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.

Friday, 27 April 2012

"As one gardener to another, it doesn't take that long to plant carrots"

My cousin said this to me when I explained that decorating the sitting room was some way down the list of priorities, behind things like planting carrots. Well yeeees... but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Last year I tried companion planting to protect my carrots from the dreaded carrot fly - I interspersed rows of carrots with rows of onions - and it didn't work. The dreaded fly caused a lot of damage and it was a pain in the neck cutting it out every time I wanted carrots for dinner. This year I'm going to try a different approach. I've heard - and I can't remember where - that carrot flies fly along the ground, so one way of protecting carrots is to raise them up off the ground and put a wall round them, i.e. plant them in a not-full tub.

A little while back, a friend of mine was giving away steel drums,so I took a couple thinking that I'd turn them into planting tubs. Here they are, sitting on the driveway and generally getting in the way:

A couple of steel drums next to a heap of small trees

Since then I have bought an angle grinder, so I really had no excuse for not cutting these in half. About a week ago I braced myself to tackle this task and persuaded Ian to help me. To start with his help consisting of watching and making comments like, It really would be a good idea to wear safety goggles, you know, (it's so annoying when he's right!) but after I'd done a little bit I found the whole thing too scary and gave him the angle grinder. He finished the job for me. I think his bright idea of attaching the second handle probably helped.

Once Ian had done the scary bit, I took a file to the edges to smooth them off, then when they were safe to handle without fear of lacerations, took them out to the garden, filled with a mixture of soil and garden compost (that's the stuff you get if you heap up a load of weeds and leave them for a year or so), and sowed carrot seeds in them. I think that once thinned, there'll be about 65 carrots in each tub.

The first two tubs of carrots in place

After that, I got to thinking that maybe I could handle the cutting myself if it didn't involve power tools. Chatting to a neighbour about this, I asked if he had any suitable metal cutting tools that I could borrow. He did indeed have a pair of tin snips that he was happy to lend me, but suggested scoring the metal with the angle grinder first. This turned out to be excellent advice. I tried the snips on their own first, but wasn't strong enough to cut through the metal without injuring myself in the process. On the other hand, using the angle grinder to score the metal wasn't too scary; it seems the alarming kickback occurred when the disk broke right through.

It was quite a long job, but I managed to turn one drum into two tubs all by myself. In the process I discovered that this drum hadn't been entirely empty. It originally came from an organic honey factory and apparently had a fair bit of honey left in it. I'm not sure how clean it was when I got it, but it certainly wasn't fit to eat by the time I'd cut the barrel and spilled it all over the conservatory floor. Oh, well. I decided to have a break and clear it up later.

Some time later I went back out to the conservatory and was puzzled by a noise. I couldn't put my finger on it at first... it was quite loud... buzzing... like a large number of bees. Ah - best not to leave honey all over the floor when your neighbour's a beekeeper. The conservatory was indeed full of bees, many of whom were happily tucking into the honey. Hmm, not a good time to file down the edges of the tub. Nor indeed to walk through the conservatory. I went round to the neighbours (not the beekeeping neighbours), who were coming over for dinner later, to let them know that they might prefer to come round the house and use the other door.

From outside, I could see that bees' legendary navigational skills were somewhat overrated.

Bees failing to find the window they came in through

I hung a sheet over the outside of the window to help them avoid the wrong one. It was slightly too successful when two bees nearly flew into my face as I finished. Reasoning that bees go to bed when it's dark, I decided to wait and move the tubs outside in the evening. I don't want to deprive the bees of the honey, I'd just rather they didn't eat it right outside my back door. The next day, after moving the tubs, I was brave enough to take a photo of the bees eating the honey (though not a very good photo):

Bees eating honey in the bottom of the barrel

And there it stayed for several days. Eventually it rained (yes really, we had several days without rain) and all the bees went away, apart from the ones that drowned. Catching a gap in the rain, I swished out the tubs with the rainwater that had collected, scooped out the remaining honey with a stone, and brought both tubs indoors to finish the job. There was quite a lot of finishing to do.

Tin snips left the edge a lot more frilly than the angle grinder alone

Once filed down, I took the tubs out to join the other two, filled with soil and compost, and sowed more carrots. Pebble kept an eye on things.

Actually, it does take that long to plant carrots.


  1. I completely agree with you! Not just about carrots, but almost every undertaking has a load of stuff that needs to be done first. To stick with carrots, even if you choose the "easy" way of sowing straight into the ground, that ground has to be dug, raked, and if you want carrots that don't look like Quasimodo with cramp, stones have to be removed. It has to be composted, which means you first have to clear the wheelbarrow of whatever you've left in there to sort out later, which of course means you have to sort it now and just what do you do with a pond's worth of slimy weed, anyway? The list goes on.
    I guess that if you're super-organised and have compost available at all times and can always find your dibber because you always put it back when finished with, and never leave stuff festering in your wheelbarrow - well then maybe it doesn't take long to plant carrots. But I don't think I could ever be friends with such a person.

    1. I just love this comment :-)
      That is all.

  2. Totally agree with Playing Hooky too... And that's if you don't have barrels to slice in half with an angle grinder!?! Our place is cluttered up with stuff waiting to be other stuff but for the opportunity to do it around daily life task type things, as well as the 'just needing to get hold of a...'. I've been meaning to shift a galvanised feeding trough which has rusty (? eh?) holes in the bottom round to the veg garden just for such a purpose for weeks now, but I'm not sure if there are enough holes and oh, I just need to go and do that and then i'll... oh now it's teatime. If anything it seems to me that you are an incredibly busy and productive person who actually has their priorities in the right place. (Carrots good. Decorating bad.) Not to mention writing about 16 blog posts in about three days!! Bravo etc. Sarah x

    1. Aw, thanks :-) Haha, yes I have been having a bit of a catch-up on the blog posts recently. My cousin is a very different person from me, so it doesn't bother me that my priorities are not the same as his. Although... he may have had a point about the house I grew up in. Leaving wallpaper hanging off the walls for over a decade is perhaps a bit much. I hope not to leave it that long here, but it has been over a year already.

      Still, carrots come first, and peas - I haven't finished planting the peas, yet, and then I need to dig over the "everything else" bed... yep, decorating still quite a long way down the list ;-)


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