Thursday, July 17, 2014

Growing vegetables in a small garden

This year I have spent a lot of time trying to grow vegetables. I think it's so important for kids to grow things, spend loads of time outdoors and learn about where food comes from. At nearly three Mostyn has been really keen to help and learn - he knows about seeds and picking fruit and veg, digging, sunshine and of course... watering... he is an expert waterer!

I like to think that it's a past time (I hesitate to describe my attempts as 'skill') he will never forget, that may be necessary in an uncertain future of rising food prices. Yes I am a doom monger. My dreams have been fulfilled as Mostyn LOVES eating stuff we grow, even if it's things he wouldn't touch in a normal supermarket food from fridge type situation. He eats tomatoes straight from the bush, gobbles chopped raw runner beans like they were chocolate buttons and has been digging for potatoes like a champ.

I haven't got much space so mostly I've been growing things in containers. This has worked really well and I highly recommend it! I have no money either so the compost is the cheapest I could find (not peat free unfortunately).

We've grown (or attempted to grow) runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries, sunflowers and some herbs. My strawberries were a total disaster but here's a few pictorial records of my other plants!:

Runner beans
These were so fun to do. I got some grow bags from Wilko because they are cheaper than pots, some sticks and a pack of runner bean seedlings for £1.50 and went for it. The results are spectacular!

My first home grown runner bean dinner!
Yesterday. I have nearly run out of fence!


I bought three heritage plants from the garden centre and they are coming along really well - I kept them in my conservatory for a long time to grow strong and now they are outside along a sunny wall, tied with string to the drain pipe! They are in some big pots I got cheap last year from my garden centre membership.

I love the interesting stripey turban shaped ones.

Cucumber and Gherkin 
I got the tiny gherkin plant for free, it was in box at the side of the road near my street saying 'please take one!' and I got the cucumber plant for £1 outside a second hand shop in town. Both have a tiny fruit growing!


I love courgettes and have never had much luck growing them - I am particularly emotionally attached to them this year because I managed to grow my current plants from seed.  If I had tonnes of space I would be ok but I've only got a small raised bed next to my raspberries. One plant has been decimated by slugs but the other one has finally got a couple of actual courgettes!
My plants I grew from seed!!!
Not sure if we'll get to eat these..... I'm doing my best again the slug onslaught without pellets
Miscellaneous plants

I've also got some beetroot that I had from some seedlings my colleague gave me. I'm not sure how big to let them grow so I'm just ignoring them for the time being.

Sunflowers from a friend! We grew these from seed!

I LOVE growing potatoes - they are so easy and satisfying. Last year I had one bag and this year I've done three. I stupidly forgot what varieties I picked up from the garden centre. Next year I will definitely write it down. I hoped I'd got new potatoes but these ones, whatever they are, are pretty much only good for roasting and mashing - I'm not complaining because they are still delicious. You literally just throw them in the bottom of a bag (I did three to each bag) and pile compost over them as the shoots grow up. Then they turn until triffids and then die down again, when the leaves go yellow you can start digging - Mostyn and I have dug up a whole bag and we've left two to get a bit bigger. The excitement of digging and uncovering potatoes is pretty unbeatable!!

They grew in a bag!! a bag!

Mostyn eating the results of our hard work!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

house progress and some other updates

Most of our money this year has gone into our house. I am so proud of what we have achieved (with a lot of help from some plasterers, a carpenter and Huw's dad) - I love these kinds of photos so here are ours! I am compiling this post at the speed of light before I pick up Moss from playgroup so excuse any mistakes.

The day we moved in Feb 14th 2013. This is what our downstairs looked like:

The dining room
I hated the blue and we had to live with it for almost a whole year. On Jan 1st 2014, Christmas was over and we spontaneously began stripping the painted wall paper off the walls. The paper had thick layers of paint over it and where the walls weren't solid, it took off the orange paint behind it and stripped right back to the plaster.

It was like living in a womb.

The exposed plaster.

 The ceiling was a lovely dark green....

We ripped out the double doors between the rooms (seen in the right of the first picture in this post) to create a more open space between the dining and sofa area. This hadn't even occurred to us until the plasterers came to do the ceiling. I wanted to remove the double doors as we didn't use them and they realised that it was only a very flimsy partition around them - TAKE IT OUT we shouted - then the entire ceiling can be as one! The doors have found a new home with my friend who is adding a partition to her downstairs living room.
The plaster went on and the coving came off - we were only going to do the ceilings however the removal of the paper meant some plaster had to be redone - we just ended up doing everything.

Painting the first undercoat! I am a fan of colour and Huw is a fan of large empty white boxes - I do also like bright looking spaces so we went with Dulux Timeless and are attempting to inject the colour through furnishings. It's a lovely colour - clean and minimal looking but with enough warmth not to look clinical. The ceilings are bright white to emphasize the colours even more.

Here's where we are so far: We have some pictures on the walls. We have run out of money for things like curtain rails, lamps, rugs and cushions but these will come with time. The large mirror in the dining room was £30 in a charity shop. I wish we hadn't had to buy the IKEA dining table and chairs and held out for something more rustic looking from a second hand shop but we had no choice when we first moved in having given every penny of our savings into the deposit!

Note the new floor - a solid oak floor that smells amazing and was made possible due to a very generous early wedding present from Huw's parents.

Here is a bad picture of the other angle, from the dining room into the living room. The fireplace surround was removed from Huw's room and put downstairs in an old covered grate that was found behind a pointless radiator where the fireplace is now. We painted it black, added some cheap tiles and got the carpenter to put solid oak around it.

Other stuff:

Huw's office (the second bedroom) has gone from this (note the fireplace which is now downstairs and repainted!):

To this:

Gorgeous peregrine (Huw's favourite bird) print from Rebecca Kiff

Mostyn's room continues to look cute, especially with pictures on the wall!

Welsh Alphabet print from Cathryn Weatherhead

I have a link to share:

Thrifty fashion habits from threadbare-in-candlelight - I found this post very useful as someone who is not able to afford (and not really interested in) buying new clothes often like every other blogger on the planet (meow!). Thanks C.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

happiness does not exist

'Happiness' isn't any kind of default state. We can't experience happiness without goals and plans and things to do and the next thing to complete on the horizon. The experience of doing and finishing these things *is* happiness. Losing the motivation to physically do things that bring us satisfaction is what leads to disaffection.. So rarely do I sit back and think "I am happy right now" but my life is undoubtedly so good at the moment. I want to focus on the moments between the busy-ness being more a time to reflect than a time for feeling guilty for not getting stuff done. I forget how much I am doing, though it never feels enough.

Luckily my motivation is endless at the moment - what else pushes anyone through this period of life? I have been thinking a lot about having another baby, finances, all these grown up things that feel so amazing to do, we are working, earning money, we have an increasingly lovely house that is all our own, argg how is this happening? It all feels right, like I was meant to be either a grown up or a child. I was definitely not meant to be a student, or a teenager. How will I do as a mother of more than one? As a middle aged person? Hopefully I will get the chance to find out..

The pottery I love is closing down and I only had the money to buy this jug. If I had more than £4 in my current account I would be down there buying everything I could lay my hands on.

A while ago, my father's wife generously gave me her set of vintage Le Creuset pans and shelf, I painted the shelf last year and it's up on the wall in the kitchen where it looks magnificent. They feel so nice and everything cooks beautifully in them (except scrambled eggs... for which teflon was definitely invented).
Speaking of no money.. does anyone want a rug? I haven't got one on the go and I want to have one to make! I will make you one for £25 and p&p, in whatever colours you desire.

We got a new sideboard from the junk shop! I want to change the door knobs because they are just offensive but otherwise it's perfect.

I just thought this was really lovely - the amazing yarn shop in town sells plants outside that you can use for dyes. I love that about where I live.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The first time I ever went to Tintern I noticed these abandoned cottages opposite the old mill. They used to be next to the mill pond (now a series of 'motel' style hotel rooms built into a revealing dip in the land) so I like to imagine it was the miller and his family who lived in them when the village was industrial. I don't know who owns them but the last few months of heavy rain have taken their toll and the roof of the outhouse has completely collapsed. I want them to be renovated and given new life, the damp from the sides of the valleys is disintegrating the stone and the ivy is creeping, creeping.

The sylvan Wye from a beautiful local walk we did a few weekends ago, to the 'Bread and Cheese' stones in Llandogo.

Some other things that have been happening:

- I scrubbed and sorted and conservatory, the gateway to our tiny garden. Taken a lot of stuff to charity shops, trying to reorganise and simplify.
- We have done a huge chunk of the work that needed to be done on the ground floor of the house. We passed the one year mark of living here back in February.
- Started back at work which has been really pleasing. I am shocked about how little money we have survived on over the winter considering I wasn't earning much. We have still managed to save, and Huw bartered, medieval style, for our decorating with a new website (not quite so medieval) for the builders.
- Planted courgette seeds, runner beans, sweet peas and tomatoes in whatever containers I could find. I might do a separate garden post because I like to look back on plants when they were small. I accidentally made compost in a bag of rotting garden waste I failed to get rid of so I've put it in the half of my raised bed that doesn't contain raspberries (which are coming back in full force already) in preparation for courgettes... should they survive!
- We saw a lamb being born at St Fagan's
- The lemon tree is flowering

Carpenter's workshop, if I could post a picture of the smell I would.

St Michael's Church, Tintern

The view from my conservatory on the day I went back to work

My mother's day present

Mostyn's first recognisable drawings!