Sunday, 28 February 2010

Lovely Gardenmama giveaway

A lovely giveaway to welcome the arrival of Spring over on Gadenmama's blog. Beautiful items made from natural wood and fibres from Natural Suburbia blog to win.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Buying Seeds

I don't need to buy any seeds right now but I do enjoy perusing the catalogues at this time of year and dreaming of the things I want to grow. This year we have all the seeds we need (I think) so I thought I would share with you my favourite places to obtain my seeds, some of these may be new to you so it will be great to introduce you to them as a potential new customer.

Firstly, it would be my own saved seeds. This is something I am quite passionate about and have done more seed saving over recent years. It's really not that hard and you get the plants you want by collecting seeds from varieties that you like and that have worked well for you.

I like to buy organically raised seed, I don't see the point in growing organically if the seeds you use were not produced organically. I also would never buy GMO seed or F1 hybrids. You can't collect seeds from F1 hybrids and be sure of what you'll get as you don't know what the seed company used as the parents. They are also bred using chemicals rather than the old fashioned way of hand-pollinating, so that puts me off them, and they are always so expensive for very few seeds. No, I prefer to get seeds that are more "natural" and often more of the heritage varieties.

So, my top places for buying seed are:

Organic Catalogue - the catalogue of GardenOrganic, also affiliated with the Heritage Seed Library and although I'm not a member at the moment I think they are good too - have picked up their seeds at seed swap events in the past.

Real Seeds - the people at Real Seeds are fantastic, they aren't certified organic as they refuse to go through the bureaucracy of applying to be certified and paying the expensive fees. They can, however, guarantee their seeds are produced organically and they grow the seeds themselves so they know they will work. Great for unusual varieties and they provide you with information on saving your own seeds for the varieties you buy from them. There is also a download-able leaflet on their website about saving your own seed - a great little resource.

Tamar Organics - organic seed at very good prices. No pictures in their catalogue - all online, but always excellent quality seeds and some good bargains in their bargain basement part of the online store too.

Thomas Etty - heritage seeds, some lovely varieties available.

Plants of Distinction - fabulous selection of varieties, some very unusual ones. So many varieties of tomatoes.

Beans and Herbs - another organic seed supplier- mainly beans and herbs (perhaps obvious from their name), but they also do other vegetable varieties, organic sprouting seeds, and organic green manure seed. Many, many varieties of beans. They often attend a seed swap event we support.

One company I have seen at shows is Green Seeds, although I have not bought their seeds they are organic and a small family firm which is something I like to support so may well buy from them in the future. Specialising in vegetables and herbs.

There are many more seed merchants, some offer some organic seeds such as Chiltern Seeds who produce a lovely little catalogue of their vegetable seeds, some heritage varieties too. The other more well known seed merchants (Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, Kings, etc) also have some organic ranges, but not enough for my liking so I stick to the ones above.

You know that feeling when you think you have missed someone out? My mind is blank though so maybe I haven't.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Spring sightings

beautiful Snowdrops

More sightings of Spring as we visited our local open farm at the weekend. Lots of snowdrops and a few crocuses too.

crocuses amongst the snowdrops
In the pig poke were some lovey 2 day old piglets with their Mama Snowflake.

Snowflake (mama pig) and her new piglets

In the barn and the fields were several Spring Lambs, including this one which was also only 2 days old. Here he is wearing a knitted jumper for some extra warmth, this was taken off later as the day warmed up.

Dorset Horn Sheep and baby lamb in jumper

Watching this little lamb, I realised that there comes a point when you are a wool spinner when you recognise many breeds of sheep in the fields, and farms; and then you recognise that this is a Dorset Horn lamb wearing a jumper of spun and knitted Jacobs wool. How do I know? Well it's a lovely wool to spin and knit with - and this little lamb's jumper looks very like my scarf, don't you think?

my scarf (for comparison)

Here are the Jacobs lambs we saw too - they really are a favourite sheep of mine, but I hear they are a bit "naughty" and run off in the opposite direction when the farmer tries to round them up, and this encourages the other sheep to follow suit. My kinda breed of cheeky sheep.

Jacobs lambs
with their mama's

Oh and a couple of lovely Robins popped over as we were feeding the ducks, so we left a little for them on the posts too.

So with these new sightings, I kick myself more into action for some sowing of seeds in the garden, more of that in another post this week.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Book of Idle Pleasures - alternative book review!

The Book of Idle Pleasures - Tom Hodgkinson

We have borrowed this book from the library lately and may try and pick up a copy sometime. If you are a fan of Tom Hodgkinson's other books, this is a nice "coffee table" book to look through. Most of the ideas aren't new but an entertaining read.

Here's Imogen's thoughts on the book

... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Lovely seedlings of Lettuce, Mizuna and Spinach waiting to plant out. Lots more sowing of seeds this next couple of weeks, and soon lots to do outside.
 mizuna and more spinach to replenish winter plants

 more lettuce awaiting planting space 

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Gruffalo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My little girl read The Gruffalo to me yesterday, all the way through and only needed help with the word "frightfully". How cool is that. A lovely warm feeling in my heart. She then read it to Daddy before bedtime. She is reading it to her teddy bears as I type this. Actually I've just videoed her reading it ... lovely.

Today we went to the local library for a story time and an activity session reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. After the reading of the book, Imogen made a hungry Caterpillar and a beautiful butterfly ...

Caterpillar and butterfly

... and then all the children went out into the library garden to release balloons with notes on for people to contact the library if they find it. The finder and the child who let the balloon go which is found will win prizes. Imogen had great fun and keeps wondering where her balloon might land.

release the balloonsthere they go
(although one got stuck in the tree)

Environmental limits of economic growth ... video

Just had to post this, Alex found this via the Permaculture Magazine. Very simple but with a big message.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Bookshelf Inspiration anyone?

You may know if you read a previous post that I am moving and re-organising the bookshelves in our home at the moment. It's been a slow process and has had a couple of interruptions but we're getting there.

We love books in this house and have a varied collection of them. I always think a home full of books is a great place to be - for inspiration, and to sit and relax with a good book.

Now wouldn't it be nice to make displaying the books a little more creative? You're wondering where I am going with this post aren't you? Bear with me, it's cool. I've seen various images of creative bookshelves in the past, often on flickr such as the ones where the books are displayed in a way that similar colours are together so it looks like a rainbow.

I've seen creative bookshelves in all sorts of shapes too and they look great.
But how about this ...not strictly a bookshelf but wow, and do you think it is art?

a book room?

Pillar and staircase

Although it's not that practical if you want to get a book out to read it, you'd also need a large space to create it and I'm not sure I would want to climb these stairs to get a book either, but how cool are they.

They are the creation of Tom Bendsten, take a look at his other works here, I really like the "arched" one too where the hole is cut into the wall .

Lavender knitted hearts

Here's a picture of the lavender hearts I knitted and Imogen helped me stuff with dried lavender flowers from the garden. There are a couple around but only managed to find this one for the photo.

lavender stuffed heart

I also glued a single one on a card for Alex for valentines day and sewed the word love on it too with some lovely yarn.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Happy valentine, Happy Chinese New Year of the Tiger, happy Sunday.

Today Imogen is recovering from a sickness bug from the last couple of days but is eating better to day. We have had a day of making things (pictures later when I have the camera) and watching DVD's.

Alex is representing Southampton Allotments and Gardening Association at the Seed Swap in town today. It's being held this year at our favourite place to go for lunch and a coffee - The Art House serving lovely food using organic, local and fairtrade ingredients. It's also a lovely showcase venue for arts, etc. Run not for profit, mainly by volunteers. I visited yesterday while he stayed home with Imogen and picked up a few seeds in the swap - mostly heritage ones they were donated to the seed swap from Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library

A quick visit to the library and then I decided I'd like to take a little something home for Imogen. I picked up a set of half-price figures in the Disney shop from the film "Up!" which we haven't seen yet but will do soon now it is out on DVD.

So, today we have made some sticking pictures with all sorts of things - glitter, old cards, magazine cut-outs, etc. I knitted a few quick hearts and we have sewn them and stuffed them with dried lavender so they look and smell lovely. Alex has the camera so will take a picture and add it later. We have watched Nightmare before Christmas on DVD and are now currently watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the one with Johnny Depp, although we have the original too)

Friday, 12 February 2010

It was 70 years ago today ...

When there was the nationwide call to "Dig for Victory". Yes would you believe it was 12th February 1940 when The Ministry of Food introduced food rationing and called on the nation to grow food in their gardens or get an allotment.

Dig for Victory posters

The Imperial War Museum in London has an exhibition opening today until 3 Jan 2011 so I'd love to go along sometime this year to see it.

"To mark this event Imperial War Museum London is opening The Ministry of Food,
a major new exhibition to show how the British public adapted to a world of
food shortages by ‘Lending a Hand on the Land’, ‘Digging for Victory’, taking up the
‘War on Waste’, and being both frugal and inventive on the ‘Kitchen Front’.
Visitors will discover that growing your own food, eating seasonal fruit and
vegetables, reducing imports, recycling and healthy nutrition were just as topical
in 1940 as they are today."

(extract taken from here )

more dig for victory posters

This sounds like something Alex and I would enjoy and I'm sure there would be something to interest Imogen. Maybe a trip to London should be in the planning, we could include the National History Museum or something similar too.

I also found this link on the BBC site today - a lovely audio slide show tour of the exhibition -

I don't know how you add in videos on a blog post, but here's a little video from the day in 1940 on You Tube.
(edited to add - hey I can add a video, oh there's no stopping me adding video's to posts now)

Thursday, 11 February 2010


A few months ago Imogen started learning some French words which she thought was great fun and has retained quite a few of them too. We picked up the book at a charity shop a long time ago as it appealed to her (full of words when she started learning to read words), and then one day decided she wanted to know what they were. The book also covers German and Spanish but one step at a time. I think we have another French one too somewhere, and her Auntie bought her a storybook in French last year so no doubt we'll be looking at that sometime too.

European dictionary

She confidently knows many of the words - hello, goodbye, please, thank you, morning, afternoon, night; some words for shapes, clothes and various other things. She can also put simple sentences together - What is your name?, My name is Imogen, I live in ____, and can count to 1 t0 10 in French and remembers some other numbers too.

reading her book

This week she has been looking at it and when I asked her if she wanted me to read some words for her, she said she was going to have a go herself now she can read. It's great watching her as she first reads the English word and then works out the french word, and is asking when she gets stuck with one, some aren't easy because of the different way words are formed and sound but this isn't dissuading her, she's having fun.

I'm sure I'll soon be finding them written down somewhere soon too.

Anyway, this isn't getting my shelves moved and sorted is it. Just wanted to post and share this new activity.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Do you chit?


Here are some of ours chitting and awaiting the warmer soil. My Dad grows lots of potatoes but we like to grow a few, this year we are growing them solely in tyre stacks at the back of the garden rather than taking up space at the allotment best used for other crops. If it's a dry Summer they are more likely to get a watering from the water butts at home more regularly than at the allotment too.

Our organic seed potato choices this year are Arran Victory (maincrop) and the absolute best potato I have ever ever tasted (can you tell I love these); and Cosmos 2nd Earlies. We shall be attending a local Seed Swap event this weekend and may well return with another variety from one of the vendors there.

Arran Victory organic seed potatoes

I've read many articles on whether it's worth chitting or not, and have tried various methods of growing potatoes - chitting, not chitting, growing without planting the seed potato. I have to say I don't think there is much difference so it doesn't hurt to chit, especially when you have the seeds now and the soil isn't quite ready for them.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Spring clean and re-organising bookshelves

Parts of our home just aren't working right at the moment so we are in the middle of re-organising where things are going including our numerous bookshelves that are just not being used appropriately at the moment. I was hoping to share some pictures of our bookshelves like these bloggers Jacqui , Shell and Pippa - but my shelves are not just full of books, but also of other things that shouldn't be there. So, they are on the move and being tidied and organised, so maybe I can share them in a few weeks.

Other tidying and organising and moving of furniture is also happening so this may take me some time. Ideal time to Spring clean the house too, although I've never really got the concept of Spring cleaning before. But this burst of needing to do something just happens to have coincided with Spring approaching.

And on that note of Spring Cleaning, just had to share this poem by Rose Milligan:

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Remember, a house becomes a home when you can write
"I love you" on the furniture.....

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Food gifts and Noodle Kugel

The first homemade gift of the year is completed. For my Dad's birthday I have made one of his favourite sweets - Turkish Delight. I've never really liked it but have taste tested it and it seems to have come out okay so it's wrapped and ready to be given as a gift now.

Homemade Turkish Delight

Cut into squares and dusted
with confectioners sugar

For tea I have baked Savoury Noodle Kugel - a Jewish recipe from a favourite recipe book. I haven't made this for a long time but have been thinking about it over the last week or so. I actually made this yesterday and there was enough for last night and tonight again. Very simple and rich in flavour. Yum.

Savoury Noodle Kugel

Alex mentioned this on facebook last night and an old friend was asking about it. He then found there were Noodle Kugel groups on there - I find it bizarre what groups you can find on there sometimes. Right, off to saute some vegetables to go with this dish tonight.

Sustainability Centre

Sustainability Centre with its Solar Panels

The Sustainability Centre in Hampshire has a new website, and it looks pretty good. It was always a bit difficult to find the old one unless you knew the web address.
Sustainability Centre

The centre is a great place to visit for a walk, to camp or stay in one of their Yurts or Tipi's, or in the Lodge; it has a lovely outdoor oven area to cook and sit and eat, and there is a compost toilet too. The centre itself has Solar Panels, runs many courses for adults and children and has other events such as the Green Fair in May and Campcraft events. There is a lovely cafe open if you visit from Thursday to Sunday serving organic, fairtrade vegetarian food.

The Yurt accommodation

The Tipi accommodation with Imogen checking it out

The courses attract people from all over the country and have had and still have some very inspiring "teachers" such as Patrick Whitefield on Permaculture (I can recommend his courses from experience), Graham Burnett on Permaculture, Ben Law on Woodland Management (Yes, Ben Law of Woodland House/Year fame) and many more - take a look at the website for details.

The Green Fair is always good fun - lots of things to see and learn, and crafts to try for kids and adults. We'll definitely be there again this year - 9th May 2010. I posted about our fun there on 2009 here.
The Green Fair where I bought my
Spinning Wheel in 2009 (on the left)

They have recently got the funding to build a Woodland Classroom, which will be built by Ben Law and 4 trainees (not sure if they have filled these spaces yet) - the woodland classroom
"will have a clay floor, a roundwood frame, wooden shingle roof and a surrounding
veranda. Part of the classroom will be dug into the ground and opposite there will
be more of those stunning vistas that reach to the Solent on a clear day."
Sounds great, you can go along to see the frame being raised too, maybe one for our diary.

Well, that was meant to be just a short post to let people know about their new website but became more. I thoroughly recommend the site for courses - both Alex and I have attended and it us such a relaxing place to learn. Not forgetting that Permanent Publications (publishers of Permaculture Magazine and other publications/books) are on site with their lovely and tempting shop filled with inspiring books, and gifts.

There is lots there, so a visit to the website is recommended. The centre is on the South Downs, and also has a Natural Burial Site in the woodland - very peaceful and tranquil.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Is Winter over? Candlemas proverb

Yesterday was Imbolc, and in other circles it is also known as Candlemas (Christian festival of lights). I think it's important for children to learn about different festivals and celebrations around the year so we were reading about these a little yesterday.

Candlemas traditionally marks the midpoint of Winter - midpoint between the shortest day and the Spring Equinox, so we are on the way to Spring now.

There is a weather proverb about Winter

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.

If Candlemas be dry and fair
The half o winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas be wet and foul
The half o winter's gane at Yule.

So how was your weather yesterday? Ours was cloud and rain and wet (although I wouldn't say foul). So does that mean that Winter is not coming again here? I'd like to think so.

I posted a picture of snowdrops yesterday that we say recently, and then saw this proverb which I have added to that post too

"The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day."

I have also read that it is bad luck to bring snowdrops into the house before Candlemas day (represents a parting or death). I suppose it depends if you are superstitious if you believe this. I haven't had any in the house.

I believe it was also Groundhog day in America. So February 2nd has an importance to many.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Imbolc ...

... and Spring is most definitely on it's way here. There have been signs for a while, things are growing like the daffodils I posted about here. Seedlings have been planted and are surviving and thriving at the allotment. Weeds are also around so a little hoeing deals with them, and when the soil warms up a bit more a lovely warm protective mulch will be added.

Yesterday I captured these, I saw them last week a little less in flower but didn't have the camera with me (which is unusual).


"The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day."

Imbolc is celebrated either at the beginning of February or the first signs of Spring. Well, it's the beginning of February and the flowers are here too. It won't be long before we're seeing Spring lambs now.

Monday, 1 February 2010


Mondays are a busy time around here so I don't always have time to blog although I would like to. I signed up a while ago to the "Book Sharing Monday" started here. But I feel I can't always organise myself to post one on a Monday.
We sometimes enjoy a book so much we would still like to share it, and perhaps introduce it to other people who haven't read it. So I think I shall still continue to share favourite books as and when they come up but I can't guarantee it will be Monday.I'll still tag it as Book Sharing Monday too.

Mondays start earlier than most days here as Imogen has one of her pre-school sessions on a Monday morning, the afternoon is then taken up with play and reading. I also need a little time in the afternoon (while Imogen has a rest - I wouldn't say nap as she never naps in the day) in order to get ready to go to my Spinning class group on the evening. This then means I need to get tea prepared a little earlier and we're not back home until after 10pm and all I want to do then is go to bed.

As you can see, Mondays are busy and a long day for us all. Today I have managed to get a few free minutes to post this but haven't the time to take photos of a favourite book, so will catch up with one later in the week - there have been a few good finds recently.

Right, I'm off to play farms I think now, and will be back in the next couple of days with an update of what we have been up to.