Wednesday, 30 March 2011

It's spring, it's sunny and we had the week off work!

I took last week off work because Chris's boss was off on holiday.  Chris hasn't had a proper break from work in 12 months (other than Christmas) so I thought I'd take some time off with him.  We had some glorious weather and the sun was shining pretty much everyday, so we picked a great week.  Chris is off this week as well, and I'm glad, because he really does deserve the break.  I keep pestering him to drop a day or two at work, so that he's more time to do his own projects like his artwork, but I haven't convinced him just yet.  I think he's forgotten what it's like to not have to work.

The gardening order arrived at the shop and I stocked the shelves on Friday afternoon.  I ordered organic veg and herb seeds and liquid comfrey feed from Tamar Organics.  I got some more wildflower seeds from Landlife, and some coconut/latex plant pots from the Hairy Pot Plant Company.  I also ordered the liquid seaweed and powdered seaweed from Bod Ayre seaweed products in Shetland.  I hope all the stock sells well.  Especially the seaweed and comfrey feeds.  I guess it depends if we get many gardeners in!

On Sunday night I went to a new Italian restaurant called 'De Niro's' with my Mum.  I've gone vegetarian again because I don't want a creature to give up its life for me to eat it.  I've not eaten red meat in 22 years, but I started eating chicken and fish because I was very thin, but I going back to being a full on veggie again.  So I tried gnocchi for the first time, and it was served in a tomato and basil sauce.  It was really tasty.  My Mum had lasagne which looked good.  We had chilli tomato garlic bread to start which was mega, mega hot!  We shared a chocolate cake for pudding and finished things off with a cappuccino. 

I cleared out the back garden on Monday, and removed all the weeds, brushed and rearranged the pots and swept around.

I also sowed some seeds into the soil, including cornflower, calendula and chrysanthemum.  I did Steve a pot of cat grass.  I also sowed lots of seeds into pots and trays which I placed in the cold frame - lettuce, cauliflower, sunflower, more pot marigold.  I'm trying to stop the propagating greenhouse from becoming too full like last year, and this year I'm more experienced at knowing which seeds need to be in the greenhouse and which can be sown outside, or in a cold frame.

I collected all the plantpots and trays together - we've got loads, and there's more at the allotment.

The purple drumstick primula is in full bloom, and the white one isn't far behind.

The viola in the hanging basket have come back to life.

I took a cool photo of Steve.

I got a nice purple flowered houseplant.

Len came to fix the electrics in the greenhouse.  He said it's much safer now, he's fitted a waterproof circuit breaking plug.  So I sowed 16 varieties of tomatoes, the basil, cucumber and violas and placed them in the propagators to germinate.  The violas are in a separate propagator at a lower temperature.

I also did some heliotrope (cherry pie plant) which I took home to go on the windowsill.  I sowed broad beans and a selection of peas into cardboard toilet tubes which went in the cold frame. 

I sowed some mustard cress to use on salads.

I cleaned the windows upstairs and I did the lower back windows inside and out.

Chris put some shelves up in the bedroom.

Chris cleaned all of the greenhouse glass at the allotment - that's 2 huge greenhouses, so quite a big job.  He cut his hand open doing it so we had to put a plaster on his finger.

Chris painted the shed.

He's also made a pond at the allotment next to my Dad's memorial garden.  It has a little overflow into another smaller pond.  We went to Brookside garden centre and picked up some plants to go in the pond, their selection wasn't great though, they said they were getting more stock in a couple of weeks.

He moved the bird table under the feeders.

We had a fire and burnt our rubbish, then put the wood ashes on the potato patch.

We also got some fruit trees from Brookside, we got a large blackcurrant and a red gooseberry.   And I bought a thornless blackberry bush from Aldi.  These have all gone into the fruit tree border, which Chris has extended.

I cleared the path down the back of the greenhouse.  Our pet parakeet Joey has been buried there for about 10 years, he's underneath a primrose plant which is flowering at the moment.

Chris moved two compost bins round the back of the top greenhouse.

He planted a strawberry plant into the upside down strawberry planter that Emma got him for Christmas.

We took the rest of the leeks out of the raised bed, topped it up with some compost and I sowed some beetroot, radish and spring onions.

I pollinated the peach tree using a small blusher brush. 

Chris planted about 190 onion sets in perfectly straight lines!

Sadly, very sadly indeed, there's still no sign of life on the damson tree.  I really, really hope it comes to life again soon.  I've fed it twice with the special Shetland liquid seaweed from the shop, so I'm hoping this might act as a tonic and bring it back to life.

The forget me nots have flowered in the front garden at home and the border is awash with tiny blue, pink and white flowers.

I felt a bit unmotivated this week, could it be my hormones?   I seem to blame everything on hormones!

Being off work made me want to go down to 3 days at work - should I take the plunge?  I still can't work out of I can afford it.  Maybe when I get paid this month I will put some money to one side and see how I manage.

The 'Screw work, let's play' book suggested making money by finding a problem and solving it through doing something you enjoy - people are more likely to buy something if it solves a problem they have, which makes sense to me.

I want to try and streamline the inputs into my life e.g. things I read, websites I visit, people I see - I want to filter out the rubbish to save me time.  I feel like I have information overload sometimes.  and a lot of the stuff is rubbish I could do without.  So it's about only allowing the quality stuff in and filtering the rubbish out.  Sometimes I wish I was back 50 years ago when there wasn't so much information.  I've almost forgot what it feels like to be bored, and I think a lot of other people have too.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Don't forget the forget me nots

I was on the second day of the permaculture course on Saturday.  In the morning we did a recap of the last lesson.  Then we looked at streamlining activities and reducing the time and effort it takes to do things.  In the afternoon we had a chemistry lesson which made me feel ill!  I've never really understood chemistry that much.  My face felt hot and I had a bad headache (maybe due to low atmospheric pressure, my barometer reading was very low) so that didn't help.  I still don't feel comfortable in front of the group, which is odd, maybe it's the venue, I don't know.

Anyway, I think the most important thing I learnt was that permaculture's about the difference YOU can make, it's not about changing the whole world, but changing your own world, which feels much more manageable to me.  I can definitely change my own world and hopefully inspire others to do something similar.

Our tutor mentioned that some people are using permaculture principles to manage information, which is something I'm going to look into.  He also said permaculture is all about common sense - only not everyone has got common sense.

Whilst I was on the course Chris powerwashed the back garden.  It took him a few hours and he had to buy a new hosepipe and attachment but it looks miles better and I'm really glad he did it.

I've left it a bit late to get the potatoes chitting so I gave in and bought some seed potatoes from Brookside garden centre on Sunday morning.  I initially tried another local nursery but they wanted £3.99 for 4 organic seed potatoes which is extortionate!  I got 30 seed potatoes for £6.50 at Brookside which is quite a difference in price.  I also got some shallots, and 3 bags of manure, which I spread over the bottom greenhouse with some fish, blood and bone powder.  Chris also spread some fish, blood and bone mixture over the plot and some sulphate of potash powder under the gooseberries. 

The peach has just started to flower so I sprayed off the bordeaux mix with some water as I could still see the blue bits of powder.  I wish I'd never used it now.  I won't buy anything again that has the 'hazard to the environment' label.  It was only becaude Stephen Lowe recommended it when Radio Lancs visited our allotment in September.

Chris put some manure under the damson and some more manure around the rhubarb.

Chris took the owl collection at home to join the other owls in the shed.

On Friday I made a casserole using leeks, potatoes, carrots and kale with dumplings.  I had it again for my tea on Sunday.  I also had some red wine on Sunday night but I managed to stop at 3 glasses - good job I did or else I would have been going into work with a hangover, luckily I felt fine.

I've put a wool ball in the back yard for the nesting birds to use.  The blackbirds have starting to nest again in the conifer in my Mum's back garden.  Last year I saw a blue tit taking fluff from the hanging basket so I'm hoping the wool will get used up.

I bought the new River Cottage 'Cakes' book - which is ace!

I also bought the new book in the 'Expert' series called 'Garden to Kitchen Expert', which is also brill.

Some people on the permaculture course said they've already sown lots of seeds including tomatoes.  This made me panic a bit, but I need to stick to my guns because I sowed my seeds too early last year and regretted it.  They peaked before the weather peaked.  So I'll hang fire and wait another week or so.

Chris has sown all the chillies and aubergine seeds as they're the first things that need to get growing. 

I finished clearing out the propagating greenhouse at my Mum's on Sunday afternoon.  The staging is back up.  Chris replaced the wheel on the broken wheelbarrow at the allotment and painted it a lovely bright red colour.  He used the wheelbarrow to shift all last year's grow bags from the propagating greenhouse to the allotment. 
I noticed that some of the wires in the greenhouse had rotted so I don't feel safe switching on the propagators.  So Len from the allotment is an electrician and he's coming to check it's safe on Saturday morning. 

My Mum got back from her holiday in New York on Sunday afternoon.  I was worried about her in the big city, but she had a brill time and went to the top of the Rockefeller building, which she was a bit scared of, but did it anyway.

I've been placing some gardening orders for the shop.  I've ordered some vegetable and herbs seeds from Tamar Organics.  I ordered some powdered and liquid seaweed from Bod Ayre in Shetland.  I've ordered some coir plant pots and some more wildflower seeds from Landlife.

I spotted the first forget me not flower today.  Hopefully the border out the front will be packed full of them in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Dressmaking starts here

I started the dressmaking course on Saturday and it was a totally different experience to the permaculture course.  I didn't feel shy at all, I didn't blush, I didn't feel nervous and I spoke up in front of the group without any problems. Quite a contrast to the social anxiety I had at the permaculture course.  Could it be down to my attitude towards the course?  Maybe I was a bit more nervous about how I came across at the permaculture course.  But at the dressmaking course I didn't really think twice and I was just myself.  Strange.  The course itself was really complicated. The tutor's first language isn't English and I think she struggled to explain a few things to us.  It was also the first dressmaking course they've done.  We measured ourselves and drew a tailor made pattern for a straight skirt and an a-line skirt.  There was lots of maths and geometry involved, so my head felt a bit baked by the end of it all, but I came away with my own paper pattern which we're going to transform into a skirt at the next class.

And the paper pattern I made.

It's funny how I flit from one headstate to another during the month - could it be hormonal?  At the minute I feel sociable and confident.  Let's hope it last til Saturday cos I'm on the permaculture course again. 

We watched Director Mike Leigh's new film 'Another Year' on Saturday night.  On the front of the DVD box it said 'the best film of Mike Leigh's career'. Whoever said that has never watched 'Naked', which is a much, much better film, and actor David Thewlis's brightest moment.  'Another Year' was good, a tad slow perhaps, but Mike Leigh films aren't normally that action packed.  It featured Leigh's usual bittersweet tinge.  I'd recommend it if you fancy an easy going watchable drama, but the plot isn't that complex, so don't expect too much in that respect.  A typical Mike Leigh film really.

I attended the inaugural meeting of the allotment association on Sunday morning.  What a whirlwind of a meeting that turned out to be, I was expecting it to be something and nothing.  Someone stormed out.  Another person disputed lots of points on the proposed constitution.  Fair enough they were valid points, but there was a LOT of tension at the meeting.  There's nowt queerer than folk, especially when they're in meetings.  I have a lot of meetings at work, but they never get petty or bitter.  It's hard to resist getting caught up in it all.  Chris doesn't understand why we need an association, he thinks 'if it's not broken don't try and fix it'.

Speaking of meetings, I went to the shop's board meeting on Friday morning.  Someone suggested the exterior shop lights should be left switched on in daylight in order to show people the shop's open.  I didn't like this idea - we're meant to be campaigning against climate change, so it doesn't seem right to leave the lights on in daylight.  Someone also wanted to spend £350 on a logo to say we're a social enterprise.  I thought this was a bad idea too - we can't afford to waste that kind of money on logos.  There seemed to be a lot of pettiness over small issues.  I think it's egos - people want to feel important, they want to get their own way.  But they need to remember it's not about individuals, we're a co-operative, it's a team effort.  I've decided to reduce my hours at the shop to 2 hours per week due to gardening commitments, which is a shame because I enjoy volunteering there, but I'll be struggling for time soon once I get all my seeds sown.  Oh, and we've got some cool handmade toys in stock made locally using recycled fabric.

I guess I've learnt a lot from being involved with the shop and now the allotment association, it's been a learning curve.  In future I'll be careful what I get involved with - whether it's courses, meetings or organisations.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother with any of it.  The only consolation is I could resign from it all today and there wouldn't be a problem.  I've not comitted to anything so I'm not tied in, thank heavens.  In a way I'm doing it all to try and learn new things and gain experience that will help me in my career, a bit selfish, but there are other reasons too, like wanting a local independent wholefood and fair trade shop, and somewhere other than a supermarket to buy things.

Chris got a new owl for the shed off the flea market.

Down at the allotment on Sunday I finished clearing the bottom greenhouse.

I also dug over the brassica patch.  We hardly ate any of the cabbage or sprouts we grew because we're not big fans of them.  They were time consuming crops too, especially setting up the netting.  So I'm not bothering with them this year, we'll just grow some curly kale instead.  I picked some leeks and kale.

I weeded the rhubarb as a few docks had popped up and I fed the birds.  Chris has manured most of the plot now and he's tidied all the paths too, so it looks a lot better. The bulbs have started to flower in my Dad's memorial garden and it looks really pretty.  The weather was lovely and sunny so I spent 10 minutes at the allotment basking in the afternoon sun.  It was nice to see everything dry and not slutchy.

When I got home I sat on our doorstep and read a magazine in the sun.  The crocuses and forget me nots are coming on well.  The trees are coming into bud and I'm hoping they'll eventually obscure the bright red Tesco supermarket sign that I can see from my house, that's been there since the new store opened in October.  I'm hoping that nature will obliterate the eyesore from view. Then it got a bit chillier so I went to my bedroom and had a lie down and feel asleep listening to Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Surgery on BBC 6 Music.

On Sunday night I made some fairy buns.  I've also discovered a quick culinary treat - pan fried toasties.  Take two slices of white bread.  Butter one side of each slice.  Put the buttered slice face down (yes, butter side down on the worktop), fill with cheese and onion (or whatever filling you fancy).  Then top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up (again the opposite way to what you'd normally do it).  Then fry in a frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side, pressing down occasionally with a fish slice.  So easy, so delicious, and so much better than a toastie machine (they get too mucky) and those toaster bags (they don't melt the cheese enough).  It's my new favourite quick snack.

We've been enjoying watching a new comedy series called 'Mrs Brown's Boys' on BBC1, it's a good laugh.

It was Pancake Day yesterday and we made some tasty pancakes, I had lemon and sugar on mine and Chris had bacon and maple syrup.

I ordered a new book called 'Hot Shoe Diaries' so I can learn more about using my Nikon speedlight off camera to shoot on location.  I was originally thinking of buying some studio lighting, but I realised I might get better results with the Speedlight (which I already own).

I was also considering a ban on buying any more books, but that'd be boring.