Sunday, 28 October 2007

Winter time

The clocks were put back an hour last night which makes it the end of British Summer Time. As the days get darker and winter approaches, the countryside and the garden seems to be slowing down and I think I must be slowing down too. The days pass and I don't seem to have completed all the things I'd planned. Perhaps I am programmed to hibernate in the winter.

As the days shorten, I am letting the chickens out of the hen house later and they are roosting much earlier. They now spend more time sleeping than they spend awake and active, perhaps thats what we should all do in winter.

The past week has been half-term here so it has been an ideal time to be lazy. I enjoy the break from taking to and from schools and packing lunches.

These pictures were taken on a visit to my brother and his family this weekend. Although the weather was a bit dismal and dull there was still a lot of autumn colour to admire before we get properly into winter time.

Monday, 22 October 2007


On Saturday evening we went to see Ray Mears. He is touring the UK at the moment with his show called "In front of and behind the lens". He talked about the places he has visited and the television programmes he has made during the last 15 years. It was fascinating. He talked for over two and a half hours and the time passed so quickly.

He has made programmes throughout the world and gathered a lot of knowledge about the hunter gatherer way of life and the skills used. In almost every community he visited, the traditional way of life was dying out and it was only by talking to the older people that he was able to build up a picture of the way they had lived for generations and generations.

What struck me most as he talked about all the different tribes and groups he had met was how in each case they were all very "in tune" with their surroundings. Whether it was tracking animals in Africa or knowing where to find fish in a frozen lake they all seemed to know their surroundings in a way that most of us will never be able to do. There was also a great respect for their environment, for the animals that they hunted and plants that they gathered. These seem to be societies where there is very little waste, when an animal is killed for food every part is used, just enough of a plant is harvested for building, for medicines or for making fire. Traditionally the communities were almost totally self sufficient, as they often lived in remote areas all their needs had to be supplied from the local area.

While we in "developed" countries are trying to eat local foods, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and consume less of the world's resources perhaps we can gain inspiration from these traditional hunter gatherer communities.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


Over the past week or so I have been trying unsuccessfully to buy onion sets. Apparently there is a shortage of sets in the UK due to the wet weather during the summer. My local garden centre have sold out and are unable to source any more.

I've always grown onions from sets but I know that they can be grown from seed. This article suggests planting seeds in January or February at 50-59C which I would not be able to do as I have no heated greenhouse. I have read that seed can be planted directly in the ground around March - April but as onions need quite a long growing season I wondered about the size of the crop raised this way. Alternatively I could start the seed off in March in my new mini greenhouse, which would extend the season slightly.

Does anyone have any tips as to the best method of growing onions from seed?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Simple Living

I was wondering what to write as I sat down at the computer - I haven't really been doing anything exciting to share.

We tend to judge our lives by the big events, experiences, purchases, etc, but simple living isn't really about the exciting things, its about enjoying the small everyday things.

Its a change of mindset that I think we will all have to make as resources to fuel the exciting activities become fewer and fewer. When we are unable to travel long distances easily, we will have to be content with exploring the area close to home. When travel takes place at a slower pace then there will be time to notice the details.

When it becomes impossible to ship/fly exotic or out of season fruit to our shops, we will have to be content with our local foods and gain pleasure from cooking them well.

When there are fewer mass produced goods in the shops, we will spend more time making things for ourselves. Making and mending are not thought to be exciting but they can be enjoyable, satisfying activities.

So during the last week I haven't done anything exciting but I have enjoyed some simple activities around my home.

Today we had these carrots with our roast chicken lunch. They were on a corner of my allotment and I'd forgotten about them. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that they'd done so well.

I also found just a handful of late autumn raspberries in the garden. There were only a few so I stewed them with some local cooking apples so that we could all share them. They turned the apple a really rich colour.

Finally a few photographs taken on a gentle Sunday afternoon walk just a couple of miles from home - not exciting but a lovely way to spend a very warm October afternoon.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Autumn Days

Its been pouring with rain absolutely non-stop. Today is not a working day for me so apart from taking and picking up from school I've stayed in the house. Normally I hate being stuck indoors, I like to spend my time outside whenever I can but somehow today I didn't seem to mind. I think it must be the time of year, with all living things slowing down for winter, with the cooler and shorter days it seems right to stay in and concentrate on the home.

Living in a modern centrally heated home, the changing seasons do not impact directly on my life. I don't have to think about getting fuel for the cold weather, all I can do is hope that there is no disruption to the gas supply. Likewise in todays world, food habits needn't change with the time of year. It is possible to get whatever we want whenever we want it from the supermarket. Most people are very removed from the natural cycles of the year.

Even so there are small changes of routine that take place at this time of year and I like to do these tasks that mark the passing of the seasons.

Yesterday I fetched the winter weight duvet from the loft and also sorted away some summer clothes and brought out my thicker woollen jumpers.

I have been taking cuttings of geraniums which I will keep on a windowsill so that I have plants for next year.

Yesterday when it was dry I brought these back from the allotment.

These are the seedheads from last winters leeks. I left a couple of plants to go to seed at the end of last winter and these are the seeds that I will plant next year. They are the last of my saved seeds for this year, I have already saved lettuce and parsnip. I meant to save broad beans but I forgot and ate them all and of course no marrows or squash this year as mine didn't grow well at all.

The colder weather also changes the foods we like to eat and I am starting to cook hot-pots and stews in the slow cooker. Its the time of year to make soups, butternut squash being one of my favourites even if I had to buy them this year.

Another thing I look forward to in the winter is longer evenings for knitting and spinning. As there is less to do outside at this time I can finish all my household chores during the day and then fit in a couple of hours knitting in the evening, a perfect end to a day spent at home.

Friday, 5 October 2007

A mini-greenhouse

I've wanted a greenhouse for ages but our garden is not very big and so I gave up on the idea. This spring a friend of mine got one of these mini-greenhouses to start her tomato plants and was very pleased with it.

I decided to get one as the chickens have taken over my garden. Last winter was very mild and I was able to harvest a few leaves of lambs lettuce all through the winter. I didn't buy any imported lettuce at all last winter. Lettuce seems to me to be a particularly bad crop either to import or to grow in heated greenhouses since it must take so much more energy to produce and transport it than can be obtained from eating it. The leaves from the garden at least meant that we could have some salad in the winter. The chickens have now scratched their way through any little seedlings and it has become obvious that I will not be able to have both lettuce and free range chickens.

So I am going to try to grow some salad leaves under cover, zipped up away from hungry hens. I am probably a bit late for this year as day length as well as temperature will effect germination and growth but I think its worth a try. I am looking forward to planting some lettuce and chard tomorrow.

Here are a couple of pictures of the chickens who having scratched over most of the garden are now investigating the pots on the patio.

They do look quite sweet though.