Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Great White Telephone

Well goodness me, the things some folk choose to do on Christmas Day! No, Ben hasn't drunk nor eaten too much - he's just decided to REALLY clean the toilet. Now that may seem disgusting, or rather our toilet may look disgusting and many folk looking at it may think it doesn't ever get cleaned. Wrong. We just have very calcified water so the calcium gets left behind on the pan when the lovely underfloor heating evaporates off the water, and the hideous residue holds on to all the 'colours' that head that way.

Yes, there are chemical cleaners out there that will take off limescale but they will also kill off the bacteria we need to make our fosse septique sewage system work, and then flow out and pollute our land - so they are not an option here. The horrid fact is that it just takes elbow grease every week - Ben's elbow grease to be more precise.

You're probably sitting there thinking that's unfair and why aren't I taking a part in this scrubbing exercise. Well, the truth is that I want a dry-toilet in the house, a composting loo. I've said that if we have one I will make myself responsible for emptying it because it's a whole lot easier - and pleasanter - than sitting with your head down the loo scrubbing off chalk! But Ben insists (for the time being) on keeping a conventional toilet so it's his job to scrub. Lucky him!!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Making Cornflour

We had an excess of sweetcorn this year so we gathered them all in, put them in a basket and brought them indoors. There they stayed in the true style of our farm! When I finally thought to actually do something with them they had withered up and looked most unappetising. I was about to give them to the pigs when I thought of cornflour. The boys helped me to shuck all the kernels off the cobs, we put them in the grain mill and Ben cycled us out some super corn flour. With that we made some delicious cornbread. We'll grow more next year with the absolute intention of grinding some up for flour.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Science Gone Mad

Well not quite 'gone mad' but B looks somewhat kerfuzzled by this crystal making experiment. Salt, water and a bit of food colour - science in the home!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Polytunnel 2

We already have our beloved solar tunnel that moved with us from Scotland to here and doubled in size in the process. However, we eat such a lot of tomatoes that this polytunnel is no longer big enough. Plus we've also had enormous success this year with cucumbers so we want to build on that too. Plus we want to grow melons in the summer and more winter salads so we decided to build another.

This one is a more 'traditional' polytunnel though we have put in a very UNtraditional watering system that we hope will ease the number of labour hours required to water it. The solar tunnel has a seep-hose installed just under soil level. Although that reduces the time spent watering, it requires mains-pressure water to go through the hose so we're unable to utilise the water in our rain-water harvesting system unless we use watering cans, a very labour intensive process.

The new system for Polly 2 was inspired by a fascinating article by Steve James in Permaculture magazine (no. 66 Winter 2010) that used an Incan technique to self water a greenhouse. Basically, water is harvested from the roof of the tunnel or greenhouse into a lined gulley under the growing space. This seeps in between small stones beneath raised beds and waters the plants from below. The soil on the top remains dry so it is no longer a slug haven and it also counteracts the nasty problem of moulds. The tank/gulley has a wooden slatted walkway above that forms the pathway through the tunnel.

Even if we don't get masses of rain, we can still divert the water butts into this tank if needs be. So the tank has been dug out, lined, the stones put in (plus some branches in a hugelculture mindset), and the earth put back in. We've planted in some broad beans to increase the fertility of the soil for next spring. Here is the work in progress, aided by our lovely WWOOFers (and children!).

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Lesson

This is what can potentially happen when one lets a 2.5 year old play with an expensive electronic gadget!! He stands on it and smashes the screen. Ben is so gutted that he can't talk to anyone at the moment!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Autumn Bounty This Late?

Yes indeed I do love this time of year. I was wondering to myself the other day which season was my favourite and whilst I love the others too, Autumn tops my list.

There are wonderful days like today where the temperature was still 24C in the sun, the colours reflected the warm day, the children played happily in some fallen leaves and the birds chirped in the trees that were still well-clothed. The day didn't get too hot like it does in the Summer; the pace is slowing down so there aren't hundreds of other jobs to do in a race against time like in the Spring; and there's still warmth in the soil to offer a start to newly planted things unlike in the Winter. The ground was easy to work as I planted a seasonal and edible hedge of Jerusalem Artichokes on the south and west side of our potager in order to offer a little shade for some of the vegetables next summer.

I collected in the butternut squash and some more beetroot, celeriac and salad leaves. And we're still harvesting what seem to me to be Summer crops - today we had tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, chillis, courgettes and fresh basil. Tonight will be Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's recipe for Beetroot Tart Tatin with a fresh salad and maybe lemony cougettes. Oh yummy.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Damn Wild Things

Maybelline has not come on heat and we therefore assume that she is indeed pregnant by Monsieur Sanglier (see this post for the full story) - sigh. Timings mean that we'll be expecting the new arrivals along with the New Year, around 10th January. NOT a good time for little ones to be born.