Thursday, 29 April 2010

Rabbit Awareness Week

This week - 26th April to 3rd May - is Rabbit Awareness Week in the UK. Have a look at the official RAW website for details of some of the rabbity things that are going on this week - there is even a neat little map search facility where you can enter your postcode and see what is happening near you.

Today I thought I would share a couple of my favourite rabbit websites with you. The first is Rabbit Rehome, a fantastic rehoming site for rescue rabbits. If you are thinking of getting a rabbit please, please, please have a look on here before you visit the local pet store. (Personally I don't think rabbits should be sold in shops anyway). It has loads and loads of information, along with a fully searchable nationwide database of bunnies looking for a new home.

And for anyone living in the Midlands I'd like to recommend a fantastic 'rabbit hotel'. Hoppy Holidays is based in Pershore and is run by the lovely Diane. A knowledgeable, caring and kind bunny lover, Diane has become one of my best friends over the years and Hoppy Holidays is the only destination Humphrey will even consider for his holidays!

And finally I thought a Rabbit Awareness Week post would be incomplete without a picture of you-know-who... although I have to say that in this photo my rabbit does not appear to be aware of very much at all!

(In the interests of professionalism I would like to point out that the soft toy rabbit Humphrey has draped himself upon is his own Moulin Roty Sylvain toy and not an item of stock I plan to sell!!)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Cottontails Kitchen Garden Part 2 - some planting

Another nice weekend weather-wise, and planting is now underway at Cottontails.

Friday evening Mike and I went down to visit mum and dad and do a bit of a raid on my father's greenhouse - he has an amazing garden and had offered me some seeds and plants. This is his lovely garden:

Saturday morning I made a plan of what was going to go where (in the Moulin Roty gardener's notebook of course!).

Then we popped to the local garden center for some compost and some more seeds, and the rest of the weekend was spent digging, sowing and watering.

So far we have little plants of: runner beans, broad beans, beetroots and marigolds, and seeds of loads of herbs, potatoes, radish, carrots, spring onions and salad. I have been checking daily for shoots but nothing yet... guess two days is a little optimistic?

The Cottontails gardening equipment trialed this weekend included our Little Pals gardening gloves (£3) and trowel (£3).

Isobel, aged nine, donned the gloves and gave them a definite thumbs up! She said they are warm and comfy and even commented with surprise how soft they felt inside when she put them on. As for the little trowel, I tried that one out myself and in the interests of honesty have to say I was a bit disappointed that it didn't 'hold' more earth - it is quite a flat little tool. But sturdy and comfy to hold none the less. Just better for digging than for earth carrying!

Finally it's Rabbit Awareness Week this week so I will be back tomorrow with a more rabbity post!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cottontails Kitchen Garden Part 1 - Building the raised beds

Haven't we had a beautiful weekend? And the timing was perfect as it meant we could make a start on the Cottontails Kitchen Garden.
Thanks to everyone's comments and feedback last week, I decided to go for a mixture of raised beds and a couple of borders. The borders will be for lavender and herbs - maybe with some peas at the back? - and the raised beds will be for other veg and salad things.

Mike did some research and came across Moor Court Farm, a nearby farm selling railway sleepers, oak timbers and vegetable bed kits. We drove over on Thursday afternoon to meet Nick who runs the business, and by Friday morning he had delivered the timber for two 8' x 4' veg beds and two tonnes of top soil. They deliver nationwide (have a shop on ebay) and I can't recommend them enough so if you are on the look out for really good quality raised beds (sustainable oak, 100% organic, not requiring any treatment) have a look at their website.

Saturday morning Mike assembled the raised beds (while I slept in!) and once they were in position we dug out the turf and forked up the ground underneath.

I relaid the turf and started digging the nearby borders while Mike began filling the raised beds with the top soil.

Sunday was spent with more of the same plus digging compost out of our four year old 'heap' of grass cuttings and garden trimmings in the far corner of the garden. It's good stuff!

We worked until 8pm with only the odd break to drink tea and read Alan Titchmarsh, and by the end of the day most of the hard work has been done.

So far there haven't been many occasions to test out my children's gardening equipment (Mike snorted when I suggested we use one of the little pink wheel barrows for transporting the two tonnes of top soil) but I have managed to give the Moulin Roty rake a good work out on the borders and can report that it really is a strong, sturdy tool. Easily up to the job of any full size garden rake but just slightly smaller and lighter - it's a genuinely good quality, scaled down garden tool.

Also I am using a Gardener's Notebook for the planning and ideas:

And next weekend the planting begins!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Cottontails Kitchen Garden

The last few days have been warmer and I have decided the time has come to don one of these...

... and start work on a new project - the Cottontails Kitchen Garden.

The two ranges I am particularly keen to develop at Cottontails are the children's gardening and cooking departments, and I thought a really nice way to do this would be to set up a little kitchen garden and use some of the toys and equipment I sell at Cottontails to grow, harvest and then cook with the fruit, vegetables and herbs. I will take pictures and make little videos along the way.

(It sounds simple doesn't it, but I can see a fair bit of mud, hard work and an aching back ahead - and I will tell you now I am a complete novice at all this.)

The area I have allocated for this is behind the house, and is currently grass and 'rubbley' earth. Here are a few photos.

The photos make the ground look deceptively prepared but as this close up of Delilah the cat shows, it is far from rich and ready.

The first job is to create some vegetable bed areas so - limited knowledge here - I think I have to mark out some beds, take up some turf and turn over the earth. Then add some earth enriching substance like manure? Does this sound right?

Sadly at Cottontails we do not sell heavy duty digging machinery or manure, so I will have to buy this in.

So, stage one: to draw a plan then hire something called a 'Rugged Tiller' this weekend. I will share the results with you soon - assuming of course that they are not too humiliating. It can't be that difficult, right?

Finally, one of my inspirations for all this is my dad, who has created an amazing vegetable garden. This picture, taken last summer, is just one of his herb gardens. You can just about make out who is hiding in the center nibbling the parsley - I think he thought he was in heaven!

Finally, I know some keen gardeners & self sufficiency folk read this blog, so any advice would be most welcome :-)