Monday, 30 March 2009

Season Corner

Okay, a quick post just to display our cleaned up nature table

and our new Season Corner.

I have been wanting to set up a proper Season corner for a while so pleased to have finally got it done. Quite pleased with how it looks with some seasonal books and flowers. I have added some of the bits I have knitted for Imogen too, although she wants some of them to play with still so they may not stay there.

I have finally got around to finishing the flower girl. I have done a Daffodil Child so far for Spring, but have others in the planning stages for other Seasons. She is knitted and stuffed with sheep's wool and has flowers on her hat and is holding a handmade felt daffodil. I'm really pleased with her.

And finally just a picture of Imogen's calender helping her understand the changing seasons too. She loves writing the days on it and ticking the boxes for what the weather is like for the day.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Herb Spiral is now finished, awaiting planting

The return journey to re-do the herb spiral. Mostly photo's as it's described enough in the previous post. We are happier with it now it has more height. I have marked out the N, S, E and W directions too. We will let it settle before planting, so looking forward to that next stage.

The other major work at the allotment this weekend was Alex and my Dad digging out another unwanted tree to create more bedding space and the area for our pond. We had a lovely pond liner (rigid type) on the plot when we got it so we just have to use it. We are going to place it at ground level and raise the soil around it so there are banks up to the pond. We are also going to incorporate a boggy area for some plants that like those conditions. Now to look into what edible plants we can grow in the pond. We already have a frog resident on our plot housed under some old carpet and pipes so he will be happy soon and then he can munch on the slugs for us.

Here's our frog, not long now Mr frog and you will have a pond.

And here's a picture of one of the slow worms we have on the allotment.

And just to finish off, here is our Pear tree in bud and it's looking fantastic.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Lovely Mothers Day

Today I received a lovely Mothers Day card from my daughter - homemade with her Daddy. It's beautiful and will be treasured, she has written all the words herself with a little guidance. She just loves writing at the moment.

After breakfast I gave her a gift - the waldorf doll I had made recently. She loved it and asked if she could come out with us for the day. I was very pleased as she hasn't shown much interest in dolls, but this one seemed to have more impact, maybe because Mommy made it or because it is so cuddly and soft (as Imogen put it).

Once we were all ready we were off in the car to Weald Down Open Air Museum.
It was a lovely sunny day so great to go somewhere outdoors and see so many great things. We saw many crafts that we were being performed, including Stonemasons carving, Ironmongers making nails and a man using a Pole Lathe.

We saw lots of animals including the working Shire Horses, many sheep with their baby lambs, noisy geese, cattle and lots of chickens We stopped in many of the historic buildings to see what they had on display, some date back to the 13th Century. We saw the 17th Century Water Wheel grinding wheat to produce stone ground flour they sell (we bought a bag a grain to feed the ducks later). We saw a lady demonstrating what toiletries people made years ago with plants from their garden - shampoo, soap, etc which was interesting.

We stopped for a picnic lunch with 3 lovely looking free range chickens wandering around, in between being chased by a couple of little boys. Imogen wanted them to come and eat the crumbs she dropped for them, but they weren't to eat Mommy's bag!

In another barn they had some lovely country crafts on display including a lady spinning yarn using a drop spindle, something I'd love to do sometime - we have lots of raw organic sheep's fleece wool at home. We saw wood carvers, spinners, leather crafts, rope knitting, corn and wheat crafts and lacemaking.

Weald Down is a lovely place to visit and we had a great day out. They were giving Mothers a bunch of Daffodils so Imogen collected some to give to me, which was nice and they went on the Season Corner when we got home. Our final thing to do was to feed the grain to the ducks, and the large fish in the pond were gobbling it up too. We had great fun throwing the grain in.

We set off home, being serenaded by Imogen singing nursery rhymes and chatting about all the things we had seen and done. Great memories.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Another day at the allotment

So our Saturday morning (21st March 2009) was again spent at the allotment. Today's main task was creating a herb spiral. Alex cleared the area which was very neglected - lots of rubbish, bits of carpet, and of course brambles. The area was pretty clear when Imogen and I arrived there.

I did a bit of weeding first around the asparagus bed - we were very pleased to see a couple of spears poking up out of the ground. The asparagus bed was planted up in October 2008 so it will be a while before we're eating it, but it's great to see it growing.

Alex relocated a slow-worm and work commenced on building the spiral. As is our philosophy on these things, the herb spiral was being created by re-using items we had. This was mainly using bricks that were on the plot and empty coffee jars that we'd been saving to use as an edging for something - so the spiral seemed like a good use for them. We also re-used a lovely sink that was on our plot when we got it, so we could say there was everything on our plot including a sink, although not the kitchen sink! This is being used as a small pond at the bottom of the herb spiral.

So first the sink was put into place and I started constructing the "walls" of bricks and jars and adding soil to the mound to create the heap. And it looked like this when finished. We built it quite quickly and then thought it could do with a bit more height so it was re-done this last Saturday (28th March 2009) and was quick to re-do. Much happier with it now. It now needs to be left for a little while for the soil to settle before planting up. I have placed 4 brown beer bottles (good excuse to have a beer!) as the markers for North, South, East and West and I will paint on them sometime so visitors to the plot can clearly see their purpose. So here's a picture of it finished before planting.

Herb spirals have a long association with Permaculture - a great interest of ours. They provide different conditions that suit different herbs - a bit of shade, more direct sun, etc. You can see more information here, here and here.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Okay so this post is going to give some background on our allotment. We put our names down for an allotment and was told that the waiting list was approximately 3 years at present! That was early in 2008 if I recall correctly(think I'll check with the Alex later). Alex had mentioned to them that we didn't mind hard work and were really keen to expand from growing in our garden to growing on an allotment.
So in March 2008 Alex just thought he'd contact again to show his keenness again and the lovely lady at the council did say there was one plot available by jumping up the queue as it had been turned down by many people already. A bit of background - it was for plot 92A - half a plot that a lady had given up (she still had 92) because she couldn't manage it. It was totally overgrown and had basically been used for years as a garden rather than an allotment. It was full of shrubs and some trees on the outer edges. Unafraid of hard work Alex said we'd take it and the rest is history. Here's one of the first pictures we took - a bit dark as it was taken in the evening in March 2008.

We started clearing it straight away and found some useful plants - there was a Pear tree (I think it's Conference) and several gooseberry bushes. The gooseberry bushes were relocated to pots for replanting. The Pear produced fruit in the Summer which was great.

So the clearing began
And we finally replanted some gooseberry plants and some strawberries given to my by my Dad.
And continued planting when space was ready and dug over throughout the Spring and Summer.
It was hard work for Alex and he had some great help from my Dad when they visited digging the ground over. There was obviously a lot of weeds - couch grass and mares tail (horror!) so has taken a lot to clear these, and I'm sure we still have work to do clearing them. Notice the big black pot in the middle? That's a 350litre pot we used to house a palm tree in, in the garden. It will be home to a grapevine this year so watch this space. It's going to be buried a bit so that Imogen can plant some plants around the edge of it.

I'll probably fill in the gaps as I go along, but jumping ahead we had some good harvests from the plot considering most of the work was clearing ground in 2008 - we had some strawberries, raspberries, a couple of pears, many many beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, courgettes, achocha's and a few pumpkins. Oh and lots of blackberries. Here's a picture if Imogen picking beans with Daddy

I went on a Permaculture in 5 days course run by Patrick Whitefield in July 2008 at The Sustainability Centre, East Meon. Having already had a basic knowledge and background to permaculture, I thoroughly enjoyed the course and was eager to put into practice things I had learnt there at our allotment, which involved completely redesigning it. It was perfect timing as until now we had just created space and planted up so to have a design was going to transform it. Our design was going to be based on raised beds for ease and to create proper paths. Here are a couple of pictures of how plot 92A is going with beds in.

Much of the redesign and bed building happened in September and October 2008, oh and a shelter was built at the bottom by the beech hedge in August 2008 (Thanks Alex and Dad).
So moving onto October 2008 we were contacted by the council offering us the top plot 92 as the lady had decided to give that up too. We had heard this from a neighbour on the allotment. and considering there was now a stretch of water (The Solent) between her and the allotment it seemed wise that she gave it up. I couldn't really see that she would get the Isle of Wight ferry over to tend her allotment! Another plot neighbour had said he'd not seen her up there doing anything for a good few years anyway - she used to occasionally turn up and have a cup of tea and a read and then leave.

The top plot was a state - just loads of rubbish dumped in it, loads of different containers, although we have found uses for most things so far (re-use, recycle and all that). We have also found some great stuff that will be put to use. There was a wheelbarrow (although not great condition) that is being put to use, a moulded pond liner - another project for this year, some tools including cultivators and hoes, a shed full of stuff and more pots than I could count. I will never need to buy pots again ... or seed trays. Take a look (and this is not all of them!). There were other useful bits too - netting, hoops for cloches, etc.
It's been hard work over the last few months getting this plot cleared to a state where we can plant anything (as well as redesigning the bottom plot), but it's getting there and there are potatoes planted up now. Many trees have been felled or pruned on this plot, some will remain including a lovely palm tree and a 20ft Eucalyptus which is going nowhere - a bit unfortunate as they are very thirsty.

So here are a couple of pictures to compare before and after clearing work on the top plot.
(top plot looking up from 92A - showing palm and trees in background)
(top plot side view - Eucalyptus on right - Hazel tree in the middle and Pampas grass)

And here is a more recent picture, although some more work has been done since then so I will have to update it soon.
And finally here's a picture from the bottom corner of what is now the combined plot 92

Okay so I think that's enough for now. I will fill in the gaps sometime as to the design, and what's been planted or going to planted now, etc, etc.
It's been a great year doing all this and we spend some time up there most weekends. As the planting and picking increases in the Spring and Summer, Imogen and I will go up during the week too. Luckily it's only a 10-15 minute walk from the house - although it is up a great big hill, as Imogen would tell you!
One final picture on a walk around the allotments last Summer - a view down to Southampton Docks and the QE2 berthed, a couple of months before leaving to be a floating hotel id Dubai - see the red funnel (not that I'm a boat spotter!).

Back soon for more tales from the allotment ...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Having finally set up my blog I then didn't find the time to post about much. So what has kept me busy except for daily life and my very active daughter?
Well the beautiful Spring weather has meant there was no better time to get outside in the garden and up the allotment (although we've been going up there all Winter anyway). More onion sets planted and most of the potatoes we are growing are now in the ground. A few will go into tyre stacks once we've set them up.

The green manure planted over the winter is doing well and will need digging in soon. Alex has been busy clearing the overgrown top half of the plot that we gained in October/November. I think I'll do a separate post about the history of our overgrown allotment another day.

I've also been busy spending some time doing crafts. I have finished my Waldorf Doll and am very pleased with it as a first attempt. I mainly used online sites for patterns and inspiration here and here. She is approx 12 inches, her body is a bit rotund as the fabric I used was a little bit too stretchy. I have since bought some better stockinette and can't wait to get started on another one - this time I am going to do a 16 inch one. I also have the Maricristin Sealey book - Making Waldorf Dolls so will get the size right for this doll. Here is Hermione, a name I really like, and I shall be giving this to my daughter on Mothers Day. I hope she likes it.

I have also spent some time making a Mothers Day card for my mom which I posted to her today as I won't see her until after Mothers Day.

Other crafts I have been doing include some knitting. I was playing with a pattern for a knitted coat for a doll and tried to re-size it for this doll but it has come out too big. I think it will probably fit a 16 inch doll though so will keep it for the next doll.
I also knitted a little chick hatching out of a knitted egg which my daughter is loving playing with. I have knitted many novelties for her - bees, ladybirds, birds and mostly some Christmas things (will post some pictures some time). Here is the little chick

My other knitting is some flower children but I still need to do some bits with felt before I can post a picture of them.

Anyway today has been another beautiful sunny warm day. Imogen has had a lovely morning at Tumblebugs and a quick trip to the library before wandering around the local market on our way home for lunch. So I think that's enough to post about today but I am hoping to try and post more regularly from now on ....

Monday, 2 March 2009

First post

So I have finally got around to setting up a blog, something I have wanted to do for a while. Of course now I don't know what to write! I'm just getting over a bad cold and coughs so looking forward to spending more days outside now Spring has arrived. Enjoying the sunshine and the longer days already. Today I have washed some raw sheep's wool and it is currently outside drying in the sunshine.

It was great to enjoy the sunshine so I took a couple of photos of our daffodils.
The rest of the day has been spent playing with my daughter.