Thursday, 24 February 2011

Permaculture - you know it makes sense

I started the Permaculture Design Course on Saturday morning. We had to introduce ourselves at the beginning of the course.  To be honest, I sort of dread group activities and talking to new people.   Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike people, it's just sometimes (not always, mind) I find it hard to get to know people, it's a slow process for me, and I can't relax in front of people straight away.  It was hard for me to be with so many new people and I felt awkward at break times and lunch times, not knowing who to speak to, and it was made worse as a few people already knew each other.  I think my plan for the next session is to keep myself to myself and not worry about trying to make friends with everyone.

Putting that aside, and getting to the important bit, and the reason why I attended the course - the actual learning!  In the morning we learnt about systems, we looked at chickens, what their needs and outputs are, and how eggs are produced in a small scale farm vs. a factory farm.  We covered how unused outputs become pollution.  After lunch we went for a walk to the canal and surveyed the local area then came back and discussed what we'd seen.  Following this we looked at the ethics of permaculture. 

I was relieved when the first day was over.  It will keep getting easier as I get to know people better and feel more comfortable in front of them. I do have really bad social anxiety when it comes to groups, but if you met me individually you would never guess.  It's not like I'm a shy, unconfident person, because I'm not.  I just can't help the way I react in front of groups, no matter how much I want to feel confident I can't, it's just the way I'm programmed.  It's really, really annoying for me and I feel it holds me back in my career.  Course organisers never appear to make allowances for people like me, they just assume everyone likes to speak in front of the group.  Honestly, I've tried to get over it but I can't change how I am.

Our tutor gave us 2 DVDs to watch at home.  The first one was a permaculture video from the 90s (pretty bad quality), but it was about Bill Mollison and I really enjoyed it.  Bill seems a real character and a likeable guy.  The other's called 'A Farm for the Future' but I haven't got round to watching it yet.

I bought the most expensive pizza ever from Pizza Hut on my way home from the permaculture course.  I thought I'd treat us to a posh pizza for tea.  It cost £11.49 for a takeaway large margherita and it tasted rubbish.  

On Sunday morning we went to a local stables to collect some free horse manure.  There was a huge, huge pile of the stuff (I should have taken a photo but forgot), and the manure at the bottom was really well rotted.  We could only fit 4 bags in the back of the car, so I think we'll go back for some more this week.  My car's exhaust pipe was rattling on the way home under the weight of it all.  The manure we had delivered the other week isn't well rotted so we can't spread it on the soil yet.  Chris built a manure bin to store it in until next spring, by which time it should be ready to use.

After this we went to the flea market and I bought some books and a large owl picture for the new allotment shed.

I got a book on shell designs and one on the most amazing places to visit in Britain.

Some woodwork books for Chris.

And a book on warriors, gods and spirits from central and South American mythology.

Which came with some free feathers inside.

On Sunday afternoon I stayed home and watched a Catherine Cookson drama and knitted.  Then I went to my Mum's and she made my favourite tea - rockin' Moroccan stew, it was delicious.  I came home and fell asleep at 9pm which is unusual for me.  I felt tired and hot, so it might have been my hormones playing up.

My radio's back and repaired.  They sent me a brand new one, they said the fault occurs very rarely so my new unit should last for years - I hope they're right!  I'd been missing 'Sailing By' at bedtime, so I'm glad they sent a replacement so quickly.

I went to the dentist for a check up followed by an appointment with the hygienist.  Everything was OK and my teeth look sparkly and clean now.

I sent through some ideas for an 'Awards for All' funding application for ideas for artists to promote the shop.  My ideas were: wildflower gardens, mosaics, murals, mini mosaics and gardens and murals in a guerrila gardening style, wildflower planters, pressed wildflower workshop, recycled art competition, upcycling craft workshop. 

I've also caught up with the last three episodes of Channel 4's 'People's Supermarket', which is about a guy who's set up a community owned supermarket in London.  It's inspirational and very relevant to what we're doing with our co-op shop. 

You can't pretend to be something you're not

I thought I wanted to try and increase the number of people following this blog, but I've changed my mind.  For once in my life I want to do something solely for me, and not care about whether people will like it or not.   I don't care if people think what I write is boring. This blog is a record of what I do, for my future reference.  It's a private diary in the public domain.

My friends don't know about it, because I want to be honest about things and not worry what people will think.  I had to remove the name of the shop I'm involved with because I don't want people I know to stumble across my blog.  I'm fed up of worrying what people will think, and not being true to myself.  I want a place where I can be honest with myself and express how I feel, and my blog is the place for that. If people want to follow me then that's great, but I'm not pretending to be something I'm not in order to attract followers.

I'm sure there must be other introverts out there that feel similar to me.  I don't need to pretend I'm an extrovert in order to make people like me. 

Where are all the introverts?  I feel so alone sometimes, like the whole world is extroverted.  It also feels like introvert is a dirty word.  I know extroverts see it and think introvert means someone too shy to interact, or someone boring and not willing to take part in fun things. I know some introverts aren't good with people, but I am. I am blessed/cursed with empathy for others and I have deep feeling and concern for others.  And it takes all sorts of people to make the world go round, not just extroverts.  Just because extroverts like being the centre of attention doesn't necessarily mean they're worth listening to.  If extroverts stopped thinking about themselves for a minute and took a second to ask me for my opinion they might learn something.

But for some reason I've always felt I didn't fit in, ever since I was very young.  Even at nursery and the first year at primary school I remember finding it hard mixing with people.  Often I spend time with people and I have a fake smile on my face whilst everyone around is genuinely laughing.  It's really hard pretending to fit in when you don't.  There are some people I feel very comfortable with, and I love being around, but other people I'll never, ever click with, they're on a completely different wavelength from me.

I suppose in a way, it's nice to be different, and not the same as everybody else.  But in the main it's hard being different and feeling like the odd one out.  I'd love to meet a friend who's like me, but I never do, they always catch me out by being too extroverted in some way.  I guess I need to keep looking.

Blah, blah, blah.  I'm sorry, can you tell this is a sore point for me?  I think I've been having a bad day. If, on some crazy off chance, you know how I feel please get in touch.  It would make me feel more sane to know it's not just me who feels this way.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

12 months passes fast

On Saturday it was 12 months since my Dad died.  The year has flown by, and it doesn't feel like 12 months.  I went to the allotment with my Mum and we left 12 red roses in his memorial garden.  We also placed a notice in the local paper.  I still find it hard to process what happened.  But I'm finding it easier to accept things now that a year has passed, the pain has eased, but it's not gone completely, I don't think it ever will.

I dug over and tidied the top greenhouse on Saturday afternoon and it looks miles better. I planted 6 rows of garlic in the greenhouse (for the last 2 years I've grown garlic in the greenhouse border soil and it's done really well).  I also planted 2 rows of garlic in one of the narrow raised beds outside. I initially ordered the garlic variety pack from Thompson and Morgan in October last year, I think I got 8 varieties plus some elephant garlic for £18.99.  But the garlic didn't arrive until the end of November by which time I'd lost the motivation to plant it because the weather had turned cold.  So I decided to leave the planting until February because it said it would be OK to plant the garlic in February.  When I came to look at the garlic about 3 or 4 bulbs had sweated and rotted, so I lost a few varieties, but it worked out OK as I just had enough room for the remaining cloves. 

I fed the birds whilst I was there, the niger seeds and the mixed seeds needed topping up again.

I sprayed the peach tree with Bordeaux mix and it turned blue.  I hope it gets rid of the peach leaf curl and doesn't harm the tree.  The figs on the fig tree are swelling nicely, I think we'll have a good crop this summer.

A lady called Barbara who helps run a community garden next to the allotment site has secured £250 funding for the allotment association that we're setting up.  I've been nominated as secretary for the association, but I don't really have much free time for any more extra curricular activities at the minute, I might just say I'm happy to help with posters and computer things, but suggest that someone else might be best carrying out the secretary role.

I ordered the 'Rough guide to Britain' to help us choose somewhere to go for our holiday this summer.  I've been looking at places in North Wales, as it's not too far for us to travel, and has some nice sandy beaches.  Abersoch and Harlech look cool - but only if the weather was sunny.  I looked at the Centre for Alternative Technology which is near Harlech, and it looks worth a visit.  Devon and Cornwall look lovely, but they're such a long way away to travel over land.  Or we could maybe go to Silverdale in the Lakes as it's very pretty there and not too far.  We need a cheap flexible option to kick in when the weather turns nice, ideally somewhere close enough for me to drive to.

I also ordered a book called 'Screw work, let's play' to encourage me to think about redesigning my career and working for myself.  I don't believe in spending the majority of my life in a job that doesn't inspire me.

A huge delivery of free manure was dropped off at the allotment at 8.30am on Sunday morning.  I went down with Chris to collect some bags for our plot.  The bags weighed a tonne and my arms felt like they were going to drop off for days afterwards.  I'm obviously out of practice with physical activity!  The manure doesn't look very well rotted though, so I don't think we can apply it to the soil this year, we might need to let it rot down a bit first.

After sorting out the manure we nipped home and got changed and went to the flea market.  I got lots of books, the subjects covered: herb gardens, wild flowers, pressed flower pictures, country herbs, exotic spices and I also got the 'Covent Garden soup for all occasions' book.

Because I'd got so many new books off the flea market, I decided to tidy my bookcase on Sunday afternoon.  It took a while but I did a thorough job, being the geeky perfectionist that I am.

I went to Duckworth Hall on Sunday night for tea with my Mum, I had my usual cheese and onion pie/sticky toffee pudding combo.  I also tried a wee dram of Ardbeg whiskey, which is a smoky Islay whiskey, but I wasn't overly keen, it seemed a bit pale and watery, my Mum tried it and she thought it was awful and tasted like medicine.

I bought a bottle of Rioja Ramon Lopez Murillo from Aldi for £5.99.  It was pretty good, but not the best I've had.  I'll keep trying Aldi wines though as I've tried most of Asda's mid range priced Rioja now.

The weather has been very wet, and the storm display on my weather station has been flashing on and off.  I found out that weather forecaster Rob McElwee has gone and I never saw his last forecast.  I wondered why he hadn't been on telly recently.  Bye Rob!  I will miss you and your cheeky one-liners at the end of the forecast.

My Revo Pico Radiostation broke so I've sent it back to be repaired.  I wasn't impressed because I've only had it 7 months.  It cost a fortune too.  So much for buying quality and it lasting longer.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Jam roly poly on a wet and windy weekend

My cousin Iain popped round on Friday night because our Aunty Amy was over from Northern Ireland for a few days.  He's doing a 3 year guitar making course and played us some African guitar music.  His girlfriend works at a garden centre and she sent us a huge bag of free Thompson and Morgan seeds.  There'd be enough seeds to supply a few allotments!  Shame I've already got so many seeds in my stash, but I'll make sure I share them out so they don't go to waste.

On Saturday morning I went to our allotment with my Aunty Amy and my Mum.  Amy had bought some flowers for my Dad's memorial garden so we went and dropped these off.

The weather's been cold so I've started to finish off the second leg warmer knitted with Noro Kureyon wool.

We watched the film '127 hours', it was alright, but I think it's been overhyped.  I also watched 'Scott Pilgrim' which I did enjoy, and I thought it was pretty funny and original.  (Wow, I actually enjoyed a film, that makes a refreshing change!)  Still saving Leaves of Grass and hoping for a UK cinema release.

I've got some yoga videos to watch as an attempt at doing some exercise.  I've never done yoga before but after quickly watching one of the videos I think I'll enjoy it.  I need to get more flexible somehow or other.

I dragged myself out of bed on Sunday morning and went to the flea market.   Chris has been finding some bargains recently, almost as though the Cosmos is getting things ready for him to buy when he gets there.  This week he got two 5 litre tubs of liquid latex for £3.  We've been paying £10 for 1 litre off eBay!  I got a greetings cards with an otter on the front for 25p. 

We nipped to Brookside garden centre and I bought some Bordeaux mix to treat the peach leaf curl and some ericaceous compost to repot Chris's blueberries.

I thought some kids had stuffed a Halloween wig up my car's exhaust pipe as there was black hair trailing out of it.  I pulled the hair but it kept coming and coming, so I rang my mechanic to check if exhausts are meant to have hair inside them!  My mechanic said it was part of the exhaust and it was OK to pull it all out.  Weird!

The weather has been very windy and wet, and I called off the visit to the allotment on Sunday afternoon.  I wanted to spray the peach with the Bordeaux mixture and plant the garlic, but I didn't think a greenhouse was a safe place to be in high winds, just in case something like a branch broke through one of the panes.  I love the sound of the wind.  I like dramatic weather in general, but especially the sound of strong wind.  It makes me want to go outside and lie down and let it blast over me.  When it was windy when I was little we tied plastic carrier bags to string and flew them. 

So I stayed home and made a delicious jam roly poly.  I found a steam free jam roly poly recipe, which surprised me, because I always thought you had to steam a roly poly, which I don't like the idea of as it fills the house with condensation.  Jam roly poly is a suet based pudding which is deliciously stodgy and filling and perfect served hot with custard on a cold wintry day.  We used to have it a lot for school dinners.  This recipe was very easy to make and much better than the pre-made roly polys you can buy in the supermarkets.  Give it a go.

Steam free jam roly poly recipe


·         250g/8oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting

·         pinch salt

·         125g/4oz shredded vegetable suet (e.g. Atora vegetable suet)

·         4 tbsp raspberry jam, warmed

·         milk, for glazing

·         1 free-range egg, beaten

·         caster sugar to glaze

Preparation method

1.        Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

2.        Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt. Add the suet and sufficient water to create a soft, but not sticky, dough.

3.        Turn the dough out onto a floured board and roll out to a rectangle about 20x30cm/8x12in.

4.        Brush the pastry with the warmed jam, leaving a 1cm/½in border all round.

5.        Fold in this border and brush with milk. With the short side towards you, roll up the pastry loosely and seal the ends well.

6.        Place on a greased baking sheet, with the sealed edge underneath. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar.

7.        Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.

8.        Remove from the oven, sprinkle on a little more sugar and serve hot with home-made English custard.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A-llot-ment, little achieved

I bought an amazing new bag from the shop on Friday.  It'd just arrived on the Shared Earth order, so it's fairly traded.  It was made by women in Nepal and is made of lots of little multi coloured felt balls.  I wore it when I went out on Friday night and I got lots of compliments.  I can't fit much in it apart from my phone and keys, so it's not entirely practical, but I couldn't resist buying it.

I bagged up 10 more bags of wild bird seed at the shop.  We've already sold enough to cover the cost of the seed, so we're into profit now.  So it's a win win situation - the birds get fed and the shop makes money. I also ordered some more sprouting seed germinators, as they're still selling really well, I might even buy one for myself.

On Friday night I went to the local environmental charity's post Christmas quiz.  The quiz was really hard and wasn't really aimed at people my age, and I felt a bit thick because I didn't really know many answers.  I started off drinking Guinness and moved onto whiskey.  My friend Leah made me try some smoked whiskey, we had a few different ones, but I can only remember the name of one - Laphroaig.  Smoked whiskey tastes amazing - just like bonfire smoke.  I'll have to invest in a bottle very soon

I've made some enquiries re organic seeds and feeds for the shop.  We need to make sure these are in stock for spring.

I weeded the border in the front garden on Saturday afternoon.  Last year's forget me nots have self seeded everwhere, so I thinned them out.  I also pruned the autumn fruiting raspberry canes in the back garden.  There's not much alive in the garden, with the exception of some pretty lilac violas, which seem to battle on through the harshest weather.

Then I sat on the doorstep with our cat and enjoyed the sunny weather.  Then something awful happened - an old man fell down the steps near my house, I heard him fall, then his wife cried out.  I went to get Chris and we ran down to help.  I had to call an ambulance and the man's leg was bleeding everywhere.  It shook us both us because it came out of the blue.  But we did our best to help.   I think he'll be OK, it was only a cut, but I think him and his wife were both in shock, bless him, he was 82 years old.

We watched the new Howard Marks film on Saturday night, it's pretty good, although I don't really undertand why Howard Marks is as famous as he is.

My Aunty Amy visited last week and she brought me some pressed flowers that my grandma has pressed inside a bible over 40 years ago.  They were very, very fragile flowers, and I think some had got damaged on the journey over from Ireland, so I made them into a little collage inside a frame to keep them safe.

I've finally taken some photos of the crocheted cacti that my friend Emma made for Chris.  They're pictured amongst our (real) cacti collection.

We nipped to the allotment on Sunday afternoon.  Chris dug over a few beds and I refilled all the bird feeders.

The birds are still getting through loads of niger seeds, mixed seeds and peanuts.  Shame that we never see many birds though, because as soon as we get to the allotment we scare them all off.  But if we sit in the new shed with the door closed it's like a bird hide and all the birds reappear again and we've seen tits and goldfinches through the shed window.

The rhubarb is doing well already.

Chris dug up some leeks.

It's time to start getting things ready on the plot, we want it all tidy, dug and manured ready for spring.  We made a list of all the things we need to do.  I also need to work out the plan for the plot, and what we're going to grow, bearing in mind that we want it as easy and as low maintenance as we can.  There's no point making hard work for ourselves, but I guess there's no avoiding the fact that allotments are hard work.  Like my Dad said "a-llot-ment, little achieved".