Blog Awards

blog-award blog-award

Thanks to Katy at The Good Life in Practice for my One Lovely Blog/Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

This award comes with a bit of work attached, henceforth known as The Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award / The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
4. Pass the award on to 10 nominees.
5. Include this set of rules.
6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

So 7 things about The Smallest Smallholding (and me):

1. I started this blog in 2007, a scary almost-six years ago. I was 24, just out of university, and I had four ex-battery hens named after Beatle wives – Yoko, Maureen, Cynthia and Pattie. They’ve all now passed into the big chicken coop in the sky due to natural causes, but they were my first foray into the Good Life, and I loved them so much.

2. I have been a vegetarian for almost 21 years, and now I’m straying into the realms of veganism. It’s a logical step for me. Please don’t ask me where I get my protein. I get loads of it. And I grow some of it myself!

3. Our patch of land that we grow our veggies on used to be part of a larger market garden, during the Victorian and Edwardian era. Our only surviving relic of that time – a Victoria plum tree – finally gave in last year, when the heavy crop of plums pulled down the last large bough on it. We’re keeping the plum tree stump and turning it into a bird feeding station.

4. The first crops I grew were carrots, onions and garlic. I started with one tiny plot, and this year I’m planning on more. But our old patch of market garden was also used as a dumping ground for a builder in the 1970s, so the closer we get to one boundary line, the more bricks and rubble we have to dig through to get decent soil.

5. I really, really want to create a wildlife pond, but I’m still not sure where the best place to site it is.

6. I only ever take photos from angles where you can’t see the crap bits of our Smallest Smallholding (90% of it) – wheelbarrow full of rubble, broken tools, rotting shed, etc. Anyone that actually saw my Smallest Smallholding in person would laugh in my face. I want to change that this year.

7. 2012 was an utterly shambolic year as far as vegetable growing was concerned. I always feel that I get to wipe the slate clean and have another go at the beginning of each season – it keeps me sane.


Here are my nominees for the award:

1. Sue – Our New Life in the Country

2. Poppy – A Life Less Simple

3. Geoff – Guide to Gay Gardening

4. Karen – The Garden Smallholder

5. Amy – Turn to the Music

6. Helen – Downloand Views

7. Compostwoman – The Compost Bin

8. Tiny Farm Blog

9. ITFarmer

10. Robin – Red Breasted Bird (the red red robin goes blog blog blogging along)


Win 2 Tickets to Jekka McVicar’s Talk At Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

Hokey dokes, Folks! It’s competition time again!

I have been given 2 PAIRS of 2 free tickets (each pair worth £150) to the Jekka McVicar talk “Herbs: More Than Just a Garnish” at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens in Somerset. To enter you will need to be available to travel down to Blagdon in Somerset on 13th July (that’s next Friday), arriving at 10:30am promptly and leaving around 3:30pm in the afternoon. The competition winner we be treated to the following:

  • 90 minute talk by Jekka McVicar, one of Britain’s authorities on herbs and author of Jekka’s Complete Herb Book (in association with the RHS)
  • Additional time for questions with Jekka
  • 2 course lunch at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens tearoom (I have visited and been treated to a lunch fit for a King there, you won’t be disappointed)
  • Tour of the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

I was treated to a tour back in April and I can honestly say, it’s a fantastic day out, and you’ll come away brimming with ideas and enthusiasm for your own little plot.

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

To enter the competition, all you have to do is leave a comment on the Smallest Smallholding Facebook page succinctly describing how you’ve made your windowsill/balcony/patio/back garden/allotment into your own little wildlife-friendly ‘smallest smallholding’… pictures also welcome! The competition closes on Wednesday at 11am, with the winner notified within 24 hours (most probably much sooner). You won’t need to pick up tickets – the PR company will contact you and provide all relevant details for the trip – so be prepared for a visit on short notice!

Enter the Jekka McVicar Herb talk at Yeo Valley Organic Gardens here. 

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

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.