Tuesday 30 August 2022

Low cost clothes drying (but not for every house)

Now obviously every house and situation is different. I know that, but it's hard to get across on a tweet. But for us it has been a great money saving device we have used pretty much every day we've been here, summer, winter, whenever we can. 

 Now obviously it can put damp in your house, but we have two log burners so winter heat is never much of a problem, but a modern central heated house might struggle a bit. When a fire is going it'll generally dry a load of washing in a day, as the heat rushes up into this space. So if I keep on top of it I can have it on rotation. My problem is always putting the washing away to be honest! 

Who else dries their clothes like this?

Sunday 28 August 2022

Passionate Young Cook

Each month we get our Middlest a cooking magazine. She's very passionate about it so it's great to feed into that passion just a little bit. 

When this months issue turned up she was so excited as it had a free spice packet with it and a recipe to use it on. 

Friday 26 August 2022

This Months Magazines

Loved seeing my articles in three magazines this month! 

They're all step by step articles (except an extra page for an obituary for my woodturning mentor Chris Eagles) 

I'd carved a pair of Gnocchi paddles for Woodcarving Magazine, Turned a magic wand for Woodturning magazine and for Woodworking Crafts I split and hewn some yew logs to make a gate. 

I can't quite believe I've filled two folders of magazine articles now. I've got some fun projects for articles coming up as well! 

What how-to woodworking articles would you like to see me tackle?

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Harvest Basket

 I love making the products I do for sale. I put a serious amount of effort into designing them and I'm never afraid to tweak that design as I go along. 

I look at the following to make a good product - 

I want it to be functional - it has to do the job it's supposed to do

I want it to be durable - I want people to have my products for many years

I want it to look great - no one is going to buy it unless it looks amazing. 

I want it to be an effective use of timber - It needs to use the timber I have effectively (this is often why I'll list one off items or odd sizes, to make the most of what I have). 

It has to be able to be posted - If its a product I sell then I need to be able to ship is easily without damage

It has to be store well while I'm awaiting sales. 

For a few years I made a lot of Harvest baskets to sell. These always did really well for me, built from reclaimed pine they ticked all the boxes above, unfortunately for a while I was unable to get the timber and storage was tricky as they're quite big items to have sat waiting to sell. So I shelved the design and concentrated on a few other products to keep me busy. 

Having got a load of reclaimed wood the other day I decided to make up some batches of baskets again, both the size in this post and the other two sizes I make. This size is the one I use the most myself, I have three of them and use them for everything in the garden when produce is concerned, but my favourite thing is to hang them from the ceiling for stuff to dry. 

This latest batch I've made 10 baskets and it was when I went to put them away I was really pleased with with a part of the design that is just for me - they interlock in storage! Meaning I can store more of them in a smaller space. 

I'm hopeful these will sell in the run up to Christmas and the following spring. Find the listing here - Harvest Basket or contact me via email. 

What type of gardening item would you like to see me make? Maybe I'll end up making it and you can have the prototype! 

Monday 22 August 2022

Sales Go Quiet in Summer (for me anyway)

The number of years I've been making garden products for sale I always experience a slump in the summer. When it's hot and dry I guess the last thing people want to be thinking of is buying things for their garden. 

My peak times are Christmas (and for a few weeks afterwards when hints dropped weren't picked up on) and the spring. 

Click the picture to be taken to my Etsy shop with my range of garden tool boxes, baskets, boxes and trays!

Most summers that means I fall back on more traditional carpentry, going off and working on peoples houses or making commissions. This year I've decided to hold my nerve and make extra stock for Christmas, with the hope of having every item I make to sell around that time. 

Click the picture to go straight to my new mini tool boxes - I got the idea for these in a museum in Wales. 

But to invest time and lots of money in timber now does involve a bit of faith in hoping people will still want to buy my items! Especially if we slip into recession like is predicted. I was blown away this weekend where I tweeted about my concerns and I was rewarded with 8 sales! I couldn't quite believe that a tweet could do so much! 

So for the next few months I'm going to concentrate on building the stock of my key items and make sure I have lots of other unique products to sell as well. I also have a lot of magazine articles to write so some of the items from them might be for sale soon as well.  

Do you ever make things for sale? How do you decide how much stock to make of one item?

Friday 19 August 2022

Doomer Optimism

 So a while ago I got asked if I was interested in giving a lecture in homesteading woodwork as part of a homestead economics course. It would be online, need to cover some basics (tools techniques etc) as well as some projects for people to complete. 

I jumped at the chance, I've learnt not to turn opportunities down like this as you never know what will come from them. I also thought it sounded like fun. The lecture is to be 90 minutes long and you can find out more about it here. 

I also got asked if I'd like to go on a podcast to talk about the lecture and about my opinions on things. I've not been on a podcast before so I was surprisingly nervous before it. I certainly fluffed up a few questions (especially when it got the politics one), but hopefully I came out okay! Certainly passionate about what I do. 

I've added the YouTube link above here, but you can find it on some podcast players as well. 

Let me know how you think I did! 
Afterwards I was annoyed at myself for not saying things better, or for getting the wrong end of the stick with the politics one, but when it's live it's tricky and surprisingly hard to keep focused, think I derailed my own answers more than once! 

Monday 15 August 2022

Japanese Wineberries Are A Favourite

It's rare that the children pick favourites when it comes to the fruit we grow, they seem to love everything, but the Japanese wineberry harvest has become a time of year they all look forward to! 

I often talk about this fruit on my unusual fruit & vegetable talk, saying how loved it is, how easy it is to grow and how the birds tend to leave the fruit alone (so far). I end the talk saying that if there is one thing to grow from the 30 or so I've described then this is it. I even love the striking red stems in winter, the only thing to do is make sure you keep control of it as it likes to grow where the tips touch the ground. 

The wineberry is also a fruit where the name perfectly describes the taste, a slightly winey tasting berry, slightly sticky in your hands as well. 

My eldest had a friend over the other day for a playdate and they spent a long time picking these fruits in the one huge patch we have. We didn't see many of the fruits head towards the house though! But both girls seemed very happy with their choice of activity. 

Anyone else love these red berries? 

Saturday 13 August 2022

Victoria Plum

When we moved here a decade ago I planted fruit trees straight away, I wanted an orchard as soon as possible. 10 years on some of these trees have thrived and some haven't. I've added many more since that first planting and I'd say we have well over 100 apple trees dotted around the place, plums I was a bit slower to put in. I have only one that is ten years old as the other (a early transparent gage) died last year unfortunately.  

I have tried to fill the gaps in my plum crop where I can, adding many more trees over the years. We now have a young cherry plum hedge that is slowly growing, dotted with more Victoria plums, and I have added the widest selection of plums in the orchard that I could find to try to spread the season.  I have also planted as many damson and bullaces as I can as well to do the same. 

 Alas, most are yet to fruit. My old Victoria has given us a few this year though. I think it's a plum that takes some beating, like a Conference pear, it really is the best of the lot. 

This tree is grown above the bantam pen, and is netted so quite hard to get at the fruit, but it is worth it. Few things compare to a freshly picked plum straight from the tree, the taste of summer in a fruit. 

Do you have a fruit that you have planted a number of varieties to spread the harvest? What's one fruit you wish you could grow year round, or that grows in a climate different to your own?

Thursday 11 August 2022

Almost Daily Harvest Of Courgettes (Zucchini)

Courgettes seem to attract hate for what a prolific vegetable they are. They are one of the reliable crops where a few plants will keep you in fruits for months so long as you keep picking them. 

 We have just a few plants this year and they are producing so much for us. I'm picking this handful of small fruits pretty much every other day at the moment. The trick, of course, is not to turn your back for too long, otherwise they'll be the size of your arm before you know it. 

We love them in a variety of ways, but often sliced thinly in a simple salad, or fried with garlic. Ones I occasionally miss get stuffed or thrown to the chickens as a welcome snack. 

What's your favourite use for this great veggie? Or do you dread the glut?

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Onion Harvest

I always see onions as one of the least profitable crops to grow, I mean a huge bag can still be bought for pence, but they are hugely satisfying to have growing in the garden. 

They look incredible as they grow and it's awesome to have your own onions to add to chutneys and preserves. I love when they are ready to harvest and the tops fold over. 

This year I had planted a load from seed in January, but in the end a friend gave me three bags of sets after buying a job lot of mixed ones. I put these in fairly late, although started them in modules. 

Other than watering them in I haven't watered them at all even in this dry summer we've been having. I did add plenty of manure before planting and I put the already started sets through plastic. I think that planting through woven plastic with burnt holes helps lock in the moisture and reduces weeding. I know people are trying to use less plastic but I've had some of these sheets for many years now and they're showing no signs of breaking down yet. 

I see many adopting No-Dig practices, but if you're having to buy in bagged compost them there is a heavy plastic cost there as well. I tried a no-dig bed this year and it wasn't great, I think mainly because the compost I used wasn't great, it puts your reliance on others producing soemthign you can use if you need a lot of it.

I hope to get my composting area remade this autumn as I've just ripped out all the rotting pallets I had been using.

 How was your onion harvest. This year for me I had some great onions, the reds I was particularly impressed with considering they normally bolt on a normal year,  but I also had many small ones that didn't grow at all. A very mixed bag.

I keep trying to work out the areas I need for us to be self sufficient in alliums, but I think the problem with onions is storing them well. More shallots next year - the true keepers! 

How do you store your onions? How many do you grow to see you through the year (or how long do your own onions last?)

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Tomatoes Just Starting

It's easily my favourite harvest of the year. I love when the tomatoes start to come in. 

 For the last week or so we've been harvesting a handful every few days.

They're worlds apart from anything you'd buy at the supermarket. The kids go mad for them (there has already been tears as one child cut one in half and didn't end up with the bigger half). 

The tunnel is a mess though and I need to give it a serious pruning back! 

Who else has tomatoes as one of their favourite harvests? Is there anything else that tastes more of summer?

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