.  I admit, not many of last year's goals were accomplished.  Maybe I should set the bar a little lower!  But I'll carry over the same goal I've had for several years now:  to grow 100% of our vegetables on site.  Maybe this'll be the year!  Already we're eating greens--mostly cabbage, but some kale.  I also want to plant another two perennial food plants (fruit, veg, herb, or something!) this year and put up a windbreak hedge on the western border at the back. 

In non gardening goals, I want to finish my degree this year!  It's so close.  So so close.  I also want to get this house a bit more decluttered and redecorated.  Maybe I should start with my bedroom, the only room in the house I've never decorated (and I've lived here nearly 10 years). 

And even closer to home, I want to get more sleep and focus more on my personal relationships.  Let's go 2014!