‘My Voice’

I’ve been really struggling to find my blogging style, ‘my voice’. This initially began as a blog about our garden and our strive for self sufficiency (in food at least) but I am frequently finding I want to write about my business Cotton Kisses and life in general. And so because I was unsure I just haven’t.

Some blogs I follow are all arty photographs, some are mostly text. Some writers give you their life story, others you’re never really sure if it’s a man or woman writing. Some give themselves pseudonym and call their children ‘A’, ‘child 2’, ‘little pumpkin’ etc, others give you their full profile, down to the child’s bowel movements. We’ll go for something in between shall we? .

Another thing I’ve noticed frequently whilst reading blogs is bad grammar and awful spelling. It drives me mad, however, none of us are perfect and so please forgive me if sometimes I make a mistake.

It’s very easy to get bogged down in the detail, but from now on I’m going to stop making excuses and just go for it!

I hope you’ll join me xxx

Chicory, Chickens and Children is also on facebook and explore Cotton Kisses here

There is a garden….

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colours are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

When I first read this it took me to a very special place, to be honest not just one garden. There are a few gardens that invoke these thoughts and memories. My grandparents garden was a major feature in my childhood. They had nearly an acre overlooking fields, it was manicured, absolutely immaculate. They had fruit trees; apples and greengage, a veg patch where they grew everything! Muddy carrots and warm tomatoes take me right back to their kitchen even now, 15 years after they moved from that home. The fragrance of tomato vines, and I’m in the humid heat of the crowded greenhouse that we were not to leave the door open on even on the hottest day. They definitely are responsible for my love of gardening.

I have searched for the exact rose which my Farmor grew in formal flower beds set out ornately around the garden. She cannot recall the name, the search goes on. It was a fragrant deep red rose, one day I will find it.

There are other gardens and other plants that will forever be linked to influential people in my life.

Hellebores are one such plant. And so I will be establishing a hellebore garden under the apple trees. Whenever they flower I will think of her.

Hayley X

Trying To Live A Frugal Life

Whilst becoming self-sufficient and growing our own will inevitably result in healthier, fresher food, a large part of it is about saving money. Yes, yes, we have spent an awful lot on the polytunnel, but it will, in time pay for itself. It will.

We are now able to produce a large part of what we require as a family and if we become vegetarian we will be able to wholly sustain ourselves. We can even produce enough compost and manure, thanks chickens! I had read somewhere that it was impossible for the average household to produce enough compost to sustain the average garden and veg plot. I beg to differ. Using solely the leaves, grass cuttings, waste compost from pots and veg peelings we have managed to create a lot of quality compost. It will be filling our raised veg beds and feeding our plants.

A large part of living a frugal life is being organised.

You need to sow seeds at the right time. You need to store food at the right time. Meal planning helps. All require organisation.

Don’t get me wrong, we use ‘economy 10’ electricity, cheap electricity for 10 hours a day. I need to be organised (to an extent) and put the laundry and dishwasher on at the correct times. We turn off lights when we leave a room. We don’t have a tumble drier. – All the usual cost cutting techniques.

To truly be able to feed our family all year round we will need to know how to store our fruit and veg properly. Being able to produce for an extended period each year will help us. In previous years we have prepped and frozen or cooked and frozen veg, but I need to explore other methods on order to not have a freezer full but also to produce other products for us to use; jams, pickles etc. I need to establish an appropriate storage place. Our sheds get too warm and humid (I believe) to use them for storage, also they are not mouse-safe!

It’s all about being organised! Wish me luck.

Hayley X

Sowing Seeds and Looking Ahead

Oh gosh! Has it really been that long?! I’ll be honest, I’ve avoided writing an update as there isn’t very much to update you on! The weather has been terrible, we’ve all had the flu and very little has gone on outside for quite some time!

Well that has all changed in the last couple of weeks! We have the veg beds in the tunnel, the paths are looking great and we have sown hundreds of seeds in preparation for tunnel.

This has made me feel very positive, I’m watching for those first shoots to sprout through the compost, exciting times for a gardener! As we are taking things ‘seriously’ this year I washed and sterilised all the pots and seed trays before sowing the seeds. In previous years I haven’t noticed any ill effects from not doing this, but it is best practice.

We have sown;

Tomatoes – Gardeners delight and 100’s and 1000’s

Sweet peppers

Cucumber – bush champion

LettuceImage

Spinach

Leeks

Aubergine

We have many, many seeds. Some have been bought in years gone by and others have been given to us. This Christmas just gone, I asked for fruit trees from my dad, genuinely free food!

Despite this there are always more seeds we need. This year we would like to grow sweetcorn and chillies. I have also bought a bush variety of squash, generally speaking squash and pumpkins grow on long, rambling vines that aren’t very well suited to the polytunnel and so the bush variety should mean we can grow several plants in a relatively small space.

Whilst at the garden centre Ethan decided he would like to try Brussel sprouts. I don’t know why they appealed to him, but for some reason only understood by him, they did. And so for the first time we will be growing sprouts too.

I’m getting excited about the growing season. This is the garden last summer, it has changed rather a lot since then, but it’s very pleasing to remind ourselves that the sodden quagmire that exists behind our home will once again be green and vibrant.

Happy New Year!

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed your New Year celebrations.

We had a really fantastic Christmas at my Mum’s, but I was glad to be home with my chickens, who hadn’t had such a lovely time.

Sadly the weather has been grim and so progress on the polytunnel is at a standstill. It’s very frustrating, the initial excitement and enthusiasm is waning. The sight of the bare hoops cutting across the panorama creates a bleak scene.

At this time of year it’s easy to feel down, there are no leaves on  the trees and no obvious flowers, but look a little closer and there are already signs new life everywhere. I began weeding a flowerbed (the weeds are still growing vigorously as it is rather mild) and discovered daffodil shoots already a few inches tall. Over the last two years we have planted hundreds of daff and crocus bulbs, I cannot wait to see them flower this spring!

Today we went to choose new fruit trees for our (mini) orchard. I chose a Victoria plum on a dwarf root stock and 2 pear trees; 1 Invincible and 1 Williams. I’m so looking forward to them being delivered and getting them planted in the garden. They will look great with our apple trees and it will be lovely to have a few different fruits this year.

Whilst at the garden centre I picked up our seed potatoes, Charlottes and Pink Fir apples. Charlottes we have grown before with great success, Pink Fir Apples I have seen people rave about on forums and other blogs. They are very odd looking and won’t be any good for anything that requires them to be peeled, but in salads they’ll be delicious!

Best wishes,

Hayley x

Rain Stops Play

As you have probably seen on the news, the West Country has been suffering from terrible weather and flooding for the last week. This was the railway bridge in the middle of our village last Wednesday. The road under the bridge is the only way from one side of the village to the other. We are on one side, as are most of the houses and children, the school is on the other. Needless to say this caused problems as at drop off time the bridge was open … one 12mile trip round and I managed to collect Ethan.

The rain and flooding has caused inconvenience for many of our friends and us, but we are so fortunate that our homes are safe and dry unlike so many around the country.

That afternoon was dry and bright, so we ventured into the garden and managed to dig 2 more holes. Ethan worked really hard digging and removing stones and small rocks.

We had arranged for Grandma to collect Ethan on Friday to go and stay for the weekend, we were planning on getting the remaining foundation tubes in and putting the frame up. Ethan went on his way and we woke on Saturday to steady rain and wind. Needless to say the job did not get done!

Sunday morning saw bright sunshine, but we were on the road to London for a christening and to collect Ethan and so the tunnel remains unfinished! Such a disappointment, but James has a few days off next week to get the job done. Fingers crossed for sun!

Hayley X

Polytunnel Part 1

In which we decide there is a demolished building under the lawn

Well, things didn’t go exactly to plan. Ethan was shipped off to Grandpa’s for the day and on returning from the drop off I found James sweating and cursing into a large hole. I went to investigate and was told that having dug two holes, for the foundation poles, with not too much trouble he had begun the third and hit concrete! He then had to remove three large chunks of concrete, the sort with reinforcement steel through it! This set the tone for the day.

Each hole we dug we would get nearly as deep as we needed and then hit rocks or concrete which had to be removed before we could carry on. Needless to say, the tunnel is not up.
We managed six of 12 posts and will be continuing the thankless task on Saturday. Ethan is off to Grandma’s this time and is very excited to be staying the night. I just hope we get it all done, I’m desperate to get planting!

Hayley x