My friend Nyk over on the frugal blog has £60 of Amazon vouchers to give away, pop over to her blog and leave a comment(after taking a VERY short survey to be included in the draw.
Saturday, 28 September 2013
Ever since we moved we have been working towards getting some pigs, this is the only thing we hadn't been able to practice beforehand. We have had the fencing done around the pen for some time, we salvaged an old Belfast sink to use as a trough, and a tyre and bucket to use for water. We rescued and renovated an old pig ark abandoned on the riverbank outside the farm, this saved us a fortune as new ones are over £300.
We bought electric fencing so we could section the paddock off so as to rest and rotate the land, then we waited for our pigs , we waited and waited and eventually came to the realisation that our supplier had let us down. We put out an appeal to smallholding friends and were contacted about some newly born piglets, we went to visit them fell in love and arranged to go back once they were weaned. On Wednesday we made the journey to Grantham to collect them, the loading went without a hitch , and they slept all the way home. Once home they refused to wake up and get out of the trailer , in the end they had to be persuaded out and duly set about exploring their new home.
The bred is Oxford Sandy and Black , also known as the plum pudding pig , they are all boys and will stay with us until January. They are such fascinating creatures and as yet have no names, I was going to name them but realised pretty quickly this was a bad idea . They love apples and we have been foraging the hedgerows for wild ones to supplement their diet, all the veg garden waste we can is going to them too along with their pig nuts (anything to reduce the feed bill). They have gotten to know us quickly and have settled into their new routine easily, pig watching has taken over from chicken and duck watching and they love a good tickle behind the ears. I have to say the pigs arriving has made me feel so content and feel like all our dreams have finally come to fruition. We just love our new life and can't wait to build on our first years progress.
Saturday, 10 August 2013
I bought this plant at an open garden and wouldn't you know it's lost it's label.....It's not just me is it?
Friday, 2 August 2013
When we started to renovate the cottage garden we needed to trim a hawthorn hedge, and a drastically reduce a huge forsythia as well as clearing about 50 square metres of 4 foot tall nettles! Once the space was clear we weren't altogether clear about where to go next as we hadn't realised the space was so big. The only existing plant we kept was a 9ft tall Cardoon, and we took our planting inspiration from that. we had already decided that given that part of the garden was in the shade of the hedge and that once the Forsythia grows back it will be even shadier (there's also a mature Crab Apple tree ) a woodland style of planting would suit the area. When we cut back the hedge we noticed that one of the hawthorn bushes had died and had left an arch shaped gap behind. This gap gave me an idea which made the rest of the family think I was completely mad.....why not put a door in the hedge? The idea was to make it reminiscent of a hobbit hole/ fairy house /enchanted cottage, after the family stopped laughing the ideas flowed forth.
We laid a membrane over the entire are and then spread 6 cubic metres of bark chippings over the top, the door was made from old pallets the number and the handle cost me 80p from the local car boot sale, we then laid some stepping stone 'mini sleepers' (leftover decking boards from the deck project). We are still on the lookout for a lantern style solar light to hang at the door, and I plan to add some fancy gate hinges and a door knocker when we find something cheap enough.
Hubby and youngest son then made some hand carved rustic fungi to dot around the area, I really love them and they have enjoyed doing them.
All of the plants were bought at the local nursery from the reduced trolley, mostly ferns and white hellebore's which were 50p each. These were planted through the bark and membrane and will be joined in spring by snowdrops,wood anemone's and Solomon's seal. The total cost of the garden was about £150 and that was mostly for the woodchip, strangely the plants were the smallest element.
This little chap is a bronze otter which seems to fit with the 'tales from the riverbank' theme (I promise no plastic gnomes will be appearing), he has been in all of my gardens but never been as well suited as now. I hope you like the garden and none of you think I am mad!
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
I was recently lucky enough to attend a willow weaving workshop held at a friends, it was a gloriously sunny day back in May . Four students arrived and were greeted with refreshments and introduced to each other, the three ladies were local and the only chap came all the way from near Grantham. We made our way out in the courtyard garden, and our tutor Alison Walling of Lincolnshire Willow gave us a potted history on the willow industry in Lincolnshire. Alison's passion for reviving this lost craft is evident in the way she speaks about every aspect of her craft, Alison grows and rejuvenates willow as well as weaving with it .She also teaches individuals and groups of all ages and is a qualified garden designer too.
The morning was spent learning the basic weaving technique, we then proceeded to make a willow obelisk it was very enjoyable but hard on the thumbs! By lunchtime I had made this:
I am really pleased with how it turned out, the sweet peas growing up it should be flowering any time. I really enjoyed the process and would have no qualms about trying it again myself, Alison also gave us tips on how to harvest willow from our hedgerows in order to source our own materials locally. After a delicious lunch of soup, quiche, salad, homemade bread and cheese (followed by apple crumble), we had the choice between making a trellis or a border hurdle. We all chose to do a trellis, this was much more fiddly than the obelisk but mainly as I decide to turn mine into a heart shape rather than a square!
Alison's patience knows no bounds, and she gave encouragement and praise frequently. My trellis has been hung behind my herb trough,I decided not to grow anything up it but to enjoy it as a work of art in it's own right. Both pieces will be treated with linseed oil and stored in the dry over the winter, this should ensure they last for a few years .
If you fancy having a go yourself check out Allison's forthcoming courses, I will be attending the rib frame basket course in September and am thoroughly looking forward to it.
Saturday, 13 July 2013
Back in June I was lucky enough to go along to a wildflower identification workshop held by Mark Schofield of The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Mark heads up a project called Life on the Verge. He manages and trains groups of volunteers in order to survey the varieties and quantities of native wildflower species growing on the roadside verges of Lincolnshire. It was a lovely sunny day when we attended Red Hill SSSI nature reserve near Asterby on the limestone ridge known as the Lincolnshire Wolds. We ventured down a very steep, winding track to Badger Farm where we were given refreshments and then a presentation about plant families. After more refreshments we began walking back up the steep track stopping frequently to identify plant, at one point we wondered if we would ever leave the plant rich habitat at the bottom of the hill.....also known as the car park. Mark's knowledge and enthusiasm was amazing, he frequently spotted plants and grasses, fell to his knees and explained which family they belonged to and their common and Latin names...all without the aid of a book! Once we reached the summit we crossed the road and headed onto the reserve proper, we sat and enjoyed our picnic lunches with an amazing view of south Lincolnshire. By the end of the day we had worked our way back to the farm and were given more refreshments, It was thoroughly enjoyable and informative day. Mark is looking for volunteers if you live in the area you too could have a free training day and become a surveyor, or if you would like to grow plants for the group they provide everything you need and you can keep some of the plants to start your very own meadow. You can find further information here
Unfortunately I forgot my camera so there are no pictures from that day, but last week a group of five of us headed of to a local Wildlife Trust reserve to put our new skills into practice. Kingerby Beck Meadow is about 10 minutes drive from here but I never knew it existed, we are afterall still new to the area , the reserve consists of five interconnected meadows which slope gently towards a beck. The reserve consists of sandy soils, which become heavier towards the beck. Kimmeridge Clay which underlies the soil is quite near the surface and is exposed in places along the banks of the beck. We counted 59 species of wildflower Luckily on this occasion I remembered the camera!
I also managed to capture some amazing Butterfly and Moth shots, left to right these are a Yellow Shell, Six Spot Burnet and a Ringlet.
We plan to go out to local areas and survey plants on a monthly basis, It is great putting this new found skill into practice. have you learnt any new skills lately?
Saturday, 6 July 2013
After a visit to an inspirational smallholding last year where the lady of the house made a dazzling array of beautiful cordials, I resolved to ditch the shop bought stuff and try to make as many seasonal cordials of my own as possible this year. Finally a warm day arrived, meaning all those elderflowers waving at me from the hedgerows could be harvested ( It's best to harvest them on a warm dry day at noon if possible).
30 elderflower heads (flowers open no brown bits)
50g citric acid(Available in homebrew shops or chemists)
I shook all the flowers to remove bugs, then removed as much of the stalk as possible from the flowers and discarded them
Whilst doing this put water and sugar into a pan and heat until all the sugar is dissolved (keep stirring) Using a peeler remove all the zest from the lemons then slice the lemons thinly when the syrup is boiling pour it over the lemon slices,zest and flowers in a large bowl (I use a small bucket used for homebrew) then stir in the citric acid Cover with a cloth or lid and leave for 24 hours.
The next day I strain and decant into plastic screw top bottles (I use the 500ml fizzy drinks ones) then I freeze the cordial. To serve I add fizzy water and ice, very tasty a bit like old fashioned lemonade with a hint of something herbally. The cordial is very refreshing on a hot day and its's also very nice added to sparkling wine :)
I am also experimenting with rose petal cordial using the recipe here the recipe takes a little bit longer so will report back when its finished but for now the kitchen smells divine! These two will make up the first of many cordials destined for the pantry, before then I must stock up on sugar.