Saturday, 4 April 2020

Mice Keep Eating My Peas!

My greenhouses are bursting at the seams at the moment.
Cucumbers just starting to poke their heads up.
 I've gone a bit plant crazy. A lot of it is for seed saving and to bulk up the amount of seed we have stored so we could grow good quantities should we need to next year.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Very Wet Scout Walk & A Troll!

Four Mondays ago, before all this mess, we took our group of Beavers, young scouts between the age of 6 and 8, for a walk to the top of one of the local hills. 

The weather was horrendous. Perfect for a Scout walk in my mind. I always think its pointless if you go when you would on a family walk anyway.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Chestnut Fencing

I wrote this post before the lock down and went to get the posts before it as well! 

I've been planning on doing some fencing for a while now.

The area I want to tackle is around the polytunnel. I've been warned that rabbits do like to get through the plastic and so it's best to fence around it.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Polytunnel Layout

With the poly tunnel covered it's got me thinking about the layout inside it. 

How would you layout a polytunnel? I normally garden in 30" beds but want this space to be as productive as possible.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Don't "Panic" Plant

Seed companies have been selling out of seed or having huge orders that they can't cope.

Seeds from America!
I've seen lots of Tweets on Twitter and other sources of people growing gardens while they're in quarantine or lock down. Something I actively encourage as there might be predicted shortage of certain veg later int he year in the UK due to labour shortages as mentioned in my last post.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Now Is The Time To Garden

Weird, weird times at the moment and it doesn't look set to get any better any time soon.

I hope everyone is looking after themselves and doing as much social distancing as possible and staying home when they can. Unfortunately my wife can't as she is a teacher looking after key workers children, but the children and I are holding up at home and ramping up vegetable production. 

I think in the coming months the shops will see a shortage in green leafy crops and some veg. With the recent floods, predicted labour shortages and now the Corona virus it's going to have a huge impact, both here and abroad. My dad has a few friends that farm veg that weren't even going to bother this year as we would have no one to pick them due to brexit, so this will compound that. And I can't see Spain and others wanting to ship much here if they have their own shortages due it the lockdown, although money talks so who knows. 

So now is an important time as gardeners to step up to the plate and grow what we can. It's also never been a more important time to be a seed saver. Online seed sellers have been selling out, our little pots of home saved seed are like gold dust! Maintaining what diversity we can in a wide range of crops has never been more important.

Doing this also will give the children and me some real purpose and make us feel mildly useful. 

As I'm looking after the kids at home they are going to become my own little "land army" and will receive a mainly "outdoor education" as much as possible. I know that hopefully there wont be major food shortages, farmers are key workers, and the supermarkets being empty are due to panic buying nothing else, but I do think it's a good time to be a veg grow, for our bellies and our mental state of being and just encase! 

Remember it's still early so don't sow too much just yet!

Look after each other, keep in contact and grow!

Sending love,
Kev and family 

Monday, 23 March 2020

Isolation Cage?

This is nothing to do with the current problems facing the world. But all to do with seed saving. 

I have ten of these lovely looking board beans that I want to grow this year called Gloster Bounty. Trouble is it's not enough to eat a good meal of (when grown) and I know it likes to cross.

Ideally i'd like to build my stock of this seed up and grow it properly next year. So to do that I'm thinking about building them an isolation cage over the top. I'm not sure how well they'll pollinate then though, will I have to do it by hand or introduce pollinators like flies from fishing maggots? I'll need to do some research before that time comes! I love the idea of building my seed numbers like this! Hopefully I'll get enough to grow out a full bed next year!

Anyone else grown plants in an isolation cage and had to introduce pollinators?

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Heritage Seed Library Seed Guardian!

So I've decided to take my seed saving to the next level and be a bit more serious with it. I've volunteered to become a Heritage Seed Library Seed Guardian! 

This involves a bit more commitment. Basically you "adopt" a variety that they have low stock of in the library and grow it out for them. you get to pick this from a list with the history of each.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Search For Alaska Pea!

I'm always on the lookout for new seeds to grow for the seedswap. I grow many that I get from Real Seeds but feel when I give their seeds away at swaps I'm not supporting their business. 

So now I'm trying out as many different varieties of things that I can. Whgile researching some I came across the Alaska pea. I liked that it was a super short season. Apparently used to be from England and called "Earliest of All" but I couldn't find anyone who still had it.

I put out a request on twitter after no US seed companies would ship to me. Luckily a lovely woman sent me some and more! I got this package of seeds just the other day! So I've increase my tomatoes, sowed some cucumbers and looking forward to trying these peas and seeing how they do. I've promised to send some seeds back as well.

What's the best seeds you've ever got in a swap?

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Who Else Would Have A Water Fight In March?!?

While I was in the greenhouse with my eldest I could hear fits of laughter coming from down the garden. 

The two little monkeys had decided to have a water fight!

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Panic Buying - Compost!

While the rest of the world seemed to be panic buying toilet rolls I decided to go and get my compost for the season. 

I've been trying to go peat free for some time now so it seemed idea to get some from fertile fibres and try it out.

Luckily it's not far from where I live and the staff were super friendly. I'm really looking forward to seeing how well it does for me in this season.

The boy loved it as there was this rather striking parrot at the farm where they were based as well as a peacock and cows! A little boys heaven!

I'm hoping this will be fairly consistent and predictable! I'll let you know in a couple of months time when hopefully everything is growing well.

What compost are you using this year? Do you buy much in?

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Wooden Seed Trays

I had a friend call the other day who wanted some wooden seed trays making. He's a professional gardener and wanted wooden trays to complete the look of the greenhouse and potting area. He had already purchased a wooden potting tray from me for this garden

I know that cedar would be a better material to use for it's ability to last but these are made from reclaimed pine, so hopefully a little more eco friendly. I hope that if treated well, not left in the wet, dried out each year and given a top up of linseed oil every few years they should last a long time.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Chicks At Three Weeks - Sure Don't Grow Like Ross Cobbs!

 This is a terrible picture but these guys are so jumpy and quick on their feet it's hard to take one!

After having Ross Cobbs for the last few years I can't believe how slow growing these are in comparison, shows how long it's been since I hatched some of our own here!

Monday, 9 March 2020

Not Buying Supermarket Eggs Again!!

If you've read this blog over the 8 years I've been writing it you'll know that in that time I've kept a lot of different chickens (never over 50 though - just encase Defra is reading this!)

And I do normally get some ex-commercial hens each year as my layers. But this year they forgot to ring me!

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Seed Sowing

With a break in the rain and the sun trying to poke it's head out we decided to sow a good number of seeds last weekend.

It was still bitter cold though so we got out of the wind and into the greenhouse!

Thursday, 5 March 2020

World Book Day 2020

My brood nailing #worldbookday. Funniest bit is listening to other parents moan about having to find their child a costume... mine play dress up most nights so I had no say in what they were and had put them together about a month ago!

We've got Wally, Boudica, a dragon, and Amelia Earhart.

We did upgrade the war paint just before she left for school! I jokingly told a friend I'd grown the Woad myself to make the dye and she believed me! 

I went to my workshop dressed as the carpenter from "The Village Carpenter"...

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Preserving Non Homegrown Produce

I very much fall into a trap when it comes to preserving.

I wrongly think it should all be homegrown or fresh.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Planting 40 Plum Trees!

It's not been ideal conditions for planting trees, really the ground is too wet - but as they say time waits for no man so I decided we'd get them in and see what happened. 

Helpers - my eldest was poorly. 
To start with we planted up a new hedge between us and the neighbours. For this we used cherry plum trees, just little whips, and every 10ft put in a Victoria plum (they were £5) as a standard. Not sure how this will turn out but it should be interesting. I've read lots of people saying it makes a good edible hedge but when asked no one seems to have tried it!

Saturday, 29 February 2020

New Chicks!

I completely forgot to post about the chicks we hatched out the other day! 

These hatched out the Monday last week (17th). A mixture of eggs we got from an extremely lovely couple from Abergavenny who keep and show many breeds of chickens.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Working Three Days in Wales

It's been many years since I've stayed away for work (this is the only other time I can think of), but mum had booked a workmate Richard (who everyone calls Dill) and me in to do some work on their cottage in Wales.

She had been trying to use local trades but kept getting let down time after time so decided if she got us into crash out the bulk of the work that might be the way to go.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Tractor World Show

Since writing my monthly article about vintage and older machinery it's given me a real thirst for knowledge in this subject. It's meant that I've gone to things I wouldn't normally, like a local ploughing match or vintage day and now the Tractor World show.

The Tractor World show was great fun. I'm lucky having the show ground just the other side of the hill from where I live, about 4 miles by road but closer as the crow flies.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Workshop Helper

My younger daughter spent some time in the workshop with me this afternoon.

D: "Why do you have a radio on?"

Me- "sometimes it gets a bit boring, it helps pass the time."

D: "it won't be boring if you've got someone to talk to..."

I love that they take such an interest in things like this!

There are some serious advantages to working from home when I can.

Growing up I was always around my parents when they were working. Both would work from home most of the time and they would both also go and work at other farms as well at times. Basically one of them was always at home and it was a nice constant to be relied upon.

It also meant that we (my siblings and me) got involved with everything when we could or when we were old enough and could see what they did each time. I have great memories of this as a child and hope that our kids will have something similar.

Did you watch your parents work when you were young?

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Planting Plums For Self-sufficiency

Thought I'd share a short video I made on the varieties of plum I've settled on this year.

Hopefully by having all these different varieties it should mean that we spread the season out as much as we can where we live. I'm looking for them to crop the whole time from mid July right through to the start of October, but I know this will all depend on frosts and other factors!

Let me know what you think of the video.

What other fruit do you try to have a large selection of to make sure you get a harvest?

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Young Baker

I'm obviously  proud of my kids, like every parent. But one thing I'm particularly proud of is their love of food. Inherited from both my wife and from me - we're both seriously into our food and love cooking and feeding other people.

The children have taken this as normal. They love helping us cook and having people round for food. They really like it when they can cook something with little or no help, something that has been happening more and more.

Our eldest managed to cook a peach and chickpea curry from scratch (a meal that has become a staple in our house) a few weeks back. sorting out all the ingredients, and cooking them herself, the only thing I had to do was turn on our technical induction hob, something I feel like I need help with at times!

Then last night our middle child decided she wanted to do some baking. I told her that she could but would need to write out the recipe into our family cook books first. She chose pineapple upside down cake, a family favourite, she did everything herself, the only thing I did was put it into the oven and take it out again. She even tested the cake to see if it was done by putting a knife in and seeing if it came out clean.

She was so proud when they had a friend round tonight and she could offer him a piece of cake that she had made herself! The other lovely part was that while she did this we were all in the kitchen doing other things and preparing a huge tea for when my wife came back from work, extra large as my parents were coming over as well!

They're finally starting to earn their keep!

Just wondering what I should get her to make me next...

What was the first cake you made by yourself?

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Plums For The Whole Season?

The season for plums in the UK is from mid July until The start of October. These are from a variety of plum types, grown under different conditions, they're even growing plums under plastic now to get them even earlier. 

But last year I think we had plums for the grand total of 2 weeks. They were a glorious two weeks, but it left me thinking I've really missed a trick. Time to do something about it.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Sewing Birthday Party

I know everyone says where do the years go but I really feel like that at the moment. My eldest turned 8 last month, and I know that there's a few on here that started following the blog when I started and she was just a couple of months old! 

My wife outdid herself with this cake!

She is turning into an incredible human being and is wise beyond her years at times. She very much knows her interests, what she likes and doesn't like. Last year we had a very "normal" type of party for her but I knew she didn't love it, as a few of the girls that came were quite loud and controlling. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2020


I decided that I should put one of packet of each type of seed I'd been doing for the seedswap together for a giveaway.

Ten packets in all - there's five varieties of tomato, a very unusual pea and some super winter squash seeds plus a few others.

If you'd like to enter make sure you follow my page on either facebook, instagram or twitter and comment on it. 

If you're not on any of those platforms just leave a comment below and I'll make sure to add you to the hat! Make sure you check back in a weeks time when I announce the winnerand you can contact me by email if you win! 

*I'm not sure on the legality of this but as I'm not charging think it's fine, it's just like a seed swap...

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

New Seed Packets

As I spent my free time last week writing out seed packets with the same bits of information on them I was thinking how I should modernise the process a little bit.

I looked online and saw that to have a label I could print on would cost me about 0.5p a sticker!

How I wish I'd looked sooner!

Never mind next year just got easier! And I still have lots to bag up for this year. I'm going to send some packets to some friends and with every craft item I sell on Etsy I'm going to put a packet or two of seed in there as a bonus (although at the moment I'm working on a bigger job so only have a few things listed).

What do you think to the new packets? I hope the instructions will help anyone new to gardening as well.

Should stop my bad spelling - hopefully!

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Hereford Seed Swap 2020

Every year I come back from the seed swap absolutely buzzing about gardening!

This year was no exception! I get to spend the day geeking out about all things growing, I love it.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

A Chicken-ey Sort Of Sunday

The girls and I have been looking at all different sorts of chickens that we'd like to hatch out.

The Meat birds from last year - Ross Cobbs
We've had ex commercial birds for the few years (probably 5 or 6 to be honest!) and they've done brilliantly for a second year of laying for us, so long as you know not to keep them past when they rapidly go unproductive. But it's not given us a self sustaining flock.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Making Simple Cupboards For The Workshop

I know this is more workshop related than homesteading but keeping organised is key to being able to getting stuff done! I'm trying harder and harder to keep things where they should go and know where they are. 

This video shows me building some cupboards to sort an area of my workshop that has been bothering me for some time - all it did before was collect dust! 

As always, please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Wassailing With Beavers

When we were planning this term for our Beaver Scouts we had the bright idea of having our own little Wassail. The village has a huge one every year so I knew we couldn't top that, but hoped it would be good fun. 

Luckily we had great weather, a cold frosty night so no one was too muddy and no rain!

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Sowing Chillies Before Breakfast & Grow Lamp

The urge to grow is just too much after Christmas. I'm sure we've all done it and started too early at times. We sowed our onions a few days after Christmas, as many do but I wanted to get the chillies in as well.

 I'm always frustrated by our chillies and peppers, get a harvest normally but its pretty late in the season. When I go to a garden centre in the spring it drives me mad to see chillies with fruits forming while mine haven't even considered flowering!

Friday, 10 January 2020

New Incubator

The children and I have been talking about hatching eggs this year. The last couple of year we seem to have missed out as we've not had any broody hens at the right time. 

So getting an incubator would solve that problem and allow us to hatch as and when we wanted. I know it's far easier to use broodies when you can. Broody hens are, and I think always will be, the easiest way to hatch out chicks, but they're not without they're problems and egg numbers can be limited.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Children Learning Through Helping

I met the specialist for my jaw today, my wife came with me and mum came over to look after the children. He seems happy that my teeth are meeting up again and he seems hopeful that I might avoid surgery. I have another appointment next week, but it's still looking like two months of no solid food!

When I came home Grandma was with my eldest showing her how to sew on her new sewing machine. They'd picked a pattern for a toy dinosaur and were busy putting it together. It was lovely to listen and watch them working together.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

How Did I Do Against My Self-Sufficiency Goals 2019?

Okay, so those of you that have followed my blog for any length of time will know that each year I set myself a list of highly optimistic goals for the year ahead and then review it when the year ends.

So here’s how I did (or how I think I did)–

I said that this year I just wanted to try and maintain what I did for the community and I’ve done that. I’m loving being a Beaver Scout leader and I’ve certainly dedicated more than a few hours to this cause, with some really fun weekends away. My younger daughter has now joined scouts as well so she’s feeling the benefit as well.
I truly believe that kids need less school and more scouts, my eldest daughter was having a bit of a tough time at school in the summer and scouts was the one thing she really looked forward to each week, in fact when we broke up for summer she was just disappointed that there would be no scouts for 6 weeks! 

I’m still running the playgroup in the village, although the countdown clock is on this. It’s been a big part of my life but as my youngest starts school this year it will draw to a natural close for me.

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