Friday 26 May 2017

Cups, huts, and a stinky bin

100 plastic cups. I am making holes in the bottom of them.
For why, you might ask, am I doing that....
Not to drink out of, that's for sure, and you are right.

The Market Garden Project is requiring lots of pots.
These I can buy in bulk from the UK for a good price.

However, now am using, these insert trays I can plant lots of seeds at the same time...
 about one hundred basil seedlings in this tray,
.... and this tray is planted with celeriac, feverfew, thyme, cumin, caraway and chervil seeds.
So I have upped the production of seedlings, which I was a bit stuck with doing earlier on, but now I need lots of pots to grow them on in.
That is when Lester suggested using white plastic cups, and at less than £1.50 for 100 they are very affordable. The posh pots from the UK can be saved for public sales.
I am doing better with keeping up with succession sowing, and these little seedlings are being brought  on until big enough for Vegetable Plots 1 & 2. VP 3 is now full up. So, too, are the flea beetles which are feasting on the brassica seedlings planted out a couple of weeks ago. But although looking very ragged the seedlings are holding their own. An extra daily task now is to spray them with dish soap water to keep the flea beetle numbers down. I don't know who is winning, the beetles or me, but the plants are still alive, which is good. 
Another daily task just added to the list of 'things to do' is the stirring of the stinky bin of rotting nettles. Making nettle soup, that is what I am doing, and it is to be fed to the plantlings.
Just some freshly cut young nettles plus some water, and then mix, and leave.
You know when the mix is 'done' when the stink is really stinky.
But it will do the plants some good, and that is what I keep on my mind as I scoop jugs of nettle soup into the water can, which is not the most pleasant of tasks.
 The Chicken Hut Project

The Hut has now been started!

.... and at the finish of the day.....

So the plan is to start off with this hut, then build another to sit beside it in an L shape.
We prefer to have several smaller huts rather than one big one. It means that the chickens will be able to choose where to roost for the night, and where to lay their eggs.

It is very hot here at the moment. We seem to have gone from early spring to mid summer temperatures. Yesterday was 29 C, today was 31 C, and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter.
Lester thinks that it is going to be a long hot summer this year.
I think he might be right.

Just taken the dogs out for their last loo.
Up from nowhere sprung a gale of a wind.
Had to rescue the trays of seedlings as did not want them blown away.
They are now on the floor in the hallway and on the stairs.
They are all tucked up for the night, as soon shall I be....
Bye for now

Friday 19 May 2017

So if you were me, what would you do if you did not have anywhere to grow a packet of onions from seed...... well you would get one of the empty maize sacks, cut it up, and make a bag big enough to put some compost in, then you would sow the seeds.
Which is what I did.
And the onions grew, but got to a point when they did not seem to want to develop any further.
I kept them watered, but found that the bag idea had a problem, which is that the compost dried out too quickly. It did not help that we have recently had a run of summer temperatures either.
And then we had a couple of days of torrential rain.
So I had a chat with the onions and came to the mutual decision that it was time to send them out into the big world of the Veg Plots so that they could start growing onwards.
So, borrowing a teaspoon from the kitchen,
I burrowed my way underneath the onions, and gently lifted them up and out.
There does look like many onions, but I counted 120.
So then what do you do, when mid way through this job, the clouds arrive again.
Well you carry on, that is what you do, despite the drizzle that is now falling on your head.
Out into Veg Plot 1 we went,
and planted four rows of onions.
I think my thighs will take a day or two to get over the exercise,
but not to worry, the stretch will do them good, I think.
And so what do you do when strong winds suddenly come along,
and you do not want the lids of the propagator trays blowing away,
well you go indoors, raid your fabric stash, tear some strips of material up,
and go tie those lids on.
..... and looking quite pretty!
Meanwhile, the propagators are doing a good job of getting the seeds woken up,
.... this tray has only been planted for six days, and already I have taken out and transplanted seventeen seedlings. They are in the mini greenhouse now, thinking about whether or not they will carry on with growing onwards.
So our first crop of onions grown from seed are out in VP1.
My hands and fingernails says that this is so!
Need to go tidy myself up now, because I am off to the Bio organisation, which are the people who organize vegetable baskets from growers to consumers.
We are not growers  yet, but we might well be in the future.
Bye for now,

Sunday 14 May 2017

Watching the cherries ripen.......?!

So I was in the Courtyard, planting more seeds.
It was a day long task, apart from having to cook lunch and then having a nap afterwards.
I planted loads of seeds.
It came to me when I woke up this morning that if they all come up then I shall have hundreds of seedlings to prick out, but the mild panic of not knowing where I was going to put them should they all grow was pushed away by tea and toast.
(We have just finished our last pot of DIY jam made from the fruit harvests of last year, so I have bought in some oranges to make DIY marmalade to keep us going until the fruit harvest starts coming in.)
And while on the subject of fruit harvests, while I was potting away, I caught sight of the row of cherry trees, the tops of which I could see beyond the Courtyard wall.....
(you might have to make the photo larger to see them)
..... and I noticed that their branches were chock full of green cherries.
'Wow', I thought to myself 'looks like we shall have a stonkingly good cherry harvest this year'.
And so the day progressed, the sun shone, I baked, and some of the cherries turned red.
But they seemed to be ripening fast, which meant that I shall need to be in attendance in the Back Kitchen to start processing them, but I have lots to do outside, so not to worry, keep on going as is the manner of smallholding / homesteading gals, most of whom will be gaily going round in ever decreasing circles as they try to keep up with all that there is to do at this time of year.
And so the day was done.
My pile of empty seed trays was diminished, and Lester made me an extra work space on which I could keep the filled seed trays.

Re: Weeds.
In reference to the last blog I wrote about being weed free...
well, ....this only applies to Veg Plots 1,2,& 3, and  does not apply to the Courtyard, as you can see, where there is a thick carpet of clover beneath my feet, and an abundance of mallow waiting to blossom. There are also other weedlings around, but since they are putting up flowers I have let them be. When is a weed not a weed?
When it is anything but burdock, thistle, dock, ground elder, or nettles, and these are being kept in control as best we can. Unfortunately the sheep do not help us with this task. They prefer more tastier morsels, like the bark and leaves of our fruit trees, but the strategy of defending the trees by putting fencing wire around each one (about 100 fruit shrubs and trees) seems to be working.
Lester attacking / digging up the thistles in the Main Field, which are less that last year, but need to be got up before they blossom and send forth their seed.....
...and Bonny coming along to help him.
She will get shooed away, though, because she thinks that 'helping' is emptying the wheelbarrow.
She was supposed to be in calf, but she has just had a season, so is not.
This is a bit of a downer, because it will be quite some time before she will start giving milk again.
But not to worry, not use worrying about why she wasn't able to keep in calf,
just put it down to nature.

But the pasture is looking the best it has ever been now that the sheep are not grazing it down.
So today, ....I have been playing the music for the once a month church service in the next village, and Lester has been to gun club and got a lot of bullets in the middle of the 50 metre target.
An afternoon nap,
some heavy discussions about what should be planted where
(we are having a lot of those at the moment!)
and now we are off to water Veg Plot 3 by hand because the pump in the well has just done a demise.
We did have a floating thought that perhaps we should put in a bore hole, but after we found out how much it was going to cost, that thought was quickly vetoed.
The well only gives us enough to water one veg paddock,
but now it can't because of the failure of the pump.
This is another 'Not to worry' moment', as I put forth the idea to Lester that we need to get another pump toute suite.
And then he took me out to inspect the cherry trees, and no, we shall not have a harvest yet, because the red cherries which I thought were going to needing processing soon, were actually defunct cherries. What I mean is, that they had been shrivelled up by the recent series of late heavy frosts, but were still ripening nevertheless, but into tiny fruits.
It looks like the harvest will be quite minimal, but it is as it is.
No good getting into a downer over something which we have no control over.
At least we are starting to move towards the time when we shall no longer have to buy in vegetables from the supermarket, and I have found a passion for growing things in the garden, which I always knew I had, but which had been submerged by having to do other things in my life.
I caught sight of myself in the long windows of the Half Barn just now.
I had on my very floppy straw hat, a long skirt (I always wears skirts), a mucky t-shirt under which was peeping my long sleeved thermal vest, DIY thick knitted socks, and boots. In my hand I help my work bucket in which were things I needed to use when outside, and my hair was windswept and all of a straggle under the hat.
And I thought to myself, that I looked liked a Victorian gardening lady,
and that I looked like I had always wanted to look if I had but known it,
content, happy, and at peace with the world.
I thought that somehow, after numerous ups and downs in life, that I had finally arrived at who I needed to be. It was a lovely moment, and I felt very blessed.
But I dare not linger with you any longer, because Lester will be now watering Veg Plot 3 by hand, so hastening to help my other half out....
Bye for now,
..... (two hour later)..... and the good news is that the pump is not broken because the electrics had switched themselves off!

Saturday 13 May 2017

Not a weed in sight!

And oh how tidy Veg Plot 3 is looking!
No weeds anywhere!
And with the potatoes up and earthed!
.... and this is looking at VP3 from the other end.

.... and the rows of bush beans, planted directly in the ground by Lester as were the potatoes.
These little plantlings are my contribution.
They were started off in the mini raised bed greenhouse,
and this is their first day out in the big world.
They look so tiny, and I feel quite maternal towards them.
There are green sprouting broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflowers, kale, chard, and tomatoes, but no weeds!
And along the fence line are the frost battered Barlotti pole beans.
I have planted more in pots to make up for the ones that died though,
and they will be planted out later on.
We have also planted wild flower seeds amongst the beans.
And beyond the row of beans are Veg Plot 2, and Veg Plot 1.
Both are waiting to be planted out.
It might take a while, as I have not as yet managed the art of succession sowing.
In the past we have planted everything out all in one go. Job done.
But this year we are succession sowing.
So the project for today,
So,.... a very tidy and productive VP3.
However,.... this will not last, soon the weeds will peep up, and the battle between us and them will begin. But it has definitely made a difference to the seedlings I planted, because they are up and away before the weeds swamp them, which has happened in the past.
We have just had a couple of days of rain.
We shall have to hoe VP3 now.
The weeds will be on the rise!
It is a lovely morning.
The house needs my attention.
But the sun is calling.
So off outside I go!
Bye for now