Blueberries or mint?

For weeks, I’ve been meaning to dig up the mint which has been swamping the blueberry bush. Now, I think the moment has past.

After finally sowing the sweet cicely seeds (kept a few aside to sow separately in case the ones in the ground fail) I got from Old Sleningford Farm last autumn, I felt inclined to carry on with some gardening. So, I had a look at the mint and saw that new shoots were coming through.

On balance, I think it would be best to leave the mint to continue growing now. Blueberries are great but they are hardly a native species. They are also more fickle. On the other hand, mint is native to Europe and it clearly isn’t as fussy, even if it didn’t produce the best leaves last year.

Another reason for leaving the mint be is that if it is growing now, I can pick it now. Just what I need for a little treat… I’ve been drinking dried lemon balm till it comes out my ears over the last few months and I feel I need a change.

Besides, I did get a handful of blueberries last year and would have eaten more if I had taken the trouble to rummage through the mint. Instead, I guess the birds had a small treat!

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An evening with Google!

How much do you like technology?

When all goes well, I love being able to do so much with my phone. Not least, it is great to be able to blog without having to switch my laptop on. In fact, I managed for a couple of years without a computer at home.

Phones, especially iPhones, seem so easy to use. However, my old phone is now needed by my daughter, so today I upgraded to the iPhone SE. I managed to set up the phone whilst still in town, so was very pleased, although there was also a slight anti-climax in having so little to do.

If only I had known. Calls, texts and emails, fine. Apps all needed to be updated. Apart from WordPress, except that I was now locked out. Horror of all horrors!

The problem arose because I had set up 2-step authentication in order to protect my blog sometime in the past. However, the Authenticator app, which generates the code I need for the second step,

no longer worked on the new phone. Not only did I need to update the app but, no doubt for security, I had to scan a QR code. Not exactly without its challenges, when the code was on the phone, so the camera couldn’t do a scan.

Thank goodness for iPads…. After yet more uploading, logging into accounts and flicking between screens I finally managed to do a scan and before I knew it I had authentication codes coming out my ears.

So, I can hardly claim no environmental destruction has arisen because of my need to access WordPress. Still, in the scheme of things, some of my other actions could count as carbon off-setting (e.g. over the last two weeks I have used public transport to get to and from work).

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Rotting squash

When I picked the butternut squash last autumn, I left them in the shed to ripen and then simply because it was cool. It seemed cold enough to keep them until they were needed.

As you can see from the above photo, either the method of storage or the length of time they can be stored means they would have soon become a mouldy mess. No time like the present then to make some butternut squash soup.

In order to see what the squash taste like, I decide to use just the yellow one today. And, fortunately, the rot was only superficial. On the other hand, the seeds hadn’t formed, so I’ll have to grow some more this year to see if I can get any.

It would be great if I could get butternut squash which had naturalised to my garden’s environment. I’ve had scant luck with cucurbites over the last two years, but hopefully after a cold winter we’ll have a warm summer.

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Carbon capture and a robin

It is being said that this winter is quite mild. I’m not sure I agree. There seems to have been a lot more frost and day time temperatures seem lower than I’m used to. Not that I’m complaining.

It’s great to feel the crisp frosty air in the morning. It’s not so great when you are wearing your new wellies and your toes start to go numb. At the same time, the feel good factor after a day’s work at Old Sleningford Farm is hard to beat.

Yesterday, we were in the forest garden cutting down raspberry canes, which we left on the ground to rot in situ. The idea is that the carbon goes into the ground rather than into the atmosphere.

I’m doing similar in my own garden. Whilst some cuttings go into the compost bin, as I do need compost, a lot of dead stems and leaves are staying in and on the ground. This includes strawberry plant leaves and nasturtiums.

I don’t really know if leaving the organic matter where it has been growing helps capture carbon but it should help the soil, not only adding nutrients but protecting it from the elements. It should also give various organisms shelter.

Back to the volunteer workday at Old Sleningford, we had the pleasure of a fearless robin’s company. It spent much of the afternoon hopping round the branches we had laid down and pecking in the soil. I hope he enjoyed the experience as much as we did!

Posted in Days out, Permaculture, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Evening primrose roots

Last autumn, I discovered that the roots of evening primrose can be eaten and are apparently like parsnips. So, today I finally got round to digging up last year’s plants, which I thought had died, in order to see what these roots looked like.

The first batch were underwhelming – very small, in fact. However, there were a couple of plants which had grown away from the main patch. These had substantially bigger roots, so had they been younger, I would have tried eating them now.

I don’t know why the roots are supposed to be eaten young but my guess is that they become woody with age. I will, nonetheless, steam the bigger ones and see what they look/smell like.

On a different note, I noticed that new leaves were starting to grow on the stems of the plants I had dug up. I am therefore a little disappointed to miss the opportunity to see if indeed they would come back and perhaps flower in the spring. Still, there is always next year….

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A new year, new month, new week, new day

This morning, we were at a youth hostel near Hexham. I enjoyed the few days away but as always I was happy to be coming home. Not least, I was eager to start 2018 by getting on with my to-do list, which included putting the wood ash I got from a friend last week in the compost bin.

I was both surprised and pleased to see that a broad bean shoot was coming through in the hugel bed which had attracted the rats in December. I think some of the seeds will have been lost to animal activity but the layer of cardboard and compost on top of the bed has not stopped germination.

The broad beans in the earlier-sown bed continue to germinate and grow, so the year is off to a good start. And hopefully, this year’s crop will be better than the last.

Overall, the produce from the garden saved me something in the region of £250 in 2017. Most of this was down to two crops: strawberries and Jerusalem artichokes. The apples also contributed a health amount to this total.

I’m hopeful that I will have a good crop of all of the above this year, of course. But it would also be nice to finally see a decent number of blackcurrants on the plate.

As for annuals, apart from the aforementioned beans, I’m a little unsure. I haven’t yet bought any seeds and may not actually do so. I have some left over from last year and I’ve saved seeds as well. However, preparing the soil for more perennials is my main goal.

What about you? What plans have you for the coming year, wherever you are in the world? Hopefully, 2018 will be a good one for all your endeavours.

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The Roman View?

Towards the end of the summer, I wrote a post about the North York Moors, which were once covered with trees but have been denuded by and for sheep.

I don’t know much about the history of the landscape around Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had once been deeply wooded. However, there aren’t now many trees to be seen from Housesteads, a Roman fort on the wall.

At least there are a few trees. After visiting the fort we found a gorge managed by the National Trust and were thankful of a tree to shelter behind. The snow had turned to rain and the wind was biting.

I have no idea what kind of tree it was but I have a feeling its peculiar shape must have come from pollarding at some time in the past. In any case, it’s podgy nether regions were most welcome and its children might one day repopulate the land.

Posted in Days out, Permaculture | Tagged , , | 9 Comments