Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Scorched by Blight

15th June
New Chicks On The Block
Bang on time the first three chicks hatched out in the incubator. Tomorrow morning they'll be needing the electric hen to keep them warm. This means that the previous batch of chicks, now nearly four weeks old, need to move out.
With this in mind, much of today was spent cleaning out and reorganising the stables. The turkeys have a new perch which they have instantly taken to.
For the Ixworth chicks I've set up a broody ring - basically a long piece of very expensive Correx formed into a circle and held together with some very expensive cheap bulldog clips. I've constructed a lid out of spare bits of wood and mesh, this to deter vermin. Heat will be supplied from a heat lamp suspended from the joists, though at the moment I rather suspect the chicks would be absolutely fine without this. They've been going outside during the day for a while now.

16th June
New Accommodation for All
At the last count we were up to 13 chicks. Most of them have dried and fluffed up now. They can survive about the first 24 hours on goodness supplied from their egg, but after that they need to come out of the incubator and into controlled housing with heat, food and water.
There was a big change this evening for the previous generation of chicks too, who found themselves in a rather cosy stable under a heat lamp.

They have much more space there, but more importantly they won't be stinking out the entrance hall to the house any more. So far everything seems to be going very well.

In fact it was all change for everyone today. The sheep have moved paddocks to fresh grass and are revelling in finding new patches of clover and young sowthistle leaves. They will stay in this section for a week or more before moving on. This method of strip grazing keeps the grass fresher and helps with worm control.

Final job of the day was a somewhat depressing one. Despite there being no Smith period or near miss in the last two weeks, blight has swept through the potatoes in the last couple of days. There is no choice but to cut off the tops to try to prevent it getting into the tubers. Of course, some of the later variety may not have had enough time to develop any decent size tubers, so last year's bumper crop of Pink Fir Apples will definitely not be repeated. The First and Second Earlies seem to have swelled nicely though. I guess the rain is a double-edged sword.

17th July
Chilly chicks, cold eggs and thawing freezers
Woken up at 6 o'clock to be told by Sue that half the house had no electricity. If she had said that all the electricity had failed I would not have been concerned for power cuts are pretty much the norm here. But this was different. We still had lights downstairs but not upstairs. Anything plugged in wasn't working either - the freezers, the incubator, the electric broody.
On investigation the switched had tripped, but it just wouldn't flick back on. Fortunately the electrics in the garage were still working so I moved the incubator and the electric broody out there. The electric in the stables was working too, but the heat lamp had gone off. It seemed a huge coincidence, but I couldn't really understand how this could affect the house electrics as it had 2 RCD protectors before the trail got anywhere near the house.
It was early Sunday morning. There was no-one we could call at this time and the house had virtually no electricity. We decided to go back to sleep and ring around later on. With no home phone, no internet and poor mobile reception, I was not looking forward to this.

I woke up again at 9.30am! Had it all been a dream?
I headed downstairs and the circuit breaker switch was still in the down position. I tried once more to flick it back up... and it stayed! The kettle came on, the phone beeped back into life, the printer aligned itself and some of the lights came on.
Out in the stable, I unplugged the heat lamp and tried it in another socket, without the extension lead. It worked. I don't really understand what went on overnight, but I've just got my fingers crossed everything stays working. I'm not risking anything though. The chicks are on the move again into the garage where the heat lamp can reach them without needing the extension lead.

The youngest batch of chicks are staying out in the garage too. It's a good set up that we have accidentally hit upon.

After a hectic morning I headed off to a friend's smallholding where the Grow-Your Own group which I coordinate was gathering today. On the menu today were Discussion Subject: My favourite tool/most useless tool. Plant Doctors: Mosaic Virus. Trial Crop: Spanish Black Round Radish. Growing and Cooking with: Berries and Currants.
Sue had kindly made a frozen blackcurrant yogurt and a whitecurrant sorbet for me to take along. The sorbet especially went down a storm on such a hot sunny day.

Here's what blight looks like
One thing I did find out today was that I am just about the last person to have been hit by blight, so I guess I should count my blessings. I was hoping not to have to chop the haulms off the last bed of potatoes, the Desiree and Pink Fir Apple, as there would be little chance these would have developed any decent size tubers yet. But when I inspected closely, blight was taking hold of these too so reluctantly they got the chop.
Potato blight taking hold

Sometimes it is not totally clear whether plants have blight or if it is just that the plants are dying down naturally. However, this year the symptoms are classic and unmistakeable, so I took a few snaps today for you to compare if you ever need.
Once all the growth above ground has been removed, it needs to be moved away since it holds spores which can easily contaminate the soil and are very likely to spread to the tomatoes. Ideally it is burned, but that's easier said than done when it is still green. I put mine into a closed system compost bin and it never sees the light of day again!
As for the potatoes under the soil, they are best left for a couple of weeks, for if they are dug up immediately they will get contaminated by the spores on the soil surface and will rot in storage.

The turkey hen investigates the Ixworth chicks
18th July
Thirsty work
The thermometer hit 30 degrees today. I love the hot weather. Unfortunately I had to be in work to make up for the time lost when my car was broken down last week.
I spent the evening piping water to all the animals and poultry and watering the young plants in pots outside the polytunnel. Everything is thirsty on days like this.
I then mixed up a spray of sodium bicarbonate, just a couple of tablespoons mixed with a gallon of water, a tablespoon of oil and a few drops of soap. This spray was for the tomatoes in the polytunnel as well as anything else which might be affected by fungi, such as the courgette leaves and aubergines. The main reason for this spray is to prevent the tomatoes getting blight and the other plants getting powdery mildew.

19th July
El Scorchio
I woke up late for work after Arthini had twice escaped from his overnight basket, the second time by busting through the wall! A hot night obviously had the dogs sleepless as they woke us up at regular intervals.
The day was definitely el scorchio.
In the evening we finally got to the Thai restaurant in Holbeach. We love Thai food and have been living here almost six years now, but it has inexplicably taken someone's leaving do to get us there. The food was gorgeous and it certainly won't be another six years before we are back.

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