Friday, 29 January 2010

Browsing and organising seeds

I love to browse the seed catalogues, at many times throughout the year, but especially in January and February as the sowing season is upon us. They go side by side with my seed tins - organised by month of sowing and moved back a month for those I sow successionally. I also have a tin for those for sowing indoors - in the house (for some heat) or in the unheated greenhouse; and a tin for those that can be sown directly outdoors.

My collection of books I wouldn't be without
and catalogues to browse

Seed tins with my sowing/planting diary
and seed collecting envelopes and packets

Organised and ordered. It's about the only thing around here that does look like that, but if I didn't I'd miss the window of opportunity to sow and grow something.

Seed tin for sowing indoors or
in the greenhouse to get ahead

Seed tin for sowing direct outdoors

Solast night and today I have sat and had a look through the seeds we have to make sure they are in the right place for reminding me to sow them, and also to see if I need to buy more seed. Amongst them are many saved seeds which saves a lot of money, and takes very little effort. This is something I am quite passionate about doing.

In a couple of weeks there will be a seed swap event locally with the opportunity to swap seeds for something new or purchase from a few independent seed sellers that attend the event. Having organised the tins, I'm not sure we need anything this year except some seed potatoes which I've ordered to share with my Dad.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Then she wrote a book ...

Saturday afternoon, after a lovely walk at Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve and a stroll along the beach, I decided to ring my parents. Imogen declared she may be too busy to say hello and sat down with her drawing pad and a pencil. OK, I thought, sometimes she just doesn't want to talk on the phone.

She always starts chatting away to me when I'm on the phone (which isn't very often) and was telling me about how she was writing a story. She sat drawing pictures and telling a story and I chatted away. To my amazement, she had actually been writing down what she was saying - a few mis-spelt words, or letters missing but she had drawn and written her story. The names of the characters were unusual, and the story a little vague, but here are some excerpts. I hope you like them. They will certainly be treasured here.

Page 1 - she even drew a page border "Once upon a time there Bear -
(and) nninim (the mouse)"

"There Mos (the blackbird) (and) Sam (the Robin)"
(friends of the bear)
"To see a pig oo"
(oo being the pigs name)
"But miycl (rabbit)"
(phonetically perfect for Michael!)
"The End"

Her story also had a squirrel called sos, another bird called owi and a dinosaur - the only word she asked me to help her spell for her story. I'm not entirely sure what was happening in the story but she does and that's all that matters.

She told her teacher at pre-school about it so I scanned and copied it for them and they were in awe of her. My little treasure. Her first book written all by herself. We have made many books in the past where I have written the words for her and she has drawn all the pictures, but this book is all her own work, all 11 pages of it.

She did eventually have a chat with her Nanny and Grandad and told them about her story.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Reading to herself

Imogen has always loved books, she was introduced to them from a very early age as we read to her and showed her the pictures. We got a library card from a young age too and are regular visitors to two local libraries and go to a couple of larger ones in nearby towns when visiting.

Auntie (and Daddy) reading to Imogen
aged about 4 months

She learnt her letters and numbers a long long time ago, and has been interested in words and how they look and sound for a long time too, picking up some in books and on signs and car names too! She always loves to look at leaflets or books on days out too. Writing is something she has also done for a long time, she can write her letters really well - occasionally backwards but hey she's 4.

"reading" the Tollymore Forest leaflet
after a long day walking

"reading" the Restormel Castle
guide book on holiday

Then one day just after Christmas she talked about learning to read for herself so we went with her desire to have a go and picked up a couple of early reading books from the library. We picked up "There was a crooked man" and "Chicken Licken" and she was able to read the words really well from the first time of looking at them, only occasionally seeking some help on sounds of words. This was obviously just the right time for her learning and you really can't miss the cues, can you?
concentrating on reading
(excuse messy hair - literally just out of bed!)

Happy smiles -
pleased with herself for reading

We've borrowed a few more since and then I picked up a great set of books from the charity shop for £2, and she is just loving reading them. Almost every day without fail, it is the first thing she wants to do on waking up. She gets so excited about her success, and is really pleased with herself - it's a joy to watch.

Children are just fascinating when learning, leave them to learn at their own pace and they know when they are ready to try something new.

There will be a follow up post to this as to what happened on Saturday whilst Mommy was on the phone to Nanny and Grandad. Another fascinating development, she amazes me some days.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


What a beautiful sky it is this evening, just had to take the camera outside. I'm not sure the photos really show how vibrant it is, but I'm posting them here as I think it's just beautiful. Is it like this with you?

view from the front door

Let the seeds be sown

The first seeds of the year are being sown - Tomatoes, indoors, along with some Chili seeds. Just a selection on the windowsill for the early ones to plant, and early to harvest.

I planted out some hardy lettuce seedlings (sown in December) at the allotment at the weekend - in between the broad beans to keep the ground covered and we shall be picking them over the next few months. I also replaced the few Broad Beans that either hadn't come up or were just not going to make it - more for the compost. A quick bit of weeding (yes! in January) and mulching and the beds all look lovely.

Broad Beans and Lettuce seedlings

Alex cleared an area for the Rhubarb to move to as it has been in the garden at home and not really in the right place, so we have moved that to a better home and mulched the area with straw. Here is the patch cleared by Daddy and Imogen - tools side by side.

Daddy and Imogen getting the rhubarb plant

Job for next week is to clear an area to move a cooking apple tree from the garden to the allotment - risky eh? It's not doing well in the garden and takes up space that we would rather use for other edibles so it has to go. We shall see how it goes, it will take 2 seasons to produce any fruit no doubt but you never know.

And finally an updated picture of the herb spiral - looking good and needed a little weeding. The Sage, Thyme and Oregano are all coming on well and need some dividing. The Chocolate Mint is spreading and growing too as are the wild strawberries. I'm also really pleased with how the Welsh Onions are spreading. More to add to this over the next couple of months and I really need to sort out the little "sink" pond at the bottom. A very successful permaculture design allowing different herbs to grow in close proximity even though they have varying needs - shelter or sun, and moisture levels. I would recommend building a herb spiral to anyone who loves growing herbs but struggles to get them in the right position. Low maintenance too.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Winter walks

We have been on many walks lately. To favourite locations, nature reserves, forests and the beach. Here are some highlights from our walks. I love the Winter light you can capture and Sunsets too.

misty under the bridge

Swans on the river


exploring the forest

me and my little girl

impromptu picture on the door
- waiting to go out

birdwatching - totally absorbed in watching nature

birds at the Haven
See the Buddha on the island to the left?
I only noticed this when looking at the pictures on the PC,
this must be where the birds come to meditate and contemplate
what do you think?

Sun setting

Seagulls catching food being thrown into the air

Sunset across the water,
over the IOW

Monday, 18 January 2010

After the thaw ...

One of my favourite vegetables - Cavalo Nero
- so easy to grow, such high yields and a long growing season

I know it is still only January, but Sunday was so mild and sunny I feel Spring is in the air. Alex spent the morning at the allotment and still had a couple of things he wanted to finish so we all went up after lunch.
buds on the Pear tree,
waiting to burst out and bring forth lovely fruit

The plot in January as the Sun sets beyond

Wonderful crumbly warm soil was planted up with some seedlings that have been hardening off in the greenhouse to provide more greens through Spring. We tended our plants and harvested more vegetables.
Cavalo Nero giving us plenty and regularly
more Brussel Sprouts
more purple sprouting broccoli,
keeps on giving,

and as beautiful as a bunch of flowers

Welsh onions - wonderful and growing nicely.
I have many clumps so will be dividing these to dot around the plot
and in the garden at home

We also checked on our pond resident who Imogen named "Sydney" yesterday. This fish was given to us by someone getting rid of a pond - it's a hardy fish, has never been fed extra food - just gets it's goodness naturally from the pond. He's survived the Winter cold and frozen water so far.

So more planning, as previously mentioned. Seed catalogues are around me whenever I have the chance to sit and look through them. I don't really plan on buying much more seed, we have lots from last year and what we have collected from plants. So this week is the week to start the Tomato seeds at least - oh and I have a few varieties of them!

Broad beans growing happily - Autumn sown
Garlic growing too

Here is my herb spiral, it needs a little weeding and some herbs need some division, it is growing and developing so well which goes to show that the system works as each herb is in the perfect position and conditions. I'm looking forward to developing this further this year.

herb spiral in January

I love this time of year, although the growing year rarely stops still for long as something is always growing, or being planted, but it's now that the major planning is done. I have my books, notebooks and seed catalogues next to my seat and grab a glimpse whenever I get a few minutes. Imogen loves to look through the books with me, a shared passion.

Colour in the garden

I know it's not Spring, but these sights make me think of Spring approaching. Following on from my post the other day with the Daffodils coming through, I've noticed even more Spring flowers peeking out. Down our road there is a hedge of Camelias flowering already - just coming out of their buds. No picture of the Camelia as it is on a private garden, so not really something I could photograph.

flowering rhododendron

The Rhododendrons are coming into flower too. Out in the garden, the Rhubarb is waking up and on the bank the Bluebell greens are shooting up amongst the wild strawberries. I can't wait for all of these to come into flower and fruit.

Rhubarb peeking through

English Bluebells
Bluebells and wild Strawberries

The big Winter sleep is coming to an end as nature awakens and stretches it's arms to the Spring.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Growing space and planning

This is how my growing space at home has looked over the last week or two; my greenhouses and vegetable patch in the back garden. Now the snow is thawing, my thoughts go to the growing year.

In the greenhouse are seedlings awaiting a warming of the ground to plant them out and extend the growing of some lovely greens, in addition to those still going strong at the allotment. We are picking lots of wonderful iron rich Kale and Cavalo Nero, and picking beautiful Sprouting broccoli. Fortunately we lifted the remaining beetroots just before the cold and snow came so saving them from becoming too woody and unusable.

Now is a time of much planning, looking though the seeds we have, ordering any we still with to acquire and planning the beds for 2010. This is what you will find on my kitchen door, where I stare and dream and plan.

Organic Veg Planner

Great little planner - gives you all the information you need for growing each vegetable. When to sow, how, when to harvest, etc all at the turn of the dial.

Organic Vegetable Planning Chart

Another invaluable resource - at a glance you can see what to do each month.