Monday, 6 October 2014

Garden Planning - Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea, an essential part of my garden year. Even sowing them is an act of optimism, being as I place the gorgeous satisfying pea seeds into a pot now, in Autumn, to be planted out in early spring. 

Here's my 'How To Guide'. You will need the following:
  1. Sweet Pea Seed
  2. Good sized pots
  3. Compost (maybe some added nutrition from Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Manure
  4. Toilet Roll insides
  5. Plant Markers
  6. Water

Choose your seed. Personally I save mine from the best of my plants.

Gather good sized pots and half fill with compost. At this stage I add a small handful of Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Manure as my seedlings will be in these pots for at least 4 months. Remember alpaca manure is not a hot manure, it's gentle and won't damage the seedlings, plus it will take a while for their little roots to penetrate to this layer.

Next add your toilet roll insides and fill these with compost.

Choose your seed, I like to grow the same colour in one pot and another colour in another pot.

I generally only add a few seeds per roll.

Label each toilet roll. This seems extreme but in the spring, when you gently separate these rolls into their own good-sized plant pot, you'll be glad they are already labelled.

Water well and place in a sheltered area. Personally I don't put them in the greenhouse, I treat them as meanly as I can, though I do afford them the shelter of the walled garden. They need protection from slugs and snails and if there was a sustained frost I might cover them but otherwise don't molly-coddle them.

As soon as the seedlings get to be about 4" tall I pinch them out, nipping off any extra growth. I do this every so often, till early spring, I pinch them out again and again, letting them grow just a little bigger each time, to ensure strong, bushy plants rather than tall, sickly ones.

Go on, sow some sweet pea now, you'll be so glad you did next summer.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Gentle Autumn....

The 11yo and Fudge, one of the baby alpaca, really do love each other. While I'm busy with hay or food troughs or poo picking, they frolic, snuggle, chill. Occasionally, Sproglet1 will bring her iPod into a paddock, sit on the bank and play, keeping me company. Fudge, who is not too keen on Minecraft, is content to sit beside the girl resting a Thompson Twins hair-styled head on Sproglet's lap. They are an item.
See? Almost no difference.....
Thompson Twins

Last night was a particularly lovely evening, though overcast, it was warm and dry and, having harvested the last of the pumpkins..... and a black cat for luck! [Honest, the 11yo and I are not witches!] we set off to see to the alpaca. Sproglet2 couldn't help as he was detained by Anthony Horowitz!

The alpaca girls were in a particularly social mood so we chatted about what was on telly last night....

Discussed the latest fashions (in welly boots)

..... and then had a snog..

and something to eat. Ouch!

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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Kids and weird food.....

I'm an adventurous person, not brave, just adventurous. I like exploring, making friends, making a fool of myself trying to speak any local lingo and I love eating stuff I've not tried before. This is not the case with the rest of the family but generally I can bully them into trying a little of something and occasionally I hit a home run. The girl must take after me as she is very keen to eat escargot and cuisses de grenouilles.

The thrill of a foreign supermarket is way up there on the list of great things to do on holiday. This thrill is deffo NOT shared by the rest of the family and so it was that I was passed the car keys and encouraged to go supermarket shopping alone this week during our quick and cheap getaway in France. What glee, no one to nag me and no time constraint. It's a wonder I ever came back. But come back I did, with various 'weird' bits and pieces.

The cooked prawns were an easy sell, 'Heads Off', we call them on account of having to pull their heads off.... Nice! In fact, pretty much all my purchases were approved, except one.

I'd watched the French shoppers, many picked up a box or two of the crab sticks. This is not a product I've ever thought of buying but on the spur of the moment I thought they might be good in a fish salad. Apparently not.

Waste not, want not, here's their transformation. Crab cakes made with questionable crab, gorgeous crushed potatoes, creme fraiche, tons of seasoning, stunning salted French butter, shallots, chilli and sweet pepper. Crusted in French crunchy bread crumbs and served with a citron butter and a fresh salad. Nom, nom. Tres Bien. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The secret to great tomatoes....

Next year, when you're planting your tomatoes into a pot with a healthy handful of Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Manure, don't forget to plant a used plastic bottle into the pot too, (pierced through with a few drainage holes.) When watering, fill the bottle with water or dilute Alpaca Tea and watch the difference this makes to your crops.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Shushhhh.... soft launch, new online store

Shushhhh, I will say this only once... [yeah right!] ... My website has launched. You can reach it by clicking on the store sign on this website or by putting into Google. All feedback gratefully accepted, orders more so.....

If there's a gaping silence I'll worry, so feedback is what I require peeps!


Friday, 25 July 2014

The smell of hay. A moment in time.

It was a long day yesterday but I wouldn't have swapped it for the world. With happy, healthy children and similar animals, I can't grumble. The weather has been astounding; blue skies, belting sunshine and the merest breeze just to remind one not to moan about the heat.

After the madness of the alpaca mating, [not sure I'll ever get the picture out of my head of one splendid lad mounting our fawn alpaca, huge sound effects, a thin appendage making its way to the correct spot, my girl's tail held high by the stud owner and my 9yo boy looking on with disbelief,] it was nice to return to the usual noises of the smallholding, a lost lamb calling for mum, the cockerels cock-a-doodle-dooing and our neighbour haymaking several fields away.

We three played cards in the garden, while the cats rolled in the grass and the hens enquired if we had any spare food. Later we sat with the alpaca, petting their dusty coats, we tested some almost-ripe plums and picked the sweet peas for the house. We missed dad; mad-busy in the office in a hot city.

At 8pm our haymaking neighbour brought bales of fresh hay, our winter feed for sheep and alpaca. This is the first time we've bought enough to get us through. It feels good to be ready and is a much cheaper way to buy, though it feels odd to plan for winter on such a hot balmy day.

With hubby finally home, fed and changed, we all donned gloves and began stacking the hay in a stable, one on top of the other, raised on pallets to ensure the bottom bales don't rot. The smell was so amazing, almost bread-like. It was so fresh, so alive, it's wondrous to think of this summer goodness being able to sustain our animals in the bleak months. My babies; the 11yo and the 9yo are so strong now, a small bale being no issue. They are growing up so fast and I must remember to capture more moments with them in this blog, to describe in such finite detail so that I'll be able to return to see them in later years.


Well, I'm off to check on the alpaca, particularly Connie who may, mysteriously, be about to drop a cria, if her rejection of the boys yesterday is anything to go by!

Love to hear from you if you get the chance to comment here. Lou x

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Did you know that there is just one of me? .....

I'm ashamed that I haven't blogged for almost a month. A-Shamed!

I've been busy. You've been busy. We've been busy.

In summary (precis; remember that term from school?) here is my abridged version of the month, the 'Reduced Shakespeare Company' version of events here at The Archers at The Larches.

Following the 'shaved the farmer incident' I have since taken my clip (6 fleeces) to the wool board for weighing and payment. It cost more to take it there than I'm getting in dues. Hmmmm.

The alpaca herd are now naked girls (should get me some additional readers!!!) thanks to the best shearer in the world (other shearers are available) Colin Otterly.

We have had a visit from some sexy boy alpacas! and look forward to more healthy cria in 12'ish months' time. However one of our girls totally rejected the male advances and could actually be pregnant already, NOW! It may have been in her tummy before she came to us. Yikes. There could be a babby on the way at any time....... we'll keep you posted.

Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Manure sales are going from strength to strength with several more select outlets signing to sell the product. Yay! website is now being supported by Richard Branson's Virgin Start-Up Team (soooo exciting) and Lou is being Branson'ed with 'Remarkable-ness' [Totally clear if you've read Seth Godin's Purple Cow]

The weather is good, the tomatoes are enormous, the sweet pea insane thanks to Lou's Poo, life is occasionally tricky but hey-ho, that's life.

So, what have YOU been up too?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Shearing.... never again..

For several years now I have been convinced that I have the talent to make a marvelous sheep shearer. This belief is without basis and indeed without one jot of practical experience. Last year, our first year of shearing, my back decided to ruin my chances of learning, (too much extreme gardening with Lou's Poo Alpaca Poo!) and so I was forced to outsource the stripping of my girls to our kind neighbour.

This year I was fighting fit. I enlisted the help of our long-suffering neighbour again and he, in turn, brought his apprentice; his son. The paraphernalia they brought with them was amazing.

As I tried to construct a pathetic holding pen out of knackered hurdles in a tiny paddock outside the American barn, they suggested simply herding the sheep into one of the huge empty birthing stables. Hmmm, didn't think of that. Then they stood about a bit and looked at the metal joists high above our heads, before rooting about in their paraphernalia kit and hoisting a walloping chain up and over the bar. Next they attached a motor that weighed A LOT, followed by a pipe attached to the motor, and finally the shear.

Then they looked at me.

The hubby, deliberately dressed in his office clothes! the boy, the girl and her pal from school, all stood about looking at me. Oh poo.

I vaguely remember being asked if I was ready to go but clearly I looked so ashen that our neighbour suggested he do the first one, then I could go from then on. Right. Easy.

The first sheep, Cocoa, chosen for her monumental fleece, was naked in no time. There was no blood or histrionics. My turn.

I simply couldn't even remember where to start... was it the bum or the neck? Not. A. Clue.

Apparently it was the tummy followed by the nether regions and one lower side. Then the neck (which is terrifying) up the tummy and over the back as far the spine, plus a bit...... [are you lost yet?..... I was]

So, my victim was Pink. I raised her on the bottle in 2012 and helped her lamb her twins in 2014. Here I was clearly going to kill her.....

In truth, I didn't actually kill her, though I do confess to having nicked her several times. Having almost completed the job (though not well) I had to defer to farmer's son as I suddenly came over all Victorian and faint #pathetic and had to sit down. I was 75% there but couldn't yet claim to have sheared a whole sheep. I strongly suspected that I'd found an activity that I wasn't equipped for.The 11yo sprayed Pink's cuts with purple antiseptic while looking at me with regret. Pink was ushered from the barn, bleating and looking like mobile graffiti.

In my defence I was born in St John's Wood. The issue is trying to juggle a wriggly sheep, a life threatening weapon and a non compliant 48 year old body. So annoying.

The next sheep was thrust into my willing arms. I was determined to complete my quest. This time, bearing in mind that it was 24 degrees outside, I discarded my thick sweater. Now, added to the wriggly sheep, a life threatening weapon and a non compliant 48 year old body was the realization that my bosoms might fall out of my vest. Unfortunately half way through this shear my sheep companion decided to have a hissy fit and, in my desperate attempt to gently restrain it and my lady parts, I accidentally sheared the farmer.

I have now retired from shearing. Thank you for sharing this mortificado experience with me.

[Please note, my apologies for the orientation of the video - clearly video uploads are a mystery to me too.... If you can't see the video, click on the title of the blog post and you should see me butchering shearing a sheep but only if you tilt your head to the side and you're not on an Apple product.... and there isn't a full moon. #offtobedifIdidn'thavethealpacashearerarrivinginanhoursob!]

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Lou's Poo to the rescue.....

And here is the result - the power of Poo. A little goes a long way.

Repatriated hydrangea cuttings, from our last Cornish holiday at the fantastic Trevella Holiday Park, are doing well. A beautiful array of colours.

This Geranium (name anyone????) is so gorgeous, with dark maroon foliage and crazy purple flowers.

I love the jungle approach. The only way to contend with mass grass invasion.

Looking neat in the walled garden after a haircut last night. The broad beans have been very delicious this year.

Helianthus, pepper and rhubarb all on track and performing well

Raspberries are taking over the world (yum) and the lupin and shasta combo might stay in pots this year in order to make monumental plants for next year. I'll need to put them in a cooler spot but far from the slugs and snails.

The strawberry pots, filled with Poo and very little soil, are giving us fruit for breakfast every day now

Splendid delphinium

Globe artichoke: I only grow them as ornamentals... too much fiddle as a veg!

Bit of weeding to do Mrs Archer!!! (... in my spare time then..!.)

More borrowed cuttings... I did ask, honest.

This antirrhinum loves living in the wall. 

We found a way to contend with Mr Mole: eye-catching planted squares in the lawn. 

The cornflowers have been insane. So tall. I cut a few for the house and they last so well.

This bed is looking far better since I banned the children from jumping out the downstairs windows!

I do love a lupin

The bees love all the flowers but particularly the knautia

The grass is as high as an elephant's alpaca's eye

Sleepy sheep. Being shaved next week. 

Our planted Christmas trees seem very happy. They have solar, blue twinkly lights in the night... 

The arum lily is just beginning to show off

Land of wellies

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon