The disappearance of Lead

After almost scoring a bull’s eye this morning

at the monthly Towton Battlefield Society longbow practice, we took a walk across the field to a medieval church I had noticed from the window of the pub which kindly lets us practise archery.

In the event, the church was ‘just like any other church’ in the words of my daughter, although it wasn’t really quite like a functioning one. Clearly, an abandoned monument is hardly going to have flowers or cushions or prayer books in it – at least for very long. At the same time, I was pleased that there didn’t appear to be signs of vandalism.

The church is in fact the only building remaining from the village of Lead. How different therefore the fields pictured above must have looked in medieval times!

There are actually a number of walks around the fields in this vicinity and we had to stop shooting a number of times for walkers nearby. Our arrows may be made of carbon steel rather than yew but that doesn’t make them less deadly. I am baffled though as to the attraction of what to me is an empty landscape.

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A less interesting street

I haven’t been able to get out in the garden over the last week, so there is nothing to write about on this front. The boiler broke down again, which meant prime gardening time was taken up waiting for an engineer to come and sort it out!

Today, however, my daughter and I happened to be walking down a road where I used to park my car when I drove to work and something was different. Thus, I did a double take and realised the apple trees I remarked on back on September 2016 were no more.

True, the trees were too close to the house – but I was still saddened that with all the talk of how beneficial trees are, one road now looks a lot more barren.

I felt a bit cheeky taking a photo today, so you can’t see how a residential street in Leeds has become that bit greyer. However, it did make me all the more pleased to get home!

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Muck in day at St Aidan’s

Until relatively recently, there was an open cast mine between the villages of Woodlesford, Swillington, Methley and Great & Little Preston, just southeast of Leeds. Then it flooded and was taken over by the RSPB, becoming St Aidan’s Nature Reserve.

I prefer woodland to meadows and ponds but we do need all terrains for the sake of biodiversity. And I have seen birds there, such as kestrels and cormorants, which don’t visit my back garden!

Anyway, whilst walking in the reserve just after New Year, I noticed a sign advertising a ‘Muck in day’ on 12 January. So, I decided to pop along yesterday to see what it was all about.

Oh my! The enthusiasm – there were a good twenty-five of us, which was particularly impressive in view of the cold wind and threat of rain. Equally impressive was the rate at which we cut down the unwanted willow in one area of the reserve.

These trees have presumably suckered from others in a thicket further along. In any case, a decision had been made that they needed to be removed for the benefit of wild flowers such as knapweed, so we were cutting them down in order to make digging the roots out by professionals an easier task.

Gavin, who was in charge of the muck in, assured us that other trees would be planted elsewhere. I think they might be a different type of tree, however, as willows and wetlands are never going to be easy to manage.

He and his wife also provided us with a cuppa and biscuits after the hour it took us to do the cutting down. In fact, we had as much time to chat and consume their offerings as we had spent outside working, so it was altogether a very pleasing day out.

View over St Aidan’s Nature Reserve from the main entrance, 3pm on Sunday 12th January 2020.

Posted in Days out, Good for the environment, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Same again please

I don’t take my bins out for collection very often, as there is no need, with nothing in them which is going to start smelling and attracting rats. It therefore came as something of a surprise when half of my garden gate seemed to disappear after I had opened it last.

My neighbour experienced the same phenomenon, with the errant portion of the gate swinging to the side rather than staying with the rest. She therefore approached me about getting a new one.

Moving forward a month or so, one of my Knit and Natter ladies told me of a sawmill she got her garden fence from, so this afternoon I took a look at what they could do in the way of gates. I was suitably impressed and will now have a little think.

In the meantime, I decided to return to Red Lodge Farm for some more raw milk, which I had first purchased last Saturday. Even my daughter concedes that it is delicious. She also thinks that my newly renovated office

would benefit from a kalanchoe or two like the one I got last weekend and the garden centre it came from just happened to be en route to the farm.

Another plant I am considering is a cheese plant. Something big, in any case, to prevent colleagues passing my window from making eye contact with me as easily. On my first day in the office, which also coincided with nearly a month’s break, it was fun to wave at everyone but the novelty has now worn off. The perils of glass walls….

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Too soon, too late

Around the start of the year, I noticed the rhubarb was behaving peculiarly. Or perhaps the soil around the crown was simply falling away. But no, it seems to be sprouting.

Considering this variety of rhubarb has normally only started to show its stalks in April, I’m not sure what to make of current events. Is it because of a mild winter (it hasn’t seemed that mild to me!) or because November was cold and with the contrasting warmth now the plant is confused? Alternatively, it could be because of the nutrients it was fed when it was moved last spring or because of the unusually large volume of water it received in the final four months of last year.

Either way, if we have rhubarb earlier than in previous years, it’s hardly a disappointment. However, it may be a flower, which will have to removed before it kills the plant.

A second puzzle I have regards the yew tree. It hasn’t developed its winter colour of bronze but remains resolutely green.

Although the tree does not appear to have increased in height, it has got bushier, with more branches than when I bought it last February. I am therefore not concerned about it but it would be nice to see it grow upwards as well.

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A wreath for next Christmas

I’ve lost count of how many Wassails we’ve now done at Old Sleningford Farm but this one has to be the best I’ve attended. Perhaps this is in part because my daughter was an enthusiastic maker of headdresses, which was a pleasure to see.

Once we had finished the monthly workday, we set up the headdress making workshop in the kitchen and filled all available surfaces with the produce of our labour. Here is a snapshot of our handiwork

when we were still in the early stages of making them.

After the headdresses were ready for us, whilst waiting for further guests to arrive, we sat by the brazier outside, sipping mulled apple juice or cider, according to preference, and watched the children enjoying the fire. It was at this point that I saw my first mole. I had never expected them to be so small.

Anyway, the mole didn’t come with us at the end of the evening but I decided to keep my headdress in the hope that I can eventually transform it into a Christmas wreath for our front door. We didn’t get the opportunity to make one last year and I am loath to buy one which has bits of plastic in it.

In the meantime, I hope that the apple crop will be a good one for Old Sleningford. And of course my own, although I won’t be wassailing at home.

Posted in Days out, forest garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

On the way to buy raw milk

After a post by quercuscommunity on the subject of a dairy selling raw milk in Derbyshire and his help in finding a farm near me where I could also get such milk, I visited Red Lodge Farm, Wakefield, this morning.

I’ve had three cups of coffee, whitened with this particular milk, since then and while my skin might not have suddenly healed, I am most assuredly still in a reasonable state of health. I’ve also managed to go back outside and plant some more tulip bulbs.

I had to pick my daughter up from a friend’s at ten this morning, which meant there was an hour to kill before Red Lodge Farm set out its stall at the entrance to the farm. Fortunately, close to the farm is a garden centre whose atmosphere I like but which I haven’t visited in a long while.

I’m not sure why sales always come as something of a surprise, unless I am purposefully setting out to go to them, but today was a case in point. After reading a post by another blogger, Wild Parenting, on starting dahlias from seed, I was intent on finding some dahlia seeds to experiment with. This I duly did, although

I was a little disappointed not to find any of the cactus variety, which I had been so taken with at River Cottage last August. On the other hand, I was delighted to be greeted by half price tulip bulbs at the garden centre’s entrance and I couldn’t resist

a houseplant. At £1, it really was better that this wasn’t heading towards landfill. But as calandiva (Kalanchoe) are succulents and I spent my childhood overwatering such, I wonder how long it will last. Perhaps I should keep the camel, which I display as a Christmas decoration (it comes from Kazakhstan, where they might not have Christmas decorations) out for the rest of the year as a reminder to think desert rather than swamp.

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A warm glow

In 2016, on the Permaculture Design Course, I was told that a wood burning stove was the most environmentally friendly way of heating a house. I therefore set about investigating and discovered:

  1. My house was too small for even the smallest stove; and
  2. Wood burning stoves are not the most environmentally friendly source of heat in the home, not least because the particulates they produce cause air pollution.

Celebrating this New Year with a friend yesterday, we mused over her wood burning stove. Watching a fire is such a delightful experience, but then so is flying and many other things which really aren’t taking the world forward.

The upside of the fire is that my friend gives me her ashes, which are no doubt doing the garden some good. I wouldn’t encourage their production for my sake but it is better than them going in landfill. And I do have an image which will hopefully last into the future.

Pine cone in wood burner

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Full of beans

After mentioning yesterday the beans I had been drying in the airing cupboard, it seemed a good time to shell them in preparation for eating.

In one sense, I was disappointed by the volume of food the dried beans produced

but in another I was quite pleased, considering how little land was taken up to grown them. These beans came from about 14 plants and we did eat a few pods fresh.

I wonder how much land a farmer would have to have, though, in order to make any kind of profit?

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Less produce, more fun

This morning, I read an article with a clip of a puffin scratching itself with a stick in The Washington Post. The puffin wasn’t in the newspaper, by the way, but somewhere in Iceland.

My reason for sharing it with you boils down to my increasing fascination with birds. I’ve just been out to take a photo of the globe artichoke

and enjoyed watching the pigeons sitting on the fences and flying over head. It might be a cold day but they are clearly in their element.

The globe artichoke appears to be growing its true leaves after a trying start in the ground. The first leaves all but got eaten by slugs and snails, until I put sheep’s fleece round the plant’s base to ward them off. However, it grew new leaves and, as these have died off, beautiful silvery ones are coming out.

What a wonderful way to mark ten years in our house. Even though the anniversary was actually back in November, it was around now that I started my first compost heap and things got moving, albeit very slowly.

Of course, tomorrow will also be the start of a new decade but for me it is simply the start of a new calendar, where I note down what I have eaten or otherwise used from the garden. All being well, this will be more than in 2019.

The grand total for this year is £138, down over £40 on last year. This comes as something of a surprise in view of how dry and hot it was in 2018. On the other hand, with the conversion to more and more perennials and wild foods, there is the inevitable lag till the forest garden is up to speed.

And I do need to actually eat the beans and seeds I have dried, rather than leaving them in perpetuity in the airing cupboard…

I wish you and the world all the best for a fruitful and peaceful 2020. Come what may, the birds are still singing.

Posted in forest garden, Gardening, perennials | Tagged , , | 10 Comments