Tag Archives: compost

Memoirs of a Book-Buying Man

I was a bit sluggish this morning, and ended up watching Saturday Kitchen. It featured the most over-the-top recipe I recall seeing. It was presented by John Torode this morning. I’ve no doubt he’s a good chef, but he’s not in my list of top presenters. Looking on the bright side, at least he didn’t have Greg Wallace with him. I still haven’t forgiven Wallace for the vegeburger recipe in this book. The book is a bit of a fraud really – it’s a spin-off from his series and it has his picture on the cover but it’s actually written by someone else.

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man arrived this morning and I made a start. It’s easy reading and fifty pages soon slid by. It’s about 15 years since I last read it and I’m looking forwards to it. Fortunately Julia was out when it arrived.

After that I took a trip to the garden centre with one of the neighbours to help her pick up eight growbags and a bag of farmyard manure. It was a lovely day, and nice to be out in the open air, though it’s frustrating to see the lack of seeds and tools in what is essentially a massive garden-themed gift shop. It seems to be the way of things these days.

Fortunately I didn’t need any seeds or tools today so I just poked about in the plants and looked some Swedish Fire Logs. I’ve never seen them before though they have been around since Swedish troops used them in the Thirty Years War. That’s about 400 years ago. It seems unlikely they just thought of it then, I suspect that they knew about it way before that, but the image of soldiers camping in the snow with cloaks and plumed hats is probably more commercial than the thought of a smelly woodcutter hunched round a burning log.

After that I struggled round Sainsbury’s shopping for the evening. It didn’t quite go according to plan because there’s a group of House Sparrows in the corner of the car park. It’s very restful watching sparrows dust bathing.

The second unplanned aspect was the slipping of my leg bag as I walked round the shop becoming gradually more and more uncomfortable. Finally I had to make a temporary adjustment in the car park. It provided some relief, and restored my capacity to walk, but it could have led to all sorts of unfortunate consequences if I’d been observed.

That’s about it for now.  Time for more George Sherston.

 

 

The Egg and Spoon Race

After moving sheep and collecting eggs we had a talk about compost, aided and abetted by Farmer Ted the agricultural bear. We like compost. Well, to be accurate, we like composting. We’re not too fussed about actually spreading it because it seems like a waste.

If I could incorporate it into a recipe I’d be happy, as well made moist compost always reminds me of a nice, rich Christmas cake, and the drier sort reminds me of Grape Nuts, but I suspect I’m in a minority.

We then went on to the Easter Egg and Spoon Race Championship, where there seemed to be a lot of winners. I suspect political correctness was at work here. Even I was allowed a share of the chocolate (though I only had a modest portion) despite allegations of cheating. As you can see from the photographs, the diet has a long way to go so a few grams of chocolate isn’t going to do much damage.

For the record I took part in three races, being disqualified from each one (obstruction, shirt pulling and use of sellotape). Strikes me that people just don’t take Egg and Spoon racing seriously enough.

Making the most of adversity

Another day, another problem…

I know I ought to be talking in terms of challenges, solutions and lemonade at this point, but it’s difficult to see an upside right now.

I’m looking for my car log book. I don’t know about the rest of the world (Americans, for instance, seem to carry them in the car every time I see a traffic policeman ask for one.) In the UK there are two general reactions to being asked for your log book – smugness from the organised people who know where they are and panic from people like me.

I’ve had the car eight years. I can’t always find things after eight minutes. I need it this afternoon when collecting my new car or things become more complicated. First port of call was the filing cabinet where my wife puts things.

Yes – “puts things”. Her filing makes a pack rat look like an obsessive compulsive

An hour later I’m no closer to finding the log book, but I have hit a rich seam of out-dated bank statements so tonight I will be shredding. And so, as this episode closes I can at least say that when you have paper – make compost.

Monday Miscellany, posted on Tuesday

We had a strange day at the farm yesterday. With nobody in we managed to force our firstborn into action and shifted quite a lot of work. This was despite frequent visits from a variety of people. I wasn’t allowed to talk to them because I’m considered a trifle direct when people stop me working, so I was able to brew mint tea, make the nettle soup for today, restructure the herb bed and plant the new beans after the problematic start to the “Bean Trial”. More of that later.

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Mint Tea

 

Sorry if the tenses seem a little strange in that paragraph, it was originally written yesterday but will be posted today, which was tomorrow when I wrote.

Julia spent half the day explaining what we were doing, what the statues were, what was happening on Open Farm Sunday and how to enter the Scarecrow Competition. She’s very good with people.

I’m good with tools of destruction, a talent which came to the fore when we got home. The laburnum tree, which had been leaning at an increasing angle over the last few months (coinciding with the time erection of next door’s new fence, though I am pointing no fingers here) had finally given up its struggle with gravity.

They don’t look like much but I can assure you there’s a lot of wood in a laburnum, particularly when you’re  using a pair of loppers and a pruning saw. The worst is over now ad I’ll be able to get on with pruning the plum, which is why I’d originally gone into the back garden.

I’ll miss it because laburnums have featured in my life since I was about 6 and we moved to a house with one in the garden, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good and I have plans now that we have a new patch of unshaded patio. Think “heated greenhouse”.

As for the “Bean Trial”,  it hasn’t worked out well. You may recall that we filled half a bed with compostable material and left the other half plain. I then added an “X” shaped frame and planted two Firestorm beans at the base of each cane. The half of the bed that was prepared with organic material definitely showed better germination and growth, but then nearly all the shoots disappeared. On digging holes to plant replacements I found many more beans which had germinated then been eaten.

We’ve also done a Health and Safety trial with the ends of the canes. The Mark I – Coke bottle and gaffer tape is big and clumsy and tends to fall off. The Mark II – plastic protector was too small for the cane so became a Mark III using a slit and gaffer tape. The unmodified protector still works for most canes and at 12 for £1 is a good investment. Better than a poke in the eye, as they say.

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Mark I

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Mark III

 

So, organic material is good, slugs are bad and beans that are two years past the date on the packet will still grow well. Hopefully the new plants will survive and we can start to measure the crop we get from the two sides.

However, nothing is certain in life so we will just have to see.

Seeds, salads and soil

Having been seduced by exotic seeds and tempted by Twitter I’m now getting back to the straight and narrow. I’m going to grow salads and help my fellow man. If these salads can include bamboo shoots and the helping can be done via Twitter I will, of course, be a very happy man but if not, it’s back to basics.

This is why we started Quercus Community. It was meant to be about working in the open air, growing good food and making compost. Well, it wasn’t originally about compost but give a man access to garden waste and animal manure and there can only be one result.

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When I worked in the antiques trade simply breathing the air of an antique shop was enough to calm me down, in this new life I find that compost works the same magic.

Meanwhile, I have been suffering stress from both Twitter and the computer, one being fixed by the application of a sense of balance, and th eother being fixed by a pen knife. It’s probably best not to ask about that repair.

And yes, I did have to thing long and hard before selecting the three “s” words in the title…

 

 

Behind every successful man…

You wouldn’t think one small woman could contain so many orders but by the time she’d finished I had a list big enough to see out my Saturday, which is why I’m sitting down at just after four to finish the day. It’s not been the longest of working days, but it is Saturday and a chap expects a bit of slack.

I’ve bought compost, potted, repotted, sown seeds, weeded and swept up. I’ve tidied, moved things, made compost, picked rhubarb and watered. I did find time for a cup of tea and to show off my new “tea plantation”, talk to a keen new volunteer (I’ll soon turn her into a cynic) and er…

That reminds me, I seem to have missed lunch. I knew there was something I’d forgotten.

If I call it a diet I can feel virtuous. And hungry.

My nettle crop is looking good – enough tops for a good soup and enough mature leaves to start drying for tea. Unfortunately The Farmer and his farmer’s brain have noticed them and told me to eradicate them. This calls for either blackmail or distraction tactics. I will apply my thoughts to the problem.

This was the weather this afternoon just before the rain. Not quite as good as it has been and there’s a definite bite in the 25 kph wind – good job I decided not to jump the gun with the planting out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems like progress

Now that it’s settled we’ve edged the keyhole bed (well almost…), planted it and watered it.

As you will see from the photograph and the “well almost…” my calculation of the circumference based on 2 pi r is slightly at fault. I think it’s the radius that’s at fault rather than the calculation but it’s a bit annoying and calls for another trip to the Poundshop tomorrow morning. Once that’s in place we can start adding more soil. All we need to do is find the soil – it seems a bit of a cheat to buy more when we’re trying to be sustainable but you can’t grow veg in poor soil and principles. We’ll be talking about that tonight I suspect.

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As for the watering, we’ve transplanted some veg from other places so it looks like it’s established and they needed quite a lot of water to help them get over the shock. If only I’d known it was going to rain this evening I wouldn’t have carried quite as many cans. 

We’ve even started to refill the compost heap.

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The trench left from fitting the biomass heating system to the farm cottages (which has been the subject of some discontent over the last two months) is now filled and the equipment has also been used to put tarmac down at the back of the centre so we don’t look like a building site any more.

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All in all it’s looking like progress, and when you add the weeding and tidying we’ve also done today, and the fact that I’ve been able to tick eleven jobs off my office list I’m going home tired but happy. I’ve also taken a booking for a cookery group and agreed the catering for a meeting this weekend – eight people, one requiring gluten free sandwiches, and all keen to try nettle soup!

Finally, I saw my first swallow of the year this morning and as we left the allotment tonight a female kestrel circled round us at head height. Where else can you get that sort of job satisfaction?