Back outside at last

It’s been a long time coming, but this afternoon, at long last I was back out on our allotment again.  Except to drop off compost I have not spent any time on the allotment since the Autumn, and it shows, I mean it really shows.

Most of the plots which are under cultivation have been freshly dug, or are at least looking tidy, mine on the other hand looks like a disaster, broken glass on my cold frame and in my greenhouse, overgrown beds, long grass everywhere, and plenty of unpromising looking mud.

But its all grist to the mill, today I put two of the beds back to rights (more or less) ready to be raked and cultivated a bit more, before they can be planted. Lots of work to do all over the plot, but I’m glad to say that in the couple of places where I placed sheets of damp proofing plast last year, in an attempt to sheet mulch them, the ground beneath the plastic is now nice and clear, and ready for cultivation.

Everywhere needs a good tidy and sort out, which it will only really get in part, I dont really want it to be too tidy if I’m honest. I like there to be room for creatures to hide and flourish, and I love the variety of bees, beetles, butterflies and bugs that pootle around there in the summer months.

And most of all I like to sit down after some work, and enjoy a hot drink. I had to relearn the art of making fire when wood is damp and newspaper in short supply, but it didnt take long.

If you dont have a garden or access to an allotment, then try and find some other outdoor space that you can spend time in, and if possible, grow things in, it is pure therapy, it helps to reharmonise you with nature, and nothing is quite as relaxing as knowing you have accomplished a job.

That’s right folks, its the first Kelly Kettle picture of the year from me, fear not, there are bound to be more. If you’re wondering, the plastic tub is what I like to think of as my tinder box, containing cotton wool, and home made char cloth. Marvellous.


Good post about royalty and land reform

I really like the work Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture magazine does. She is wiser than me, and doesnt shoot her mouth off at the drop of a hat, so when she writes something, it’s usually well worth reading.

She just posted up this article about Royalty, nature, and land reform – three things I hold (inevitably) quite strong opinions on. I am not a fan of the idea of the royal family, although I have nothing against them personally – I dont want to kill them or anything. Anyhow, all that nonsense aside, Maddy puts an interesting perspective on them, one born of a bit more reflection than I am known for giving…

Land reform in this current society is indeed one of THE big questions, and is only likely to become more of an issue as time goes on.  I have not read HRH’s book – ‘Harmony’, nor in all honesty am I likely to, but I’m glad Maddy has, and I trust her to comment upon it with sagacity, worth checking out.

Back – with news of perennial garlic and surfing sheep

Yes I’m back, from another trip away with the family (working this time – not jolly holidays) and feeling slightly despondant about the state of the allotment. It really is scruffy this summer – yes it is fruiting, I harvested a ton of tomatoes on Monday, with another truck load still to ripen, but it looks very overgrown.

I would put this down to it being ‘wildlife friendly’ but in fact its just down to me not having spent a day there since late spring. sigh.

As I have already mentioned, we have a massive garlic crop this year, and I’m certain that’s a trick which can be repeated over and over again, but I have also become intrigued by the idea of ‘perennial garlic’ – which I read about here, after seeing a mention here.

I love the idea of a garlic patch which is effectively no dig – although I would struggle to get the required mulch, and I would also struggle to get the required birds to till the required mulch – however, it’s very interesting none the less.I may try it on a small scale this year, although I suspect it will take some time to really get going.

And while we’re on the subject of things which interest me, I see the nice people at the British sustainable surfwear brand Finisterre are busy breeding a kind of sheep which will grow suitable wool here in the UK, to make their super snazzy Merino garments with. Merino wool is usually garnered from down under – the globe that is, not the sheep. And Finisterre have been very strong on the ethics of their Merino gathering, I wont bore you with the details.

Anyhow, they are breeding rare breed Bowmont sheep, especially for their fleece – very good idea! I tried unsuccessfully to do something vaguely (but not terribly) similar on a much smaller scale in Wales once, I wasnt breeding the sheep you understand, as this would have been tricky in a Welsh terraced house – rather I had plans to buy certain type of rare breed wool and turn it into garments – sadly I never managed to find a company which would spin it to a thin enough yarn for what I wanted, and the whole project snuffed it. May have another go 0ne of these days.

Finisterre however are much better at these things than I am though – and they are proper grown ups too – which I wasnt, and still arent. Although they do make very childish adverts…


I didnt go to Glastonbury this year, which is the same as last year, and every year of my life before that.

I am kind of attracted to it, and also kind of repulsed, and in any case its pretty expensive whic his enough to put me off.

But I was really interested in Maddy Harland’s take on the festival, she is the editor of Permaculture Magazine, and a shrewd observer of life – as she would have to be as a permaculturist.

Her visit to Glasto is well outlined here, and is well worth a read for anyone who like me has mixed feelings about it all.

Personally I am very much looking forward to WOMAD, which is looking better and better… World Routes on BBC Radio 3 has been playing some tracks from artists who will be appearing there this year, and my appetite is well and truly whetted.

The fruits of my labours

It’s a lovely time in the garden at the moment (when I can get into it) – much fruiting is taking place, from redcurrants and strawberries to broad beans, garlic, onions, herbs and so on.

I was a bit at a loss to know what to do with the redcurrants, it seemed a shame to have grown a load then not have anything to do with them… so I combined them with some rhubarb and put them into muffins – the kids love ’em.  All good fibre…

I finally got fed up with spring greens hogging the sunlight, so I’ve cut the rest of them and given them away. Dont really know why I grow them… and despite the slugs’ best efforts (they wiped out dozens of seedlings in one week), some of my lettuces have survived and we are well stocked for the summer I think. Reminds me of the days of slug wars.

The strawberries are fighting it out with the borage plants, they are supposed to be best friends, although to be honest they seem like rivals to me. Borage eh… lovely plant but a really good self propagator, you should only ever need one packet of seed for those monsters. Perhaps I shouldnt have left it to self seed last year?

I’ve got about 50 bulbs of garlic drying in the greenhouse, with plenty more coming in a ‘second wave. ‘ I’ve given a load of garlic scapes out, now I have to work out with the dozen or so I have still got. Garlic flavoured salad anyone?

Broadbeans that went in last autumn are now well developed and having made it through the winter (just about) their fat little beans are now in the freezer. I put Kel to work weeding the herb bed the other day, she is a champion weeder… this particular bed has lavender, rosemary, winter savory, two types of mint and a couple of other things in it – next week I’m putting her to work on the perennials bed, which is currently looking a bit ropey given that it is somewhat swamped with weeds.

The greenhouse seems to have been taken over by the worlds most enormous tomato plants, apart from two rather sad looking specimens in one corner, who just dont seem to have joined in with the other on the whole ‘grow grow grow’ thing.

So all in all, things are coming along nicely, I have hopes for the potatoes, although the second earlies are looking a lot less emerald coloured than the first earlies… not sure if its because of the variety or if they are lacking something? Anyhow, I’m not too worried, que sera sera.

Oh and by the way, not sure why, but beans have been a complete failure so far this year (broad beans aside). There’s still time I suppose, even if the equinox has passed us by, I will still be planting thanks very much. Just need a bit more rain…

Divine Inspiration – Permaculture Magazine

Permaculture Magazine

I have an article in the most recent edition of Permaculture Magazine, it’s called ‘Divine Inspiration’ and touches (all too briefly) on the heritage of sustainable land use that the monastics have left us with.

I should really have gone into the ecological and economic crisis that precipitated the end of the Roman Empire, which the monastic small scale farming models helped to stem, but perhaps someone else wants to commission that article… 😉

I warmly reccomend Permaculture Magazine, which I always enjoy and find a very helpful source of information and inspiration.If it’s not available locally to you, you can buy it here, or get an e’edition here. It always seems to have lots of good things about Kelly Kettles, which is a sure fire sign of goodness, and this month it has a whole section on outdoor cooking, including the honey stove… you can understand why I like it.

Permaculture Principles

If you are interested in permaculture – whether its as an approach to growing crops, or perhaps as a more general approach to life, then you will need to understand the permaculture design principles.

These are core, underlying principles which can be applied to any sphere of life, allowing us to engage with people, projects and places in a sustainable and productive way.

To get a full idea of the 12 design principles (Observe & interact; Catch & store energy; Obtain a yield; Apply self regulation & accept feedback; Use & value renewable resources & services; Produce no waste; Design from patterns to details; Integrate rather than segregate; Use small & slow solutions; Use & value diversity; Use edges & value the marginal; Creatively use and respond to change) a good starting place is this excellent site, which details the permaculture design principles, and illustrates their practical outworking.

The content of the site is based largely on the work of David Holmgren, who along with Bill Mollison (an interesting interview with him here) is credited with the co-origination of the concept of Permaculture.

I personally believe that if we were to apply these principles to a wide spectrum of our lives, particularly in the sphere of work, we would find ourselves creating more imaginative and sustainable businesses and institutions. Certainly they teach us to consume less energy, to not just accept the way things are always done, and to apply a way of thinking which works with our environment, rather than against it.