I turned 28 and then it was 2011

Happy New Year!

I’m well aware that blog-wise, December was a washout for me. As you may or may not have read in my last blog post, I spent the majority of December either being too stressed or too ill to do anything interesting or Smallest Smallholding-related. It felt as if my laptop had become a permanent fixture, an extension of my eyes, arms and hands… in a way, being horribly ill with ‘flu probably gave me a much-needed prolonged break and saved me from becoming pixelated or something.

I’m *still* not back to full health. I think it’ll take at least another couple of weeks. It really knocked me for six and left me with a lethargic legacy. Friday – New Year’s Eve – was my 28th birthday and I started the day with a bath, followed by a trip to my doctor. I’d been getting waves of nausea, had no appetite, was coughing a LOT and at that time was still prone to flagging after only being up and about for a couple of hours. He assured me I’d had ‘flu, that it could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks before I’d be fighting fit and just said to ride it out, rest up and look after myself. Needless to say, the rest of my birthday was quiet. I went over to see my Mum, Dad was working, sister was ill, my aunt dropped by and I think everyone else was either busy or preoccupied with NYE. Such is life.

I did get some lovely gifts. Hunter wellies, no less. They make me feel VERY posh, and I’m really happy to have wellies that will last me a very very long time. I also have some seeds to sow, a new pair of secateurs, lots of new pairs of gardening gloves, bubble baths, thermal socks, a new bag, earrings, a new hairdryer (my ancient one was sparking and frying my head) and just lots of lovely little bits and pieces that I’d never allow myself the guilty pleasure of buying otherwise.

Rich and I didn’t even realise that new year had arrived. We were curled up on the sofa watching a DVD, and only realised that the clock in our lounge is slow by at least 5 minutes as the fireworks started going off well before what we thought was midnight. I’m not bothered. It’s almost like a sigh of relief when the year is over, especially when we’ve managed to avoid major disasters or tragedies. I think the couple of years leading up to Nannie’s death really scarred me in that way. I hope one day I’ll have that slightly sad feeling that a great year is over, rather than that relieved feeling. Still, I remain hopeful. I like New Year. Although I still harbour that feeling as if I’m bracing myself for impending disasters, it’s not as strong as it used to be, and I do feel that the coming year will be a year of change, and of good things.

I was looking back at last year’s ‘new year’ post. I do like making resolutions because I like to challenge myself to improve, to progress and to achieve. Here’s what I wrote last year, and my succinct assessment of each resolution:

2010 Resolutions – Smallest Smallholding

1. Grow loads more onions. Er. I grew more but didn’t get to eat as many as I wanted thanks to rot. I’ll go with a partial success.

2. Get better at composting, feeding and sustaining my crops this year. I WAS RUBBISH AT THIS. Fail. Try again this year.

3. Plant more sunflowers. Success, although they still bent in the windy weather.

4. Plant a nectar bank. Fail. Definitely want to concentrate on getting this done this year.

5. Add to my woodland gardens. Success. Partially. Could do better, although there were improvements.

6. Use my greenhouse to its full potential. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL. 2011 is the year of my greenhouse. Staging, repairs, cleaning… it’s all going on this spring.

7. Have an outside eating area. FAIL. We did make some inroads with this but nowhere near enough. Another project for the summer. I’m going to be one busy bunny.

8. Dig an asparagus bed. Roaring success. Rich did this. His asparagus are growing wonderfully well, but I do point out to him in slightly envious tones that although he does very well, he only looks after his asparagus. I do everything else with varying degrees of success.

9. Grow veg in hanging baskets. Fail. Again, time/organisation issue.

10. Grow a variety of food that I will actually eat. Partial failure, I’d say. Blackfly, lack of organisation and stupidity didn’t see me make the most of what I had. We’ll try again. I will nail it. Eventually.

2010 Resolutions – Non-Smallest Smallholding

1. Learn to relax. Partial success. Getting there. Learning to deal with life stuff is a long process.

2. Explore Britain. Partial success. Last year I went to Wales twice (Cardiff, and the Llyn Peninsula), Edinburgh (again), Cork in Ireland (non-UK, but still exploration). Would like to explore the western side of the UK more – Welsh borders, south west and maybe south coast.

3. More autonomy. Hell, yes! During 2009 and the beginning of 2010 I was pretty miserable. But I decided to change things, and I think I’m getting the balance right. I still need to work harder, improve my skills and focus more this year. But I think we’re getting there.

4. LOSE WEIGHT. SUCCESS! This summer I really started to get trim. Although, I did start piling it on again in the winter. But this ‘flu saw me lose almost 3/4 stone, and I’m going to be very careful to not put it back on. I don’t need to.

5. More self sufficiency! Hmmm. Fail, sadly. 2011 is going to be expensive all round – rising prices, VAT, etc etc. Self sufficiency is one way to bypass the extra expense in the long run.

6. Write more and Blog more. Ummm. No, fail I think. I have several projects lined up for 2011 though, so I imagine I’ll be scribbling and tip-tapping away this year.

7. Eat more greens. Fail. I need to eat more green stuff.

8. Bake more. Fail. I need to set aside time. I do enjoy it.

9. Walk more. Success! Not only did I walk more, but I ran. Spring/summer was great. I was running 5ks. I was proud of myself. I’m going to do it again, and even better in 2011.

10. Books! Partial success. Recommendations are always welcome.

So there you have it. A mixed bag if ever there was one, but I did make some important changes last year, most notably running, my job and my general attitude.

I don’t think I’ll have so many resolutions this year. For sanity’s sake I’ll try and keep this one a bit shorter:


1. Take up running again and try to enter a charity 5k.

2. Be careful and considerate about what I grow, and try to use everything that I manage to harvest.

3. Get my greenhouse up and running, and use it to its full potential.

4. Plant lots of wildlife-friendly flowers.

5. Don’t stress when it all grows out of control. Do what you can, when you can.

6. Write some more magazine articles. Get them published.

7. Take time out with Rich to visit new places and have new experiences.

8. Get my finances under control. Wipe out as much debt as possible and get out of my overdraft.

9. Get some of the house renovations finished.

10. Spend at least one or two days a week away from the computer – give yourself more time to get those Smallest Smallholding projects finished (e.g. eating area, herb beds, finish fencing, nectar bank).

There you are. Pretty simple. Bring it on 2011. But please – be kind to me!

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!

Potting On and Growing Up

Another missed post from Thursday…

… There have been about ten instances over the past fortnight or so where I’ve really wanted to sit down and write on this blog post. But something has always managed to divert my attention (most likely something a bit bunny shaped), and I’ve missed my ‘window’.

So I’ve made a decision on this somewhat cloudy Thursday morning to sit down and just bash it all out. Because there’s quite a lot to tell – hurrah! So let’s break it down into manageable chunks – I’m trying to avoid one of my signature mammoth posts, but let’s face it, this is probably going to turn into another one. OK, here goes…


I was once a county athlete, and a combination of an accident in a PE lesson at school, and the lazy teenager disease soon put a stop to my athletic inclinations. But I’ve decided enough is enough – I will not finish my twenties as a slightly-too large strapping lass (can’t help the height or the broadness, but I can shape up) who eats a tonne of biscuits at work and then does nothing about it. I want to be fit and healthy and actually feel it.

So I’ve made a commitment to start running. My goal is to be able to run 5k non-stop, and I want to enter a 5k run for charity. I started my running plan this week – walking and jogging intervals for 20 minutes. Not too bad. I hope that within a couple of months I’ll have my fitness back, and I’ll be reaping the mental and physical rewards for it.

New Bunny

If you follow my Twitter account (see sidebar on the right for links), you’ll have seen that a week ago today, we had an RSPCA home check. This was a routine check to see whether we were set up to take on a new bunny that was being fostered by an RSPCA volunteer. We passed with ‘flying colours’ apparently, and our new bunbun named ‘Ozzy’ arrived on Saturday. I’d only seen pictures of him, and was surprised to find that he was much smaller than I’d anticipated. In fact, he’s pretty much the same size as Moppy, who is a dwarf lionhead. He was found wandering the streets of south Bedfordshire, with overgrown teeth, poor condition and very very thin. He was in foster care for a good 6 months, 3 of which he wasn’t up for adoption because he was in such a state.

But because his front teeth kept causing problems, the vets decided to take them out. It’s left him looking a bit slack jawed at the front, but as long as we cut up his veg, he manages absolutely fine with just his set of back teeth. He has problems grooming himself properly, so that’s something we need to keep on top of. He’s a scrap of a rabbit at the moment, so we’re helping to build him up with hay and a few excel pellets, and hopefully his coat will be back in order with some regular grooming, once he’s finished his moult.

Moppy, used to the giant, lazy sloth-like Snoopy, hasn’t seemed too impressed with or bothered by little Oz so far. He’s the happiest rabbit I’ve ever come across, though. He’d never really had a run on grass before and a double-tier hutch, so since we’ve had him, he’s been doing circuits of his run at high speed, and binkies aplenty. Especially when he sees Moppy. Good grief, he’s in heaven when he’s got her in sight. But, who wouldn’t be? She’s a catch. I’m hoping once we’ve gone through the bonding process (which looks as though it might take longer than we anticipated, given Ozzy’s tendency to become somewhat over-enthused by Moppy’s presence), Moppy will realise the potential of our incisor-less wonder.

Argh, stress. I hope it all works out.

So that’s that in the bunny department. We’ve got some visits to the vet on the cards, with cats and bunbuns alike. A couple of the cats need some dental treatment, so I can see a few months of spaced out expensive vet treatments ahead of me. Oh the joy of keeping animals. Rich often grumbles that we should have had one dog and left it at that. But he loves all our animals really. It’s just times like this when it all gets a bit stressful.

But, there we are.

Smallest Smallholding Vegetables and Things!

Yes, after all, that’s probably why you come here to read my ramblings.

And on the vegetable/fruit front, thinks are much less stressful!

In the conservatory, I currently have a few trays of various squashes, chillis, peppers, primo cabbage, and echinops flowers that seem to be going well. So far they’ve managed to elude the greenfly attacks that sucked the life out of them last year. And, one small factor that might just be helping is my ability to remember to actually water them regularly. Yup. Think that’s definitely helping. I have a lot of potting on to do this weekend, something that I’ve been putting off for a week or so, just because I really don’t like doing it. It’s boring and tedious, but it has to be done. I think someone should invent plant plots that grow with the plant, from seedling to full-blown fruiting wonders. That would be handy.

In my unheated, half roof-less greenhouse, I have some cosmos flowers growing strongly. They started off a bit leggy in the conservatory, but I’ve found that if you pot them on into large pots and leave them to grow steadily outside under glass, they straighten themselves up and grow up to become really sturdy plants. Although, goodness knows where I’m going to put them because I went a bit mad with my ‘free’ Honesty, foxglove and opium poppy seeds last autumn – my borders on one side at least are jam packed. Which is good, really. It means less weeding, for one thing.

In the greenhouse the runner beans are finally making an appearance, and outside, despite being frosted a couple of weeks ago, my potatoes are making a comeback. They’ll probably be ready for digging up much later than I anticipated, but I’m not bothered. I can wait. It will be worth it.

In the past week or so everything seems to have come on in leaps and bounds, and I’m thinking I could probably start planting them out over the weekend. I just love coming outside and seeing my veg plots bustling with plants at various stages of growth. It definitely feels like an achievement, and something I can keep building on. I don’t think I’ll ever become tired of growing things. It’s one of the things that actually makes me feel a bit capable.

I don’t really care about neatness, or producing prize-winning flowers and vegetables (although I may have a go at entering a few novice categories in my local veg show this year, just for fun!). What I really care about is being able to produce my own, enjoy the taste of growing my own, and pulling in some extra wildlife whilst I’m at it. At this time of year I start to buzz a bit – something gets under my skin and I’m just so glad that I set myself onto my self-sufficientish journey a few years ago. There’s a kind of peace and satisfaction that I don’t really find anywhere else.