In the run up to Christmas it easy to lose sight of what we need to do in the garden. This happened earlier in the year when the planned cloister between the back of the house and the steps up to the garden was put on hold with the chicken coup thanks to an influx of tongue and groove from the old bathroom wall. We hired someone to take it down and we all assumed it was hardboard, the hardboard came off in lovely big sheets but was quickly followed by exclamations of, 'bollocks', 'what the hell' and, 'which idiot did this?' It was lovely tongue and groove, it had been built to last, not just time but any attempt to take it out. We had to resort to a circular saw and praying that there were no old electrics hiding beneath it all. The upshot was, due to our make do and mend ethos, that we now have stacks of tongue and groove, bundles of wall laths, and the worm eaten remains of stud walls clogging up the cloister. We have plans for the wood we can save but all this chaos has had a knock on effect on us growing.
We only just managed to get some overwintering onions and garlic in before the snow hit. Something we worried about on social media. The snow has come and gone unlike previous years. It wasn't as hair raising as the hailstone that hit the ground as we came home from picking Little D up from school, this froze as it hit the ground creating a temporary ice rink. As we slowly crunched our way up the hill in our Land Rover we wondered why a red transit van seemed to be going backwards down the hill with no reverse lights on. The upshot was bald tyres on the van, an overloaded boot and a driver who was red faced and screaming as we crept past. Don't worry he got out of it and we doubt he will use our road as a shortcut ever again. This is a common occurrence on the hillside, the road ice over, cars skid - there is an outhouse on a cottage just by the road junction and how it's survived this long is a mystery - when the snow comes, and it does come, cars simply get stuck and vanish.
Hence the use of fleece we have cosseted our onions and garlic with. It gives them a fighting chance unlike the drivers in the snow. Thankfully, there is a local pub, a roaring fire and a place to get warm when the worst hits for tourists to the area and those just simply using it as a terrible, frightening, four letter worded shortcut.
The good thing about have building work done - did we say that? There is little to say about building work being good. The result is good, the process is good for clearing your lungs of dust. We had some cement left over and this has been mixed with some sharp sand to brush into the path at the top of the cottage garden. We wanted to get this path finished in late summer replacing the old temporary paths. The new path linking the new steps down to the cloister and house to the cottage garden but time, weather and builders have all got in the way. Oh well, spring beckons and the materials are there to continue the work.
The chicken coup and chickens may have been put on hold until next summer but we continue to chicken sit our neighbour's chucks when they are away, so some free eggs puts the sheen back on not being able to build the hen house and run.
The staging we built earlier this year has served us well all summer, and we've just cleaned it off and put the dahlias to bed on the bottom shelf. Even with weed membrane beneath the staging, some weeds are still trying to find purchase. At least these are easy to clean out!
Another freebie from earlier this year were the car tyres. Used to grow in and putting pay to us ever growing potatoes in open ground again, they have been integrated into the garden's lifecycle. Used in late spring to plant spuds in, harvested in early autumn, the spent compost bagged and then used as a mulch on the open beds in spring means that they have provided several useful materials. We can't just leave them stacked over winter and they have been employed in a number of ways. Stacked and lined with black plastic they become temporary waterbutts. This is part of our make do and mend ethos from Dig For Victory but this will be the last year we will run our garden as a wartime garden, we need to move forward now and create plans that will benefit the garden in the long run. We will learn from what Dig For Victory has taught us but the garden now has to mature, expand into different areas and provide us with crops that weren't available during WWII.
So, we find ourselves now turning more towards John Seymour and Richard Mabey. It is about long term self sufficiency and foraging. We hope you remain with us on this journey. There will still be plenty of Heath Robinson contraptions but we now need to be able to integrate the house into our growing cycle, create zones in the garden along the lines of permaculture and take that out into the wider community to get more of the community growing. This will no longer just be Digging for Victory in our garden but digging to make the community a better place. Back to those tyres though...
There best use are as temporary coldframes. We planned again this year to build permanent coldframes and use them as hotbeds but time and the weather ran out. This nifty little trick means the rubber keeps the plants warm and the glass keeps off the worst of the cold. The garden still needs weeding before the worst of the cold hits, there are plants to move, new beds to be made in the cottage garden for fruit bringing it closer to the house and in a more protected position between the new cordons of apples and pears. Until then though, it's time to put our feet up and have a pint. May this Christmas bring you love, peace and happiness.