Monday, May 31, 2010

Bank Holiday Monday - 31st May 2010


Constantly amazed by my gals, they are now delivering us 6 eggs per day, and as I estimate we have 7 ladies in all, only one isn't yet ready to do the business.

Today they had a good clean out. For small birds, they are messy buggers. Some deliver nice firm little poops, others leave great big messy slimy craps. Very unpleasant. However, very little smell from them, and they are just so darn cute that I can forgive them anything.

They used to lay their eggs neatly in the pots that we are using as little nesting homes, but now they just lay with gay abandon, wherever the urge takes them, and whenever it seems. At first, we didn't get eggs until around 6pm. Now the first eggs are deposited before lunch time. I assume this is down to sunrise getting earlier and earlier.
I am yet to see one of the ladies actually lay, but they are doing it, which is good enough for me.

Each girl lays a very distinctive egg, which means we are able to monitor who is doing the laying. We get a blue one, a little browner one, a larger chalky one and so on, as you can see from the piccies. I can also report that they are fertilised eggs as we have had a couple which have a smear of blood in them which confirms that it is time for hubby to set about constructing an incubator. I definately want to hatch a dozen and see what colours, and sexes we get. It could mean a glut of quail meat in the freezer, or enough eggs to supply the local village market!! Oh the excitement. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th May 2010 - weather: bright and breezy

I really need to perfect my rain dance, and quick. The plot is just so dry my seeds won't germinate. The beetroot has, but I figure that is big seed, and I drenched the drill, as I always do, and they popped up, as did half the row of spring onions, but only 2 florence fennel seedlings and a smattering of carrots. No parsnips or turnips. I shall carry on sowing and hope that when the rain does eventually come, which inevitably it will, I will be inundated with seedlings of all description.

Anyhow, to business. Tuesdays visit was short and sweet as I only had an hour, and I got called away by school after 30 minutes as daughter was having an asthma attack. She is fine, fear not. This visit was meant just for earthing up spuds, and I did nearly all of the 6 rows before the call, so I was pleased.

Todays visit was a longer one, arrived at 1.15 and didn't have to leave until 3.15. I earthed up the last of the spuds, then hoe hoe hoed around the last cabbages/spring greens. They are hearting up and I really should use them, but I need to do a roast or else be imaginative. I also weeded number one son's small plot where he has 3 pointed cabbages, half a row of calendula, and 2 red lettuce planted. I then planted a dozen 'Black Magic' sunflower plantlets in there for him. They should look very sexy, providing the snails keep off.

Now plot number 2 is weed free and looks great, so I planted half a row of red and green kale and half a row of cavalo nero kale. I did put some netting over them, just hope it is enough until I have time to construct a proper pigeon/deer barrier.

Over on plot number one I weeded around my seedless seed bed and sowed half a row of climbing french beans. I am growing more frenchies than runners as I prefer them and think they freeze better. I shall probably miss the runners and end up doing a late sowing....well, I do have a dozen spare 7 foot canes just hanging around.

I had a good natter with Jack, and Mrs Chapman, who's hubby broke both his ankles in a motorbike accident, and then watered what I could. That was it, time up! Half term next week and lots planned, but I am hoping I will be able to beg/bribe/plead the kids into going so I can sow another row of peas and plant out my spring onions and leeks that are in trays, wilting at home. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday 24th May 2010 - weather: hot hot hot


The pecking order in the quailarium seems to be sorted. Out of our 11 birds, we are farely confident we have 4 boys. This is okay, they don't seem to harrass the ladies too much - just the odd quickie, no foreplay, no boxes of choccies.

The family are becoming friendlier and as they reach maturity, we are starting to see their personalities. Grumpy and gingernut, both chaps, love to crow. It is such a great sound, a muted cock a doodle doo. They seem to like the sound of their own voices mid afternoon. I have no idea if they are crowing during the wee small hours as they are at the end of the garden and have to compete with the blackbirds who seem to wake up at 3am to start the dawn chorus.

One of the fat range girls has left the madding crowd and lives up on the shelf. I have given her a box to live in and some straw and she has a flower pot full of compost which she snuggles down in. The rest of the clan had adopted pots, or the wooden house to sit in, although they all love to fluff up the dry compost and cause a dust storm before nestling down in the impression they have made.

The new clan were all quite scruffy when they arrived, but I am glad to report that injuries have healed and feathers have all regrown. I put that down to a healthy diet of mealworms, quail mix, dandelions, cabbage leaves, corn on the cob and soaked bread crusts. Am I fattening them up for Christmas??

Have we named them all? No is the short and easy answer. We have stumpy, named as she is missing at least 3 toenails, bobble, named by daughter, The Big One, our large pied white, who is large, and fat, and wobbly, Grumpy a mean boy who shagged everyone upon arrival and started quite aggressively. He has now settled down and is slightly gentler in his love making. And finally, gingernut. He is the odd one out, the only ginger quail we have. He was very scruffy upon arrival, but has settled in to the house well and is looking much less shabby. I haven't seen any bedroom action from him, but he does stand on tip toe and crow loudly.

The greatest news so far - EGG COUNT 72 !!!!!

Monday 24th May 2010 - weather: Even more scorchio

Yet another seriously hot day. Not really a day to be out working with the noon sun on my back, but my allotment time is rare, so after weight watchers (lost another pound), and Asdas (spent way to much, but have stocked up now for half term), I got to the plot around 11, and could stay until 1.30 before heading to work for an hour.

A busy morning on site, my old mate Jack, Ray and his wife who have the neatest allotments in the world, emphysema Joe who has to take things very carefully, and me. On our site, this is a full house.

After a brief chat with Jack, onto my plot. I planted the rest of the brassicas, so the current cage is now full. I have netting to create another cage, but really need to clear the onions. This happened to me last year and I will probably end up doing the same the cage over the onions and plant the brassicas inbetween said alliums, oiking them out when they are ready, leaving the brassicas behind.

I then decided to try and use one of the hoes that Jack gave me. I am not very good with hoes, and I don't like leaving the weed debris lying around, but this funny contraption has a blade on one side, and with a quick flip, a small 4 pronged raked the other, so I hoed a patch, then quickly raked up the weeds and stones as I went. Very tidy indeed, and I had completely hoed and tidied the onion bed in about 20 minutes. Fantastic job. So, enthused with my success, I then did the same further up plot 2 and cleared the area infront of the tomato house. The lovely soft tilth left behind allowed me to plant another 8 tomato plants. Perfect. I also took advantage of a gap in the onion bed and sowed a row of slender french beans. No idea if they are climbers as I bought them in France, so will have to wait and see.

Over on plot one I planted 2 short rows of perpetual spinach plantlets, and sowed a row of french breakfast radish inbetween. The deer proof netting is so fine, I don't seem to be troubled by flea beetles, and if my carrots ever bother to germinate, I don't suppose I will be worried by carrot fly as I have such a high and fine barrier.

I was able to use the hose from our allotment secretary, and filled all of my butts up. Suprising how quickly the levels had gone down since last filling.

A brief visit, but plenty done. Next visit, I shall get busy with my hoe/rake and tidy the spuds up and get them earthed up.
Sunday 23rd May 2010 - weather: Scorchio!!

Can you believe this weather?? Glorious, just glorious, although apparently, only a brief visit from Mr Sunshine as the days will be considerably cooler as the week wears on. The car themometer registered a balmy 25' on route to the plot Sunday lunchtime.

Mobhanded Jack told me, and we were. All of us made the trip, including step daughter, the plan being sort out some more deer proofing, BBQ lunch, a bit of planting, then home for a cold one and a relax in the shade.

Hubby was definately in the zone - I told him what needed doing, and he got on with it, no questions asked. He put up our scarecrow and planted the 2 tumbling tomatoes in his head. He cut the paths all around both of my plots, and run the mower around old Jacks to thank him for the 6 white sprouting brocolli plants, onion seedlings and 2 cucumber plants. He then constructed pigeon proof netting on plot number 2 for my various brassica plants, put up deer proof netting on plot number one around my courgette/sweetcorn area and finally helped me water everything in. What a star.

Whilst he was working up a sweat, and a rather fetching sunburn, I planted 12 squash plants - courgettes, marrows, cucumbers, gourds and pumpkins, purple queen dwarf french beans, 18 tomato plants, 3 aubergine plants and 24 different brassicas ranging from white sprouting broc, calabrese, different cabbages, caulis and sprouts.

A leisurely lunchtime break with the kids, all sitting in the shade by the shed, the barbeque sizzling under the weight of sausages and burgers and will all shared a bottle of cola. Even though it is still only May, I was able to harvest some lettuce, radish and a leek to compliment our grilled lunch, and even daughter number one ate a radish...her first ever. Of course, the first was mild and sweet and she loved it. It had lulled her into a false sense of security as the second one was the king of peppery radish and you could see the steam coming out of her ears!

It is such an innocent way to spend a couple of hours - no telly, no technology - well, once the charges had run out on the i-pods, just gossip, jokes and laughter. A perfect day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monday 10th, Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th May 2010 - weather: changeable

Well, can you believe it? Three days in a row on the allotment. Granted, they weren't full days, but I worked like a dog whilst there and achieved a lot.

Monday - I had to visit a client for her to tell me what plants she wanted me to buy for her garden, but then I hot footed it to the plot. The deer doesn't seem to be munching my uncovered lettuces, but I am making the plot a bit of a maze with planting, and bits of chicken wire here and there, so maybe that, and the fact that I am on the plot a lot at the moment, has put it off. However, lots of tell tale footprints on Jacks plot. My main objective of today was to get some more seeds planted, plants in, weeding done and finish off laying the weed suppressing membrane down for the squash/corn bed. Got the lot done, and planted 2 last rows of spuds!! Seeds in, beetroot, carrots and parsnips. Plantlets in, broadbeans, runner beans, peas and sweetpeas. Shifted 6 barrows full of manure and spread it around the squash area, then put down the membrane and pegged it in place. Knackering work, but if it helps with the weed control, it will have been worth every stinky minute. Finished the day weeding - bloody weeds don't care about the dry soil or the hard crust in places. No, they grow regardless where as my poor carrots struggle to break through. :(

Tuesday - a flying visit. Worked nearly all day and had just an hour to go before collecting the kids, so, as the mower was in the car, the paths received a very short hair cut. I also had the strimmer, with just a little charge left in it, so I was able to edge also. A productive hour.

Wednesday - a couple of hours spare. I worked until 1.30 and didn't have to be at school until 4, so the job I planned was laying more membrane down on plot number 2 at the bottom end, the end where the cabbages were going. Firstly I had to weed the area. Actually, it wasn't in to bad a state, but those darn creeping buttercups come up from the centre of the earth! Anyhow, once cleared, I spread over a few handfulls of lime, raked it in a little, then got busy laying the membrane. I wonder if the deer will be put off walking on it?? Of course, I cut it short so had to do a bit of a jigsaw, but that was okay. And the bonus prize, enough left to do the tomato area. I could hear the weeds shaking in their tap root boots. It is a faf, but it will be worth it.
Caroline, my lottie neighbour, popped up, and she told me that the deer had munched her raspberry plants to the ground. AAGGHH! Glad mine are safely tucked away in the fruit cage. Of course, this means I am going to have to spend more time putting up net fences when I should be sowing, planting and weeding. Anyhow, in the last hour of the day, I pulled a huge armful of rhubarb and set about weeding the onion bed. I must remember not to bother growing red onions as they just don't grow on our soil. We do have white rot, but the red ones don't even get started, they just sit there, whither, and die. The whites however, begining to bulb up nicely. The shallots are also really growing fast now which is very satisfying. I am growing the garlic at home this year as an experiment as it always grows well on the plot, but when I come to dig it up, all the bulbs are rotten in the ground. If we get decent garlic at home, I shall continue to grow it there.

No photos, forgot the camera every day- useless bird. I shall take it next visit, promise. Hopefully next visit, netting will be erected and the brassicas will all get in the ground, then the visit after that, beans and squash, if any have survived the couple of frosts we have had this week.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wednesday 5th May 2010 - weather: bright but chilly...again.

News flash! News flash! News flash! News flash! News flash! News flash!
Day one we were greeted with 3 eggs. No idea from which hen's bottom they came, but after that, we had only one egg delivered on the next 4 days. Overjoyed that my girls had started thinking about laying, and were obviously reaching laying age, we hoped for more. On day 6 our wait was rewarded with 2 eggs, laid by different hens as the eggs had a different pattern. One of our girls is laying eggs which are cream in colour with brown splodges, the other hen is laying cream eggs which are spotted with brown and white. Our 2 egg banquet continued for another 4 days, bringing us to this wonderous day. Today, whether from one of our new ladies, or from one of our mature fawn girls we don't know, but today, 3 eggs, and the new egg was blue in colour, more dumpy with brown smears. We have no idea if this will be a regular laying, but where normally the girls leave their eggs neatly in their flowerpot homes, the blue egg was just deposited on the ground on the earth.
The family have taken to sitting up with the quail for a while each evening, watching their antics and listening to their chatterings and them tapping on the greenhouse glass wishing they were outside. Of course, they have an outside run, which they all use, I think they just forget where the door is.
My cup floweth over.
Egg count - 18

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday 4th May 2010 - weather: overcast and chilly


Of course, 5 quail just was not going to be enough, so hubby found another local dealer and we pootled off on Saturday to buy another 6. We now have 5 fawn quail, 3 range quail, 2 white pied quail and 1 who is still in her baby plumage, but I think she might be a fawn lady. Sods law, we have at least 3 boys. Oh well, at least it mixes up the gene pool, and if it becomes necessary, they will wind up in the freezer.

There does seem to be a lot of hanky panky going on, and I have to say, I don't want to come back in my next life as a quail. The boys grab the gals by the scruff of the neck and pin them down whilst they do the deed. No foreplay!
Our large white pied is very much in my bad books. I had a tray of lovely tomato plants growing nicely. They were up high on the staging, and to date, the birdies had ignored the tom plants....until last night, when our lovely big white girl, scoffed the lot! Thanks to her, I had to spend £6 on 6 new tomato plants. The things we do for pets.

Our new ladies, and men, are only about 6 to 7 weeks old so not laying yet, but the good news is we are now collecting 2 eggs a day, so our egg count is 15. Happy!
Tuesday 4th May 2010 - weather: overcast and chilly

A flying visit to the plot this afternoon, only from 12.30 until 2 as I was working in the morning and had to do a couple of chores before collecting the urchins from school. I really need to press on and get the brassica bed limed and covered in weed suppressing membrane, and the same with the squash corn bed, but rather than lime, a good thick layer of manure needs to go under the membrane. Well, today I managed to weed and lightly fork over the squash bed and humped 5 wheel barrows full of manure from one side of the allotment site to the other and dumped it on the bed. I will need to do at least another 5 journeys to get a decent covering, but I ran out of time. Hopefully next week I will have a couple of hours on the Monday to get to the plot, and a full day on the Friday so I should be able to get both beds sorted, the last of the spuds in, and the brassicas in.

To say I am knackered this evening would be an understatement.