The Help

It’s happening again. Those long gaps in between blog posts, and the longer gaps in between getting outside and doing constructive kind of work on my Smallest Smallholding. Sure, the weather has been hampering my efforts to do anything solid, and in those moments between lashing rain, roaring winds and everything else Mother Nature can throw at us, I find myself standing at a window, watching my little plot of Bedfordshire become increasingly weedier and overgrown.

The birds and wildlife don’t mind at all, and that’s fine. But in my head I have a plan that could make it even greater for them. More areas to drink, more areas to hide, sleep, forage and shelter. More places for me to grow my own food. More colour, more nectar, more scent. But I’m being eluded because I’m spending more and more time working inside.

I categorically cannot complain. After losing my job in January and going through a tough patch, I have well and truly landed on my feet again. In fact, I’m facing the opposite problem in that I have so much prospective work that I’m not entirely sure how to manage it all. But one thing I cannot let happen is to completely abandon my Smallest Smallholding. But I’m struggling to stop that happening. I need help.

After a flurry of planting (late) in Spring, I’ve not done much – pulled the odd few weeds here, dug up a bit of turf there to extend my veg plot. I sowed some chilli peppers, half of which were munched (but I always make allowances because I have a No Kill policy), potted on some cosmos that are doing fantastically well, and even my cherished verbena bonariensis seeds that I had all but given up on have germinated and been potted on – my first verbena bonariensis victory, after about five years of trying and failing, no less. I have a handful of squash plants (I think they’re Cobnut squash… can’t quite remember) growing on nicely – this year I was careful not to overdo it with the sowing, as these plants can be monstrous and I didn’t want to struggle to find places to plant them into the ground once they were mature enough to go outside. But outside of that little flurry of activity, I’m rapidly being taken over by nettles, bindweed and alkanet.

Sure, the bees love the pretty blue flowers, but the plants are actually BASTARDS (not to be confused with the variety of Bastard Alkanet… I mean, these are actually bastards because they’re so blimmin’ spiky). Alkanet is a member of the borage family if I recall correctly, with huge, stubborn tap roots and those fine fibreglass-like spikes that embed themselves into your hands, arms, legs, clothing and anything else they brush against. Like borage, give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile… or ten. Along with our humongous nettle patch and bindweed invasion, they’re rapidly colonising the garden, my greenhouse and anywhere else in between and I’m having to draw up a battle plan to get them in check. I don’t mind a few – again, the bees love the flowers and that makes them just about all right with me – but if I leave it much longer I wouldn’t be surprised if they started their own version of attack of the triffids.

As I said, I need help. Which is where Mum comes in. Over the last couple of months Rich and I leant Mum and Dad our time and DIY skills, and helped them to renovate their living room and dining room into a refreshed and refined state. They were struggling a bit with it, being on a tight budget but desperate to make a change, having moved in over 5 years ago. I could see Mum was starting to feel a bit helpless and so fed up with the whole situation, so I stepped in.

Gone are the disgusting dark stained wooden floors in favour of sanded natural oak coloured floorboards. The walls now do not resemble puke (and underneath the puke coloured vinyl paper, the dark crimson oil paint), but now sport a lovely serene ‘Aged White’ hue, courtesy of Crown. The big black fireplace has been toned down to a white gloss, all the ornate twiddles removed and simplified, with the log burner taking centre stage. It’s transformed the house, and to an extent, it’s positively transformed Mum and Dad’s feeling about being in the house. So in return for all our hard work, Mum is going to help me try and get my Smallest Smallholding back. Get my plots weeded and fertilised for planting later in the year, get the flower border packed out with nectar-rich plants  and maybe, just maybe, get my Mediterranean eating area ready for the autumn.



  1. If you’re lucky we’ll have Summer in September, just right for you to eat out on your Mediterranean Eating Area.