Tuesday, 24 May 2016

In between Unst and Uist

Finally back from Unst, Shetland, two days after seeing the Green Warbler
I missed basket weaving at the weekend but
Sue made this lovely fish to hang over the veg patch pond.
You can see too the reflection of one of the
willow dragonflies she made.
17th May
Mangetout picked again. Growing it in the polytunnel has been brilliant. We get a basket full every other day. I've underplanted it with sweetcorn and squash now, so once those get bigger it'll be whipped out just in time to continue harvesting from the outdoor plants.

I separated the last two lambs from their mums this morning. Weaning the lambs is a big step for them but they all seem to be doing ok on their own, there's just quite a lot of loud bleating at the moment! The one looking up at the camera is Rameses. He's given up asking us for his bottle feed now.

Finally we have a third gosling. I don't get goose nest sitting strategy. Unlike other birds, they seem to lay in each others' nests, all sit on each others' eggs, sometimes two on one nest and the eggs seem to hatch one at a time and very unpredictably. I did find one egg rolled away from the nest which had a full grown chick inside. There always seems to be a major issue for goslings cracking their way out.

18th May
I don't often moan, but today was a really crappy day. Work things. Best forgotten about. Maybe if the government set an example and valued teachers (not to mention doctors, nurses...) then parents might too. At least I've got things like this to come home to.

and this...

19th May
Lawns mowed, flower mixes sown.
The hen we put on ten chicken eggs a while back has done a hopeless job of sitting. Today I found her with yolk on her feathers and when I looked in the broody coop there are now only five eggs! What's more, they seem to have rolled all over the place so I'll be surprised if we get any hatch at all.
We'll start collecting the Ixworth eggs and try out the new incubator we bought a while back. It's more intensive for us but should give a bit better result.
20th May
I really struggle to grow sunflowers. Occasionally they spring up randomly round the garden, which I like, but when I sow them straight in the ground they either don't germinate or get eaten before they get a chance to get going. So instead I plant them in modules and plant them out when they're about a foot tall. I planted some at the back end of last week in amongst the mangel wurzels, where I also planted my sweetcorn today. But something ate most of them! To be honest, I suspect the peacock, as I know last year I had to protect my sweetcorn plants from the girl.
Anyway, it's a slower process but I've put tree protectors round the sunflowers and then netted the whole bed until everything gets growing really well.

On a different note, I'm pretty sure we have Ash dieback on the farm. It'll hopefully take a long time to impact on the old trees but some of the young saplings have completely died. Others though, are shooting healthy branches from the base again, so we'll see what happens with that one. I'm currently planting lots of quick growing trees and shrubs such as elder and willow as well as allowing hawthorns to self seed.

21st May
Sue was busy with her bees most of the day. She had to check if the rape honey they've collected had begun to set, as if you leave it too long it turns concrete. In the afternoon she attended another of the West Norfolk group's excellent training courses.
I meantime had a big day in the veg garden, only interrupted several times by the odd one of Sue's angry bees. Mostly I just got pestered but I did endure one sting to the head. I knew this one was going to sting by the buzzing which was more than just inquisitive. Hopefully next month Sue will be able to change the queens and passify the buy little Amazonians!

Back to the veg. I sowed all my climbing beans in pots - Borlotti, Armstrong, Gigantes, Kentucky Wonder Wax, Cobra and Pea Bean. I prefer climbing beans as they use vertical space and give form to the garden. They are also easier to pick, don't hang on the ground getting dirty and chewed by slugs, and crop over a longer period. They also dry better at the end of the season.

My carrot bed had completely disappeared beneath emerging marigold seedlings! But once I did some careful hoeing, there was actually a visible line of carrots and one of spring onions. Carrots seem to be extremely unpredictable so ay crop will be deemed a success. I've got them growing in a fleece frame this year so hopefully I'll get to enjoy my crop rather than simple feeding carrot fly larvae. The unpredictability of carrots is summed up by the fact that the line of Atomic Red I planted outside seem to have failed yet in the polytunnel the same seeds have all come through. It can't be that conditions outside are terrible as the other variety has come well. I just don't understand it.
Anyway, I have optimistically sowed more line of carrots and more lettuces to keep the succession going.

While I had the hoe out I uncovered the turnip and kohl rabi bed. It is apparent that all the seedling have been munched by flea beetles. The two plants which had got past them I decided to hoe up so I could start over. Maybe sowing later will have better luck, but just in case I'm sowing I modules tto so I can transplant when the plants are large enough to outgrow the chewing little insects.
I've also interplanted the rows with tagetes seedlings (French marigolds) as this has worked in the past. These pretty flowers smell strongly and are avoided by most creepy crawlies. Unfortunately they are tender, so I raise trays of them in the polytunnel to plant out about now when we should be frost free. This does mean that they can't protect early sowings though.

And lastly, I've taken my first harvest of new potatoes from the polytunnel. Here is the product of just one plant in the basket I made last week. They're not as small as they look - it's a big basket!

We literally stopped using the stored potatoes last week - they have started to soften and to sprout a lot. This means that our potatoes now last us right through the year.

Coming next: Going Completely Cuckoo on North Uist

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