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?

With Spring in my Step

Last night I sat swathed in my dressing gown, slouched across the sofa, having just had a long and relaxing bath. I’d been soaking my aching muscles in the hot, lavender-scented water after a long, satisfying day of Being Productive.

Since I went back to work after Christmas, I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up on myself. Usually I like to make the most of my weekends. But for some reason I felt inclined to laze around, or have bursts of doing ‘something’ – anything to feel as though I hadn’t just slobbed about. I felt like I just needed to rest, and it was as if I’d given myself permission to lie in, and wander around in my pyjamas for most of the day.

Not yesterday though. After getting my hair (and feeling so much better for it), I came home and flew around the house being a Domestic Goddess, sucking up the ten tonnes of fluff that had accumulated since the vacuum cleaner’s last outing, and generally getting all the shitty jobs (quite literally, in some cases) like cleaning the cat trays out and changing the bins out of the way. I did it all in a mad whirlwind of speed and skill because I Just Wanted To Get Outside.

It was milder than it had felt in weeks. The watery sun was throwing a welcoming warmth – warmth! – onto my skin. It felt good. I plonked each of the rabbits outside to ‘free range’ under my supervision whilst I got all of my tools out of the shed. And methodically, therapeutically and satisfyingly, I worked through my veg plots, turning the crumbly soil over, extracting the weeds, cutting the edges straight. I wasn’t aware of how long it took me, only of the fact that it was something I’d been aching to do for a long time.  Bobbin Robin sat in the hedge, eyeing me as I worked, piping his faint melody every once in a while, obviously impatient for me to move onto the next task.

And so I did. Next job – my mini woodland garden.

It’s tiny. It’s literally a small patch under the damson and apple trees that, in summer, is in shade for most of the day until the late afternoon when the sinking sun lights it up in a blaze of glory. In spring, when the fruit trees are budding, it gets a fair amount of sunlight and stays relatively moist, so is perfect for planting woodland plants.

But last year I neglected it somewhat, allowing the grass, bindweed and nettles to take over. With my wild daffodils and crocuses starting to poke through already, I had work carefully. It was a nice change from the more heavy-handed vegetable patch work. Almost like a different discipline. I cleared space around my emerging forget-me-nots, the wild primos

e, the oxalis and something else that I planted last year, but can’t remember the name of, or what it looks like exactly. We’ll find out soon enough.

As the afternoon sun sank quickly, the temperature rapidly dropped and I herded my rabbits back inside. I felt so satisfied – my veg plots just need some nutrition and I’m ready to go. I do still need to get some proper edging to stop the grass continually creeping in, and so I can also build the plots up with lots of gorgeously rich, crumbly home-made compost and leafmould. But it’s another step forward. At the moment I have time to do this. It’s so incredibly important to me.

After a quick cuppa and stop-off at Mum and Dad’s, I fired up the steamer and set about stripping more wallpaper off our dining room walls. I only have one wall left to do, and the ceiling, and we’re ready to start prepping the room properly for re-decoration. Steps forward. Good.

I should explain. For the past few years I’ve been embarrassed about the state of our home and my Smallest Smallholding. I haven’t felt as though I can have friends around. I’ve felt quite isolated because of it.  I don’t allow anyone outside of the family through the door. We hide from the electricity meter man because we just don’t want anyone to witness what we live in day-to-day. The house is a half-baked renovation job, and the Smallest Smallholding has, for the past couple of years, been out of control.

But I want my friends to visit, and to be able to stay over. I want to welcome people into my home. I want to have friends and family over on warm summer’s evenings. So this year, I’m sure as hell going to try and get closer to being able to do that. Sharing my Smallest Smallholding, getting people encouraged, involved, excited about what I do – that, for me, would be an achievement.

Oh, and incidentally, I have a new job. It’s an exciting prospect. Things are going to be changing, for the better, I think. But more about that next time… I’ll write soon… stay tuned…

Weight: 11 stones 5lb (oops)

Weekend ramble

What a weekend! And, for the first time in ages, I mean that in a good way!

Nothing spectacular has happened really, it’s just…I had a weekend where I did things I wanted to do (well, on Saturday at least), and I felt sort of…free. Saturday I had allocated as my Lazy Day. I don’t do Lazy Days very often anymore, and  having spent the morning turning the living room upside down to clean it (not that you’d notice, it still looks like a bomb site), I settled down to enjoy a veggie burger for lunch. I wasn’t anticipating staying sat down for too long.

The thing was, House of Eliot was on. I love that show; takes me back to being fairly young, when life was easy, school was fairly easy, and tv viewing was ace (Lovejoy, House of Eliot et al). Anyhow, having got a bit comfortable watching HoE, I flicked over to find that Elizabethtown had just started on FilmFour. Bah, it had only just gone lunchtime and Orlando Bloom was very engaging. Swoooon. So I swung my legs up and sprawled.

I have this thing when I watch films; if I’m anywhere near my laptop I have to go on IMDB and check out the movie trivia and goofs. So naturally, having IMDB’d Elizabethtown, I found that Orlando Bloom had also starred in Black Hawk Down. Now there’s a film I’d been intending to see for quite a while. So once Elizabethtown finished (good film, nice little love story, recommend it for some easy viewing, if not for a bit of an Orlando-fest), I YouTube’d Black Hawk Down and watched that too. Gory. Thought-provoking. Makes me so glad I have never known what it’s like to live in a war-torn country or have to endure living within a war zone. I’m so very very very lucky to live where I live.

By this time, it was late afternoon/early evening. I hadn’t been very productive, and days where I’ve not done much often leave me feeling a bit weird. I don’t know why; perhaps it’s just that I worry that it’s a wasted day that I’ll never get back. So I got up, and decided to stop being a smelly layabout and had a shower, washed my hair and felt all nice and scrubbed up.

I pottered for a while, trundled to the supermarket, cooked myself a curry and then found myself on my backside infront of the box. Again. This time it was Mean Girls. Boy, it was turning out to be an eclectic film mix day. Then after a bit of Potter (Goblet of Fire, book ten times better than the film), it was an early night.

This morning I awoke to bright sunshine. I didn’t expect it at all; all the weather forecasts I’d seen had predicted an overcast, slightly dull day that was to be peppered with showers and maybe, just maybe, the odd burst of sunshine. Rich was fast asleep, having worked all through Saturday (oh, the life of freelancer), and so I let him be. I made my way downstairs, followed by a line of cats who had got up with me. We all had our breakfast – bunnies included, and I sat in the morning sunlight in the conservatory looking at my germinating seeds.

I’m not too happy with them. I think I’m just going to start again. Plus, the dreaded green aphid has made its way into my conservatory, which could spell disaster anyway. Best to have a contingency plan and just start over again (although, I will plant what I’ve already got, it’s just going to be a case of juggling everything so I have room). But, spurred on by the fact that my sunflower seeds are looking good, I decided to plant up around 50 more in various trays and pots. I was doing an Alys Flower and collecting tins to plant them in, but quite frankly, I can’t eat tins of borlotti beans and chickpeas fast enough.

I had another quick shower and hotfooted it over to my Mum’s – I was meeting my sister there to help her out with an application form. Four hours later, I then hotfooted it down to the allotment, Dad in tow, to see Mum. We spent a good hour together pulling weeds, hoeing and digging. We cut a lot of rhubarb from Rhubarb Mountain, and pulled up some leeks that were threatening to go to seed. I came home with armfuls of produce (my first of the year, I might add), dirty shoes and plans for rhubarb crumble.

The rest of this evening has been spent making the most of the evening sun. I was pleased to see the bees all over the rab apple blossom – hopefully it’s a good omen. Lots of bees = lots of pollination = lots of crab apples = lots of jam making perhaps?

We also let bunnies out for a run around the veg patches (they’re suprisingly good and only nibble on the grass). It was like binky city – for those of you that have never seen a rabbit do a ‘binky’ (link is not my bunny), it’s a thing of pure joy. Literally. The rabbit is happy and is expressing it’s joy, whilst making the observer ‘teehee!’ with each twist, flip and spin.

So as I bring this marathon entry to a close, the rhubarb picked earlier this evening has been simmered and is now sitting with crumble topping in place, ready to go in the oven. The potatoes are roasting, the cats are sleeping, the rabbits are relaxing and Rich is still working. Poor Rich.

Tomorrow is pay day, and that’s when things should really get going.  So, how was your weekend?