About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

How does my garden grow?

I keep telling myself not to be complacent about the garden. Yes, things seem to be growing well, but there are all manner of catastrophes that might befall it yet. Things could die of drought, or be drowned by too much rain, or be flattened by high winds. They could be eaten by slugs or snails or caterpillars or aphids or birds or one of many other pests out there. They could catch one or many of various deadly diseases. And let's not forget the potential for destruction by one small, lunatic cat.

It was only when I was showing my neighbour round the garden and said, Of course, it might all die, that her startled look brought me up short. Is this pessimism really warranted? More to the point, why am I being so pessimistic? It's completely out of character. Maybe it's because it's so important.

I'm giving myself a year's trial. If, at the end of a year, the new lifestyle isn't working, I'll have to abandon the dream and go back to my old life (by which I mean, try to get a job). A lot hangs on whether the garden produces a good harvest or not. It might also be that I've been very stressed about other things recently, so less inclined to optimism generally. Either way, it's time to stop being so negative about it all and appreciate what's actually going on in the garden.

The potato plants are huge...

Potatoes. Beans in the foreground.

... and flowering...

potato flowers
Flowers on the first early potatoes. The maincrop aren't flowering yet.

... as are the tomatoes (just)...

tomato flower
I had several goes at getting this tomato flower in focus. It's not quite there, but you get the idea.

... and the broad beans...

broad bean flowers
I think all of the broad beans have flowers on them now.

... and the earliest of the peas (the ones I sowed directly outside, then thought they'd died of cold).

pea flower
This is the second pea flower I've found. I don't mind so much that the sweet peas didn't germinate when the edible pea flowers are so pretty.

These peas are quite big and already flowering (I just said that, didn't I?) and I also have medium-sized, just-germinated, and only-just-sown peas. I finally got the last of them in the ground a few days ago, which I believe is the very latest you can get away with. It remains to be seen whether I have, in fact, got away with it.

The runner beans my neighbours gave me last weekend (I must take some plants round in exchange!) are climbing:

runner beans

Runner beans, just starting to wrap themselves round the canes

The carrots and onions are looking quite convincing:

Carrot and onion seedlings. And the odd stray potato.

Several red cabbages have so far survived slug attacks:

Young red cabbage. Small stones have been gathered from the surrounding flower bed to deter slugs.

There are many strawberries, taunting us with their pale greenness:

unripe strawberries
We wait with eager anticipation for these to turn red.

and the blackcurrants are rapidly ripening:

ripening blackcurrants
Soon I'll be making blackcurrant jam and cordial and wine. Possibly not all of those, and possibly not in that order of priority.

When I look at it, there are many things to be happy about in the garden.


  1. Gosh... that's an awful lot of pressure to put on one little garden! I've been at it for over 15 years now and my experience is that some years are great and some suck, and you can't get too worked up about results.

    Generally it all works out... if one crop fails some other will produce in abundance. In 2009 I had the most incredible bumper crop of tomatoes but couldn't get a squash to grow to save my life. The next year the tomatoes got some sort of blight (happened all over the city) but I had a massive harvest of spaghetti squash.

    My tactic is to just freeze or otherwise preserve whatever the garden produces in excess... i just finished using up the 2009 tomatoes last week!

  2. Hi Rachel
    I'm sure your garden will be a huge success and that you will weather whatever the weather throws at you! The pictures are great and we look forward to seeing it all some time in a few months. Hope everything else not too stressful and sorts itself out. If you fancy a quick camping break somewhere in Europe - just let us know - obviously well before harvest time. Are you going to Salbris by the way? Ellie

  3. By the look of all that veg I would say it is growing - give yourself a pat on the back! it all looks fabulous.

  4. Thanks Rosie :-)
    Ellie, I've sent you a facebook message.

    EcoCatLady, yes, it is a lot of pressure, but this isn't just a hobby for me. I've given up my job for a shot at partial self-sufficiency. If I'm not putting food on the table, how can I justify my very pleasant lifestyle of pottering around the garden and playing in the kitchen?

    I've enough experience of random crop failures that I'm not reckoning on everything producing well, but I do need a reasonable amount of produce to make this worthwhile. I'll decide what counts as 'reasonable' when the time comes!

  5. It's beautiful. I am sending warm fuzzies and growing good will from the sunny shores of Southern California, because no one should have to go back to a damned day job. You escaped! It must work, it must!

  6. Thanks for the warm fuzzies :-)

  7. OK... just playing devil's advocate here, but I personally think that no one should have to "justify" a lifestyle of "pottering around the garden and playing in the kitchen." at least not in a moral or ethical sense.

    I know there are economic realities to reckon with - I haven't had a "real job" in over 5 years, and I don't have anyone who supports me financially (CatMan and I don't actually live together), nor have I inherited any money or had any sort of large cash windfall. So it's fair to say that it requires some creativity and determination to pull off this lifestyle of "puttering" which I so enjoy. BTW - is "pottering" the English equivalent of "puttering"?

    Anyhow - I don't mean to argue, but since I have suffered all of my life with over-achiever-itis, I have developed an acute sensitivity and aversion to the idea that hard work is somehow more "moral" or "righteous" than being a lazy bum. In fact, I actually believe that "hard work" has been one of the main contributing factors to the environmental and social disasters in which we are currently mired.

    I'm not saying this well... perhaps I'll try to craft a post to explain it better. In the meantime I just want to say that I believe you have an inherent right to "simply be" if you can pull it off without starving.

  8. A fairly effective slug repellent is roughly crushed egg shells. DOn't need to rinse them out, just crush them with your fingers and sprinkle around the base of the plant.

    C x

  9. C - cheers for that. I already collect egg shells and have just spread the latest batch round my basil, which was suffering (too late for the parsley - all gone). The trouble is, we don't eat that many eggs, so I need something else for the rest of the garden. I have a small bucket of ash collected from the fireplace in the winter, which I keep meaning to spread around the beans, and not getting round to it. If I have no runner beans this year, I have only myself to blame!

    EcoCatLady - wow, that's a very generous contribution to this discussion, thank you. That's really made me think. When I've come up with something coherent in reply, I'll probably give it a post of its own, because we're getting a bit beyond gardening here, aren't we?


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