Friday 21 September 2012

omlet: Win over £150 worth of goodies in our Cupcake-tacular Competition!

omlet: RT @ChickensOnCam: Yay!! RT @Henidorm: @omlet Cuddles for one of the new chickens!

omlet: @IzzyMunchkin Wow, it looks fab! Very pink - perfect for standing out in the Autumn weather!

omlet: @CoopAndTheGang How exciting! Which Eglu did you go for?

Thursday 20 September 2012

I was recently contacted by Joe Smith of Greanbase Ltd who said in his email    I wondered if you would be interested in sharing your thoughts on a new garden tool invention created by my father (a landscape gardener from Keighley in Yorkshire) 15 years ago. I was intrigued, and accepted his offer to try one out here at Compost Mansions. The Wheelbarrow Booster duly arrived in the post within a few days.

 The Greanbase website says the Booster was
Designed by a gardener, for  the gardener!
As you may appreciate, only a gardener really knows what works and what doesn't when it comes to labour-saving equipment around the garden.
Having been used and trialled over almost 20 years by the designer/inventor - himself a landscaper of over 25 years, the Wheelbarrow Booster is one of the few pieces of  equipment that can be claimed to 'pay for itself' with the time it saves the user. An innovative, new must-have accessory for the gardener/landscaper/equestrian; designed to fit most gardeners wheelbarrows  to carry often light-weight, but bulky garden waste e.g. grass/hedge trimmings, leaves, prunings, cleared vegetation. Not forgetting hay, shavings etc.  around the stables. 
I unpacked the Booster and tried to fit it to my wheelbarrow.


According to the website you are supposed to

Open out the loop of the body, and loosely fit it over and around the rim of the barrow.     Note: there is no 'front' nor 'rear' to the device, therefore there is no 'wrong way round' to be concerned about.  Now, working around the barrow, carefully pull the body of the booster upwards until the elastic skirt seam just appears over the top of the rim all around

 I ran into a problem - all three of my wheelbarrows ( one cheapo one and two rather more expensive ones) have no rim by the handles - so I could not fit the Booster over the rim. I wondered what to do and then had an idea.

 I cut two holes in the fabric, put the wheelbarrow handles through the holes and then fitted the rest of the Booster as described on the Greanbase website.

It does increase the capacity of the wheelbarrow a lot - I more than doubled the volume of grass cuttings I was able to move around.

So am I impressed? Well, partly. I was a bit disappointed that I had to modify the Booster to fit my wheelbarrow, but to be fair the makers do say " fits most makes" not "all makes" and it was not difficult to cut two holes.

It does increase the capacity by a lot, but I found only if you are gathering up shortish stuff like grass clippings, hedge cuttings or hay. I tried to use it with a load of very tall weeds and they just folded the Booster down at the sides where they overhung. I don't really want to have to chop stuff up just to save an extra trip across the garden with the barrow. It was fine filled with a lot of shorter wheeds though.

Trying to fill up the wheelbarrow with twice as much compost as normal was probably a bit excessive - it just meant I could not push the barrow as it was too heavy (!) I guess it was a bit silly of me to try in the first place  - I was just experimenting to see how much more I could put in my barrow with the Booster in place

So - useful for certain jobs but be aware of its limitations.

Would I buy one? possibly, yes - especially as I have a lot of grass to cut and a lot of weeds to pull.

The Whellbarrow Booster  retails at £12.99 plus p and p direct from Greanbase Ltd
  With thanks to Joe Smith for giving me a Booster to try out.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

We have had a very busy summer with lots of comings and goings. I even found time to do some time to do my proper job. But the main goal was to see everyone settled into their academic or work enviroments. It has been a summer of nervous waiting,  anticipation and  just working out what they all wanted from their futures.I am happy to say things have worked out well. Those of the family who didn't think they would do well- did well and are into college and doing the subjects they wanted for A levels. We have one happy member off and in the middle of freshers week at University. My elder son has changed course literally - it has  been a brave decision to leave his current job and is starting a new degree . We only heard this week that he has the student finance in place to be able to complete the course. Talk about last minute! He has his last day at work today. It was a hard decision to leave the safe confines of the work environment and the regular pay packet, especially in this current climate. How ever I think he would only have regretted not taking the plunge. He is still young enough and has no ties - so its now or never! So you can see things have been a bit manic. We are all trying to get used to new timetables, beginnings and changes of direction. I have managed to do the odd bit of cooking and crafting and hope to update you on those over the next few posts.
On one of my recent visits to the allotment I found  I had a few oversized courgettes or  should I say marrows enough to enable me to make my first batch of chutney of the year. I based my recipe around Hugh Ferningly-Withingtsalls autumn chutney recipe and substituted fruits and vegetables.Heres the finished article.

Its been difficult waiting the required three to four weeks for it to mature and become more rounded in flavour.
The vegetable box they have been sitting in was a lovely present from a friend who knows I have a love for my allotment and all things produce. I also received this beautiful  french style first aid box. Isn't it fantastic! I just love it!

I have a problem. It's a type of addiction and it mainly happens when I'm in garden centres. It's quite embarassing and it costs me a fortune but for some reason I can not stop buying seeds.

I already have two containers full and I now need a third. On the way back from Ryton we popped in to our local Wyevale garden centre. I joined their gardening club and they sent me a leaflet saying that all seeds were 50p. So I made a visit a priority and stocked up. We managed to get £60 odd worth of seeds for only £12. We also got plenty of seeds for free which were the promotional packs you get when you buy 2 or more packs of a particular variety. Because I bought so many new packets, I promised myself I would sort out the ones I already had and throw out any unlabeled, out of date packets and also chuck any that had a poor germination rate or simply didn't live up to expectations!

Anyway next year I will be trying to grow watermelons, yellow carrots, banana shallots, gourds and many other weird and wonderful things that I have been jealous of seeing other people grow. I am now ready for next year and have a seed collection to envy...

 Although it is getting darker and colder every evening, I still have a small sense of optimism and excitement. Buying seeds and sowing them is something that you normally do in March onwards, but in order to get the most out of our plot I've bought seeds to sow now including some chards, lettuce and radishes and I also have seedlings emerging from the cabbage and lettuce sowings I made the other night! With all of this spring like activity, I'll probably forget to put the clocks back next month and will instead put them forward!!  It is nice having a year round vegetable garden. Not using it for summer crops but autumn, winter and spring really does increase it's efficiency and worth. Being able to pick runner beans, dwarf beans, squash, marrows, raspberries, strawberries, cabbage and kale in mid September certainly ensures we don't go hungry!! We've also got the delights of celery, celeriac, turnips, swede, pumpkins, leeks. sprouts, parsnips and lettuce to come before the end of the year. Then at the beginning of 2013 we'll have cabbage, purple sprouting, chard, lettuce and kale still to pick! Long gone are our days of only growing summer crops like courgettes, tomatoes and peppers. This is a 365 day a year thing now! We're still getting used to this plot so we can certainly learn from what we don't have enough of this year and what we have too much of also. So next year we know to only plant 1 marrow plant instead of 3 and to double the amount of sweetcorn plants and broad beans that we sow! One day we'll be able to sit down and say 'yer, we got that just about right', but that's if the weather plays ball of course!! Never mind, it's an interesting learning curve! Gardener's certainly never stop learning! Enjoy the rest of your week!!! Martin 

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Grant Brereton, editor of Fancy Fowl asked me to write an article as 'The Newcomer' about Poultry Showing for Beginners and I was in Septembers issue!

Have extended the WIR, still needs the roof finishing!

Is it worrying that I have been waiting for this moment all year? In spring, I decided on having two Hydrangea paniculata …

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omlet: The Christmas stock is starting to arrive at Omlet HQ. Is it too early for the Christmas mega-mix cd?

Monday 17 September 2012

Well here we have it. The first sweet taste in 2012 of homegrown sweetcorn..

It was absolutely delicious! We served with plenty of butter and I have to say it was a) the sweetest and b) the biggest I have ever grown it. It was simply perfect, and I can't wait to harvest plenty more of the coming weeks!

Today we also picked kale, cabbage, runner beans, borlotti beans, strawberries and raspberries. The beans and brassicas were taken to my grandparent's house and the strawberries and raspberries are waiting to be devoured as soon as I publish this post. Amy has been down to the allotment three times this week to pick strawberries and we have picked over 50 each time. We also have raspberries by the bucket load too...

You might already know if you have seen our live twitter feed on the right, but at the weekend we visited Ryton Organic Gardens near Coventry. We had scheduled to visit West Midland's Safari Park because we HAD some free tickets, emphasis on the HAD because as we about to step out the door we noticed that they expired the week before! Typical!

Anyway we ended up at Ryton. Amy had never been before and I hadn't been in a couple of years. I love the idea of growing heritage varieties and this is something they really promote. We obviously paid most attention to the vegetable growing side of things.

This would be idyllic wouldn't it...

They also had a greenhouse full of interesting tomatoes. This tomato really caught the eye. They didn't seem to form on 'trusses' like normal tomatoes do...

They were actually dangling on their own. They were absolutely huge and almost pepper like. Here is the placard with the variety name on...

The amount of tomatoes growing perfectly was very enviable. So many fellow bloggers (ourselves included) have reported about the widespread blight problem that we've had in this country this year. A real shame. For all of us who forgot what home grown tomatoes look like, here is a reminder...

  Right, I'm now off to enjoy those strawberries and raspberries. Don't forget to follow us on twitter @ourgoodlifeblog ! I am slowly making it around everybody elses blogs leaving comments. Thanks again for reading. We hope you have a plentiful harvest this week! I have another blog post planned for later this week, so keep your eyes peeled. Thanks, Martin

omlet: Loving this Indian Summer! Anyone for a barbie?

omlet: RT @RickyChickens: #Thingswehavelearned Number 5: If you scratch around long enough, a well kept flower bed makes an excellent dust bath ...

The first cull  of Badgers in the UK is expected to begin with days or weeks in a precise area of West Gloucestershire which is being kept secret. But it is going to be somewhere near where I live.

  • The West Gloucestershire pilot area description: mainly in the county of Gloucestershire, predominantly within the council districts of the Forest of Dean and Tewkesbury, and parts lie within the districts of Wychavon, Malvern Hills and the south east part of the county of Herefordshire. The area does not include the public forest estate in the Forest of Dean. (Source: Natural England)
According to the BBC,  the first licence to kill Badgers will be issued today. The cull, which according to the BBC  is being paid for by the farmers taking part, will allow the shooting of free-running badgers
Please watch this film and listen to what respected experts, such as Sir David Attenborough, Simon King OBE and Mark Carwardine,  have to say about the UK Badger Cull and the spread of Bovine Tb (BTb)

Independent scientific studies have shown that culling would be of little help in reducing bovine TB, and even suggest that it could make things worse in some areas.
If you don't want to see more badgers killed, please sign the petition. This is a new petition and we need to reach 100,000 signatures so please sign it and encourage others to do the same.

omlet: @Henidorm @ChickensOnCam Looks like they're having fun :-)

Sunday 16 September 2012

The uses for these little beauties are endless! In this particular set, you get 70 pieces with lower case and …

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Here is a slightly wider angle of the new floor. Sorry the photo is not any bigger – it’s only …

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Saturday 15 September 2012

I spent today at Ryton, the HQ and showcase gardens for Garden Organic

Throughout the spring and summer Garden Organic have been running a series of events called "Meet the Masters" where Master Composters and Gardeners are present at Ryton on a Saturday or Sunday, to answer queries and talk about composting and gardening to the public.

I had offered my services this weekend and, as Compostman and Dear Daughter have never been to Ryton, we all went, along with a friend of El's.

The journey across was a bit long as there was some terrible traffic through Worcester, but we arrived in glorious sunshine ( which lasted all day!)

My fellow Master Composter and Master Gardener had already set up our stall, in the new Home Composting area and I was very pleased to see this had a nice shelter for us to stand under - most of the summer we have been hiding from the rain but today we were sheltering from the hot sun.

The rest of the family went off to join in a garden tour with one of the volunteer guides while I got on with answering questions - lots and lots of questions - from the public!

There was an Exotic Food Fair happening as well, so we had a lot of visitors who had not been to Ryton before, and were not Garden Organic members, coming in to see what was happening. We had some really good conversations and I think we helped a lot of people with their queries about gardening.

There were all sorts of attractions going on, Alpacas being the most popular outside I think! (They were very lovely)

An Indian cookery demonstration, a talk on seed saving, demonstrations of various exotic foods which can actually be grown in the UK ( although you might not have thought so!) and tours of the new Exotic Garden at Ryton.

We had lunch in the excellent cafe and later, some very welcome tea (and scones for the two children)

I think it is a mark of what a terrific place Ryton is, that two 11 year olds were occupied and had fun for 5 hours there. They really enjoyed wandering around looking at the gardens, they LOVED The Vegetable Kingdom  and stroking the Alpacas, they thought the food was really good and the whole place was excellent. They did have electronic games with them which they played with towards the end of the afternoon for a little bit, while sitting under some trees waiting for me to tidy the stall away.)

Compostman also saw some of the things I have been talking about incorporating into our gardens here at Compost Mansion and, while he thinks most of it would cost too much/be too much work etc  - he CAN see the merit in some of what I have been saying so that is good ;-)

I had a chance to look around, with my family, during my breaks - and stroke an Alpaca :-)

Home for tea time having spoken to 45 people on the stall and handed out a lot of leaflets with advice and ideas.

A good day out - so please go, if you are in the neighbourhood - Ryton Gardens is open every day except Christmas Day, and admission is free if you are a Garden Organic member.

Next event is Apple Day on Oct 13th.

Friday 14 September 2012

You are probably wondering what is wrong with us making so many posts in a week!

Anyway, we really are having to play catchup at the allotment with weeding, sowing, harvesting etc. I managed to get down again last night and bagged up some of the couch grass I had dug up ready to take to the refuse centre tomorrow. Don't put couch grass roots in your compost bin, it will come back and you will be making a huge mistake, trust me!

Anyway I did manage to sort a few things down the allotment tonight, I went down at about 7pm for an hour. Still in my shirt and trousers from work, so it was only some light and not too messy work. Anyway come 8pm I could barely see a thing and this was the seen. Because the perimeter to the site is surrounded by lots of large, established trees it does become a pit of darkness as soon as the sun begins to lower.

  Following the recent set of break ins a couple of the old boys are doing a night patrol and walking around the site as the sun sets. Aparently in total 15 sheds were broke in to or vandalised and we also have the recent emergence of a 'phantom fruit picker' who many plot holders (us included) have seen walking the allotment site in the evening and leaving through the gates with a bowl full of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc. We don't know who she is, where she comes from but we're gonna catch her nonetheless!! Anyway, because it was so dark I decided to allocate some homework to myself. I mentioned how I had not managed to sow my spring cabbage seeds yet so I filled a couple of seed trays with compost and put my seed box in my bag. After dinner I ripped the seed packet foild and made the sowings. We have sown 2 cabbage varieties which were 'Pixie' and 'Durham Early'. We also decided to sow some winter lettuce, we coincidentally had 2 winter lettuce varieties too; 'Winter Gem' and 'Arctic King'. We'll keep them on the windowsill for a couple of weeks to give them a chance to catch up and get to where they should be. I think we'll be ok. I remember last October being quite warm and dry so if that is the case we won't be at much of a disadvantage at all...    Now that I'd finally got that bit sorted, it was time for a cup of tea and a read of my new magazine..   I normally buy this magazine on the day it comes out each month. But I've just been too busy this month that I finally remembered to pick it up at the petrol station today on the way to work. I'd be interested to hear what magazines you like to read. I always buy 'Grow your own' and I subscribe to 'Gardener's World' (just to get the free gift at Gardener's World Live'!  Look at the front cover though! PUMPKINS! Which can only mean one thing. It's almost Halloween, which means it's almost my birthday and it is also almost time for our annual trip to Disneyland where we will be from 15-19th October. I really love autumn from a romantic perspective. Red leaves, the first tender frost, conkers on the ground, christmas things appearing in shops, it's a nice time. Anyway, we obviously haven't harvested our pumpkins yet but we have had something just as good. Our first ever Turk's Turban Squash! I'm not sure wether to call it ugly or a piece of natural art. We're not going to eat it, we are using it for ornamental purposes...  Not bad, hey? I'll definately be growing them again this year. This little baby has really inspired me to grow some other varieties of ornamental squash and fortunately look what was attached to the magazine as a free giveaway this month...   They certainly look interesting don't they.

Anyway be sure to follow us on twitter @ourgoodlifeblog and we'll be going live on Facebook next week too. Don't worry, we'll be blogging here as normal these are just some new ways to increase our readership and allow us to share more with friends and family!

Have a good day! Also remember to let me know which magazines you read!


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