A new way of turning

I vow every Monday to start the morning by reading a book but it rarely happens. Something always seems to get in the way. Today, was different and I luxuriated in the peacefulness of my latest tome without a shadow of guilt.

This, I think, is what enabled me to be so productive with the rest of the day and tick many jobs of my list. One of these was to try out the stick

that came with the Green Johanna. The idea is that it helps aerate the contents of the bin. In other words, I was able to turn the contents without having to unload them and then put them back in.

The job was actually easier than I’d expected, although with the contents settling afterwards, it did occur to me that there might now be fewer pockets of air in there than there had been before I started. Still, with stick in hand, I thought I would give the dalek a go as well. Mm, not quite as easy, no doubt because the contents were in bigger pieces. At the same time, this heap had already reduced a bit, too, so there is plenty of room for more fodder.

With this in mind, I decided it was time to plant out the spring bulbs I’d bought during the half term holidays. This garden is looking pretty tatty right now but I’m excited to see the displays next year.

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A funny shape

I had a moment of excitement followed by a fairly swift disappointment this evening. When we moved into the house ten years ago, I’d been making spinach pie, only to discover that the oven didn’t work. However, whilst making beeswax wraps tonight I started twiddling around with the knobs on the cooker and I thought I’d discovered the solution.

As you will have realised, this was not to be. The iron I had acquired through Freegle hadn’t been hot enough either, though it did melt the wax sufficiently to spread it around the fabric. So, I will hold onto it for emergencies.

The good news is that, because wax has a low melt point, by covering the wrap with baking paper to protect it from the glare of the grill, a minute of so under the grill brought pleasing results.

The fabric was another matter. Being very thin, it proved rather difficult to draw the outline and then cut the wrap out. The pinking shears could also probably do with sharpening, if that is possible, but at least there is now another beeswax wrap to add to the collection.

Apart from being compostable and a fun winter evening activity, making such wraps is a great way to prolong the life of a favourite item of clothing, as long as the fabric is 100% cotton (I guess linen would also be fine). I’d bought this top from an interesting service station off the A9 near Perth – after a foray into the Highlands of Scotland – and it was sad when it became unserviceable. But now I can continue to use it, albeit in a different form.

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Blue glass

There isn’t much to report about the garden, apart from the fact that the Green Johanna seems to be working. Since Monday, the heap has gone down by about a third – I’ll have to check the dalek to compare.

On the subject of compost, though, we held our Composting Champions meeting at Rainbow Junction, a café which uses food which would otherwise have been thrown away, today. I ate a delicious bruschetta with mushrooms

and beetroot brownie with banana custard, which I find most pleasing. It is a shame that so much food goes to waste, as I have mentioned in numerous other posts, but I’m glad that there are a few resourceful individuals who are saving some of it from Leeds’ incinerator.

Another pleasing save from landfill is a set of blue glasses and other crockery, which I found in a Help The Aged shop. I had taken a few bits and pieces in and decided that I really needed to buy something to support the cause.

Of course, this does somewhat negate the decluttering efforts. However, considering our dwindling set of glasses and bowls – I wonder where they all disappear to – this purchase is an investment of a kind.

Besides, I love blue glass, so these will be kept from mainstream use. There are enough excess goods in the world, methinks, to allow me the occasional small indulgence!

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Winter starts with white now

There seems to have been more frost this year than I remember for a long time. Thus, at the Old Sleningford Farm workday, I was glad for once to be wearing gloves when pruning the apple trees.

Officially, it is now the first day of winter and, perhaps unusually, I find working outdoors at this time of year exhilarating. It does of course help when it is sunny – and today was beautiful.

One of my friends noticed a piece of honeycomb hanging from one of the trees.

It seems this can happen after honeybees have swarmed and before they find a new home where they can set up a hive. There wasn’t any honey in this comb, however.

Anyway, we added the branches from our pruning to the bonfire pyre set up in one of the fields. In order to hold it all together, there was a tree trunk in the centre, which looked much like a stake. It had already been charred by previous bonfires, which brought to mind rather gruesome images of burning heretics. This may be a downside of reading so many books on the Middle Ages!

Moving onto more enlightened matters, I noticed a bush with the most eye-catching rosehips. I need to get out for a walk near me, as I am sure there is much to bring some winter cheer. In the meantime, here is an image of my first Christmassy view.

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Lower branches

When I picked the crab apples back in September, I noticed that those on the top of the tree were bigger and without marks. So, yet again I have a question as to why this might be.

Notwithstanding, the lower branches were due to be removed from the tree, so that the tree will hopefully develop a traditional canopy, rather than looking like a (very tall) bush. Besides, it will then be easier to walk round.

Perhaps surprisingly, the fodder in the dalek-style compost bin, to which I added the branches, seems to have reduced more than the contents of the Green Johanna. However, this could simply be an illusion. In any case, it is good to see the wonders of nature at work and to know the compost from the former can then be added to the latter in due course.

The rationale for the transfer is that in summer the Green Johanna should get hot enough to kill off seeds. And, in the meantime, I suspect that really woody material would slow this bin down too much, anyway.

In the short term, the rats do not seem to have paid any attention to the last of the bokashi that went into the enclosed bin. There are no signs of digging or gnawing, which suggests that from now on I can relax over this issue!

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Careful with those buds!

My obsession with the hazel trees continues….

I’ve been working from home today and, when the virus check slowed the computer down to the extent I could’ve scroll down any of the documents I was using, I decided it was time to top up the Green Johanna a bit more.

The hazel tree next to the bin is a tad to close for me to work without knocking it. The upshot if this was that one of the buds on the tree got damaged. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone doesn’t do close-ups too well but perhaps you see next year, when a branch fails to develop in one spot.

In the long run, I will probably reposition the bin. Right now, though, it isn’t possible because of all the mint and the long-suffering blueberry bush. The mint is slowly being cut down and removed. The blueberry bush, on the other hand, will probably move to a different location, not least because I would like to see its autumnal colour.

The hugelbed I made for it has sunk considerably but the pine branches are still sticking out of the ground. I dare say under the soil more decomposition will have taken place, especially with all the rain this autumn. So, perhaps next year will be the year?

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A safe place to step

Over the last year or so, I’ve often been wobbling around on bricks to get from A to B in the back garden. Slowly, I’ve been collecting stones to aid the walking process but have nonetheless had one or two unfortunate accidents.

Not getting any younger and ending up with swollen and bruised ankles, I was therefore on the lookout for suitable replacements for the bricks and other less than ideally sized stones.

Saturday was one of those days when there was too much to do and therefore some things had to go by the wayside. But one of the items on the list which was a priority was getting to north of Leeds to pick up five broken paving slabs.

Yorkshire Stone seems to be popular on Freegle but I can imagine the lady who was offering the broken slabs might have wondered how long it would be before a taker came along! In any case, the slabs are a perfect size for me.

The one in the foreground is the new slab – the one behind needs upgrading. However, at least there is some substance to it, unlike the one in the bottom right of the photo below.

This rather thin specimen will be okay by the dalek compost bin and thankfully I won’t have to do anymore balancing acts on it. There should also be less soil compaction where it (and the others still to be replaced) used to be.

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Same species or what!

In February, I got two hazel trees from the Woodland Trust. They are both mere sticks

The hazels are to the left of the yew tree I also bought from the Woodland Trust.

when they arrived and over the year I have been monitoring their growth with fascination.

Even though they started out the same size and shape, one of them is still just a stick, albeit with beautifully coloured autumnal leaves

while the other is squat, with several branches, and seems to think it is still summer.

I would therefore be interested to know what has caused this difference. Is it their locations or just their individual DNA? And will the leaves on the greener one eventually turn yellow or just fall off, as some of them do appear to have done already?

The answer to the latter question will obviously become apparent in time but I will have to do a bit of digging to find out more about habitats and DNA for the first question.

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An ice-covered pond

It’s a while since I’ve blogged about the pond in the back garden. Basically, there hasn’t been anything of note to write about. Until the first frost hit the garden yesterday.

The photo above doesn’t do justice to the layer of ice covering the water but it was definitely frozen, although I don’t know how deep the layer of ice is. I wonder if this will have killed off the dwarf water lily, which in all honesty was anything but a vigorous plant. And no flowers appeared on it in the summer.

Never mind! Next year, I plan to move onto bigger and better fare for the pond. I haven’t made any firm decisions about which plants will go in there but I now have a list of British natives, courtesy of

which I bought with a gift card from Permanent Publications as a token of gratitude for a letter I had published in the permaculture magazine.

I’ve also discovered a pond plant nursery in a neighbouring town. I haven’t visited it yet but if I can buy what I want from a local and independent business I will be more than happy!

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I must learn to say no!

When my neighbour gave me her gooseberry bush over the summer, I explained that I wouldn’t be able to plant it till winter. However, I knew that she wanted the tub it was in for winter bedding plants.

So, even though the bush still had its pretty autumnal leaves on, after clearing away as many of the crocosmia from round the pine as I could, I dug a hole, filled it first with duvet feathers and then put gooseberry bush in.

This tale suggests an easy afternoon’s work. In the event, it was hard enough getting the crocosmia corms out of the ground. They had grown under the roots of the pine and I did inadvertently cut one of these roots with my spade. Hopefully, the pine won’t have been marred too much by the experience.

When it came to getting the gooseberry bush out of its tub, however, I remembered the visions I had had when taking the pine out of its pot a few years ago. It had been an extremely tight fit and I wondered if this was how a midwife might feel. These thoughts came to mind again today.

Considering I don’t have anymore room for plants, although I’m sure I could always find some, I need to stop accepting offerings in pots. Especially if it looks like I could end up with a hernia getting them into planting position. No doubt famous last words!

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