Thursday, 31 January 2013

Day 31 - Beautiful white horses but I have failed.

Thursday 31st January
Let me get my confession out of the way first. I have failed my very first new year challenge as I have not mastered the skill of spinning. Worse than that, I have not even managed a lesson yet. This pitiful position is of my own doing as I have got rather distracted by my new studio. I am a bit prone to distraction I am afraid. Once I get an idea I am a bit of a dog with a bone and so I can't really help myself. Thus, spinning is pushed into February. It is a winter activity for me so I am running out of time. It is a another example of 'she must try harder' that we all dreaded getting on our school reports. Actually, my school resports were ok on the effort front but the least said about ability the better.

Quite a dramatic night last night which seeped into the morning. Very high winds meant the ferry stayed in the safety of Brodick and we all sat it out together. I have been in the tunnel all morning with the boys and we did feel we could lift off at any moment. I had visions of a ragged mother and her two urchins clinging onto a tunnel frame while being swept out into the bay. No doubt the boys would have enjoyed that little expedition but I am less keen. Thankfully the tunnel stayed in tact and we were able to go about our business in relative peace. Late January is when we start planting seeds on a weekly basis. For many of our plants we don't want them all ready at the same time so succession planting is the answer. We rely on George's computer brain to tell us what to do next. I can usually keep up for the first couple of weeks then it goes fuzzy round the edges.

This morning saw us planting tomato, dill, and basil from the herb and vegetable list and Oxeye daisy, Stocks and more Sweet Peas from the flower list. I am in danger of over doing it on the Sweet Pea front but I adore them so much I don't always know when to stop. The Oxeye daisies are a new addition to the list as I want to manage the wildflower meadow a bit more closely to stop invasive species taking over. Stocks are just the most stunning cut flower of them all. If you want to grow cut flowers you should buy what I consider to be the bible of cut flower growing - 'The Cutting Garden' by Sarah Raven. It is the most fantastic book and all you will ever need in order to grow your own cut flowers. I do wish more of us would grow our own flowers for cutting rather than buying from florists or worse, supermarkets. As a nation we buy in the majority of our cut flowers which are flown in from places like Africa and South America. The green credentials are almost completely lacking whereas if we grew our own our green credentials would be sky high. It really isn't that difficult and I will be blogging about what I do as I do it. I appreciate I have more space that some of you but I will try and recommend plants that will keep on giving and do not require a huge amount of space.

I will say right from the start that Scabiosa is my absolute favourite cut flower as it has a lovely sized bloom, comes in lots of colours and has excellent vase life. You should aim to buy a couple of different colours from a garden centre or horticultural web site in early spring and plant them where they have plenty of room to grow outwards and they will come back year after year. That said, they can take over but that is easily resolved by digging them up and dividing them.

I am early sowing my dill seeds and I have sown some into pots as these will be the ones I will be selling as an annual herb. Dill is best sown direct once the soil starts to warm up in the spring. If you can spare a small patch for dill you will be rewarded with a fabulous herb which is majestic with fish and greenery for your cut flowers that makes a real statement. We are not early with our timatoes though and if you want to grow some this year you need to sow them before the end of february into seed trays or small pots and cover with a plastic lid. They like it warm and should push through very quickly. Today we sowed Ailsa Craig variety which is a very reliable crop for growing in our tunnel. If you are new to tomatoe growing try a tumbling variety and when the plants are strong enough and the weather warmer plant them into hanging baskets. They do well with basil and strawberries to keep them company.

George and Max then helped me with the potting on tasks which will take some weeks to complete. I am not confident that my rosemary stock has over-wintered at all well but my thyme looks very healthy. I have managed to source some wooden herb boxes at wholesale price so that will be the main plan this year. We will still sell the individual herbs but we are 'gifting it up' a bit this year as well. We sell to local shops and also at the market that runs once a week all throughout the summer. So, it was a good morning in the tunnel and we can safely say that progress was made. I am about to order a book recommended by Katy my smallholding pal who lives in Switzerland. The book is called 'Grow Something to Eat Every Day' by Jo Whittingham and is available for under £10 on Amazon. I am sure we are not all in a position to grow something every day but I like the spirit of the book and it has excellent reviews.

I managed to fit in some study with Harry where we were looking at different training zones and once again I reminded myself I need to get in that swimming pool. It is Max's birthday on Monday so the date is set for a lovely long swim followed by lunch at the spa. Max is currently teaching me to do handstands under water so I apologise, in advance, to anyone who is planning to be in the pool the same time as us. It is not a pretty site but clearly a skill I must master!

The sea has turned a deep blue colour but the white horses are galloping along in good spirits. I am studying bird song at the moment using a cd by Kate Humble that was free in the newspaper. I can, indeed, hear lots of bird song but I don't have much idea about which birds are making the sound. I am putting food out faithfully on the bird table but all the birds appear to prefer the seaweed on my raised beds and I am at a loss to know why.

I note that it is the end of January and that is the first month of blogging completed. I have enjoyed it more than I thought I would. For those of you reading this blog for the first time I would summarize the first month by saying it has covered a variety of topics. These have included tales of a bonkers woman who feared for her fingers and toes, a hen house that is no more, a falling out with David Cameron and a deep desire to take my clothes off. That about covers it... speak in February, that will be tomorrow.
Picture is of a charming yellow scabiosa that I used in a wedding a couple of years ago. The bride and groom were very big on green credentials and we grew every flower for their wedding. Lovely!

And to celebrate the completion of a whole month of blogging the second picture is of lavender, one my favourite herbs.