My Thinking Place

The lid of the seed box barely contained the multitude of packets inside and I had a familiar feeling when I peeked in… you know that feeling when you finally open the Christmas decorations box? You’ve not seen these things for a few months and yet instantly know the magic is about to begin! This time last year I didn’t even have a seed collection which just shows you how far (or obsessed) I’ve come in a year!
I’ve spent quite a lot of time over Winter looking through various seed catalogues but before ordering any more seeds I promised myself that I’d sort out the packets of seeds from last year.

Seed Sorting

1. The seed packets were spread over the table and I discarded any empty packets and those well past their expiry dates. I managed to spill some delphinium seeds so if these start to sprout up from between the tiles at least I’ll know they’re not weeds!
2. They were then sorted into vegetables and flowers and packed away by grouping them into beds. If I was properly organised I’d file them in order of sowing but in truth I like shuffling seeds like a deck of cards and rummaging through them.
3. The lid was so much easier to put on… but I’m sure this won’t be the case when the new seeds arrive!
4. Mmm…. don’t kitten’s have the sharpest little teeth?
5. I highly recommend Mark Diocono’s book “Veg Patch: River Cottage Book 4″. I used this to help me plan what veg to grow this year. The rough plan is as follows:

Kitchen Garden Plans

There are a disproportionate amount of sofas in this house… especially when you consider how much time we actually sit on them. A really nice place to relax is on the chaise longue in the garden room. Feet up, a good book, mellow music and furry friends….. purrfect (well it was until I noticed my bum print on the seat!!). The only problem with a thinking  place is that it provides opportunity to change one’s mind so the 2013 Kitchen Garden plan has already been altered!

Winter Kittens

The view out of the window (as seen from the chaise) was taken a few days ago after another day of snow but it’s all green again now and the sun was out today… it must be very confusing for the wildlife. I managed to spend a few hours in the garden today, tidying the beds and smiling to myself. Spring is nearer than ever.

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Where’s your thinking place?

Footprints In The Snow

Snow in Kitchen Garden

Hopefully all the plants are tucked up safely and enjoying a nice sleep. I’m trying to enjoy the snow whilst it lasts… people grumble about the snow (I realise it makes life more difficult, travelling is a big worry and it will ultimately turn to a brown, messy slush….) but there’s really magic in each snow flake, you can see it sparkle, so I enjoy it while it’s here.

Garden Snow Collage

I love to see different footprints in the snow and I try to follow where the rabbits and foxes have been. It’s interesting to try and work out  who the little footprints belong too… although with my over active imagination I imagine following prints around the back of the shed and unexpectedly coming face to face with a Yeti!

Winter views

There’s not too many outside jobs to be done at the moment so I started to put together a wish list of  plants for the kitchen garden this year. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Raven so I’m starting with her catalogues as she has a great range of products and her customer service is brilliant. After what seemed an endless task of chores today I finally sat down with a cup of apple & ginger tea and started to paw over the catalogues… but more of that next time!

seed catalogues

This weekend is the RSPB Big Birdwatch so I’ll be spending an hour tomorrow counting our feathered friends (chickens not included) to see how they’re fending. I’ve never done this in the snow before and I’m hoping it will make the process easier! The results are sent into the RSPB and the information gained throughout the UK provides a useful snapshot of which species are in decline or booming!

SnowChicks

I’m sure Bella and Milo will want to join us in the garden room for a spot of birdwatching too but I somehow think that their furry minds may not be on conservation!

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Baby, it’s cold out there!

Well, it’s finally starting to feel like January around here and after a very wet and mild December we have snow forecast for overnight. It somehow feels wrong not to have frost and chilly winds this time of year and I do like the excuse to wear thick woolly tights and scarves! I’ve recently moved the plant pots to a more sheltered area and the bay tree and fig have been protected as much as I can. There are loads of cobwebs everywhere and even Cedric looks like he’s got whiskers (it makes him look a bit friendlier!). I’ve tried not to be too tidy so that the wildlife can benefit… but it’s messing with my mojo a bit.

Frosty Garden

The chickens are always cause me extra concern this time of year – trust me, if I could scoop them all up and build a giant nest in the house for them I would. My husband constantly reminds me that they have their own little quilts made from feathers but I still fret. We’ve now insulated the hen house and added extra bedding – it doesn’t look pretty but it will hopefully do the job. Goosey, one of the old girls, has slowed down and looks tired so we’ve given her some extra vitamins and do an additional check each night to make sure she’s okay. The other chickens are being really good with her – they’re probably scared that she’ll get better and back to business of being the boss!

Frosty Doodles

I usually like to try something new each year with hope that it will turn into a hobby and so in November I enrolled onto a watercolour lettering class with Val Webb. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing any of Val’s artwork then I strongly recommend her website especially if you like faeries, nature and all things whimsical (Alys – you’ll just love it!).
My paintings still need a lot of work but I really don’t mind as I’ve found the whole process of water colouring SOOOooo relaxing that the end result of a more chilled out me is always worth while. Her instructions are clear and practical and I’m really looking forward to practicing some more.
I helped my sister and family move house last weekend and I gave her the painting below in place of a New Home card.

Home watercolour

Must go – although I have so much to write since I last blogged. Work and homelife have been really busy since new year so this is the first time I’ve had chance to post in 2013 and I’ve missed it! I’ve also missed following my favourite blogs so I’ll make sure to spend a little time each night after work in Blogland catching up with them all. I hope to include the kittens in a post very soon X

Winter Breaks for Insects

The mornings are darker, the air is cooler and there is definitely a whiff of Autumn in the air. With the success of the Nectar Bar this year I’m already thinking of expanding my interests into insect real estate….

There is already a simple insect dwelling like the one below by the front door. The Lacewings and Ladybirds love it and there are a few crafty little spiders who act as security guards. It’s easy to maintain, looks attractive and provides good shelter against the elements. Unfortunately, it gets a little cramped over Winter and there is only one bathroom so it’s time for an upgrade.

Okay, I need to source various materials such as bricks, drilled wood, pallets, tiles and pipes… thankfully I have a huge heap of these in the paddock and, once the thistles have died down, I’ll gather these up. I just need to think about what style to have. I like the thought of a country retreat for them but, as many of the insects around here already live in the country, they may wish to try something different.

Maybe I could build them a town house….

… or a whole metropolis! The nightlife is certainly going to be more vibrant and they’ll meet all sorts of interesting multi-legged friends. The only problem is that it took us SO long to get planning permission for the outbuildings that buiding an insect city may not be worth the stress!

On reflection I’ll probably build a simple pallet structure that is tucked away in a quiet corner similar to the one below! As an organic gardener I have to take care of the friendly bugs so that they can scare away the nasty ones (I was once told that they eat their enemies but this is too gruesome to contemplate).

Ever since I saw Malc’s insect hotel over at Green Bench Ramblings I have been mulling these ideas over so watch this space in a couple of months and you may just be surprised (hopefully in a good way!).

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley in a vase

 

I love May for many reasons… but I think my favourite reason is the appearance of the beautiful Cow Parsley. Around the lanes the verges are transformed into soft, frothy covered corridors that make any journey to work so much more pleasant!

I know that most people see these plants as weeds but there is something so intriguing about a plant that has such delicate flowers but is as tough as old boots!

We were never allowed to bring Cow Parsley into the house when we were young as it was viewed by my superstitious family as extremely unlucky (along with Peacock feathers & Hawthorn… but that’s another story!). In many areas Cow Parsley was known as “Mother-Die” as it was believed that death would befall the Mother in the household if this flower was bought indoors. I’m not overly superstitious but I’d hate to tempt fate so the Cow Parsley can stay outside in the fields!

The flowers look lovely in a vase (picture on left downloaded from Pinterest) but they do drop their flowers very quickly when cut so are better for outdoor arrangements… or left where they grow!

What a difference a week makes in May! The greens are so… green! There is new growth and sense of “make haste” everywhere and this is made even better by the longer days and the return of the swallows.

Mr Fox is prowling very close to the lovely chickens but their enclosure is doing a good job of keeping him out. As much as I love to let the girls out to have a scratch and stretch their wings they will be safely staying put until the fox has moved on!

The rabbits have behaved themselves too and the garden sign remains in place. This is especially important as the lettuce leaves and carrots look particularly good!

I don’t think there are too many people that remember the old fashioned superstitions and remedies… and what a shame that is! Some are based on common sense, others are from a time when history was passed on through story telling and finally some were family traditions and superstitions (like the image of an elephant should not be kept in the house as it’s extremely bad luck… I think that this is just my family though!!??). It’s a mad world… but wouldn’t it be a little dull otherwise?

Looking Forward

Time flies when you’re having fun so I shouldn’t be that surprised that it’s been 3 months since I started The Pyjama Gardener blog!

One of my (many) shortcomings is my incredibly poor attention span… I don’t think I’ve ever got past the February post when faced with a paper diary. In fact, many of my failed New Year resolutions have been to complete a diary (yet another shortcoming!). This is one of the reasons that I have multiple raised beds… they keep my interest for a longer period of time and each one is a different flavour!

So with time ticking by I’ve decided to look forward instead of back! Here are a few photos of various plants in my garden now (looking quite weedy)… and how I hope they will look in the Summer. All the “after” shots are from Pinterest so please forgive me if my Summer lovelies don’t live up to the hype!

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The carrots have finally peeked through and then instantly regretted it when the hail storm came. Luckily, they’re tougher than they look and I’m looking forward to my first crop to make into Honey Glazed baby carrots….

This peony has done really well and I’m looking forward to the beautiful bloom… yes, that’s right I said bloom, as it only has one bud on it at the moment! The Kitchen Garden will hopefully provide flowers and herbs as well as fruit and vegetables for most of the year. Thankfully there is a market in a nearby town that will supplement my need for cut flowers if my plan fails!

The strawberries seem to be doing well in the teracotta pot and l’m looking forward to eating them in time for Wimbledon! I don’t follow tennis, and the weather is usually terrible, but I am partial to fresh strawberries and cream. Mmm….

I finally received my Wallflowers from Sarah Raven and potted them up into the green containers either side of the Kitchen Garden gate. I’m not sure if these plants are rabbit proof … but I’m sure to know by the weekend. Any signs of teeth mark and they’ll be moved to the other side of the gate!

I’m looking forward to the next three months so rabbits beware!

Healthy Weeds

I’ve had such a lovely morning – even the subsequent housework hasn’t dulled the pleasant post-gardening feeling that I’ve been left with! Many of the plants in the small greenhouse were taken out for a taste of fresh air and a good watering of rain. There is likely to be a good frost again tonight so they’ll be nicely tucked up again before night fall. It’s good to know that happiness can be found in such simple things – a cup of tea, a radio and a little shed of tools. Most women treat themselves to a regular manicure… I treat myself by getting soil under my nails!

The Hen House looks lovely through the trees and I can watch the chickens without them realising it! Usually, as soon as the Girls see me approaching they come charging to the gate, flapping and clucking, until they are either fed or let out! The new Girls are settling in well and, although there are two separate groups, there is peace in the Hen House.

The Strawberry Pot is enjoying it’s sheltered location and I’m looking forward to all the lovely Summer recipes. Mmmm…….

Broccoli & Figs
These are both new to me! I’ve grown the Broccoli from seed and I’m so pleased… I hope it survives to adulthood as it’s one of my favourites. The fig tree was bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure whether to plant it against the South facing wall or keep it in a pot so that it can be moved in severe weather. It’s a “Brown Turkey”, so is suited for our climate, but advice would be appreciated from those that know what they’re doing!

I love this little sign and I wanted it the moment I saw it on Etsy.com!

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if every visitor removed a few weeds whilst waiting for you to answer the door? Or, would it tempt you to delay your welcome until a whole patch had been done? Ha ha ha :-)

On second thoughts… cancel the sign! I would probably lose a lot of valuable seedlings and special plants too! I have to confess that I sometimes have to let weeds grow a little before identifying them properly. This is because I’ve recently been guilty of removing perfectly healthy little plants thinking that they were buttercups and daisies! It’s all part of the learning curve x

Garden Plans ……..

I’ve come across the original copy of my Kitchen Garden plans and they’ve made me smile….. because they’re embarrassingly basic!! In my imagination the Kitchen Garden is always full of healthy herbs, climbing plants, seasonal produce and plenty of flowers for the bees and butterflies. Mmm, I should have paid full attention in Art class at school as my sketch is rather primitive! My lovely husband used CAD to make it a workable diagram for the builder….. everything else is in my head (no hope for anyone but me then)! 

Kitchen Garden Plans

Fortunately, the work in progress looks more like my vision than the sketch does!! The raised beds are now complete, the new hedges have been laid and all we’ve now got to complete the French drains, put some stone down and wait for Spring! There are new changes every week and I want to capture what happens and, hopefully, look back with happiness. All I see at the moment, however, is a huge amount of bare brickwork that is crying out to be covered with plants!

The garden has 7 raised beds in total and a central island that can be used for a fountain/birdbath. The Nectar Bar will be planted to attract bees and butterflies and there is a secluded area behind this bar where we’ll be able to relax (or hide!).

The perennial vegetable bed contains asparagus and rhubarb and I keep excitedly rushing home from work to looking for signs of life before it gets dark!

Perennial Bed

I’m pleased to say that I’ve found the cutest baby asparagus spear! It’s smaller than a matchstick but looks perfectly formed already… As I’ve already mentioned, I’m usually too impatient to get dressed before dashing outside so it will be torture for me to wait a couple more years before harvesting.

Tiny Asparagus shoot

I’ve always felt drawn to Victorian walled gardens and love visiting stately homes to see them. I’m off to Chatsworth House next week and will hopefully come back with even more inspiration… only on a much smaller scale!