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Sow The Seed follows the ups and downs of me, Helen and my husband, Simon - a couple trying to live a simpler life in south-west Wales.

I hope this blog will not only be a good reference and diary for us over the coming years, but will give helpful advice and tips for people trying to do the same thing, or dreaming of doing the same thing.

Find out more on how we got here.

What’s Happening Today

Tasks: Sowing; pruning; weeding; pottering

Harvesting: Cucumber, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, broad beans, potatoes

Eggs this year: 394 (hens) 317 (ducks)


Frosty cabbage

It looks like winter has well and truly arrived. We measured -10°C in the polytunnel on Saturday night/Sunday morning and similarly temperatures last night. As I write the mercury is reading around -5°C. However, the sun is shining and everything is sparkling so while it may be cold at least it’s not snowing (yet!).

One legged Whiskey

The chickens seem to be holding up, although Whiskey has taken to standing around on one leg most of day – who can blame her. The others are walking a bit oddly, gingerly putting each foot down and trying to minimise contact with the ground. We’re having trouble keeping their water from freezing over, despite filling it up with warm water first thing. So we have to make regular checks to break the layer of ice that forms. Our friendly local farmer gave us some oats a few weeks ago, which we have been soaking and warming up in the microwave as an afternoon treat for the hens. Needless to say this is wolfed down.

Other animals are clearly not fairing so well. Simon found two dead frogs on the path that had clearly frozen to death, and there was also a dead shrew on the steps that didn’t make it through the night. Nature is harsh, but we need good cold winters to kill off a lot of the nasties in the garden like aphids (and hopefully a few slugs). I put my ear up the hive this morning and could hear a gentle buzzing inside, so fingers crossed the bees will make it through.

How long will that last?

We had a recent delivery of logs for our woodburners – our source of heating in the winter. At the moment we have two woodburners, but we’re soon getting a third. We installed the first two last year after our first winter here was so cold. There was an existing woodburner here (as well as open fires), but it wasn’t big enough to cope with the number of radiators in the house. After a lot of research we went for a Clearview stove as our main woodburner. One of the important features for us was that it has a removable boiler so that if it fails (which is often the first thing to go in these types of stoves), you don’t have to replace the whole woodburner (most have an integral boiler). We also chose to go for a flat top on the stove (the previous one had a canopy-style top), which means that we can actually do some cooking on it. It’s obviously not like a proper range, but if you’re cooking something in a saucepan, it works very well. For our smaller stove in the sitting room we chose another British company – Charnwood. We wanted a small stove just to heat the sitting room where we spend most of our evenings. This also means that any cold nights in autumn/spring we can get this going if we haven’t cranked up the Clearview yet. The Charnwood (Country 4) really chucks the heat out and warms up the room quickly. We’re so happy with this stove we chose this again for our third stove, which will give extra heat in our dining room.

Woodburners seem to be all the rage at the moment. They have been seen as a way of cheaply heating the home, particularly when you aren’t on mains gas and rely on increasingly expensive oil (as most rural places do), and offer a greener alternative to oil. However, the huge demand for wood has seen prices shoot up in the last year. Consequently there are more and more people offering firewood for sale, but you really need to make sure you know what you’re buying. If it’s recently felled (unseasoned) it will be too wet to burn straight away, and wood types burn differently. So what might look like a good bargain may not turn out to be. One day we hope to fell a few trees of our own, but this requires us planting trees (on our list of things to do this winter) and waiting a good few years before any chance of getting a log from our land.

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