Monday, December 1, 2008
I have been reading the Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins recently. I'd heard a few things about it (but not much) and had seen it on Amazon, so I got it out of my local library.
Before reading it, I didn't have a clue what the Transition approach was, except for a foggy understanding that it was something to do with green issues.
This book is a real inspiration; reading it has changed my whole perspective on what we are doing to our planet and possible consequences of our actions. But more than that, it has really inspired me to take action, and I can't wait to get going.
The book presents strong arguments and backs them up well; although some of it does make me feel a bit bewildered, I'm sure that more research would clarify some things for me, and the Transition Handbook has loads of resources and ideas to help with that.
I like the balance struck in this book. Split into three parts - the head, heart and hands - it starts with facts and figures, some of which are depressing and most of which really shocked me. However, it goes on to share a positive vision of what the future could be like if we act now. This bit was so wonderful to read I nearly cried! Sure, there are scary statistics, but Hopkins balances these out by showing what we can do to change them.
I also like the fact that it is all about acting as a community - Hopkins clearly holds no illusions that if everyone switches to energy efficient lightbulbs we'll be all right, but neither does he trust government to sort it all out. The book has a real "power to the people" feel about it. It describes practical things you can do and after reading it, I don't feel at all powerless or hopeless.
I would reccommend this book to anyone interested in green issues, and to sceptics. It will really make you think and might even change your views. 9/10.
Here is a link to an article about my Dad's friend, Geoff Galliver, an experienced beekeeper.
Other articles of interest:
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
- Honey harvest: our crop this year was disappointingly small. We got a fair wax crop but the bees had eaten 90% of the honey by the time we got to it, because the summer was so miserable. Next year we will probably take a spring harvest as well as an autumn one and just feed the bees really well. Even though there isn't much of it, our honey does taste divine, even though I say so myself. Things always taste better when they are home produced.
Sorting out the extractor (only cost a tenner!)
- Unfortunately one of our hives died...probably of starvation. It was a hive we had set up this year, we didn't take any honey from it, and they had been doing so well earlier in the season. The cause was once again, that they'd eaten all their stores, and also our fault - we should have been feeding them. I was so surprised when we went up to the hive and we found out it was dead...it actually smelled like a dead animal, like a piece of roadkill or something. You wouldn't think that piles of dead bees would smell like that, but they do. Like one dead organism.
- Visit to Wales: we avoided the Abergavenny Food Festival like the plague and instead took a trip to the lovely village of Skenfrith. Unfortunately I was unable to stop my father having a scrumping spree. There was a German film crew in the High Street, filming Unter Den Hugeln Von Wales, which apparently means Under The Hills Of Wales. Rather surreal.
- Homemade pasta: we have got so fed up with eating endless spinach and swiss chard that we have been trying to come up with ideas of how to use the stuff...so we made pasta! V. good indeed.
- Chutney: have been making jars and jars of the stuff. We have even managed to make some sugar free stuff for my diabetic dad - the secret is to use eating apples; combined with the sultanas, they provide all the sweetness you need.
- Cidermaking: on my sister's birthday with some of our friends over. We made seven gallons of cider out of the bags and bags of apples we have been collecting....some from our own garden, others from the wild, some were given by friends, and some were "borrowed".... we didn't just stick to cider apples - we did eaters, cookers, the lot, and it made for a really lovely juice...just hope the cider turns out nice! We've got some more apples to do now and all....we might get another few gallons.
- Feeling arty: I've been doing loads of observation recently, and not much final pieceing. i have however taken some half decent photos of my work, and have tried out altering them on the computer...I love the effect! (NB: The following images are copyrighted).
- Geese: the canada geese are flying in thick and fast now; I have heard them lots of times but I saw them for the first time today. I love this time of year. They are so utterly beautiful, they take my breath away.
- Feeling the crunch: we are cutting back on everything and shopping at Lidl. One of my friends today said that he'd barely noticed it was happening! Alright for some...
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Motion sickness is the sort of thing that I have always thought was made up by people who wanted attention or were seriously mentally ill, along with allergies to peanuts, oranges, donkeys, etc. I assumed it was just plain moaning designed to compensate for people's weakness and stupidity. I suppose I have been proven wrong; either that or I am turning into a hyperchondriac. It could well be watching too much New Tricks.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I got this book for my birthday, and I couldn't do without it. Not only is the book set out beautifully, but it's full of brilliant advice on all sorts of things - how to choose a variety, where and when to plant, pests and diseases to look out for...In short, everything you need to know. Carol covers all the usual vegetables, and some more unusual ones. My only problem with it is that it doesn't give any advice on celery! Although I do consult other books and research on the internet too, this is always the first book I turn to; it's clear and conscise, without being too basic.
And not only do you get all this, the book is also full with Carol Klein's own thoughts and experiences, which are sure to really inspire you to get growing.
9.5 / 10.
(I got the picture from Amazon.co.uk. Theirs is a good price).
Friday, July 4, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
- Keeping the ground around each hive clear and clean
- Removing all waste wax from the apiary in a bucket with a lid
- Sacrificing several frames of brood to completely disrupt the varroa lifecycle at an appropriate time in the year
- Checking for small hive beetle with our s.h.b trap
So far, we've forgotten all about all of these. However, we already do some good stuff, such as reducing drifting by spacing our hives far apart, using mesh floors, and disinfecting the old marigolds between each hive, not just each apiary.
We will probably be abandoning the smoker, as well, and using a water squirter instead. It has the same effect as using smoke, but instead of making the bees panic, it provokes a cleaning response, apparently. Which can only be a good thing. Also, as long as you remember to fill it up, I suspect that using the water squirter will involve fewer burned fingertips. Which would also be good.
The garden is magnificent at the moment. There is so much to eat. Whenever I go outside I head straight to the peas, becuase at the moment they are absolutely perfect; both the petit pois and the mangetout are just pure sugar at the moment. Delicious. I've planted a second crop now, so hopefully we'll have another few pods to eat in late summer. (I chose perhaps the least impressive one to take a pic of, btw).
We also harvested our gooseberries, which we beefed up a bit with some shop-bought ones. However, just being able to pick your own is so satisfying. Most of them went into a fool, but there are some left over which I may use to try out Hugh F-W's gooseberry icecream recipe. Yum.
My blackcurrants are ripening up, too, and some of them need to be picked. I can see them being mixed with some apples and turned into a crumble.
The courgettes are coming thick and fast, although the pumpkins and squashes keep falling off the plants...I think this may be lack of water or lack of nutrients, as they're all in pots. So some of them have been planted into the ground now, and hopefully that will sort them out.
Also, we have our first cucumber flower!! Hooray!! There are lots more on the way so hopefully we'll be putting our own cucumbers in the Pimms this year.
This afternoon my sister and I have been making a minestrone soup. I'm so excited about eating it tonight, coz it's full of homegrown stuff! The onions, carrots and potatoes we used in it were bought, and we used a veg stock cube instead of making our own, but apart from that everything else was grown at home. Here's a list:
- Homegrown celery; a bit stringy but really intense flavour
- Homegrown courgette
- Homegrown cabbage; lovely waxy dark green leaves, brilliantly bitter
- Homegrown swiss chard; just plain beautiful (not a v good pic, sorry)
Oh yeah, and bought tinned tomatoes. But you can't grow tins at home.
Next door's extension is under question a bit, but that doesn't stop the builders, who have broken our fence. Oh well. We won't be the ones paying for it to be repaired.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
I've written on here before that I am growing a tomatillo, but I was wrong. Same family, different species, though.
I'd been a bit suspicious as I had seen tomatillo seed packets going round garden centres and the thing on the front looked nothing like the thing I'm growing in the green house. Whereas the seed packet tomatillos looked small and bushy my one was a huge brutish monster already pressed against the greenhouse ceiling, and much taller than my mother and even my father by now. (The picture shows it when it was small and sweet...now it is reaching for the skies).
So after a little research I have discovered that what I am growing is actually Physalis peruviana, the Cape gooseberry, rather than Physalis philadelphica, the tomatillo. Same family, different species.
I am slightly nervous now becuase even though my plant still hasn't show any signs of flowers, let alone fruit, I have read that they are poisonous when unripe, and that there are reports that unripe ones can even kill cattle. Picking them when unripe is just the sort of mistake that I would be likely to make, so I must be careful.
Everything else is going fine. There's been so much going on though that blogging about it just seemed like too much trouble. Suffice to say the following:
- We now have four full sized hives on the go, having gone and caught a swarm
- We now have a nucleus on the go
- Two lovely new Hawaiian cross queens on the go
- Daughter of the Grumpiest Queen Known To Man in the nuc
- Having been to a disease recognition day with our regional bee inspector, my father is now the fount of all knowledge when it comes to bee diseases
- We now have a small hive beetle trap to put into one of our hives, making us a tester hive (can't remember the jargony word...tester will do)
- Mad rabbit number 2 has escpaed twice over the past week, and has decided to make a warren in my celery bed twice as well. I have no idea how she gets in, what with all my netting, staples and bamboo palisade. She may have to be locked up for good. Or roasted
Yes, she looks the picture of innocence here, but wait till her double chin is covered in the results of hours of hard work!!
- Garden otherwise alright, millions of pea pods fattening up!
- First courgette harvest! Small but succulent...
- Went to Wales, spent a day out at the Gower peninsula...absolutely gorgeous!!
- Chickens no longer broody. A brief spell in the broody coop (well, ok, it's a puppy cage really, but it worked) set them straight
- We have at least one newt living in our pond!!!
Ahhh. It's a good life.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
A beautiful Breton beach
When we first arrived, however, we were treated to an unpleasant shock. Everything was overgrown and messy; a tree had fallen over at the bottom of the garden, narrowly avoiding my young oak tree; and the veg patch was a disgrace.
Hardly any sweetcorn or sunflowers had survived; and the potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic were overrun with weeds. In fact, the weeds were taller than the onions and shallots, meaning that lots of them had died, either by rotting in the ground or from being too shady. The ones that were alive were either yellow or pathetically small. We did so much weeding in fact that by the end of the holiday, the compost bin wouldn't even close.
There were slugs and snails EVERYWHERE. Literally every leaf we turned up on the rhubarb was playing host to at least five of the devils, and they'd clearly been on the tatties and sunflowers too. Everything was munched to bits.
I am not a huge organic fanatic (pay more for something that is cheaper to produce than the stuff they spray with NPK? You're having a laugh, surely!!) but I do prefer to not spray with foul eutrophication-inducing pesticides unless absolutely necessary. I have had great success with an organic slug solution called Slug Off, but the situation was so bad that I am afraid that I had to employ the use of little blue Antilimasse pellets. The pictures show what they do to slugs...they sort of melt them...eurgh. Before and after: Antilimasse melts a slug...
So far I have sprinkled Derris Dust on some of the plants and sprayed the rest with an insecticide (my organic ideals go down the pan when faced with disaster, it seems). Tomorrow I may see if I can buy ladybirds in the local garden centre or I might try spraying with a foul garlicky concoction...or I may interplant with chives, as my Grandad's book on companion planting (the source of all knowledge and wisdom) remarks that chives are never attacked by anuthing, and actually moans on about how nobody seems to notice this.