How does our garden grow?

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My gardeners helping with the tilling.

Brace yourself, this post is about gardening and is probably tl;dr unless you’re my mom (hi mom!). My general updates below, if you scroll super fast!

One of my goals for the year was:

9. Eat fruit/veg from our garden (aka successfully grow something in our garden!)

How did we fare, you ask?

Resounding success!

I have total homesteader aspirations, if my #urbanchickens are anything to go by. It would be a definite life-dream for me to move to the country and live off the land. Spending my days with animals and trying to make things grow.

BUT I’m starting small and not very good at growing anyhow (last year’s indoor garlic crop is proof of this). My mom is such a green thumb, so I’d been hoping some of her talents might be hereditary… She also came to inspect my efforts in June so that likely helped as well.

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Winnie in front of the two raised beds.

Planting

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Seed potatoes going in!

We built 2 raised beds and put them out in the ‘allotment corner’ of the garden. In these, we planted:

  • Mange tout / Spinach / Runner beans / Nasturtiums (to keep the slugs away!)
  • Potatoes / Tomatoes

I filled a bunch of grow-bags with more potatoes as we had so many extras.

We also got gifted a bunch of fruit plants from S’s folks so I set up barrels and planted out:

  • Blueberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries.

I planted a cherry tree in the front garden. We did all this around May time and hoped for the best!

I had also dug in some garlic cloves in November or so just between some of the flowers in the flowerbeds.

Tending & Waiting

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Tomato seedlings flourishing in the windowsill

Basically, I didn’t water anything and just let Scotland’s natural rainfall do its thing. I mean, this is probably why nothing I’ve ever grown in the past has ever grown (again, the indoor garlic).

However I later learned that this is an existing technique! Dryland Farming is used in areas where there isn’t much rainfall and farmers must make due with minimal precipitation. I ‘practiced’ my own version – except we get LOADS of rain in Scotland so everything basically grew itself. Score!

I did try to grow the tomato seedlings inside the house but then wasn’t sure when to plant them outside, how big they should be, etc. I just winged everything…

Harvest!

We planted in May-ish, and things actually started growing in mid-June! The spinach came up pretty quick and we had lots of tasty salads for a few weeks. Then the mange tout came in (still going strong!) so we have been having everything-with-beans. I planted some of the baby tomato seedlings outside at this point as it was pretty warm. Some blew over in the wind but the ones that survived grew really thick!

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Spinach haul!
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Tomato ombre!

In August we plucked the first set of potatoes from the raised beds, and I planted out more tomatoes where the potatoes had been. These are doing okay now actually! Hopefully some grow before it’s winter… Oh my goodness did we get a lot of potatoes. Weeks worth of potatoes. We have eaten SO MUCH MASH. Handsome S also learned to make his own potato pancakes with leftover mash which are ace!

The gooseberries also did very well! They came in nice and thick with lots of fruit on all the branches! I should have picked them when I noticed them – pretty and green and sour as anything! – but googled and found that if you left them on the branches they turned dark purple! S had never heard of this, but I thought I’d give it a shot. However, I must have revealed too much to the birds (mine or the local ones) as the bush was totally stripped the next time I checked it. Gutting!

Later in August, we also started picking blueberries and tomatoes, ate loads more mange tout, dumped another grow-bag worth of potatoes to eat.

blueberries

The last weekend in August, I decided to uproot the garlic – really nervous after last year’s failure. The stems of the ones I could see were yellowed and dry (perfect indication of harvest time!), however the chickens had used the area for dustbathing on multiple occasions so I feared the worst. Boy was I pleasantly surprised to find 9 pretty good sized garlic bulbs in there! I planted about 13 cloves so not a bad haul at all! They’re hanging to cure in the garage at the moment.

garlic

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Some yummy omelettes with our hens’ eggs, and our garden mangetout & garlic (plus mushrooms, cheese & bacon… aw yum)

The runner beans didn’t grow at all. My mom came to visit in July and even planted a second lot of seeds in the hopes they might fare better in warmer temperature, but nothing! We’ll not be doing beans next year I don’t think…

The raspberries didn’t grow either… I put them in a raised bed but think they didn’t get enough sun.

The cherry tree grew a cherry but it blew away in the wind. Have high hopes for it for next year!

So very pleased to report that I have totally ticked off my goal of growing and eating! Not sure if I can really give it all up to live off the land (#starvationwinter) but looking forward to trying new things next year! We’ve bought a lemon tree (for indoors), and are looking forward to trying corn!

General update

  • So glad the festival is over. My birthday too! WHEW. Been aggressively busy with work and life; feeling so exhausted. Low ebb!
  • Basketball’s started up again which is great. Exercise is key I think. Our team’s looking pretty lean this year though as 3 of our girls are having babies imminently. Good luck mama-Kats!
  • As you likely know, I pretty much dislike nothing more than reading in public. So if you fancy watching someone suffer, or you want to see something you’ll likely never see again – catch me at Platform Poetry at Ladybank station reading in October!
  • I stopped running home during the festival as the city was so swarming, but will hopefully get back into this soon. Fingers crossed for not too much rain this month.
  • Also just found out I passed my last module for the Marketing qualification I was taking – so pleased to say I now have a CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing! Thanks to my work for supporting me!
  • I saw the Cockenzie Power Station get blown up! And I also saw a SUPER BLOOD MOON. Both were fantastic.

Looking forward to…

  • Applying for UK citizenship (slow and steady!)  as I’ve now got my new US passport back.
  • Long-weekend in November – will we see a murmuration?
  • Less than 100 days now until Christmas (dun-dun-DUN!), with S’s family who are stellar and will be lots of fun. =)
  • Cheeky Euro trip next year and Japan trip next spring?

readingSam Riviere – Kim Kardashian’s Marriage
Jack Underwood – Happiness
Ilsa Bick – Ashes (Bk1)

Audiobook’d Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Even Reese Witherspoon’s smooth southern reading couldn’t hold my attention. Sorry Harper Lee!
Also Alan Partridge’s ‘I, Partridge’ was FANTASTIC, especially as read by Alan Partridge. Had to stop myself from bursting out laughing on the bus a number of times.
Finished Catch 22… old-school and didn’t hold my attention but feel like a requisite for the canon?
The best thing I listened to though was Ernest Cline’s Armada! Get this book, people! Audiobook was read by Wil Wheaton as well.

soundtrack

XYLØ – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Lauv – The Other
Odesza – Say my name (feat. Zyra)
Micky blue – Champaign Reign

 

Roll on, October! Indian summer?

Cove Park & New Writers Award update

Balcony view

Whirlwind!

Cove Park was like a dream. I can’t believe it happened to me.

As part of the New Writers Award (aside: applications have just opened for 2016! Go go go!), I got to spend a week in my own converted shipping container pod at Cove Park, with nothing scheduled except unlimited time to write as I felt like for 7 days. It. Was. Immense.

I’ve blogged recently for the Scottish Book Trust on ‘Where I write‘ (<– click click!), talking through my current writing method, which mainly includes using my phone to take down snippets and notes while I am in transit. But the root of the problem for me is that I devote very little dedicated time to writing. Very little time to ‘finish’ work, or edit or send material out. So I had/have a huge backlog of half-finished pieces and the Cove Park retreat proved a perfect opportunity for me to get down to work and get these pieces polished up and finished.

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It turned out to be a really good way for me to work. I think the prospect of unlimited free-time with yourself can be a bit daunting – left to your own devices to mull over your own thoughts, it can be a bit easy to go down a path of negative thinking, derailing. Also, without my partner for a week, without internet (or phone signal even), I was really worried I’d be lonely and idle and distracted. I knew (knowing myself) that I needed to keep my schedule full, and come with lots of material to work through.

So I did! I write so slowly normally – maybe completing one poem a month if I’m lucky? But I managed THIRTEEN poems in the week. A year’s worth of writing in a week! Again, it was immense. So #amwriting, which is a massive relief.

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I started the week by slogging through a sestina I’d been meaning to work on for ages. It was pretty hard-going but I finished it, which I am happy about (even if it never sees the light of day!). And then I whittled away at a few other bits and pieces I had been near completing for some time, reworked a few older poems, and bashed out a couple others inspired by the idyllic surroundings. There are a few magazines and competitions with themes I’d been wanting to write for so I worked on these too.

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I came back from the week totally zen, and really untouchable-feeling for about a week after (and still really quite calm and happy now, if I’m honest!). I think the pressure of so many unfinished pieces was weighing on me and the sense of completion has been really good for my poetry-morale.

I think I also maybe place too much pressure on myself to only produce ‘perfect’ poems, since I spend so little time in my normal life just-writing. So it was nice to free myself to write, exercising the muscle, and hopefully this will carry forward into my back-to-normal life too.

Get involved

For example, I added a poem to the Journeys project the Scottish Book Trust is running right now. They’re still taking submissions! Get your stories, poems, etc to them quick smart!

The poem I sent was about our ‘journey’ driving our pet chickens home, called ‘Bringing the Hens Home‘. It was stressful. Can you tell?

Bringing the Hens Home

Other notes / Top tips for Cove Park

  • The weather in late April was fantastic. The walk to the Nature Reserve and down to the water was perfectly serene. Bring a thermos. I made myself a massive thermos full of coffee every morning, and took this with me for impromptu coffee & snacks on a bench watching chaffinches and blue-tits, on a driftwood log beside the sea loch, on my balcony admiring the highland cow. Brilliant stuff.
  • Bring house slippers. Creature comforts! (Cold floors)
  • The kitchen was really well kitted out – microwave, toaster, mini-fridge/freezer, 2-hob stove, sink, kettle, french press!, and loads of pots and pans and dishes, etc. I could have probably packed more complex foods if I had known. But there’s nothing wrong with pot noodle!
  • It was really nice to meet up with my fellow-New Writers in the evenings up in the communal area. Hearing about what other people are working on, listening to them read their work, and generally speaking to other human beings after 10+hours on my own was really satisfying. Also, Claire makes a mean ratatouille. Saving up all my things-to-google until 7pm each evening was also a new experience. Power-interneting in full effect.
  • It is totally unscheduled the entire time. Bring something to do – I brought 8 books, audiobooks, movies to watch, hiking boots, and a pretty clear idea of what poems I wanted to work on and complete over the course of the week. The library in the communal area is good, but I had a lot of my own stuff to read. Go for walks and bring a lot of snacks. Don’t let yourself get cabin fever!

All in all, I feel like I’ve made a great push towards one of my new year’s resolutions:

5. Invest more time in writing

I’m looking forward to hunting out further residencies for the future. If you have any top tips of residencies that sound up my street, please get in touch!

 

General Updates

  • My Chicken Behaviour and Welfare MOOC is over now and was AMAZING! I learned loads (like did you know you can clicker-train a chicken? Operant conditioning!) and was so excited/proud to see the interesting research coming out of University of Edinburgh. (It also inspired me to buy a bigger run for my chickens and set up some perches, which coincided with an Omlet sale. VERY excited about this…). In other chicken-news, we got our first double-yolk egg which was MASSIVE (and kind of gross).
  • A colleague at my work did a charity bake sale for a group called Shelterbox who is helping in Nepal. I contributed some cookies for the sale but just wanted to leave that link there for others to check out. I hadn’t heard of this charity before and it seems pretty cool!
  • Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary with Handsome S. Still handsome as ever, still my very best friend.
  • Basketball season is over for the year and my teammates kindly picked me (and Minnie) for co-MVP! Thanks grannies! (We also had our team night out on the town – glad to report no injuries there!)
  • Sad to pause volunteering at the wondrous Scottish Poetry Library but excited as ever for their refurbishment! Think the refurb donations are still open: Go go go!
  • Turned in the last paper for the CIM marketing qualification I’m taking. Sweet relief. Painfully interesting content honestly.
  • Our garden looks GREAT! Garlic, potatoes, spinach, mangetout. Strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries. The magnolias just finished, as did the camellia. The rhododendrons & azaleas are nearly there. And the peony buds are holding out until my mom comes; I’ve asked them nicely.

Looking forward

  • Parklife in Manchester
  • BBQ season!
  • S’s birthday!
  • Can’t wait for my mom’s visit in June. Her tickets are booked. Now we’re just trying to see if we can fit in a cheeky trip to France, around visits from transatlantic pals, a family wedding, roadtrips, etc. So much to get excited about!

readingNorman MacCaig – Many Days
Mark Doty – Theories & Apparitions
Frank Bidart – Watching the Spring Festival
Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her

Audiobooked Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which was great. And Andy Weir’s The Martian, also great! Working my way through Necronomicon, which I am not liking at all

soundtrack

Astr – Operate
Hudson Mohawke – Very First Breath
Tove Lo – Talking Body
Sander van Doorn, Martin Garrix, DVBBS – Gold Skies (ft. Aleesia)
Nick Leng – Inside Your Mind (feat. Carmody)
Ghost Loft – So High
Little Daylight – Overdose (twice as nice remix)
Vanbot – Perfect Storm album is AMAZING!

 

See you soon!