The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

Lessons learned

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017.

Oi, don’t run off to check how long you’ve been sleeping. I know it’s still 2016, but at FAoI 2016 has been pronounced dead. Time of death? 31 October 2016. Cause of death? Ineptitude and unrealistic expectations. Yep, it all sounds a bit idiotic, but what did you expect, self sufficiency at the drop of a hat? C’mon, we’ve come so far together; don’t start expecting things to work out well just yet.

So, after moving to FAoI in mid February of this year, I had somehow expected to unpack in a few days, prepare a few dozen vegetable beds, raise a polytunnel or two, fit out the brewery, convert an outbuilding into an office, extend the orchard, build a smokehouse, become proficient in hunting and be living off the land by midsummer’s day. All this while continuing to work and exploring the delights of rural Lincolnshire.

Firstly, it took around two months to unpack and work out where things should go. Having spoken to many people who admitted still having unopened boxes in their lofts or garages from a move many years previous, I was determined to make sure we emptied all the boxes, and we did. It took around 60 days, a mere 58 more than I had planned. In truth, there are still things in the wrong places. For example, there’s a knife block and a Magimix in the Den, various tools in the wardrobe of the guest bedroom, a Dyson (other shit vacuum cleaners are available) in the porch and a spare kitchen extractor fan behind the living room door.

The chaos has been further compounded by items from rooms being moved to other rooms in order to allow basic works to be carried out. I did decide that in order to minimise the impact, work would only be carried out on one room at a time. True to my word work has been simultaneously commenced in the kitchen, living room, den, three of the four bedrooms, the hallway, the utility room, the external office and the brewery.

Another plan that fell at the first fence was the idea of extending the orchard. One of my very first tasks once the broadband was connected was to order some Dabinet apple trees for cider production. Sadly, they were out of stock everywhere I looked. It seems that popular trees must be ordered in early September for delivery in early January. Pitching up in late February with a wish-list isn’t how things are done apparently. So you’d probably think I was on the ball enough to order the Dabinets for early next year? Think again. Anyway, I’ve decided I’d probably prefer Kingston Black!

The existing orchard has fruited, so there’s cider on the go. You’d think so, eh? Well, there isn’t! I didn’t have time to build a scrater and a press, so instead I’ve been piling the windfalls into a freezer. The act of freezing and thawing will break up the cellular structure thus eliminating the need for scrating before pressing. I have one chest freezer filled with whole fruit, and have just bought another via eBay to take the rest of the crop. My thinking is this: you can never have too many freezers!

So, on to the growing. Here’s the thing. I forgot what a load of faff preparing ground for successful growing was. The land was rough pasture, so I just cut it back hard, chucked down an area of fairly fresh manure and sowed some sweet corn, onions, squash and globe artichokes. They grew, as did weeds from the soil, wind-blown weeds from the fields next door, seeds from the various undergrowth surrounding the area and assorted other shit. The rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, crows, foxes, badgers and assorted other wildlife didn’t eat the weeds. They ate my stuff, which all planted a bit late anyway. The result was I ended up with a handful of half-formed corn cobs, a few miniature squash and some globe artichokes which didn’t produce heads. As a result I am going back to my roots and putting in raised beds! Polytunnels will follow…

I also learned that if you drive over a wild orchid meadow in a ride-on lawn tractor, they don’t grow back. To be fair, I didn’t know it was a wild orchid meadow, not until Farmer Giles’ wife said, ‘Oh, you’ve mowed down the wild orchid meadow’.

The brewery did produce a few brews including a very good IPA and a Saison flavoured with nettle tips. However, when the old kitchen units were ripped out they made their way into the brewery, but didn’t get fitted (yet). A number of other things ended up in there too, and beer production shuddered to a halt as the place became a dumping ground. So close, and yet so far!

The outbuilding that was changed into an office was insulated, had a new floor fitted, had power and telephony added and the interior was clad. I also purchased the stripwood to hide the joins and rough bits. I haven’t put that up yet. The place will also be the recipient of the good quality but much hated beige carpets from the house. Eventually. Presently they are rolled up in various rooms, creating a much loved trip-hazard!

With the nights drawing and a perceivable nip in the air, I have to admit that 2016 was – and continues to be – a year of transition. We’re getting there, slowly. In 2017 there will be no excuses. Okay, there might be a few, but with a little luck and a fair wind behind us, there might actually be some successes.

So, Happy New Year! At FAoI, 2017 starts today!





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10 thoughts on “Lessons learned

  1. Isobel McAllister

    Hello stranger. I’m glad you’ve found time to write and reassure us all that things are SNAFU. And you seem to have managed to avoid getting stuck in mantraps, falling in slurry pits or being incinerated in a big wicker cage. Well done!
    Now, your next trial awaits – winter in the countryside!
    As they say, Mwahahahaha!

    • The IdiotThe Idiot Post author

      The local farmers all say this winter will be a bad one. I did question old Gilsey next door on his attitude to bad winters, and he seemed to be under the impression that ‘Darn Sarf’ it was nigh-on tropical all year round!

      • Isobel McAllister

        There’s no such thing as bad weather, they say, only the wrong clothes.
        But I was thinking more along the lines of wildlife, particularly mice. No matter how much you clean, the wee incontinent vermin will try to get in for a heat. Get some traps, sonic repellers and plenty of disinfectant.

  2. Lita Sollisch

    Idiot, good to see you back in action, oh, I meant inaction, I’m laughing at your expense. Hahahahaha! Good luck in 2017.

  3. Vera

    Your post did make me laugh, and thank you for that! We came to France nine years ago, and are still transitioning. It did not help that we had to live in caravans for five years because the house was a ruin (no roof, no electrics, only a cold water tap), that at the same time as the house was being renovated (by French builders, not by us, but the chaos was humungous), we were building our smallholding (thirteen acres, plus sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, and geese, plus vegetable plots, plus planting loads of fruit trees, etc), all the while my husband was working endless with his UK employer on the computer. It is only lately that we have seen light at the end of the tunnel. Next year we are going to open a market garden shop. We still do not have the poly tunnel, nor have the vegetable plots got anything growing in them apart from weeds. Not to worry, we shall keep on going, …..and we still have boxes upstairs, (which is still un renovated) which we shall have to sort out / throw out as we think we shall grow micro greens under grow lights up there.

    • The IdiotThe Idiot Post author

      Scrating is the process of crushing up the apples before processing. I guess on your side of the pond it’ll be called milling. The freeze-thaw cycle apparently does the same job. As the press is being built at present I’ll find out if theory is a good one in a few weeks!


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