Tuesday, 14 June 2016

One good turn

Yesterday was a gentle day again, I spent much of it asleep or curled up on the sofa, popping outside to do a bit more when I woke up, only to need to sleep again shortly afterwards. But I did manage to get some more cardboard laid out in the kitchen garden to cover the grass in readiness for creating another raised bed and pathway.

I also ordered another ton of topsoil which, with super efficiency, the company delivered in the afternoon. I moved three barrow loads of soil and put it onto the cardboard base, but have left the rest for another day when I have less pain and more energy.
This morning I took a phone call from the local brewery to say that another load of spent grain and hops would be available this afternoon, so Mr J drove us to the brewery to collect it this afternoon. The brewer has now kindly agreed to only half fill each bag, so that Mr J is able to lift them into the van easily (even half-filled they are too heavy for me to lift). Back at home Mr J unloaded the van and the hops and grains are now in bags in the paddock waiting for us to build new compost heaps. As it's four days since I put the first small heap together, I thought it would be a good time to turn the heap, put some more air into the pile and assess how the grains are decomposing. As it is a fairly small pile of straw and grains it was a quick job to turn it, putting the materials from the top of the pile onto the ground, shaking the straw a little to fluff it up and sprinkling the grains evenly over it. In just four days the grains have turned from a pale golden colour to nutty brown and there is already evidence of some fungal activity. I was pleased to find that it wasn't the stinky, slimy mess of grains that I had anticipated that I might find and there is still plenty of heat in the pile.
I don't know that I've got the correct ratio of grains to straw and think that we probably need to add some animal manure to the mixture to put different micro-organisms into it. If we get a chance we may go and collect some horse manure from my sister's home in the next day or two, which we can add to the heaps as well as to the top soil that was delivered.
Anyway, it was but a ten minute task to turn the smaller heap and create enough space next to it to build another heap with the new batch of grains. Hopefully by the time we get to autumn there will be plenty of well rotted compost to add to the raised vegetable beds, around the fruit trees and if there is enough left over, to the herbaceous border. Decorative flower beds need to come second to the productive areas of the smallholding.
Here's a view of the kitchen garden that I don't often see. I took the photo from the centre of the shrubbery looking straight along the central pathway towards the Second Severn Crossing. It seems funny to think that six months ago there was only grass in this paddock and since then we have laid out paths, dug and planted a herbaceous border, created 10 raised beds, and planted them with plants grown from seed, started the pallet fence, made 6 compost bays and filled them, fenced off an area for the ducks and then another for the chickens (who have half the paddock!), planted a natural hedge along the back and left side of the paddock and started planting up the hedge on the right hand side. That doesn't seem too bad for a couple who are having to learn fast, learn by their mistakes and work around me being out of action for chunks of each day!

In those periods of the day that I am out of action, if I am not sleeping, I try to make use of the time by researching, reading and watching helpful videos and vlogs. This morning I had an odd moment. Sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cuppa and watching yet another vlog about starting a permaculture garden, I hooked my foot around the chair leg, an action that lots of us do regularly, but as I did it I heard a loud crunch and had a shooting pain whizz up my leg and I felt ever-so-slightly sick and then, I was pain free. I have spent the last six months hobbling around on a walking stick at some point of most days, with a swollen ankle and shooting pains with almost every step. I haven't been able to turn my foot in a circle and I've woken myself each night in pain as I've knocked my foot on the bed or on my other leg and some days the only way that I have been able to get up stairs is to crawl. I don't want to speak too soon, but I think that crunch may just have sorted out whatever the problem was! My foot is still a bit stiff and achy, but after so many months of being 'crook' that's hardly surprising. So for today, I am going to celebrate and enjoy my foot feeling, well, not feeling anything very much.

Regardless of any plans that I may have thought we had for tomorrow, like moving a ton of topsoil, the task will be to build another compost heap or two using the spent grains that we collected today. I may record some of the process and a tour of our compost heaps, then spend a little time trying to edit the footage into an interesting video. I am starting to toy with the idea of making a weekly vlog to go along side this blog, because sometimes a picture really can not only paint, but also replace, a thousand words. Please leave a comment to let me know whether you'd be interested in seeing a weekly vlog of the developments on our smallholding as we try to build a healthier, cleaner life for ourselves.


  1. Yes yes yes!! Gg1 already likes looking at the pictures and listening to what you do and I know he would love to see videos of what you get up to! I think it would be brilliant!

  2. Oohhh and brilliant about your foot too!

  3. Finger's crossed that your foot is now okay. I'm always slightly in awe at your compost production. You'll certainly see the benefits in years to come. Flighty xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, my foot seems good again today, so fingers crossed that I have solved whatever the issue was with it. Composting at this rate won't go on forever, but I can't think of a better way to improve the dreadful soil that we have here. I'm looking forward to a time when I can really enjoy planning and planting without needing to think too much about how to create the soil structure for the plants to grow in! It'll be nice to just build compost heaps to dispose of weeds and poultry house waste. Liz

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Peter, I've put one on today's blog at http://holdingon4.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/compost-hotbed-with-vlog.html
      All I need to do now is find a decent but low cost camera and find out how to edit properly!


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