Frugal Family

OUR URBAN GARDEN MINI FARM

2 weeks ago we moved home, again. I have vowed that it will be the last time we move house (this is our 6th house in 5 1/2 years) and it will be perfect in every way.

We decided to tackle the garden first out of all the other jobs. The previous owners weren’t very green fingered and kept the garden to a bare minimum. The last few months previous the garden had been neglected and was in a bad way. Luckily for us, my dad is a gardener and a good one at that. The day before we moved my dad, my 2 sisters and myself went over to my new garden and started to tackle the huge job that we had ahead of us.

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Our first job as to sweep the garden and pick up as much wood, toys and odds and ends that were visible and create a pile out of harm’s way. I can honestly say that I have never seen so many bloody tennis balls in my entire damn life as what was hiding underneath the long grass in the back garden. There was also a LOT of broken pieces of wood and toys (including a pool table!). We really had to make sure as much as possible was cleared away before my dad could start strimming down the grass. As the grass was so long and wild, a strimmer was all that we could realistically use that would be quick and easy. It didn’t have to be perfect, just cut back so we had room to lay down our household items on moving day to save the house from becoming cluttered on the day.

Cutting the grass was not proving easy at all. It was so high and thick the high powered professional strimmer was even finding it hard. Lots of rubbish was coming up from the garden (those tennis balls were like a disease) and stuff was flying everywhere. My dad ended up cutting his forehead open despite wearing protective clothing, as a piece of wood flew up into the air and behind his visor. Luckily it wasn’t too bad. After around 4 hours the end was in sight. The grass, brambles and nettles were at a much more appealing height. As dad strimmed me and my sisters followed behind raking up what we could and piling it up into my new compost heap.

My dad working hard!
My dad working hard!

Against us was the weather. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day. Ideal weather for some, but not particularly for us on that Friday afternoon. There was a light breeze and as the grass was being cut, the seeds from the grass were being blown everywhere. Dirt and dust was sticking to our bodies by the sweat that we were producing (by the bucketful’s).

We were exhausted. The front garden just had to wait. We made our way back to my old house and started loading up the van with my garden furniture, potted plants, trees (Oh yes!) and even my old garden shed-come-chicken-house and all bought to the new garden.

Taking down the chicken shed got me over my fear of spiders and I think my dad thought I was about to suffer from cardiac arrest at any given second after I saw how many of the bastards were hiding in the planks underneath the shed, but we did it! By this point me and dad were in it alone. My 2 teenage sisters had fallen asleep in the work van and could not be persuaded to awaken.

Our workshop is not watertight, which is a pain considering how many antiques are currently residing inside. The roof is in complete disrepair and needs fixing ASAP, but we have patched it together the best we can for now. There is a huge buddleia tree that needs taking down sooner rather than later, and one whole side of the garden fencing needs replacing too, again ASAP. 

Leaky shed. The roof is nearly non-existent!
Leaky shed. The roof is nearly non-existent!

So far though, our 10 chickens and 1 rooster are all settled in, 3 trees have been planted and a raised bed full of Swiss Chard that I started off growing at our old house is producing quite nicely. And it’s only been 2 weeks! We have don’t so much inside the house too. It’s amazing that we’ve even slept. I’m still raking up the strimmed grass which has now well and truly turned to hay, but green grass is growing in its place. The heavy downpour of rain last night has helped rehydrate the grass, but where the downpipe from the guttering is broken the garden was flooding at the top end. We have 3 waterbutts to connect to the house and sheds which must be done ASAP. Did you know if you collect rainwater, you can get a nice bill discount from your household water supplier, such as Anglian Water who we are with.  

We are getting there, but we have such a long way to go before our garden becomes the urban mini farm that we so long wish to have and our journey into self sufficiency can truly begin. We aim to be able to feed our family of 5 from the fruit and veg that we produce as much as we can, reducing trips into town for other food shopping down to a minimum. Our greenhouse is going up this weekend  weather permitting ready for some late summer veg, and the raised beds are going to be made from reclaimed materials such as the old scaffolding planks we have acquired.

WE all feel positive, even if your back garden does resemble a scrap yard at the moment!!

 

Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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