Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday 30th September 2010 - weather: clear blue sky, but a chill in the air.

Another flying visit today after work, during which time I mananged to plant 100 Japanese onion sets, 55 garlic cloves and 25 broadbean seeds. I still have another 100 onion sets to plant out, but I need to clear the runner beans first, and I am hanging on as they are still so productive. Plot number 2 is now completely planted for winter use - oriental greens, aliums and leafy greens.

Picked another handful of runners, an armful of apples, and the other big pumpkin as the secret pumpkin muncher has now emptied the third pumpkin and I don't want it to move on to the next one on the vine.

Pulled a few more weeds, and then headed for home. One of these days I will take a camera!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday 27th September 2010 - weather: Dry

At last, hoorah, my blog can remain the Allotment News, as, for a brief two hours today, I got to the allotment.

I adore the changes in our seasons, it is one of the joys of living in the UK, and the signs of autumn covered the allotment site. The trees have started colouring up, the rosehips are glowing rusty orange (I really should pick some and make some rosehip syrup), the tomato plants were all blighty and finished and the leaves on the squash plants have started to frazzle away revealing a plethora of cucurbita fruits.

My beans are still going great guns - see, the slugs did me a favour munching off my first sowing of runners. If the weather remains mild, I could be picking runners for another month as there is a huge flush or crimson flowers. The Borlotti beans have finished flowering and the plants are weighed down with pods. I have been picking them as they dry, podding them and freezing them. I have never had any success drying the beans out and storing them for the winter, the just go mouldy. I have an abundance of beetroot and a large patch of carrots and turnips which I plan to leave in the ground to use over the winter. The parsnips were very, very late in germinating, and although they are growing very rapidly now, I don't thing we will be winning any 'biggest parsnip' awards at the Hort. Soc. AGM. However, they will be perfect for Christmas and the new year when harvestable crops are lean.

Lean....did I say lean....? Not on my plot. This year, thanks to, well, luck rather than judgement, I planted a large selection of brassicas through weed supressing membrane. This was so successful last year, that I doubled the area this year, and as a result, I have brussel sprouts - purple and green, purple sprouting, brocolli, 3 varieties of kale, 3 varietes of cabbage, kohl rabi, and cauliflowers, not that caulis are ever succesful on our site, but I try every year, just in case. I also have 2 rows of spinach and a lovely large patch of swiss chard. That, the leeks, the roots, and the new oriental greens that have just started germinating, should keep us in veggies well into next spring when the young salads and baby roots take over. GLEE!

I spent my 2 hours as productively as possible, cleared all the old tom plants, and filled a trug to overflowing with the red and green fruits - the red will be frozen, the green will be turned into my black mango chutney. I also picked a bundle of beans, pulled a couple of beetroots and picked the large pumpkin as I noticed a mouse/deer/slug has attacked one of the smaller ones, and I didn't want him to get bored and start on the whopper. Over the next few visits, I will bring all of the squashes home. After picking and dealing with the blighty tomato plants, I weeded around the young beetroots seeing what was there. Plenty of tennis ball sized roots, and a lot of smaller ones which will be used for leaves, or left to see if they develop as the larger ones are cleared.

That was it...two hours comes and goes in a blur. Saw Caroline, she has had a huge success with one butternut squash plant, producing over 10 fruits. Her plot is one of the neatest, but she leaves nearby and is retired so has planty of time on her hands....lucky girl!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday 26th September 2010 - weather: rain, rain and more rain.
Quail Diary

I really must get to the allotment and post some pics of life there...otherwise I am going to have to retitle my blog...something along the lines of 'Quail life and ocassional veggie news'.

Cleaned out the big family today and found 3 eggs. They were well hidden, so probably laid during the last 48 hours or so. Lots of straw has gone down to continue wrapping them up for winter. Open window that provide well needed ventilation during the summer monthes have now been blocked up and draft proofed, so next job is bubble wrap insulation. Mark is on the case. I also have 2 old duvets - one to got over their wooden house and one to go over the staging to try and help draft proof things for the family. I also have a fan heater (have I told you all of this before? I sometimes forget if I have told you, or my mother) and it has a frost free setting, so that will go under an old freezer basket to keep the gals cosy during the winter monthes.

The babes are now a week old, and they are looking like spotty, scrawny teenagers. Proper wing feathers have arrived in the last 24 hours, as has the attitude. How come other people wax lyrical about their friendly little birds, being able to hold them and hand feed them? Mind, scatty, hairbrained - or should that be feather brained? - flighty and generally terrified of me. I shower them with love, affection and mealworms, at great expense, and what do I get in return....well eggs I suppose. Is a little friendliness too much to ask??

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday 25th September 2010 - weather: Frosty morn, clear blue sky, FRESH!
A pictorial update. The brood are visably growing by the minute and already, only 6 days old, we can see their true feathers coming through, in pin as I believe Chris Packham would say. These pics don't show you as they were taken on Tuesday 21st. I will take some close ups later.

The white baby I am more and more certain is a lad, he is definately the leader, and the biggest. Eleanor, our lazy brown baby is still the smallest, but stands up for herself. They are eating, drinking, sleeping machines, just like any baby. The amazing thing is, at only 6 days old, they are all trying their wings constantly and leaping several inches in the air. They are adoreable, and I fear the family and I are hooked on these birds.

The big family in the garden are all becoming lazy now the days are cooler and the nights are longer and we are lucky if we get an egg or 2 a day. Husband has mentioned putting in some lights over the weekend which will come on using a timer at around 5am until around 7.30am when the sun finally bothers to show it's face. Hopefully this will encourage them to lay a few more for a while longer. An experiment as you can appreciate - we are new to this livestock husbandry lark.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday 19th September

Quail Diary
After nothing more than just some crackage during Saturday, we awoke early Sunday morning to find 4 chicks in the incubator, all excited, all cheeping and clambering on top of eachother, desperate to get out. They had to stay put for 24hours so they could gather their strength and their bodies could absorb the egg yolky stuff. You can tell I know all of the techy info re rearing quail chicks.

They are ADORABLE!! But, the excitement grew as, during Sunday, around lunch time, another egg started to break, and after a struggle, out emerged chick number 5. So far we had an all golden chick and 4 stripy like little bumble bees - gold main with thin dark stripes. I guess these will be the traditional coturnix colours and the all gold may be a white laddie. As the afternoon wore on, yet more excitement befell the household as chick number 6 emerged....exhausted and a tad weak. We were concerned that it wouldn't make it through the night with the other 5 all pounding on it's little head. We hoped it would be okay as this one was nearly all brown with just pale stripes. It was christened by wicked step daughter as Eleanor, as it has lazy teenager attitude as it appeared to be the last of the brood. No signs of life from egg number 7.

After 24 hours, the little family were moved from incubator to brooding tank where their comic antics make us all coo and ahh. They are eating and drinking machines and are all now looking strong, even Eleanor. Of course, as soon as the family were moved into the brooder, 7 more eggs entered the incubator. Well, bringing new life into the world is a precious thing, and the babes are soooo precious!
We left the last egg in the incubator for another 36 hours, but nothing. I opened it, and sadly, there was a little brown chick in there. Natural selection...survival of the fittest...he who has the strongest beak tooth laughs last.....

Our egg count is now mid 600's, but we are down to just 2 or 3 eggs a day as the light levels are so low and days are so short.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saturday 18th September 2010 - weather: overcast


After a very dry early summer, and then an incredibly wet late summer early autumn, the veggies on the allotment haven't know whether to grow, bolt or rot. However, there was enough growing well for me to have plenty of entries in the Danbury and Little Baddow Horticultural Society Show. Up bright and early and staged an array of fruit, veggies and cooking. The kids also took part and did flower displays and cooking. Did very well and all three of us won tropheys, mine and Jessica's were for most aggregate points over the year and James won his for being the Presidents Choice. A lovely time was had by all.

I have had a few visits to the allotment to just weed weed weed. Thanks to the lovely rain, the waterbuts are full and the weeds are 10 foot tall. I have thoroughly cleaned out the strawberry bed and planted all of the rooted runners in rows, oiking out the rest. I now have a lovely large strawberry bed, and I will definately construct some permanent netting over the winter to protect them from the deer and birds.

I have been picking tomatoes by the bucket load, even though blight is spreading across the site. I read somewhere that cherries and plums aren't so affected, which is great as that is mostly what I am growing. I have stewed down over 15 bags of toms which now rest comfortably in the freezer for winter use. I will continue to pick and stew down, but I think I might make some home made chilli and tom ketchup. I will hold off making chutters from the toms until I have a bucket of green ones and make my black mango chutney. mmmmmm.

Courgettes have been rubbish this year. I have picked about 6 in total, but the slugs munched my original plants, and when I did a rush resow, I sowed various squash, but no courgettes. Similar situation with the cucumbers, we have had about 4.

The runner beans are loving this cooler, wet weather, and have sent off masses more flowers and we are eating beans at every meal. I have also had a bumper harvest of bortlotti beans which I am leaving to almost dry out completely on the plants, then shucking them and freezing them for winter soups and stews.

I love my allotment, even with it's annoying challenges, and the surroundings do allow masses of wildlife on site. I know the muntjacs are a pain in the butt, but I love to see them, and last week on one day I went to lift my wheelbarrow on the compost heap, and there was lovely long slow worm under there, then the following day as I went to dump some rubbish, I disturbed an adder sunbathing. I know we have a lot of adders on the site - a dog was bitten by one on there last year - and they are so beautiful, but I did admire it from afar.

Hopefully I will get down more and more now autumn is here and gardens slow down. In the meantime, I have a huge glut of fruit and veg to use or process before it takes over the world!
p.s. Quail news......Saturday lunchtime, day 17, we notice definate cracks in some of the shells.... would there be babies by Sunday?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wednesday 1st September 2010 - weather: blue sky, chilly evening

Quail Diary

Incubator DAY ONE

Inspired by my fellow quail addict, Wallfishwife, we went ahead and ordered the R.Com Mini Digital Incubator with quail egg tray. It arrived today - good service as we only ordered it Monday, and by 6pm tonight, it had 7 freshly laid, and hopefully fertilised eggs languishing in it. In 17 days time, we will find out if all the bonking that takes place constantly, is wasted energy, or if the lads are firing on full cylinders.

I cleaned the quail house out today and started snuggling them up as the evenings are getting chilly and quaily birds aren't keen on the cold. I know how they feel! Plenty of straw in their flower pots and a thick layer of sawdust in the hen house with another big wodge of straw. As it gets chillier, I plan to lag the greenhouse with bubble wrap. I also have to old quilts at the ready, one to wrap around the wooden hen house, and one to drape over the greenhouse staging. Belts and braces and all that, I also have a fan heater which I can have on a frost free setting which will go in to keep the house as toasty as is sensible, without cooking them in their feathers.

Daylight hours are gradually reducing, and some days we still get 6 eggs, but for the last few days we have been down to 4. I don't know whether we will give them artificial light to keep them laying, or let them have the winter to rest. I might stick a light in for a month or so, and then leave them in peace until Easter.

I must do a proper egg count so I can keep you updated.
P.S. Went to Wyvales today in Chelmsford where they have their legendary seed sale on. All seeds reduced to 50p a packet so stocked up for the allotment. Spent just £15.50 on seeds, but the RRP should have been £67.82 so I saved a rather impressive £52.32. Then, to top it all, mum went to her Wyvales in Sutton, and spent another tenner on seeds for me, so another 20 packets. I think I will have more than enough seeds now for the next few years!!