Monday, 28 April 2008

Warm & Toasty

Hooray, we have a working stove! ha, our heating is going off and our money is now going to the nice lady who runs our local farm shop in exchange for several bags of her pre-dried apple wood harvested from their orchard and NOT bloody sucking British Gas! hahahahaha!

I am so wowed by this little stove, I can't stop playing with it (Rich is being very patient with me, as he has lived in houses with fires and log burners for about 20 years so this is nothing new), its totally magic, you put screwed up newspaper and kindling (made from smashed up pallet wood) and a few logs in and suddenly our front room is toasty and warm. Its never been toasty and warm...ever, even with the central heating going full blast and me wearing two jumpers (I, like most girls have rubbish circulation meaning my hands and feet are always cold). Why didn't we do this a year ago?!

I must admit there's something so liberating about building your own fire and keeping it going, being responsible for your own warmth and comfort rather than just taking the easy option and flicking a switch, I love nipping down to the greenhouse to pick out some logs and kindling (we will eventually have a wood store, when Rich get 5 mins to build one!), I some how feel like we are making a small difference ( I'm still in the log burner honeymoon period, I'm not mad!)

So a big thank you to Rich's Mum and Dad for talking us into the idea and buying us our wonderful little Stovak Stockton 3 and my Dad for making us our hole in the wall to put it in (including ye olde fence post that now looks like an authentic oak lintel that has been there for 200 years)

We are very lucky (and warm) bunnies!

Greenhouse Carbooting!

Wow, what a difference this weekend was from last weekend (weather wise I mean), it was beautiful and sunny, even dare I say it, hot here in Bath.

My parents were visiting this weekend, (sadly not many pics, my Father has a Ninja like ability to hide when even a camera is whipped out!) anyway seeing as I had 2 unsuspecting victims I pressed them into action helping us clean out the greenhouse, which had got to the point where it was hard to get through the door, plus the Russian Vine Weed (also know as Bind Weed) which plagues our garden, was taking over in there and needed sorting out.

We invested in some weed matting and several bags of pea gravel, which was laid down after we had taken all the rubbish out (my god there was a lot of rubbish, where the hell did all that come from?!), this was then covered by the pea gravel, giving me a good surface for my tomato pots to sit on (and hopefully slow done the damned Vine Weed). Rich gave all the windows a good wash down, I hadn't realized how dirty it was was until I saw the colour of the water he was using.

Sunday morning I badgered everyone out of bed at 7.30 to go carbooting with me, Bath has a brilliant weekly carboot, running from Easter weekend till about October, every Sunday and Bank holiday Monday morning (weather permitting of course) up on Lansdown racecourses, its usually pretty big and treasures can be found on a regular basis! By far the best thing about the carboot is the huge amount of people selling plants, most of our veg, fruit and flowers are from here (and Morrison's) another great thing is the sellers are usually willing to haggle if your buying a few plants (I love this!). Yesterday was another huge success on the bargain hunting front:

We got a yellow Broom, a pretty blue plant who's name escapes me, two Hot Peppers, two Moneymaker tomatoes, one Harbinger tomato and one basket tomato and an enamel stew pot, all for the grand total of £8! I almost always end up buying my tomato's from carboots, usually because they are so cheap and because I always forget to sow my own (third year in a row I've forgotten to buy seeds!)

I have just this minuet looked up Harbinger Tomatoes on Google, apparently their pretty hard to find these days but have a really good flavour! Wow that's was lucky, I brought this one and a little Moneymaker of some really old guy who only had the two tomato plants left and only wanted 80p for the two, I didn't want to leave the little Harbinger all on its own so I had to take both of them home to our nice clean greenhouse.

Last year I tried growing my tomatoes in plastic pots filled with grow bag compost on the advice of my Granddad Joe, it worked really well, so I will be doing the same again this year, I have planted some Basil seeds in the pots with the tomatoes too, apparently they are great companion plants and really encourage each other to grow, also Basil is a vital ingredient in my home made tomato soup so I will be need lots of it!
I'm also on the look out for some way of keeping them well watered, I tried a drip feed irrigation system attached to one of the water butts last year but I couldn't get it to work very well, it either flooded the plants or decided to stop working altogether, so I need something a bit more reliable this year, this may require some interwed research I think!

So I manged to get loads done with quite a bit of help (thanks Mum, Dad & Rich!), our greenhouse is now looking like a proper working greenhouse again and not a see though shed!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Weekend Pottering

God damn you April! whats up with the weather!!!

Another tense weekend of me sitting indoors looking longingly out at the rain, I managed to briefly get outside on Sunday but it was really over cast all day, it never quite seemed to get going.

Having said that I did manage to get the rest of our potatoes in (finally) and the ones that went in last month are starting to show through, hopefully I'll be able to squeeze a row of parsnips in with them (I don't like parsnip's, so these are going in on Rich's request!), also my hastily replaced onion set have all come up, the older ones are also looking pretty good.

My Carrot's are now in, I started them off in the green house this year, as every other year I've planted them straight in the ground and that has been pretty disastrous, I think I got one carrot last year. I've wedged them in by the peas (their supposed to be good companion plants) so we'll see how they go.

No new plants this weekend, the money was instead spent on 2 sacks of logs from the farm shop up the road, hopefully we'll have a fully working log burner by next weekend (fingers crossed), and at some point we'll be sorting out a wood store in the garden too so plenty of jobs to keep us occupied for a while!

Friday, 18 April 2008

More Bricks...Again!

I realize I may be slightly obsessed with old bricks, I have somehow ended up with quite a lot of them, mostly in the veg patch, sorry I cant help it they just looks so lovely.

So this week I have actually managed to get in the garden after work for a few hours, I blame this for me being so knackered that I have managed to sleep through my morning alarm 3 times so far this week, thank god it's Friday!
Mostly what we've been going is sorting out is the 2 old sinks that have been happily sporting a lovely crop of weeds up by our shed for the last year or so, finally I'd had enough of looking at them and pressed Rich into action to move the damn heavy buggers. As I have mentioned before our garden is on a fairly substantial slope (I almost killed my Father and Rich's Dad when we moved into our cottage by the shear amount or crap that needed hauling up this 60ft slope) we for this reason have a sack truck in the shed, on those occasions when the various treasures I come home with are to damned heavy to carry up the north face of the Eiger we use this.

Anyway, Rich moved the old sinks (which did make a spirited attempt to crush him to death under a runaway sack truck, luckily hes a strong boy!), they now have a new useful life on the veg patch containing (instead of stinging nettles) a large crop of Rocket (hopefully) and the other full of mixed salad (again fingers crossed), I'm hoping that with a little ring of copper tape round the top of the sinks the slugs and snails will be discouraged from scoffing the lot.
You may also notice the wire mesh on the tops of the sinks, these are our ingenious anti-cat-crap devices!

On Thursday I also finished of the herb bed so now it looks a bit neater, I've replaced the old crappy wood edging with some gorgeous old red facier bricks that Richard's mum gave us, they had been in an unused pile in the garden of the last house they lived in, when they came to move Rich's mum thought it was a shame for them to be wasted so gave us the lot! I think we got about 25 of them all in pretty good nick too, so they are now gracing my herb bed, and they look great next to the brick paths. This also has the bonus of giving me a slightly longer bed so this weekend I will mostly be found perusing the herbs at the garden center.

See I told you I was obsessed with old bricks, I think I may need professional help!

Monday, 14 April 2008


Wow, this is the first time I've been tagged! thanks to the lovely Lucy at Smallest Smallholding, here goes:

What Was I Doing 10 Years Ago?

Bloody hell, 10 years ago, I have trouble remembering what happened yesterday! OK, so 10 years ago I would have been 17, this is slightly worrying in that it doesn't feel 5 mins since then, how can it be 10 whole years?!
17 was not a great time for me, I seem to remember feeling very lost back then, I was finishing the last year of a BTEC diploma in Art and Design, my future was stretching before me like a vast gaping hole of emptiness, I had know idea what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to go. This was also the year my Mum brought home the prospectus for a university in Wales, you see I was pretty sure I didn't want to go to uni. Anyway Mum can home clutching this prospectus, it which she had marked the page for a degree on 'Illustration for Children's Publishing', they might as well have called the degree 'Kat This Is Perfect For YOU'.
So 17 was the year I rushed out a UCAS form at the last possible minuet and scrapped in by the skin of my teeth and thank god I did, the next 3 years were the best of my life, I loved uni and the friends I made there, I also met my lovely Rich so I think the year of uncertainty at 17 was totally worth it as it lead me to making one of the best decision of my life.

My To Do List for Today/Diary of What I Actually Did

What I'd really like to do is weed the veg patch, giving our 30 year old Box hedge a good trim and plant my Rocket seeds in the Belfast sink we dragged into place next to the raspberry canes (there will be pics of this later, hopefully).

I'm writing this on a Tuesday so technically what I did was drag my arse out of bed at 5.30am, run around trying not to tread on the cat, get dressed, cram down some cereal before running out the door at 6.45am, spent a hour in the car driving to Bristol on the M4 and M5 (this should be classed as some sort of extreme sport), spend the whole day designing new wedding cards, before jumping back in the car for another hour at 5.00pm. If I'm not too knackered I might sort out the Rocket seeds tonight, or I might crash in front of the TV instead.

What an exciting life I lead! no wonder I don't go on facebook, what would I say I'd been up to?!

Snacks I Enjoy

I have a terrible sweet tooth, really, seriously bad! I adore chocolate and its a constant battle not to end up the size of a house, it doesn't help that I appear to be a dynamite cake baker (god damn it!). I really love fresh summer fruits, which is why we have so many planted in the garden, I cant wait till we can make strawberry smoothies!

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire

God, where do I start? OK here in no particular order is what I'd do:

1: The boring stuff first, paying off all our debts, student loans, mortgage, both ours and our parents and sisters.

2: Giving the 2 set's of parents a generous amount obviously, this will be to in some way pay back all the support from them over the years, especially while we were both at uni, note to anyone thinking of doing an art degree, there damned expensive!

3: Buying my dream smallholding in south Shropshire, preferably somewhere we can have a water wheel for electricity and a wind turbine, also I really would like to keep pigs (Rich is slightly sceptical about this aspect!)

4: Donate a large amount to UK Cancer Research.

5: Have enough to enable Rich to have some sort of hugely expensive and impractical car (which I would have converted to LPG), just out of interest I'd have a 1950's Landrover running on Biodiesel.

Three of My Bad Habits

You should probably ask Rich as I think I'm perfect! Seriously, I'm pretty hard to live with, I have a rotten temper, I'm very argumentative and I worry unnecessarily about everything. God I'm amazed he stuck around as long as he has!

Five Places I Have Lived

I've only lived in 3 places but give me time, here's the 3:

Shropshire, the place I was born and lived for the first 18 years of my life.

Wales, were I went to uni, I met Rich and we had a little one bed house which we lived in for 2 and half years.

Bath, I've been here for the last 5 and half years, I love living in Bath it really is a beautiful city (mad with tourist in the summer though), when I first moved here we had a great little flat that over looked the city, I was really gutted to leave it but am glad we did as we ended up buying our cottage and I finally got to have a garden. It was totally worth it!

Five Jobs I Have Had

Library Page: I know, just about the geekiest sound job out there right? In my defence I was at collage at the time so it was only a Saturday job, and weekend jobs in Shropshire are a bit spares if you don't want to stack shelves at one of the supermarkets, also it was incredibly well payed for the 5 hours I worked, this job also helped me buy my first car so I cant complain to much.

Making Greeting Cards: This was a sort of freelance business I set up to help me pay for uni, I produced handmade greeting cards and sold them to little independent card shops in Wales and Shropshire, this is how I ended up being a full time Greeting Card Illustrator.

Junior Illustrator: my first job out of uni, I was one of the incredibly lucky ones who was offered a full time job doing what I had trained to do, this job lasted 4 and half years till studio cut backs made me redundant!

Sales Assistant: This was a temporary job after I was made redundant till I could find another Illustrator position, I really enjoyed it actually and the girls I worked with were great but I end up spending most of my wages on clothes!

Illustrator: my current job! I'm lucky enough to work for a really great company.

That's it then, I'd love to tag some others but Lucy has already tagged everyone I would have so just check out her blog or the links in my blog list to see what they say, if anyone fancy's having a bash at this meme then go for it (and let me know how you get on, I love reading these!)

p.s Sorry there's normally loads on pic's on my posts but there is no way in hell I putting any of the very few pictures of me at 17 up, that was a bit of a bad hair year!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Finishing Fences

A bit dull as titles go but that's what we've spent most of today doing, poor Rich was dragged out of bed and made to nail chicken wire to wooden posts, just what you want first thing on a Saturday morning!

The posts for the fence went in a couple of weeks ago but we've been waiting for the green coated wire so we could finally finish it off, its only taken us about 2 years to fence the whole length of the garden, that's pretty quick for us! Here's Rich slaving away in the rain:

I've been growing some climbing nasturtiums and sweet peas in the green house for training up the fence once it was finished, the rain finally stopped about lunch time meaning I could have a happy hour planting out.

Hopefully the nasturtiums will be very prolific, they should be pretty good companion plants to most of what we have it the veg plot, plus we can use the flowers in salads, their quite peppery tasting like watercress.
I also brought a sad looking little mint from B&Q's discount section last Sunday, its had a week in the greenhouse with plenty of water which seems to have perked it up no end, I love buying plants from the discount shelves at garden centers, it somehow feels like you're rescuing them! (or this could just be me justifying spending MORE money on plants, I haven't decided yet).
As Mint likes semi shade (not something we have a lot of in our garden) its now by the greenhouse door where it's shady in the afternoon.

So a pretty busy morning, then we made the mistake of nipping to Morrison's to pick up bits for tea, I now know why Rich goes food shopping without me! I was pretty good though, I only brought one plant and it was one I've been after for a while. It was a Solanum or Climbing Potato, sounds a bit weird doesn't it, it's basically a climber like a honeysuckle but from the same family as the potato, its little white flowers are pretty much the same too. This will also be trained up the new fence.

Then on the way back from Morrison I made Rich stop at Gardenalia, and ended up buying one of these:

So in conclusion I may be poorer but at least my garden looks great!

And lastly before I go, here's a quick shot of our finished fireplace (this is so my parents can have a look at Rich's handy work, I think he did really well don't you Dad?!)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Mouse Thinkers and Other Things

Yes I know, strange title, I'll get on to that in a mo.

Firstly I want to bemoan the English weather (again!), all this crazy snow/frost then sun is really confusing my plants, the poor peas are defiantly looking the worst for wear, fingers crossed they'll make it but just in case I might start some more off in the greenhouse, I usually do this to replace what the slugs get in the early stages anyway. The Tulips are also looking very put out, just when I was enjoying the colour too!

On the other hand the cold turn in the weather has meant that Rich has been a bit more free to do some jobs around the house, as apposed to being bossed around by me in the garden. His latest triumph is the hearth in the living room, we are having our log burner hooked up in about 2 weeks (I cant wait!!!) and according to our fitter we needed to extend the hearth in front (in case burning logs fall out when you open the door and set fire to the carpet, I don't think in the whole 28 years Rich has lived in houses with log burners this has ever happened but whatever!) anyway he did a brilliant job, especially as he basically made it up on the fly, having never done anything like this before. here's the progress so far:

He needs to finish the quarry tiles on the top (yet another fantastic freecycle find!) but so far so good! Clever Rich!
I do realize this isn't technically a garden thing but as its about our log burner which is a better, greener way of heating our house (stick that up your arse British Gas!!) and we will be constructing a log store some where in the garden later on I thought I'd include it, also I wanted to show Mum and Dad a pic of how we're getting on, as they can't come and see it for themselves.

Now a not so quick note about the title...

...our cat Stella is a rescue cat from the Bath RSPCA, we've had her just over a year now and it hasn't been easy at times, she's a little unpredictable (the bitey little bugger!) both of us now sport some lovely scares on our hands and wrist were she's had a go at us, however we've never regretted taking her on, as Rich pointed out she just so damn cute!
There are time's though when it seems (as with most cats I imagine) like a one way street, you feed her, house her, buy her interesting and humorous toys and what do you get back, well bleeding wounds in my case (she likes Rich better than me, this is only because he works from home and feeds her, its cupboard love!) But slowly over the last 18 months she has begun to trust us and realized we are not going to hurt her, she also likes to come and sit next to me when I'm gardening which I love.

This morning however I feel she has sort of proven her worth. Our cottage backs on to open fields so we do get problems with mice coming in for little visits, up until now Stella has always been pretty nonplussed by rodents, she once brought a live mouse into the kitchen and let it go, then buggered off outside again not at all bothered by us running around shouting and trying to catch it with a saucepan.
This morning I let her in as normal then went for a shower, as I was in the bathroom I could hear her thundering around down stairs but as she quite often likes to run circuits around the house for no reason I ignored it, when I was dressed and went down for breakfast though, what should greet me but a dead mouse on the kitchen rug. It would appear that Stell had trotted down stairs and discovered this little bugger right in the middle of HER kitchen, I can only assume instinct kicked in and she dispatched it pretty neatly. Rich said after that she had come up to the bedroom and jumped on the bed meowing at him (which she never does) but being half asleep he'd ignored her. Poor Stella!

I really have nothing against mice, I kept them as pets when I was little so I'm not frightened of them (unlike spiders which are the work of the devil!) but mice in the kitchen around our food is where I draw the line and as far as I'm concerned their far game for Stella. Plus this mouse was a fat little bugger, what ever its been at it really stuffed itself.

Sorry I seem to have turned into one of those annoying woman who talk about their cats all the time, its only because I'm secretly quite proud of her. Stella got lots of tickles and a large bowl of milk, which she obviously prefers to eating mice, Rich said that she'd had a bit of a go though, as she's taken its head off, mmmmm mouse thinkers for breakfast!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Busy Saturdays

Sorry it's been a week since I updated, been busy working and doing house stuff, I was hoping with the lighter evening's (hooray!) I might actually be able to post more often, but not so far!

Anyway, this morning we were at the garden center again (much to Richard's delight), after some reading up on the net I had discovered that the 'Bluecrop' blueberry I brought and planted last week needed another blueberry to cross pollinate, needless to say this was an excuse to run right out and buy another bush! so we nipped out to pick one up.

Luckily they only had one left and it was a 'Goldtraube' which is great for planting with the 'Bluecrop'.

I cant wait till they start fruiting! fingers crossed we'll get a few berries this year but most fruit's need a year or so to settle in, anyway they now have a nice new home at the bottom of our garden.

While we were at the garden center I also picked up a new herb, a 'French Marjoram' don't know to much about these but I like trying out new herbs in the bed and this one is a Mediterranean herb which likes full sun and can cope with a water shortage, apparently it can be used in lots of cooking so I'll give it a try and see what happens.

It's lovely to see that so many things are coming to life in the garden, Richard's rhubarb has finally decided it's not going to die, it was touch and go for a bit as I moved it a few months ago to make room for the peas. We made a forcing pot for it out of an old galvanized bin someone of freecycle gave us, Rich cut a hole out of the bottom and we put it over the crown.

Look, magic!

Am having to stop Rich running out and picking the lot to make rhubarb crumble (his favourite).

The raspberry's are coming along nicely, these are also a first for me although my grandparents used to grow them in their back garden so I have lots of memory's of picking tubs full, I cant wait to do the same with my own. These also came from freecycle (as has the redcurrant bush, the grape vine, the strawberry's and loads of flower cuttings), I'm so grateful to these generous people without whom our garden would be pretty bare!