20 Jan 2012

Art Inspired by Nature

Well it's been a long time since I updated this blog. Sadly I had to give up my allotment last year. If it had been closer to where I live I perhaps could have continued with it, but it was an hour to walk there and back each time. I had a lot on at the time and my art and jewellery business was taking up a lot of time too, leaving little time to tend to the plot. I hope to one day find a place to live that has a garden, or that has an allotment within a few minutes walk.

I have been busy creating nature inspired art and making sea glass jewellery. If you would like to see what I've been making, you can visit my art site, my jewellery site, or my jewellery/craft/art blog. I have also just started a new blog about my nature inspired art on which I'll also be writing about wildlife and the environment. So if you like recycled creations, you might find the sea glass jewellery interesting. If you like anything to to with trees, wildlife, birds and the sea you might find my new blog interesting. Here are a few pictures of some of my creations.


7 Jun 2010

The Bee's Knees

I have some new residents on my allotment...some bees have moved into my chamomile bed.  They must think my plot is the bee's knees! Well they won't have to travel far carrying pollen on their knees as they have moved right next to the borage bed! In fact two borage plants are growing in the chamomile bed (seeds blown from last year). Well, the bees are more than welcome. I doubt I will have problems with pollination this year!  I'll have to take care not to disturb them which isn't a problem. I don't dig the raised beds - I just add compost and green manure mulches. I'll take care not to cover the entrance to the hive.  I have two beds for borage this year, so they will be pleased when they flower.

The allotment has been a bit neglected this year. I have been so busy creating paintings and jewellery amongst other things that I haven't had the time to visit. I sowed some seeds the last time I was there (shamefully two weeks ago) but the weather has been so dry lately, and I haven't been able to find the time to visit to water them.  If I lived closer or had transport I would visit more often, but it takes me nearly an hour to get there and back.

Last year I started some plants off at home. I live in a flat and I don't have a garden or a yard.  I had to grow them in my bedroom as it is the only window that gets the sun (but only late afternoon). The plants would lean towards the window and grow leggy. Also I ended up with an infestation of flies ( probably from the compost). Not very nice in the bedroom! So this year I decided to sow direct instead. I wasn't expecting such dry weather though! This is very unusual for this corner of the world! It's better than the relentless rain of last year though. The perfect weather would be a good balance of sunshine and rain rather than long dry spells and long wet spells.

 This is a salad with rocket, dill, purple sage, green sage, oregano, golden oregano, thyme, chives, chive flowers and rocket flowers. Very tasty!

The herb spiral is doing really well. The lavender has grown so large that it has grown over the rosemary..poor rosemary! It is just about to flower. The green sage and chives are in flower. The lemon balm will need harvesting as it is very large. The echinacea that I sowed last year is doing well. I hope to see the flowers this year. The second bed of rocket is now ready, so I am no longer on rocket rations! It should be very fiery due to the lack of water - just how I like it!

I think I may have inherited an apple tree and a few very large blackcurrant bushes if my plot extends that far - I need to confirm this with the previous owner. When I visited at the weekend it looked more like a jungle than an allotment, so I am assuming that they probably are part of this plot, as they were very well kept last year.  I cut the grass around the tree and bushes. I cut the grass manually as I am not a fan of strimmers. I'm not very good with machines and I find strimmers are too noisy for my liking. Also the smell of petrol makes me nauseous. I think it's much nicer to listen to the birds singing than the angry sound of a strimmer. It's a good work out for the arms too - when I arrived on the plot I felt like Olive Oyl, but when I left I felt like Popeye!

I'm hoping to find more time to tend my plot. Now that we have a new government I wonder if I could persuade them to put more hours in a day and more days in a week! Wishful thinking!!!

13 May 2010

Clyne in Bloom

My favourite local park - Clyne Gardens, is in bloom at the moment. Here are a some pics. If only these photos were scratch 'n' sniff! Unfortunately I wasn't able to capture the wonderful aromas of the blossom on camera!

Not sure the correct name for these but they make excellent umbrellas (except for the spikes!)


22 Apr 2010

Borage for The Bees

What fabulous weather we have had over the last couple of weeks! I have been making the most of it, where time permits by sowing plenty of seeds. I think I will sow some borage seeds over the weekend. The soil should be warm enough now for the seeds to germinate. April to May is the best time to sow borage seeds. I prefer to wait for a prolonged period of sunny weather to give the seeds the best chance to germinate. So now is the ideal time. It's important to keep the soil moist though, so if sowing during a dry spell, they will need to be watered until they become established. Borage is best grown in full sun or partial shade.

Borage is great for attracting bees. I think it is important to provide for the bees as their numbers are declining rapidly. This could be due to many factors including pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, GM crops, mites, disease and terminal seeds (infertile seeds which farmers cannot replant).

Imagine a life without bees - we would have to pollinate everything by hand! Wild flowers would disapear rapidly. Other pollinators such as butterflies are also declining in numbers. When you think that these wonderful creatures do all the work of pollinating our flowers so that we can have food, I think that the least we can do is to try to provide for them. So if you have some space in your garden, allotment or land, why not sow some borage and/or wild flower seeds for the bees and other pollinating insects before it's too late? If growing wild flower seeds it is wise to check that they are native to your local area as some seed packets contain non-native flowers that can compete with local flowers which can affect wildlife and the environment.

If you prefer to grow flowers to eat rather than wild flowers, there are many edible flowers to choose from. I have a book called 'The Edible Flower Garden' by Kathy Brown (ISBN 1 - 85967-879-3) which lists the many different types of edible flowers, how to grow them and it also has many recipes. It's a great book with plenty of photos. I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in edible flowers.

Borage is my favourite edible flower. It is also known as 'starflower'. It is a beautiful blue colour and it makes a wonderful addition to salads. They have a mild flavour similar to cucumber. As far as I know they are the only natural blue food. Last year I had many edible flowers such as calendula, rocket, thyme, oregano, nasturtiums. These all make wonderful additions to salads. This year I will be growing as many edible flowers as possible. I will be posting pictures of my colourful salads in the summer! The rocket that I sowed late last year has just started to flower. Rocket flowers have a mild peppery flavour. Some people dislike the leaves of the rocket when it has gone to flower, but I prefer it - they are slightly hotter than normal. Chives are also a wonderful flower to eat. The flower head can be sprinkled over salads. They are deep pink in colour and even taste like chives.

Going back to the subject of bees, I saw a bee that appeared to be dying the other day. Whilst some people may think that they should put a dying bee out of its misery and kill it, I think it is best to leave it. It is probably suffering from exhaustion and may recover if left alone. Alternatively you can place a flower near it so it can have some nectar or give it some sugared water or syrup, which will help it to recover. We need to do all we can to save our bees.


6 Apr 2010

Bloomin' Marvellous!

Hooray...there's blossom on the trees! Bloomin' marvellous! A sure sign of spring! Well, we have certainly had more than our fair share of rain around here lately. This has meant that I am somewhat behind with my allotment. The few dry days we have had, I have been too busy with other things. I am hoping for a spell of dry sunny weather so I can get on with things. Now that the evenings are lighter, I may be able to go more often.

I have no photos of my plot this week because I went to the beach and the park before I went to the allotment and took many photos - by the time I got to the allotment the batteries had died.

My batteries weren't the only thing to die - my last artichoke looks like it has finally had its day. My allotment neighbour Keith said it probably died of loneliness due to the absence of its owner! I'm hoping that it will make a miraculous recovery. I'll be busy sowing seeds the next chance I get to go to the allotment.

17 Mar 2010

Battling with Brambles

I have gained some extra space on my plot...yippee! So I have been contemplating what to do with it. There are two raised beds, which I can put to good use. The rest of the space was riddled with brambles and other weeds. Although I don't normally dig, I think it's necessary when initially clearing a space, particularly when there are brambles. Fortunately there weren't too many brambles...nothing like last year's battle! The roots were certainly deep though! I spent an entire afternoon clearing the space. I still have a little bit more to do, but most of the hard work has been done. 
I just have to decide what to do with the space now! As it is a little shady, I was thinking about creating a bean haven, as most beans are tolerant of some shade. Last year I discovered the wonderful broad bean. I have no idea how I managed to live for all these years without ever tasting a broad bean! Well, I grew some last year and I was amazed. If I'd known how good they were I certainly would have grown more. So I'll make up for it this year and grow plenty. I'll be growing other beans too...especially the dwarf French beans. 
I was hoping to have a go at growing soya beans this year too as there are a couple of varieties that can be grown in the UK, but unfortunately Thomas and Morgan are out of stock at the moment. I had some home grown soya beans in Canada...they were delicious and had a really nice texture.

When I was raking the weeds I'd cleared, I noticed a frog jumped out, very close to where I was raking. It was lucky I didn't impale him! He was very camouflaged. I ushered him to the bushes, where he would be safe. I thought he was well out of the way, but unfortunately, about 5 minutes later I heard it squeak. When I was digging, a piece of mud rolled down the slope and must have landed on top of him. I went to check that he wasn't too injured, but he panicked thinking I was a predator, and squeaked several times before treading on a bramble. Poor thing. I couldn't see any injuries...I think he was more shocked than anything. The perils of digging! I had never heard a frog squeak before...I thought they just croaked. Anyway, I shall have to keep an eye out from now on, particularly on the paths. He is exactly the same colour as the path, so it's lucky I didn't trod on him. Whilst camouflage will protect a frog from cats and other predators, it makes it difficult for humans to see them. Frogs will always be welcome on my plot. They are wonderful creatures and they do an excellent job of controlling the slug population.

I was in the park last week and I noticed a Blue Tit appeared in a bush behind me (not the one pictured). I held out a nut and to my amazement it perched on my finger and took the nut. I couldn't believe it! Word must have got around, because a Great Tit appeared not long after. It didn't land on me but it was brave enough to perch on the branch and take the nut from my hand. They are fascinating creatures to watch. Small birds like this are sadly becoming more rare due to the increase in the number of birds of prey and cats kept as pets. Lack of food and shelter is also a problem as more and more land is cleared for building purposes.

There are two crows that I feed in the park now and then. I didn't see them much through the winter, but I have seen them recently and they still recognise me. I think crows are amazing creatures. They are very intelligent and have great characters. They are fascinating to watch. I know there are some people who dislike crows, but I often wonder why. Maybe it is because they think that crows will eat all the seeds. The crows may eat seeds, but I doubt they would eat ALL of the seeds. Here is a traditional saying: 'One for the wind, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow'. I think some people make many enemies when growing veg, but I think if you grow more than you need, you should always have enough. People may think that they own land because they pay for it, but this is a human concept that animals and insects do not understand. As far as they are concerned the earth belongs to all beings. Whilst some may view some creatures as being enemies because they eat some veg or seeds, it is worth bearing in mind that many creatures benefit us too. For example, crows also eat insects...many of which are more of a pest to the farmer than a crow could ever be. I think it is best to realise that some veg will get eaten by other creatures, and to grow more than is needed. If too much is grown it can always be thinned out. I'm a great believer in companion planting for keeping insect pests at bay...this is such a vast subject though, I think it will need a blog post of its own! 
Whoops, I've written another essay! So much for it being just two paragraphs..I think I get a bit carried away sometimes!


9 Mar 2010

Talk about WWOOFING

Just a quick post this time, to let you know about a talk I will be giving on WWOOFING at the Environment Centre Swansea. It starts at 7pm on Wednesday 10th March. I will be talking about WWOOF, my WWOOFING experiences, where I went, what I learnt and how it has shaped the way I garden. I'll also be touching on the subjects of Permaculture and Masanoba Fukuoka, because I learnt about both during my WWOOFING days. I'll also be giving advice to anyone who is considering joining WWOOF and talking about the benefits of WWOOFING. Swansea Organic Gardening Group meet monthly for talks, seed swaps, idea sharing and outings to farms/smallholdings. For more information about the group and upcoming talks/events contact Jayne Vickrage on 01792 869098

So, if you are in the Swansea area and fancy learning a bit about WWOOFING then why not come along tomorrow night? Here's the address and link to directions:

Environment Centre
The Old Telephone Exchange
Pier Street
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