2016 is Go… Finally.

Hello, there. It’s been a while. Sorry about that. You know how it is… Christmas, the strange in-limbo week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (my birthday), and then all of a sudden it’s back to normality and you’re firmly in the mix of work and everything else.

lazy lounging

I admit I have barely stepped outside in the last three weeks. I am rapidly becoming a lazy lump and in danger of resembling a plump Christmas pudding unless I get myself motivated. It’s been so utterly miserable weather-wise – those few times when I have ventured into the garden the ground has audibly squelched beneath my feet (but thank goodness East Anglia has as yet evaded the awful flooding of recent weeks) – but today I woke up to large swathes of blue sky and birdsong, and I’m ready to get going with 2016. Finally.

bedfordshire morning - sunrise

I’ve decided that this year, we’re going with my plan to get rid of scrappy lawn and put in some more no-dig veg plots. I half-heartedly attempted this last year, but made the mistake of dumping horse manure directly on top of the lawn, leaving it for a while, and as a result the deep tap roots dandelions and clumps of grass just enjoyed the nourishment and flourished. That’s ok though, because we got a big wild patch filled with sour thistle, dandelion and thick grasses that we’ve been using to feed the bunny rabbit for free, who in turn provides us with lots of lovely poop for compost!

How to make no-dig plot

Laying out the no-dig plot

This time around, I’m going to smother the grass with cardboard and then dump the compost and manure on top. I have some organic compost that I bought last year on offer, but we have a big job of turning our three compost heaps ahead of us as buying in all your compost is just not an economically sound approach.

Chitting Potatoes on windowsill

Next up is getting the potatoes chitting. I’ll be on the lookout for Picasso again as they were a storming success last season (we finished the last one from our harvest over Christmas), and I might even try and find space for a row or two of Charlotte.

Getting ready for Christmas… without presents

Christmas at the Smallest Smallholding

Even though it’s still 10C outside and not a snowflake in sight, we’re getting ready for Christmas. But this year, my side of the family decided that we are going to eschew the traditional gift-giving element. The more I think about it, the more I think it is a great idea.

Although I absolutely love love love giving gifts (and will try to whenever I can), at 32 I feel so utterly jaded by the constant “buy! buy! buy!” demands everywhere I turn, from Hallowe’en until December 24th. It feels like everything is just tuned in to make you part with your cash, and you’re made to feel that your Christmas will never be complete unless you’ve bought this, that and the other. Maybe I was more oblivious, but as a child in the 80s I don’t remember it being this intense. I didn’t feel like Christmas was so only about gluttony, extravagance and spending. Christmas has become a commercially-fuelled holiday, and has been for a long time. So saying a quiet “no” to a little consumerism will allow us to just enjoy some relaxed family time when Christmas Day comes along.

The Smallest Smallholding Christmas 2015 with Ozzy

Of course I am still more than happy to buy gifts for other family and friends, I do enjoy it… especially now that shopping online means I can avoid the crowds! But I am really tuning out from the non-stop commercialism of it all, and have found myself turning to hygge as my inspiration this year. Yesterday Rich brought the Christmas tree in and I got out our decades-old jumble of tree ornaments out – some inherited from my grandmother, some we bought when we got our first tree together in our early twenties – and we slung lots of lights up. Our living room might still be half renovated after I was forced to stop due to pretty severe tennis elbow, but in my mind it’s still cosy and homely. With the fire going and the animals chilling around us, I felt so warm and comfortable. I wish I had at least a month off to myself to just reset, relax and enjoy life a bit more.

 

 

Love your ugly veg

There’s been a fair amount of coverage in the media recently about wonky veg, and the supermarkets’ costly distaste for it. Every year, an (almost) unbelievable amount of “imperfect” fruit and veg is rejected, and left rotting in large putrid piles. The travesty is that it’s not about taste or nutrition, it’s all about looks. Supermarkets want model veg that only subscribes to their pre-approved ideals; weight, size, colour, and finish. They’re just effectively throwing away perfectly good food.

Trug of ugly veg parsnips

I may well have won the ugly veg award this year, as my parsnips look as thought they’ve been cast under an ugly spell. I didn’t quite get the no-dig depths right in my parsnip bed, and the dry summer and lack of form mulch gave me twizzly roots and seemingly a new breed of mutant parsnip spawn.

Parsnips washed down

But I wanted to prove a point. No matter how ugly, twisted or gnarled my veg might be, it’s still perfectly edible. OK, so I had to lop off a few rusty bits of parsnip, but I still managed to finish up with a delicious spicy parsnip soup.

Parsnip soup in the pot

If there’s one thing that growing my own food has taught me, it’s that it’s not about looks; it’s all about personality! And that even the ugliest of veg – grown for pennies organically at home – can become the tastiest dish come dinner time.