Another Delayed Blog Post…

As I begin to write this, it’s not even 9am on a Saturday and here I am, tip-tapping away on my keyboard, ready for a day of freelance work. I’m not in the best of moods, if I’m entirely honest. We’ve had a week of battling with a sick bunny – due to a condition she’s developed, she’s prone to attacks of ileus, a life-threatening illness bunnies can come down with for a myriad of reasons. Basically, their guts stop moving, and when their guts stop moving, it’s not. good. at. all. She was in the veterinary hospital overnight on Thursday, came home yesterday and still refuses to eat of her own accord.

We brought her home because she’s had a history of refusing to eat at the hospital, but once in familiar surroundings of her home (our living room), she eventually perks up and stuffs her face. She’d had a good run since the last attack a few months ago. In fact, she’d never been better. But this one seems to be nasty. I don’t know what’s going through her little mind – if anything at all – but she’s being so stubborn and it’s making me miserable. I don’t cope with animal illnesses very well when I’m away at work, and I dread Monday morning arriving and there being no change with her.

So let’s hope this weekend sees some improvements. We’re doing what we can and really, it’s up to her.

All this bunny related stress has seen me going to bed much earlier, and it’s actually done me a lot of good. I only half look like I’m from the Land of the Dead, and together with my new green tea drinking/greater intake of water regime, my skin is finally starting to clear up. I’ve had this funny rash of red pimples across my face for a while, and I imagine it’s probably diet related. Since my back went a bit doolally a few weeks ago, my diet has been absolutely abysmal. We’re talking bread, bread, bread, take-aways, cheese, bread, chocolate, crisps, sweeties etc. Comfort eating mode. I’ve been stressed a lot. Money. Work. Money. Money. Animals. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m trying to get on top of it all, cutting out the crap and upping veg/fruit/wholefoods PLUS the green tea & water drinking PLUS earlier nights PLUS osteopathy and hoping that I don’t fall apart in a few weeks. I’ve got a LOT of freelance on at the moment, which is a good, great, fantastic thing, but boy could I do with a holiday. It’s looking a less and less likely prospect in the near future, thanks to vet bills, normal bills and the like. So I’m hoping that the summer will be a nice one, and that maybe we might be able to slot in some camping somewhere. Preferably away from screaming children. We have enough of those around here in suburbia, where parents don’t seem to think that allowing their children to scream for hours on end is inconsiderate. Hmm!

So what’s been keeping me busy besides a belligerent bunny and stacks of freelance? Well, I’ve actually been quite strict with myself and allowed for time in the Smallest Smallholding. In the greenhouse, the kale and leeks are doing well, but the chillies and peppers, as I predicted, are taking a while to germinate. With these cold nights we’re experiencing, I think it could be a little while until they start to shoot, but I’m going to use the opportunity to finally get my last lot of garlic in this weekend. I have a feeling some of it is going to end up in pots and troughs.

I’m holding back on the direct seed sowing for now. Apparently spring is a couple of weeks behind, which suits me fine. So I think I might give it a fortnight or so before I start putting in the parsnips, carrots and countless other seeds I’ve managed to accumulate, but not accommodate (yet). I’m going to follow Monty’s suggestion from GW last night, and start off some salad leaves in trays in my cold greenhouse. I unearthed (literally) a load of perfectly good seed trays that had been dumped in a pile in the semi-derelict corner of the Smallest Smallholding, so I’ll be putting those to good use.

Speaking of which, I’ve also made a start on what will become our Mediterranean eating area. At the moment, it’s a small square in the corner of the garden that gets sun from early-mid morning in spring/summer, right through to sundown. I think it’s probably south to south-west facing, and with poor soil and fanced on two sides should house quite a few Mediterranean plants and flowering herbs quite nicely. At the moment, it’s covered in lumpy mounds of grass, which in turn sit on top of brambles and an underground network of bindweed. It’s been a dumping ground for wood, houses my original wood pile (I started another one last year in another area, so am slowly transporting the original one over), then there’s the collapsed trellis slowly being overtaken by ivy, and remnants of a wooden arch that once supported our glorious clematis montana, honeysuckle, and rose. Those three plants are still there, somewhat overgrown and rambling, but we’re hoping to reinstate them once it’s all fixed up. On one side there was also part of a privet hedge which we’ve taken out. The birds didn’t really use it, preferring the denser hedges further up near their feeding areas, and it’s opened up the space towards the mini woodland garden under the fruit trees, my greenhouse and my veg plots. So much more light.

It’s taken me a number of hours spread over two weeks just to hack everything down to ground level. I have a feeling we’re going to have to take the top layer of soil off just to tackle the bindweed and bramble problem. Believe me, I know what I’m dealing with. Bindweed is one of the banes of my life. Once all the discarded wood and dumped fence panels are removed, the second overgrown honeysuckle is taken out (it doesn’t flower) and I’ve finally chopped down the last of the BASTARD scratchy brambles that have shredded my hands and arms for the last fortnight, then we’ll be ready to start planning and designing it all properly. My starting point is that I want to keep it looking fairly natural and wildlife friendly.

In other Smallest Smallholding news:

  • We have a pair of blackbirds bringing up a small family in our ivy. Been helping out dad by periodically digging out nettles in one area and vacating for a while whilst he goes in and collects food. This is in addition to the spring/summer mix we offer all the birds, which includes mealworms.
  • The alpine strawberries are growing well in the shingle near the house. Might transplant some into the new eating area, if we choose to gravel round the edges.
  • Hedgehog poos on the lawn confirm – the hedgehogs are awake. Extra supplemental feeds will now be available on a nightly basis at the Smallest Smallholding!
I can’t write any more now. I have to get on with a tonne of freelance. Sigh!
Edit: Since writing this post Ms. Moppy is doing much better!
Edit: You can view the evolution of the Mediterranean Eating Area here on my Smallest Smallholding Facebook page.

Missed Post

Should have posted this at the beginning of the week… Whoops! So here you are…

Hello there. Sorry about that little hiatus. I was having a crap fortnight.

So, as you know, Snoopy left us for the warren in the sky. But not two days later, as my Twitter followers probably noticed, we then had to take Moppy in to the vet too. I felt like I was a completely rubbish owner and I was doing things wrong. But after an initial x-ray, which led onto an ultrasound, which then led onto surgery, it turned out Moppy had got steatitis. It’s basically where fatty tissue becomes necrotic and causes flare ups in the surrounding tissue. The vet said that not much is known about it in cats, and even less is known about it in rabbits. Sometimes they can knock themselves and it happens via a small trauma, but there’s just not a huge amount known about it, so we’re not sure why it happened, or whether it’ll happen again. Luckily we were on to it very quickly, and after an amazingly huge vet bill, we got Moppy home.

Then ensued a few stressful days of encouraging her to eat. She was eating a little at the vet but we all thought it was best if she came home and settled here – rabbits are incredibly emotional animals, and given that she’d been ill and lost her partner in crime… well, she wasn’t feeling great. But we managed to syringe feed her, encourage her with herbs and long grass, administer her various medications and painkillers. After a few days, Moppy started eating more and more of her own accord, and as of two days ago has been off the painkillers and is eating and pooing like a trooper. She’s back to her naughty ways and once she’s had the all clear, we’re looking at adopting a rescue rabbit from the RSPCA, who will hopefully bond with her and become her new ‘husbun’.

Honestly. Rabbits are perhaps one of the most complex animals I’ve had to keep. Unfortunately, that’s probably why they’re also one of the most abused and neglected animals in this country. But all you can do is spread the word and hope people won’t keep buying them and leaving them virtually ignored all day in too-small hutches, once they discover that most rabbits don’t actually enjoy being picked up or cuddled.


Now that that little episode is over (I hope), and my cough and cold are finally leaving me, I am also pleased to report that despite having to have a week off work due to illness, buckets of rain and rabbity-distractions, I did manage to get more sowing done. WOW. I am a bit flabbergasted, if I’m completely honest. I think because last year was a bit of a disaster, any progress this year has made me feel as though I’ve come on in leaps and bounds.

My polka raspberries are doing great, even though Moppy has a habit of nipping off the fresh buds when my back is turned. I have lost one raspberry cane though – but I think this is because I just didn’t get them in quick enough after I received them in the post. I’ll have to have a think to see how I can get one more in, as it’s the cane that’s smack bang in the middle of the short row.

Rich’s asparagus are sending up tiny new spears. He tenderly checks them almost every other day to see what progress they’re making, and to assess any cat/rabbit/mouse inflicted damage has been done since his last check. It usually involves a 10 second burst of frustrated raging, but alas – that is the nature of growing your own. Rich gets very despondent with his flower and veg growing efforts, but I’ve told him to just be patient and let things take care of themselves. That tactic usually works for me.

In the greenhouse (well, conservatory and greenhouse), my various chillis and peppers are going GREAT – I’m hoping for an abundance of cayenne and jalapeno chillis and big banana, long sweet and californian bell peppers by the summer. I did, however, discover that probably part of the reason that my bluebells and wild garlic seed didn’t come up was that Tom the cat had taken to lying in the warm earthy seed trays. Joy. Luckily, he missed the pepper and chilli trays.

I’ve also sowed runner beans and a couple of varieties of squash, some of which are starting to peep through. That in itself is a vast improvement as last year I left it so late that I just threw them in the ground, covered in an old plastic compost bag to keep the soil warm. No, in fact, I bought one from the garden centre and threw it in the ground. So there! That’s progress for you, right there.

My charlotte potatoes are starting to poke through too. I’m already mentally planning my hot potato salad with freshly chopped chives from outside the greenhouse.

The primo cabbages have been sown indoors – they’re a round, compact variety of cabbage and I found the one that I grew a couple of years ago that survived the slug attack to be extremely crunchy and almost sweet in taste. So if they survive this year (I’m thinking enviromesh and nightly slug removal duties – hopefully the hedgehogs will help clear up too), I’m looking forward to things like fresh, crunchy coleslaw. None of that supermarket rubbish, which made me think I hated coleslaw for years.

I know it says sow indoors around April on the cabbage packet, but I get the feeling that spring is a bit late this year anyway, so it all works out. What’s a couple of weeks in the growing calendar, anyway? It’s not rigid, it doesn’t work like that.

My question to you, just out of interest, is this: did you ever grow up thinking you hated a particular fruit or vegetable, only to grow it yourself or eat it fresh from someone’s vegetable patch, and find that actually… you really liked it?