Category Archives: The Roof Garden

Crawling to the finish

I think I haven’t done much on my diploma, or this website, for pretty much a whole year. I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I was busy bringing a human being into the world. But now she’s here, and we’ve got our routines, I need to just finish this thing. Why is finishing something so hard? I have done more or less all the work, I just need to present it in a compelling way.

 I have never been much of a ‘finisher-completer.’ I am far better at having ideas and getting them going than I am at seeing them to completion. It’s probably one thing doing this diploma has driven home. It’s now a matter of pride to take bite-sized chunks and see them through to completion. I am doing well in other areas of my life, but finishing the diploma seems to elude me. I know why though. I haven’t given it full headlights-on focus. I need to think about it, and just it, for a period of time. And that’s the issue… I am doing plenty of other things (not least looking after a baby) and they seem (and frankly are) more important than what my brain now regards to be ‘admin.’ But, but… I have to finish this darn thing so I need to make time and space to do so. 

So, here’s what I am going to do… I am going to set myself two simple tasks… 

1. Read the diploma guidance manual in detail and check how I should be presenting my designs (and whether I have missed any steps). 

2. Contact a diploma tutor and ask them to look over my designs (I jettisoned mine a number of years ago). 

That shouldn’t be too hard! 

Now, where am I up to with my designs? I’m afraid not a lot has progressed but a few things have. 

Action Learning Pathway

Not redesigned. I need to be honest with this one. It’s less of a redesign and more of a historical document. I just need to write down what I did. I’m happy to be honest about this. Were I to do another diploma, I would be able to plan it in detail from the start, but when I started this one, I had not yet developed the skills to have that overview. So, it developed piecemeal, and designs chopped and changed though my focus was always on developing designs for livelihood. So, I think this design needs to be a sort of ‘how my diploma panned out’ précis to the whole thing. Suddenly it’s seeming more achievable 

Action: find my original ALP and work out how I got from there to here.  

Career Design

Written up! 

Scythe Teaching

Written up! 

Permaculture Teaching

Written up!


Yet to be written up. 

Action: write it up

The Seed Blog

In all honesty, I can’t remember where I am up to with this. Implementation of this has all but ground to a halt, because of the baby and because of the need to focus on other projects. I think it’s written up in draft form though. 

The Garden

As I am currently implementing this design, I have written up what I can. I need to revisit this and finish this write up. 

Action: finish this write up

The Larder Project

Yet to be written up

Action: write it up

Fat Hens

Designed and written up!


Designed and written up! 


Reflections on a year of growing

Before I do my inevitable ‘end of the summer round up,’ I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting on my year of growing.  This year was the first time in a long time I have had any land to grow on and it has been interesting to get back into the growing game.  This has been my year of observation and I have been observing/growing annuals in my garden and on my allotment.  I got the allotment in March after spending a whole week on the waiting list.  I expected to spend much longer on the waiting list and signed up early and so I ended up being an allotment newbie during what turned out to be one of the busiest summers of my life.

So, how did growing go?  Well, it went as it has gone in the past – fraught, disorganised, guilt-inducing.  Now that I have designed and permacultured my whole life, growing in this fashion really grates on me.  My allotment especially has caused me a lot of anxiety this summer and that is an enormous indicator that I am not doing it the right way.  I did the four questions a few weeks ago, where I concluded hysterically that nothing went right, everything was crap, I am awful at this growing malarky.  I have since got over myself quite a bit, so let’s try again.

What went well?

I harvested stuff!  Not loads and loads, but a harvest none the less.  This is a definite win given that growing was very much an afterthought this year.  We harvested 16kg of potatoes, about 8kg of onions, about a million courgettes (or something close to that number), 15 squashes, many runner beans, some chillis, some tomatoes and a few fruits – black currants, red currants, strawberries and raspberries.

I also did a much better job of keeping on top of the allotment than I ever have before.  Not a brilliant job, it has to be said, but an ok job.  I have also done well at observing microclimates and moving plants to more appropriate spaces.  My house, which is made of brick, raises the temperature of the areas surrounding it.  I have learned that plants that the books say do best in full sun do well in my garden in partial sun if they are next to a wall.  Plants that are supposed to like partial sun need to be moved to cooler spaces.

In general, observing and learning has gone really well this year.  I’ve put some posts about what I have learned on my other blog here.  I do seem to be the sort of person that needs to learn by doing (and possibly failing).  For example, I left all of my tomato plants except for one in pots that were far too small for them.  Guess which one is still lush and green and producing tomatoes…

What was challenging?

What was challenging can basically be summed up in one phrase ‘lack of time’.  I knew this summer would be insane because I was teaching more scythe courses than I ever have and I was also trying to progress three (secret) projects.  I was about to write ‘I’m not quite sure how I got through it,’ but I do know – I just stopped doing growing and blog related things and concentrated on my priorities.  I’m not sorry about that, but when I come to do my garden design, it needs to reflect the fact that I struggled this year and might again in the future.

I was mostly growing annuals because it was my year of observation and I really did quite well during the seedling stage.  I made some hanging seed shelves for the south-facing bedroom, I got most of the seeds I planted to good sized plants (a couple got squashed by the cat, but they were the only casualties) then June started and things went awry.  I didn’t put my tomatoes in big enough pots or tie them up.  I didn’t net my brassicas.  You can imagine what happened.  There was ‘officially’ time to do this stuff.  I was quite often at home but I found that after spending days outside teaching scything in hot sun, I just wanted to lie down in a darkened room.

So I learned a few important things.  The most important is that the core part of my garden needs to be perennial and not need a whole lot of input from me.  That will mean that even if I am not really able to do anything at all, there will still be a harvest.  If I am going to grow annuals (and frankly, I am), then I need to spend this winter preparing myself – buy brassica netting, make sure I know what pots various things are going to go into, get ready…  I also need to make sure that I don’t grow anything that needs lots of attention after the end of May.  That’s my cut off.  Everything needs to be in its final resting place and ready for the summer by then.  After that I can water and I can harvest but I can’t do anything else.

What’e the vision?

The vision is as it has always been – to replace my veg box with things from the garden, throughout the year.

Next steps

I need to finish my garden design.  I am nearly there.  Watch this space…

End of the winter round up – Garden design


I realised recently that I have taken a completely different approach with my garden design than all of the other designs and I am not sure why.  When I am starting a design I usually start by writing down what my vision for the project is.  Then I write down where I am now.  Then I know the scope for my observation and analysis.  With the garden, I went straight into observation, possibly because it’s easy to see what needs to be observed.  I have done work on listing our needs and wants for the garden, doing client interviews and the like, but I haven’t recorded all of these as formally as I would like to.

Hey, brainwave!  Let’s list the functions of the garden here:

1) to grow all of the high value (or high attention) fruit and veg that we eat.  Things like soft fruit, salad leaves, beans etc

2) to grow flowers (some of which can be cut and brought inside)

3) to provide a place to entertain

4) to provide a place for future kids to play

5) to be a place to dry the washing

6) to be a place where nature can find a home (especially pollinating insects)

7) to provide spaces for reading and contemplation

8) to provide somewhere outside to do cooking, preserving and brewing

9) to provide our household with eggs

10) to showcase permaculture design

11) to be beautiful, even in the winter

12) to provide a place for a root cellar

13) to be a cat toilet (hey, I wish that wasn’t a function, but it is)

14) to help us connect with our neighbours

Phew, ok, there we go.  You might notice that there aren’t very many Will-specific ones here.  I did ask him, I really did but the garden for him is something that he walks through on the way to the shed.  He’ll benefit from most of the functions above, but he couldn’t think of anything that he wanted to do in the garden.  Oh yes, there’s one thing.  He wants to put a weather station in it (only a little one).

So that I guess is my vision.  And where are we now?  The detail of what’s actually in the garden will come when I have finished my base map, but I thought I would see how many functions it’s already fulfilling

2)  I have a vase with daffodils and forsythia from the garden on the table in the living room.  It brings me no end of pleasure.  Neither were cut to be put in a vase.  The forsythia was pruned by my mum while she was here and the daffodils were collateral damage in the cat wars.

3)  Yep, we can already entertain in the garden.  It’ll get even easier when the garden furniture I recently ordered arrives, but we can do it now.  Looking forward to a summer of garden parties of various varieties.

5)  Will loves hanging the washing out and we have some out their every sunny day

6)  Last summer we had hundreds of bumble bees all over the lavender in the garden.  Since then we’ve left piles of crap around which, although untidy, really do provide a good home for creatures of lots of types.

7)  At the moment, reading is mostly what I do in the garden.  That and brush soil off the path where the cats have kicked it when they crap in the veg bed… 😦

11) (to an extent),  It’s pretty at the moment, but nothing like it’s going to be.

13) Extensive use is made of the garden as cat toilet (sadly).

14)  Being out in the garden has really helped us connect with our neighbours in recent weeks.  Everyone has come out with the sunny weather and suddenly we’re starting to meet people.

Right, now I have got that out of the way, I can begin to update you…  I am just about half way through my year of observation.  I know where the light falls, where the wind blows and I have seen what happens when you add new elements (like cats) to the system (total chaos).  I have planted a few perennial things which might need to be moved because they’d have died otherwise.  What I haven’t been doing – which is stupid – is writing many of my observations down.  I tried, but I just couldn’t get in the habit.  My plot is pretty small though, so I think I can probably remember what’s going on.  And yes, I have started making decisions in my head.  I know I shouldn’t, but I have.

What has become obvious is that I won’t be able to grow everything I want to in the garden.  My aim is to replace the veg box, but I won’t be able to – grow enough potatoes say – without giving most of the garden over to them.  So, I have applied for an allotment.  This makes me nervous as I/we failed so spectacularly with the last one, but I am in a ‘different place’ now (actually, I am).  I would keep it simple and low input.  I am number four on the list, which sounds hopeful, but Will pointed out that it could be ages if we have to wait for people to die ;-).  I don’t want to start allotmenting until next year anyway, so hopefully it will all fall into place.

ACTION:  Formally write up analysis and observation of garden design

End of the winter round up – Blog and permaculture teaching designs


Hopefully you will have seen by now that I have just launched my new blog.  That means that I am at the end of this phase of the implementation of this design.  I have written about it quite recently, so I won’t go into it again here, but I will say that this design as had some unexpected repercussions.

When I decided to change my focus from ‘green journalism’ to blogging, I spent a long time looking at other blogs (I still do).  I noticed that what I really loved about them (even though words are my thing) was the pictures.  I knew that if I was going to produce the kind of blog that I wanted to, then I would need to get much better at photography.  I have had an on/off affair with photography all my life, but to be honest, I had never quite got my head around the technical aspects.  I decided to go on a course (I actually ended up going on two) and suddenly everything just started to click into place.  I became completely fascinated.

At work at the University, my colleague Mike and I would spend hours and hours poring over photographs we liked, trying to work out what was going on.  Mike managed to convince the University to buy a DSLR so that he could work on photo and video content for the website.  After a bit, I joined in too.  We did a bit of turning up and shooting stuff, but then we started talking lots about why people watch video – why it’s interesting and meaningful – and storytelling came up and there, I was in my element.  With Mike as technical director and me as scriptwriter we made this video.

It was then decreed from on high that the University was ‘restructuring’ and my department would no longer exist.  My boss asked me if I had any ideas about what I would like to do next and I said that I would like to do video and photography stuff with Mike.  It was so odd.  It was just ‘ask and ye shall be given.’  My boss talked to the boss of marketing and comms (yes, I work for them now), we had a quick meeting and then Mike and I decamped to M&C as Digital Media Officers.  We are the first ever people in M&C to have responsibility for video and photography so consequently no one knows what we should be doing.  Thus, we have free rein to do what we think is best.  What we think is best is telling stories, setting the bar high so that we don’t get stuck in ‘talking head’ land.  It’s really really good.  My job finally reflects the things I am good at and it’s interesting every day.  Best of all, it has provided me with a photography mentor in the shape of Mike, so I get to learn new things every day too.  It is a two-way street though.  He gets to learn stuff too.  I spent a good two hours the other day delivering a lecture on the importance of detail and specificity to the believability of a story.

If all that comes out of the blog is my new job, then it will have delivered more than I could have imagined, but I don’t think that’s all… The blog makes me feel a little funny when I think about it.  It’s so strange to have been thinking of something for so long, to have taken such care putting it together and then realise, when you send it out into the world, that it doesn’t really exist in other people’s heads yet.  It will be so interesting to see how it beds in, how it grows and changes.

I don’t consider this design finished yet.  I’m going to have to set a finish date for it, so I think this design will be done when the blog has been out in the world for a year and I have put my marketing plan into practice.  That means it’ll be done very close to the end of my diploma (which is scheduled for, but probably won’t be done by, April 2015).  I am so excited to find out what has happened to it by then.


…has been done and dusted for a while.  Hooray!


Veg box

As part of my garden observations, I have decided to start monitoring my veg box to see what veg we eat.  I am writing down what we get each week (kittens aren’t usually included in veg box deliveries – this one just wants to be everywhere she shouldn’t be…) and when I have enough data I will start the analysis.  What I really want to know is, what can I grow myself in the space that I have?  I’d really like to be in a position by this time next year where I am just buying root veg through the box scheme, and eventually I’d like to not get a veg box at all.

Knowing what veg we eat will also be useful so that I can work out how to replace them with perennial or self-seeding varieties of things.  Realistically, I am not going to spend a long time nurturing fragile plants (crash and burn, tomato dreams), so I’ll need to think carefully about what annuals I will grow on a regular basis, and work out my systems early.

We also get eggs and fruit juice through the veg box scheme, so it would be nice to be able to supply ourselves with those things too.  There are plans in the works, but you know, you gotta observe before you interact…

Catch and store energy (subtitle: Another excuse to buy a Moleskine notebook)


As you might imagine, I have been observing and analysing (and dreaming about)  the garden a lot recently and I needed somewhere to collect all of that information.  When I went to buy a new ‘general’ notebook I saw these, which are essentially a gimmicky range of ‘for your hobbies’ notebooks from Moleskine.  This one’s for the garden and you might be able to see that it has spaces for ‘garden log,’ ‘visits,’ ‘design.’  I was completely sucked in.  I know that I could have captured this information in a notebook from the 99p shop, or using a free online tool like Evernote.  The thing is, I really love this notebook and capturing ideas and observations in here feels joyful to me.  So that’s the theme of this very short post.  Catch and store energy… in a way that feels really good to you!

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Am I finished? How I know when a design is done.

At the beginning of my diploma, when I was looking at my big, sprawling, open-ended designs, I wondered how on earth I would know when they were finished.  It was a good question, and the lack of clarity was definitely a flaw in my design process.  Two years in, I find that the constant process of thinking about what I want to achieve has really developed my skills in defining project  boundaries and knowing when I am done.  I find that I can come up with an idea and not only know whether or not it is feasible (through experience of biting off more than I can chew), but also know how I will know when I have finished that particular design.  I have italicised the I, because I think that markers of success are very person-specific.  For example, in a design for a business, one person’s goal might be to earn a certain amount of money, but financial goals just don’t work for me, I am not motivated by them.  I would prefer to set goals along the lines of ‘run x amount of courses,’ or ‘raise prices to x amount’.  What I have realised is that being able to clearly define what you want out of a project means knowing yourself, your priorities and what is feasible for you really really well.  So, for me, the first step to knowing when a design is done is to know yourself well and set project boundaries that fit in with that.

The second way I have discovered of knowing when a design is done it to understand the lifecycle of how things are achieved.  I wrote about this idea in this post.  It’s the Hero’s Journey, the idea which suggests that all of the stories in the world are based on one story – the monomyth.  My friend Erica has just written a book on how you can use this idea in your own life.  The hero’s journey goes (a little) like this:

The call to adventure – “wouldn’t building a garden on this roof be cool?”

The refusal of the call – “nah, it would be too difficult and I couldn’t do it.”

The acceptance of the call (this is when you get cool stuff and people want to help you) – “ok, sod it, let’s have a go!  Wow, thanks for all of the plants, mum.  Yep, it’d be really great if you helped me out.”

The belly of the whale – “Aggh, it’s really hard to get stuff to grow up here because of the wind.  This isn’t as exciting as when I started out.”

The Supreme Ordeal  – “All my plants have died.  Ok, I’ll plant the whole lot again.”

Triumphant return – “I’ve done it!  I’ve grown all these plants through a whole season on this less than easy roof. Want me to teach you?”

When I think about all of my designs, I can plot them along a point on this journey.  I have come to realise though, that a greater ‘journey’ (e.g. making a living from scything) might be made up of several smaller journeys.  You might not get your big success all at once.  In fact you probably wont.  I think that every success (for example, I feel like I have done really well with scything courses this year), heralds a rethink and a new journey.  I have discovered that it is impossible to create a design that is too big, because each big design with naturally break itself down into several smaller ones.  A garden design will do this – e.g. a smaller design for a pizza oven, for planting for beneficial insects, for year-round produce.  This ‘breaking down’ is a pretty good example of designing from patterns to details – a principle that baffled me when I first started, but which I really really value now.





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The Garden: Plan of Observation and Action



Now that the chaos of moving (and a quick trip to the Norweigan mountains) is out of the way, my mind is moving towards the garden.  Luckily, it’s exactly the wrong time of year to do any real work there, which means basically that I will be forced to observe rather than act.  Having wrested for years with an allotment that was too big, too far away and which I changed too quickly (and then undid those changes a few months later), I will enjoy the process of spending a long time getting to know the patch of land right outside my backdoor before I do anything serious to it.

Yesterday I sat down with Aranya’s Permaculture Design book and worked out exactly what I needed to do to observe over the coming year.  Here’s what I need to do first:

1)  Make a sketch map (not to scale) of both front and back gardens

2)  Create an accurate base map (of both front and back gardens)


Then, using a garden diary and photographic evidence, I’ll create a series of overlays of my observations in the following areas:

3)  Overlay 1:  Observation of light (sun sectors)

4)  Overlay 2:  Observation of wind (wind sectors)

5)  Overlay 3:  Observation of frost and snow and general temperature

6)  Overlay 4:  Observation of water and rainfall

7)  Overlay 5:  PASTE observation (P = plants and trees, A = animals – domesticated/wild/human, S = structures, T = tools – what work is done here, E = events – what events take place here?)

5)  Overlay 6:  Desire lines, access points and routes – for people and animals

6)  Overlay 7:  Zone mapping

7)  Overlay 8:  Other observations – e.g. views, privacy, noise, smells, pollution, energy losses, legislation, neighbours


Then there are a few other things to do before analysis can begin…

9)  Soil analysis

10)  Identify sources of free resources

11)  Client interview – Will and I talking about what we want in the garden and how much time we have to give it


So, those are my observation tasks for the coming year.  It’s almost impossible to stay away from the ‘doing’ though, so I have set myself a few tasks that I won’t come to regret (because they’re not big changes).  There are:

1)  Feeding the soil with compost, green manure and genuine manure.

2)  Embark on a 365 days of salad challenge.  I’ll grow this in pots and the things that I need to do to make this happen are:

– Design the seedling area in my house

– Design the hardening off area outside

– Make a plan for which seeds to plant when

– Buy some seeds

– Buy some pots

– Make some (stylish) cloches

– Decide on my compost mix

3)  Make a plan for growing next year


That’s it!  That’s all I plan to do to the garden until next winter.  It’s enough to be getting on with..!




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We moved, goddamit, we moved!

Well, finally we have moved. Here it is, my new abode (the one with the white door and the yellow flowers outside of it). I am sure that I will get over the post-traumatic stress disorder in the next few months…

The house!

The house!

Now that I have moved house, quite a few of my designs can enter a new stage of implementation. It’s really interesting how having more (and different) space means that new and exciting things can happen. I thought I would use this post to map how my designs are affected by my new place – area by area.

The Shed

Well, we don’t have one yet, but Will assures me that he’s onto it… Once we do have a shed, I will be able to expand my scything empire by stocking more scythes to sell on courses and perhaps at other times too. Having all of my teaching equipment on the ground floor (and not up four flights of stairs) means that going off to teach courses is a much pleasanter experience. I honestly did not realise how much I dreaded emptying the car and dragging all my crap upstairs. It’s little things like this that make a big difference to how you feel about doing a particular job, and I am glad that I will have this sorted for next scything season.

The Garden

Long view of the garden

Long view of the garden


The current growing area

Well, I have one! And it’s great! I have been doing some observation of light patterns and – in August at least – most of the garden gets sun at least some portions of the day. The soil looks really good and well looked after. There is a compost bin with a strong-looking colony of worms. There is corn and courgettes and beans to harvest.

I am going to spend a year observing and growing on a small-scale – in pots and annuals in the empty beds, and then do major changes next winter (i.e. winter 2014). I think what I’d like to do over this winter and next spring is move the compost heap closer to the house, research and get some chickens and establish a 365 day a year salad system. I’d like to work out my seedling system so that the whole house is not completely covered in pots all the time. We have south-facing windows which is very exciting.

Other than that I shall be doing lots of research and getting some idea of what I would like the garden to contain and to look like. I still think that I would like to do a garden design course, so I will have to see if I am rich enough to be able to do that!

The Outbuilding

The larder to be...

The larder to be…

I started calling this ‘the larder’ until I realised that Will and I had not discussed how we would use various rooms. So anyway, this is the larder… 😉 Currently it’s housing much of the crap that will go in the shed, but when that’s moved, we’ll put a work surface over the top of the washing machine, and as many shelves as we can fit in there and it will become a larder of great joy! I am itching to get going at this one… I am going to attempt to emulate the store stump from Brambly Hedge or Bilbo’s larder from the recent Hobbit movie. I’m a bit obsessed.

The store stump

The store stump

Bilbo's larder - with hairy dwarf

Bilbo’s larder – with hairy dwarf

Having outside space and space to store stuff means that I will be able to get going on the dehydrating and canning that I want to do with ease (and with somewhere to store the equipment).

The Office

The office to be...

The office to be…

This was another room that I had started calling ‘the office’ in my head before I had really discussed it with Will… Ooops! Having an office means that I’ll be able to write more easily and I can do stuff like leave my sewing machine out so that I am more likely to use it. I have an online sewing course to finish after all! We’ll use this as a guest bedroom as well, as rooms have to have multiple uses in this house.

Finally, just knowing where I am going to be for the next few years means that I can get on with my coppicing design knowing that I will (hopefully) be in one place for the whole of a coppice cycle and I can design for succession after that. Also, being in the countryside (more or less) means that my foraging design – whatever it turns out to be – will be so much easier to implement. Even though I’ve put a lot of planning and thought into this move and what it would make possible, it’s still amazing to be here and realise that all those things really are possible and I can do them now!  Expect more from me soon…  Maybe even pictures of bits of the house without stuff all over it!


End of winter round up: Part 3


In the past four years, I have moved at least four times which has made creating a garden difficult.  I am just about to move again.  This will hopefully be a more permanent move, as Will and I are buying a house together and we don’t intend to leave it for at least seven years.

My original idea for this project was to design a roof garden for the roof here at the flat, but I didn’t live here at the time and that made observation difficult, so instead I did a design for the house where I was living with my friend Ben.  Some of it was implemented, some of it was not, as you would expect from a design for a place you are renting.  I have yet to see whether the random seed experiment has had lasting effects or whether the green alkanet has got the better of the self-seeded nasturtiums.

On moving into the flat, I reconsidered the roof again as a growing space but concluded that while it had an amazing south facing aspect, it was high on limiting factors – the main one being the wind.  Being realistic (which is what I am all about now, don’t you know…), I knew it would take a lot of infrastructure in the form of wind-breaks and barriers around the outside to make it into a useable growing space.  As I predicted that we would move again, I decided that putting all of that work in wasn’t worth it at the moment.

Instead what I did was knuckle down to learning more about gardening.  I did a composting course and a course about growing food in small spaces (actually, I am still doing that one really, as I didn’t keep up with it while it was on).  I have read quite a few inspirational books (but need to read more).  What is still outstanding is doing a course in garden design.  Not permaculture design, but ‘where to put plants so they look pretty type design.’  I also want to learn more about perennial plants and guilds and also get some experience of ducks and chickens within a permaculture system.  I am leaning towards ducks, I have to say…

But ducks come later.  When we move in, I am going to spend a year growing in pots and observing the plot before making any significant changes (as I am a good little permaculturalist), so I have a whole year to fill in the knowledge that I think I am lacking.  Apart from those few areas, I am feeling really really ready to take on a plot of my own again.  I haven’t really had that since I gave up the allotment, and I feel like I have learned a lot from that experience.  The biggest lesson?  Start with a small piece of land that is right outside your door, and when you have done everything you can to that, get somewhere bigger and further away.

The design I do for my new house is going to be the one that I submit, so I consider all of the designs I have done for gardens up to this point to be practice for that.  I am glad that I have done it this way.  I really have a chance to properly implement the design I do for my own garden, and I am at a place where I think I know enough about all of the things and systems involved to really do it well.

Action:  Start observing garden when we move house



I absolutely love this design.  It progresses slowly but surely.  I started with grand designs and then realised that my goals were both ill defined and very difficult to achieve, so I here’s where I got a bit more real.  In terms of my plan of action, I have more or less done all of the things that I put on my ‘can do now’ list.  Making jam in bulk and bulk buying cheese are as yet undone, but I plan to do at least the first one this summer.

I got really good at making chutney to take to work with oatcakes and cheese for my lunch, but then I observed that I was essentially eating a jar a week of what is really, vinegary jam (I don’t like low sugar chutney) and that it probably wasn’t very good for me.  Instead of doing that, I decided to experiment with fermented pickles and made the  kimchi recipe from Sandor Katz’s wild fermentation.  That was a big success, though it honks of garlic and is mildly embarrassing taking out in the canteen at work.  I also started making fermented soda this year too.  Lactofermentation is part of my arsenal now!

So, I guess we are on the ‘soon’ and ‘later’ tasks of my plan of action.  They were:


10)  Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate

11)  Build cutting garden and develop conceptual plans for real garden (this is part of the garden project)


12) Investigate sources of apples and berries for fruit snacks

13) Build solar dehydrator

14) Buy electric dehydrator

15) Get a pressure canner

16) Learn to can

Getting a freezer can happen as soon as we move house, but the other projects might take a little bit longer.  I am most excited about learning to use a pressure canner so that I can ‘put up’ food that is not soused in sugar or vinegar.  This is a really American way of preserving and hardly anyone does it in the UK, but I have found someone!  Her name is Gloria Nicol and she recently ran a workshop with the Secret Garden Club which I sadly missed because I was doing something or other (probably related to scything).  Gloria, if you are reading, please teach me to can!

Dehydrating, whether electrically or solar powered, may have to wait until next year, but the larder project is coming on, it really is.  I have my three month stock of food, and now I need to work on growing and preserving as much of it at home as possible!  I don’t mind if this switch over takes a while as small and slow solutions are the best, as we all know…

Action:  Learn to can



It has been such a long winter that I forgot the natural world was out there…  Last year I was out on the downs, foraging (actually botanising) with my iphone in mid April.  Now it’s the end of May and the new, brilliant greenness of the world is still burning itself into my shocked retina.

This design hasn’t formed itself properly in my mind yet.  I know what it’s probably going to be, but that relies on other projects coming together first, so I am happy to let this one slide for a while.  This one is going to be a small design that can go from start to finish in a few months and the key aims of it will be to both learn and teach.

Action: None at the moment 


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