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Happy Halloween 2017

Wooo it’s Halloween (eeek!) and it’s a bit chilly outside! I’m having a rummage through seed packets and giving them a sort out, then I’ll be splitting garlic bulbs into single cloves ready for planting soon. Vampires won’t bother me today *cue evil laugh*.

Meanwhile, the latest news from the garden smallholding….the hens are busy scoffing carving out the insides of pumpkins for us. But I’d better be quick to collect the empty skins!

Happy Halloween!

 

avian flu
Uncategorized

Bird Flu

avian flu

What? No free ranging? Are you kidding me??!! Afraid not kiddo.

We haven’t allowed our chickens to free range since early December 2016. The Chief Veterinary Officer declared a Prevention Zone to help protect poultry and other captive birds from a strain of Avian Influenza (H5N8) in Europe. Since the Prevention Zone was announced, cases have been confirmed across the UK. By continuing to keep our flock separate from wild birds and maintaining biosecurity measures on our premises, we’re doing the very best we can to protect our chickens from this threat.

Please click the following link for more information on how to keep your birds safe from Avian Influenza: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/581952/ai-birdflu-factsheet-170106.pdf

Updates and further information regarding Avian Influenza and the current situation are available on the DEFRA website, please do keep checking to make sure you are complying with the latest prevention zone requirements. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

Uncategorized

Catching Up With 2016

the view from river cottage

Where did 2016 go? It whizzed by!

We had a wonderful Christmas but I find the run up to New Year a little boring. I love family time but I’m not one to sit around for hours/days on end doing nothing, I get the urge to do something other than eat junk and fall asleep in front of the TV watching the obligatory Christmas repeats of Only Fools and Horses.

I decided to review the blog during the quiet moments over the holidays and it quickly dawned on me that I missed some things out during 2016. The Monthly Peek at the Veg Garden posts ended rather abruptly in June (I have no idea why and I’m sorry about that) and in July we went to Beer near Seaton, a delightful fishing village in East Devon with a visit to River Cottage HQ while we were there. It was an amazing holiday and I’m stumped as to why I didn’t blog about it?!

I’m going to amend all of that by sharing photos of the gorgeous Jurassic Coast scenery in Beer and Seaton (I had to really cull the photos down, otherwise this post will never end!) and our memories of River Cottage HQ. I’ve thrown a couple of our garden harvests in too!

There’s a village by the sea, it’s a little piece of heaven and the angels call it Beer …

Beer is a fishing village in East Devon, England. The village faces Lyme Bay and is a little over one mile west of the coastal town of Seaton. If you’d like to know more about this beautiful unspoilt sea village, please do take a look at this informative website: http://www.beer-devon.co.uk/about/

Fishing boats at Beer, Devon
Fishing boats at Beer, Devon
Beach huts at Beer, Devon
Beach huts at Beer, Devon
Seaton Hole twinned with Beer fishing village
Seaton Hole twinned with Beer fishing village
Rock pools
Rock pools
Red cliffs of Seaton
Red cliffs of Seaton
Rock pools Seaton Hole
Rock pools Seaton Hole
Limpets
Limpets
Seaton beach huts
Seaton beach huts
Seaton beach
Seaton beach

Our dining experience visit to River Cottage HQ in Axminster was just amazing. Arriving at 6pm we were transported in groups by tractor and trailer down the famous winding hill to the even more famous white farmhouse. Being a massive fan of River Cottage I did get ridiculously excited as the house grew in size as we got nearer.

Drinks and canapes in the River Cottage yurt
Drinks and canapes in the River Cottage yurt

After getting off the trailer we entered a huge yurt, there we were greeted with delicious canapes and offered shots of a local-made cider, being Kingston Black for our evening. We were then encouraged to explore our surroundings including the River Cottage farmhouse and kitchen garden.

The view from River Cottage
The view from River Cottage
I really didn't want to leave, I coud have sat there all day looking at the gorgeous view of the kitchen garden
Check out my sulk face! I really didn’t want to leave, I could have sat there all day looking at the gorgeous view of the kitchen garden
The River Cottage kitchen, many TV dishes have been cooked here
The famous River Cottage kitchen

river cottage

Dad and Rich discussing cabbages....
Dad and Rich discussing cabbages….
Welcome to the River Cottage kitchen garden
Welcome to the River Cottage kitchen garden

river cottage

We made our way to the barn to be seated for our meal, the seating arrangement encourages you to get to know your fellow diners with many sharing starters (as well as many individual ones) to break the ice. The food was just as delicious as I imagined it to be, fresh seasonal food from the kitchen garden and farm as well as local produce too. The staff were informative and welcoming, the kitchen is left open for you to pop your head round the door to meet the chefs if you wish. The ingredients for each dish were explained, Hugh’s philosophy for fresh home-grown produce, animal welfare and supporting local producers/smallholders/farmers was very evident.

The River Cottage HQ barn
The River Cottage HQ barn
One of the sharing starters
One of the sharing starters
Just one of the many individual starters
Just one of the many individual starters

I can honestly say I’ve never eaten so much in one evening! Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and if you have any other dietary requirement the staff are only too pleased to help.

Pickled cucmber and nasturtium leaves from the garden
Pickled cucumber and nasturtium leaves from the garden

As we climbed back into the trailer in the dark it was very obvious the awkwardness of being with strangers at the start of the evening had disappeared. Everyone giggled loudly as the bumpy trailer slowly began climbing the hill. Perhaps it was just the wine! My parents, Rich and I all left with full stomachs and wonderful memories

And last but not least, some harvests from the garden at the end of the year. Ta da!

pumpkins and squash

apples in a basket

Uncategorized

Happy New Year 2017

garden collage

Wishing you a New Year that’s bursting with joy! I hope the new growing year ahead provides your larder and kitchen with plenty of own-grown produce.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017, may all your wishes come true!

Chickens, Uncategorized

My Funny Valentine

the garden smallholder

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Unphotographable
Yet you’re my favourite work of art

My hen Sky and I having a cuddle to mark her special day – 2 whole years free from a battery cage! Sky is such a character, every single day my funny valentine never fails to make me smile.

Uncategorized

Kitchen Garden Magazine February 2016

Kitchen Garden MagazineA little bit of fame this month, my blog (and a little about me) features on page 88 in the February edition of Kitchen Garden Magazine! I’m absolutely delighted my blog was chosen to feature in the Growing Guides section, the pick of the best gardening apps, websites and blogs.

Thank you Tony Flanagan for contacting me, I’m enjoying a good read of my copy with a lovely cup of tea to celebrate.

 

Uncategorized

Merry Christmas

IMG_4086christmastree2015

With my laptop before me, sitting beside the tree, I wish all of our readers  a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

IMG_4018christmastree2015

Karen x

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

apple tree garden hen ex battery hen eggs in a wicker basket hens in a garden light sussex veg patchImages from our garden smallholding.

 

 

Uncategorized

Autumn Equinox

autumn leaves

The autumn equinox, the first day of autumn occurs today. Well hello pumpkins, chunky knits, soup and leaf kicking season! The most beautiful season of all. To celebrate the arrival of autumn, here’s a selection of my favourite autumnal images I’ve had the pleasure to take. Enjoy!

browns wood in autumn

browns wood

Fallen Apples

beech leaves in autumn

pumpkins

teasel backlit

browns wood in autumn

autumn leaves

allotment pumpkins

Uncategorized

Bringing the Outside In

yule decorations

I’ve really enjoyed decorating the house for the festive holiday, the lingering scent of a fresh tree sets the mood for me. There’s something special about fresh greenery in the house at Christmas / Yule, it’s so cheery and beautiful to look at, and it smells wonderful too.

christmas decoration ideas

I dressed the fireplace mantle using fresh sprigs of pine, fresh pine cones and ivy from the garden, a simple lit berry garland adds a touch of sparkle. Windowsills were dressed with a mixture of pine branches and ivy, pine cones and bunched cinnamon sticks tied with raffia and dried fruit on wires.

yule decoration

yule decoration ideas

Do you like my festive wire Oak tree?
Do you like my festive wire Oak tree?

Add a festive touch to your home by bringing a little of the outside in, use things from the garden or collect bits on a walk.

Uncategorized, Village Life

A Walk Before the Storm

dog walking in Browns Wood

We visited one of our favourite places to walk yesterday, a chance to give our dog a good run and sniffing adventure before the anticipated storm arrived to knock our socks off. It was also a great opportunity to take some photos of beautiful Browns Wood at this magical time of year.

browns wood in autumn

It was a perfect autumnal day and the woods offered plenty of beautiful subjects to photograph. Glowing Field Maple leaves caught my attention, the exotic colour highlighted further by sunlight streaming down onto the tree branches from above.

browns wood

Looking around at the ground I often find things of interest, like this forgotten tree stump covered in a thick coat of Ivy.

Ivy-covered tree stump

Dried teasel line a long path, separating the new section of woodland from the field beyond. Long grasses sway in the wind, wildflower seed heads rattle eerily, scattering seeds everywhere.

teasel backlit

long grasses

Deeper into the ancient woods, light struggled to filter through from above, creating dramatic light, colour and long shadows.

autumn maple leaves

browns wood in autumn

beech leaves in autumn

Exiting the ancient woods, dark and dramatic shadows greet the light from the fields beyond.

dog walking in browns wood

Browns Wood is a wonderful place to visit and we’re incredibly lucky to have this magical place on our doorstep. For more information about Browns Wood, take a look at this previous blog post https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/a-visit-to-browns-wood/

Heavy rain fell overnight and it appears our location escaped the damaging wind. Looking at news reports today, others were not so lucky with gusts of up to 105 mph, trees coming down, flooding and loss of power.

Uncategorized

Counting Butterflies

peacock butterfly

Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count took me out of my zoned out state of mind for a while, giving me something else to think about other than how incredibly numb and sad I feel at the moment. Since my last post regarding the loss of one of our beloved dogs, sadly my Nan passed away a couple of days ago. It was expected, she’d been terminally ill for a long while. Although I’m relieved she’s no longer suffering, my heart is crushed. At 39 years old I know how lucky I was to still have a grandparent to confide in, to be spoilt rotten by. I will miss that.

I loved listening to her stories. We recently giggled together like a couple of school girls over her confession of having had a huge crush on Stewart Granger in her younger years. She was a beautiful lady; skin as soft as silk, olive complexion and hardly a wrinkle, sparkling eyes and a naughty grin.

peacock butterfly

I spent 15 minutes counting butterflies the day after her passing, mesmerised by their beauty and grace, smiling inside, because they reminded me of her.

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

broad bean plants, broad beans

Flower Garden, Uncategorized, Wildlife

Beautiful Spring

blackbird egg

Our garden is a visual and audible treat at the moment, even though spring arrived a little late this year everything appears to be catching up. The huge pine trees are a nursery to many garden birds right now, twiggy nests can be seen in branches.

bird nest

Blackbirds are nesting inside the rockery conifers surrounding the pond, occasionally I hear the ‘peep peep’ sound of hungry chicks throughout the day, eagerly awaiting the return of their parents with food. At dusk we are treated to an aerial display of bats hunting, if we listen really carefully we can just make out the distinct clicking-sound. Another nocturnal visitor to our garden and a favourite of mine is the hedgehog, they can be heard snuffling around the lawn at night, on a clear moon-lit evening we might catch a glimpse of one, scurrying off into bushes.

tree blossom, fruit tree blossom, white blossom, spring blossom

spring blossom

I’ve noticed squirrels digging in the lawn, taking off for the pine trees when I approach. I love watching them leap from tree to tree with the grace and skill of a gymnast. Some of the fruit trees are ablaze with blossom, attracting bumblebees in their numbers, daffodils are just finishing now and Forget-me-nots are taking centre stage, creating a pretty blue haze.

forget me not

forget me not

IMG_4147forgetmenotresized

forget me not

I saw my first ladybird of the year yesterday and a number of butterflies on the wing are passing through the garden too, mainly Peacock. Here’s a great website for those unfamiliar with UK butterfly species: http://www.britishbutterflies.co.uk/index.asp

I love nature, especially during spring. I hope you’re enjoying watching and listening to nature/wildlife in your garden too.

Fruit Garden, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

blackcurrant flowers

Chickens, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

ex battery chicken

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

koi fish

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

IMG_9822web

IMG_9828web

Uncategorized

Sowing Black Krim Tomatoes

sowing seed

I’m sowing more tomatoes, so far I have 3 different varieties on the grow. Despite the unseasonably cold weather I’m remaining positive warmer weather will arrive soon. Well, you just have to really! I bought Black Krim tomato seed after seeing a very tempting photo of the fruits via Seed Parade on Facebook. The weakling that I am.

Somehow lots of other seed ended up in my order too. I’ve no idea how that happened. Oops!

seed parade

I love the clear resealable seed bags, I often find seeds rolling around in the bottom of my seed tubs so this should avoid that problem. The seed is really easy to see too, I find it annoying when small seed gets caught in the fold of paper packets. I managed to get seed I wanted a lot cheaper by snapping up some of the sale prices via the Seed Parade website http://seedparade.co.uk

tomato seedlings

I just hope our gardening neighbour has plenty of room in his greenhouse, plenty of tomato seedlings coming his way soon!

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

frosted old hydrangea flower head

Uncategorized

Spring is Out There. Somewhere.

snow covered daffodilsI watched in despair from our living room window the arrival of snow on Friday evening. Fluffy snowflakes performing a dance of circles in a cruel wind, flickering in and out of the amber-glow cast by a lamp-post. A thick carpet of sparkling snow greeted us the following morning.

Spring is obviously struggling to shake off winter’s firm grip.

snow photos

The entire weekend was bitterly cold, sleet and light snow dominated the disappearing landscape. However, folk residing towards the North of the UK seem to have been hit the hardest.

march 2013 snowmarch 2013 snow

No allotment visits, no seed sowing. Spring daffodils shiver in the snow, reluctant to open their buttery flower buds. The Koi have once again retreated to the bottom of the pond, confused by the constant change in temperatures.

koi pond

Hurtled back into what appears to be a deep winter slumber, there are signs that spring is trying to make herself known if you look closer. Fruit tree buds are beginning to swell, Forsythia covered in tightly rolled buds will soon reveal golden stars against a brilliant spring blue sky.

snow

We’re all dreaming of warmer days to come, the sweet fragrance of spring flowers and fresh-cut grass. Trees ablaze in blossom and the sound of buzzing honey bees.