grow it cook it preserve it eat it wendy pillar blog gardener grow your own in dorset

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Welcome to my blog!

I live in Blackmore Vale, north Dorset, in an old mill with an acre of garden. It sounds romantic, but it is not the idyllic scene you are picturing! The mill is a converted 1920s industrial building that came with plenty of expensive problems that we are still working on after 9 years. And the whole of Blackmore Vale is low-lying and flood-prone and blessed with heavy, chalky clay. Not for nothing does one neighbour have a lake in the garden, which is an old excavation for a brickworks!

On my particular plot, the level of the land has been made up to avoid flooding - with any old rubbish that came to hand. Digging a hole to plant a tree can take half a day and involve removing rocks big enough to need two people to lift them, and all gardening tends to be in an upwards direction, through raised beds. On the plus side, this means that I am not plagued with the bad drainage that is the rule here - the lower part of the garden can be inundated with flood water on Friday and workable again on Sunday.

I have a conventional vegetable garden, with greenhouses and a polytunnel, along with a new 'edimental' garden around the house. In another area the other side of the lane there is the beginning of a forest garden and an area planted up as a copse for firewood. I aim to grow as much of my fruit and vegetables as possible, and I am interested in unusual and perennial vegetables, preserving and self-sufficiency. I work full-time, so labour-saving is always a concern. I have experimented with keeping livestock for meat and eggs, but for the moment I don't keep animals, largely because there is an organic smallholding only a mile away that does it extremely well, and with much less effort!

This is not just a gardening blog though. We can no longer live isolated from the effects of climate change or the need to do something about the direction our politics is taking. Politics is intruding into our lives and impacting our livelihoods and the life chances of children to an ever greater extent, and if they won't leave us alone, we can't leave them alone. So expect a mix of advice on growing carrots and planning a forest garden, food politics, campaigning and celebration of activists and community gardens. If Lefty views offend you, this might not be the blog for you!

Happy reading. Please do contact me with feedback, or leave comments on Twitter (@jwpillar).