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Down in the veg beds, something stirs…

Beans, pumpkins, and some seeds that I couldn’t identify but decided I’d bury and see what happened.


According to the instructions on the package, I’m sowing the beans at the correct time. This is not something I can explain to the other gardeners though: no matter what I say the response is much tutting, shaking of heads, and gleeful comments of how I’m far too late, or too early, and they wouldn’t have done it like that, and the seed beds are the wrong shape, and…


After three years of scything away at the brambles, the garden is sprouting trees now they can see sunlight, including this specimen that is rapidly growing near the water tap which I can’t identify*. I don’t want to allow space to some invasive species but I’m loathe to just cut it down. Can some friendly botanist identify the species from this rather blurry picture?

*My tree recognition, I’m ashamed to say, is limited to species considered potential furniture…

Things normal people carry by bike: Books, laptops, shopping, small children…



Things I end up carrying by bike: swede saws.

 There is a good reason for this, honest.

I was given a large piece of lime wood (D: Lindenholz) to hopefully convert into carved spoons and other items. The wood has to be split or it will be damaged as it dries, which meant hauling it to the garden and attacking it with an axe and heavy hammer, and hauling it back to the workshop to cut into smaller pieces for carving.

The problem with this plan was that it required your truly not to leave the swede saw in the garden. Which I promptly did, and had to collect it with the Xtracycle.

Mind you, I noticed that drivers gave me plenty of space…

(I’m still open to suggestions for garden planting…)


At the height of apple season I found one of the trees about to break under the weight of fruit. Not wanting to be the one to tell our landlord that we’d killed one of his beloved apple trees, I improvised this temporary support with extra padding so the wood wasn’t damaged.

As the late Douglas Adams said, you should always know where your towel is.

The next day I came back wit the cyclists solution to all things broken: used inner tubes.



We get our seed potatoes from a small farm shop in the next town which is 2.5 kilometres away as the crow flies, rather smugly in this case because crows don’t have to go down into the valley and up out the other side like we do. Or carry twenty kilos of spuddies back for that matter.

Eldest Son rode with me for the first time on this route, having discovered that with a grown-up bike that has better quality parts, hills are a lot easier to climb. He’s now of an age where he legally has to use the road, so I’m taking him out as much as I can to get some traffic experience, and as the next town was recently rebuilt to make sure cars had even more space to go as fast as they wanted, including a section of one way system, where better to learn?

I carefully navigated a way through back streets which brought us out right next to the farm shop without touching the main road at all, except that the shop had moved, meaning we had to ride the length of the town on the recently rebuilt road, but Eldest Son dealt with the situation very well, and I’m sure the large SUV behind us on the very narrow one way system was tooting encouragement.

Potatoes loaded at the farm shop with an explanation of the reason for the move (Someone bought the premises and they’re making a high-end office furniture showroom: “Just what a small community needs” as the person measuring our potatoes remarked.) and we were off back home, with Eldest Son happily negotiating the rest of the one way system.


In the valley with Xtracycle full of potatoes.

The real challenge came on the way to our village which is at the top of a 1-in-4 (25%) hill (You can see the hill in the top picture although even that frankly doesn’t do it justice). The Xtracycle went up it very well, my legs less so. Eldest Son was kind enough to wait for me by a bench so I could collapse for a bit, before continuing home for tea and medals, or in my case, to transfer the potatoes into the Bakfiets to shift them to the garden.

There are times a Bakfiets can’t quite carry everything you need, especially when you need bulk consignments of compost from the local council tip and it is at the bottom of a steep hill, so last week a long-suffering friend allowed me to fill his nice clean trailer with fresh compost and deliver it to the parking space at the top of the Very Smallholding. Strangely he didn’t offer to help carry the stuff down the steps into the garden two buckets at a time, although he helpfully pointed out the parking space could have been at the bottom of the garden, so I was lucky there. Then he went home.

Young people these days, honestly.

The pile sat on the parking space, steaming quietly for a week until I got around to laying a cardboard mulch on two beds and to carry bucketloads of compost down to pour over the top ready for the mimited planting I’m going to do this year.*

It took me sixty trips, negotiating the steps from the gate, crossing the patio, mincing over the broken steps to the grass, sliding down the steep, increasingly muddy hillside to the veg beds, dumping the compost on the cardboard, climbing back up the hill, onto the patio and up the steps, wondering why I hadn’t looked for a nice flat suburban garden like normal people have, where a wheelbarrow would be a useful implement instead of a gravity-fuelled danger to man and beast.

As I half dumped, half dropped the last bucketful on the bed, a neighbour came to call and asked what I was doing. I explained that the cardboard was to kill off the undergrowth and give me clear well prepared soil for planting this year.

My neighbour scratched his chin, looked at the fresh beds, and opined “Ah, mulching. Well, you know what they say about that: it’s for gardeners too lazy to dig…”

*I’m very short of gardening time this year and we will be away in August, so I’m limiting myself strictly to onions and potatoes**.

**And some beans I thought I’d give another chance, a handful of leftover leek seeds, a few courgettes that are growing by themselves, and possibly perpetual spinach, but apart from that, definitely nothing else.




The seedlings at the Very Smallholding are finally beginning to sprout, my lack of success so far being mainly that I hadn’t got around to planting things. The nice new clay starter pots are my replacement for the self-made newspaper pots I’d used for the last few years. Simple but effective greenhouse made by Grandma after she got fed up of me whining that my cold frame had collapsed.


Notice carefully placed watering can to make photo of plastic sheet into art.


While working in the Very Smallholding this week, I noticed lots of small plants growing in the middle of the Throne Room, in a space which last year was taken up almost entirely by brambles and one very horizontal tree. Spring is coming, full of the life and growth. This is all very well, but I’m way behind on planting, or in fact getting ready for planting, and judging by the mess in the picture, tidying the place up generally.

Probably should stop taking pretty pictures and do some more digging.

There is a lot going on other than wandering about in the garden and taking pretty pictures of the plants, I just can’t blog about it just yet. I’ll get back to you on that when I can…


I don’t usually go to the Very Smallholding in the evenings because after dark you could be attacked by trolls, but I took the compost down just as the sun was setting on our picturesque (ie ‘tatty’) shed.

Note compost bin and bucket ready to go back up the hill. Try to ignore shadow of inept photographer.


This is now the view from the bottom of the Mighty Steppe.

The Throne Room is the result of some pretty creative thinking on the part of our chainsaw wielding friends a couple of weeks ago. They decided it was a waste to let all that lovely wood burn, and it would be much more fun to make a circle of benches where we could invite friends to come and hang out on summer evenings.

The invitation part was mentioned several times. I suspect an ulterior motive.


The Throne itself was cut from the trunk of the tree and simply turned sideways: there was no way it we could move it any further. It took three of us about twenty minutes to get this into position, so I’m not worried about it moving.

It still needs some work, mostly sanding and oiling so it is waterproof and doesn’t lose the lovely colouring in the wood. It will also need drainage holes and/or a roof or the seat will stop being a bottom rest and become a water feature.

Still, it’s a bit more interesting than a standard garden-centre bench.


I can’t oil the bench until the wood has dried out, which could present a problem. Observant readers will notice the original trunk and roots lurking in the bushes behind.

I’ll need to make a fire hole in the middle of the circle. When I’ve finished digging the veg beds, chopped all the new firewood, cut more of the brambles…

And people ask why we don’t have a television.


The boys were given a foam rocket to play with in the garden: it works when you push a tube into another tube and fires the rocket out uing air pressure.  No batteries or silly noises.

Youngest Son is seen making a test shot across the valley. Note rocket at extreme right.

It worked well until he realised that bracing the tube against the ground meant you could fire the rocket much higher. It now resides near the top of a holly tree and will remain there until it finally falls down again.

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