Critters, Cold Frames and Compost

There’s not much growing in The Tiny Farm at the moment. The last of the original radishes finally succumbed to the same fate as the others and were munched by some kind of nocturnal tiny critter, leaving the original small bed completely empty, apart from the usual sprouts of clover. That stuff really does get everywhere!

The cold frame isn’t doing much either, apart from collecting water and sagging in the middle. Nothing much has sprouted yet, other than the mystery greens, which I hope will grow a bit bigger than they are at the moment.

Again, something seems to like the taste of them, so I replanted a few of them in a pot that the previous tenant left behind. I’m hoping that this might keep them out of reach of the pesky tiny critters.

As today was dry and fairly mild, I decided to get on with some weeding. I started with the border, which was starting to become a bit overgrown with weeds. It’s only a small area, so it didn’t take long, but as I was doing it I came up with an idea.

As you might expect, my small compost container is getting pretty full. Not only that, but it’s also fairly gross as it has become home to a lot of slugs and flies. So, I decided that, since I’m not going to be planting anything in the border until Spring, it might be a good idea to empty the compost bin and plant its contents there instead.

I think I mentioned before that my compost seems to smoke a lot when disturbed, and boy was this stuff smoking! True, most of the paper shreds that I had put in there still looked like paper, and there were some recent banana skins and orange peels that were still identifiable by sight (and smell!), but most of it seemed to be composting pretty well.

I noticed that right in the middle there was some powdery green stuff which seemed to be where most of the smoke was coming from. It kind of resembled mouldy bread, but with no actual bread remaining. I don’t know if that’s what it was or nor, but I’m wondering if perhaps the carbs in the bread are creating the energy to cook the compost more effectively. I’ve recently read that bread is not good for the compost pile as it attracts pests, but I guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, it felt pretty satisfying burying it and cleaning out the container ready to start again. I do love to compost!

In Other News…

Look what’s growing in my veggie patch!

6_Oct_2013_Mushroom

A Productive Day

6_Oct_2013_RadishesAfter planting my first seeds a couple of weeks ago, I have to say that I’m not too impressed with their progress so far. At first, things looked quite promising as the radishes began to grow little green shoots. However, this particular variety of radish must be quite tasty as most of them seem to have been eaten already!

6_Oct_2013_GreensThe mystery leaf salad garden was even less successful as only a few of the seeds seem to be growing – assuming that these are in fact my seeds and not weeds. Again, I put this down to the wildlife in the garden. Not the type that likes to eat their greens, but the large furry whiskered creature from the flat upstairs who likes to dig in that particular spot!

Thankfully though, after a few days of holiday from work, I have now trained my cat to chase that particular beast. She was reluctant at first, but once she knew I had her back, she chased it right over the fence.

ColdframeSo, in order to keep the beasts at bay while I am at work and the cat is busy doing whatever it is she does all day, I decided to invest some of my hard earned cash in a very cheap cold frame and get started on the larger bed.

It’s not the best cold frame in the world and I’m not sure how it will stand up (literally) to harsher weather, but at £14.99 it’s got to be worth a go.

So, with half of the larger bed weeded, dug, raked and topped up with some of the free compost that the former tenant left behind, I got to work with some planting.

6_Oct_2013_PlantingThe two rows on the left are Valdor Lettuce and Radishes, with the larger box containing some onion seeds and the smaller box sprinkled with more mystery leaf salad.

Hopefully things will start growing soon and, who knows, that first planting of radishes and leaf salad may still have a chance of making it to my plate in the next couple of weeks.

But, after a hard day’s work, here’s how the Tiny Farm is looking so far.

6_Oct 2013_Garden

Streetbank

Streetbank2

Images Courtesy of StreetBank.com

When I first thought of the idea of turning my home into a Tiny Farm, my main goal was to save money on food. After all, growing your own food has got to be a whole lot cheaper than buying it, right?

In the long run, it should be, but without any proper tools or equipment for digging and maintaining the garden, there is a real danger that the whole project could become a big money pit – and money is something that I really don’t have much of to start with.

StreetbankThankfully, however, I recently discovered my local StreetBank community, where neighbours can lend and borrow pretty much anything they like.

The idea is that everyone who signs up offers at least one thing that they can share with their community. These can be items like tools, books or even rooms to use; or they might be skills such as helping with homework, massage or IT support. Basically, it’s about sharing things with your neighbours rather than having to pay money for things that you may only need to use occasionally.

While I know that in the long run I will probably need to buy my own gardening tools, for now I can borrow most of what I need on StreetBank. And when I do  have some tools of my own, I will be able to share these with my neighbours too.

So, today I needed something to cut the grass in my back garden. It’s only a very small area of grass so a lawnmower would have been a bit excessive. Fortunately, I found a neighbour who was willing to lend me his strimmer for a few hours. And it worked a treat!

I don’t have anything like a perfect lawn as the grass is quite patchy and bumpy, but the strimmer was enough to take the height off it and, as an added bonus, provide me with some grass clippings for my compost.

The best part about today’s StreetBank adventure, however, was that I met a neighbour – a like minded person who believes in community and sharing with others. And that is something worth celebrating!

Have you used StreetBank? What items or skills would you be willing to share with your neighbours?

In Other News…

My Compost Is Smokin’

I first noticed some smoke from my compost when I gave it a bit of a stir last week. My first reaction was to Google “compost fires”, just to make sure that I wasn’t about to burn the house down. Thankfully, this is just part of the compost cooking process, so it’s all good. As long as there aren’t any flames.

Just to make sure though, I added an extra bowl of water to the mix.

Experiments With Seeds

My seeds arrived on Friday!  I found them by my letter box when I got home from work and was so excited that I could barely wait until today to plant them, but I did wait. And it was worth it.

I don’t have much in the way of gardening equipment, other than the end of an old hoe that I found in the outside toilet, so there was a fair bit of improvisation involved when it came to preparing the beds for the seeds.

I decided to start with some radishes and a mysterious mix of leaf salad. They are supposed to be fairly fast growing and ok to plant in September, so after a quick breakfast I got to work.

My main concern about growing food is that I’m not sure what the leaves are supposed to look like when they start growing and I don’t want to end up eating weeds by accident. So, I started today by digging out two small trenches for the radishes and filling them up with compost in the hope that this will help to limit the weeds.

Planting Radish Rows

The trench on the left has some good compost that I bought a week or so ago. It feels warm and damp to the touch, as opposed to the stuff that I found in the outside loo, which just doesn’t feel as good somehow. I’m not sure if it will make any difference, but I used it anyway in the trench on the right.

I decided to plant three rows of radishes, one in each trench and a row in the area in between – after all that digging, the soil felt pretty good and there’s about a 20 cm gap between them so it’s worth a try. It’s all a bit of an experiment, so we’ll see soon enough which row works out best in the end.

After digging out the trenches, I had a nice collection of stones and bits of broken rock, so I used these to mark out an area for the mystery leaf salad garden. By this point, my fear of eating weeds had been defeated by my eagerness to get planting, so I sowed my mystery seeds in rows and covered them with some of the old compost.

Planting Mystery Garden

I guess they won’t need a huge amount of space as the instructions on the packet say that you can sow them in borders.

Planting Day 1

Anyway, that’s today’s planting done. Tomorrow, I may invest in some better tools to prepare the larger bed for some lettuce and onions. But for now, I’m feeling pretty good about my Tiny Farm.

Where To Start?

Now that I’ve moved into The Tiny Farm, it’s time to start putting all of my half-baked plans into action. But where do I start?

The flat itself still needs a lot of organising, but what I really wanted to do this weekend was get started on the garden. So, I put an hour or so aside this weekend to do just that.

As we are in the middle of September already, it’s not exactly the best time to start growing veggies. However, I did a bit of research on the internet and ordered some seeds which are apparently good to sow at this time of year. I ordered some Valdor Lettuce, Red Onion, Radish and a Leaf Salad Stir Fry Seed Mix from Suttons to try out. The total cost for the seeds, including delivery, was £8.78 so hopefully they will provide a good crop and save me some money in the long run.

The seeds are supposed to be delivered within seven days, so I got started preparing one of the beds. I decided to start with the small bed nearest to the house as I thought it might provide a bit more shelter than the others through the winter. Also, being quite small, it was fairly easy to weed.

Weeded Bed

As part of The Tiny Farm project, I also want to try to reduce the amount of waste that I produce, and reuse as much as I can. So, over the last week I have been saving my kitchen scraps to make compost.

Not having much cash to spend on a proper compost bin, I decided to make my own with a small plastic crate. Again, the internet came in handy here.

Crate Prep

To make the compost bin, I drilled some holes in the plastic crate to allow for air circulation and drainage. Then I layered it up with paper shreds, kitchen waste, grass clippings, more paper shreds and a couple of handfuls of potting compost that I had lying around. A quick watering followed before I covered the crate with an old foam cutting board and a brick to stop any rats getting in.

Mini Compost Bin

I positioned the compost bin in the sheltered area next to the back door to save it (and me) from getting too wet in the rain, and to make it easier for me to add to it every day instead of storing up scraps in the kitchen.

I’m not sure how well it will work as the crate is quite small, but I can get a larger one later if necessary. It is supposed to be a Tiny Farm after all! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

Moving Day!

So, the day has finally come. I’ve packed up all my worldly possessions and moved into The Tiny Farm! Ok, so it’s not much of a farm yet, but it will be. Soon.

Having only moved in on Saturday, I haven’t had the chance to do much other than unpack and try to get the flat organised, which is taking much longer than I thought it would.

Even after half a dozen trips to various charity shops, I still seem to have far too much stuff, most of which I probably don’t need. But sorting through it all properly is going to take more time than I have right now. So, for now, here’s a picture of my new back garden.

Back GardenWe had a hail storm while I was writing this post!

100 Books

How many books does one person really need?

As an English graduate and former English teacher, I have a lot of books on my shelves – far more than I can or am willing to count. So, as part of my attempt to de-clutter before my move to The Tiny Farm, I have decided to reduce my book load to no more than one hundred books.

Yes, I know, one hundred does still seem like a lot of books, and it is, but I figured that if I can reduce my collection to one bookcase only, then that’s ok. I’ll keep a few favourites and those that I haven’t got around to reading yet, but the rest are going to new find homes, one way or another.

Cash For Books

At first, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some cash for my old books. However, after scouring the internet for organisations that claim to pay you for your old books, I discovered that they wouldn’t accept them because there wasn’t enough demand. In the past, I have sold books on Amazon, but this takes time. So, I’m putting some on Gumtree instead as job lots to see if anyone wants them. I’m not sure if this will work, but it might be worth a go.

Book Crossing

I also discovered BookCrossing.com where you can track books that you give away. All you have to do is register your book, put a label with an ID number and a note about the website inside, and leave your book somewhere for people to find. The idea is that when someone finds the book, they let you know via the website, read the book and then re-release it back into the wild or pass it on to a friend when they have finished with it.

Charity Shops

Finally, for those books that I can’t be bothered to sell on Gumtree or register on Book Crossing, there’s always the charity shops. A lot of my books came from these places originally, so it seems appropriate that they should return and help raise more money for good causes.

Now it’s just a case of sorting out what’s staying and what’s going.

How many books do you have on your bookcase? What do you do with books you no longer need or want? Please feel free to share your thought in the comments.

Internet Clutter

Internet ClutterAfter only a few days of packing, I have come to realise that I need to de-clutter my life. I’m not just talking about the seemingly infinite boxes and drawers of stuff that I don’t use any more, but the things that take up my time, my money and my head space. I’m talking about my internet clutter.

I received an email from one of my web hosting accounts yesterday, informing me that my subscription would renew automatically. This is great if you have a website that you are currently using and don’t want it to suddenly disappear off the face of the internet; but when you have websites and hosting accounts that you just don’t use any more, it’s probably time to say goodbye to your wonderfully inspired domains and stop spending money on a service that you no longer need.

Of course, you could try to sell your unused domain names, but unless you have a successful site already up and running, it’s unlikely that you will make more than you will spend by auctioning them off.

So, I have decided to let my subscriptions expire. They served me well when I was learning about web design and I had a lot of fun with them in the past. But it’s time to let them go, let them expire and free them up for someone else to use.

It feels quite liberating, not having to think about how I can develop these sites for another year, while doing nothing about it. And, apart from anything else, it’s going to save me a lot of money that could be put to much better use.

Could this be the start of a new minimalist me? I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but it’s a thought.