Digging and dyeing

We’ve had four consecutive nights of very hard frost this week.  I love to see the winter veg toughing it out in these conditions, there’s something very comforting about their defiant attitude. Winter weather – who cares?

 In the low light of a cold sunrise, the garden, orchard, field and wood have been a spectacular winter wonderland.

We’ve been toughing it out ourselves, too, as our boiler decided to break down – how typical is that in the coldest spell so far this year? Thank goodness for The Beast and our mighty log pile. We’ve been putting all that heat to good use, roasting trays of pumpkin to freeze for soup and, on a quick trip to the shops,  I just couldn’t resist adding yet another seed variety to my ever-growing  squash pile for next year…

I can’t believe how quickly we’re motoring through our stored garlic, there’s only one plait left in the shed. It was definitely the right decision to plant twice as much this year, pink and white varieties are both looking very happy.

I’m happy, too: the boiler is now fixed and the weather has turned very mild. In fact, we’re forecast temperatures up in the teens over the next few days so time to get back to some digging. I’ve  almost finished turning over the patch of ground down the side of the tunnel. This will be where the spuds go next year with plenty of room for earlies and maincrop varieties this time. 

I’ve moved my trusty silage bags to cover a new area in front of the leeks, to kill the grass and be dug in spring. With some of the patch now planted with asparagus and globe artichokes for several years, I need to extend the planting area (well, that’s my excuse, anyway – I’m not sure Roger is convinced) and this seems the logical place to start. All those squashes have got to go somewhere, after all.

I’ve also started a major revamp of the flower garden, poor neglected area that it is. Lots of digging needed here to extend it and create a large area of heat-loving, drought-resistant plants which can cope with the summer temperatures. I’m planning to use it as a separate extension of the veg patch, I think globe artichokes, climbing borlotti beans and rainbow chard will all add their own charm, maybe some tomatoes, too, to avoid the blight problem… in fact, will there actually be any room for flowers, I wonder?

The herbs I’ve grown from seed for this border and the veg garden are all tucked up in the tunnel in readiness for their new homes next spring.

I’m also planning to incorporate some plants for dyeing wool, starting with coreopsis, chamomile, weld and woad. The latter is a member of the cabbage family so I need to keep it well away from the veg patch – just hope it doesn’t have all the problems my poor brassicas have had this year (are you listening, pigeons?). I know I’m unlikely to achieve the strong colours possible with synthetic dyes  – this is a picture of the first skein of commercially-dyed Shetland wool inspired by autumn colours in my latest spinning project-

but natural methods have far more appeal to me. So what if the colours are more subtle, it makes the whole process more interesting. I should be able to use some vegetables, too – onions being top of the list.

Prize for the most confused plant in the garden this week goes to this little beauty!

On a more seasonal note, the frosts have really done for the leaves this week and the apple orchard suddenly looks bare. Now we can spot the mistletoe lurking in the branches, and despite the fact that we cleared lots out earlier in the year for the sake of the trees, there won’t be any shortage when it comes to gathering some Yuletide greenery next week … and plenty of berries should mean lots of Christmas kisses! 🙂


9 thoughts on “Digging and dyeing

    • No I haven’t, there’s certainly no shortage of them here. I believe some lichen is good, too? I have a feeling this might keep me very busy… How’s the knitting going? 🙂


    • Oh, they’re fantastic links, Anja – thank you! I can see myself getting totally carried away with all this. Your sock knitting effort is wonderful, here’s me feeling pleased with myself for having finished just two pairs recently. Good luck with Cerin Amroth, hope you’re going to post a picture when it’s done! I have plenty of that red wool if you’d like some…


  1. Love to see a bit of frost on the plot it does make it look nice,I’ve dug quite a bit of the plot already ready for winter. Can’t wait to start it all over again next year and reap the rewards,I’ll just wait till Xmas for my socks to come from a local shop.


    • Yep, there’s something really seasonal about a bit of frost, isn’t there? Maybe you should take up sock knitting for those quiet moments when you’ve got your feet up in the polytunnel…! 🙂


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