29 December 2009

Retrospective, 2009

I have a temperamental objection to committing myself to anything like a regular feature on this blog, but last year's retrospective post does contain a summary of events which might be useful in the future. So I'll do it again this year with the proviso that I might not keep up the activity in 2010.

Putting up the greenhouse was one of the big achievements of 2008 and this year we turned our attention to equipping the inside. Three large raised beds were built in February and filled with soil over the following months. Since then, they have been occupied with a succession of crops: carrots, herbs, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, kale and broccoli. I was still harvesting tomatoes in November and we ate the last fresh tomato at our Christmas party on December 20th. Needless to say, I am delighted with the greenhouse and hope to put some more raised beds in there next year.

The vegetable garden beyond the greenhouse did well again and we harvested the first few spears from the asparagus I planted in 2008. I grew onions from seed for the first time; that harvest is down in the root cellar and will last a good few months yet. It wasn't such a good year for potatoes (although there are still a fair few in storage) but we got more peas and corn than we did in 2008, though still not enough of either to have any left over to freeze. On the other hand, we did end up with rather a lot of cabbages. I grew too many from seed and no-one was interested in buying baby cabbages at my first ever plant-sale. Despite the disappointing cabbage sales, that was a useful and very enjoyable experience which has given me a better idea of what people might like to buy next year.

We got the first apples, plums and pears from the slowly-growing orchard trees. Actually the chickens got most of the apples, so those trees need to get growing more quickly if I'm ever to get the benefit of the fruit for the human members of the household.  This leads me on conveniently to May's acquisition of the said birds. They've been a source of fascination for me, never having got close to a chicken before. It seemed a long time before we got that first egg, but they're all now laying in a manner that more than compensates for the stolen apples. We lost two of them in recent months: one hen to an unknown predator and one of the roosters to another Buff Orpington enthusiast.

The minor fault with the geothermal system that I reported on in 2008 was fixed and the attic was properly insulated early in the year, giving us a comfortably warm home and saving a considerable amount in heating costs. The solar panels have been in full production since 9 January and over 2009 we've exported one megawatt-hour of power each month, on average. To put that into context, this is equivalent to 90% of the electricity we've taken from the grid in the same period. A longer-term aim will be to export more than we use. Another first for this year was our involvement in the Green Homes Tour. That was hard work, but great fun and led to Mike's five minutes of fame on YouTube.

Inside the house we've done a fair bit of painting: two bedrooms, hall, landing, stairs, dining room and downstairs cloakroom. There's a new white toilet and basin in the latter, too, installed by Mike (his first major piece of plumbing work) and replacing the delightful Harvest Gold* combo that was there before. Our main upstairs bathroom needs similar treatment: the suite there is an almost equally revolting 1970s shade of pale brown (which I'm sure has a similarly misleading name: please comment if you can tell me what it is!). Unfortunately, that job is going to require more major remodelling but I'd like to think that we might be able to get it done in 2010.

*If Harvest Gold is new to you, have a look at another blogger's attempts to make her Harvest Gold bathroom look beautiful.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a year of big achievements for you all. Be proud, I most certainly would! :)

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Great job, Amanda! The collage is very nice and speaks a lot about you. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Diana Studer said...

I love baby cabbages. As 2 vegetarians we ONLY eat baby cabbages. They don't know what they have missed.