For the good of science

This week on the MOOC about soils we are getting into our own soil to find out more about it. The thing is I don’t have a lot of uncovered ground to actually dig into. But, fortunately, I don’t like primulas too much and the front garden had plenty that could go to make way for a bit of citizen science.


The soil I was supppsed to have analysed was the subsoil (B-Horizon) but that being such a hard pan I can’t actually dig into it I instead use the topsoil (A-Horizon). And in doing a bit of digging I noticed the very top layer of soil, which is called the O-Horizon (O is for organic). Until the course I am doing, I’d not been aware of this stratum.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, it looks like the A-Horizon in my front garden is some kind of sandy soil, which is not a complete surprise. On the PDC last year, we also did soil tests and the result for my back garden had been the same. However, I didn’t do a full analysis to work out precisely what the soil was, so hopefully I will have the answer tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, I’ve loaded the compost bin with lots of green matter as well as lots of brown. I had some cotton garments that I decided not to salvage, so they can be repurposed for my plants instead.

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Citizen Science: Week One

First of all, the brilliant news is that it rained last night and it seems that everything has grown since then. Of course, it won’t be enough but maybe this next week will give us some useful top-ups.

At least, my garden doesn’t have a slope, so there isn’t a puddle at the bottom with nought at the top. It’s not exactly rocket science for me to work this out but I still did a slope measurement this morning for the Grow Observatory course I am current embarked on.

This entailed finding a suitable app on the phone so that a reading could be taken. And then lots of fiddling about to get a plausible reading.


I could have, instead, gone for the two sticks method of measuring, which would have entailed drawing a fancy diagram with degrees marked on it. The neighbours think I’m bonkers, already, so there would hardly have been any great embarrassment in this, but time is of the essence.

In all, I must have spent about ten hours on the MOOC, which fortunately was quite engrossing. Maybe I could have essued the discussions but there are a lot of interesting people taking the course and I’ve undoubtedly learned a lot from them as well.

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Even the succulents are dying

Today there were a few spots of rain. Actually, on the surface, in some parts of the garden the soil went dark brown. And not wanting to miss the opportunity of dampened soil, I got my spade out and made a hole to put a lavender bush my dad had given me in.


There didn’t appear to be a drop of moisture in the soil. Perhaps this area is drier because there is less organic matter than other parts – but I was shocked. Furthermore, as I planted the bush, I noticed that the sempervivum my dad had recently given me looked as though it was on its way out.

In other words, it looks like I’m going to have to keep watering, as the soil moisture isn’t likely to improve any time soon otherwise.

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Citizen Science: Grow Observatory

Through the Permaculture Association newsletter a few months ago I came across a MOOC which looked interesting. So, I signed up to the course, which is being conducted by the University of Dundee, looking at soil.

The Grow Observatory is a project being run by the university to ultimately improve food production and the MOOC appears to be a starting point to get people like you and me involved. In other words, we citizens are active researchers, contributing to the bank of knowledge, not just learning using top-down methology. Sounds exciting to me.

In case you are interested in joining in, and not already signed up, the MOOC is through Future Learn, one of the major platforms for such online courses. This is only day two so there wouldn’t be any catching up to do so far.

Anyway, on the subject of soil, I’ve been looking at the patch where I sowed seakale seeds a couple of weeks ago. This is supposed to be the dampest bit of the garden but the ground was so dry when I watered it yesterday, the water sat in puddles rather than sinking straight in. 

There are also sunken bits, which I’m hoping is the soil settling as the bokashi solids I put in the ground decompose – but I wouldn’t be surprised either if it was feathered friends taking the seeds for themselves. There is something growing but I have my suspicions it might be different from what I had intended.

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Scythes and stepping stones

After a weekend of outdoors activity, I am weary but revitalised. Yesterday, we took a trip to Hebden Bridge. Even though I had visited the town several times, I’d never ventured out to the mill at Hardcastle Crags, so that was the plan for the day.

Some parts of the journey had less water than others. How soft do you think the mud in the following picture was?

On the other hand, at least Hebden Water still had something flowing along it.

The stepping stones were such fun!

Today, the outdoor experience has been somewhat different. In spite of the lack of rainfall, the wild flowers at Old Sleningford Farm looked a picture.

Forget-me-nots in the forest garden

And elsewhere there was enough grass and nettles for me try my hand at scything. I had not used a scythe before, given that I think I am allergic to grass and normally the opportunity arises when it is full of pollen. However, the only thing I can ‘complain’ about today is toning up my muscles.

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The sweet smell of apple blossom

I’ve just been watching pairs of pigeons fighting/courting. One of example of how much more entertaining the garden can be in comparison with television.

The other main joy today has been smelling the apple blossom. Why I’ve never before thought to put my nose in the flowers before I don’t know. It was heavenly. And whilst enjoying the aroma, I had the pleasure of watching a bee (a solitary kind, I think) collecting nectar.

Elsewhere in the garden, I watch as the soil gets drier and drier. I emptied the last of the water from the food recycling bin from the council, which I haven’t needed as such since getting the bokashi. It didn’t go very far but at least the apple tree got a little as well as some of the veg.


In view of the weather forecast predicting no rain for at least another week, I also thought it was time to put some water in the lid of the finishing off compost bin, which the birds love to visit. Hopefully, it won’t all have evaporated by tomorrrow morning.

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Once a week baby!

My rhubarb crown is now seven years old. I got it after buying a few sticks of organic rhubarb from a farm on the way to Harrogate and paid something in the region of ¬£7 for the pleasure. Now, it is a pleasure but as far as I remember the crown I went on to buy the same day, once I’d recovered from the shock, at most cost me only the same!

How much has the crown saved me? Well, a hundreds of pounds, I would guess. It was a long wait till it was ready for serious production. In the first year, I refrained from picking any of it and in the second year, I was very cautious with consumption. Even in the third year, there wasn’t much to really impress me but in the last couple of years I’ve been picking it at least once a week.


It’s safe to say that so far it is one of my best investments ever. So, if you like rhubarb and haven’t already got yourself a crown I’d encourage you to get one as soon as you can.

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