Newest (albeit lowest quality, most cheesy and random) self-help book is now available…
Have you ever felt down-in-the-dumps, stuck-in-a-rut, blue? We all have. Sometimes it is hard to shake it off. We are all looking for happiness but it is good to have a starting point. That is what this self-help book is. Listing ideas that could help you to feel light and enthusiastic about life, I am here to offer a helping hand to guide you behind those dark clouds while we look for rays of sunshine.
We’ve actually got around to ‘turning’ a compost heap over.
That is quite and achievement here. We often fill compost heaps so high that we can’t possibly turn them over without creating a collapse similar if Everest gave way.
But we did it, in two hours in the rain. We kind of had to do it because, well, I needed more space for the onions and garlic. I’ve planted somewhere around 250 onions… we were given quite a few but it was good seeing as the cats have already dug some up…
But yes – back to composting – why do we ‘turn’ compost over? Why do we compost in the first place? Why not chuck it in one of those bins?
Right, compost: organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as fertiliser and soil amendment. Compost is the KEY ingredient to organic farming. Despite the slug pellets, that is what we aim to do.
Have you ever read The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stemple? Do, its great.
You make your compost out of basically anything in the garden – that can be cut grass, leaves, old plants, some people choose not to include their weeds but I do because I like dumping them somewhere and feeling like I am recycling. You can also put your food waste in it. This might attract rodents, of course, but what about your tea bags, banana peels, veg scrapings? Those are all really good to rot down and so not worth giving to the bin man. You can put cardboard and paper on too – covering the heap with cardboard is a good way of helping it to rot down.
But why should I compost?
Compost takes time. It can look messy. But it is so worth it for a gardner. It is an investment.
So, if you don’t know already, ‘turning over’ the compost bed is aerating it. It gives it a flush of oxygen that encourages the bacteria breaking it down not to remain sluggish. It therefore speeds up the process, sometimes by weeks.
To aerate your compost, fork or shovel the compost into a newly set up enclosure next door to it. It is that simple. If your pile isn’t as big as a mountain.
There are too many plants that can be started off indoors/outdoors in March to name! But here are a few to get you started…
Carrots – Carrots – sown one trench outside under fleece
Spinach – Salad – Spinach – planted out ‘Turaco’ spinach sown last autumn in a cold frame with fleece and started off indoors ‘Barbados’ and ‘Emelia’, onto ‘Samish’ soon…
Lettuce- Salad – Lettuce – planted out lettuce sown last winter in the cold frame with the spinach and sown some seeds indoors
Radishes – Salad – Radish – sown outdoors under fleece between other crops
Celery – Celery – batch sown indoors
Celeriac – Celeriac – ”
Courgettes – Courgettes – sown indoors
Squashes – have yet to plant ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Sunburst’
Quinoa – Quinoa – batch sown indoors
Chickpeas – Sown indoors, first time trying them this year!
Broad beans – Broad Beans – ready to plant out under fleece
Peas – started off indoors but can be sown directly now – post hopefully coming soon…
Okra – Okra – couple damped off so planted some more indoors
Rocket – Salad – Rocket – sown indoors, not doing so well…
Watercress – sown indoors
Herbs – sown the parsley and coriander so far
Fenugreek – damped off, need to sow some more indoors
Cucumbers – Cucumbers – sown indoors, doing best at moment, please stay that way!
Tomatoes – germinated very well indoors
Potatoes – time to think about planting them outdoors under a lot of earth and some cover
Turnips – just sown some
Purple Sprouting Broccoli – just sown some (as well as some more Calabrese Broccoli) indoors AND just harvested first batch of last year’s crop the other night to have with some of the last dug up potatoes from last season with baked beans, cheese and frozen homegrown runner beans – yum!
Leeks – Leeks – indoors
Spring Onions – indoors
Beetroot – indoors, on my list
Cabbages – Cabbages – ‘Red Rodeo’, ‘Advantage’, ‘Caserta’ – sown indoors
Brussels Sprouts and Brukale – Brussels Sprouts – quickly sow before it gets too late
Kale – The last of the Kale
Sweet Corn – on my list but I know from experience that I can still get away with sowing it in May, indoors
Rhubarb – Rhubarb – time to feed and start forcing
Fruit Trees/Bushes – time to feed!
There are bound to be plenty more veggies to sow/plant out as we plough on through the first month of spring. Temperatures are finally warming up but hang onto some fleece – the fruit trees might be lured into a false spring, deadly for blossom and fruit production… Make sure anything you sow outside/ plant out is wrapped up under cover, nice and snuggly. It will be a shock to the system if they are exposed to Britain’s ‘spring time’ too early!
FLOWERS TO SOW INDOORS:
Sweet Peas – they are ready to plant out under cover
There are BILLIONS more…
List of edibles you could start sowing indoors in February:
Cucumbers: Passandra, Marketmore, Crystal Lemon. For more information on planting cucumbers, visit my cucumber page: Cucumbers
Calabrese Broccoli – Ironman F1 – Calabrese Broccoli
Cauliflower – All Year Round
Spinach – Emilia and Barbados Salad – Spinach
Peppers – Californian Wonder
Aubergine – Black Beauty Aubergine
Rocket – Salad – Rocket
Onions – bulbs (outdoors under cover) and seeds
Shallots – seeds
Brussels Sprouts and Brukale – Maximus and Petite Posy Brussels Sprouts
Lettuce Salad – Lettuce
Tomatoes – Shirley, Gardner’s Delight, Sungold, Losetto…
Radishes – Salad – Radish
First early potatoes (outdoors under cover)- e.g. Swift, Red Duke of York, Epicure, Rocket The MIGHTY Potato
Garlic (outdoors) Garlic
Beetroot – Bolthardy
Cabbages – Caserta
Oriental greens – e.g. komatsuna, pak choi, mizuna, mitzuna)
Rhubarb (forcing time) Rhubarb
Broadbeans – Masterpiece Green Long Pod, Aquadulce Broad Beans
I’m bound to have missed lots – anyone got any ideas to share??
The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks
‘Some people’s lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks’ isn’t. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years. A Viking would understand the work they do: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the gruelling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the fells.’ – Goodreads
I am one of those people who struggles to re-read books (there are only a few that I have, there are so many new stories out there) but I remember as soon as I shut this book, I announced ‘I could DEFINITELY read that again’. It was a miracle book, it came just at the right time when I needed assurance that I was not crazy to love the outdoor life. This book has got a reputation as a bit of a fashionable accessory for the coffee table but I promise you, it is one of the best non-fictions I have ever read … possibly the best because I resonated so well with the narrative. It is beautiful, funny, honest. I went to the Lake District a month afterwards (yeah, like the tourists he intensely dislikes) and walked with the Herdwick sheep in Beatrix Potter land and drooled over the Belted Galloway cows. It is a gruelling yet magical spot to live and work in. So fresh yet raw compared to cosy south of England (horrendous drive, I can’t stand car journeys). It is a book for anyone who ever dreamed of the rough-and-tough of nature or of being a hardworking farmer/land person/outdoor worker in anything. You will sympathise with his fretting of daylight hours in winter.
Meadowland – John Lewis-Stempel
‘What really goes on in the long grass?
Meadowland gives an unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December, together with its biography. In exquisite prose, John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren,the skylark brood and the curlew pair, among others. Their births, lives, and deaths are stories that thread through the book from first page to last.
In Meadowland Lewis-Stempel does for meadows what Roger Deakin did for woodland and rivers in his bestselling books Wildwood and Waterlog.’ – Goodreads
Very interesting book. Lewis-Stempel pretty much documents a year in a meadow belonging to his farm. He included fascinating facts about the wildlife you would not have imagined, history about the land and animals and – the best part, spoiler alert coming up – his tractor breaks down during cutting season and he scythes the meadow the old fashioned way, by hand, using a traditional scythe. Before I read Anna Karenina and the scene where Lenin scythes, this book alone encouraged me to pick up the old fashioned tools. I love all that stuff. I know it is all just fun and games and not serious farming like Lewis-Stempel or Rebanks, but I yearn for the old fashioned days before leaf blowers and electric saws were invented – how peaceful the countryside must have been and how much more exhausting yet fulfilling the work of a countryman must have been! It is the sort of exhaustion we don’t feel anymore, sitting in front of our screens the majority of the day (well, as a student I certainly do, and honestly cannot stand it), instead of picking up the scythe and cutting the grass. It is a very interesting, knowledgable read that I thoroughly recommend.
The Worm Forgives the Plough – John Stewart Collis
‘During the Second World War, John Stewart Collis left his comfortable life as an academic to work on the land for the war effort. His account of this time perfectly captures the city-dweller’s naivety and wonder both at the workings of nature and the toughness of life on a farm. Collis’s thoughtful curiosity leads him to explore a broad variety of subjects – from humorous sketches of the characters he works alongside to beautifully written pieces such as Contemplation Upon Ants, The Mystery of Clouds, Colloquy on the Rick and celebrations of the earthworm, the pea and potato.
Includes While Following the Plough (1946) and Down to Earth(1947).’ – Goodreads
This book I came across after Meadowland actually recommended it. It is written in the same style, documenting Collis’ experiences working on the land during the Second World War. Very interesting accounts again and not dull at all. Part Two is some more extra information about ants (so interesting) manure, potatoes, worms… just like Meadowland, before he gets onto talking about his work in a forest. This inspired me to ask for a bill-hook for my 21st along with the scythe… Another good read for anyone interested in accounts of working the land and the natural world that surrounds them.
Here’s some inspiration of what to start sowing (indoors) in January:
Aubergines (I’ve sown some Black Beauty seeds)
Peppers (Sown California Wonder)
Calabrese Broccoli (Ironman)
Cauliflower (All Year Round)
Sprouting Seeds – think speedy cress, sunflower seeds, beansprouts, alfalfa etc.
Herbs – parsley, coriander, dill etc.
Rocket (Buzz, Trizona)
Baby Carrots (cold-frame outdoors under a lot of fleece)
Have you got any suggestions? Please feel free to share!