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A few thoughts from Rob

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One step forward, two steps..
by Rob Godfrey dated: 2 May 2013

Don't remember a time when I was doing so many things at once that I enjoy. However, not everything seems to be going to plan in all areas. Here's some of the projects I'm juggling: my quest for food self-sufficiency, starting up a new business as an electrician, promoting my first novel, organising a book 'launch', writing the 2nd novel (of 4), etc. To a well organised person this might seem like normal stuff, but it's certainly challenging me.

First the good news

After last year's unfortunately timed late frosts we had handfuls of fruit when normally we'd be buried by them. So the trees got a rest I suppose in the sense they didn't have to put loads of energy into fruit making. I wonder if that is really true?

In any case I am optimistic about this year's production and there are even a few flower buds on one of the plums I planted in 2011. Here's a pic of the Damson that my partner bought for me 3 years ago.

Hopefully that blossom will set and my favourite fruit will be plentiful. Last year there was just a handful, but this year who knows? There's plenty of blossom at least.

Soaking up the sun

Here's one more step to saving the planet. I really enjoyed putting all this together, it satisfied my inner nerdyness.
I've linked up 6 solar panels - each panel is 170 watts so thats just over 1 kilowatt in total. This should be more than enough to keep the batteries topped up and run the freezer all year round (good for veg surpluses). The pics show 3 on my shed/office and 3 on the car port roof. I've still got the first 250 watt panel and when I get some spare cash I will get another and add the extra 500 watts. By then I will have reached the max that both the solar panel controller and inverter can cope with.

In the polytunnel

After a delay I got the early spuds in the polytunnel in late February (Sharpe's Express and Rocket). They are doing well and in a week or two I should be able to take off the bubblewrap overnight as the threat of hard frosts recede.
On the left are the early peas (Norli) that need some support now and a mix of toms (suffering a bit from the poor sowing compost but otherwise ok).The Garlic is doing great too. Early Purple Wight and Thermidrome are the two varieties that have done best previously.

Now the bad News

I've been using Westland Organic Compost for sowing and although things germinate ok they quickly seem to run out of steam. Peas and Beans are the least affected but as the picture below shows there are a lot of yellow plants that should be dark green. Not good. I wanted to start off Butternut squash early to see if they might be able to ripen fruit this year. Alas, the plants are really having a hard time and I might just have to scrap them. The spinach simply curled up and died (both batches) and as this is my partners favourite it's a double blow.

I've vowed to make my own compost if I can get it organised in time. Meanwhile i'm going to try and revive things with a dose of seaweed feed (fingers crossed).

In the Allotment

Ok it's not an allotment, but the top of the garden feels nice and remote (you can't see the house for the apple trees). I used to keep hens here and the ground should be rich in nutrients as a result of 5 years of liberally spread chicken poop. The soil is pretty heavy clay though and makes me feel like an old man when trying to dig it over. I did get quite a bit done last year and covered the beds with seed suppressing matting which at least kept the weeds at bay. Rabbits (and rats I fear) abound as it backs onto a disused rail track so everything has to be well covered. The raised beds keep things tidy (at least for me) and the raspberries that I thought were all but dead have sprung up at last. The autumn variety (Autumn Bliss) has fared much better than the summer type, but hope springs eternal. Up here is also my pride and joy, an apple tree I grafted myself. It's an old local variety known as Flower of the Town. It will be 3 years old this year and so far it's doing ok.

Verdict so far

It is only May so there is time to re-sow stuff again. I am aiming to make this the year I start being self-sufficient, so I had better learn fast.

As to other projects, well I have coming up a 'launch' of my novel (of which more later) and I have just qualified as a 'Domestic Electrician' so I might even earn some money. The writing for the second novel has had so many interruptions in the last 3 months it's proving much harder to keep up the flow. I am still hoping for a summer finish but it might have to be an indian summer..

Copyright Rob Godfrey 2004-13. All rights reserved.