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I appear to have stalled on the garden front. A combination of changing my work situation right when I should have been harvesting, and inexperience meaning I planted everything at once so I ended up with more Kohl-Rabi than anyone will ever need, and left half a dozen things too long so they got caught by the frost and pulped, meant that  despite a good start, we didn’t finish so well this year. We’ll probably have a lot more on the compost bin than in the carefully stored jam jars.

And the brambles made a comeback.

We live and learn, and hopefully I’ll still remember all of this by next spring.

A major problem is that we live across the village from the garden, and there’s still no shelter apart from our rather ramshackle shed which is breeding leaks. It’s hard to get the boys enthusiastic to go to the garden if they have to run about in the mud all the time just to keep warm. It’s also a pain that when it turns cold or starts raining/snowing/blizzarding, I’ll have to drop everything and ride home in foul weather.

What we need is a decent garden house so we can spend a day at the garden whatever the weather is doing. A privvy would be good as well.

Which means I need to think about what, for me is a pretty daunting construction project. But if we’re going to get any further in sustainable living, I’ve got to face up to this sooner or later, and as I progress on the carpentry course I’ll be running out of excuses not to have a go.

First step is to go and find out what we are actually allowed to build here, which means going to yet another office…

Feel free to give me a kick up the blog if I keep procrastinating on this one.

Not being a spreadsheet minded person I can’t give the full, in depth, results of the garden, but I can report that although the carrots came out interesting shapes and most of the Kohlrabi turned out like cannonballs in taste and texture, we won’t ever be short of aubergines this winter. The potatoes did pretty well too: Being of a lazy disposition, I’d planted them in the ‘no dig’ beds in the hope that they would break the soil down nicely and for once my cunning plan worked. The resulting spuddies tasted good as well, so next year I’ll be getting a few more kilos*, and use them to break down the beds where the courgettes and pumpkins clobbered the weeds this year. Collecting the order from the farmers shop will involve climbing up the Hill of Doom with bike full of seed potatoes, which I suspect will generate a blog entry in itself.

The other goal of the year was to start collecting seeds, so to this end I deliberately avoided F1 varieties (cross bred plants which are meant to combine the best properties of both previous plants) as apparently the advantages don’t last to the next generation, and last week I started drying out the seeds while I still can and getting them ready to store for next year. This is my excuse for why several lettuces and most of the spinach have bolted: it’s so I can collect the seeds, honest, not because I was in the UK and then too sloppy to harvest the things.

The flip side of this cunning plan is of course that I can only collect seeds from what grew well, so if I want any French beans, basil, or tomatoes, I’ll have to order them, whereas I have enough seeds to grow more yellow courgettes than any right thinking person would ever want…

*Obviously I can’t remember what variety they are. What do you take me for, a proper gardener?

So there I was fretting about how to clear brambles from around the fallen pear tree, when Eldest Son solved the problem for me by inviting his friends around for the last few weekends. His friends mostly live in apartments or houses with carefully manicured suburban gardens, and spent Saturday climbing on the fallen tree, using dangerous things like garden shears to hack the brambles down and discovered an apple tree in the middle we never got near before. This was denuded of all fruit and a pack of happy boys were delivered home at dusk, a bit muddy, but ready for bed and with all the apples they could carry.

The fallen tree is now a ‘spaceship’ so I have to wait until the mission is completed before cutting the branches back.

(Update: one of the lads just appeared with two bottle of apple sauce made from our apples. I could get used to this system…)

Warm summer afternoon, three boys relaxing on the only vaguely grassy part of the Very Smallholding.

Went out with The Boys to ‘Haus Des Waldes‘; a permanent, interactive exhibition about forests, ecosystems, biodiversity, and their role in our lives. They like making sculptures of of natural materials and this one cropped up since our last visit.

I’d like to think I could make something like this in the Very Smallholding, but I probably wouldn’t have the determination to collect all those sticks.

The Boys have created a double deck downhill transportation device. It got pretty fast on the steeper bits of the hill. Notice use of fork as handbrake.

Try replicating that with an X-Box.

I barely managed to visit the Very Smallholding for a couple of weeks, so now I’ve got a jobs list that is taking over several pages of an exercise book. Having dealt with some of the more urgent items, I decided it was time to clear the path to the wilderness at the bottom of the garden.

After some minutes hacking with a scythe, I found something a bit bigger than a bramble.

That wasn’t there before.

A couple of weeks ago a big storm passed over and clearly it was too much for the large pear tree that had been growing in the bottom of the garden. The tree was probably almost twenty metres tall. I can’t get over the idea that we have a ‘garden’ big enough that we can drop a twenty metre tree and not notice it for two weeks.

So now I’ve got a lot of firewood sitting in the bottom of the garden like a whale in a goldfish bowl and I’ve got to work out what to do with it, and how.

Of course, I’m planning all the awesome things I can do now there’s more sun in this part of the garden, and how I could use the wood in my carpentry course or for interesting artwork, conveniently glossing over the fact that the thing must weigh a couple of tonnes and I’ve got to somehow get it up a slippery hill, after cutting it.

This was a complete fluke: I was pointing the camera at the poppy when the bee turned up.

But it almost looks like I knew what I was doing…

This is the bottom end of the Very Smallholding, after I attacked it with a scythe. If you look very, very carefully (or click on the picture for a bigger version) you can see the effects of the scything to the left hand side. When my arms can lift the scythe again I’ll try and hack a way to the base of those trees up the hill: letting all that fruit go to rot is just silly.

Because of all the trees this part of the garden is far more pleasant than the terrace on hot days, so this year I’d like to cover the cleared area so the brambles don’t get out again, so the space down here remains open and usable as a picnic area or something.

It would be even better if we could clear just a few of  those brambles off the hill, and make raked seating and a small performance space, using the area I’ve already cleared as a stage.

Of course for that to happen I really need to put steps on the hill, unless I want guests to slide down it, and I should probably get myself into gear making a decent on-site privvy.

Still, it’s a nice idea.

On the top of the hill, the vegetable garden is growing : the early potatoes have taken over the middle bed and the main crop has broken through the leaf mulch.

(see previous post to compare this to last month)

The pumpkins are beginning to grow. Slowly. Perhaps they need some coffee. Slug trap in the background.

On the main bed the seeds are growing well, if anonymously. (When labelling plants, use a waterproof pen). Notice highly artistic arangements of seed rows.

That’s definitely a bramble which I’m pretty sure wasn’t here yesterday. At least it’s the weekend, so I’ve lots of time to hoe the beds and work through the never ending jobs list.

Or maybe sit in the shade dreaming of Amphitheatres.

Trying to defy physics a couple of weeks ago by making support for the french beans that won’t collapse as soon as the wind blows, despite not having anything like enough poles to support it.

The supports are still standing and the garden has moved on a lot since. I really need to take some photographs.

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