Thursday 27 April 2017

Spring Onions

I had a very out of date packet of Spring Onion seeds in my large seed drawer, so I decided to go mad and sprinkle them all into a tray of compost.  As you can see they virtually all came up!!

And as you can barely see ..... a third of the tray took up the front of this bed in the polytunnel. 

The pots at the back have been put in place ready for the tomato plants which are now coming on in leaps and bounds ... phew!!  It's the time of year when you go to the garden centre for a look round and see all their plants looking HUGE and healthy and think wonderingly back to your sad tiny specimens at home and go and drown your sorrows in the coffee shop, well I do :-)

You have to force yourself to remember that theirs are all brought on in heated light filled greenhouses, while ours put up with the conditions we grow them in, whatever they are.  In the case of my plants it's an unheated polytunnel, by a busy main road at the bottom of a windy Welsh hill.

Eventually the weather will warm up (and hopefully stay warm) and we'll all be fine.  Now it's back to planting the rest of the spring onions for me.

Sue xx

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Are We Still Scrimping and Saving

The last few posts since my unexpected foray back into Blogland have been about growing and sowing so I thought on this bloody chilly indoor job day (Hands up who ordered arctic wind with it's cousins, hail and snow for April?) I'd just write a post to answer a few questions that have popped up quite a few times in my email inbox recently, namely ... 'are you still frugal/money saving/clearing/the clutter/setting yourself challenges', and then there is THE BIG ONE  'has Lovely Hubby retired from the day job yet?'

We've recently had some large expenditure to equip LH's workshop with the machinery he needed for his future enterprises, so the bank account went down quite a bit.  Why is the 'needed' in italics I hear you asking .... well I'm a girl.  Who really needs a lathe and a big sucky up thing for sawdust or whatever, and different types of saws on different types of stands that all weigh a bloody ton and take up so much room, surely a Vitamix would have been better  ;-)

Then to top off everything we decided to do something that is long-term sensible but immediately shock inducing ..... we bought our future retirement property.  There will be a day in the future when this hillside five acres will be too much for us to either be able to manage or to want to manage. When that day comes we now have waiting a brand newly built ground floor 'semi detached apartment' ...that's a flat to you and me ... but I love the brochure description of it.  We completed last week and it's now officially ours.  Between then and now it will be rented out long term, firstly to pay off the small mortgage that we had to take out against our house to pay for it and then to give us an income to supplement LH's pension.

In true Challenge style we've given ourselves just TWO years to pay this mortgage off. 

SO to answer the questions .... yes now our splurging is done we are back to frugal living, yes we are money saving in every possible way and boy oh boy are we clearing the clutter.  If it's not nailed down and in reasonably constant use it is going to be sold at a car boot sale this year.  We will pay off this mortgage as quickly as possible, just as we paid off the last one, so that the rent from the flat will be in our account and helping us to keep our heads above water.  Because to answer the final question, Lovely Hubby has now reduced his working hours by one day a week and will be going down to a twenty hour working from home week at the end of June. 

Okay I can hear you asking "why the pictures of pastry and pasties?" ..... well it was just one of the money saving things we did at the weekend.  I took one of the four yellow stickered packs of pastry out of the freezer on Friday to defrost, made an enormous pan of vegetable stew on Saturday, we both had some for lunch, then strained out some of the vegetables and added them to a chopped onion that had been fried with some curry powder to use as a pasty filling for that nights tea, and then whizzed up what was left of the stew for soup on Sunday.

I can see lots more meals like those coming our way, but then it's always been how we like to eat ... and if it means that we can be mortgage free 'again' in two years or less it's very good in my book.

Sue xx

Saturday 22 April 2017

Potting On ... and Cups of Coffee

It's been a busy week this week, potting on vegetable seedlings in the polytunnel. 

This little beauty is one of my many courgettes, I also have marrows and cucumbers who look almost identical, all now nestled in their own first little plant pots, but it won't be long until they are in their final positions in the raised beds at the rate they are growing.

Who knew so many of my tomato seeds would do so well, I used some of my oldest seeds to get them used up and they were such healthy little seedlings that I have potted them all on.  So after I have planted enough for us in the polytunnel and net tunnel next month I will sell the surplus plants at the next car boot sale we do or at the farm gate just to make a bit of vegetable profit and fund any purchases we need to make.

The workbench is filling up nicely, this was it at the start of the week, now there's no bench space to be seen it's all covered with trays and pots, as is the bed down the centre of the tunnel.

More potting on to be done tomorrow ...and the first appearance of a pepper plant or two.  They are very late this year, but it's been cold here, especially at night.

It was my birthday last Wednesday and my Mum bought me a 'cup of coffee' while we were at the garden centre for lunch.  I think it will be a few years until I'm harvesting any coffee beans  ;-)

I also treated myself to a milk free Easter egg as they were reduced to clear ..... but I wasn't that impressed.  I think I'll stick to dark chocolate, which is naturally milk free and which I love anyway.

Sue xx

Sunday 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday Job

I dashed out while the skies were blue and the sun was shining to get a couple of photographs of this mornings little job ... filling up the bed LH and Simon made last week with the old sleepers.

It looked like this at 10am .....

...and then like this by 12.

We started off with the two trees from the large pots by the front door and then added the contents of all the pots that have stood patiently waiting by the polytunnel for over a year.  There's not a lot to see yet but once the Hostas get bigger the bed will be pretty much filled to capacity.  Any little gaps that seem too big will be filled with some of my small pots of Lavender, the Ariculas or the Primroses from my other pots.

Meanwhile over by the front door without the two trees in their pots on either side it's looking very bare ...

... first thing this morning it looked like this!!

 It made me wonder when we got the two trees that have moved house so many times with us in their various pots, and it turned out that they first made an appearance at our back door at Jointers Farm way back in April 2009.   We will buy a couple of bags of compost and get some replacement little trees for our big green pots next time we pass the local garden centre and then start all over again.

Sue xx

Thursday 13 April 2017

Salvaging the Strawberries

To the right of the polytunnel doors sit the old truck tyres that last year held the majority of our strawberry plants, along with a few more plants in the tall zinc planter next to the tyres. 

They cropped well in this position, the warmth of the rubber tyres and the shelter of the polytunnel giving them a head start and much needed protection from the wind, they gave us enough to add to the other fruits we had growing, but in such a small space not enough for bowls of fruit or to make jam with.  So I knew we needed many more plants and much more room for them to grow hence the two new beds we set in place over the weekend and that I posted about here.

At the end of the fruit producing season the plants were pretty much abandoned and left to their own devices, however one thing I did do was to put in place lots of little compost filled pots that I could peg the newly emerging runners into.  So this year we will have lots more strawberries and all at no extra cost to us.

Today saw me tidying up this mess, clearing, trimming and snipping the new plants from the few parent plants that were in the tyres ...

... and rather amazingly I now have over 70 strawberry plants to move into the new beds at the other end of the tunnels.

And the front of the polytunnel looks a lot neater  :-)

This year these tyres will be holding some carrots, and the zinc planter already has some Jerusalem Artichokes in it.

Sue xx

Tuesday 11 April 2017

An Extra Pair of Hands Comes in Handy

We had Simon, my eldest son, here for two days at the weekend ... and boy did it make a difference. 

Spurred on by knowing we had a pair of extra hands, combined with a real talent for lifting, shifting and solving problems we threw ourselves into a weekend of work.  The main purpose of his visit was to help Lovely Hubby lift and shift in the workshop.  All his new equipment, lathe, saws and other hugely heavy machinery had been delivered a few weeks ago and now assembled they all needed moving into an approximation of their final positions ready for a plan to be drawn up for the wiring of the workshop.

The boys cracked on with that while I did all the bog standard weekend chores, cleaning out the hen house, washing etc etc.  When all that was done and after a good lunch we set to outdoors.  The sleepers that used to hold up our hillside before the huge retaining wall was built behind the garage, have been waiting patiently to be put good use.  And this was always the plan in my head.

A raised bed by the road side to complete the area to the right of the polytunnel ....

.. and two beds for strawberries at the back of the poly and net tunnels.

The panels that we found here when we moved in will be put to good use to keep the birds off the fruit, after a few repairs to each one.

The three Blueberry bushes in the pots usually live in the net tunnel, but come out at this time of year so the bees and other insects can help with pollination.

You can imagine how hard Lovely Hubby and Simon worked to get these all in place and completely fill them with soil from the formerly huge earth pile we had at the end of our paddock.  A few tractor loads of earth was lifted, sifted and shifted before being levelled in the new rustic beds.

While they were doing all this I was planting potatoes on the hillside and onions in the net tunnel ... and then preparing the henhouse in the orchard ready for moving the chickens back over the next day so that we can rest Chicken World for a couple of months.

After an evening at the cinema we decided that Sunday was going to be a day off, yes all this was accomplished on just one day of the weekend  :-)

So Sunday saw us dropping my car off at the garage, walking the dogs  along the remarkably busy promenade and sitting in the sunshine at the end of Llandudno pier drinking coffee.  A day off well earned in my opinion.

Now I just have to get the Strawberry plants ready for moving into their lovely new beds once the soil has settled.

Sue xx

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Crop Top and Woolly Shorts

The sheep in the field across the road from our house are a funny bunch.  I think Thomas, the farmer that owns the land uses this particular bit of scrubby, rush filled land for his waifs, strays and odds and sods.  We thought they were all barren sheep until he dropped off a mother and her chunky little lamb the other day,  now it looks even more of an odd assortment.

They have obviously all had different treatments, hence the splodges of blue, red and orange and thanks to them pushing their way into the trees and bushes to get to the stream for water or just under the bushes for shade or shelter, they are all slowly but surely losing their woolly coats.  There will be little need for clippers in a few months if they keep losing wool at the rate they have been over this last week or so.

They are starting to take on the look of the freshly clipped collie dog in the Specsavers advert!!

But one in particular is looking very fetching this morning.  I stood at our office window and watched as she had a tussle for about twenty minutes with what must have been a particularly prickly bush.  I was on the verge of thinking about phoning Thomas to let him know he had a well and truly stuck sheep ... when lo and behold she tugged herself free and sashayed out of the trees wearing a crop top and a pair of woolly shorts.

Sue xx