Mediterranean Eating Area and Funding Finances

Tortoise the cat sitting near the house in the evening sun

Tortoise the cat sitting near the house in the evening sun

Prologue: I wrote this about 5 weeks ago and never published it. Whoops. I’ve been so busy. SO busy – very sorry for the lack of blog updates. But I will be blogging again soon. Promise.

I’ve just been on a pre-lunch potter, and discovered that in just one square metre of our pretty substantial nettle patch, there are no less than 63 ladybird larvae. I’m quite impressed by that.

It’s been blustery here in Smallest Smallholding land for a good month. In the space of around six weeks. my garlic have been subjected to drought-like conditions (despite my best efforts to water them regularly), 30mph+ winds, as well as a mixture of driving rain AND wind, and I think there may have even been a ground frost thrown in for good measure. The result is that they’ve decided to just lay down and get on with it. I’m quite sure that they’re a soft-neck garlic variety, so I’m not at all surprised. I was hoping that the bulbs underground would continue to swell and in a few weeks, offer me some fat, pungent garlic to cook with for the next few months. I love my garlic SO MUCH. Shop-bought garlic just doesn’t do it for me any more.

But no, the first garlic harvest was absolute crap. So it’s finger’s crossed that the next look (which, admittedly, look so much healthier and robust) make the grade.

In my last blog post I wrote about the chicken rescue I was lucky enough to tag along at. The good news is that the next instalment is in the pipeline, and I’m so ready for another go. Now I know what I’m doing I’m chomping at the bit to get in there and help get those girls out. Finances still won’t allow for me to get my own girls – not that keeping them is expensive, but around here, the vet bills are. The Smallest Smallholding resident white queen cat Lilla had some eye problems last month, and one vet visit, two injections and a tube of eye ointment cot us £60. Then she had an allergic reaction to an insect bite and that was another £50. We’d do anything for our cats, but it does come at a price. And at 9 years old, I don’t think we can get Lilla or her sister or my two ex-stray fat cats Tom and Tortoise insurance, so we have to lump the costs.

Money. Money, money, money. It’s been on my mind a LOT lately, as usual. Basically, I don’t have enough of it to pay off debts, save up for tax, have a life (even a modest social life), save up for a holiday for my 30th, and just pay the bills to get by. Deposit for a mortgage? Upgrade our falling apart car? One day get married and have kids? Dream on.

So it comes down to the fact that I have to make more money via my freelance, save harder and spend smartly.

Going through our bank statements, we’ve realised that we’ve been spending a heck of a lot of money on food. My Smallest Smallholding veg growing exploits aren’t yet anywhere near a level that can sustain us outside of the mid-late summer months. We shop at Waitrose, which isn’t the most competitively priced supermarket, but it’s not bad, and its ethics are generally better than the scourge of British consumerism that are Tesco, Asda and Morrisons (yes, I’m a supermarket snob, and I enjoy the superb customer service for a change!). With our Waitrose being very very local, our problem is that we shop there several times a week, often popping in to get something inane like carrots or tin foil and coming out with £40 worth of goods. There’s not much planning, and its costing us much more than it ought to.

So, as Rich and I are both on a healthy eating thing at the mo (he has lost 6kgs, I have lost 2, boo), we’ve decided to introduce a healthy wallet plan too, where we withdraw a currently undisclosed (because we haven’t worked it out) amount of money for our monthly shopping budget and stick to it. There’s something about paying in cash that makes you realise just how much you’re handing over. All to often I can pay for something by card, not think about the amount that’s been deducted from my account and then a few days later have a small heart attack at just how much I’ve spent. Ridiculous, stupid and irresponsible, in short.

So hopefully we’ll be that little bit better financed throughout the month if we get ourselves sorted out. Time and bank statements will tell.

In other news, I’ve been writing a lot (children’s/YA book, been thinking on it for about 3 years) and continuing to dig a lot. The Mediterranean eating area is coming quite close to being dug over completely. Only one small, but challenging area remains. I say challenging because it’s probably the area most densely rooted with ivy, couch grass and bindweed roots. But with two of us on the case, dare I say it but I think in a week or two, in between work and other commitments, we might have it done. The next job will be to cut back the glorious thicket of honeysuckle and clematis montana so we can extract the fallen down trellis. Then we’re going to create a mood board so we can work out exactly what we’re going to do.

I received a couple of big parcels from Victoriana Nursery Gardens, having given owner Stephen a budget, a vague description consisting of “I need some Mediterranean style plants that the bees will like” and asking him to include some rosemary and lavender in the mix. These plants give us a base to work from, and should do well in the poor, sandy soil without much need for feeding and fertilising (ie, sustainable!):

  • Lavandula augustifolia ‘Munstead’ (a dwarf lavender)
  • French lavender
  • Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
  • Phomis fruitcosa (Jerusalem sage)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’
  • Cistus ‘Anne Palmer’
  • Abelia x grandiflora
  • Lavandula augustifolia/spica – Old English Lavender
  • Santolina virens ‘Primrose Gem’
  • Phlomis Italica

I think we’ll probably bulk out the rest of the planting with lavenders and flowering/edible herbs. HOW we arrange our planting is yet to be decided.

Comments

  1. Watch out for the French lavender when it gets colder. I had some for a few years, but the recent cold Winters have killed it and a replacement off.

    How about some thymes? Creeping thymes are good ground cover.

  2. Hi Lucy

    Looking good. I’m growing a couple of packets worth of Lavender (English Hidcote) from seed and they’re growing pretty rapidly.

    Doing it for the bees really but they are gonna look great in a long line.

  3. Bloody Waitrose. I ALWAYS walk out having spent a small (or large) fortune. The place should be demolished as a gross temptation to fat persons.

    If there were no Waitrose on our doorstep, I’d lose 5kg overnight.

    One thing I’d miss, though: seeing all the celebs. Our local Waitrose is quite near a well-known estate for the rich and shameless, so we always see some soap star or other slopping around in shades, jump suit and no make-up. It’s a delight to see how bloody awful most of them look in daylight.

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