Sunday, 12 May 2013

In which I surface...

So we are finally fully installed in our little house. Who knew buying and renovating a house could be such work!? The boyf has worked his socks off and inside the house is stunning. We need to work on our green-ness but as we settle down it will get easier to remember the recycling regime, water saving ideas and composting. Here's a sneaky peak inside... Now that the sun is out and the exam classes are gone I am no longer hiding inside by the fire marking of an evening but racing out of school to get home and enjoy my beautiful garden. Unfortunately, spring has sprung and the garden has gone mad! The site of the garden last summer when we first viewed the house was terrifying but the boyf worked hard to clear the end garden (henceforth know as the orchard despite its teeny tiny size) so we can loll about in the evening and drink wine. This is where my greenhouse is (minus 2 panes of broken glass) and my raised veg beds will live, it also homes a huge, beautiful and very old apple tree which after a bit of pruning looks like it will be fruitful. The Orchard is separated from the rest of the garden but an ancient grape vine arch which was so overgrown we though it was dead. Clearing through here has revealed many treasures including a well established Clematis, roses and lilac tree. We have decided to develop the screen that the vine produces by adding an espalier conference pear and a plum- can't wait to get them in the ground! As the garden grows it is kicking up some amazing surprises. The neighbours warned us that a lot of money had been spent only the garden but it's been hard to see where in the last few months- although now it is clear. We keep finding little gems, from hellebores to peonies, roses to clematis. In the last week we have uncovered a magnolia tree (my favourite) 4 gooseberry bushes, 2 loganberries, a lilac tree, a dwarf peach, sweet Cicely, a bank of chives, roses, japanese quince, 3 clematis, raspberries and loads of other little bits and bobs. This garden is amazing! The front garden is becoming a jungle and I am hacking my way down the path in the morning to get to work. I kind of like it though as it's full of forget-me-nots and bees. The boyf spent an arduous afternoon cutting back the wisteria that was covering the front of the house and now there are flowers budding.... Life is rampant in the garden, it's such an exciting time! Now if only we can get rid of the less savoury resident...Rattigan the enormous bloody great rat! Ewww...

Friday, 4 January 2013

In which I stick to my New Years Resolution...

Happy New Year one and all! There is so much to be miserable about at this time of year: the rain, the lack of money, the taking down of the twinkly things.. but I bloody love the first few weeks of January. Nothing gets me going like the annual clear out, the new stationary to be filled and the return to crunchy food after a good month of existing on cheese and chocolate. With my new house nearly ready for furnishing (after the boyf's many many hours of toil) my favourite part of the new year, resolutions, take on more importance. So here they are: 1. Be less wasteful 2. Buy second hand or swap where possible 3. Be more organised (I make this every year it NEVER happens- but this year, there's stationary!) I have got off to a pretty good start. The skater boy and I vowed to deck the house out second hand and the kitchen is coming along better than I could have hoped.
We bought this unit and another like it from a charity shop for under £200 for both. These will form the basis of our kitchen units and we're reclaiming stuff from skips and my parents kitchen renovation to do the rest. The de-clutter resulted in 3 bin bags for the charity shop and a bag for ebay. The money from flogging the more valuable stuff will go into the allotment fund. Whilst selling on ebay it seemed rude not to peruse the goods on offer and I have nabbed myself 2 brand new dresses for work for under a tenner for bot- one woman's unwanted Chrimbo pressie is another woman's back to work wardrobe!
During the clear out I found a tonne of unopened make-up and in the spirit of New Year I offered them for swaps on a beauty forum I am addicted to. So, one unopened dusty foundation bottle has got me 2 stunning vintage necklaces. I am feeling inspired and hopeful for the new year- I just need to start the diet...maybe I'll wait till back to work times next week....hmmmm What are your resolutions?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

In which I buy a house...

After years of saving, months of hunting, days of stress and countless sleepless nights, we finally have our very own little bit of green. Our tiny cottage is in the middle of National Trust woodland with streams and ponds and fields and hills and comes with a massive overgrown jungle of a garden. The house has been lived in but unloved by the same couple for the last 30 years and the neighbours have confirmed that they never took so much as a tin of paint inside. Needless to say the house needs a bit of TLC. The grey muddy living room carpet, the brown wallpaper, the dingy, grimy kitchen and the asbestos kitchen floor all need a lot of attention- as does the 14 foot crack which runs the height of the house... (no nails?) The problems are these: our combined salaries (teacher and skateboard shop dude) do not amount to much we want to live our lives with as little impact on the environment as we can The Solution: Our little bit of green is going to be furnished with entirely second hand/ vintage/ antique furniture (including the kitchen which the boyf is building with a selection of old chest of drawers- more on that later) We are going to do all the work ourselves (mainly the boyf- being a skateboard dude totally doesn't take up as much time as inspiring young minds and indoctrinating teenagers towards feminism and away from David Cameron...and marking) We are going to make all our selections based on choosing the products with the lowest environmental impact within our budget (obviously on our budget farrow and ball throughout might put back the fixing of the crack by a few years) We are going to grow as much of our own food as we can (this part of the plan wont come into effect until we have attacked the garden in the spring) We are going to heat our house with a wood burner and try as hard as we can to resist putting the heating on (blankets and an open fire- terribly romantic..right?) Easy right? I'll keep you up to date!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The joy of houseplants

So, the sun has come out? After three month of solid rain and misery I come to you live from my garden where the temperature is currently 32 degrees. I know gardens up and down the land are in disarray. I have practically given up on the allotment. Every seed I plant is washed away, the slugs have eaten everything that made it out of the rain soaked ground and the only thing thriving is thistles. If you could eat thistles I would be completely self sufficient right now. The only things that have given us anything are the rhubarb and the raspberries. Now everything is dying of thirst. I am not talking to the allotment. I have retreated inside. I have never been one for houseplants, not when I've been lucky enough to have a big garden and an allotment- who needs indoor plants? Well three months stuck inside has led me to a new addiction. Every windowsill, shelf or cranny I could claim has now been crammed with plants. I have even bought school plants home for the summer holidays. I have had more success growing and even propagating indoor plants than I have with the veg this summer.
These are just some of my growing collection... This is a flaming katie which I reckon is one of the best indoor plants. It's a cactus but as far as I can see it flowers constantly- its awesome!
I have revived a few plants from my mother, the notorious plant killer. I repotted, fed and loved this fella but I have no idea what is it! It's doing incredibly well in a pot on a sunny windowsill but I would like to know what it is....any ideas?
I also have this little fella, which I revived from another crusty pot...any ideas? The flowers are great!
If you've always been an outside gardener, I urge you to have a go at indoor gardening, if only for the fun of collecting pretty pots. One statistic that shocked me is that the air in our houses is often worse than the air in our towns. Plants = oxygen! Look at this guy- I can taste the fresh air!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A bout of productivity...

At last the rain has stopped. That was scary for a while eh? For nearly 4 weeks I woke up fearing I would see the chickens floating past my bedroom window. The rain has had an impact on my seed sowing. It's been too wet and I have been too miserable to sow much. In the short bursts of dry we have had I have done something I rarely do and bought plants- actual proper little plants, not seeds. I have stocked the allotment (for the time being)and nearly nothing I have planted has been mine from seed. The exceptions to this are flowers,I have grown my favourite flowers, sweet peas, from the seeds of the beauties I had last year and some extra packets I bought online during the dingy winter months. I have also had a go as some cosmos and asters and some lupins, we'll see how they go. On the home front things are looking promising. During a particularly miserable Sunday afternoon I commandeered the conservatory (much to my mothers pleasure) and bought a selection of tomatoes to grow in it.I have never seen tomatoes grow so fast or so strong. They are doing marvelously in there.
However, now they are nearly finished growing up, and starting to grow fruit they looked a little sad. I resisted the urge to chuck some shop bought fertiliser on them and went nettle picking instead. The neighbours already think I'm mad so me fumbling through nettle patches on a Sunday afternoon is nothing new. Having retrieved a bag full of lovely nettles I chopped them up a la Jamie Oliver and a bunch of basil and have left them to steep in a bucket full of water. Hopefully they'll start to rot and once it warms up a bit the toms can go outside and enjoy the stinky fertiliser and all its goodness.
The cut and come again salad is good eating already, I keep promising myself to grow more as it really is one of the most cost effective things to grow.
I have also been on a bit of a cutting rampage recently. It started at school where I had my eye on a rogue lemon balm plant for a while- last week the caretakers strimmed it so I had to think fast and dug up some root cuttings (they were transported home in my lunch box- much to my student's amusement!)I've also managed to nab a cutting from a friend's beautiful peppermint. Can't wait for them to grow!
Now I have had too much gardening fun- it's time to get back to this pile of marking I've been neglecting... do you think I could buy a little more time with the promise of a nice mint tea?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Light begins to dawn...

As my alarm goes off at 6am and I stumble through piles of unmarked exercise books and books I should be reading for the essays I should be writing, I am heartened to see that the sun is starting to rise. And as I make my journey home from school, eyes held open by match sticks, lesson plans swirling through my head I am relieved to know that there is still time to walk the dog and see the chickens before it's too dark. Spring is nearly here.

As I get used to this timetable of teaching and learning and planning and evaluating, I am determined to keep up the hard work of last year in terms of my growing. My visits to the allotment have been few and far between this winter but to keep up my spirits and remind me why it's worth it I planted some Sweet Pea seeds in February. They are now lovely strong little plants which need a sunny day to be potted on and even more sunny days to have beds prepared for them. But we will get there.

Is there anything more restorative after a miserable, dark winter than to see your favourite plant emerging and realising that soon, there will be flowers again. Flowers and fresh food. Roll on spring!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

In which I check in...

It's been too long, far far too long. Who knew that teaching would take so much time! It's going well but with so much work to do my hobbies are suffering.

Now its dark when I get up and when I get home, I barely see the gorgeous Maude and Mildred during the week. I have taken to waking them up for a cuddle by torchlight but I don't think they appreciate it. I make it up to them at the weekends with plenty of time free ranging about and lots of snacks. Now the leaves are falling, they are in scratching heaven and a bucket load of leave in the run every few days keeps them occupied! Luckily the weather hasn't got too cold for them yet. Don't tell anyone but I've pinched a big box from the boyfs shop to let them sleep in by the fire when the winter really kicks in. Slightly better option that the mother's original idea to astroturf the spare room...questionable.

The allotment is being wound down for the winter. I've managed to find a spare couple of hours here and there to get things done. The compost heaps are heaving, the leaf mould bin beginning all over again. Things are looking tidy. I know it's wonderful when you have a mess of fecundity in the summer but I do like it bare neatness of it in winter a little bit.

The boyf and are making use of his shops waste cardboard (not only in chicken beds) by lasagne layering the newly cleared bed. Laying up peafmould, carboard, compost etc until the beds are heaving and then leave to rot down over the winter. The idea is that by planting starts in spring things are rotted and ready to go! We shall see!

It's nearly time to start thinking about next year's growing. The seed catalogues are out, I have already spent a small fortune on seeds in the end of season garden centre sales! I am going a bit mad for flowers next spring, I sense I will need pretty cut flowers and things to keep myself sane during the long spring/summer term and the job hunting phase. Also, I am looking for some unusual but easy to grow fruit or veg. I don't have a green house but with the success of the mystery goldenberry/ tomatillo-y plants this summer I am still keen to experiment. Any tips!?