It was Tuesday so we went to a care home to make Christmas decorations. It’s not quite the jet-set lifestyle which my younger self anticipated, but it’s better than sitting in a bus shelter with a plastic bottle of cider.
We made garlands, table decorations and baskets. No doubt you are now stepping back, amazed, at the breadth of my talents, but that might be a bit premature if I’m honest. I have no talent for floral decoration, I merely have stronger fingers than the average lady of 80 years, so I can set things firmly in the oasis.
It’s actually amazing that two bin bags of garden cuttings (bay, rosemary and holly) and a box of dried poppy heads and statice harvested during the summer can do when added to a selection of second-hand baskets and willow hoops.
Fortunately, Julia and our neighbour Angela, do have some talent with floral decoration so it they made up for my deficiencies and the afternoon passed off without problem.
On the way there we drove through an industrial estate built near woodland, and saw a Jay on the footpath, which I’m always happy to see.
The way back was not so kind to us, with broken traffic lights and a traffic jam. A 30 minute journey took us an hour and a quarter. As I sat in the queue I couldn’t help thinking that life with a bottle of cider could well be less stressful…
Two days ago we had five-year-olds, yesterday we had ninety-five-tear-olds. There isn’t necessarily a lot of difference between them at times, though the older age group is easier to handle as they speak more slowly and don’t run about so much.
They also have better stories.
On the minus side, we have to visit them and this month (for a session on harvesting) we had to work in the conservatory, which is hot and airless at the best of times. Fortunately it was overcast, but even so, I felt relieved to finish, particularly as one of the old ladies kept asking where she was (despite us stopping to tell her every couple of minutes) and nobody offered us a cup of tea. That’s right, nobody offered us a cup of tea. The country is going to the dogs. First we lose the Empire, then we lose our manners and the ability to pronounce certain letters (‘t’ and ‘th’ come to mind). Finally, our tea ceremony (though not so formal as some) seems to be extinct.
Fortunately the Empire has come here, and it has brought a vast array of curry houses with it, so not all change is bad. I’m also growing old, so I’m allowed to be bad mannered and I’m becoming too deaf to bother listening to the inane lisping of footballers and teenagers (did they say ‘four’ or ‘Thor’, you ask yourself?) However, you’re never too old to need tea.
That was actually meant to be a serious post about the joys of working with such diverse age groups, but I was thirsty and I’m never more than a few yards from a rant. (A bit like supposedly never being more than six feet from a rat, though with different spelling).
After the talk we passed the biscuits round. They liked the biscuits. I think they liked the biscuits more than the wheatsheaf loaves, the corn dollies and the fresh vegetables.
There must be a moral in the ability of biscuits to bring happiness.
Though, of course, you can’t attain full happiness unless they give you a cup of tea!
Sunday and Monday we had the Humming Bird Hawk Moth, which was a real lift after four years of trying to establish the sensory/butterfly garden. It has a long way to go yet but it now feels like we’ve made a start.
Yesterday morning we saw a buzzard, just a day after I said to Julia “It must be a month since we last saw a buzzard.” It was perching on a fence post by the side of the A 46 about a mile before we turned off, a rumpled looking darkish bird with strong white flecking. – I suppose you’d call it a dark form if you were being technical, and if you were to look up “disgruntled” in the dictionary I’m pretty sure you would find a picture of this bird if you were being anthropomorphic.
Then, as we drove down the lane, a stoat poured itself across the road less than 10 feet in front of the car. Compared to the buzzard it seemed very sleek and self-satisfied. It was the biggest one I’ve ever seen since 1961, though the one in 1961 probably looked larger because I was only three. I seem to recall that the sun always shone and that butterflies were as big as my hand in those days. Butterflies have shrunk considerably over the years and, to be honest, my disappointment with life has grown in inverse proportion.
In the afternoon, whilst watching the butterflies I managed to find two Commas – one on a fence rail and one on a buddleia about 10 feet away. Couldn’t get a good shot, but the second one was a bit raggy, with a spot of damage on the left wing – I will probably recognise it if I see it again. Also got a good shot of a gatekeeper on a thistle in the polytunnel (a short one that escaped the cull). I’m getting better at little brown butterflies.
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As we watered at the end of the day we startled a Small Copper but couldn’t get a decent shot. We have a picture of one from last year but it it shows too much of my eczema, which doesn’t make for a great shot, unless you need it for a medical textbook.
Yes, it’s a dull title, but read on and all will be revealed.
Today, after helping with the breakfast for the “Breakfast and Yoga” event and ejecting a number of slugs from the polytunnels, I thought it was time to get more serious with this blogging stuff. First search was for Search Engine Optimisation.
I’d remembered it in the very early days, when I managed to get “Green Care” into the first line, but I’ve drifted off course since then. In fact, having just checked Green care Nottingham on Google, I’ve drifted so far I’ve dropped off the edge. If you offer dental care or pet care or run a care home that in any way is greenish you will be mentioned ahead of me. The farm is there on page 3 with the old website but apart from that there’s six pages of nothing to do with us.
Prepare to hear the words “green” and “care” more often.
It was a different story with care farm nottinghamshire. Top entry is the Ecocentre website, second is the old farm website, third is Chesterfield Community Care Farm which is in Derbyshire and has a Sheffield post code (though it mentions Nottinghamshire on its site). At that point I was beginning to worry. Fourth is Care Farming UK and fifth is a Nottingham-based food blogging site written by the second-best blogger in the area. Modesty prohibits me naming the best one…
I am mentioned several times in the food blog, so thanks for that Marcus, you’re actually more attractive to search engines when writing about Care Farms on a food blog than I am writing about Green Care and Care Farms on a Care Farm blog. Not quite sure about this SEO malarky but repeating Green Care and Care Farm in a subtle and contextual manner is, I’m told, a good thing.
I was then offered a free lunch and some friends came to visit, so I lost interest in SEO and started thinking about gardening and life again as we drank mint tea brewed from mint that had been standing inoffensively in the garden thinking of bees and rain, or whatever they think about, less than 10 minutes earlier. It can be a hard life at times, but this wasn’t one of those times.
Sorry, just noticed an omission – I didn’t tell you that this blog is sixth on the list. Not bad, but considering we’re behind a defunct website, a Derbyshire Care Farm and a food blog, I really should do better.
The willow water, for instance, has not proved to be a success. I took two sets of mint cuttings, putting one set in water, and one set in willow water. After around five days the ones in willow water started to look a bit sickly. When I took them out, the bottom couple of inches had been eaten away. I’m going to say that my experiment indicates that standing in willow water doesn’t make mint cuttings sprout roots quicker. The ones in water were much healthier and hadn’t been eaten away at the bottom.
One on the right is Willow water
It might be too strong, as I’ve just seen someone recommending that it should be diluted to half strength. I’m going to try this when I take cuttings on Monday. This time I’ll use rosemary.
I’ve also managed to kill the kiwi berries and badly scorch the tea bushes; it’s just been too hot in the tunnels and I haven’t been active enough in shading things.
Finally (which isn’t the final confession – just the last one I feel like making at the moment) the accidental permaculture bed is having problems. You may recall that we improved half the bed by layering it with pig manure, wood chippings and used paper towels. The half that was treated has grown a massive crop of fat hen, which is now interfering with the beans. The half that wasn’t treated has grown a sparse crop of fat hen and allowed room for self-sown rocket. The beans? So far the runner beans have been uniformly poor due to a week of cold winds that coincided with them being planted out. We probably put them out too soon, but we wanted a good show for Open Farm Sunday.
Broad beans and French beans have been good
Actually – more confessions while I’m in the mood – the New Zealand spinach I used to fill gaps all died in the cold wind and the four-year-old runner bean plant is looking sickly, as are the year one plants (see above comments on cold winds).
My experiment design skills are clearly leaving something to be desired.
However, it’s easy to be negative. And it’s easy to take the wrong attitude about failure.
I don’t want to get into pseudo-science here but I know people who are frightened of failure. To me it’s either of no consequence or it’s a step on the way to something else.
As Edison said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
He has so many quotes on persistence listed that I don’t know how he found time to invent things.
I have failed many times. The failures listed above don’t even begin to cover the mistakes I’ve made. Occasionally I have a night where I can’t sleep and all my failures come back to haunt me, many in painfully sharp detail. A few dead plants don’t even make it into my top thousand failures.
I learned a long time ago that it’s better to think about the future than the past. I’m going to plant beans later next year. I’m going to move the kiwi berries outside. I’m going to design a new willow water experiment.
Not only that, but I’m going to plant wild garlic this autumn, get some peach trees and train standard gooseberries.
I’m going to spread my wings and do a thousand things, including misquoting lyrics from musicals.
And I’m going to concentrate on remembering the things that went well. Like the good beans, or visitors who think we’re doing a good job.
Sorry I’ve been away – we’ve been getting home late, eating, sleeping and stating again to prepare for Open Farm Sunday. In the end, despite the weather, the tent collapse and various other minor troubles, it all worked out well. That shouldn’t be a surprise because things normally do work out well.
In the end we had great weather, plenty of people and two proposals for the farmer. One was from a lady in the Kenya group who proposed during the barn dance and one was from a lady at the Question and Answer session, though she was asking on behalf of her mother. I don’t know what they see in him, though if anyone had been able to put their hands on two cows at the barn dance the whole weekend might have taken on a different aspect.
Due to TB regulations we weren’t able to have cows visiting for the weekend, so we will never know what might have happened.
The scarecrow contest attracted some fine examples and the spoon scarecrow competition managed over 70 entries this year. A lot of people made leaf masks from Woodland Trust print-outs, while others explored the tree that Bea made ( good old Shipshape Arts!) and a number of others ate garden weeds. We also had information from Open Farm Sunday, Kellogg, Frontier and the Home-grown Cereals Authority. All in all it was a good team effort.
I’ll leave you with some photographs for now as I have to get on with some work instead of enjoying myself blogging.
We had twenty kids out today to discuss plant growth, plant seeds for cressheads and make butter.
Due to the regulations and fears around taking photos of kids I can’t actually show you a photograph of 29 smiling faces as I didn’t get the right form signed, but believe me – it happened. This was achieved despite the fact that they had been expecting a day out playing on the farm, not the plants growth/sandwich making brief we had been sent.
It’s a shame I was only expecting 20. It meant that we didn’t have enough compressed paper pots for cress heads, so I had to cut some egg boxes up. At that point I was told that Pupil X has an allergy to chickens, which includes eggs and anything that once contained eggs.
Now, allergies are dangerous, and I’ve been taking some training lately so that we don’t kill anyone in the kitchen, but there is a time and place to be told about allergies. The place is not “here” and the time is not “now”.
Time, I think, to reassess our booking procedures, and to look closely at our communication skills!
Big news of the day is that the tea bushes arrived. For the moment “bushes” might be an expression of hope rather than fact (as you can see from the picture) but I have confidence. As usual I have the plants well in advance of knowing how to look after them. I vaguely remember they need ericaceous compost but can’t remember much else. I should have learned from the Great Gimger Debacle but I didn’t. One day my polytunnel will pulsate with exotic life.
For the moment, in the exotic line, it has nine tea twigs and some sorry looking bits of ginger in it.
We had a birthday party today, launched a massive attack on the garden weeds and planted more seeds. Now that my French beans and multi-coloured carrots are coming up I feel more inspired to plant more. The rhubarb seds are coming up too, but the comfrey has still to appear. We also had three more bookings for school trips – 180 kids, some as young as five, spread over four days. Let’s just say that everyone has their own personal hell. Mine features five year olds. They squeak. They fill each others’ pockets with stones. They don’t listen. And you feel guilty when you threaten them.
That’s all for now – I have to set up for tonight’s visit from the Young Farmers’ Club and then we’re going out for a meal with the kids to celebrate having time to go out for a meal when all four of us are available.
I’ve been looking forward to this one as a milestone, though simply getting to number 100 is no guarantee of quality, or that I’ll have something to say.
This is actually the 103rd post I’ve written for the blog but I’ve sidelined two as not quite fitting in. One was on the evils of cheap toilet rolls, including a discussion on why smaller cardboard tubes may be better for transport but they make planting runner beans more difficult.
The other was about keeping rats out of compost but it spread a little to include other rat-related topics. Before clicking on the link you may like to know that you keep rats out of compost by making it damp enough to be unpleasant. If you have rodents in the compost it means it’s too dry.
We had a meeting in the centre today and two soups for lunch – Leek and potato with thyme, and Nettle and Spinach. Everybody had some of the nettle in the end, though a couple did start off with Leek and Potato to break themselves in gently. Last time we did soup and sandwiches we only persuaded around 60% of people to have the soup even though the choice was Pea and Mint or Vegetable, which are not at all scary compared to Nettle.
With the meeting, the cafe and the allotment group we had quite a crowd. I was supposed to be weeding, sowing more seeds and re-potting as part of our plan for a plant sale. Regular readers (both of them) will recognise this as a prelude to admitting that by the time I’d made extra sandwiches, been ensnared by the cafe, done some weeding, spoken to some parents about coming to our next Kids in the Kitchen day, run an impromptu farm tour and done some paperwork I didn’t do much of what I was meant to do. I did, however, remember to water the plants in the polytunnels. That’s good, because I don’t always remember.
We started the Woodland Trust recording programme today – a programme that is going to see us take monthly readings for the next 25 years. I say “us” but I’m not sure about the chances of me being here in 2040. I’m more likely to be under a tree than measuring one by that time.
Despite this, it’s good to think we’re involved in an activity which may persuade people to start more agroforestry schemes. It may never be a mainstream farming technique but even if only a few people do it as a result of our recording it will make it all worthwhile. How often do you get a chance to alter the world?
We are measuring wind and temperature data in the fields between the rows of apple trees to see how they modify the climate. It’s not as interesting as measuring the height and spread, but you don’t really need to do that every month.
It does you good to think in terms of trees rather than human lifespan. Most of the world’s problems seem to be caused by people who don’t think very far ahead and if we all started planting trees for our grandchildren the world would be a better place.
I planted two trees in the garden a few years ago. I’m not really sure how many years, probably about fifteen. I honestly didn’t plan it too well. They were too close to each other and too close the the boundary fence. When I planted them they were about six feet tall and were meant to be trained in a ballerina shape. The neighbour who gave them to me hadn’t pruned them for a couple of years but I was confident I could get them back to form.
Lesson One: Overconfidence is not a good thing.
Three or four years later, with some lax pruning they were small trees and were growing into each other. As the birds were getting more cherries than we were (one year we literally harvested FOUR cherries) I decided the cherry tree should go.
Lesson Two: Try to vsiualise things as they will be in years to come.
Finally, with some properly structured pruning, I have a very productive plum tree, which is now the source of a dispute with my neighbours. They don’t like it hanging over their garden and they don’t like the plums dropping off and making a mess. I’d actually left the branches on as I thought they might like a few plums and might think I was tight if I cut the branches back. Seems I was wrong.
Lesson Three: A gift of free plums is not always appreciated.