Upcycling with the WI

My sister has long been a member of the Women’s Institute but I had never thought of it as an organisation that would be of interest to me. That is, until one of the members of my Knit and Natter group told us about a local WI foraging evening. Now, that sounds perfect for me!

With it now being dark by 7 o’ clock in the evening, foraging wasn’t an option yesterday when I attended my first meeting as a guest. However, we did another activity which I think is just as worthwhile.

I hadn’t brought along any garments which could be cut up and made into gloves or mittens but one kindly member gave me a pair of socks. Another lent me a needle and I spent a merry evening transforming the socks and getting to know the women at the meeting.

The fingerless gloves have yet to be finished but now I know what to do with old socks which can’t go in the compost bin because they won’t decompose.

Posted in Make do and mend, Permaculture, Social | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Wonderful things in small packages

On Friday, I picked two butternut squash, which were small but most welcome. Then clearing up the vibes yesterday, I discovered another two, which were even smaller but still most welcome.

At Old Sleningford Farm, their squash seem to get big and even ripen on the vine, so I’m wondering how they manage this when they are further north and their site is more exposed. I guess, without asking, that they must start the seeds off earlier than I do.

As it happens, the seeds I used came from a squash I bought in France at Easter – which was grown in Spain. I had considered the possibility that I might get no fruit, considering the seeds wouldn’t have been adapted to my climate (although we did have an unusually hot summer, as it turned out). Therefore to get these small squash is a bonus.

I doubt they will have any seeds but, if they do, I will save some and see if I can grow squash from them next year. And I will try to remember to start them off in February perhaps, so that the plants are already bigger by the time of the last frosts.

The amount of space I have for growing vegetables next year will be less than I have now, so it is going to take even more planning. I’ll do that once the pond has been built and the next round of trees are in the ground, though, as I can’t quite envisage the space yet.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Now you see me, now you don’t!

My neighbours are no doubt wondering why I chose today of all days to do two hours work in the garden. It is cold and raining – usually the way when I want to turn the compost heap.

Unusually, I remembered to take a before

as well as an after photo.

This is to illustrate the increasing bareness of the garden, though it doesn’t show as much bareness as I would have expected.

I would also have expected a lot more compost ready for the finishing-off bin but then most of it is still where the heap had been until earlier this morning. I’d like to call it ‘mulching’ but, in reality, this part of the garden is going to have a lot more done to it in the coming months. So, I doubt very much the compost will be a top dressing for any length of time.

One thing that amused me was how spongy the soil has become with all the rain we’re now getting. A far cry from the concrete of the summer. That does at least mean that digging the ground for the pond should be less of a trial. I’m now waiting for the rhubarb to fully retire for the winter in order to crack on with that, though.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

From radio interviews to ground elder

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from a BBC radio producer asking if I would mind being interviewed for one of their programmes (it isn’t to do with gardening or use of buses etc). The upshot is that this lunchtime an attempt was made to record the interview with a phone and an iPad. Unfortunately, my technology partly failed me, so I imagine that is my fifteen minutes of fame out the window.

Never mind. The ground elder is more of a concern. I had been hopeful it had been eradicated last time I picked the roots out of the soil but I could see new leaves appearing between the green manure sown in this patch.

The green manure was going to be dug in, anyway, in preparation for planting this season’s garlic, so it was no great loss to turn the soil. Of course, this is hardly a no-dig area of the garden but until I am sure the ground elder has gone, I think perennial plants are best avoided.

In the event, a lot more ground elder roots came out of the soil and I think I should go through it once again before the garlic goes in. I had to remove a few strawberry plants and their runners, which is a shame, but it’s more of a shame that I felt they should go in the municipal waste rather than my compost. No point in risking any further contamination, though.

The Jerusalem artichokes are another eager plant that needs to be tamed. Now it has rained but still mild, it has flowered, which is a pleasure to see, at the same time. And maybe there are still a few insects that will benefit from their pollen and nectar.

The runner beans have also had a spurt recently. I’m not sure the pods are detectable in the photo below. There aren’t many but they will be enjoyed in a meal soon.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

On the buses again

Yesterday, there was a bit of a shock to the system. As well as some disappointment because I had thought travelling to work on public transport would have meant less wear and tear on my vehicle.

However, the car failed its MOT on a fair number of points, which were quite costly to put right. Thus, I had a poor night’s sleep, thinking about ways to keep my wheels for that bit longer.

At the same time, this week there has been discussion on the radio about how we might need to radically alter our lifestyles if we are to prevent an imminent climatic catastrophe. So, if I can reduce unnecessary car journeys that bit more it can be no bad thing.

The upshot of my nocturnal machinations was the immediate decision to take the bus to work, rather than the train.

Heading towards Leeds city centre this morning on the bus.

What’s the difference, you may ask… Well, unfortunately, the train station is slightly too far to walk comfortably there and back at both ends but a car journey to the station is particularly damaging to both the vehicle and the climate. On the other hand, the bus is a more time-consuming journey, although I do get to sit down and the service is more frequent.

It is frustrating that climate change does not really appear to be appreciated at a policy-making level. People travelling at all is a major issue but without an adequate number of decent public transport services to get more cars of the road, it really feels to me there is little hope.

Of course, I shouldn’t have a car at all – or a fridge freezer, central heating, clothes made out of man-made fibres and …. the list could be very long. And what can be done about all that?

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Bullace or sloe?

There’s a lane which runs down the side of my housing estate and is a cornucopia of goodies for the forager. At the moment, that means haws, so today I went with my basket to collect some in order to make cordial.

I was therefore a little dismayed when the hawthorns seemed to almost devoid of their berries. Maybe someone had got there before me? Then I saw pigeons and was pleased to think they had been feasting, although if they eat all the berries now, what will they do come winter?

Anyway, I picked a few haws and then came across a tree which I thought might be sloes. I wanted to be sure they were what they thought they were, after previous mistakes which might have turned out badly. So, I did an internet search, which revealed that the sloes might actually be bullace.

If they are bullace (a type of wild plum), they are very tart, so perhaps not ripe. However, I forgot the check if the tree looked like blackthorn, so the jury is out.

I also got a few late-ripening blackberries when I discovered a hawthorn laden with berries, which I had sailed past on entering the lane. So, my concoction is now going to be autumn hedgerow fruits.

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Margil was going to be the variety of apple tree that I bought for my daughter this year. However, I had a change of heart, not least because we had only tasted the juice and the fruit could have been less appealing.

So, on the look-out for an alternative which hit the taste spot, we went R V Roger plant nursery near Pickering today, as it was their apple weekend. This meant we could try a variety of apples and then decide on the type we would like to grow.

First up, I tried Scrumptious and decided it was indeed worthy of its name. Not only is it deliciously sweet but the flesh almost melts in the mouth. Still, it was my daughter’s choice. Fortunately, her reaction was the same as mine – without my letting her know beforehand what I had thought.

Thus, we next went off to buy a tree. Formerly, I have bought maidens but the beauty of buying face-to-face rather than over the internet is that you get a clearer idea of what’s what. In other words, we learned that if we bought a bush it would fruit more quickly. This is because the bush is three or four years old, rather than one. So, if my daughter were to enjoy fruit from her tree before she reached adulthood, the bush seemed the better option!

However, the fun didn’t stop there. My daughter had a go at apple bobbing

and then we had a look at the stalls selling local crafts and such like. One of them was selling preserves made from foraged plants and we had our second zing moment of the day: dandelion syrup (made by The Rosehip Company). Who’d have thought it would taste anything like honey?

Anyway, a jar of that was purchased and then we set off for our next destination, Helmsley, to stock up on bread flour, rice in cardboard packaging and other important food items. The views all around were spectacular, as the leaves on the trees are turning different autumn hues. So, it was just a perfect outing.

View from car park at Bylands Inn, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire

Posted in Days out, Permaculture | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments