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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.

Are Supermarkets Brainwashing Us?

Lines on supermarkets floors help make us spend more

Lines on supermarkets floors help make us spend more

If you listen to BBC Radio 4, you might have heard me on the You and Yours programme this week discussing the recent research supermarkets have conducted into how to slow shoppers down.

By installing horizontal lines on the floor of certain aisles, researchers demonstrated that shoppers took longer to reach the end of the aisle, therefore increasing the chances that they

Tales From the Farm – Money Pit Farm

Generating my own heat, planting 19 laurel bushes!

Generating my own heat, planting 19 laurel bushes!

“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 won’t lie, it’s been hard. It feels great to finally be in and after the first 10 days or so of wondering whether we made the right decision, it feels as though we’re about to finally turn a corner. Progress and reflection are both wonderful feelings but both require concentration and effort and in the case of buying a run down farmhouse, a lot of hard work!

What hasn’t helped is that I was born with marginally more brains and significantly less brawn. I’m not your Diet Coke builder kind of husband – DIY and I just don’t get on. I’m a planner; a creative – research and writing, not building and rewiring. However, this move has been full of

Wrap up your bananas but don’t be S.A.D.!

Banana plants need to be protected from the frost

Banana plants need to be protected from the frost

You might have seen on instagram that it’s time to wrap up your banana plants for the winter.

I missed the opportunity to record a video showing you how to do it, partly due to a complete lapse of thought to do so and partly because I did it on a bit of a whim. Work has been incredibly busy and I’m traveling a lot, so in between cooking a Sunday dinner last weekend and attempting to lower my stress levels with the house move (no, we’ve still not moved…), I dashed into the garden and wrapped up my bananas.

There’s something so wonderfully cathartic about

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