Early spring gardening musings

So… what have I been doing this winter? The garden was soaked but snow wouldn’t stay for more than a day or so. Any kind of nice-ish weather meant going outside for a walk, hunting-gathering much-needed Vitamin D as we went. What else to do? Well reading about gardening is a great way to get through winter.

Apart from reading fantasy novels of course, I read up about all kinds of berries and also about wine-making (meanwhile our neighbours’ vine all but drowned in yet another January downpour).

I read Sepp Holzer’s book on his kind of permaculture. It was a book from the library and someone else wanted it (again?) so I read it twice in three weeks. Still wondering how much digging I could reconcile with permaculture. Main takeaways:

  • don’t believe what others tell you about what can or cannot be grown in region X, at altitude X, or anything else;
  • build terraces and create microclimates to maximize your usable space (the agricultural/digging bit) and the variety of creatures in the area;
  • observation, experimentation and independent thinking beats government regulations and subsidized projects hands down;
  • old varieties of plants are more adaptable as well as richer in nutrients than the new good-soil-maximum-yield varieties;
  • work with what you have, if it’s a wet meadow, don’t try to turn it into a dry peace of land, make a pond and grow wetland flowers.

Meanwhile I’ve been enjoying the birdsong and sunshine way too much to remember to take picture… I’ll add some to my next post! Gardeners’ World in five minutes. It’s springtime. Finally!

The contented gardener

When I first started blogging, I decided not to blog about me. For more than a year, that worked really well. But then something happened. And it changed everything.

Winter garden

Photos from the garden yesterday afternoon. Call this winter? At ankel’s height there’s still lots to see. Bulbs reaching up. A cold snap with a drizzle of snow caused stubborn flowers to droop.

Over a year ago I got a new job. In content management. A great opportunity to turn all my talk about content, social media, and the like, into my daily job.

But somehow, spending hours at work fiddling with texts doesn’t motivate one to sit down at night and do the same thing all over again. Writing about content wasn’t the only problem. It was the editing, finding the right picture, and so on.

And even ‘writing about content’ was turning into a problem. Because it was ‘work’. I don’t mind work, I just don’t need to do one thing anywhere near 24/7. I craved variety. I’ve always loved doing a lot of different things at (nearly) the same time. (I know it’s getting out of hand whenever there are three different books by my bedside and another (two or three) in the living room.)

Content to garden

Then a new topic to blog about crossed my path. My garden. Actually it wasn’t that much of a garden: it was what was left after the houses had been built. After removing most of that one plant species I later learned is called lady’s thumb, because it grew nearly two feet tall all over the place, I let the other stuff grow to find out what kind of weed it was:

  • nice (like the flowery ones)
  • educational (stinging nettles – our son never had accidents with them at home)
  • slightly annoying (dandelions, but making up for it by looking great)
  • a real pain – unless you find a use for it (horsetail)

I’d added some plants but never sat down to decide which bigger plants might really add structure to our garden. It almost felt impossible to put big plants into a small garden. Partially because it would mean ripping out weeds that had grown on me. Sort of. Some of them. Partially because, well, it’s a small garden. Big plants were never going to fit, right?

Garden changes

But here I am after trying stuff in my garden for a whole growing season. I put in bigger plants and I keep seeing patches where more plants would fit quite snugly. I also started blogging about my garden.

Looking back at some pictures I took a few years ago I noticed one thing. A lot of small plants have disappeared. Having bigger plants shade the soil and soaking up nutrients and water has probably meant that the smaller ‘pioneer’ plants have left – after depositing their seeds in case a big shrub or a treelet is uprooted by a storm.

I’ve been able to retain a red clover, so hopefully it will attract bees and the like next spring. The gaps left by the pioneer plants are now begging for inhabitants -they are an open invitation for our neighbors’ cat to crap right in that spot (they don’t have a garden. Just a place to sit outside. And a cat with toilet issues). That’s one thing about some of the herbs: they die back when it gets cold and then the cats move in. Plants with woody stems are better.

Looking forward to spring. Happy New Year!

Content: relevance before cats

Christmas or end-of-the year musings… In the past year I’ve spent a lot of my time managing content for a website and making sure sufficient amounts of content get published. Over the year, I developed my own approach to that content. What happened?Christmas (warm filter)

As I got more familiar with the visitors of ‘my’ website I started to get a feel for the kind of content they consider worth their time. As it happens, the website aims to serve small and medium-sized businesses. A quick scan showed me that we were also serving a number of professionals in our own line of business (and that’s fine).

I’ve heard several times over the past five or so years the statement that content needs to be (more) attractive or even ‘sexy’. However the few times anyone got the chance to publish content considered attractive, that content somehow failed to live up to expectations. Newsletters were opened by far fewer readers.

Why wasn’t the attractive content working for us?

The persons sharing content published content they thought was interesting. However, they were not entrepreneurs. As a result, they were showing cute kittens to, in some cases, people with a cat allergy.

It’s not that entrepreneurs have no fun. It’s not that they don’t like cats. It’s just that they don’t need them in their business mailbox (unless they’re in the feline business).

Now, personally I dislike talking about buyer personas because I’ve come across way too many articles about the topic. People talking about buyer personas seem to indicate that you’re supposed to have descriptions of your different types of customers hanging on every wall. Unfortunately I studied art history a long time ago and my association (if any) is with ancient Christian icons. I do not intend to kneel before the image of my prospects. I’m hoping the ‘buyer persona’ buzz will blow over.

However you do need to take into consideration what an entrepreneur’s life and even a single day might look like. If business is good, they’re working for their customers. If business is not so good, they’re visiting potential customers. Either that or they’ll soon be out of business altogether.

So exactly how much time are entrepreneurs going to spend reading content unless it promises a return on the investment of their time?

That is why the title of this post is: relevance before cats. Because publishing horrible but relevant pieces of content (editing them when possible for greater readability) has proved itself over and over again. Making relevant content more attractive to your intended audience… now there’s an approach that is more likely to succeed.

This video from Mark Schaefer offers some useful insights into the measurement of your (PR/social media) activities. When small change starts to count in a business, you need to show results – either to your customer or your manager!

One last thing: I added a warm filter to the image above. These are the Photoshop settings:Christmas (warm filter settings)

Below is the original photo. We’ve been saving a lot of electricity in our house using LED and the like. The human eye gets used the difference after a while. But the difference does show itself in photos. Which version do you like best?

Merry Christmas!Christmas 2014

Gardening projects… and horsetail

The bulbs have been planted… or most of them have. Unfortunately it looks as if it will be too cold this weekend to go digging and planting the last of my bulbs. Still, not to worry – a couple of warmer days next week are enough.

Meanwhile I got a couple of gardening projects going. Continue reading

Bulbs under the hedge

For the past few weeks I’ve spent time digging tiny and not-so-tiny holes in the ground in my garden… planting bulbs. If you’ve visited my blog before you may have noticed I wrote I don’t have that much space, so where do I leave bulbs?

Flower bulbs

Bags and bags of flower bulbs… these are a couple I selected for the back yard. These didn’t all fit exactly under the hedge.

Continue reading

September strawberry blossom

So this past week I checked on several plants in the garden… and noticed one of the strawberry plants was flowering for the second time this year.

september strawberry flowers

Well-hidden september strawberry flowers

Continue reading

After strawberries come plums… already?

For the past week we’ve been eating plums for dessert almost every day. It’s come as a bit of a surprise to this urban person! The label said “harvest in August” and yet I found myself wondering why a couple of plums had dropped from the tree at the start of July.

plums

After rescuing a couple from the gentle critters that would have cleaned the fruits up – woodlouse in English, they also tend to eat strawberries when they can get at them in wet weather, and slugs – I washed them, cut them open to check the inside, smelled them, and ate them.

These plums are ripe.

Wow. They’re ripe – over a month before they were ‘supposed to be’. So out I went with any kind of bowl or pot I happened to have. And picked about fifteen plums. And told my husband, and put our son in his bed. When I came downstairs said husband had picked another dozen.

After having gained that little bit of knowledge about strawberries “strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked”, apparently, I was a bit alarmed by the fact that some of the plums looked decidedly unripe. I needn’t have worried – plums do ripen rather well if the temperature is high. Which was probably what had led to our early harvest.

Do you happen to have a good recipe for plum pie?

So we’ve eaten a big bowl of plums by now and I know that for next year I really want a good recipe for plum pie. I’ve had some wonderful pies in Germany over the years. The cherry pie I once decided would make a great lunch (cherry layer: two inches) wasn’t bad either! But I don’t think we have room for a cherry tree as well. Oh well.

For now we’ll just have to munch our way through our harvest. So far we’ve combined plums with strawberries (from the shop, unfortunately – ours have run out), and yoghurt. I think they’ll be great with banana. All in all we have been having more fruit than usual. And that’s our first harvest from the plum tree!

There’s still some fruit on the tree and there must be around twenty plums on the ground and in the box hedge near it. They’re already half-eaten, so I’ll leave them where they are expecting that the nutrients will end up back in the soil at some point.

P.S. Looks like the peas want harvesting. Investigate tomorrow. I hope. Unless we get another month’s worth of rain pouring down – again.