Wednesday 28th April 2010 - weather: humid and hot hot hot
A quick update to let you know that after an impressive start of 3 eggs, for the last 2 days we have only had one egg a day. We are not complaining however, 1 is a 100% improvement. So, egg count currently stands at 5.
Monday 26th April 2010 - weather: bright but overcast
Big news followers. Today we can start our egg count. I paid the gals a visit at around 2pm, and found 2 perfect eggs in the flowerpots. Later, when I finally arrived back home with the sprogs after swimming and shopping, they went to check, and to their great pleasure, another egg in the flowerpot. I am overjoyed. Hubby and I had them fried on a slither of french bread, and they were devine.
Still no darn eggs. I cleaned the gals out yesterday and chattered with them, gave them lashings of food, fresh water, and a sprinkling of mealworms. Were they grateful, were they pah! Still no eggs. I am obviously doing something wrong, or they are all boys. It is a good job they are cute or else their days would seriously be numbered. So, bugger all to report. No mice or rats, they are eating well and gaining weight, they are plump and have lovely shiny feathers, neat beaks and feet, and they do flap around from time to time and trash me seeds on the staging, but other than that, nothing at all to report. :(
I didn't get onto the allotment until 11ish as I had to work a couple of hours, but when I got there, I knuckled down. I planted the last of my lettuce seedlings out and am glad to report that the ones I planted previously, with no netting or deer proofing, are still intact. Hopefully the muntjac have found a bountiful harvest elsewhere. I then sowed a row of florence fennel, beetroot and spring onions and finished off sowing a block of carrots.
Everything is struggling to germinate due to the lack of rain (although I am typing this on Sunday evening and we have had several welcome downpours today), so I did start watering with my can. Already one waterbutt is empty and 2 others are only half full, and this on an allotment where watering really doesn't take place very often. Action was needed, so I tromped over to see if the allotment neighbour, and site secretary was home. She was, and after some polite chitchat she was more than happy for me to run her hose across her garden, fill my waterbutts and water the plot. It was a bit of a carry on as the hose was blocked with algae, which I managed to clear, and of course, it was in a tangle, which I undid, but after about 20 minutes, I had lashings of water spraying about with gay abandon. The hose ended up being on for a good couple of hours, during which time, all of my butts were filled to overflowing, and the seed bed and all of my recently plants seedlings received a good water. Now that was a seriously good job well done.
I still have a couple of varieties of spud to get in, so I cleared the last of my spring onions, and planted half a row of a maincrop variety called Bambino. I then wandered down plot 2 and dug up the grass/weed infested path so that I can plant another row down that end on my next visit. Whilst down that end of the plot, I took the time to weed around my Japanese onions, and I must say, the white ones have really put on a burst of growth. The red ones however, very weedy. Talking of hunions, old Jack had left a tray of what looked like blades of grass, but what I knew were maincrop onion seedlings, so I went back over to plot number one, and planted them on a spare square of ground up by the cardoon. I watered the ground well first and once it had all soaked in, I planted roughly 25 maincroppers. Generally, I don't have any luck at all growing maincrop onions due to the white rot on the allotment, hence this year I am growing my garlic in troughs at home, but I will give them a go. If I have to pull them very young and use them as salad onions, I haven't lost anything.
The globe artichokes are looking fab after I was a tad worried a few weeks back, and the cardoon is growing like a triffid. The rhubarb is also growing at quite a rate of knots and we have already had several delicious feeds from it. I also still have a lovely thicket of parsley, but I know this will quickly go to seed now as it is left from last year. I really should pick it all and freeze it, but I don't have any problems getting it to germinate, so I never bother.
Hopefully I will get back to the plot next week, but I have a pretty full working week ahead of me. If nothing else, we need to get to the plot to deliver our new chum, Bill, who we made to try and deter the deer. He is rather dashing, don't you think?
Sunday 18th April 2010 - weather: STUNNING!!! Who would have thought...a suntan in April?!? Yes, after spending most of the day on the allotment in glorious April sunshine, I have sunburnt shoulders. Am I complaining? Not on your nelly. It was so lovely to be out and feel the sun on my skin, although I wouldn't complain if we had a drop of rain as the allotments are bone dry and my seeds are struggling to germinate.
So, up with the lark and on the plot by 9am. A fabulous time to get there on a Sunday as all I could hear was bird song. My main aim of the day was to weed and sort out the fruit cage. I didn't really do much in there last year and the grass and nettles had really crept in and infiltrated the currant bushes, so now was my chance to have a good weed through and put down some weed supressing membrane that I had left over from a previous job.
Labour of love, that is all I can say. Fiddly, plenty of nettles and brambles, but on the upside, loads of flowers on my purple and green goosegogs, red and black currants and the jostaberry. Also, the raspberries have put up lots of canes, so should be a good year for fruit. And a bonus spotted whilst weeding around the green goosegog - 2 layered cuttings, 2 two nice young plants for free.
Putting the membrane down was a palava, and I only did the back half of the cage as I didn't want to supress the raspberries, but what a lovely job. Hopefully the fruit bushes will benefit as there should be no competition from weeds, it will be easier for me and the kids to get in and pick the fruit, and it is a weeding job I can cross of my list giving me more time to concentrate on other jobs.
Now, the family arrived for a couple of hours. Mark strengthened the fruit cage as it had sagged and a couple of cross beams had broken after the heavy snow, he cut the grass on all of my paths, and he sorted out and tidied the shed. I weeded under the apple trees, sowed a row of beetroot, planted my broadbean plants and a row of little gem lettuce plants and iceberg lettuce plants.
After lunch, I was all alone, so I carried on weeding around the strawberries. They have put on an amazing amount of growth in the last few weeks. I am going to have to think about netting them once the flowers are open and young fruit start to develop otherwise the pesky deer will be enjoying the strawbs before we do. I then sorted out my runner bean canes and tied them all in place. I think I am going to have to put up some more somewhere as I have sown a lot of bean seeds this year in an attempt to use some of them up. Can a girl ever have too many beans?? Last job of the day, watering. Never easy on our site as we don't have taps, so no hoses, and the only water we have is the water we save. Already one of my waterbutts is empty! Honestly, some nighttime rain would be lovely please mother nature.
No photos...camera had no charge, but I will be back on the lottie on Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours, so will endevour to take the camera then.
Nothing, nada, zilch! Not a sausage, or an egg. I don't think my girls like me very much. I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse and hope that will make them less timid. I wonder if they are all boys? Everyone keeps reassuring me that they will get around to it, but when I check out the quail forum, everyone seems to be getting at least 2 per day from their birds and have been for weeks. Patience girl, patience.
Their saving grace is that they are beautiful and I adore the sound of their chatterings and the way they tap at the glass hoping to break free into the outside world. One big girl has made a new home seperate from the others in a big clay flowerpot. The others all still huddle together under the greenhouse staging in the straw.
I have brought some dried mealworms for them, as a little treat, and yesterday, when potting on my kale, I ended up with half a seed tray spare. Now I could have potted them up, but who needs 100 kale plants? So I put the tray down on the ground, and by this morning, most of them had been picked and scratched up, so they obviously enjoyed that treat.
Thursday 15th April 2010 - weather: glorious again. I wonder if this weather is the calm before the storm? I heard a rumour that the temperature is going to drop down into the minuses again at the weekend. Not good for all of my emerging seedlings and plants. Oh well, nothing we can do when mother nature decides to play silly buggers.
I have spent the last 2 days potting on seedlings. Not the most exciting job, actually, one I dread, but this year I am determined to be more organised and grow more variety. Every year I seem to run out of room or time and there are things left unsown, so this year, I am trying to be efficient.
I have potted on calabrese, brocolli, cabbage, cauli, toms, peppers, kale, spinach, dahlias and pansys. I have also sown some more basil as the last lot failed to germinate and I have a wodge of seed packets to sow in trays tomorrow and over the weekend. There is a lot of germinating going on - hollyhocks, sweetpeas, peas, beans, chillis, celeriac, calendula, chrysanths and sunflowers. No show yet from the squashes, but they only went in at the start of the week. As you can see, plenty of flowers as well as veggies.
I watched Alys Fowlers program last night about her edible garden and I thought that I really should grow a bit more at home. I do have a trough of cut and come again leaves in the greenhouse which should be ready for a picking next week but that is all. I have masses of pots, troughs and other containers I could use, so I think I will do a wigwam on the deck with some beans, and perhaps a tom plant or 2 in the garden.
Today I purchased 2 aubergine plants which will spend their life in the greenhouse. I have zero joy with aubs, and had decided not to bother sowing any, but my allotment friend Caroline is much luckier than I, so I brought 2 from her at the country market today.
Fingers crossed, an allotment visit looms over the weekend, and again Wednesday afternoon.
A brief allotment encounter today. Daughter number one is attending a school club every morning this week, so number one son and I popped to the plot today. The deer proofing seems to be holding up well, and there doesn't seem to be any damage anywhere. I have peas germinating, radish and salad bowl lettuce. I also think I spotted some teeny carrot seedlings. Plus, the first Maris Piper spud is poking through the earth. Hoorah - spring is springing all over the plot at long last.
This morning was really for him, so we weeded and gently forked over his square, which he then meticulously raked level. He went on to plant 8 greyhound cabbage and 3 red lollo rosso lettuce. We also sowed a short row of calendula seeds. Of course, all of this had to be netted. Honestly, the netting takes longer than the planting and is becoming somewhat frustrating. I am going to have to invest in lots and lots of netting. Anyhow, whilst he went of to play shipwrecks in the stream, I planted the rest of the lettuce and got them netted.
I started to weed the last area in my netted seed plot over in allotment one, but number one son was by now geting bored, so we picked some daffs, the first 4 longest stems of rhubarb, and 2 stonking, show stopping leeks and headed for home.
I may well try to get back to the plot early Sunday morning for a few hours. The fruit cage is incredibly weedy. I need to sow beetroot, turnips and so on. I haven't yet tilled the old brassica area in preperation for courgettes and corn and I want to put down weed supressing membrane also. And both plots could really do with edging and the paths need cutting. Will I ever get on top of things??
Because I obviously have so many spare hours in the day, we have decided that keeping a few birds could be fun. Actually, I have always wanted to keep birds - as a child, Lovebirds, but as I have gotten older, and some say, wiser, I have come to appreciate the rising cost of our food, and the naff quality of a lot of what we buy, and as we have only the best fruit and veg courtesy of the allotment, and the local producers, I felt it about time we tried to produce more for the table, so we are now the proud owners of 5 Italian Quail.
We purchased them from a local breeder in Chelmsford, and they are darlings. Plump gals, somewhat stroppy, and of course, to be a member of our family, greedy little darlings.
We have modified the greenhouse and Mark has made a fab run for them, with a little door, so they have access to the outside world and grass and mud in which to play. I have also temperarily covered the opening window with chicken wire so I can open it during warm days, just to let a bit more air circulate. However, I have done a lot of reading over the last 3 weeks, and it seems that quail like to be toasty and hate drafts, so the greenhouse should be the perfect penthouse with en-suite. As the weather warms, I will remove the glass from the opening window and compeltely cover it with chicken wire. I think we will do the same with the door as I am concerned we will come down one afternoon and find them all spit roasted!
Mark has built them a lovely home, which they refuse to use, prefering to huddle together under my greenhouse staging. This is fine and I have shoved some straw under there for them to make them comfy. I have also put down some turf at one end of the greenhouse. Well, we all like a little shag pile in our living rooms. Today, after yet more research, I went out and brought a bag of bird sand and oyster grit for them to eat and bath in. I also put in a few large flower pots, on their sides, in case they wanted some privacy. Finally, I have brought some seaweed and vitamin dust to add to their food. A teaspoon is enough for 16 girls, so a scant quarter of a teaspoon went into their feeder today. Now, this mix claims to improve laying. Laying huh?....do we mean laying in the sun, topping up our tans?....laying a carpet so improve our living conditions?... no, we mean laying some eggs please girls!!!! Have we discovered any eggs yet? No we haven't!! I tell you, at £4.50 a tub, this seaweed extract had better live up to it's promise otherwise I sense quail casserole might be on the menu pretty soon.
So there we are, it will be 3 weeks on Saturday 17th April since the girls moved in, and 3 weeks with no eggs. Rumour has it we may add to the brood, as according to 'the experts' our quail accomodation could house up to 16 birds. I don't want 16. I just want layers.
I will keep you posted of egg production....if we get any. Oh, to be fed up with quails eggs on toast, poached quails eggs, mini scotch eggs, hard boiled quails eggs..........
My theory is, men love gardening because it is as close as they can get to childbirth...without the obvious pain! They aquire their little seed,they place it in a soft bed of John Innes,they talk to it,water and feed it,and then birth,a seedling!