Sunday, 13 September 2015

A New Dawn

It's a new dawn. But that's enough about politics.

It's been a busy couple of weeks, but not busy enough to satisfactorily explain my lack of blog posts. This is better explained by my dropping my smartphone onto a concrete patio. No camera, no blog, for I am an impatient reader who needs some pictures to liven up the words.
I do have a proper camera too, but I've found these to be sensitive pieces of equipment which don't take to being carted around the smallholding in all weathers and all tasks.

But I have now conjured up a shiny new phone. Fortunately my contract was up for renewal anyway. All I can say on this matter is never accept the first deal they offer you... or the second... or the third. With a willingness to play hardball I managed to get them down by almost half. I'm not usually good at this sort of thing, but there really is a limit to how much I am prepared to pay on a phone which, in this part of the world, I can rarely use for its primary purpose anywhere outside. For phone signals, it turns out, do not work well on flat ground. You'd think it would be the opposite, that hills and mountains would get in their way, but no, they like to bounce around. It probably doesn't really work that way at all, but that's how I imagine it. But I digress, majorly.

Back to the smallholding. After a very, very long summer holiday, I'm now back at work teaching, though my hours are reduced which will hopefully mean I can keep on top of everything a little more easily. Of course, there are certain times of the year when ten days in a week would still not be enough!

Here's a quick overview of the last two weeks. Autumn is here! I was pleased to get the grass mowed over what may be the last two dry, sunny days of the year. I've harvested some sweetcorn, but not before the mice found it. The problem here is that they climb up and chew through the husk to check it for ripeness and start eating it just before it is ripe enough to pick. It's been a poor year for more exotic crops which need sun and heat. I really need to have sweetcorn ripe by early August, before all the surrounding fields have been harvested. Mid September is too late.
French beans, on the other hand, have gone berserk this year. Everything struggled to get going in the ridiculously dry spring we had, but once the rain came the beans found conditions very much to their liking. They are almost over now, but for a while I dreaded walking past them, for inevitably I would end up spending a considerable amount of time picking them, with the subsequent washing, slicing and blanching ready for the freezer.

The potatoes have done well too. Remarkably well. One benefit of a cool summer has been a freedom from blight. I've been able to leave the tops on until they died down (some are still on, just) and leave the spuds in the ground to take full advantage of the rains. The result is, so far, a giant harvest. More on this over the next few weeks. Ideally there will be a couple of hot, sunny days so I can dig them up and leave them on the soil to harden the skins ready for storage. I'm not holding my breath though.

My biggest success has been the failure of my courgettes! The plants have never got going since the cool, dry spring. We've barely had a decent courgette. I've discovered the cause. We have mosaic virus. I'll write more about this when I find out more. While the absence of courgette mountain has been a relief, the chickens have missed the giant marrows which I throw them when a rogue courgette has managed to hide for a few days. And I would actually have liked to have a few courgettes. Remind me I said that next year, if the harvest reverts to successful again.

As for the animals, we sadly lost one of our white ducks. These things happen and they have done well. It's just the way of the world and is balanced by the two Cayuga ducklings which are growing fast and continue to stick to their parents like glue. The guinea fowl have abandoned a huge pile of eggs in the middle of the comfrey bed. I've not counted them, but there must be over 60. They would do much better to sit on fewer and take better care of them. However, there are still only nine birds on the fence at nights, so three must be sitting somewhere.  I know where two of them are, but the third is a mystery.

The sheep are doing well this year. The grass is considerably greener and longer than last year. We have started to make plans for some of them to go on a little journey, though that won't be for a while until the grass stops growing. We are only aiming to take seven through the winter this year.

We also have a pig. I've only mentioned it once during its whole life as it has not lived with us but on another smallholding with a couple of other pigs. Anyway, our piggywig is due to trot off for one final time in a couple of weeks. It is being butchered by a wizard (yes, really!). More on this when the time comes.
I am just hoping that a rare bird doesn't coincide with when I've got the pig booked in, for it's that time of year when winds from the east and storms from the west bring lost stragglers to our shores and my irrational self takes over. I have already had an aborted trip to the Outer Hebrides, not to mention trying to chase a seabird up the east coast! I try not to make any fixed arrangements between mid-September and early November. When it's my turn to keep the pigs, I'll time it so they go off after this.

And finally, as alluded to under the headline photo, we have a new political dawn. Many of my younger friends will be experiencing some good old-fashioned honest politics for the first time in their lives. Let's hope it gets them thinking, for we are a country based on eccentricity and creativity, values which have been forgotten in our children's education.
Most importantly though, Jeremy Corbyn has an allotment, so he must be good! Mind you, a couple of Thatcher's cabinet were birdwatchers and that didn't work out too well as far as I'm concerned!

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