Monday, 31 August 2009

Another path

I really couldn't see the wood for the weeds today and so I have just been hacking away until I cleared another, tiny, bit of path and another way into the end of the garden. The apple tree looks better but its poor branches on one side have really suffered from the neglect of the last few years, although there are some fine looking apples on it!I had just over an hour today and it is enough to make a difference but there is still so much to do. I will have most of wednesday this week and then I am hoping to have a whole two days next week.
As I garden I think. I think about writing. As I write I think about gardening. Can anything be better?

Apples are the fruit of transformation. So I invoke spirit of Apple to help bring transformation to this spot.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Compost and rumination

I have just ordered a compost bin through This is from the WRAP home composting scheme. The cost of the bin is subsidised, so was much less than its normal retail price.

There is still a tonne to clear before digging can commence, but yesterday Dad cleared some more and just in the space of an hour it looks different again. Sam has now been down to have a look at all the 'Ouch!' being cleared away. He enjoyed visiting our friends' allotment in Bristol so much he has been asking to go back. I asked him what he thought about us growing vegetables and fruit in the garden and he is very excited about it- especially the picking raspberries and strawberries part.

The subject of compost is a huge one and the more I look into it the more interested in it I become. I am liable to go off on tangents and get caught up in the complexity of one particular area, and I cannot afford to do that at the moment. My time and focus is limited and already spread thinly enough as it is. But it is something I will come back to.
So I will add that thought to the heap of subject matter currently occupying my brain, let it rot down a bit, and then see what happens when I get writing again.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Pressies, paths and progress

My chance to get started on this project coincided with my birthday (how handy) and I received from friends some great birthday gifts of books to help me along with my plans. And this gorgeous pressie from my friend Tania, an avid gardener and grower, who is a mine of information and enthusiasm.
Packed with flowers, squash, courgettes, cucumber, a brassica and leeks in a pot to plant out, rocket-tape, sunflower and salad seeds. Plus a book on low-cost living. My own personal starter kit.
I stuffed the squash with butterbeans, mushrooms, sage, oregano, chili, capers and tomatoes, and baked it in the oven. It was delicious. Thanks Tania! Thanks also to all those people who have offered advice and support. It is much appreciated
Yesterday morning I went to the garden centre and bought some very thick, long gloves for protection against brambles. They've been pretty good but I wonder if there is anything that will protect from brambles 100% of the time? I am hoping that the end of today will see enough of a bramble sacrifice in the way of drawing blood and welts to appease the goddess of Bramble and gain Her blessing.

I also bought a book on composting: The Garden Organic Guide to Making Compost. It looks very practical and easy to read and lots of photos! I have used a compost bin before and know a bit but with clearing such a large space and with growing vegetables I thought I would try and do some research so I get it right and maximise my compost-making opportunities.

Yesterday I re-discovered two of the paths, one of which leads to the compost bin which hasn't been used since Mum died. So I can't wait to open the lid and see what's in there. And, more importantly to start using it again.

Today Dad helped me bundle up the first lot of brambles to take to the recycling centre. I have nowhere to put them for compost until I have cleared some more space but I hope to have that problem resolved by the end of next week.

Dad also removed the wheelbarrow which had become wrapped in brambles, honeysuckle and jasmine that had crept off the archway. A large black toad had been living there. I am sure he will find somewhere else to live in the garden but I saw him later this afternoon, back where the wheelbarrow had been.

I also found the coldframe, dilapidated and rotten but probably salvageable which was covered in brambles and roses. I moved it there last year, with the help of my best friend, away from the patio where it had lived when my Mum used it for propogating plants. I was amazed at how fast it had disappeared under a network of fearsome rose and bramble thorns, flowers and blackberries. Next to it appeared another wheelbarrow after more hacking and harvesting of berries. I moved round to the other side of the coldframe and carried on clearing and cutting until I reached the other corner of the garden- opposite the compost bin. Finally I found the other lost path and the memorial of our first family cat, Pepper, who is buried there.
I am surprised at how much I have uncovered in about six hours work, not to mention the huge haul of delicious blackberries, many of which lay trampled underfoot, giving off a slight candyfloss smell as the afternoon wore on.

I made blackberry and apple pie for tea, telling Sam excitedly that "this was made with berries from the garden!" but he said "yucky". I didn't put sugar in it so I will try again with some crumble. He loves picking them though.

I am nurturing a little scrumper.

Wednesday August 19, 2009

Yesterday I began to cut down the brambles and clear the space. I worked for three and a half hours. It was a glorious day and I made a good start. Although this is a small space in the back garden of my Dad's house, in the midst of surburbia, it felt momentous- the beginning of something meaningful and life-changing.

It seems apposite that I embarked on this new direction on my wedding anniversary. Nine years ago I went through that rite of passage which at the time was exciting and life-changing and, I thought, offered all kinds of new opportunities for building a shared future with someone I loved. It didn't work out and after several years of separation last year I finally got divorced.

August 19th is now transformed into the anniversary of the day I started to garden in earnest.

Friday, 14 August 2009


I've just been down to the end of the end of the garden to take some photos of its current state, and in a moment of clarity thought: "How the hell am I going to do this? I must be mad..." But I seem to say that to myself quite a lot and plough on ahead regardless, and generally I get there in the end. So I am doing this in a "Build it and they will come" way. Let's see how the next year unfolds.
The blog will document this year-long August to August project. I expect the blog to grow and change shape much as this patch of garden does. I want to see how I change as a result of doing this too. It is something I have been thinking about for several months but being a full-time student and a full-time lone parent means I can only tackle so much at one time. Now is the right time to begin. My first aim is to have the plot cleared before I go back to university at the end of September.
By next August I hope to be posting with pictures and details of my bumper crops of onions, beans, courgettes, raspberries and strawberries, and whatever else I decide to grow. But first there is alot of hard work to do just to clear a space to walk in, let alone dig over, mulch, compost, structure or plant stuff in! A bit of background: This is not really my garden at all. I live with my two-year-old son, Sam in my Dad's house, so it is his garden. More correctly even that that, the garden was my Mum's territory. She had plans for the end of the garden- in her head. She knew what she wanted to do with it. But she died three years ago of lung cancer, and was really too poorly for some time before that to take on and finish any major projects, although possibly if she were here now, she would say different.

I want Sam to know where fruit and vegetables come from; to get his hands in the soil; to appreciate his food more fully and see what is possible when you put your mind to it.

I want to learn about growing for myself, to be more self-sufficient, to feel more connected spiritually and physically with the earth. And I want to do this as a way of remembering my Mum too.
That is a lot of 'wants'.

So later on today I am going to harvest the glut of blackberries. The benefit of so many well-established brambles. And then next week I am going to start cutting and digging and pruning and weeding and sweeping...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Roar! Earth

This is a space to document and write about the end of my garden, which has been neglected for at least four years. I am about to reclaim it from the brambles and turn it into a vegetable patch.

Pictures and more to come soon.