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Patience, patience… how long does it take tree seeds to germinate?

This seed could be from the largest tree on earth

I bought a pack of mixed conifer seeds from Chiltern Seeds, always a favourite company of mine, and they come in a large packet containing literally hundreds of seeds – enough to reforest the whole of Devon, I’m sure.

There’s a technique involved in successful germination of tree seeds called stratification, those who use it will say it is reliable – to the uninitiated it sounds complicated.

Some seeds, particularly those of hardy trees, shrubs and alpines, require exposure to moisture and low temperature to break dormancy – Chiltern Seeds

How to make the seeds think they have gone through winter:

Step 1. Soak seeds in rainwater

Step 2. Place seeds in a clean tub on damp tissue

Step 3. Leave in fridge for six weeks

Step 4. Remove from fridge and examine daily for signs of germination

Step 5. Carefully pot up any germinating seeds

Chiltern themselves point out that some trees will need to go through this process, designed to mimic winter, twice – because in nature the seeds could sit dormant for years.

Seed size has nothing to do with the final size of the tree.

What I find fascinating is the scale of the seed shown in this image, it could well be a Sequoia, Red Wood, or other massive tree. Sequoias are particularly known for having tiny seeds like this one.

I sown grass seed over a week ago… now, where’s my bowling green?

Another aspect of seeds that delights is somewhat fear-based. Will it even work?

I recently leveled my front garden, creating a usable flat space as a terrace, rather than the rough landscape it used to be, it really was an extension of the rough grazing that can be seen on this side of the River Dart, and somewhat an embarrassment.

I’m naturally drawn to the path of least resistance and also a little impatient, so as soon as the terrace was flat enough I was out there sowing grass seed. The birds have never been so happy.

Loads of seed seemed to ‘float’ to the surface the local flock of House Sparrows seemed to triple in size – I wasn’t expecting any good results, I simply didn’t believe it would happen.

So good to be wrong! The weather was perfect, heavy showers for my entire week off.

And here, after just over a week is the fledgling lawn.

It’s a wonderful thing growing things from seed, a beautiful expectation followed, with luck, by a beautiful plant… tree… or lawn. Take a look at Chiltern’s ‘Lottery Mixtures‘ which offer amazing value for the adventurous grower.

As Chiltern would say, why don’t you grow something new from seed?

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The bright side of Brexit – cheap British exports

bright red coach photoshopped to look like Brexit bus, says hey europe, do you mind if we pay in installments? £350 million a week?

Brexit means cheap British exports, and that includes sheepskins.

Here at Dartmoor Sheepskins we try to look at the bright side of life, a quick look at our explosively colourful range of natural dyes and I’m sure you’ll see what we mean.

Can we talk about Brexit?

I won’t lie to you, it’s been difficult watching the world from Sheepskin Towers, seeing the pound plummet against the Euro and take a pounding from every other currency you can name – it’s dented the already timid British confidence – things here are costing more, taxes are increasing, wages are staying the same – British people are feeling the pinch.

Familiarity can be reassuring but it also breeds contempt.

British people have been faced with the first affects of voting to leave the European Union; the devaluing of our native currency the GBP – Great British Pound. One year after we voted to leave the EU, the Euro dollar buys a lot more GBP than it used to.

The world is changing – right now the Euro buys more from our store than ever before.

The Dartmoor Sheepskin team, Shannon and Chris, have nearly a decade of experience in international shipping – we can get your goods to you wherever you live. And there has never been a better time to buy if your native currency is not GBP – in fact right now your money buys more from our store than ever before.

World class British goods at cheap prices.

Treat yourself to some world-class sheepskin, some cheap indigo or mimosa dye, or some seeds ready for spring, which will surely be right around the corner, right?

And don’t worry if you are stuck on a small island right here with us, you can still benefit from the daily fluctuations in Bitcoin (and other digital currencies) when you get to our checkout – choose your product and run it through the checkout.

The pound is currently matching the British weather on a 1:1 basis.

Is short: the pound is weak against any other currency, now is the best time to order from Dartmoor Sheepskins if you live abroad or have access to digital currency such as Bitcoin, we look forward to serving you in our shop.

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The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom

Open your heart up to the colours of our vivid mimosa, our warming marigold and our strong natural indigo. Open up your mind to the potential of natural dyes – sometimes life tells us that things are ready to change.

A favourite dress (and a favourite light coloured top) were ruined in the washing machine, giving cause to grieve what was lost. Many memories. A comfortable garment ruined with an oily stain – faint, but brutal. But nothing stays the same, whether we like it or not.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death – Anais Nin

One doesn’t have to wait for a laundry disaster to rejuvenate well-loved garments, changing your clothes can be a great way to celebrate and announce to the world a great change in yourself.

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Have a go at grafting hyacinth bulbs | Darwin would be proud

I have a dim memory from childhood that bulbs, particularly hyacinth bulbs, can be grafted together. If it really IS possible you’d have thought there would be more about grafting bulbs online… alas, a search turns up very little.

Cut two different colour hyacinth bulbs in half

Join them together

Tape them up

Plant them and wait

The only reference to grafting hyacinth bulbs that I can find online comes, surprisingly, from Charles Darwin’s book Animals and Plants Under Domestication:

“I should not have quoted the following case had not the author of ‘Des Jacinthes’114 impressed me with the belief not only of his extensive knowledge, but of his truthfulness: he says that bulbs of blue and red hyacinths may be cut in two, and that they will grow together and throw up a united stem (and this I have myself seen), with flowers of the two colours on the opposite sides. But the remarkable point is, that flowers are sometimes produced with the two colours blended together, which makes the case closely analogous with that of the blended colours of the grapes on the united vine-branches”

We will keep our fingers crossed here at Sheepskin Towers, hoping for some growth and perhaps even some multi-coloured flowers… I’ll post an update in due course!

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How to make a moss garden

When a friend told me his disused moss-covered tennis court was about to be demolished I jumped at the chance to create a beautiful moss garden!

Collecting moss can be frowned upon in the UK, but if you get the chance to save some then why not make your own moss garden? If you have to collect from the wild then choose a conifer plantation and leave it in such a way that it will grow back to fill in the holes you make. Here’s some good advice.

Choose a place in your garden that moss likes to grow in, it’ll be a wetter area or you’ll get slower growth – moss only grows when it has light, water and nutrients, if one of these is missing it will go dormant and be in stasis.

It can take six months for moss to get going once it’s been moved so you may as well give it the best shot at success!

How to lay a moss lawn:

Choose the dampest location in full sun or semi shade

Flatten the ground – moss doesn’t like bumps (it will in fact grow on glass)

Cut the moss to shape and press down firmly, in a windy location use cocktail sticks to fix it in place. If your moss is dry and you want to get it growing on a rock, or wood, then use spots of super glue.

Use scissors to cut the moss into the fine detail

Walking on moss will actually help it by again firming it down and by breaking the cells to make more moss.

Moss doesn’t like competition from weeds, like grass, neither does it like leaf litter. Show it a bit of love in this direction and it’ll repay you handsomely!

Some folks use weed killer to get moss off the lawn, if you have this problem do consider switching to a moss lawn, they are hard wearing and very attractive. For larger areas, like a lawn, lay it like polka dots and eventually it’ll grow over the gaps. But be warned, it is slow growing.

 

 

 

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Tall Is Beautiful!

We all know that good things come in small packages but for some things, including life itself, length matters!

There are over seventy species of ‘sunflower’ or Helianthus, and they sit within the much bigger plant family of Astereaceae, which includes Jerusalem Artichoke.

Our specimen here stands at over two metres, whilst the tallest can reach three metres – so we’ve not done too bad.

Most sunflowers are quite common annual plants native to North America and grown in temperate regions globally as a food crop, however the whorled sunflowers were declared endangered in 2014.

If you want to create sunflower yellows and oranges, check out our sustainably produced Marigold and Tesu dye.

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Increased range of digital currencies now accepted!

logos of dash, reddcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin cash, dogecoin, litecoin

Within the last two years Bitcoin has increased in price by over £3000 and public awareness is threatening to move beyond the stage where folk’s eyes glaze over.

As such, we are chuffed to beans to have increased the range of digital currencies we accept as payment for any of our products – simply select the Bitcoin/Altcoin option at the checkout.

Choose your favourite coin from; Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (which you will have already been given if you hold Bitcoin), Litecoin, Dash, Dogecoin, Reddcoin and Feathercoin.

Feel free to add something to your basket and checking the altcoin button just to see how it works – we look forward to serving you!

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Baby goldfish, newly hatched

tiny day old goldfish with prominent eye and translucent tail

It’s ALL about timing

We’ve had some new arrivals in the garden here at Sheepskin Towers – our goldfish felt suitably happy enough to lay eggs into this home made breeding mop, and by a stroke of luck we were lucky enough to catch it after the males had fertilised the eggs, but before all the adults had eaten the eggs – something they can do very quickly.

How to feed newly hatched goldfish

These little fellas are so small they need a liquid feed, but before you rush out and buy some especially, just boil an egg. Take a pea sized amount of the hard boiled yolk and mix it with a pint of water, squirt some food in each day and keep the mix in the fridge. You’ll need to make up some more liquid food after three days because even baby goldfish have standards.

3 tiny goldfish just days old

Goldfish eat ANYTHING small enough to fit in their mouths… including newly hatched goldfish

Don’t put newly hatched fry back in with the adults until they are too big to fit in their parent’s mouths! Honestly, one wonders how these things survive in the wild?

I’ll keep these little fellas separate and re home them in bigger tanks as required, for now they don’t need particularly clean water, in fact they prefer a little green algae and plenty of places to hide.

How do you get goldfish to lay eggs in the first place?

Goldfish lay in response to changes in their water coupled with an increase in the daylight hours. You’ll find specialist advice here, but generally speaking sunlight had been hitting the barrel for sufficient time each day to make the fish ready for spring and summer, whilst also being well fed – not over fed.

At the same time a big change in water quality made them think the snow on the mountains were melting. Basically, I watered the garden using nearly half the barrel. When I refilled the barrel with cold water this triggered the fish into breeding.

Persuade your fish to breed by slowly warming the water, then cool it down as though the mountain ice has melted

The sudden change in water quality and temperature lets the fish know that spring is really underway, the light level was good, the food was sufficient, and the fish started displaying mating behaviour, nudging each other, chasing each other…

Tie wool together to make a breeding mop

You needn’t buy specialist breeding equipment, our breeding mop is simply a bunch of wool. All the goldfish need is a safe place to hide, to rub themselves through, and to lay eggs on. The males follow the females and fertilise the sticky eggs with sperm. As soon as you think this is happening you should remove the mop and put it in a container with some of the water from the parent’s tank.

 

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Stunning House Martin flight from bedroom window [video]

Stunning display of House Martin’s flight from our bedroom window here at Sheepskin Towers this morning…

August is the House Martin’s last chance to mate, most will only mate once in their whole life. Both males and females feed the young, even young from a previous clutch of eggs will help feed the newly hatched. Once they have flown the nest they will return daily to roost, whilst pre-migration flocks develop during the day, eventually the birds will leave. The males will tend to return to the same colony, even if they do take up a different nest site than last year, but the females will tend to join a different colony several kilometres from where she hatched.

They fly so close to the window because long ago the nest would have been built on a cliff edge

House martins traditionally built their mud nests on cliff faces. By the 19th century they started making use of buildings, allowing them to expand their range. The traditional nest sites had been all but abandoned by early 1900s in favour of close association with people, which allowed the birds to exploit even urban areas – RSPB

Spot the line of weighted strings we are using to stop house sparrows stealing the nest, find out more about it here.  Also, please forgive the messy glass – it’s illegal to disturb house martins, which are a protected species, so window cleaning will have to wait!

 

 

 

If you want to take a look inside a martin nest this video is excellent (although it is a Purple Martin nest) – this video from the UK is of House Martins building their nest.

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Tie Dye Tuesday!

Let’s not pretend this summer has been jam-packed with great weather, probably the best we can say is ‘the garden needs the rain’.

Marigold, mimosa and indigo dye can create a superb effect

“Ashley Starkes Tie Dye Dress and Delias Lips Tee” by Lucy Burrows is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s fun

As we lurch towards the beginning of the autumn term parents across the land seek out colourful ways to entertain youngsters indoors.

Tie dyeing is easy and creative, and can leave even a complete beginner with personalised garments in just a single, fun, afternoon session.

It’s economical

There is nothing to stop you filling up the whole washing line once you have made up a bowl of dye! Dig out all your old white, or light coloured fabrics.

It’s easy

Here’s our simple instructions for tie dyeing with any of our natural pigments; marigold and tesu, bio indigo, and mimosa produce superb results – with a little practice they can all be used together with amazing results.

Tie dye instructions for natural dyes:

1. Machine wash garments, use a little washing powder but no fabric softeners.

2. Tie garments using; string, elastic bands or tie sleeves together, or make knots in skirts or trouser legs.

3. Make up a bowl of dye and a separate bowl of fabric treatment.

4. Add your garments first to the dye…

5. Then rinse well under cold water…

6. Then add garments to fabric treatment…

7. Then rinse and hang to dry – you may be surprised that the colour is already pretty well fixed, but it will improve by drying naturally.

Water collects on hydrophobic leaf
I think I’m becoming hydrophobic too!