Thursday, 16 June 2016

An enchanted forest

11th June
Another gruesome poultry discovery
The week started the same as last week, with yet another gruesome poultry discovery. I put the chickens to bed in the dark last night. One of the small Ixworth chicks must have hopped its fence yesterday and ended up roosting outside. There are predators around at the moment and the young poultry are very vulnerable. Staying out at night was a deadly mistake.

On a more positive note, the swallows are back nesting in the chicken shed and have so far laid four eggs.

An enchanted forest of bean plants
The rest of the day was spent clearing the final veg bed ready for the bean plants I've been raising in the polytunnel. I'm growing borlotti beans from saved seed. These are excellent in a winter stew. I'm also trying Kinghorn Yellow Wax, a climbing French bean.
It took me quite a while to find a climbing yellow variety. I prefer to grow climbing beans as they make better use of space, crop over a longer period and the beans grow out of reach of slugs and muddy splashes.
My saved Pea Beans have completely failed to germinate this year, so they'll have to wait till next year when I'll buy more seed and my Cobra green beans have all grown with distorted leaves, which I presume means some sort of virus. Luckily we still have plenty of green beans in the freezer.

I'm growing these beans up twisted willow branches too. They look great all planted in the ground like some ancient enchanted forest.

12th June
Cardboard box city
I think I mentioned in my last post that the weeds had taken over the soft fruit area. Well I've decided to go on the offensive by starving them of light. I was going to use weed suppressant fabric, but I don't like buying in synthetic products if I can help it. Unfortunately I don't have enough material to naturally mulch the whole area - besides, the poultry would quickly undermine my good work. So the solution I've arrived at is to use cardboard. It's a bit ugly to start with, but it will blend in eventually.
Mangetout evicted
In the polytunnel it was time to evict the mangetout. It's done very well indeed but is now past its most productive. The sweetcorn and butternut squashes need the space and the light now. Fortunately the outdoor mangetout has just started to flower. This is a variety with beautiful purple and pink flowers which produces yellow pods - hopefully it will make them easier to find when picking.

13th June
RAIN RAIN RAIN. Boris has worked out the best thing to do on days like this.

Yesterday one of the goslings from the white geese did not seem to be keeping up very well. In fact I'd been worried about it for a couple of days since it seemed to have stopped growing. Sue gave it all the care she could, but sadly it did not make it through the night. These things are sometimes inexplicable but I guess it's just part of natural selection.

I finally got the last flower bed sown. These beds should be a riot of colour come late summer. And that was that for outside work. Torrential rain set in and I retreated to the polytunnel. I harvested a few turnips and quite a few of the beetroots, which in turn made room for planting more peppers and chilli plants into the beds. No space is wasted if I can help it.
Some of the peppers have been nibbled by slugs, so I applied a triple level of slug protection. Organic slug pellets. Sheep's wool as a barrier. But can you spot the third one?

Oh! How could I forget? The courgette invasion has begun. Today I discovered the first one on its way to marrowdom.
14th June
Success at succession
Another day of heavy showers. Weeding was a joy - the weeds jumped out of the soil. In between the downpours I sowed more carrots, lettuce and turnips outside. For the first time this year I'm actually keeping up with succession sowing.
I planted out the last lot of climbing beans too. In the foreground of the photo you can see the sweetcorn minipop and in the background the potato plants.

Another sad loss
Sadly another gosling disappeared. It was absolutely fine one minute and then, when I ventured outside after a 20 minute shower break, the grey geese just had one gosling with them. It didn't take me long to find a pile of down in the grass. What is taking the young birds I do not know, though I suspect the crows as they have some rather large young to feed at the moment. It seems like I'm constantly writing about losing young poultry at the moment. I try to run my smallholding as a balanced system with crops, animals and birds and nature all interacting. Unfortunately sometimes the harsh rules of nature cross over into the world of domestic livestock, especially poultry. The alternative is that I keep all the baby birds inside and feed them bought in food. This is, in fact how I am now keeping the turkey poults until they are bigger, but it just wouldn't be right for geese. It's sad, I know, but at the end of the day I didn't really want any more geese anyway.

15th June
Barny's back
A good start to the day with a barn owl making the most of a dry morning to hunt over the sheep field. This is the first time I've seen one on the farm for quite some time since the farmer cleared all the bushes from around the breeding box.

Most of the rest of the day was spent hanging around while the plumber was here. At least we'll not have drippy taps any more and for any visitors, the waterfall taps are gone, so you won't risk a soaking when you wash your hands!!! 

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