Falling Behind at my Smallest Smallholding

This should have been posted last week…

…Mre posts to follow!…

Right now there are several hundred (or a few thousand even) people across the pond at the Harry Potter ‘Leaky Con’ convention. And I’m not there! Boooooooooo. I wish I was. Oh well, I’ll have to console myself by buying a Harry Potter t-shirt or a wand or something tragic like that. At least I got to enjoy a stunningly beautiful bank holiday weekend!

Yes, I know, I’ve not blogged in what seems like ages. Firstly, as you’ll remember from my last post, I was ill with a bad cold and flu-like symptoms. Then when I got back to work, I had two days to dash off something I was supposed to have been working on all week, and the following Friday I was off to Bristol for Rich’s cousin’s wedding. The marriage ceremony took place in the futuristic Planetarium, with the meal and reception held at a Hogwarts-style stately home. It was a good day, although my feet were killing me by the evening. So I took my sparkly shoes off (which had earned me SO many compliments during the day, you wouldn’t believe) and danced the night away bare foot.

Then I had the mistfortune to be in a car accident last week. Nothing major, but enough to have me down the doctors for a check up, and a few repairs done to the car. Not my fault, I hasten to add. I was sitting in a queue of traffic and WHAM! I didn’t stop shaking for a long time afterwards. But nevertheless, getting it all sorted out took ages, and I had another mountain of work to get through last week. You see, on top of my full time work I’m also still freelancing…it’s no wonder I fall asleep at the drop of a hat these days.

Then Friday arrived and I had a quick meeting – I’ve been given a little promotion (whoop!) and my career path at the company I work for has changed slightly. In a good way. They’re training me up…so fingers crossed it’ll go well and I’ll prove a success. It’s nice to have people believe in your skills and your abilities. My new line of work will still involve writing, and I’m moving from the proofing side of things to more of a creative role, which is good. All I know is that at the moment, I need this. I need to have some direction.

So you can understand why here at home, I’ve been piss poor and I’ve not managed to get a proper grip on all my vegetable growing and smallest smallholding this year. Although, in my defence, everything I planted outside seems to be doing OK. I thought my runner beans had had it, but in the last few days they’ve put on a spurt of growth, and having had a quick squizz down at the allotment, they’re just about on par with other people’s. My carrots are coming on (all three rows, whoop-de-doo), the parsnips are finally showing themselves, and the Charlotte potatoes look a-ma-zing. They’re going to be DELICIOUS, I just know it. The onions are a bit small, but I did put them in a little later than I wanted. Garlic is coming on well…looking forward to pulling that up when the time comes. Can’t get enough of garlic. Nom. And God Bless my wonderful Mummy for keeping the allotment ticking over. I’ve been down there about twice in the past four or five weeks, and if it wasn’t for her, it’d be a weedy mass of couch grass, chickweed and not a lot inbetween.

However, everything in the conservatory (because I still don’t have any greenhouse staging RICH) has really died a death. My cosmos are just about hanging on for dear life, despite me completely abusing them and failing to do any watering for days on end. The sunflowers that didn’t fall victim to my rabbit’s snippy snipper teeth have either gone ridiculously leggy, look like they’ve had a few too many and are failing to stand up straight, or just look sickly and shrivelled. Bah.

And if my habitual failings (I was ill, remember!) in the watering/potting on/feeding department weren’t enough, I’ve also been losing the fight against greenfly. The little buggers somehow got into my conservatory, and despite my best (OK, poor) efforts, they’ve sucked the life out of my chilli seeds. So I’ve lost all them. I have one butternut squash plant that I did pot on (hurrah!), which isn’t quite out of the woods yet, and the leeks keep being sat on by the cats and the rabbit.

My brassicas…well. Just disaster really. All gone. Every single last one. All my Primo cabbages, my calabrese selection, romanesco broccoli. Nothing.


I don’t know what to do. I mean, I do want to have another go but I just don’t know if it’s too late. Yesterday, as I sprawled out in the sunshine with Potter in hand, blue skies above, rabbits rabbiting about, cats lazing, I didn’t feel at all worried about it. ‘Bahhh! It’ll all be fine, just sow a few more seeds and see how it goes, and if it doesn’t work out, buy a few plug plants or young plants from a garden nursery’, is what I thought.

But…buying them in? Feels a bit like cheating to me. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I think I have to be a complete purist and just do EVERYTHING myself from seed…perhaps I think if I don’t do that, I haven’t put enough work in and it’s not really my produce, it’s just something I’ve stuck in the ground and looked after. Like I won’t enjoy eating it so much because I didn’t do it all myself. Do you see what I mean? But it’s silly – I mean, I bought some leeks from the WI stall and grew them on to eat, and it was fine. Why do I feel like I’ve failed if it’s not something I’ve raised from seed?

In fact, sometimes I wonder whether I am getting out of my depth with all this. Since I’ve started working full-time, it’s been a constant battle to keep my smallest smallholding in order. It just looks so pathetic these days. A few sandy, undernourished vegetable beds, overgrown flower borders, junk everywhere (although we should be getting a skip soon to solve that problem), persistent bindweed, nettles, rampant honeysuckle, corn(!), scraggly grass and just…crap. If you actually came here to see what it’s like, you’d laugh. You might feel a bit sorry for me, or think it’s some sort of bad joke. You’d probably think it was utterly pathetic, in all honesty.

I’m fed up with people laughing at me and thinking I’m a bit rubbish. They do, you know. So I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m on track with my work now, so I just need to put that extra bit of effort in each day and get this place up to scratch. I ought to because when everything is crap or going wrong, or I’m feeling stressed, it’s the one thing I can turn to that feels real and grounded and just right. It’s my haven and it’s something I desperately want to be proud of. I’m a bit embarrassed by my efforts thus far. I want it to be more than just an ethos.

OK, so I have no hens right now. Essentially, I’ve been pedalling backwards these last few months. But remember, my back yard smallholding is still a work in progress and a dream. Whether I’ll ever have a working (vegetarian) smallholding one day…well, your guess is as good as mine. I don’t even know where I’ll be in five years, let alone that far ahead. All I’ve got to do for the next few weeks is focus on real goals – repair the greenhouse, dig out the nettles, plant the sunflowers…work hard at work and just do whatever I can do when I get home. And just try to enjoy the summer.


  1. I know how you feel, Ive been rubbish with my veg plot for the last few weeks, but today ive blitzed it and got loads done, so hang in there and you’ll be back on track in no time! buying in some plants is not a crime, better to have some home grown things from plants than nothing at all I think!! You’re doing a grand job, its not easy keeping on top of smallholdingness so dont be too hard on yourself!! P.s. Opal do some harry potter sock yarn, why not knit yourself some harry potter socks?!?!crafty and homemade+potter= an excellent plan!

  2. Don’t despair lucy buying plugs and small plants at the garden centre isn’t cheating. I know how it feels to do everything yourself and how its feels crap when it all goes to pot, but its not failing if you have to resort to a little help every now and again. I’m currently surrounded by pots of seedlings that need pricking out, potting on and I haven’t even sown any beans yet. But its ok it’s not a race or a competion. It sounds like with your job your trying to juggle a lot of balls, just take a deep breath and concentrate on a little bit at a time.

    Take care


  3. You sound most awfully stressed out. Get your HP book back out (read Mrs Weasley kickking Ballatrix backside, how could that not cheer you up)and de-stress.

    I have friends who are farmers. Some plants are grown from seed & some are bought in. They dont consider it a cop out, just a sensible move.

    Take the job in hand and as you start to get used to it you will be able to take the house back in hand too.

    Remember you are doing it becuase you enjoy it not because you have too.


  4. I know the feeling and I don’t have to go out to work! It is manic this time of year. A bit of good weather and everything seems to need planting at once. Either seedlings are dying because they’re too hot or else they are so tall that the pots keep falling over, add the rampaging weeds and it seems overwhelming. All I want to do is sit in the sun and do nothing

    What about going to a boot fair for some veg plants as there always seems to be people selling their surplus at this time of year, then at least you could feel you were doing them a favour, probably cheaper than the garden centre too.

  5. I work full-time and try and grow my own veg, look after hens, cats, husband, house, and occasionally self. There just aren’t enough hours in the day so I do know exactly how you feel, but you’ve not been well either, and you’ve had the stress and grief of losing much loved pets too. In other words, don’t be too hard on yourself: you’ve got a lot on your plate and you’re not superwoman, nor should you try and be.

    Buy in some plug plants, it’s what most farmers and time-starved smallholders do, and there’s nothing wrong in it.

    Start being kind to yourself and stop trying to do absolutely everything: you aren’t a failure because you’re trying damn hard – I am full of admiration for the way you keep picking yourself up and striving to do what you can.

  6. There is no way you can do everything – garden / allotment / full time job / web sites etc / reading / having a life / having enough sleep to stay sane …

    If others seem to manage it, they must have an army of little helpers in their wake.

    To me it sounds like you’re doing brilliantly! You just have to put all the slightly less successful and crappy bits to one side and know they’re making you into a stronger person.

    If you see some lovely veg plants for sale – buy them and don’t feel guilty.

    Hope you have a great week 🙂 Your employers obviously think you’re talented and believe in you. And at the weekend you can tick some things off the to-do list and then relax and enjoy the sunshine.


  7. A. Congratulations for the promotion. Sounds like work is finally beginning to be what you want it to be…?

    B. It’s not too late to start more brassicas!! Honestly! Get ’em sown now and you’ll still get a crop!!

  8. Your being too hard on yourself me thinks. You have had a toughty old time of late. Glad to hear you were not hurt in the car crash, enjoy the summer wont you?!