Monday, April 16, 2012

Saturday 14th April 2012 - weather: bright but chillsome

Chapter 2 - plot 2

We meet again. Plot number two is next door but one and has the permanent tomato house running across it. This not only keeps the blight from my toms, but provides yet another roof to collect precious rainwater from.

So, starting from the top end, towards the gate end of the site, I have a block of dahlia tubers that went in, deeply, about a month ago. Glad to report, no show yet as they wouldn't like the cold mornings we are currently having. Next visit I will heap some rotted manure over them just to cosy them up for a bit longer. Alongside them is a currant bush then number one sons patch which at the moment has 3 kestrel spuds in. Moving down the plot towards the stream I have a germinating row of beetroot, radish, cut and come again and a total now show of carrots. Then the bean wigwam is in situ and I have planted a block of cos lettuce and lollo rosso in the middle as they will be gone before the beans are even a foot up the canes. I have planted some bean seeds - Polestar I think. No idea if they will come up in the cold, but I have a batch of Scarlet Emperor just germinating at home. Next turnips, then a row of pre-chitted parnsips. I haven't had a great crop of 'snips for the last couple of years, so this year I have tried chitting them on a piece of damp kitchen roll, covering with clingfilm, then left in a dark warm place until a little root emerges. This happened within a week and these little growing seedlings are then carefully placed in a shallow drill. I also sowed some unchitted seeds to fill in the gaps, just in case my experiment fails.

Tomato house, empty for another couple of weeks at least, then last years brassica bed. This end of the plot is looking rather scruffy as it still have a few greens left. Sprouts have all gone, there are a couple of small savoy cabbages, the white and purple sprouting are desperately trying to join the cardoon and bubby in taking over the world, and the caulis. Hubby has rotovated half of this area and has dumped about 10 loads of manure at the end ready for raking in and planting the squash bed.

I still have loads of seeds to sow, and loads of young plants at home to get in, and already both plots are looking full. I shall keep squeezing more and more in until there are no paths left, or room for weeds to rear their ugly heads.

Fingers crossed, weather and family permitting, I might get to the allotment on Sunday for a few hours to get a few more plants in and more seeds sown. Until then.
Saturday 14th April 2012 - weather: bright but chillsome

Episode one - plot one

Happy belated Easter.

After a long awaited week at Centre Parcs with mum, the kids and hubby, a week actually only being Monday to Friday, I had put aside Saturday to get to the allotment and do some planting and sowing.

What a joy. At last, even with the sudden drop in temperatures, spring really seems to have sprung. Thanks to the recent rain, my seeds are germinating, so there are radish, turnips, lettuce, cut 'n come again leaves and peas a-plenty. Also the rhubarb is making a bid to take over the world and in the every shrinking brassica bed, not only a bucket full of purple and white sprouting brocolli, but my first 2 EVER proper, unslugged, uncatterpillared, unscorched CAULIFLOWERS! Over the brassica moon. I sent the smaller and practically perfect one home with mother so she can brag to family members on my behalf and it was a perfect 2 meal cauli cheese size head, just right for a ladee on her own.

So, a recap. Plot number one (the one with the shed and apple trees). Top end (furthest from the shed). Daffs still in full bloom with wall flowers about to burst out and my new clump of alstomera up and growing fast. Then comes the strawberry plantation, all looking lush with flower buds already showing. Amongst these stands my cardoon, a gift from an Allotments 4 all chum, Cleo, sent to me many years ago. I have never enjoyed the cullinary benefits of the blanched stems of the cardoon triffid, but grow it purely for decoration and bee food. The bees adore the flowers and dive drunkardly into the purple spikes. The more bees buzzing around my plot, the more beans and peas for the table. The similar but different, the Globe Artichokes. Last year, not a bud to be had, and I blamed the weather, so they had a reprieve. If they don't produce flower buds this year for me to enjoy, then out they will all come. I believe I read somewhere that they are shortlived, and as they have been on the plot for at least 8 years, maybe they have come to their productive end. Alongside the artichokes is a block of 2011 bright lights chard which is now growing like billy-oh. This will eventually start to flower so I need to start using it, or give some away to chums who are keen on spinach. Now, there is an obvious gap in the onion patch, it looks like the white rot has taken an area of my Japanese red onions already, so I filled this area with little gem lettuce and erected a wigwam and planted sweetpea plantlets around it. On to planting, my 2012 brassica bed. I planted 2 different varieties of cabbage, a row of bright lights swiss chard and a row of cavalo nero kale. These were all interplanted with little gem lettuce which will be long gone before the greens start to bulk up. I still have more kale, caulis, brocs and sprouts to go in. Next, alliums, then a block of young swede plants, a row of sugar snap peas and a cheeky block of dwarf French beans under a cold frame. From here we lead into the fruit trees and cage. The apple trees have masses of buds but none open yet. The rasps, currant and goosegogs are also covered in buds - they never fail me. So far so good.....take a breather for a mo as I head on towards the shed.

Growing up the outside of the fruit cage are Italian peas, a tall variety that can reach 5 to 6 foot. These have been in for several weeks and are growing well. Under a cold frame I have some Italian salads but they are so bitter, I fear their days are numbered. Even the guinea pig and rabbits don't like them. I wonder if blanching them would sweeten their flavour....? Spuds fill the ground more or less from here in. International Kidney, Anya, Kestrel and Pink Fur Apple. Kestrel are already through and I have earthed them up as frosts are still likely (and at the time of typing this, I can reliably report, we had a hard frost this morning - Monday). My rhubarb patch is amongst them, attempting to join the cardoon for earth supremacy and then tucked away, right at the end of the plot, close to the shed I have a row of young beetroot plants, a row of radish, a patch of sorrel and my Jerusalem (f)artichokes, given to me by my late chum, Supersprout (aka Sarah).

As I start to think about chapter 2 covering allotment number 2, I would like to add that hubby spent the day erecting more deer proofing around the top end of plot number one, he then, with the power of syphoning, filled my half empty waterbutts from the huge water tank, which will refill quickly when it rains....again.... and finally he humped barrow after barrow of stable manure and filled my compost heap. As usual, my gratitude holds no bounds.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sunday 1st April 2012 - Spring

Mr and Mrs Wren have been busy filling my little wicker nesting basket with moss from the lawn. They are both very vocal but I have no idea if they are planning to use this nest. I have a feeling male wrens build several and then takes the wifey to check them out and she chooses the best. I would definately choose this one if I were Jenny as it looks so snug and it is in such a desirable location.

It is true, I do have greenfingers, after all, just look at the size of those toadstools!

My dessert island flower, the snakes head fritillary. I just adore the intricate checker board pattern on the petals. I have several clumps of this colour and one growing clump of white frits. It has taken me several years to get them established, but at last we are off and running.

And lastly some conservatory blooms. My bird of paradise have been flowering since December. I grew them from seed so each bloom is a joy.

Saturday 24th March 2012 - weather: hot and sunny

I know readers, I am a week late with my lottie update, but better late than never huh?

The usual routine. BBQ supplies, kids with i-pods, flasks, seeds, spuds and the rest of the allotment paraphanalia.

I didn't think it would be a long visit to start as daughter number one wasn't in the mood for a day playing in the dirt, but I soon talked her round and of course, once the fire was alight, she was happy.

First job of the day, get the last of the spuds in. I have a row of Pink Fur Apple, Kestrel, International Kidney and Anya. I then have a row half planted with Int. Kids and half with Anya. I still have a few seed spuds left and they may get poked in somewhere, but I do have one of the potato growing sacks at home in the shed, so I might bung them in that in the garden.

Next in, broad bean plantlets. They are about 6 inches tall, good, stocky plants, so they went in, but the peas that are romping away, just infront of the fruit cage, shed end of plot number one. From here I trundled over to plot number 2 and planted 15 little gem lettuce plantlets and 12 lollo rosso plantlets. These have gone down the middle of the runned bean canes as they will be gone long before the beans are high enough to be a problem.

Now, I know it is only the end of March, and I also know now that a cold snap may well strike the middle of the first week of April, but I did plonk in a few runner beans and a row of dwarf French beans. The Frenchies have the cold frame over them, so they might be okay if they do poke their noses through....I don't hold out quite so much hope for the runners, but if they aren't too keen and stay underground for a bit longer, they might pull through. I also sowed some more peas, carrots, beetroot, spinach and turnips, and I station sowed some sunflowers and finally I planted some red onion sets that a customer had given me.

Hubby cut all of the paths for me and finished rotovating plot number 2 so our end of the site is looking really neat. We have some very keen newcomers and after a stroll around the site, it looks like only 2 plots are currently being neglected by their owners. Fingers crossed that all changes before the weeds start spreading their seeds everywhere.

The last job of they day for me was weeding the fruit cage in amongst the rasberry canes. I have membrane down amongst the bushes so they are fine. Then hubby dumped my rotted compost in the cage and I raked that around the canes to give them a good feed to help with yet another bumber crop of raspberries. Meanwhile, he was humping barrows full of steamy manure over onto plot number 2 and heaping it up in preperation for Operation Squash planting which will happen at the end of April, start of May.

A good five hours spent on the plot and it really is looking good. Next visit will see me planting sweetpea, lettuce and swede plantlets as well as sowing loads more seeds.
Sunday 1st April 2012 - weather: blue sky and sunshine

Animal Gallery

Travis, the Hermans with the pretty shell, then Tom and Bertha, our spur thighed who we adopted last summer. Happily out of hibernation and back in the garden. They had just put themselves to bed when I took this photo, they really aren't shy.

Some of my Quail brood. They are laying well now and we are getting 8 plus eggs a day. Unfortunately, 2 of the boys became oven ready today as they had the most horrible shrill crow and I was worried we would start to get complaints from the neighbours. However, they aren't pets, they are livestock producing eggs and meat, but I do love them.

He is dosing in the afternoon warmth. I know this bird is a he as he has all of his feathers on the back of his neck and since spring sprung, the boys have been doing what comes naturally to the girls, and they are all now bald on the backs of their necks....male brutality!

Here is Pebbles, our last Guinea piggy. She is about 4 or 5 years old, and she is a grumpy little pig. We handled her and loved her when she was a piglet, but she has always been nippy and timid. However, we do let her and the rabbits in the run together, and I know, I know we shouldn't, but since doing that she has become a lot more friendly and inquisitive.

Leccy, our Bearded Dragon. We have had him at least 5 years and I think he is terribly handsome. He scoffs locust and avoids all veg and fruit so the locust have to be well fed so he gets his vitamins by proxy. He spends summer days in the garden in the old guinea pig run catching some rays, and other days he has the run of the conservatory where he climbs the walls, sits on the cactus and generally stretches his legs.

This is Flumps, the big daddy rabbit. He is so loving, but can give me a real good kick when I am trying to put him away. He is in his hutch here as we can't let him and the wife out together yet as we do not want any more baby bunnies!

Here is Floppy, names for obvious earry reasons. She is out in the run without her kids for an hour to stretch her legs, scoff as much hay as she can and generally ruin the lawn. She has been an amazing mum considering she was only a matter of monthes old when she had the babes. We didn't loose any, they are all big and beautiful. I am now trying to build her up as having 7 kittens did take it's toll and she has lost a lot of weight. Plenty of fresh grass, hay and greens and she will be plump and cuddly again in no time.

Babies! Originally we had 4 caramels, 2 patches and the little runt was all black. A caramel and patch went today to a lovely family who I have known for years and who I know will love them immensly.

This little fella is the mirror image of mum. They are all loving as we have been handling them since they were days old.

Here is our runty. We are keeping him. He was always a lot smaller than the rest of the gang and got trampled a lot, but he has caught up nicely and is just adorable.

The caramel bunnies, good enough to eat.

We do have a corn snake, but she was playing hard to get after scoffing a mouse. We also have an array of fish from Goldfish to Oscars and pretty little tropical fishies. Hubby keeps insisting we have enough pets, but the incubator has just been dusted off, and he is a sucked for puppy dog eyes more than the kids. Watch this space.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday 18th March 2012 - Livestock update

Happy Mothering Sunday

Who would have thought, since my last livestock update, our prehistoric chums, Tom and Bertha are up and around. Hubby went to the garage for something completely unrelated on the 3rd March, and old Tom was scrambling to escape his winter prison cell, and Bertha was awake, although not quite as keen as Tom. They spent a couple of warm days indoors where we could make sure they were okay and eating well, and since then they have been spending their days out in the garden and their nights back indoors in the tortoise house to keep cosy. To say they are catching up with their eating would be an understatement. At the moment, you could wave a wilted lettuce leaf at them and they would snatch is and scoff it in a matter of seconds. They have many monthes worth of meal catching up to do. It is such a relief that they made it safely through their first winter with us. We have never hibernated pets before, but it seems we did okay. Phewie! It is hard to tell if Travis, our non-hibernating Hermans is pleased to have his old playmates back again, but old Tom is thrilled to be back with his woman and hasn't stopped making sexual advances since they awoke from their slumber. Filth!!

The baby bunnies are doing great and will be a month old this coming Tuesday. They are eating us out of house and home so another 2 weeks and they will hopefully leave their mum to start new lives with new families.....hopefully.

The quail are laying, well, one is regularly. We are getting an egg a day at the moment, so fingers crossed, any time now, we will once again be inundated with delicious little eggs to enjoy for brekky.

The frogspawn in the pond is already looking tadpoley and we have birds nesting everywhere in the garden.

I will get busy with the camera this week and take some photos of our zoo so you can see how the critters are all doing.

Sunday 11th March 2012 - weather: bright and breezy

A family day out on the plot, my favourite. We didn't arrive until just before 11am, but were fully loaded with seeds, pea plants, 'man tools' and BBQ supplies.

Husband was in charge of our little rotovator. It had been lost for yonks....he never did like cleaning out the garage properly, so now, after replacing a couple of hoses, he can now till the earth for me saving me hours of work. He started over by the tomato house on plot number 2. I had already hand dug half of this plot on my last visit but he whipped through the other half.

As he played with petrol toys, I planted 5 dahlia tubers that I had bought in a mixed bag from the garden centre for £3.99. They are all pompom types which do make great cut flowers. I do have lots of young dahlia plants at home in trays that I grew from seed so hopefully, once the frosts have finished, I can get them out and have a really big patch of pretty flowers. The old boys would scoff at me growing flowers in an allotment I'm sure, but I am planting them as a hedge all the way along the top end of plot number 2 and I am going to work my way down the side of the allotment. Should look groovy, and rather typical of my eccentric gardening practises.

I then moved over to plot number one with the shed and planted my first row of spuds, Kestrel, a good early potato. I am hoping this will be a better year for spuds as the last 2 have been rubbish and have seen me reduce the number of varieties I grow. We don't have access to mains water so can only save what Mother Nature provides and watering spuds is such a labour intensive job as they really need gallons at a time, not just a splash. I have however bought a small bag of Pink Fur apples, so have those, International Kidney and Anya to get in over the next week or 2.

After a delicious BBQ, expertly tended by the children, I put up some netting by the fruit cage and planted a row of pea plants that I had already started at home. Keen, I know, but they were getting rather long, and I had already pinched them back once (for which the rabbits were grateful). This variety is an Italian type and is one of the tall ones. Once they reach the top of my netting, they will be able to scramble up the fruit cage which I ideal. I also planted a block of maincrop onions, I think they were called Meteor. I don't usually bother with maincrops as white rot is prevellant on our site, but I haven't grown alliums in this area for years, so who knows, I might be lucky.

Husband had by now finished rotovating the top end of plot number 2 so he helped my erect my bean poles for this coming year so I could get some idea of where I was going to sow things. I then sowed a row of beetroot, carrots, turnips and mixed salad leaves.

Finally we headed to the brassica patch at the bottom of plot number 2 where I proceeded to oik out the dandylions and he proceeded to pollute the atmosphere with both noise and 2 stroke fumes. I picked the last of the brussel spouts, the first of the white sprouting brocolli and some spring greens.

Overall, the allotments look great. The onions, garlic and shallots have all put on a lot of growth and hopefully now the days are lengthening, they will spring into action and bulk up. The row of radish I sowed a couple of weeks back are up, but no sign of the mixed salad leaves. The daffs are all starting to bloom and the buds are fattening up on the apple trees. Back at home I have masses of seeds germinating, leeks, lettuce, sweetpeas, cabbages and chards for example and the tomato plants and chillies are growing strong. I still have lots to sow so am keen for the weather to improve so the first batch of plantlets can go out and I can sow the next lot.

Next proper full day visit will be the weekend of the 24/25th March.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 2012 - Livestock update

As predicted, our brood has grown over the winter. Just before Christmas, we finally gave in to the kids and they both received a rabbit, 2 little fellas, patchy and cute. Daughters is called Flumps and the boys is called Floppy. First check up visit to the vets revealed that they were not 2 boys, but boy and girl. We weren't terribly suprised as they had been playing mummies and daddies at every opportunity since arriving home. One new hutch later, we await the arrival of babies. Tuesday Febuary 21st, Shrove Tuesday, 7 little bunny babies arrived in this world. It appear we have 4 brown, 2 black and white patch and 1 little black baby. Here they are at 5 days old.

We plan to keep one and hope to find good homes for the rest....fingers crossed.

The guinea pig, pebbles, is still going strong and is into his 4th year of life. They can live to 7 or 8 years, so he still have plenty of time yet. He has spent the winter in his hutch in the quailarium, out of the horrid weather. He returned to the garden this weekend and had a lovely day playing in the grass and munching his way through a cabbage on Saturday.

The quail all look stunning in their winter plumage. Although the fox has been around, along with the new neighbourhood moggies, the reinforcements are doing their job and the birdies are all safe and sound. We do have an old rabbit run in with them so that should anything get in, they can hide inside, not that I believe for one moment they are that bright. We have been rewarded with an egg or 2 over the last few weeks and now that the days are lengthening, I will expect them to start laying more regularly soon.

The tortoises, Tom and Bertha, are still hibernating. I am not keen on this, the uncertainty of them waking. Hubby has check on them from time to time, and they are alive, but still sound asleep. Travis, our Herman torty, doesn't hibernate and he is relieved the weather has warmed up as he has spent the last few days out in the garden enjoying the warm sun on his shell. I wish the other 2 would hurry and wake up so the family can be reunited.

The lizard and snake are lizardy and snakey. The seasonal change doesn't really bother them. The fish also couldn't careless what time of year it is, apart from those in the pond who are also enjoying the balmy spring sunshine as they are eating again. The frogs in the pond are being very vocal, and appear to be giving eachother piggy backs around the edges. I guess it saves energy. :)

That is it on the animal front for now. Rumour has it that we might turn the now defunct playhouse at the back end of the garden into a chicken house over the spring, so perhaps some new feathered friends might make an appearance in our lives. I have my heart set on some kune kune pigs but alas that fantasy will have to wait until we sell up and move somewhere with a paddock or 2 for me to fill with bleating, oinking, mooing critters.

Sunday 26th February 2012 - weather: spring like and beautiful

Forgive me readers for I have sinned. It has been 138 days since my last confession.

So, what news beloved readers. October half term was spent with mum, hub and the kids in Portugal, not the Algarve but just down the coast from Lisbon. October ended with me trapsing the streets with number one son and his zombie girlfriend and they 'tricked and treated' on suitably bedecked houses around the village. Buckets full of sugar and additives were brought home to be consumed over the coming days. November arrived with it's usual 'oooos' and 'aaaahhhs' as Guy Fawke's night was upon us. We celebrated with friends in the village. November 22nd, my 41st birthday. I know, I know, I don't look a day over 31, I blame the fresh air and allotment veggies. Then before you can say 'Holidays are coming, Holidays are coming', Christmas was upon us. I did scoot to the allotment for the Chrissy dinner veggies, sprouts, cabbage, leeks and carrots. What did January bring? I detest January. It didn't bring a thing. February saw snow, a whole week of the white stuff. It engulfed us on Sunday 12th and was almost all gone by Sunday 19th. And now, now we are in the throws of balmy mild weather. Temperatures up in double figures, unseasonably mild, temperatures not seen in February since 1998.

So now, now that it is warm, now that the days are noticeably longer, I have resurfaced, out of hibernation, and have re-embraced the garden and the allotment. (To be fair, I hadn't really hibernated terribly well as I have been working in other peoples gardens whenever the weather has permitted.)

I had been to the allotment during January and spent a day completely clearing the top of plot number one where my strawberries, garlics, shallots and Japanese onions are planted. Once they were cleaned, the strawbs received a good dressing of my well rotted manure and the alliums received a dressing of special allium fertiliser that I purchased using some vouchers I had received. Today I didn't intend on digging, today I thought I would just have a potter and a tidy, but I had four hours to play, so digging I did. The bottom of plot number one, from the apple trees to the shed was clear, but compacted so I dug and dug (and boy am I paying for it now). The ground is so soft, it turned easily and the weeds came out with ease.

I have new neighbours at the top end of this plot, Barry and Tracy, who are very enthusiastic and spent the afternoon laying a sleeper base for their new shed. I wish all new Allotmenteers were as enthusiastic as there are several plots, all paid for, thick with grass and weeds. After a nice 'getting to know you' chat, I left them in peace and went over to plot number two. After a good pick up of plant labels and bamboos, I started digging again and cleared half way towards the tomato house.

I fear I have been lulled into a false sense of weather security as I sowed a row of radish and a row of mixed salad leaves. Well, the rhubarb is poking it's nose out of the soil so it must be spring.... right?

I am back on the plot tomorrow, our 13th wedding anniversary, hence I have the day off. Apparently, this one is lace and the flower associated is Hollyhocks. I shall make sure I wear lacey knickers and I have some hollyhocks in a pot to go out, so I may well plant them on the plot tomorrow.

p.s. I promise not to leave you so long in future, loyal readers.