Getting ready

Buddleia in summer

It’s been a long time since I last posted, not that you’d know it by looking around my patch. August has been so devoid of rain here in East Anglia and we’ve slowly gone from the lush greens of July to crispy, ochre tones of a long, dry summer.


I have rapidly been expanding and am now four days off my due date. A couple of weeks ago I was in and out of hospital for monitoring, scans and all sorts, but so far we are OK. I was doing well, keeping active and busy, but the last few days have been a real struggle. Lack of sleep, nausea, funny tummy and general emotional wobbly-ness have all played a part. I thought I’d got away with no stretch marks, but no, with half a week to go, they’ve started creeping in. I am so heavy and cumbersome now that rudimentary weeding on my hands and knees, and a bit of pruning here and there is about all I can manage.

The peas have finished, the carrot supply is dwindling and thanks to a lack of rain, my bean and potato harvests are looking modest at best. The onions and garlic have been left on the drying racks in the greenhouse, and grabbed when needed. Despite a much better blackcurrant and gooseberry crop, I know it won’t be a stellar year for harvesting. Even the raspberries look fed up.

Large veg patch

For the summer of 2016, what will be will just have to be as we’ve been focusing on getting the house ready for our baby girl. I still can’t quite believe she’s on her way, despite being woken in the early hours as I’m booted about internally and wondering if every little twinge, niggle or pang is the start of her arrival.

But back to the house. It’s been a family effort to get ready. We lived with holes in the ceiling for a few years, and bare walls knocked back to brick and plaster. Now, with the help of my mum and sister, we have a freshly plastered and painted dining room (open plan) with refreshed painted woodwork and are no longer living under what felt like a dingy cloud. We opted for beachy/coastal colours to try and lift the blue and grey tones from this room that’s a little starved of light. Today, Rich is even attempting to finish the kitchen floor – a job that’s been on the cards for the last 2.5 years. I’ll finally be able to move our big old kitchen table back into the kitchen and reclaim the dining room as a cosy reading room. It won’t be completely finished but I’m starting to accept that fact, and be OK with it. The nesting instinct is still strong with this one.

Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be back to some semblance of physical normality – that is, I really miss being mobile and being able to just potter for half an hour or so in the veg patches and just do what I need to do. No huffing and puffing, taking half a minute to get myself up off the floor and feeling like everything is such an effort. And I am so looking forward to meeting my little girl and showing her the world. Sharing our little slice of it with her. It might be far from perfect right now but that’s OK.

Rain and Sunshine

Earlier this week we had a thunderstorm of pretty epic proportions. In fact, I have no shame in admitting that I almost crapped myself a couple of times, thanks to some ear-splitting booms and claps that rolled out of the skies.

Downpours in Bedfordshire

It wasn’t just a show of sound and light though; after a long build up in which the bump and I slowly melted under a fairly oppressive cloud of intense humidity, the heavens opened. The downpours were long and penetrating – just what the veg patches needed – and the Smallest Smallholding has, as expected, gone into overdrive and everything is growing at a rate of knots.

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

My onions and perennial wallflowers were the only plant life that took a beating from the storm, whilst everything else has thrived with a heady combination of hot days and squally showers. Another benefit of this mix of sunshine and rain is that the soil is virtually fluffy, so weeds (even the mile-long tap roots of thuggish alkinet) are so easy to pull. This, together with my no dig approach, has meant that keeping on top of the veg patches has been so easy.

Bumble bee enjoying a geranium

So it’s the first week of June and the veg is romping away, the roses are blooming and the Smallest Smallholding is just so full. This time of year is so invigorating. Armies of honey bees and fat bumblebees are jigging and rubbing themselves with tangible glee all over our geraniums, lavender, foxgloves, toadflax and alliums. The fledged blackbirds are out in force, and the hedgehogs are resolutely on slug duty at night. I’m having a battle of wills with an undisclosed feathered or furry critter who keeps pulling out my strawberry plants (two miserable looking plants have survived) and it’s all a bit wild and out of control… and when I stand back and look… there’s still so, so much to do.

But do you know what? It’s totally OK. It’s keeping me busy, occupied, and dare I say it… happy.

Podding peas

And in three weeks I shall be on maternity leave. Yes, we have a list of things as long as my arm to do in the house before my due date, including some significant renovations and decorating, but I can’t keep my mind off my vegetable patches, my borders, my plans for everything.

I should be worried, I should be brimming with anxiety and how the hell I’m going to cope with the weeks and months ahead. The state of the house should have me wringing my hands and raging. But somehow, my garden is taking that energy and channelling it into something positive. Something I can build on in the future, and something I can make good with.

Early pea flowers

Remember when it used to rain?

I have become somewhat of a compulsive weather forecast checker over the past few days. You see, we’ve had no rain in about a month. Or at least, that’s what it feels like. I can’t actually remember when the last time some H20 fell from the sky, but then, I can’t really remember any further back than about 2 weeks ago.

I know I’ve been absent, but to be honest, all I’ve been doing in a Smallest Smallholding-type way is watering plants and forgetting to repot my peppers and chillis. Everything is pretty much getting on and growing quite happily.

I went away for 4 days to Cork in Ireland (with other crazy Harry Potter-obsessed friends and some lovely Americans, who all made for one EPIC weekend of fun and frolics – see pic below, click to enlarge!).

And when I came back, my onions seemed to have grown about half a foot taller, my squash plants had exploded and the beans had scrambled further up their bean poles, and flowered. It felt like I’d been away for weeks, rather than days. A couple of days ago I started digging for gold, AKA digging up my charlotte potatoes. My yield is definitely lower this year, probably in part to the DISTINCT LACK OF RAIN.

Yes, it’s getting to me a bit. I feel more than ready for it to just chuck it down. And when it does (because, let’s face it, at some point it just has to), I’ll more than likely be standing out there, sucking it all up (not literally) like the crazy vegetable-growing vegetarian weirdo harry potter obsessed cat lady that I am. I just feel like it *needs* to happen soon, or I’m going to start getting twitchy. It’s a strange, compelling feeling. Maybe I need to do a rain dance with some bamboo canes.

And whilst you let that image ping about in your brain for a while, I will digress. Last weekend I ate my first ever homegrown raspberry from my Polka raspberry plants. Good grief. Talk about fresh and zingy! I cannot wait for the first proper crop. My plan is to grab some meringues, crush them, add some ice cream, and tip a few raspberries on top. As pretty as they are, I’m not bothered about presentation. It’s all about taste. Pure unadulterated, non-supermarket fare.

Saying that, I may hold back on the ice cream somewhat. I’m in the middle of a healthy eating kick that’s coinciding with my running. Before I went to Ireland, we managed to run for 20 minutes non-stop. For a beginner, that was a big deal. That gives me hope. After a brief 1 week hiatus, I’m back on the training programme and feeling optimistic that 2010 really will be the year that I got a grip and sorted myself out. Seems to be working so far; I no longer have a vampirish (topical!) pallor, my clothes are actually starting to sag in all the right places (meaning I’m toning up, but unfortunately this means extra expense in replacing them for smaller – yes! smaller! – sizes) and I’m no longer walking around with the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s a strange feeling.

Anyway, best sign off. I have a weather forecast to check. Rain, anyone?

Weight: 10 stones 12

Edit: Have checked forecast. Rain due tomorrow, apparently. HURRAH!