Strange Bedfellows

The anthology Strange Bedfellows, from Bundoran Press, is on sale now (wherever books are sold, and also specifically direct from the publisher or from Amazon UK). My story Blocking features it.

It’s an anthology of specifically political SF, from a broad range of political perspectives. My story concerns spacefaring anarchists (as may not be terribly surprising to anyone who is familiar with my political biases), and the making of decisions, personal and collective. There’s a review of the book as a whole over on Black Gate. I’ve been reading the rest of the stories (not quite all done yet as my author copy only arrived recently) and it’s a thought-provoking read all round.>

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Twisted Boulevard out in UK

Twisted Boulevard (featuring ME) now available from Amazon UK. (As far as I know this is the only UK online retailer; although your local indie bookshop ought to be able to order it in for you.)

(I still haven’t seen my contributor copy, but looking forward to reading it when I do.)

In other news, I have had a lovely weekend up in Manchester. Leon was particularly fond of this train, where by “particularly fond of” I mean “refused to get off until it stopped running for the day”. After that there were ducks, and vegan curry; an excellent day all round.

This week: lots of writing to be done. Story to edit for another forthcoming anthology; novel to work on; Linux Voice article to finish.

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Permaculture Parenting in Juno

I wrote a piece on applying Holmgren’s 12 Principles of Permaculture to parenting for the current issue of Juno, now out online and in shops.

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Other things in this issue include an interview with Shelia Kitzinger; an extended feature on home education; Sarah Ockwell-Smith discussing bed-sharing myths; Talking Point on organic cotton; a mum sharing her positive experience of elimination communication; ideas for free outdoor activities for Spring; eco-holiday recommendations; encouragement to become a Flexitarian and simple gardening inspiration. I’ve just finished my copy and thoroughly enjoyed it; it’s all worth a read.

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Twisted Boulevard out

Black and white photo of urban street, hotel or similar in the background with a lit-up canopy, silhouette figure in foreground sitting on a low pillar. "Twisted Boulevard" in red down the left, and "Edited by Angela Charmaine Craig" at bottom.

Cover for Twisted Boulevard

Twisted Boulevard, the urban fantasy anthology from Elektrik Milk Bath Press in which I have a story, is now available. They will do international shipping there, but it should also be available from Amazon UK in a week or so. (For some reason there is always a delay, apparently.)

Over on writer Gregory L. Norris’ blog, a few of the writers in the anthology (including me) have shared a little snippet of what’s behind their stories.

I am looking forward to receiving my own copy soon and getting to read the other stories.

(In unrelated news, I really wish I knew why my laptop was running quite so slowly. It is most annoying.)

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Forest Garden update

My forest garden is really more of a forest fence, but nevertheless, over the winter I have started planting up. At a workshop recently someone mentioned that you should try to get a photo from the same place once or twice a year as your garden develops, so here is my first one:

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Very far right, in shade, is a blackcurrant bush with some daffodils by it, and to the left of that, a space where I will plant tomatoes in pots again this year as they did very well last year. (Not really part of the ‘forest’.)

In the bed right of middle, I’ve planted a fig tree against the fence, in a paving-slab box. There’s some volunteer parsley in that bed too, and some ground cover strawberries. I’m planning to plant some fennel, chard, and perhaps Good King Henry in there later this month as a herbaceous layer; and probably some rocket will show up as it does everywhere else. I may well train the fig against the fence, which is a bit against the forest garden theory but more practical in this tiny space.

The left-hand bed has a grape vine, which I will train up the fence and over to the left. There’s also a Daubenton’s Kale (looking a bit toppled-over; it seems taller than the one I have had before but we’ll see how it does), some chard and rocket, and I’ve moved my thyme in there. I’m considering moving some of the other perennial herbs in there too.

Then looking left again there are the herb pots; and since taking that photo earlier in the week, I’ve moved the mini greenhouse again so it too is against the fence. I planted a dwarf cherry tree in a pot against the fence at the other side, and an autumn olive at the shady end of the garden, so there are lots of things to keep an eye on this year. I’ll take another photo like this in late summer to see how it’s all looking.

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Back Garden: annual veggie planting

This year I am planning my annual veggies based on four criteria: ease of growing, how much better they taste home-grown than bought, whether we will actually eat them, and whether they’re expensive in the shops. Here’s how the analysis looks (green plus, orange maybe, red negative):

Veggie analysis

The ones with green stars to their left are the ones that make the cut: anything with one or more red minuses or no green pluses was out. After a little more debate I have ditched podded peas in favour of just growing mangetout (mostly eaten straight from the plant in the garden, mmm). Which gives me:

Vegetable Plant Harvest Bed
Potatoes Mid-March – May (earlies) 9-10 wks after planting (early June – August) South-west (once broad beans are up)
Chard Spring/self-sown Throughout year South/north-east perennial beds
Rocket Throughout year (not July) Throughout year Wherever there’s space
Misc lettuce Throughout year (not July) Throughout year North-west bed
Courgette Indoors mid-April, plant out mid-May From July/August North-west bed
Pepper Mid-Feb onwards indoors, plant ‘out’ mid-May From July/August (harvest green to increase yield) Greenhouse
Garlic Nov (already in) June In edges of various beds
Mangetout March June Next to fig up fence; in tomato pots until tomatoes ready
Broad beans Nov (already in) April-May South-west bed
Podded beans May July Square bean bed
Tomatoes March in greenhouse August/September In pots along fence

So my tasks so far look like this:

  • February:
    • Look over that list and existing seeds, buy seeds as necessary
    • Transplant herbs into perennial beds
  • March:
    • Sow rocket as necessary (wherever)
    • Chit potatoes (late March)
    • Plant peppers on windowsill / in greenhouse
    • Plant mangetout (in tomato pots / next to fig)
    • Plant tomatoes (in greenhouse)
  • April:
    • Sow chard as necessary (perennial beds)
    • Sow misc lettuce as necessary (NW bed)
    • Plant courgettes in greenhouse (mid April)
    • Pull up broad beans (late April)
    • Plant potatoes (SW bed)
  • May:
    • Plant out courgettes (NW bed) (mid-May)
    • Plant out peppers (greenhouse) (mid-May)
    • Plant podded beans (square bean bed)
  • June:
    • Harvest garlic
    • Harvest mangetout
  • July:
    • Sow chard as necessary
    • Sow rocket as necessary
    • Harvest podded beans
  • August:
    • Harvest potatoes

Next I need to work out what other tasks I need to do: fertilising, tying in fruit, peas, and tomatoes, etc. Then I can transfer it all into my calendar — thus minimising decisions to make and enabling me just to do things when I have a moment.

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Pruning

It’s about the time of year that I need to prune my fruit trees and bushes. I have done this before, but I am far from convinced that I did it the best way (and also I can’t remember what that was anyway). Hence this resource collection on pruning, and a summary for what I need to do.

Apple tree

Blackcurrant

Blueberry

Any comments from experienced pruners (especially of dwarf apple trees!) welcome.

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Stories!

Slightly belatedly, I have a story, “A Dangerous Magic”, in Silver Blade issue 20.

I also have a story, “Blocking”, forthcoming in Strange Bedfellows from Bundoran Press. That won’t be out until April 2014 but I am greatly looking forward to it.

(There are another couple of stories on their way which I don’t think have been formally announced yet so I won’t mention. But I am very excited about them too.)

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New mini greenhouse

I’ve been planning to build a mini greenhouse by the back door. The original idea was to use various bits and pieces of scrap this and that to construct it from scratch, frame and all; but then my parents offered me the frame of their old one (the cover having expired).

So with a big pile of bubble wrap and some parcel tape, this is the result:

Bubblewrap Mini Greenhouse

As you can see here, there’s no proper door closure

Just in time to house my chilli pepper over winter. The highly scientific “put a hand inside it” temperature check suggests that it is doing its job in keeping things at least a little bit warm.

This was also one of my Permaculture Design Diploma projects, and you can read the first draft of the design writeup here.

This week I also harvested the last of my tomatoes, and pulled the old plants up. I have a fair few green tomatoes, but also a surprising number that had gone odd-looking — slightly brown or black, but not in a pattern suggesting blossom end rot. My only guess is that it’s been cold enough that they’re suffering from that. Certainly some of the plants have died off already, so it may just be that any surviving tomatoes died with them. I’m sure I’ve harvested this late before without problems, but perhaps it’s been warmer for longer those times. My tomatoes also started later than usual this year, due to the bad spring. I will bear it in mind for next year; and I still got a decent crop. The remainder of the red ones went in a very low oven for a couple of hours today with some oil, and became very tasty indeed.

Another go at the grape vine, with snail defences from the start this time.

Another go at the grape vine, with snail defences from the start this time.

Then today I planted a new grape vine, with full snail defences from the start. Let’s hope it’s more successful than the last one.

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Emergency Squash Cloche!

Somewhat to my surprise, my volunteer squash has actually produced a couple of baby squashes. (It turns out that it’s a butternut squash. Hurrah!) But as we head conclusively into autumn, there isn’t enough warm weather left for them to grow to a decent size, let alone to ripen.

Tiny butternut squash, still green, on compost

Really very small indeed

Apparently you can use unripe winter squashes (like butternut) in much the same way you use summer squashes (like courgettes), so I anticipate experimenting with Butternut Courgette in the near future. I’d still like them to get a little bigger first, though, so I raided the pile of bamboo poles, and the big stash of bubble-wrap in the garage, to construct an Emergency Squash Cloche:

Raised bed covered with bubble wrap hung on bamboo pole frame

Not the most attractive thing, but hopefully functional

I’m not sure if it’ll work, but it was free and took only 15 or 20 minutes to set up and tie together. It’s not a good long-term cloche, either, as it’s hard to get in under it, but it’ll do for the next couple of weeks to see what happens. My main problem at this point is preventing Leon from pulling it down in order to pop all the bubbles.

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