fleeces of many different breeds of sheep
...this weekend a 'festival of the fleece' was organised at Hubberholme Church., Langstrothdale (my local church)...... I love the beautiful old church here and it was amazing to see how great it looked full of all things fleecy.... local shepherds, feltmakers, spinners, weavers, knitters and dyers had created some beautiful displays and demonstrated their skills and crafts over the weekend...I was lucky enough to be asked to look after my friend, Yvonne,'s feltwork on the Friday evening for the festival preview, and it was great to see so many local people coming along to participate in celebrating such a connecting feature of life here in the depths of the Dales.
.....the whole event was really inspiring , not only in terms of the amazing skill and artistic talent of so many folk but also the way in which a community forms so many connections through an abundant local resource...I came away buzzing with ideas and energy for my 'Wool Use' design, which I am currently working on...and hoping to get written up in the next couple of months...happy times x
On Saturday I attended a meeting of the newly formed Organic Gardeners Network set up at Growing With Grace in April this year. I was fortunate enough to have attended that initial April gathering too, where about forty people gathered in the beautiful yurt at GWG to establish that yes, folk would like to form a network to share experience and knowledge, and support each other in all things relating to Organic Gardening.
So Saturday was the first time we tried the agreed format of 'a couple of workshops, networking, shared lunch and a meeting to discuss the direction the network was heading in'. Nine folk (and Freya the border collie) turned up and the 4 hours allocated to the above, soon stretched into 5. I loved hearing other's stories about organic food growing here in the North West (ish) and lots of problem solving and the urgency around political influence relating to food production was discussed at length. I was really overwhelmed to the positive response I got from a (very informal) workshop I facilitated around 'a brief introduction to permaculture.' Everyone had so much to offer in their quest for learning about all things permaculture, and there was a big enthusiasm for further workshops to expand on the basics. And of course we ate some great food together, before deciding as a group that the format of the day had worked well and to keep the energy and momentum of the group going, we would aim for a meeting at the same time each month, with a similar format.
Earlier this year I made a decision to really focus on establishing more connections with folk living nearby and attending events and gatherings in my local area, (and this was a key component of my Action Learning Pathway Design). I've made some lovely steps in this mission so far and hoping to make more in the near future. I've loved travelling to different parts of the country and further to meet people, but it feels really grounding and reassuring to learn and confirm how much amazing energy there is so close to home.
Growing With Grace
Organic Gardeners Network @ Growing With Grace Face Book Group
peas sown in toilet roll tubes, ready to be planted out
This week I planted out my 3rd lot and sowed more of, many veg plants (2 varieties of peas, runner beans, french beans, various lettuce, carrots, leeks, spring onions, parsnips, beetroot, turnip, coriander, parsnip, various courgette/squash). The growing season can be so unpredictable here that I've found that regular sowings of seeds ensures that challenging weather situations (for example sneaky early or late frosts or endless rain) don't impact in a major way on my food growing. If one sowing of plants son't make it, its ok because another is following closely behind in modules and pots in the polytunnel. I also grow some of the more tender veg (French beans, courgettes/squash) in big pots, ( in addition to raised beds), so they can be moved into the polytunnel in the event of a frost forecast, this really helps to lengthen the growing season here. Sowing little and often like this also means that there is more variety of veg ready to harvest for longer, plus if the weather is settled and everything lives, I have plants and produce to give away/swap with friends and neighbours, yey!
baby trees , waiting to be planted into the wind break areas which help to protect the polytunnel, raised bed garden and forest garden from the strong easterly winds
We had a couple of hours of beautiful sunny weather this morning in between heavy summer rain showers...so I took the opportunity to do a bit of a pause and reflection about how my food growing this year was going......
I'm really pleased with how my polytunnel is performing now, and its made a huge difference to the length of the growing season. I feel like I have got the hang of what it can contribute to the growing here ....the drainage seems to be working well with stone and soak away pipe....the hotbed has done great in the cold spring for germinating modules of seeds on top of the bed and now is home to pots of tomatoes which have recently moved from out from windowsills in the cottage. The tomatoes always look terrible for a few days after the move out, but with a nice layer of 3 year old cow poo/straw mix topping their pots are now producing lots of healthy growth and flowers. You can see how the spinach has just bolted in the first bed...its going to be dinner for the chickens tonight, and that space will be replanted with a courgette plant
Herbs in pots, overwintered in the polytunnel and now located just by the gate into the raised bed garden , for easy access.
....over wintered coriander going to flower now...lots more coriander planted among other plants in the raised beds to let flower...its a great bee attractor, and looks really pretty too!
So, what am I harvesting from my garden at the moment?....3 varieties of radish, 4 types of salad/lettuce leaves, mizuna, wild rocket, nasturtium leaves, 2 types of kale, 2 types of chard, spinach, garlic leaves, mustard leaves, turnip tops, pea shoots, coriander, mint, parsley, sorrel, thyme, lambs lettuce, sage...some really lovely salads and stir fries being eaten...
So all in all, the tweaks in my garden design are meaning that this years growing is really going pretty well...I'm sure that the improvement in the soil I've made especially in the last couple of years have contributed greatly to this. Very much looking forward to what ever challenges and woohoos the rest of the sumer and autumn brings now x
The summer months are a time for meeting up with friends for me.......winters here can make it very difficult to make and keep arrangements to see folk, while trying to juggle challenging weather, reduced energy levels due to the short days, farming and Elder care commitments. Our (now pretty reliable) internet connection means that I can keep in good contact with people all the year round, but leave actually seeing people who don't live locally to the lighter, better weather months..Britt and Mart's allotment (Pic by Britt Swain)
So, a couple of weekends ago I went to visit my lovely friend Britt in York, and she took me to see here newly aquired allotment...Britt and Mart are quite new to growing and producing their own food, but they are already achieving some amazing things. They've worked so hard over the last year to transform the neglected, overgrown plot they took on, into beautiful space where not only are they growing all kinds of fruit, veg and herbs, but they have created areas that they can relax and have picnics too.
Then yesterday, Alan, one of my permaculture friends and fellow Diploma apprentice, drove down from the depths of North Cumbria to hang out with e here at the farm...he hadn't been before so I loved showing him around and letting him experience for real aspects of the farm he'd only ever heard me talk about or take pictures of before.....Alan's just about, (in fact probably is doing, as i'm typing ), to create his own food growing area in the garden of the cottage he moved to earlier this year, which is just fab!
Over the next few weeks and months i'll be seeing other friends who are also producing their own food, fuel and fibre for themselves others too......for me being able to share our stories, highs, lows, ideas, dreams and visions about growing, gardening, and keeping animals ...and to actually be in the present in all our different growing and farming places is a really special part of my life. The reasons why we grow our own food are many and varied, but one of the common factors is the fact that it provides so much amazing nourishment and care for ourselves ...physically, emotionally, spirtially, socially.....
I feel really happy, motivated and energised following Alan's visit here yesterday, I felt the same as I left Britt's in York...and I know I will continue to do so as my summer meet ups keep happening x