Sunday, 26 July 2020

Alternative Energy.

This post was sparked off by a reading of a blog post by Wotan's Krieger on the 'Smart Meters' which are today spreading around the population. Wotan's Krieger gives a dire warning of how these could be used to switch off one's energy at a moment's notice, thus plunging an individual or family into a dire situation, especially during the cold and wet winter months. He also warns that, of course, our water supplies could soon see such 'Smart Meters' installed, with the intention that our water could also be cut off in an instance. This post was in the fourth part of his books published by Black Front Press. 

Now, whether you already have a 'Smart Meter' or whether you do not is not the question. What is today a 'choice' will tomorrow be forced upon us all, so the best plan is to take it for granted that one day you will be in this situation. This applies to electricity, gas and water supplies, all of which need to be considered and addressed as soon as possible. Think 2030 - Act Now!

The idea of growing our own vegetables and fruit is to try to become as self-sufficient as we possibly can, which is a very hard uphill task because of the problems that one encounters at every level. But we also need to consider alternative energy sources that would see us through a crisis where our energy supplies were cut off completely. There are so many things to consider when tackling this problem, but after a week spent wild-camping with no company except my old dog, Sam, so many ideas began to come into my mind. I would highly recommend anyone 'self-isolating' for a short time where one has to use one's ingenuity in thinking up how to get over the many problems that arise. Even if you do not wish to go out into the wild, a few days camping in one's garden without the use of the facilities of the house would at least be better than nothing. I found that I had to think hard on so many alternatives to the normal way we live, and this helped to come up with new ideas that should be tried and tested. Here I am going to put together some ideas on my own experience of the past week -

FIRE - Fire is needed for warmth and for cooking, but it is also needed to heat up water for various things (which I will get to next). Those who use log-fires at home would be far better off than those who do not, and there is little one can do to change this in the modern gas or electric centrally-heated houses. And, I am afraid the alternatives to gas and electric are few and far between nowadays. Here I will give a couple of examples of an alternative -

1. Calor Gas Heaters are still available, and these can easily warm up a room; in an emergency the like of which I am talking about living in one room if the weather was extremely cold would be the best means to survive. Or, you could use two heaters, thus using two rooms. 

2. There are forms of eco-fuel that can be burned indoors, but this needs care and you should ensure that whatever is used does not give off fumes such as carbon monoxide. 

3. In regard to both cooking and water-heating, as well a heating a room to a very small degree, there are camping type stoves that are designed for indoor use. Again be careful since this must be a specific type that is designed for indoor use. 

4. Oil lamps are still available and give out a limited amount of heat; also, candles would keep the temperature above zero in a small room. 

5. Warm layers of clothing would also be fine, together with some form of heating.

COOKING -

In regard to cooking most people use barbecues nowadays, and some form of barbecue could be built for use in an emergency. Of course, some form of shelter from the wind, rain and cold would also be needed. This should ideally be heated by fire, although gas canisters can be used too. You could build a type of open-fire to cook on. Of course, again some form of shelter from the wind, rain and cold is necessary for this. 

Camping-Gas appliances can be used too, as well as home-made small wood-stoves that are easily made. The Kelly-Kettle or M-Kettle would also become useful for boiling water for cups of tea or coffee. These are in fact more efficient than the camping-stoves in cold weather, since the gas freezes in these and runs very slowly. 

WARM WATER -

Warm water is needed to wash with, to wash dishes with, and to generally clean and tidy the place now and again. This is one thing that I did look closely into when wild-camping because there is always the need for warm water for something or other. The following were experimented upon -

1. A Solar Shower - I bought this from Amazon for around £20.00, holding around 20 litres of water and running-time around 10 minutes. Problem - the Sun did not come out for three days, and in the woodland I used there were only certain areas where enough sunlight got through. I tried it out when I got home (of course, the Sun came out then), and it took around 3 hours to heat from cold tap-water to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which was not so bad really. It seems to be strong and capable of some use, but who knows nowadays. My advice here would be to protect the solar-shower from the wind since this slows down the heating time somewhat. 

2. Use a large saucepan, or better still a 'hotpot' on a fire to warm the water; this, on an open fire, is the best method to heat enough water for wider use. Keep the water hot by leaving it above the fire but letting the fire go down a bit. 

3. There are 12 volt water-heater elements, or even car glow-plugs, that can be used to heat water in a plastic container. A strong car-battery should be used, and a powerful solar-panel to keep a good charge in the battery. Here, of course, wind-power could be used to turn an alternator connected to the 12 volt battery. Both alternatives would get over the problem of lack of sunlight or lack of wind. An alternative to these would be some form of small petrol or diesel powered engine that would drive an alternator connected to the battery. 

GENERATOR -

Nowadays a small quiet generator can be bought quite cheaply, and I have one that creates 1200 watts which I have used for various different projects, and taken with me whilst camping too. This can generate enough power for power-tools, charging of power-tools, charging of electronic gadgets, boiling a kettle of water, and many other uses that I cannot think of here. Mine is petrol, and you would need a supply of petrol to run it, as well as oil to top up when necessary. It is quite economical and would run for some time. This would also generate enough power to light a number of bulbs for lighting - something that could be considered for use in creating an alternative lighting supply. You would need to keep the generator dry outside in some form of well-ventilated shelter. 

ALTERNATIVE LIGHTING -

A 12-volt lighting system could also be rigged up for use around the home; of course, this could be made totally portable and self-contained so that it can be moved from room to room. You should already have considered placing torches in areas where you can quickly get your hands on them for use. 12-volt electrics are safer in term of shocks, but still as dangerous in terms of creating fire, so ensure you know what you are doing when rigging up some form of alternative supply. 

Candles and oil lamps can be used for lighting although they are not so light, nor are they so safe as some methods. But both do give off light and some heat, and are better than nothing. 

ALTERNATIVE WATER SUPPLY -

During the autumn and winter months there should be no difficulty in getting water through the amount of rain we usually have. But during the spring and summer months things can be more difficult. It is thus essential that some form of water-storage is set up. 

Drinking-Water - This needs to be purer and cleaner than water used for other purposes, so some form of filtering-system should be used to clean the rain-water collected. It also needs collecting in clean containers after running through some form of filtering-system. Done this way it can only be better than the chlorinated stuff that comes form the tap nowadays. As with the other things I have mentioned, some form of temporary set-up would do to start off with, doing enough to give time for setting up alternatives when the time comes. But remember, you could last 30 days without food, but only 3 days without water, so water is the priority. You will need to assess your own needs, and the needs of the family if you have one, and then work out how big a water-container you would need to get through at least a couple of weeks or so to give time to work out an alternative. 

Washing-Water - This need not be so much trouble, but it would need to be clean enough to use to wash yourself, your clothes and the dishes. If this is done ecologically the water can be used for the garden afterwards.

Garden-Watering - This is where the problem will lie, if you are growing your own fruit and vegetables. A great deal of water is used, but since it need not be so clean as that of drinking and washing then more of it is far easier to collect, though a large container would be needed, or regular water from a stream or river nearby. There are other forms such as drilling to the water-table, which are more expensive but more of a long-term solution. 

The best solution with water is to start to look around your own area for ready supplies of water that you could tap into where necessary. 

Gardening Update July 2020

It seems wise to try to encourage more people to grow their own food, hence why I am trying to let others know what I am doing. As you will see, and no doubt know if you grow fruit and veg., there are years when some things grow well and other years they do not. I have got to the stage where I am going to experiment far more, since we are experiencing different weather conditions nowadays and this must make growing a bit different - nothing lost if things do not work out. 

I cannot stress how important it is to start to get hold of the following ready for next year's growing -

Seeds - this year, with the 'Lockdown' we experienced a shortage of seeds for a while because more people were trying to grow their own food - better late than never! It is essential to get next year's seeds early in case we go through the same crap again as this year. 

Compost - If you are going to use potting compost for your seeds it is best yo get this soon too, just in case we have a repeat of this year. Better safe than sorry! 

Manure - Again, ensure that you have the manure to get into the ground over this coming autumn/winter. Living by the sea I am going to try to look for seaweed this year which can be thrown straight on top of the soil to allow the worms to do the work. This also applies to cow-manure or horse manure, or bags of manure from a supplier. 

(A note on this - I used some chicken pellets this year, and also tried putting kitchen waste in a trench and then covering with soil. This has done the job partially, and I used chicken pellets on top which helps the seedlings along. Any soil needs enriching each year if you hope to get a good crop of food.)



Fertiliser - I am going to stock up with chicken pellets and dried seaweed, two organic fertilisers that can be used when planting out. 

Potatoes - the First Early I started to dig up a few weeks ago, and the crop this year has been far better than last year. The stems of the Second Early crop have began to fall over, and there were small signs of blight on a couple of them. To try to stop this getting down to the tubers I have cut off the tops, and will lift the spuds in a couple of weeks time to see how they have fared. But at least this year's crop has been better all round so far. I have as yet to look at the main-crop which is in my allotment.



When lifting the First Early crop I kept by a few tubers and planted them in the large cold-frame. First I filled the cold-frame with grass-cuttings, cabbage waste and other stuff from the garden that will rot down, and on top a layer of compost that I bought some time ago. My hope (?) is that I may get a small crop of new potatoes for Yuletide - another experiment. 

Tomatoes - I have had far better crops, and this year's tomato plants did not come out well at all. Some of them were coming on so badly that I threw them away, concentrating upon those that looked healthier and stronger. Those in the poly-tunnel have done worse than those I planted outside, so I may well grow more outside next time. Also, next year I am going to try bush varieties grown in containers, which did well a couple of years ago. 




Outdoor Tomatoes.


Cabbages - The crop this year was really excellent, even when the netted mini poly-tunnel came adrift in the wind and allowed some cabbage-white butterflies inside, which soon go to the outer leaves, though the centres were fine. I grew a different variety, one with small oval heads rather than round, and these can be grown closer to each other, thus getting more in one space. They have done really well this year.




Cauliflower - Crap! None of them came out this year; not the first time these have failed on me but I have had a couple of years when these did well. Need to try something different here.

Beetroot - I have already used a number of beetroot straight from the ground, and have five jars full of pickled beetroot in store. These were WOTAN, which I saw as a good sign. 

Onions - These started to fall over a few weeks ago and I decided (though early) to lift them for use and storage. I have had some for a couple of weeks in the airing cupboard drying out, and have now put these into my store-room. The rest I put hanging from the roof of the poly-tunnel, and have now transferred these to the airing cupboard to dry out properly (it has not been quite so hot recently). There are some small ones which I shall use for pickling, and may even get some very small ones to start off an early crop for next year - maybe in the autumn (fall). 






Carrots - Crap! For the last two years I have had brilliant crops of carrots, some up to around 9" long when picked late. What I do is to sprinkle the seeds on the ground and not bother thinning, which worked for me for the past two years. I have known people thin the seedlings when they are very, very small, and this seems such a waste of seed to me. This was another experiment that worked for a couple of years, but this year - not a chance!

The tops of those in the ground in the back garden yellowed and completely curled over, no doubt due to some disease. Those in a tub in the front garden started to do the same, so I decided to oust some of them and see what was happening. There were in fact some very small carrots growing, which I have managed to make four meals for myself so far. So, even though overall this was rubbish, I have managed to salvage a few out of the disaster. Carrot-Fly is a great problem with these so maybe I'll put some form of net around the sides next year.





Carrots - Better than nothing! Photo makes them look larger though.


Celery - Planted these in two tubs, and a few scattered around in the garden and the planter. All doing well, and I have used a couple of small ones already in a casserole. These were the 'self-blanching' type which need no mounding of the soil.

Swiss Chard/Leaf Beet - Leaf Beet goes yellow, which suggests lack of some kind of right feed, but the Swiss Chard has done very well. This suggests sticking to the Swiss Chard rather than the Leaf Beet. Beetroot tops have been alright and these too can be used as well as the roots.




I uprooted and transferred some Swiss Chard to the front garden where I have left some of the onions and lettuce to go to seed to use as next year's seeds. These took fine and what I shall do in the colder months is to put the small cold-frame over them to keep them going through the winter. 

Runner Beans - Both crops are doing very well, and I have been picking the Polestar variety for a couple of weeks now. These are, as they say, stringless, and really excellent runner-beans with a large crop each year. 





The bottom part of the garden, behind a fence keeping the dogs in, is far too shaded to grow much; this is due to the large crop of apples on one of the trees, which has made the bottom branches hang down over the fence. Unforeseen, but next year this can be rectified. 

Strawberries - Poor crop all round again this year, have had a few but only enough each time to make a 'smoothie' with milk, or put into plain yogurt to make it taste. Suspect the best thing would be to get some form of horse manure/cow manure for these, which I shall do next year.




The poly-tunnel - 




Lifted the small raised bed used for the strawberries, leaving them in the ground, and moved it inside the poly-tunnel ready to plant some stuff to over-winter. Dug the ground inside the bed, put in grass-cuttings from the lawn-mowing today, and also some cabbage-cauliflower waste which will break down under the soil which will go on top. 

Mini-Greenhouse -





As you can see here, this is nearly empty, apart from three seed-trays on the top shelf (peas-lettuce-beetroot, of which the peas have not come out well), and also some flowering-plants growing below. I shall leave this greenhouse as it is for the spring growing, although some stuff may over-winter there.


The advice is to take the cover from the poly-tunnel during the winter months, but we have had strong winds over the summer this year, and no problems as yet. taking it off seems to defeat the object of using it for over-wintering, so I propose to try to secure it down with 'guy-ropes', and maybe ropes over the top of the polythene too, to make this as tight as possible. Another experiment that is ongoing. 

My one problem is cooking rather than the growing bit; there is a need to become more efficient at doing different dishes in order to use the stuff in the best way one can. I made a venison-sausage casserole today, using the following straight from the garden -

Potatoes, Carrots, Cabbage, Celery, Runner-Beans, Courgettes, Onions, and Swiss Chard. The only things not from the garden were the venison sausages, garlic, and mushrooms. I have used my own stuff almost every day this week to make a stew, soup, or casserole, using very little meat too (I do like meat which makes things taste, but trying to do without sometimes to prepare for times when this may not be available. 


Garlic - I grew a few bulbs last year but forgot about these this time; put some in about three weeks ago as another experiment to see how they would grow this time of year. I believe that it is best done in late autumn (fall) because they like a cold start - we shall see. I shall certainly try some in autumn too. Used a supermarket garlic because I see no sense in paying a lot more for these from a garden supplier. 




Garlic in a container.


Tuesday, 30 June 2020

How to get going.

It is a fact that due to the 'lockdown' many more people started to do their own gardens, some starting to grow their own food, something they had never done before. Seeds were at one time short of supply due not only to the global problem, but also to the higher demand. Of course, a good majority of people will probably go back to how they were, though some working from home may well carry on with this. I have decided to start from scratch here, but bear in mind that I am not an 'expert', but I have been growing for decades and have a good idea of the mistakes and pitfalls that go with this. Certainly, if you think you are going to save money, forget it! This may well be true after many, many years, but the global corporations can certainly produce much cheaper food through mass-production. Our aim is to not only produce better, tastier and healthier food but to be able to supply our own food in case of food-shortages, which is a reality when we look at what has just happened around the world. This post is aimed at beginners, to give an idea of how you could avoid some of the mistakes that I have already made.

I moved into the house that I live at now some 20-odd years ago and the garden was a 'jungle'; it took some time to sort it out and then came the problem that the soil was clay, one of the hardest soils to work. The first year I dug over and grew potatoes which is the easiest thing to grow in such conditions; this turns over the soil, not naturally I am afraid, but because of the need to earth-up as they grow. I dug and grew for about three years until it was decided to go back and start afresh, this time making 6 inch raised beds, digging well and adding compost, peat and sharp sand to break the soil down. This made the soil far easier to work, and I have merely added new beds over the years. 

You can buy the wood for raised beds especially for this purpose, or you could use sleepers (dearer), gravel-boards (cheaper) or old scaffold planks (even cheaper). There are other ways I have seen for this, using corrugated iron, which would no doubt be longer-lasting. There are many sites on YouTube that cover the subject, study and use the best technique for your purpose. But the aim should be to get one started and add to this as you go on. I have now eight raised beds at the back and two in my front garden, as well as a raised planter that I made myself. One raised bed at the back is made up to three planks high, and this I have used for root-vegetables such as carrots which need deeper soil to grow in. I have one at the front too, at the moment used for onions (which do not need deep soil) and lettuce (which again do not need deep soil). This one I have used for these vegetables because the front garden is south-facing and gets the full sun in the spring which helps quick and early growth. 

This is a problem you will need to consider, the amount of sun and light that the garden gets; this would most likely not be such a problem on an allotment, or if you are one of the lucky people to have a larger piece of land. My garden, as I said, is south-facing at the front and north-facing at the back, which means that the full day's sun does not hit most of the back garden until around May, though of course it gets the sun from the east (morning) and west (evening), and this is the only sun that hits the part of the garden behind the house. This is not a problem really since this area is paved anyway, and gives me a place to put my seedlings in the shade if I have to go away for a couple of days. But you do need to consider what to plant where in regard to the amount of sun, light and heat. 

This year I have increased the amount of vegetables that I grow, and have already harvested lettuce (which is now almost gone over and which I have sown a second batch to replace), broad beans, peas, chard, leaf-beet, strawberries, raspberries, courgettes, spring onions, wild rocket, and a few onions which can be taken up at any time and used, unless you wish to dry and store them (or pickle them) in which case they need to be left until the stems wilt and fall over. My First Early potatoes have flowered and are wilting, which means they are now ready to use. 

I bought a steamer to cook the vegetables because this seems to keep the flavour and goodness in better than boiling; we had one years ago but when it stopped working never replaced it, but thought this would be an idea now, growing a lot more stuff now. Of course, growing one's own food means more work in preparing, but this is something we should welcome, not 'taking the easy way out' as most people do today. The food is best lifted just before you need to use it, after a few hours the goodness starts to be gradually lost. This is where food from the superstores is far inferior, especially when it has to moved from hundreds of miles. Hoe-grown food is straight from garden to kitchen, and the goodness is kept when it is lifted just before using. 

In the past I have sometimes bought young plants because of the problems raising from seed at home. But for the past two years I have grown everything from seed; this has been done by doing the following -

  • Starting the seed indoors in January-February where it is warm and dry, but this has created problems with 'damping-off' in years gone by.
  • I bought a mini-greenhouse and put it in the front garden, against the south-facing wall, which keeps it hotter due to the bricks. The seeds are transferred to the mini-greenhouse as soon as possible and this stops them becoming 'leggy' or 'damping-off'. (You will need to watch for a frost, and cover the min-greenhouse or put an all-night candle in to keep the temperature above freezing-point.)
  • I bought a small cold-frame which houses the seeds after they have been in the mini-greenhouse. They are already 'hardened off' by this time, and things like lettuce grow well because they do not need too much heat. 
  • I also made a larger cold-frame which is in the back garden, near to the bottom end which gets the sun far earlier than the top. In this I grew chard, spring onions, wild rocket, and chives, all of which I have either lifted to use or lifted and moved to another area (which may or may not work as I've just done that). 

I have talked about some of these things in the last post, but have gone over them again here to help people to get started from scratch. The best way, I have found, to raise seeds in plastic seed-trays with individual units; this way you put a few seeds in each unit and they are easy to transplant. I have found this far better than sowing the seeds straight into the soil. The ultimate aim would be to make wooden seed-trays for the purpose which would last for many years if not a lifetime; the cheap plastic ones soon break up. I was also lucky in that some years ago I worked in a garden centre having a nursery where they threw all of the plastic pots away in a skip; these were not reused (which would made more sense) so I took them and used them myself, and still have the majority of them today, after some 15 years or so. Here are some money-saving ideas to save on buying pots -

  • You can use old plastic pots used for yogurt and other foodstuffs, these come in various sizes; just drill holes in the base.
  • Cut the top part off plastic bottles and use the base to grow in.
  • You could even use old tin-cans, drilling holes in the base for drainage. These, of course, would be very much stronger and last longer.
  • Larger containers such as the plastic storage containers can be used to grow such things as lettuce, chard, leaf-beet, beetroot, carrots & other root vegetables, and whatever else you would wish to grow that takes up little room. 

These are just some ideas that you can use to save money when starting out; you should try to think of other ways which also help to re-use the waste products of this wasteful society. You will also need to save rainwater and eventually to set up some form of irrigation system that will save you time, and work if you have to go away for a time. There are many different types you can buy, but to save money there are many ways to do this yourself. But one thing, I have one large barrel (old food-barrel), three small water-butts, and four old plastic dustbins (the old type) converted to barrels, and in a very hot week these would be emptied. This is the great problem in the summer months if it is exceptionally dry. There are ways around this which I am working on, and we shall feature these later. Earlier this year these were emptied with the dry spell we had, so I filled them with tap-water so that an emergency supply was there just in case (they did at one time start to whine about 'shortages'); the chlorine in the water seems to clear after a time. 

Here are some tips on planting certain seeds into seed-trays with small units -

  • Tomatoes - put two in each, just in case one does not germinate; these should be larger units if possible, this way if the two grow they are easier to split.
  • Cucumbers - the same as the above.
  • Courgettes/Marrow - the same as the above.
  • Squash/pumpkins - the same as the above.
  • Beetroot - put three in each unit; these do not need splitting and can be planted as they are.
  • Cabbage - put two in each unit, these can be small units.
  • Cauliflower - as above.
  • Broccoli - as above.
  • Brussel Sprouts - as above. 
  • Onion Sets - these can be put straight into the growing area, around 4 inches apart. I have also put them into an old plastic shelf having small units as an experiment. These are 'OK' as far as I can see, but if they are pushed too far in they come out in a rather odd shape - I have not lifted mine as yet but this is clear from looking at them. Maybe larger individual units would be best here. 
  • In regard to the above, It struck me that an idea would be to fix the plastic shelves onto a wooden board and use the whole thing for seeds. This would use them to the full. I'll look at this when they are lifted and come back to it in a later post. 
  • Onion seeds - Sown into small plastic food-containers, scattering the seeds and covering them, then they are put into another plastic shelf; they are smaller now but will no doubt get the same problem as they develop later. I may lift them to use as sets next year, something I was going to do today but it is raining; they are best lifted when dry. 
  • Spring Onions - I usually put around 7-8 in the same unit since these can be planted as they are and grow together.
  • Carrots - I put these straight into the ground, although this year have tried them in an old council-waste bucket which they left here. Never tried them in individual units, but I suppose putting 2-3 into a unit may work, but they are small seeds. Probably easier to just sow into rows.
  • Swede/Parsnips/Turnips - put 2-2 seeds into each unit and plant on as they are; they can be sown straight into the soil, but I now find this way easier.
  • Lettuce - Here I sow around 3-4 seeds into each larger unit and plant them as they are. They grow together which is not a problem, and should be cut near the base if you wish to get a second grow from them (which works sometimes and not others). 
  • Chard/Leaf-Beet/Spinach - put 2-3 seeds in each unit and plant as they are; they can be split when they grow bigger but I usually leave them as they are. 
  • Peas - I put 2-3 seeds into a unit and plant them out as they are. These are best done in the trays because outside they can get eaten when small.
  • Runner Beans, Dwarf Beans, French Beans, Broad Beans - I put 2 seeds in each unit and plant on as they are. 
  • Potatoes - these should be planted straight into the ground; it is more widespread today to dig a trench and put them into this, covering up as needed, otherwise it means earthing-up as they grow. Cover when frosts threaten. I have tried making a wire-cage about 1 1/2 foot diameter, fixing to a wooden piece that is knocked into the ground. Two of these are on one of my allotment-plots and in them are potato-peelings. This is an experiment, but I have grown peelings before. 
  • Leeks - I grow these in small plastic food-containers, scattering the seeds and covering lightly; they can be lifted and split when around 5-6 inches tall. I use a dibber to make a deep hole, and just drop them in, putting a small amount of compost in the holes after. 
  • Wild Rocket - Sow 2-3 seeds in each unit if possible.
  • Mustard - as above.
These are some of the stuff I can think of; I stick to the 'traditional' stuff because it seems far better to do so because they have been grown in our climate for hundreds of years. There are some adaptations we can now use due to changes in the climate, but overall these seem to work best. I have not given varieties as yet, but will do so in time (afraid most of the time I sow the seeds and lose the labels, thus not always knowing the variety, something I have to put right.)

We have to eat in order to give ourselves the right nutrients, and this is the same for vegetables which need to be fed. Manure is best dug into the soil before planting (except for carrots which should be manured the year before). I also use chicken pellets which are organic food, these are scattered on the top after planting out, and dug in if possible. Another way that I use is that when some of the stuff is finished, or some begins to go to seed and I do not wish to collect the seeds, I lift them and dig straight back into the soil. I have done this with the cold-frame I made, where the stuff in it has been either used or moved out in order to make way for later growing. Just dig the left-overs back into the soil, which is the very same method Nature uses when stuff dies off an is then put back into the soil. Other stuff is composed and used to manure the plots again. Nothing should be wasted though.

The Compost Heap or Compost Bin -

I have a compost bin bought some years ago, but have never found this to be really effective in creating as much compost as is needed. Only at the bottom of the bin does it produce compost, and not a great deal even then. The next move is to build a Compost Heap which can be turned over and over again, thus creating more compost quicker. What is envisaged is to make it into two heaps close together, so that when one is full another is started, each one being rotated as one is ready. That is the plan anyway. 

In the past I have used the composted part of the bin on the top, but where the waste has not composted put into the bottom of a raised bed and filled over with soil. This works alright but completely composting would obviously be better. 

Grass-Cuttings -

These can be composed with the other waste, but in the spring and the autumn I put a good layer under the soil in a raised bed and this keeps the soil warm, as well as the moisture in. Doing so can produce earlier and later crops due to the warmer soil. This is also ideal in a cold-frame used in the spring and autumn; crops can then be grown 'out of season'. The cold-frame and poly-tunnel can also be used to over-winter food so that it grows earlier the next year.

Early and Later Crops - 

This need no trouble the new gardener because it is not needed until you get a bit more proficient at this; but after a time this can begin to prepare for a more efficient growing-season, and eventually (hopefully) all-the-year-round growing, which must be the real aim, though this would take years to do, and also need more money to buy such things as a greenhouse, poly-tunnel and cold-frames. Heat would also be needed in the winter months, even if this is only to keep the frost off any tender stuff. The main thing to aim for, from the start if possible, is to grow food for winter-storage.

Storing Food -

Some root-crops are easily stored for a time, but to do so needs a good deal of stuck sown and grown; at this time my food is grown and mainly eaten as it is ready. Onions I have stored and they last well into the late spring of the following year when enough is stored. Many things can be canned and pickled, and this I have done on a very small scale, but something again which will be done at a larger scale in time. 

These are just a few ideas, and as this project goes on I will expand on everything, and also bring up any new ideas that crop up, since this is always an ongoing thing. As I have said before, I have so many things at hand that I cannot put 100% into this, but others will be in a different position than I am. I aim towards self-reliance but can only go as far as I am able to do whilst also keeping up other commitments that are part of my life. But the one thing that matters more than anything is to try to achieve more self-reliance and self-sufficiency. There may well come a day when food becomes short which is why we have to do this. 


Friday, 5 June 2020

Project 2020

Introduction.


Welcome to the Edel-Project which is the work of the WF-C in regard to the drive for more self-reliance, self-sufficiency and the eating of better and more wholesome food. In recent times more people have started to grow their own food, but this is mainly due to the 'lockdown' imposed upon the people, and not to any idealistic or holistic approach to the subject. This may well pass without too much impact, though it would be good to see more and more people growing their own fruit and veg, and thus breaking the monopoly of the Global Food Corporations. 

From the start it is necessary to say that this is not for those who take the easy way out; it is very hard work and takes up a good deal of time. It also means picking the food and preparing it from scratch. But there is a satisfaction in picking, preparing and cooking one's own produce. An added bonus is that home-grown food, when picked just before cooking, retains almost all of the goodness, a process lost when left for days or even weeks. The project has been taken up by families within the WF-C and there are plans for further improvements in regard to helping each other, especially when another crisis rears its ugly head - which it will. 

This also lies within our own weltanshauung and the WF-C slogan - Think National - Act Local!  Globalism has shown its dark side now and with a bunch of psychotics in control of the world things will only get worse and worse. Their food-production techniques are based upon profit and greed, and nothing else - because this is all they know of, they have no feeling whatever for people, animals nor any form of life on Earth. Our work is now small, and yet it could grow into something that is far more powerful - self-reliance and self-discipline. I have to add that I am not an expert on gardening, but have done so for around 50 years now, albeit not as a 'full-time' gardener. The work that my life has been centred around - Folkish Wodenism - means that this is just part of my life, and I cannot devote as much time to this as I would do in times of 'peace and plenty'. 

Growing Vegetables.




For the first time I am growing Broad Beans, and these are coming along well. They did get Black Fly but I have sprayed with a solution of Baking Powder, Washing-up Liquid and a bit of Vegetable oil. This was done yesterday but seems to have improved them already. Aphids can cause a good deal of damage.




I have grown First Early and Second Early Potatoes in the garden, and Maincrop  Potatoes on a small allotment I have near to me. The First Early are flowering and will need to stay there for a while to grow larger. I have to grow these behind a small home-made fence due to the dogs.




This is a bucket containing a few small New Potatoes; in fact there is about twice this amount because I picked more after taking the photo. These come from potato peelings which were in a rather immature compost heap that I buried under the raised bed at the start of the season. The compost was completely decomposed when I got up the spuds. You grow potato peelings from the 'eyes' and this can be done again and again. This is a simple trick to get around buying 'seed potatoes' every time. You use the spuds and then use the peelings to grow more. There are other veg that this can be done with too - watch this space!





This is a lettuce which is growing in one of the raised beds; in some cases I just throw the seeds into a seed-tray, let them grow large enough, and split into a few plants which are planted out together. In doing this they grow very close together, and thus you need to use some savvy when doing this -

  • Grow them close together, but when you start to cut (you should cut at the base and they will grow again) you need to remove some of those close together.
  • Remove some of them, and if there is space coming up in the garden you could try to replant elsewhere - this is hit or miss at this stage. 
  • The problem lies in that when too close together they can start to rot at the base. 






The use of a cold-frame speeds up the growing process in the late winter/early spring; the plants are kept warmer and grow much faster. I made the above cold-frame myself and I am no DIY expert. After having bought a very small one I decided to have a try and build a larger one myself - and did so paying no more than the bought one, and mine was three times as big. Pays to try to be creative sometimes.





In three different areas of the garden I am growing peas - Kelveden Wonder and an heirloom variety - Leicester. Due to a 'brainstorm' I have put them together which means they will cross-pollinate, so we shall see how things turn out because I am going to save some of the dried peas for use next year. This is part of the upcoming 'Seed-Sharing' which Hamasson will outline in the Midwinter Magazine. The above are the Kelvedon Wonder, and below are the Leicester, which grow about twice as tall - around six foot.





Leicester Peas




I bought a small mini-greenhouse to start things off in the late winter; in this I grew seeds in trays, and then potted some (like tomatoes and cucumbers) on into pots. If a frost is expected this can be covered, or if this may be hard then a nightlight can be left on overnight. This keeps the temperature above zero and saves the plants. This has been a god-send to me this year since my crops are already being harvested, long before they were before. This I have since moved to a spot against the south-facing wall of the house, which keeps the heat in somewhat. 




I have just added a Poly-Tunnel which is around 7' 6" x 6' and in this grow tomatoes and cucumbers in pots. This will also be used to grow potatoes for the Yuletide Meal. 




To the left are more Kelvedon Wonder Peas, and the Runner Beans at the back are 'Polestar' variety. I have another variety of Runner Beans at the bottom of the garden by the stream. 




This is a Mini-Poly-Tunnel using a mesh cover to protect cabbages and cauliflowers from the White Butterflies that lay their eggs on them. They are growing well, which is something new for me since brassicas have always proved a problem. The tunnel seems to have overcome this problem. You can water through the mesh and there is no need to take the cover off except to weed now and again. 

This year I have grown both white and red onions as usual; last year's was a poor crop and I decided to experiment this year. I used onion-sets in a raised bed in the back garden, and next to these I used an old plastic shelf with 3" x 1.5" holes, in which I put onions grown from seed. The idea, if this works, is to lift them when they are the size of onion-sets and use for next year. They grow fine from seed and are doing well. In the front south-facing garden I used another similar shelf and placed the onion-sets in the holes; the plan is that they grow on the top with the roots in the soil and they are so close together that no weeds grow. We shall see what happens here, since this is an experiment I have not tried before. 





The small pot here contains Garden Mint, whilst the large pot underneath grows Comfrey, kindly given to me by Folk-Comrade Scyld. You will see that the Comfrey has been cut off; this is because I use this for fertiliser on the spuds. Now, it is usual to cut the leaves of the Comfrey and just put into a tub/bucket to soak for some weeks. This is a long and smelly process and there is a far better way, though perhaps more dangerous -

  • Take one Kitchen Blender, for safety reasons doing so whilst the wife is not around. Make a note of the exact position that you got it from, so that it can go back without being noticed.
  • Put the Comfrey Leaves in the blender with about 1/4 full of water.
  • Blend the mixture, add more leaves and a little more water, and blend again.
  • The resulting mixture is what in the trade we call 'gunge' - a dirty-green thickish mixture. This should be added to a watering can to use on the vegetables. 
  • Now, if for any reason you get caught by the Mrs we do not want any 'Well, Wulf said......" This is done at your own risk!




These are strawberries in the early spring; they are now flowering and fruiting. I used a bought raised-bed from Homebase which just links together and is far easier to make up, being so small. This is growing strawberries in the back garden, and I have a raised bed I made myself to grow in the front garden. Both have now been covered by a net to keep the birds off - and the dog since he has eaten my strawberries last year. 

I have two Apple Trees at the bottom of the garden by the stream, and the larger one has hundreds of fruit coming on. The smaller one is a bit behind this and is rather more shaded; I have plans to try to move this next winter, since it is not that old. Worth a try anyway. Also grown are Raspberries (in a tub) and a Gooseberry Bush (in another tub). 

I have grown lettuce, chard, perpetual spinach (leaf beet), beetroot and carrots in various pots scattered around the front and back gardens, filling up the spaces in between the raised beds. Also grown in raised beds are beetroot and leeks (which are very small at the moment since I put them in later than the rest of the stuff). I have dill, rosemary and thyme growing around, as well as peppermint and parsley grown in tubs. Also grown in a home-made planter (made about 4 years ago) are Lollo Rosso Lettuce and Wild Rocket. Also planted around in between other stuff are more onions, and Spring Onions in the large cold-frame. 

The Allotment.

I have two small plots on a Council Allotment just at the bottom of our road; they are around 15' x 7' maybe and small enough to keep tidy. I had two plots a few years ago but gave them up because I could not do the garden as well. With a bit more time now I took two back, one already dug over, which I have planted main-crop spuds in, the other I had before and have strimmed the weeds and grass to make it tidy. I plan to use this differently -

  • I plan to put a small Compost Heap on it for my own use; others throw theirs on a large heap that is rather useless.
  • With a large barrel in my garden that needs a leak fixing I hope to use this on this particular plot, filling it up with rainwater using a tarp somehow (have not worked this out as yet). 
  • Plans are under way to make a couple of round Potato-Growers using some chicken-wire I was given; growing upwards must save a lot of space. I will use potato-peelings this year for this.
Now, I put the main-crop spuds in fairly early after a very wet winter; but a few weeks ago they died right off. It turned out that there was a very hard frost one morning, particularly catching this lower area, and this did the trick. They have since grown again and are doing fine now. A lesson learned. 

Conclusion.

This year has already seen bumper early crops, and the tomatoes are already flowering which has not been the case in the past. The Poly-Tunnel will bring much earlier crops this year. From Mini-Greenhouse to Cold-Frame - to Poly-Tunnel this has sped up the growth tremendously and is a pointer to the future. Of course, as usual, such things as lettuce etc. always seem to shoot up at exactly the same time, even when sown in stages; but I cut them off near the base and they will grow again. I have also done the same as the Comfrey 'gunge' and used a blender to break the leaves down into a pulp used in a watering-can. The idea is that (maybe) there will be the same nutrients put back into the soil that are taken out. This saves composting, although the 'gunge' could be added to compost.

Another trick that I have used is to fill a bucket with food-waste, egg-shells, tea-bags etc. and even before it has composted use it as a base-layer under the compost in pots. You can incorporate grass-cuttings too, which break down very quickly (and give off heat which can be used in the early spring to heat the soil up in raised beds, pots, etc.) Egg-Shells should be collected, broken up and scattered around new plants to keep the slugs off, better for you because you need not waste beer, harder for the slugs wince they cannot get legless on the alcohol. After some time the egg-shells get well into the soil through digging, and my raised bed that has had this process done for some years now has had no slug damage for two years now. We shall be featuring all sorts of tips and hints throughout the coming posts.