Thursday, 29 November 2007

Tri-cornered Leek

The tri-cornered leek is back in flower and its my second plant profile. It blooms all winter and spring, before dying back completely for the summer months. Its got a pleasant oniony flavour, so the flowers and leaves are a great addition to salads. The leaves go into stirfries etc as well. I use the bulbs as well in stews and as a crunchy add in to my no knead onion bread.
Its a bit of a thug and needs regular pulling to keep in check but it keeps the soil covered in winter and pulls up quite easily once its died back. There ate always enough bulbs missed in the pulling up to recover the ground without replanting.

Friday, 16 November 2007

mini-roof garden

The tiny garden on the shed roof is filling our nicely and unaffected by the couple of hard frosts we've had lately. It's a tiny oasis of calm, while the inside of the house has degenerated into total chaos.

I've been trying to swap Mike's bedroom and the office over, and simultaneously decorate both rooms and the mess has taken over the whole house. I've no "spare room" to put furniture and
shelves I've taken down in so it's migrated into all the other living space. I'm exhausted and cranky and having to climb over things to even get to the loo. At least the painting in one room is finished, but I don't think all the stuff that's come out will fit back in.

Monday, 1 October 2007

new lamps from old tumble drier hoses

My new light shade.

I've always fancied a chandelier. Tidying up the shed this weekend I came across just the stuff to make one. The sea glass was already wired from it's last incarnation as a window mobile. the wire was salvaged from an old tumble drier exhaust hose. Below is a night time view.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

fishskin leather

home made line caught pollock skin leather.

I've been playing with making leather from fish skin. This is the first piece I made, tanned with birch twig tannin. The whole process was surprisingly much less smelly than I anticipated, though softening (scruching) the dried leather was hard work. Still haven't decided what to do with it yet, making a notebook cover is most likely, though its very pretty with the light coming through it, so maybe using panels in a light shade is a possibility.

The fish ended up in thai fishcakes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

new baskets for old

3 years hard labour as a storage basket in our living room had left this painted cardboard basket looking a bit the worse for wear. It took a lot of retensioning and replacing broken strips to return it to almost pristine condition. The basket is an asymmetric twill and tabby weave with a hinged lid. The JRT is called Hex.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Rainy days and Washdays

I hate drying wet washing in the house. We're short of space anyway and have a bit of a mould problem as it is, so the last thing we need is to add extra moisture. Using the tumble dryer is just too environmentally unfriendly. Enter the new wet weather solar laundry dehydrator.

AKA drying the washing in our better than averagely ventilated green house. It's been used a lot this summer but even in the depths of winter it does a fairly good job. There's ventilation down low at the front, and up high at the back so it has a bit a solar chimney effect. And there's still room to grow salad stuff underneath. This was just a temporary solution quickly thrown together last year. I plan to lift the lines a bit higher to claim back a bit more growing space, but I'll get round to that when it stops raining.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Christmas Deco's in July

I've been making a Christmas bauble over the weekend. Not that I'm starting to get ready for mid-winter this early (I'm still hoping summer will arrive) but I've been asked to teach a workshop on coiling with recycled materials in the late autumn so I'm checking out roughly how long it would take to make one of these. Finished to this stage (slightly more than half done) it represents about two hours of steady work. To finish it I'll need some more wrappers so more sweeties and toffees to eat. Still who doesn't have to make some sacrifices for their art?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

playing with psp

Take one not very good photo.

select an interesting corner (top left) and cut out the rest. Play with some effects and colour changes, add noise, blur a bit, deepen the colours and change to brush voila -

much better.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Hay Box Cooker

I promised Uncle James a Hay Box Cooker post.

My hay box cooker, also known as the slow cooker, is just an old Coolbox stuffed with shredded paper that lives under the stairs (loads of extra insulation from all the junk in there).

First get the food bubbling hot

Then load it into the hay box and completely surround with shreddings to continue cooking.

This arrangement will keep food hot over night. I use it for stews, curries and pasta sauces and anything else that benefits from long slow cooking. It also makes perfect rice using the absorption method, something I can't manage any other way.
I did take it camping once, where I found it didn't retain enough heat to cook anything, thus proving how much extra insulation a house and an under the stairs cupboard provide.

lazy blogger

It turns out that I'm a bit of a lazy blogger (which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well). There have been quite a few things I've meant to write about this week that haven't got beyond the thinking stage. Other things have been held up by lack of a good photo, or the need to look up a link to go a long with them.

Anyway, today I finished a brief introduction to permaculture post started over a month ago.
it was saved in drafts, so ended up published here in among last months stuff.

Friday, 13 July 2007

old boots and geraniums

Some creative reuse of old boots and trainers in Teignmouth, Devon.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


Saw and heard nightjars down at the Heath tonight. I really love the noise they make. I don't hold out much hope of photographing them but I'm going to give it a go tomorrow. I think it's also time for the annual glow worm hunt (hope we haven't left that one too late).

found art/ bird felt

Out walking in the park after a very windy night I found this little piece of what I presume is bird made felt. Made of seed heads, feathers, dear hair and unprocessed sheeps wool and about
6cm x 10cm. Same day I found a triploid sycamore seed helicopter. Unfortunately I broke one of the wings off before I could photograph it, so I guess it wasn't as lucky as a four leaf clover.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Some views of my garden

Here's one view of my garden. The deck cantilevers out over the pond a bit. The pond is roughly 1m x 1m and also 1m deep at its deepest point, and home to frogs and newts. The purple loosestrife in the foreground is one of my favourite plants and a bee magnet

This one gives an idea of the scale of the whole garden. It's not as tidy as it could be, but shows some of the practical bits like the water butt and compost heap. There's rhubarb, raspberries, gooseberries and thornless blackberries down in that far corner.

The bottle beds on the right hand side are my main veg growing area. The metal frames are for my beans, peas, sweet peas etc. Only one of my bean plants and the sweet peas have survived the slugs so far. Not my most successful year ever. the surviving bean plant is painted lady, which has done really well here in other years.

This shows my toolshed with its mini living roof. Even though there's only about 3 inches of soil up there the sedums, strawberries and pansies seem to be thriving.
I forgot to install a bit of soaker hose while I was planting it up. In dry spells I give it a can of water every day or so. I did include water retaining granules and quite a bit of perlite in the planting mix. The bottom one of the two "window boxes" did contain lettuce and spring onions before I went away.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

hope springs eternal

Came back from holiday to discover all my annual veg ( even the ones four feet off the ground in a window box) and one or two of the perennials mowed off completely at ground level. I've finally given in and bought some organic slug pellets since hand picking and beer traps just don't seem to be cutting it.

Anyway, today the sun is shining and the sky is blue so I'm out planting up again. I think its probably too late to try for sweet corn again, but everything else I'm going to give another go.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

wood pixies

Just something a little cuter to look at than flat worms. I usually go for more abstract stuff, but the woodland glade I made half a dozen of these little chaps in just cried out for pixies.

Monday, 4 June 2007

unwelcome visitors

Yuck, I've got Australian Flatworms (Australoplana Sanguinea) in my garden. I found the first two early this spring, but apparently they've been reported from this post code several times before.

These ugly, non indigenous little horrors prey on earthworms. They've no natural predators and are covered in an irritant slime, so as far as I can tell have no redeeming features.

The only way to control numbers is to trap and kill them. They like to hide under heavy plastic things in the day time so look under planters, bags of compost or water butts. You can read all about them and their New Zealand cousins here.

permaculture- can ya tell what it is yet?

It's probably down to the Australian connection, but this post started when the question above popped into my head in a distinct Rolf Harris accent. (Remember those big paintings where he drew a few squiggles in one corner, some crosses and squares in the middle, stood back,asked "Can you tell what it is yet?" and with a final couple of dots and strokes the whole New York skyline appeared).

So I've spent a fair bit of time over the weekend looking for a snappy, succinct definition of permaculture. There's the original Bill Mollison one liner

"Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments"

which I found with a load of other definitions here. And I quite liked

"Permaculture is a way of thinking that gives you the tools to create sustainable systems - in all areas of human endeavour."

from eco-logic books, though it does run to two lines. In fact most explanations of permaculture end up pretty wordy, because , like one of Rolf's paintings, you need to fill in quite a lot of details before the whole picture emerges.

Rather then try to reinvent the wheel with my own introduction, here are some interesting links

You can start with the ethics or core values - Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares.

Then you need the principles. There are quite a few of them (about 12) and they vary a bit in how they're stated. there's a good list of them here or
here is a good place to start, with an introduction and some good "design bites"
Off the links on its home page you'll find A peruse of the articles will start to show the scope of ideas that fall under the permaculture label.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

featured plants

I've decided to include a series of plant profiles. The criteria for what to include isn't decided yet, except that they'll all be in some way useful or significant to me.
I'm starting with Wall Pennywort. The succulent leaves of this little plant have a delicious almost cucumber flavour and I can rarely resist a munch as I pass them. Down here in South Devon it grows from about October to June when wild food sources are a bit less plentiful.
It grows in cool shady spaces, on walls, rocky outcrops and bark and appears not to need soil. There isn't any growing within easy salad gathering distance of home, so I've built a tiny dry stone and log wall in a shady part of my garden to make pennywort friendly micro-climate and carried home one plant that was growing on a loose piece of bark in a friends garden. That one piece is flowering now, so hopefully it will like its new situation enough to multiply.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Easiest Bread Ever

I found this no knead bread recipe at Cocounut and Lime. I've tried it out a few times and it seems to be a very forgiving mixture. here it is altered a bit for UK readers.

Oil baking tray
Bake at 400 F 200C Gas Mark 6

1 lb (500g) flour.
1 0z (7g) yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
goodly grind of black pepper
liberal sprinkle of paprika
1 bottle of beer ( I used Innis and Ginn cos it's on my list of Vegan Friendly beers)
1bunch of spring onions

I also added

chilli flakes
red onion
chopped olives
chopped red pepper

Mix together the dry ingredients, stir in the beer to make a dough.

I found it was improved by leaving to rise for about and hour though it did work without this.
Its a very runny mixture so I poured it into the tray and shaped it there with oiled hands. I used strong white bread flour with about a fifth of gram flour for added richness. It also works with a bread maker bread mix (added just some extra yeast, black pepper and the beer) and it came our much better than using the mix in the bread maker, though not as "loaf shaped".

I plan to try adding sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the next batch, instead of the onions and olives. I'll let you know how it turns out.

running to seed

Encouraging beneficial wildlife into the garden is always a delight. Last summer I let a few leeks run to seed and the bees loved them. The garden was alive with gentle buzzing for months and I got the additional yield of enough leek seed not only to replant this year, but a welcome oniony addition to sprouting mixtures for the whole year.

Monday, 28 May 2007

minor rant

just have to say how much I hate microsoft word 2007. Take any simple task you want to do and make it harder. saved something without remembering to change the title? see if you can pull up the save as dialogue box again. Well you can't, it's gone forever as far as I can see. You'd better just close your document, hope you can find where you put it and go change the title there. They've obviously never heard of "if it ain't broke don't fix it."

Peter's Permaculture Accreditation Event

was a fabulous day out, like a mini convergence and a chance to meet up with Permaculture friends old and new. It was held at Steward Wood, the low impact ecological community where he lives.

Peter had worked fantastically hard to make it a bright, visually interesting event, with all his designs on colourful boards around the new longhouse build. Unfortunately none of the photo's I took came out very well ( a combination of low light levels and shaky hands) so I'm hoping the fair shares principle will kick in and someone with steadier hands will donate me some. We were treated to a couple of his songs (Grass Roots Sustainable Futures and Living in Circles, available here), an interactive play in the middle, and dinner and a party to follow.

The diploma work is assessed against two essential criteria and four complimentary criteria.

The essentials are:

design skills – has the candidate used a variety of design methodologies
including both analytical and more creative strategies and
are these appropriate to the designs presented?

theory in action – how well has the candidate applied permaculture
principles and theory to make their own life more

Complimentary criteria:

dissemination – what have they done to increase the availability of good PC information to the wider community

community building – in what ways have they contributed to local,
national or international communities

symmetry – how have they fed back into the systems that helped to support them, in particular the permaculture academy and network

evaluation and costings – have they given attention to evaluating and
and costing their work

Saturday, 26 May 2007

rainbow basket

This little basket is a present for Peter's accreditation. It's quite sturdy, slightly translucent and smells faintly of chocolate.

11cm x 5 1/2cm
quality street wrappers and found copper wire

detail view

Friday, 25 May 2007

First Post

Tomorrow is my friend peter's permaculture accreditation event. I've been thinking of setting out on the diploma path myself for a while now, and seeing Peter's work should help give me a clearer idea of what I'll be undertaking. It's also given me a wee boost to at least think about some content for this blog, which is supposed to be partly about recording/organising my thoughts on permaculture as applied to my life and artwork.
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