Muddy Musings

It was: A diversion from the everyday life of home educating, keeping house and chasing children - my garden keeps me sane. At least, that's the theory... In here you'll find fundamentalist diatribes on the evils of F1 seed and philosophical ramblings about the rest of life. It's now: Kids, chickens, dog, house building and the odd rambling about airplanes.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's been a while...

There I was, mooching around wondering about setting up a new blog, and lo - I rediscovered this one, purely by chance. I'd forgotten it was here, so after some indulgent nostalgia, reading about guinea pigs and small children and allotments, I decided that, sod it, this blog will do just fine for it's intended purpose.

Mainly because I'm going to turn it into a house blog, and keep it updated with pictures of our house-in-the-making. The nice thing about having such a huge gap between the last post (2008, ffs) and this one is that I can do some inbetween posts without upsetting the extant ones. I'm going to go through my inbox and the paperwork from various solicitors and update with specific points on key dates. Then I'll just keep adding pictures as the extension progresses.

The original premise was to take a two/three bedroom dormer bungalow and turn it into a five bedroom house by adding a garage onto the north side, with dining room behind and a few bedrooms above. The actual plans have added a large garage, a study and a dining room downstairs and four bedrooms on the upper floor of that extension. The original two bedrooms upstairs, with dormer windows to the front will be knocked around, have the back walls removed and dormers fitted to the rear, two bathrooms installed and the storage cupboard becomes a 'dressing room'. The south bedroom is the master, the north bedroom is reduced to allow for a corridor through to the extension upstairs and becomes a common room. So in theory, we will have a 6/7 bedroom house. In theory...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New year, new post, new ideas

Have just rediscovered the Grapevine gardening forum, and it's kind of given my garden interest a much needed boost. Having spent the past few months happily knitting and chasing children, it's finally the New Year and thoughts turn to outdoor pursuits. Not that I'm going to be able to accomplish much for until the Equinox, but I can start thinking about planning and growing and eating all those lovely veggies.

It must be a cyclical thing, as as the year turns, so my interests move in a logical procession. During the darkest time between Hallowe'en and Yule I hardly venture into the garden, unless it's for parsnips or a brassica or to see to the chickens. The door to the green house is barred with wire to keep the cats out and let the frost in, the allotment is abandoned to it's layers of straw and carpet and manure and I hibernate indoors, knitting and cooking and not really thinking about much other than Nanowrimo and the impending festive season.

Then, as soon as we're into the New Year and the days start to noticeably lengthen, something pokes me in the back of the head and I get the urge to barricade myself in the bathroom with a hot bath and the seed catalogues. About the only place I get to sit and read these days...

I'm not sure what made me look at the Grapevine, but it's spurred me enough to want to take that huge bag of loo rolls we've been saving and fill them full of compost and broad bean seeds, and sow onion seeds in modules and stuff a few stray spuds into big tubs in the unheated lean to.

You can almost hear the sap starting to stir...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Allotment crisis - averted

The past few days have been truly horrid. I had an email from the town council on Wednesday stating:

"At our meeting last night it was brought to members' attention that some plots are not being worked on the allotment site and, in fact, some have not been tended over a period of time. This is contrary to the tenancy agreement signed by all allotment holders.
As both your half plots (15b and 18a) fall into this category, I have been requested to contact you on this matter, as the town council therefore assumes that you no longer wish to continue with the tenancies as from the new allotment year commencing 1 April 2007.
Therefore, please be advised that both plots are to be re-allocated to the next people on our lengthy waiting list."

I was, needless to say, gutted. I'd had no other communication from them, no warning either verbal or written. I had written to them back in November time, but not heard back, so I sent them this on Wednesday evening:

"I emailed you some two or three months ago to notify you that I wish to give up the tenancy of one of my half plots - the one at the top of the allotments on the left hand side, number 18a. However I received no response.
In regards to the plots not being worked, my partner and I were at the other plot, 15b, just last week and have already planted half our seed potatoes, four fruit bushes and have laid carpet over a section of the plot to suppress weeds until the seedlings in my greenhouse at home can be planted out. I'm not sure who has been bringing the sorry state of my plot to your attention, but my neighbouring plot holders are all well aware that I have just had a baby, and indeed spent the last three months of my pregnancy on crutches. However, now I am back on my own two feet, I have made a substantial start on digging over the plot."

Their reply came midday Thurs:

"thank you for your response. I can confirm that no email was received re giving up plot 18A and I wonder which address it was sent to. Our newsletters have, for some time, given my newest email address also the latest one (March 2007) which you should have received give details of increases in rents, ie £30 (full) and £18 (half).
Members of the Allotments committee brought the matter of unworked plots to the town council's attention and that was why I was requested to write to you and others involved. No mention was made of plot 15b being worked when a visit to the allotment was made very recently. However, I will bring your comments to members' attention later today and will get back to you"

I didn't have a chance to check my email for a couple of days, for one reason or another. However, Saturday I had a clandestine phonecall from someone advising me to pay my rent by that evening (31st) as there were underhand dealings going on in the council. I told the caller about the emails and it was suggested that I pay the rent anyway, which I did.

I got back from delivering the rent and checked my email. And found this:

"As promised I have had a word with the Council Chairman and Allotment Chairman and it is confirmed that the decision taken by the council, as previously indicated, should stand, ie that the agreements are terminated. Last year we wrote to you along similar lines as the plots were not being worked and other residents complain when no action is taken.
I have been requested to ask if you wish your name to go back on the waiting list - if so perhaps you could pleases advise and I will add your name accordingly."

I was gutted. But I'd paid my rent, and on perusing my contract which the council had made all plot holders sign back in May, I found they should have given me 30 days notice in writing. Three days via email does not count.

Sunday morning found me, DH and all the offspring up at the allotment, and we dug over another big patch, planted onion sets and DD1 sowed turnips and mange tout whilst I put in carrots, beetroot and parsnips and some swiss chard plants given to me by a lovely friend.

The plot holders two plots up from me, though, informed us that someone had been eyeing up my plot wiht a letter from the council that said my plot was now theirs.

We got home from the lottie about 2pm and there was the following missive in my inbox:

I have just had a phone call from the Chairman advising that Mr x had received your cheque through his letter box last night for allotment rent.
You will have received my latest email the other day when I referred to the decision by the town council that the tenancy could not be renewed at from today 1 April.
Therefore, please be advised that the cheque will be returned to you as soon as possible."

I dissolved into t
ears, DH threw a paddy over his 'wasted' morning and stomped off yelling at the kids in irritation.

Then, I decided that sitting feeling sorry for myself was not an option any more. Normally I don't say boo to a goose but this was my lottie we were talking about. I loaded the littlest one into his car seat and took off back down to the allotments. I spoke to a couple of people and managed to get the address of a couple of council bods out of one of the lovely old boys who inhabit the place.

First council bod wasn't at home. Second council bod just happened to be the Chairman of both the Council and the Allotment Committee. And I didn't realise until the door opened that I knew his wife from the school playground and his daughter was in the year above my eldest. :)

I explained the situation, managing to hold it together until I said 'and I'm a bit upset about all this'. Cue tears. Mr Chairman looked somewhat discomfited and said he'd make a few phonecalls and see what he could do, he wasn't promising anything but he had my cheque and if I didn't get it back then everything would be ok.

Tea time on Sunday, the clerk of the council phones and informs me that my plot is no longer allocated to this other person and is still mine. The other plot which I wrote to the council last year about giving up has been allocated to the other person. Breathe huge sigh of relief and chalk one up for persistance, determination and the courage of one's convictions.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Ahh, where to begin. My seed addiction has returned with the light, and I'm buying stuff that I really don't need. At the end of last year, I did a quick seed inventory and decided that I didn't actually need anything, bar some fresh carrot seed (not even parsnip as I grew all my own).

So now I'm going to own up and list everything I've bought since last year. I advise you to make a cup of tea and get comfy. :)

Latest acquisitions came from Netto, when I popped in for some milk on the way home with the girls. There by the front door was a great big stand of 'Country Value' seeds, at a mere 19p a packet! I got:

Annuals (mixed) - picture on the packet has poppies, marigolds, nicotiana, cornflower, stocks and a few others
Courgette All Green Bush (I'm doing a plant stall at the preschool fundraiser this year - honest) 20 seeds for 19p!!
Beetroot Boltardy
Beetroot Perect 3
Spinach beet/perpetual spinach
Sunflower giant single
Dwarf Bean Tendergreen

I got a £5 voucher from T&M the other week. Add to that the fact that you could also choose two free packets of seed and I just had to do it. So I got:

Climbing French Bean Cobra
Strawberry Sarian
Mange tout Oregon Sugar Pod - all for the grand total of £2.36, which includes p&p

eBay has a lot to answer for. As do the lovely people on the Grapevine, Grow Your Own mag's very own forum. But more about those folks later. eBay is a veritable treasure trove of seeds, and I was sent a link to a very nice chap in the US and I bought the following from him, all at very reasonable prices. :)

Winter squash Cushaw
Climbing Bean Soldier
Climbing Bean Yard Long
Carrot Snow White
Beetroot Egyptian

My absolute favourite seed purveyor has to be the Real Seed catalogue, or Vida Verde as they used to be known. They're fabulous - they have amazing varieties, grow a large chunk of the seeds themselves (and the ones they don't they tell you about and have personally sourced) and they tell you how to save your own seed for planting the following year. Not exactly sound business sense, but they're rediscovering new old varieties all the time, and don't let the seed out until they've throroughly tried them for themselves. Anyhow, I digress... but I've placed two orders so far this season. :)

Double Standard Sweetcorn
White Beetroot
Sutherland Kale
Leaf Beet
Australian Yellowleaf lettuce
Trieste White Courgette

and then

D'Eysines Carrot
Mixed Summer Squash
Telephone tall pea
Waltham Butternut Squash
Sutherland Kale
Double Standard Sweetcorn
Collective Farm Woman melon

Yes, I did duplicate the sweetcorn, but the first order was placed in October, the second in January... and I was pregnant. Ben also threw in a packet of Blue banana squash for me to try, as I noticed their mixed winter squash selection was missing. Lovely company.

I also get seeds from the Heritage Seed Library, through Garden Organic (HDRA). This year I've got:

Beetroot Devoy
Squash Lady Godiva (the seeds are naked/hulless!)
Runner bean Coal
Pea Epicure
Melon Green Nutmeg
French Bran Mr Fearn's Purple Flowered
Tomato Peremoga

I ordered a few from Kings as well:

Green manures - Buckwheat, grazing rye and winter tares
Sweet Pea Kings mixed
Mixed Lettuce
Pak Choi Canton Dwarf
Spinach Giant Winter

will go hunt through the stack of interestig jiffy envelopes and see what else I've bought and forgotten about!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sad, neglected blog

Kind of like my garden really. What with being pregnant for the best part of the last year, I feel like I've sadly neglected all things horticultural. The only things that are growing well are the orchids and the aloe vera. And I'm not even that keen on orchids. I have no idea why they grow so well for me.

But anyway - I was sick from May to August, then I got a month of pottering around in before my pelvis started coming apart at the seams, and therefore, absolutely nothing has been done. I managed to harvest a reasonable amount of stuff, but no major weeding/tidying/autumn planting got done.

So here we are in January, and my greenhouse is full of dead tomato plants (glad they didn't get blight last year), the allotment is growing a good crop of couch grass and sprouting red onions that were swamped by the nettles and the home garden is like a ghost garden with frost withered corn stalks and the empty shells of mummified marrows strewn liberally around.

Bugger, just realised it's actually February... Need to list the seeds I've bought for this year. After swearing that I didn't need anything bar some fresh carrot seeds, it seems I've gone slightly loopy again. *sigh*

My new little man is slowly settling into something loosely aproaching a routine, so I'm hoping that we'll be able to fit at least half an hour a day of gardening into our little schedule. Watch this space...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Things are stirring

Finally got out in the garden today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Cleared the old raised bed, the kerb bed (dug up more than 10 kg of parsnips - anyone want a giant mutant parsnip??) and had a very satisfying bonfire in the new raised bed. I've just been chucking compostables and guinea pig cage cleanings in there, bags of shredded paper and now a couple of spent grow bags. I did have a big pile of brush and shrubs that I'd cleared out of the beds last summer, so I built myself a fire and got eight foot of flames at one point.

Have typed up the list of seeds I've bought in the last month and it totals 2 pages. Ho hum, I've got a bad habit. Or an addiction!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Harvest for dinner two days ago :)

September is here

And what have I got to show for my gardening year? Well, to be honest, it's been a bit of an odd year.

I've had plenty of beans (runners and French), courgettes, salad stuff, some carrots, loads of potatoes, have parsnips in the ground waiting for the first frosts to sweeten them, tons more spuds up at the lottie waiting for me to go dig them up, some huge pumpkins (well, reasonable sized ones anyhow) white ones and yellow ones and ones that look like cottage loaves, and spaghetti squash, and I thnk that I've got some butternuts, but I'm not sure if they set too late in the season to ripen properly, so I think I'll be making soup out of those. Tomatoes have been a funny year, but then I' haven't been pinching out the shoots properly, so they've put on too much leaf, but there are plenty of toms now, just need more sun to ripen them. Had some lovely sweetcorn - must grow much more next year.

Aye, and there's the rub - must do a great deal more of everything next year. Which includes actual gardening. We have spent an inordinate amount of time away this summer - virtually every weekend has been spent doing Land Rover things or out and about. My allotment is a disgrace (both plots). In fact, I haven't quite cultivated half of each plot, which is a terrible, terrible thing to admit. Nettle and fat hen are rife, and I must go do smething about the weeds before the winter sets in.

I've missed five months worth of garden blogging, because I haven't done a huge amount of gardening. Ok, so we've been mainly self sufficient in vegetables for the past couple of months, which I guess isn't too bad, but I could have done so much, much more. :( We moved the greenhouse, which is good, but only put the roof and the back wall back in, which is bad. There are sheets of glass stacked up round the garden, which is truly shameful. I've got chillis and peppers and aubergines in there which are now starting to feel the cold so I must get that glass back in before the end of next week.

The thing that has really spurred me to blog (at last) is the arrival of the first seed catalogue of the season on my doormat. (Actually, it landed on the dog - we don't have a door mat, we don't even use the front door, so the dog's bed is right underneath the mailslot). As usual, I pounced on it with my normal enthusiasm for all things seed-like, and was very restrained in not opening it until I had the kids in bed and I had a quite five minutes with cup of tea to hand.

Halfway through drooling over all the different varieties and vegetables and things I could grow next year, I suddenly realised all the things I hadn't grown this year that I could have done. and it made me feel just a little sad. I missed the sowing date for purple sprouting broccoli (I have three packets of seed) I missed sowing the asparagus seed I bought in Croatia. I sowed summer cabbage and cauliflowers and then went on holiday and forgot to put the seed trays in the greenhouse so my neighbour would water them. So many missed opportunities and dead seedlings. I have dozens of bean varieties, but only grew about 6. i feel I've let myself down. Half of June I was out of action with a knackered back. Then I went to Kessingland. Then we went to Billing a week after I got back. then we were here, then there, then another spell of back-back-itis, then James had a spell of needing to be somewhere most evenings, so my normal time for snatching an hour at the lottie disappeared.

And now it's bloody September. Damn.