Tuesday 18 September 2012

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!

Martin

omlet: Last weekend to get free delivery on orders over £50. Just use code GOLDDELIVERY and save yourself a bundle!

omlet: And the winner of the Wallace and Gromit Egg Cups is..... Peter @Pedro1962 Well done! Please send you address to stephanie@omlet.co.uk

omlet: Just over an hour left to get your hands on these Wallace & Gromit Egg Cup. Just tell us your favourite cheese by 3pm! http://t.co/VwAA9YGQ

As is traditional, August Bank Holiday Monday was wet. VERY wet indeed. So we decided to go out for the afternoon. Being members of English Heritage we decided to re-visit Wroxeter, a Roman city in Shropshire, near to Telford.

This was the reconstructed villa as seen is " Rome wasn't built in a day" on C 4. We saw it being built, on our last visit back in 2010 - the day we also went to Acton Scott.

This time, when we went the reconstructed town house was inhabited by re enactors " in period" and very good they were.







We had a really good day out at Wroxeter, despite the (traditional on a Bank Holiday in the UK) dreadful weather! We even sat in a shelter, eating our packed lunch and drank tea while the rain poured down outside. Ah traditions!  This reminded me of many an August Bank holdiday as a child, sitting with my parents and brother in our car or in a cafe, looking out over a deserted Welsh beach which was being lashed by Atlantic wind and rain :-)

The rain did stop though and we had a look around the rest of the site.

El looking through part of the Forum wall


The Baths



The sunken Calderium




After we left Wroxeter, we all went and had a nice meal in our local pub before heading for home. A good day out for all of us :-)

omlet: More cheese Gromit? To get your hands on these Wallace & Gromit Egg Cups just tell us your favourite cheese by 3pm! http://t.co/VwAA9YGQ

Thursday 13 September 2012

Last night's allotment trip was an absolute wash out and continues with the theory that I am cursed. Anyway, I did manage to cover up 2 of the beds which were this year occupied by onions and potatoes. Before covering them I raked in a sack of compost for each bed. They'll get some well rotted manure and soil improver come the spring. Anyway this washout gives me a chance to share something with you that really get's on my nerves.....

This is the biggest plot on our site and look at the state of it!



Apparently it used to be held by 'Barry Trout' who won the Best Kept Allotment competition every single year! He grew the biggest pumpkins, tastiest onions and was the awe of the site. Unfortunately when he died, his family took over the lease and have not bothered with it since due to their own unfortunate circumstances which I won't go in to. It is a real shame, it is the size of 2 of our plots and it overlooks the river and part of the cow field. I hope that somebody takes it over next year and restores it to it's former glory. It's a shame that the local town council don't do something about it. There are genuine people on the waiting list and this double plot is untouched and has been for years. It could have been ours if somebody had sorted it out when we were on the waiting list.

I often get a little depressed about the state of weeds on our allotment, but at least it doesn't look like this plot. Everyone has struggled with weeds this year due to being unable to get to the plots between heavy rain and even thunder storms.

Roll on Summer 2013, a bit more sun would be a delight!!

Martin

omlet: Throw a HEN PARTY! http://t.co/szXNJe2T

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Welcome back to Hen Corner! Our last post was all about milk and this one is about honey… We’ve had an exciting time recently which has welcomed new chicks, been packed with preserving and celebrated our first full honey harvest! By subscribing (box right) you’ll never miss a thing! Don’t count your chickens.. I must [...]

Well you might have seen me mention my new job in several posts that I have made over the last couple of months. Anyway today I would like to formally introduce you to Fircroft College of Adult Education. I am currently working in the marketing department here and I am having a great time to say the least. Fircroft is set in the house and ground of the Cadbury Empire's former family home. Featuring the historic main building and 6 acres of beautiful gardens, it is a lovely environment to work in.

Today I have been on a walk around the gardens to bring you a small tour of the gardens here. Obviously we are coming to a bit of a halt in this year's growing season, so at the end I'll share some pictures of what the place looks like in the spring and summer seasons too.

From my perspective, the most interesting thing about the grounds at Fircroft is the kitchen garden and polytunnel. Seeing delicious veg being grown here all year round and then having the privilidge of eating it in the dining room is a pleasure. The majority of food at Fircroft is home-made and a lot of the vegetable's are home grown too. Today we have had runner beans in honey (sounds odd, but was delicious) and home grown sweetcorn to accompany our roast chicken.

Let's start at the orchard. There are a good mix of established apple and pear trees along with about 10 new trees which were planted alst year....



 here is the kitchen garden...



This is where all of the delicious vegetables we eat in the canteen come from....



Here's the polytunnel....



Only the other day it was full of tomatoes, but now it's just peppers and chillis left....



Here's a vegetable I don't want to see and if you've read some of our previous posts then you'll know why.......



Like all plots there is a lot of bare earth. Potatoes and onions are up and out of the ground. These patches will get a chance to breathe and with some manure or compost will be ready to go again in 2013..

A path from the kitchen garden leads you to a large lawned area...



On the way we bypass this little sign...



That oak tree is now over 50ft tall!!

Back on the path behind the kitchen garden, where will we go now?



Plenty of woodland..



Now the pond....


Needs a little tlc but is a nice feature none the less...

I spotted plenty of dragonflies around the pond. There was plenty of other wildlife I saw on this little tour including some birds of prey which I think were buzzards, there were also squirells, magpies, a robin, bees, and lots more too!

Looking back at the historic main building which as I have said used to be the Cadbury family home...



In the foreground is a small rose garden....



After all that I even bought myself a present back to the office from the woodland floor....



Alongside courses for adult learners including literacy and numeracy we also host courses for professionals in the voluntary sector, but if that isn't your cup of tea and you've stumbled across my blog whilst looking for gardening start up advice then we also run gardening courses in the summer. It would mean a lot if you took one moment to have a look at our website and see some of the really important work that we do. There should be more details of the gardening courses and their dates on the website too, and maybe some more pictures. www.fircroft.ac.uk

Well, I hope you have enjoyed today's mini tour. I'll try and do at least a monthly update from within the college and let you see what we are up to in the gardens. One of my ambitions that I have is to open up the gardens for the general public next summer, so I'll keep you posted on any developments as and when they happen.

Before I finish here are a couple more pictures of Fircroft at more favourable times of year and also taken with a good camera as opposed to an iPhone!



Also, you may notice that there is a bit of maintenance going on behind the scenes here at www.our-good-life.blogspot.com , so don't be alarmed if when you next come back some bits have changed or are missing, we are actually updating a few things here and there to bring the live facebook stream to you. I also have a lot of emails throughout the year about growing, gardening, chickens, quail, you name it, so I have decided to add a couple of pages with some FAQs and 'How To Guides'! We hope you'll like them and will let you know when they are ready.

Thanks once again for reading this blog! Your continued comments, emails etc. they mean the world to us and it is always nice to know that people enjoy reading about us and what we are passionate about.

We'll be back tomorrow with an update from tonight's shift at the allotment!

Martin

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