Monday, 29 August 2016

A Cloud Tick

25th August 2016
Minipop ready for harvest
as soon as the tassles show
After my trips to Cornwall and Ireland, I needed to catch up on some harvesting. The Sweetcorn Minipop has harvested very well so far, but the later flush of cobs have grown differently, with larger kernels. They don't taste quite so sweet and the cores are slightly woodier, but as long as you catch them early they are still perfectly edible.

In contrast, the maincrop Sweetcorn has been very disappointing this year. Even in the polytunnel I only got about 0.5 cobs per plant. The cobs I did get, though, were huge and a real treat. Outside was a similar story. The plants never flourished and produced small, half pollenated cobs. It clearly wasn't the year for sweetcorn, not enough sun in May and June.

I've cleared all the corn from the tunnel now, which should let more light and moisture in for the crops I've underplanted.
I had lots more vegetables to harvest, but a tweet to 'get ready to hammer it to Spurn' had me heading off again. For the rumour quickly firmed up that a probable Yellow-breasted Bunting had been photographed there round about midday. Several hours had passed since then, but if I waited for further news it would be too late for me to get there.
Curlew Sandpiper at Frampton Marsh
So I started driving, but it wasn't long before a very rare Yellow-breasted Bunting turned back into a Corn Bunting, a British breeding bird. As I was close by, I considered it rude not to pop into Frampton Marsh, an excellent RSPB reserve just north of The Wash. I had great views of a Kingfisher and there were lots of waders, most notably large numbers of Curlew Sandpipers. I see these every summer when the waders pass through, but numbers this year have been exceptional affording good opportunities to really study the birds.

I was most impressed, however, by a strip of sunflowers underplanted with winter seed plants for the finches. I had tried to achieve something similar here on the farm, but sunflowers just can't seem to make it past the ravages of the slugs.

26th August 2016
Back into the polytunnel today as I spotted a few cucumbers hiding. In fact, more than a few!

The polytunnel tomatoes are doing brilliantly this year too. I've grown fewer plants but given them more space and more attention. This strategy has paid off as Sue today froze our 30th carton of tomatoes.
Some of the outdoor tomatoes seem to have made it past the blight too, particularly a variety known as Outdoor Girl which I am trying this year. We're having to pick them before they are fully ripe, otherwise the birds find them, but they ripen off nicely on the windowsill.

27th August 2016
Absolutely stunning views of a hobby today as it repeatedly swooped through the top paddock attempting to catch itself a swallow for lunch.
But it was totally eclipsed later in the day by a sky the like of which I've never seen. The weather was spooky, on the edge of a storm. The air was incredibly humid and still, but it felt as if something major was about to go down.
It was at this point that the Asperitas clouds appeared in the sky. I first noticed a strange inverted funnel looking like the precursor to an alien invasion. The sky then filled with clouds in strange wave formations. It was just like snorkelling under the sea and looking up at the surface.

Asperitas clouds are, I have since learned, the newest named form of cloud, only officially going on the list in 2015. I don't think that means they've only just started occurring, but I've certainly never seen anything like them before.

They were accompanied by rolling thunder and occasional flashes of lightening, but despite their menacing appearance the rain did not come... Not till about half an hour later when the sky darkened ominously and the heavens opened. So much rain fell so quickly that it started coming through the porch ceiling. I quickly scurried outside to clear the gutter. While I was at it I linked hosepipes to all the water butt overflows to collect as much rainwater as possible.

If I ever see asperitas clouds again I'll get ready for the downpour.

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