New allotment plans, magazine articles, writing a new book and other plans for 2019.

My “office” in Northern Thailand.

Happy (belated) New Year! I’m writing this in my “office” in Dad’s lush tropical gardens, next to the rice fields in a small village in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai. It’s a beautiful place to write. My daughter Caitlin (she’s 24) and I arrived on Wednesday, followed by her boyfriend Sam a couple of days later.

My table is between two ponds, both filled with fish. Dad saw a huge python in the pond, as thick as my arm, recently. Behind in the rice fields, a tractor is ploughing ready for the next sowing – traditionally this would have been done with water buffalo and there are still buffalo in some of the fields in the village. The gardens are filled with birds, huge bees, dragonflies, lizards, gecko  and enormous butterflies, enjoying the abundant vegetation and vibrant flowers, such a joy to see. I am loving the warmth. Before I left the arthritis was doing the fandango in almost all of my joints, after 24 hours here I was arthritis pain free.

Ploughing the rice fields, with views to the mountains beyond

Dad has lived here for around 6 years and runs a  boutique resort. He’s lived abroad now for over 20 years (Singapore and California before Thailand) so we’re all used to having to get on a plane in order to see each other.  (I know there are environmental implications for air travel, even if it is to see family).  January is the best time for me to travel anywhere because I don’t have to worry about my garden, most things are slumbering and it is too early for sowing. It’s super-relaxing here and a great place to write, plan my garden for the year and spend some family time. And swim, have massages and eat – the food here is amazing!!

This is Rice and Zen, where we are staying.

A new book!

When I was last here in October 2017, I spent a few hours each day working on the manuscript for The Creative Kitchen. This trip, I’m writing again – working title: “Gardening Book”. That will not be the actual title 🙂 Publication date is early spring 2020.

”Gardening Book” focuses on no dig  gardening and (stock-free*) small scale homesteading, growing year round in regular sized spaces, fitting it around all of the real-life stuff we do – working, raising a family, chores, etc. Of course in addition to a lot of gardening advice, there’ll also be makes-and-dos for the garden (and home), ideas for growing year round in the smallest of spaces and recipes for food, potions and more. I’m having a great time writing it and look forward to sharing more information about the book during the year.

* I mean here that I don’t keep animals myself rather than never using their poo or suchlike, so there won’t be keeping chickens advice, for example . I’ve had chickens, ducks, a house rabbit and all kinds of things in the past but much as my children wish it were otherwise, we have no pets now, too many other commitments.

Kitchen Garden Magazine

More exciting news! I’m delighted to share with you that The Creative Kitchen is being featured in the March edition of this award winning magazine, and from April I will be a regular monthly contributor, sharing expert seasonal gardening advice and homespun recipes for food and potions. Lots of ideas for creative things to do with your homegrown produce (or what you’ve bought from the farmer’s market or shops).

It’s a great magazine full of excellent ideas and advice – and you get some free seeds every month too!

Kitchen Garden Magazine won Garden Magazine of the Year at the Garden Media Awards (where Charles won Social Media Influencer of the Year). Here’s editor Steve Ott with the award:

The Landsman

During 2019, I’m contributing a regular feature for The Landsman magazine, a free publication for the South West. Look out for me in the current Jan/Feb edition. You can download the magazine using the link, too. It’s full of interesting articles and information for farmers, market gardeners, growers, countryside dwellers and has an increasing readership from city people too. If you can get hold of a copy, it’s the perfect size for making paper pots once you’ve finished reading  it, see this blog – how to make recycled paper pots for sowing and planting

Permaculture Magazine

I’ve written an article for Permaculture Magazine 99, Spring edition, which is out very soon: “Spring Growing Tips”, including my tried and tested way of successfully growing parsnips. I’ll be writing for subsequent editions, too. Subscribers to the magazine are also able to access all of the previous editions of the mag online!

 

My allotment

Back in Blighty, I hoed the allotment before leaving: so many weeds popping up thanks to the mild weather, mostly poppies, nigella and borage. The composted manure still needs spreading on the beds, a job now for January. Although it’s a good plan to get the beds all mulched before the end of the year, the colder temperatures help break up any lumps, life doesn’t always go according to plan. I’ve been busy (all of those magazine article deadlines!!) so the beds have had to wait. Over the past few days I’ve been sketching out my plans for the plot  and the changes for 2019. I would dearly love a little shed there but as I don’t have the funds, I’m working out how to make a shelter of sorts using recycled materials from the piles of stuff I’ve kept because they could be useful one day.

My DIY skills are basic to say the least, but I am hopeful that I can make something that will keep my tools etc dry and tidy, and not blow away or fall down!! The budget is tiny, too!

There’ll be a revamp of the compost area, new beds and a change to my usual sowing/planting plans. I have an allotment, front and back garden for growing in so usually grow things that need more attention at home and less at the allotment. This year, I’m going to see how many different edibles I can grow at the allotment as if it was my only growing space. I’ll still be growing loads at home of course. More when I’m home and can take photos to illustrate my ideas.

I don’t have a recent photo of my plot, so here’s a beetroot I harvested there a couple of weeks ago, pocket knife for scale.

More plans….

to come! I’m going off for lunch now in the village.

This time of year is great for planning new things, especially for the garden. Hope you’re having a great time thinking about your plots, checking your seed stashes and looking forward to the yea ahead! I wonder what it will bring?

 

12 comments

  1. Wow! Great career plans afoot. Looking forward to your magazine publications and also to the new book. Interesting that you are going stock free. I struggle with the commercial stock-free “cheese” .

    I have a “free range horse” who has acess to her paddock at all times, so we use filed collected muck for compost.Not really stock-free but as good as I can do right now.

    Will you be coming to Nottingham on the 2nd of March at the Nottingham Organic Gardeners talk? Hope so.
    Suella

    1. Thanks Sue – I might have used the wrong term there, with I was meaning I don’t keep any animals myself, unless you count the spider who lives beside my desk at home, but spider choose to live there 🙂 perhaps I should use a different term? I still have manure from a farmer friend for example. I’ll add a comment so no one is confused, thank you!

      I’m not in Nottingham then I’m afraid, meeting up with two of my oldest girlfriends for our annual boozy dinner together!

  2. Steph you are simply amazing !!! and so inspiring ,you little dynamo you , wishing you all the very best with all your new ideas enjoy the rest of your holiday , I am still putting manure on my allotment plots as weather so mild back here in old Blighty ! I have also covered the strawberries with fleece yesterday as weather due to change on Thursday and we are in for a blasty cold from the North …….looking forward with great admiration to following your progress this year .

    1. Thank you Linda, that’s really kind of you. I’m having a fab time, just waiting for my daughter to get out of the pool so we can have lunch!

  3. Book title suggestions: “Your Year of Growing and Eating Well”. Better: “Grow. Eat.” Or perhaps “Earth. Food. Life.” each with a subtitle about small-scale no-dig homestead in Somerset. Best, Nick

  4. Seeing your huge beetroot cheers me greatly. I have a few that got away from me. What did you do with it? I also planted beetroot as Charles taught us on the course I attended back in May. I am still using those, one at a time, grated raw into my huge daily salad. Love, love, love beetroot. Fab looking place where you are. Thanks for all you share with us!

  5. What a lovely happy blog. I can almost feel the sunshine and am loving the fantastic looking Thai food photos you have been posting on Twitter! I am so pleased to see your writing career is developing as I love both your books and refer to them regularly. Looking forward to the new one now, particularly as my eldest keeps dreaming of a small holding. It might inspire him to get on with it. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

    1. Thank you Sue. I’ve always dreamed of having a real homestead, even had pioneer wagon Playmobil when I was a little girl like Little House on the Prairie. But I’ve never had the land or the space, so rather than feeling disheartened I’m homesteading in the Home I have 🙂

  6. I’m very envious of your surroundings (except the python!). Certainly beats the grey skies and wet ground I’m looking at from my desk!

    The new book sounds good – something I’ve been looking for for a long time (As a vegetarian, I have no interest in keeping animals for anything other than pleasure!). I’ve read a few smallholding-style books and taken bits from them, but there’s often too much focus on the meat & milk side. I await publication with baited breath!

    1. Thank you! It’s really lovely here – except the mosquitos, one of whom has bitten my leg. Wonderful to be immersed in a completely different culture.
      I’m glad the book is receiving such nice favourable responses

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