Monday, 30 May 2011

Moody Monday

I can't believe the weather at the moment. When will it make it's mind up?

The picture doesn't illustrate just how much rainfall we've had today..

Not much chance of getting on the sunbeds today!

I don't mind the rain, but the battering winds that are accompanying it are a real nightmare. Some plants have been destroyed by them!

The melon plant is going on the compost heap tomorrow, I gave it a chance to revive itself but it's really had it now.

The apple tree is making an ok comeback, some of the remaining apples are really getting big now.

I've just been out and covered up the potatoes with some more compost. The potatoes seem to be really enjoying this weather. I have no more space to dedicate any more bags (well I will find some somewhere) so there may be a gap in the 'continous harvest' method. But we shall see.

The tomatoes and the rest of the grow bag crew (except the melon) are also thriving which is great news. We might have found a nice new area to grow some more tomatoes. I will update you on that shortly. The first flowers are now appearing on the majority of the tomato plants.

I could do with some sun tomorrow so that I can get out there and make some more progress. I dashed out to plant the marrow out today whilst the ground is moist.

Enjoy the rest of your bank holiday and half term!!!!


Sunday, 29 May 2011

We're having twins!

Oh how I love the mis-shapen vegetables you will see when you grow your own veg. On one of the courgette bushes we have this odd-ball...

It looks like two courgettes which are physically stuck together to form one and each half has it's own flower!

You would never see anything like this ending up in the supermarket, the quality control processes these days are too vigorous, and hybrid vegetables means that all crops are identically perfect. That's why it is always such a novelty when you see a potato shaped like a love heart in Tesco. Never mind a carrot shaped like a dog, or twin courgettes or a raddish shaped like a fork...

I am definately a member of the mis-shapen vegetables appreciation society!

Are you?

Ooooh... and we just enjoyed some more home grown courgettes in a meatball pasta bake! Homegrown salad leaves for sides too!!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Thursday, 26 May 2011

War with the weather..


What is this bizzare weather up to at the moment?

The whistling winds, the downpours, then drought. I have no idea.

Freezing and frosty at night, baking heat in the day, a bit more wind...

I wish I was writing to say we've had a nice windfall of delicious fresh apples, but we've a windfall of the whole apple tree. The powerful wind knocked the apple tree over and snapped a few branches and has removed at least half of the budding apples. I thought it was in a pretty safe place, but this wind really, really is something else.

I can not believe that I am having to water the plants every day when it is tipping it down with rain at night. The heat during the day is evapourating the rainfall so the plants are needing a bit extra during the day. I'm starting to give some of the plants some feed too in order to prolong harvesting. The courgettes are really coming along, the tomatoes have flower buds too!

Talking of the tomatoes, the tomatoes and the other member of the grow bag family really have needed some more support in this weather. We planted another small chilli plant and that really got a bashing. The Melon doesn't seem to like the cold nights and the cucumber is still recovering from it's frost bite from the other week!

Fingers crossed for some stability with the weather!!


First Pickings...


We baked these courgettes the other day and served them with some sausages, asparagus, mashed potato and carrots. Amy said they were 'the best courgettes' she had ever had!

The tiny one on the end made us laugh. We left it  for a week and it did not grow at all, whereas the other courgettes were growing noticeably each day! So we decided to pick it and eat it. It was very sweet and really lovely!

We've also been eating the salad leaves we sown out at the same time as we planted the courgette plants. We've been enjoying the fresh leaves in our sandwiches on a regular basis. When we've been picking the salad leaves we've been sowing a few raddish seeds directly in to the freshly vacated soil. The first ones have germinated so we will be enjoying fresh raddish in about 24 days! Brilliant! They are Amy's favourite too!

Well, there are plenty more courgettes where those three came from..

I am going to have a productive day today.. I hope!


Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I love making Jam!!

We made some delicious Blackberry Jam with some Blackberries that were reduced in our local farm shop!

Normal blogging will resume tomorrow...

Exams are over now!


Sunday, 22 May 2011


Don't you just love getting things in the post?

One of my hobbies involves me receiving a lot of things in the post, however I am going to share with you what I got in the post today.

I made an order from Omlet (the company who made the eglu) and some important bee keeping bits have now arrived. I bought a queen marking pen so that I can mark the queen to make her easier to see when I inspect the hive. The queen is approximately 3 years old I believe so I bought a green pen as this matches the internationally recognised code for marking a queen of approximately this age. I bought some foundation and a good book about keeping bees. Some of the older 'beekeeping bibles' are a bit tedious to read and are a bit mean on the eyes, this book by Paul Peacock seems to be quite quick to the point which is great, it has received some great reviews so fingers crossed I'll get along with it!

The brood chamber of the hive is full of ageing foundation which is browning and this means that it needs to be changed. The bees are focussing on the middle of the hive at the moment, and some of the old brood frames at the edges of the hive can now be removed and filled with some of the brand new wired foundation.
The bees at the moment are not going in to the super at the moment, so I am seeking advice on how to encourage them up. I have had some great help on various forums, and I have removed the queen excluder to encourage the bees up. If I catch it right then the bees should have started drawing out the wax to make comb and the queen should still be in the brood box and then the queen excluder can be added again. If you don't keep bees then this last little paragraph might not mean a lot to you... sorry.

Another exam tomorrow but the end is in sight!! My last one is on Wednesday!

Really looking forward to our impending camping trip (next week) and just a general break.

Before I forget, the vegetables are rampant! The weather has been perfect again this week. Lots of rain during the night and plenty of sun in the day, a lot warmer than last week too. The courgettes are swelling up nicely, the salad leaves are just waiting to be picked (we had our first in a sandwich the other day), and the mange tout is really flourishing. The first bag of potatos I planted are now growing beyond the final covering of soil, so a week after they flower we will have fresh spuds!! We also planted out some broad beans in a trough and I picked up a blackcurrant cane from poundland.. for a pound! Can't wait for the first harvests to emerge.

Have a great day!


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Question of the day..

How long will a ball of twine last you?

The stuff is never ever ending....

Have a good day!


Friday, 20 May 2011

Sack of potatoes

Good Morning!! Just planted another bag of potatoes. Having such a restricted space for growing in, it is very convenient to grow potatoes in a bag. We have 6 bags and 1 pot of potatoes on the go at the moment. I have always criticised garden centres who sell a 'potato in a pot' that has almost reached harvest. The plant is flowering so the potatoes must be almost ready. I saw one garden centre sell this sort of thing at.. wait for it.... £7. Ok, granted you got a terracotta plant pot but then again they are the most expensive potatoes you have ever had, but realistically how many potatoes will you get in a small pot. 3 or 4? That works out at over £1.50 a potato.

I was intrigued to see a particular blog post the other day. They grew 7 perfect new potatoes in a plastic plant pot. I hope they doesn't mind but we've nicked their idea!! (I can't remember who's blog it was, so if you're reading, remind me and I will put the link in) Seeing as the whole sack of seed potatoes cost us 50p (for about 30 seed potatoes) and the pot is just one that was lying around it's a bit of a saving on £7. We are just open to seeing what works well when growing in a small space. Remember - Kaizen is Japanese for 'continuous improvement'.

I documented in a previous post about how that when growing potatoes in old compost bags like we do it is important to make sure that the bags are effectively covered so that no UV light can reach the potatoes and give any potatoes touching the surface a green tinge. However I've now manouvered a few things and the potato bags are now being sufficiently covered by other growing things. The courgette plants and tubtrug are covering two of the bags, the courgette leaves are really offering a lot of protection. Also the wigwammed mange tout, combined with the runner bean plants, the rhubarb, the fence and the eglu are offering more protection.
Here is the picture from wednesday's blog post..

It is quite hard to notice, but the potato bags are at the back of the courgette's foliage and are on the edge of the eglu run. (Please note, this eglu is empty.)

Things are looking really, really, really good for a continous supply because all of the bags are at different stages, so fingers crossed.

It has come to that point where all the summer crops are blooming and I know it's only May, but it's time to think about Winter..

..well maybe tomorrow!

Have a superb day!


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Cheeky Cows

Just been for a walk in Haselor.

We stumbled across these cows in a field. They certainly were very curious...

Amy is not the world's biggest fan of cows, but I think they are great.

Would love to have a house big enough for a couple of Dexters in the future...

Enjoy the rest of your evening!


From this.. to this.. to this

Well, it was only on the 15th April that we bought these teeny-weeny courgette plants, and we planted them in a tubtrug full of multi-purpose compost!

They then turned into these bushes...

Now they are overflowing the tubtrug and there are courgettes growing left, right and centre...

The whole centre of the above picture is made up of the large courgette plant leaves. In just over 4 weeks, we have gone from two tiny plugs, to two vegetable bearing bushes.

It is great to reflect on a plant's growth by revisiting blog posts. When you water and tend to them everyday it is hard to realise how much they actually have grown.

Courgettes are a must for any vegetable plot!


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'Kaizen' (vegetable style)

Kaizen is the Japanese term for 'continuous improvement'.

As a gardener you always wish to continually improve your methods, ideas and hopefully your final crop/harvest.

At the moment, the veg patch in the garden IS continually improving. The whole area is full of green and everything is growing well!

The pictures don't really represent what it looks like in real life. The courgette plants are going crazy, the tomatoe plants are growing daily, and the first lot of early potatoes are on their final cover up of soil and are peeking well out of the bag. There is also the gorgeous blue pot and the ravishing mange tout and runner bean bushes...

I mentioned the courgettes a minute ago. Want a peek?

There are ten courgettes on there. Some are minute, but 3 or 4 are over finger size, harvesting is a day or two away!!

Here is the second sowing of mange tout. The third sowing is just germinating now. The first lot have really thrived in a trough style pot, so the second lot are following suit..

Despite the progress in the bags and pots at the eglu end of the veg garden, the potting table is looking pretty uninspiring compared to a few weeks back. Just a seed tray of germinating mange tout, half dozen pitiful tomato seedlings, some cabbage seedlings and a few more runner bean bushes.

Away from the potting table though I have planted 15 runner beans, 6 sunflowers (for my grandparents) and 3 more pumpkins. I also sown some raddish seeds in the same pot as the salad leaves.

Unfortunately (where there is something good in the garden there is always something bad) some plants were affected by a quick frost a few days ago. The tempratures plumeted to -1 celcius and it is evident that some plants have suffered a little. Some of the edges of the leaves on the tomato plants have blackened and the cucumber plant has significantly yellowed. The runner bean bushes which were establishing well look very limp, but fortunately the younger plants that have just germinated seem to have come through well.
This is what I mean.. see the blackening tips of the leaves?

The chilli plant is really limp. I saw a picture on Mel and Paul's blog and there's was about to bloom but ours is far away from that. I've fed it and propped it up against a cane so fingers crossed!

We weren't going to be growing traditional runner beans this year, that's why we bought the runner bean 'bush' seeds. However, we now have resources to grow both. I made this structure the other day and the runner beans have been sown in pots whilst I improve the quality of the soil in the area. I've added multi-purpose compost on top of the actual soil and have 'dug it in'. I've also added some liquid feed so hopefully they'll get off to a good start!

The structure is against the boundary fence between the vegetable garden and the lawn.
Not only do we have this arched structure, but I have now got an obelisk which I took from my Grandad's garden, I'm in the process of starting to do his too! His first growbag was set up today so he can grown some tomatoes. My grandparents taught me everything I know about 'growing my own'.

Anyway, asides from good old vegetables, I finish my exams next Wednesday and I have a few projects lined up including my grandparent's and Amy's mums garden.

Amy is still keen on the idea of bantams, and we found ourselves bidding on an eglu on ebay earlier...

In the beehive, I removed the queen excluder so hopefully the bees will begin to draw out the comb so they can store some more honey!! I'll try and take pictures tomorrow.

Have a lovely evening.


Archive - Keeping Bantams

Bantams are the cutest, most cuddly chickens around. Many traditional breeds also come in a bantam version which is much smaller than the original. A couple of years ago, I had the brief pleasure of owning 3 pekin bantams.

I managed to get them for my aunty who had just moved in to a farmhouse in Lincolnshire.

The eggs they produced were small, but what they lacked in size they made up for in flavour.....

 I believe that lots of bakers and cake makers use bantam eggs over normal sized hen eggs.

I just wanted to share a few photos with you before I get chance to make a proper post later in the week...

Here they are...

Aren't they gorgeous!!
Amy would be keen to keep Bantams.. we'll have to see about that though!!! They absolutely trashed the lawn and for small birds they were quite noisy!!

Have a good day!


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Having a trim..

I was contacted by a friend I work with who has chickens today. She asked me if I had ever clipped my chickens wings.

From the off, I would like to add that I really do not see many benefits regards clipping a chicken's wings. I did it at the beginning of my chicken keeping days as I was told it was supposed to stop the jumping, flying etc...
However in reality, chickens are naturally bottom heavy. Their body to wingspan ratio is disproportionate in comparison with other birds. A chicken might manage five or six feet of flight a foot or so above the ground but that is about their limit. They can jump quite high and if you are trying to pen them in to an area with a low fence then this is probably the reason you would consider wing clipping.

When handling the birds, make sure you have a firm grip on them because they do like to wriggle about and try to get away when they see the scissors oncoming. You can normally handle each bird in one hand comfortably, it is always good to make sure that you have hold (and control) of their wings, if you do so then there won't be much chance of the bird trying to get away.

In an attempt to stop chickens hopping over low boundaries etc. you can clip their wings on your own but I would reccomend that his is normally a job that requires 2 people. One person should calmly hold the bird, and outstretch the left wing. The second person should then snip off the back feathers on the chicken's wing. This will not hurt the chicken, and they will not feel anything, it is very similar to us cutting our nails. The effect of wing clipping is to unbalance the birds. This means that the bird will not be able to gain as much height during flight or when jumping as they usually would.

I don't have any clearer photos of the actual clipping on a chicken, but I do have these from when I clipped my quail's wings...

In the picture you can see how I have a firm hold on the bird, and the wing is outstretched using my right hand. Then get your helper to cut the larger feathers at the back of the wing towards the body.

Just use any good household scissors. The first time you do it the feathers (especially on chickens) may seem hard to cut but be firm and remember, it will not hurt the chicken at all.

Have a good day. Any questions just ask.

Hope that helps somebody!


Self Sufficient Drinking (Non-alcoholic)


It's all very good growing fruit and vegetables and raising livestock. However I think that it is very easy to plan what you are going to eat and subsequently forget that we need to drink aswell.

Making homemade cider, wine and beer is well documented in self-sufficiency guides and bibles, but what about those things that we drink the majority of the time. Tea and Coffee. I can't see there being a successful UK Coffee producer just yet so I can't really comment on how you could really grow/make your own coffee. But..
I have just discovered that you make your own Tea!!

I bought some 'fill your own' teabags off the internet and today experimented with the first flavour.

I obviously don't have any home grown tea leaves but... I do have home grown... Nettles.

Apparently Nettles are full of anti-oxidants and this and that sp they are actually beneficial for your health. But the main advantage is that you are benefitting from pesky weeds and making your own self-sufficient breakfast drink.

I was really unsure what it would taste like, but if you like green tea then you will like this. I thought it was ok, but Amy particulary enjoyed it..

Here are some step by step pictures of the whole process...

First of all you need to pick some young nettles. Leave the leaves attatched to the stalks..
The nettles need to be dried out before you can put them in your teabags. You can leave them on the windowsil for 4 or 5 days to let them air dry naturally but if you want it done instantly then pre-heat the oven to 40-50 degrees celcius. Then put the nettles on a baking tray and leave in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Here is what the dried nettles looked like..

At this point it is easy to strip the leaves from the stalks.. The stalks are not good for the tea..

I then gaven them a bash with the pestle and mortar..

When you have the powdery nettles get a heaped teaspoon and put it in the teabag..

Then the rest of the process is the same as making a normal cuppa.

Here is the finished article...

We are going to be trying lots of different flavours in the coming days and weeks. Including fruity ones, herby ones etc. I will let you know what works and what doesn't.

Ratings for Nettle tea...

Me 4/10
Amy 7/10

Have a great day!!!!


Sunday, 15 May 2011


Probably the most boring title to date.. but when you start growing things, I always find that it is you grow veg, veg and more veg and then you get to a point when you go... 'Doh, we forgot the fruit'

This is pretty evident in our case, we sown all the veg seeds weeks ago, bought a huge amount of veg plants and over the last week or so we probably realised we hadn't really considered fruit. I have said previously that the garden is home to an established damson tree which has been here for years. We recently added the apple tree to 'the orchard' and we have covered ourselves on those two fronts. Talking of the apple tree, it went in to a nice big pot on Friday to give the roots some more room to grow!

The easiest fruit in the world to grow are strawberries, everybody should grow them, no matter where you live. There are now so many varieties around these days that tollerate all sorts of growing conditions and it is also fun to grow a mix of varieties, because not all varieties grow at the same time and therefore you can easily prolong your season.

We bought the rhubarb crown on Tuesday, and here it is now nicely snuggled in to it's big blue pot, but it is slightly engulfed by the ravishing courgette plants. Hopefully it will do well here, it is a bit of an experiment for us as I have only ever grown it in a massive bed on the allotment, but I do know and have read that it can be grown in a pot...

I said in Thursday's post about the  young rasberry canes we bought that were reduced from the garden centre in Evesham. Well they are currently in small pots and are waiting to go in to a prepared bed. I've read that they benefit from a prepared bed rather than just planting them outright in to the soil... There are some small flowers too which is a bonus. It looks like we will have a very small crop of raspberries this year which is a bonus, but hopefully next year and beyond they really will take off...

There is also the melon plant bought from the same garden centre, it is currently in a grow bag with two tomato plants, I have no idea how this will turn out, but it would be nice to have a home grown melon or two... Here is Amy planting the new grow bag up using her new trowel...

Can you guess what these are..?

Grapes! This is one of the things that I forget about in my garden until I see the small bunches of white grapes hanging from the fence. It has originated as our neighbour's vine but has come over the fence to spread over our side too and I can't complain about that. The grapes themselves are a bit more bitter than those you buy in the shops, but I have thought about a few things I would like to try out with them this year.

My advice, to anybody starting to live a more sustainable and self-sufficient life is don't forget the fruit. When you start out it is easy just to look at the seed packets in a garden centre, which are dominated by thousands of vegetable seeds. A lot of fruit needs to be obtained through buying existing and established trees, plants, bushes etc. Some fruits such as Rhubarb can be grown from seed but grow better if the crown is divided from an existing plant. Other favourite fruits such as apples, will come from trees which will only start to give a decent harvest at 25 years old, a rather long time to wait indeed. But like with our apple tree, most garden centres will supply 'ready' trees for you to take home.

Have a superb Sunday!!!


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Why is it that...

...when you have no time it always seems that there is so much to do?

(First of all, this post was scheduled to go out on Thursday but due to the fracas with blogger at the moment it is only just going out now. So it's not that I haven't been trying to post, but blogspot has not been working worldwide. If you left me a comment then all comments left have been temporarily deleted by blogger for maintenance purposes, they are supposedly restoring them all over the weekend..)

Anyway.. I'm writing this now surrounded by piles of notes, random books, chewed pens, highlighters, post it notes.. all of that jazz that goes with studying.

On Tuesday I took some respite from revision and went to Evesham Country Park to see what was on offer. We came back with quite a haul of stuff from both there and the nursery in Alcester..

We bought a load of seeds that were on special offer, stocking up particularly on herb seeds (for Amy's Mum's herb garden) and peas and beans which I hope to have a continuous crop of until October time.

I also bought some more fruit plants. There were 6 raspberry canes on special offer at less than half price, we also bought a rhubarb crown so that we can try and grow it in a pot which apparently is very possible and reccomended these days. Traditionally rhubarb would take over your veg patch if you gave it the chance. But by restricting the roots growth and using homemade organic liquid fertilizers as opposed to an abundance of rotting manure, a small crop can be easily obtained from growing in a pot. In the past I have had a bash at growing melons, but with no success. Small fruits about the size of a pea established but then died before further progression. Not one to quit easily, we bought a melon plant and it is now in a grow bag with two more tomato plants.

I checked on the bees yesterday very quickly. It seems like they have built up some stores for themselves which is considerably more than they previously had. I did think that I might have to feed them fondant or syrup in the short term, but they are looking at their healthiest so far which is great. They still haven't moved up in to the super yet, but it is only a small colony. I've been in contact with the local bee inspector and hopefully he will be out soon to make sure everything is ok.
I really wanted to take some pictures of the bees, but using a camera whilst bee-keeping is quite difficult. It would be nice to show you a brood frame or two but the frames can get very heavy and they really are best supported by two hands rather than balacing both it and the camera.
I got stung for the first time since we have had them yesterday, on my foot! Which is definately a first! My own fault though for wearing in appropriate footwear.

Well, it has been nice writing this post but back to revision I go! I will try to get all the scheduled posts out as soon as possible, but blogspot is definately being very tempremental!
Fingers crossed that everything works ok!

Have a good day!


Friday, 13 May 2011

Archive - Windy Day

Well, here is the first of the archive posts I mentioned...

Whilst looking through the old blog I found this priceless picture of Carly, my first hen looking rather windswept. Lesley (the first, not the second who we currently own) looks a bit perplexed aswell!

The sun is out, but the wind is out IN FORCE!

Enjoy your day!


Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Well we've had the downpour we needed and the sun has now come back too. But the one thing we can't seem to shift is this wind! It is so windy here, it is untrue. You can hear it whistling through the air. We've had a bit of wind damage too. The water feature we were going to turn in to the wildlife pond by adding some aquatic plants has been swept off its feet and the top half has smashed in to oblivion. Secondly, I have just seen the apple tree topple over too. Thankfully it is payday today so I am going to buy a huge pot to put it in because it is still currently in the little black pot it came in.

In the veg garden we have the first bloomed courgette flower of the season. It is a beautiful bright yellow and the courgette itself has doubled in size from what I can remember the last time I saw it. There are about 6 mini courgettes now on the tubtrug residing courgettes.

The runner bean plants have really come in to life. Lots of rain and lots of sun has seen these really kick on and they now have been transferred in to their own pots. One of them is now so big that I have put it into it's final growing pot. Remember, these aren't traditional runners but they are supposed to turn out like a small bush. It will be interesting to see what happens to them.

The second sowing of mange tout are now about an inch a piece, so I have just sown a new seed tray full so hopefully we will have a continuous crop of fresh mange tout. I find that spacing out the sowings instead of sowing them all at once avoids a large glut that needs to be preserved, and instead you get a much more steady and continuous flow of fresh produce.

Look how well the first sowing is doing too! They have all now attatched themselves to either the sticks or each other... (typical!!)

We need a new grow bag, so I will add that to my shopping list for later. We have 2 large tomato plants that need to go in as soon as possible, and we also have 6 that have freshly germinated. Again continuous flow as opposed to glut.

The first potato bag has now had it's final covering of soil. We are already looking forward to fresh potatoes in a few weeks and I will start another bag off by the end of the week. We currently have 3 on the go, but simlarly to the runner beans we want a continuous flow rather than a glut.

The mixed salad we sown that were out of a free pack of seeds are almost ready for picking. I think I am going to make burgers again tomorrow so the salad leaves will be lovely with the burger in some homemade bread...

Finally, the strawberry bed/wheelbarrow is doing well out the front. So far we have counted 44 flowers or mini strawberries. The bed is looking quite established already and there are plenty of runners...

I can't wait for my exams to conclude on the 27th because a) we are then going camping on the Monday and b) we can do some more planting and self-sufficient like things like beekeeping, jam making, strawberry picking etc etc.

Have a great Tuesday!


P.S Over the next few days you might see some 'archive' posts taken from my old blogs to fill the gap whilst I am studying. I will pick out some relevant and interesting ones for you and hopefully you will enjoy them. I will also do some 'photo archive' posts from different topics such as bees, chickens, jam making etc.
P.P.S Don't worry, I will still be compiling blog posts but I like to post every day so the archive posts will fill in where it is not possible for me to compile a new entry!

Check back soon!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Breakfast time composting..

What did you have with your porridge/toast/cereals/eggs this morning?

Think about it for one second.

Tea or Coffee?

Whilst making coffee today it reminded me of the likelihood of large volumes of valuable fertilizer and composting components that are being thrown away each day in the world.

Did you know that coffee grounds are actually a magnificent fertilizer.?You can use them to create a liquid feed which slowly releases nitrogen in to the soil or you can add them the composter to neutralise imbalances between acids and alkalines in the heap.

Teabags also do the same thing. But instead of making a liquid feed (I find coffee is most effective for this) I just throw them on the compost heap, don't worry about the actual bag the tea leaves are in, this will bio-degrade rapidly and will add fibre to the heap which is of course particularly good if you own a wormery. The tea leaves will add Nitrogen to the compost heap just like the coffee grounds do.

So instead of throwing away tea bags and coffee grounds, compost them instead! Not only will you save quantities of these items mounting up at landfill but you will also see the benefit to your own crops. Tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers etc will thrive from the extra fertilization.

If you do not have access to coffee grounds from your own coffee maker or from the by-product of the caffetierre, you can pop in to your nearest high street coffee retailer such as Starbucks or Costa and they will be only too happy to give you their used coffee grounds for free! Sometimes they are already displayed by the counter saying 'Free to composters'.

They should look a bit like this..

From my own experience I find that courgette plants tend to benefit from the coffee grounds being placed on top of the soil. If you place the cold wet grounds around the plant and then water the plant as usual you will allow the fertilizer to slowly filter down to the roots.

 This method also saves your watering can from getting dirty, because the other way to do it is to put 500g of coffee grounds directly in to a standard watering can and then fill the rest up with water and then apply to the plants as usual, but you may find that coffee grounds get stuck to the sides and dry on to the side which just looks plain untidy and may block the spout too!

So next time you go to throw them teabags away..

Happy Coffee Composting!


Saturday, 7 May 2011

A little peek..

Just had a quick look in the hive this evening before the downpour began..

I couldn't spot the queen but then again I wasn't looking that thoroughly..

I might have to give them some substitute feed for the time being as their stores are quite low.

On the positive side, their are eggs, larvae, capped brood etc. so it all looks better than I imagined.

Here are a few (naff) pictures to keep you going until I take my proper camera out rather than just my phone...

I am really busy with revision etc at the moment, but I promise to post more when I can!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Friday, 6 May 2011

Busy as a..


We are pleased to reveal that we have a buzzing bee hive again!

We collected the bees this evening at about 8.30pm just as it was getting dark so the majority of the bees will have been in the hive.

I haven't had time to check them out properly yet, but it looks like they will need some love and attention. The colony itself is quite small, so I will have to see how the queen is doing tomorrow. Hopefully everything is in working order and we can look forward to a good season. We need to establish where the colony is at before dreaming about honey.

I will post a larger update tomorrow when I have had time to check everything over.

Plenty of jobs to do:

-Check queen
-Check for any health problems
-Check honey stores
-Add a new super
-Remove all the natural comb that is not part of the frames
-Write blog..

Keep your fingers crossed for us!


Extending the 'orchard'

An orchard is an intentional planting of fruit or nut trees and shrubs that is maintained for food production.

Well that rather loose definition could apply to anybody who ever planted a fruit tree in their garden. In my garden there is a damson tree that has been well established for quite a few years now, it was here well before we moved and it is still thriving today. We get a tremendous harvest from it each and every year.

I absolutely love it when it is full of blossom.............

At Amy's house there is a majestic Bramley Apple tree that produces hundreds of apples throughout the year, far too many for a family of 40 never mind a family of 4 or 5.

Bramley apples are fantasic favourites for cooking with, the crumbles and pies they attribute to our delightful. But we don't just want cooking apples, which can appear quite bitter if eaten raw rather than cooked. So today we visited a garden centre/farm shop in Dunnington Heath. It is one of the most popular farm shops that I know of and it is always very busy, and today was no exception.

They have a display garden there which is delightful and it is adjacent to the plant centre. Whilst we were there we pondered which things to buy and then we spotted the soft fruit and fruit tree section. I had really wanted a pear tree but they did not have any, so we decided on an apple tree which was well budded and we were told that it could be kept in a small garden in a large pot. Seemed like the ideal variety for us. Apparently it produces, very sweet and juicy dessert apples, so that is very exciting.

Here is a close up of the budding apples..

So now we have two fruit trees in our small garden, and we can definately class it as an orchard because there are now TWO trees which have been intentionally planted for food consumption...

Talking of food consumption. It makes me laught that some people prejudge farm shops etc. to be too expenisve. We managed to pick up all of our dinner for tonight for just over £3. We got 2 brocolli, 2 MASSIVE leeks and 4 potatoes. All of that veg for only £1. Then we bought some sausages made from the pigs on the Ragley Estate which is just over 2 miles from our house. They are not just plain pork sausages, but they even include locally produced Hogan's cider which is absolutely delicious!

...and just to finish, we saw some delightful lambs at the farm shop, they allowed us to get very close to them and enjoyed me scratching behind their ear..

I am going to pick up a very exciting piece of news this evening, so be sure to check back here this evening or tomorrow!