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Tales from the Farm – Spud-We-Like

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Lavender plants waiting patiently in the greenhouse before all 78 of them line the driveway.

Having already filled two of the raised vegetable beds with lush, organic compost and loamy soil from the garden, today I planted the very first vegetables in them.

I opted for King Edward potatoes, which I filled one of the beds with (one of the few vegetables that wasn’t organically sourced) and Longor shallots and organic garlic for the other bed. I would have taken a

Going Organic! An Inspector Calls…

Behaviourist and broadcaster, Jez Rose, blogs about the process of achieving Soil Association Organic Certification for his Cambridgeshire farm and home to The Good Life Project.

This blog marks the first of many where I’ll be charting our journey to (hopefully) organic status as certified by the Soil Association. Although it’s connected, it is separate to my ramblings about the farm and I’ll continue to write Tales from the FarmI’ll just keep everything about our Soil Association journey separate but link the two where appropriate so you can choose what you want to read about.

Why?

I grew up right next to a farm and spent most of my younger years in and around the countryside – I loved it and still do. Every single day the landscape looks different; no two sunsets are the same and you’ll always see a flower, or insect that you didn’t see before and of course, just like humans, as trees and plants mature, they change.

Despite this lifelong interest and passion for nature, I never thought I’d become quite so obsessed with soil! I wrote about it recently here in my blog series Tales from the Farm, where I’m writing about Mrs Jez and I moving to a rural farmhouse, renovating it and making it home to my research initiative, The Good Life Project.

It’s probably because of The Good Life Project and witnessing the remarkable impact nature is having on

Tales from the Farm – not all sunshine and lollipops

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all sunshine and lollipops here on the farm – buying a farm, moving to the countryside and setting up a research project does sound pretty idyllic and it often appears on people’s lists of things they dream of doing in life: giving up on the rat race and moving to the countryside.

I’ve tried to make these blogs honest and a true reflection of some of the challenges we’ve faced since moving in. Deciding to follow Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener to transform the farm turned out to be a very good idea and has on more than one occasion helped to put everything into perspective and keep us focused and on track. The reality is that I’ve been angry at the previous owners – extremely angry at times – for not

Tales from the Farm – My Secret Compost Obsession

Monty says the secret to a good compost is moisture and air.

Monty says the secret to a good compost is moisture and air.

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual hanging around the compost heap and just this past weekend, caught myself becoming perhaps a little too obsessive about things laying around the house and the garden; picking up strands of dog hair, tiny pieces of cardboard and separating the vegetable peelings and tea leaves… I’m fairly certain it’s not a midlife crisis or some sort of smallholding breakdown but it’s just the latest progress report from the farm.

Regular readers will know that I’m working my way through Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener to help turn our bare 1 acre site into something with structure, interest, functionality and dare I say it, beauty. Alongside this, having been raised with the phrase: “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”, I’ve applied to the Soil Association for organic certification – the first set of forms went off at the weekend. Both of those things combined have led to me obsessing about what’s in our soil. I didn’t want the Soil Association inspector to be the first person to probe my soil, so late Saturday evening I was sticking an acidity monitor into various parts of the garden and revising what Monty has to say about soil and how to be organic.

One thing struck me and that’s that it’s actually quite simple. Obviously, when the bugs and pests and slugs and weeds start in vengeance in the spring, I’m sure I’ll be tempted like anyone to reach for something stronger (and I’m not talking gin) but an understanding of why soil – the soul of our gardens and everything we grow in it – is so critical and an appreciation for its function, will bring me to my knees

Tales from the Farm – the BP toilet

Sunflowers and birds in the BP toilets - whatever next?

Sunflowers and birds in the BP toilets – whatever next?

Medical diagnoses of depression, anxiety and stress-related pathology such as high blood pressure have never been higher. Read that again. Doctors are prescribing more into-depressants than they ever have done before in the history of mankind and hundreds of thousands of people take medication to control their blood pressure, anxiety and symptoms of their stress.

That’s as remarkable as it is sad, isn’t it?

What does this have to do with BP, the petroleum giant and their filling station toilets? Well, yesterday, on my way home from London, I needed to

Tales from the Farm – the patience of a saint

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

 

The beginnings of the hard landscaping of the vegetable garden and sensory garden where the research barn will be built.

The beginnings of the hard landscaping of the vegetable garden and sensory garden where the research barn will be built.

Monty says in his book The Complete Gardener, my guide and bible of garden renovation, that gardening takes time. He encourages patience and embracing the notion of gardening for the long run – enjoying the perpetual journey of nurture, growth, tending, death, clearing and preparing.  He always looks so happy on the TV and his garden always looks so beautiful, which is perfect as a role model and for encouragement but I do find myself willing Monty to throw his shears down in a huff and scream: “bloody begonias!”, maybe to lob a branch across the jewel garden or go berserk with a chainsaw in his

Tales From the Farm – building the windy city

Marley helps to dig the trench for the oil pipeline.

Marley helps to dig the trench for the oil pipeline.

“TV’s favourite gardener” inspired Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

 

The farm is, like many old rural buildings, powered by oil and I’m honestly not a fan of oil. It’s messy, expensive and environmentally debilitating. The thought that heating our house and water is playing a part in the destruction of our beautiful planet and helping to fund wars and terrorists, doesn’t sit well with me. So Mrs Jez and I looked at some renewable, alternative energy options.

We were both very excited at the prospect of keeping pigs and using their waste to

New Year Thoughts for 2017

Ducklings about to get married - there's something for everyone in my blogs.

Ducklings about to get married – there’s something for everyone in my blogs.

Happy New Year and welcome to 2017!

It’s that time again to go through my giant jar of post-it notes, reflecting on all of the positive things that have happened throughout 2016 and the little things that made a difference. Each one of those things I wrote down onto a sticky note, folded it up and put them inside a giant jar in my office: a collection of more than 500 individual snapshots of positivity from the past year.

I find it especially

Tales from the Farm – roses and the magically appearing telegraph pole

Almost an hour into project "dig up the dead bush" and we realise there's something inside...

Almost an hour into project “dig up the dead bush” and we realise there’s something inside…

“TV’s favourite gardener” inspired Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

I may – or may not – have recently abused the phrase: “that’s what friends are for” when my best friend came to stay for a relaxing and social weekend to catch up at the farm with her husband and I may – or may not – have roped him into cutting down a giant, dying bush.

The bush was gigantic; at least 7 feet in diameter and at least that tall, too. It looked unsightly and out of place in the orchard. The plan was simple: dig it up so that we can replace it with an apple tree. You might remember from previous blogs that I’m following along with Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener and Monty has his garden planted in zones: he’s got a wet garden, a vegetable garden, an orchard etc, so that’s exactly what I’m trying to create here. Only we’ll have an orchard, a rose garden, a vegetable garden, a herb garden and a formal garden. I think. It’s a work in progress.

Anyway, Pete (my best friend’s husband) and I venture out into the garden early one Saturday morning and started to hack away at this giant, dead bush. We both half-jokingly suggested how useful a hedge trimmer or chainsaw would be to literally cut it into two and then dig up whatever was left. After 45 minutes of fairly back-breaking work, it transpired that a hedge trimmer would have been a really, really bad idea. In the centre of this giant bush

Tales From the Farm – “You Need To Get a Man”

Jim prepares to give our 100+ year old horse chestnut a hair cut.

Jim prepares to give our 100+ year old horse chestnut a hair cut.

“TV’s favourite gardener” inspired Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

 

Since I last wrote, there have been a lot of men coming and going in and out of my life. I blame my Mother. She kept telling me to “get a man in for that”. She was of course right because almost everything we’ve touched so far has either fallen apart or revealed that it is about to and way out of my league of basic DIY skills.

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