Saturday, 6 August 2016

We should be safe from vampires this year

1st August
Happy Cotton Anniversary To Us!
Today is mine and Sue's second anniversary. It has been a low key affair getting on with the business of smallholding.

While I harvested the onions and a few broad beans and peas, Sue inspected her bees. It's been a testing year for Sue and her bees. On her last inspection she was pleased to finally find some eggs in the first hive, though it appears she has lost the queen from the second hive. The third hive continues to do well. But today's inspection brought more disheartening news as the brood pattern in the first hive didn't look correct. It seems most likely that the young queen was not properly mated and is laying drone eggs. Either that or there is a laying worker.

Meanwhile Boris has learned to jump through the open window to get in and out of the garden. Unfortunately, he has not yet learned that the window is not always open!!! I've heard of birds colliding with windows, but a labradoodle!

We should be safe from vampires this year
Sue then continued celebrating our anniversary by plaiting garlic and trying her hand at pickled garlic.

2nd August
The polytunnel tomatoes are doing well this year. I have squeezed in fewer plants but it makes managing and harvesting  them much easier. I still have 18 plants which should give us plenty, even if we don't get any from the outdoor plants.
I sacrificed the two courgette plants which were running rampant in their tunnel bed. Unfortunately they seemed more intent on producing a jungle of leaves than on producing viable fruits. I only really grew them as insurance in case the outdoor plants failed (as they did last year).

At lunch time I tried my raspberry and redcurrant juice for the first time. It was delicious but it didn't last long! I'll make more next year.

Here is the last photo of all the geese together (along with the turkeys). For tomorrow the two young white geese move to a new home. I was intending to stable them up this evening and then risk my life catching the two young ones. Fortunately this afternoon the opportunity suddenly came up to achieve the separation. As the geese headed down the central path, I noticed the two youngsters in the lead. I quickly jumped in, aided (not!) by Boris and Arthur and hurried them along with the plan to close the gate before all the adults could get through. It felt like some surreal dreamtime version of One Man And His Dog where they are tasked with separating off two specific sheep.
I managed to narrow the group down to three and the final adult was easily separated from the others in the stables.

3rd August

Arthur has caught a mole! He is very proud of himself. It must be the Daschund in him. Daschunds were bred for hunting badgers, but Arthur certainly won't be doing that. The Jack Russell in him has started chasing after rabbits, bouncing down the land to try to surprise them, but he lacks technique at the moment.
I don't really mind him catching a mole. Unlike most other people, I think moles are absolutely amazing creatures and that we should be very proud to have such a special creature native to this country. Sadly most people are more precious about their monoculture flat lawns. However, there are plenty of moles here on the farm. Unusually Arthur didn't eat the mole, despite the fact that he devours the voles and rabbits that our cat Gerry brings back as presents for him. Apparently moles don't taste very nice at all. I won't be testing out that particular theory.

Carrot success
The sun has been shining lately and the vegetables have responded. Today I harvested my first mini sweetcorn cobs from outside and the courgettes have started to crop in reasonable numbers too.
Main job for the day was to sort out the carrot patch. I lifted the mesh netting, in place to keep carrotfly at bay, and tackled the weeds. There weren't too many as the carrots have done so well they have crowded out any weeds. My carrot crops have been pretty disastrous in the past, so I was pleased to find rows of carrots doing very well indeed.
It was a little overdue, but I did one last sowing today which should give us plenty of carrots to harvest before winter arrives.

The two young white geese have gone now, to a new home just down the road where I hope they will be very happy. Already, without young to protect, the rest of the geese have calmed down and are being a lot less macho.

The day ended with a stunning sunset across the road.

4th August
Flatpacked Frustration
The day started with an attempt to construct a flatpack garden table. It came with what were probably the worst set of instructions I have ever seen. Some of the bolts came in and out six times as I basically had to work everything out as I went along. I got there in the end.

Roma defeated!
I'm not talking football, but tomatoes. I have been endeavouring to protect my row of Roma tomatoes from blight but it has been a losing battle. I've been picking off any leaves at the first signs of infection and have been spraying them with a bicarbonate spray - this is supposed to create an alkaline environment where the fungus cannot thrive. But it was inevitable following the ravaging of the potatoes that the blight would reach the tomatoes. Today I took the decision to uproot the row of Romas as the blight had clearly got into the stems. Hopefully some of the other tomatoes outside will be far enough away to escape the scourge.

On a brighter note, I harvested the first of the sweetcorn proper (as opposed to the Minipop which I grow for baby cobs) from the polytunnel today. When I pulled back the husk it was a real gem and went very nicely with the pork ribs and stir fry which I made for dinner - almost totally our own produce. The stir fry had fourteen ingredients from the garden!

Following on from sowing carrots yesterday, I did one last sowing of Boltardy beetroot today. It should stand in the ground over winter. I've sown plenty as any spare will be gobbled up by the sheep or the geese.
I also sowed a trial crop, Spanish Black Round Radish. This is unlike other radishes as it is a winter veg which is cooked. I'm expecting it to be more like a turnip. We'll see. Some of my trial crops earn a place in the veg patch, many fall by the wayside.

5th August

Not put off by the flatpack garden furniture experience yesterday, I decided to get the woodwork tools out today and do a complete overhaul of one of the chicken houses. Here it is having been completely disassembled and half rebuilt. This is as far as I've got as it took quite a lot longer than anticipated.

Same Old, Same Old Gulls
The morning was interrupted by a flock of gulls in the neighbouring field. The rape straw has been baled and collected up and today they were harrowing the field which was pulling in the gulls. I scanned through the flock with my telescope and, as every year, it was composed mainly of Black-headed gulls with lesser numbers of Common Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls. One year I'll find something different in amongst them.
At one point the whole flock rose suddenly, along with the starlings, lapwings and a small group of Stock Doves. The reason for the panic soon became obvious as a Peregrine Falcon torpedoed through the flock, the first of the winter.
Bizarrely a roe deer appeared in the field as well today, right out in the open.

The day was flying by. Sue is away again with friends visiting Venice, Florence and Piza. Looking after all the animals, myself and the crops is a lot of work and I have been putting in very long days.
The young chicks needed cleaning out as well today. They are growing up fast and it won't be long before they get to go outside during the day.

For the second evening there was a stunning fire in the sky. Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.


  1. We have a Jack Russell who has just discovered chasing rabbits! He goes leaping across the field after them but when he gets too close to them he eases off - total wimp!! Everything is looking great on the smallholding!

    1. It sounds like your Jack Russell has a great time. Boris wimps out of the chase too! Yes, the smallholding is looking good at the moment. I have the Grow Your Own group coming over next week so the place has to be spick and span - helped by the fact that it's summer holidays so I have six weeks to get on top of things. It'll soon fall apart come autumn when I'm spending most of my time chasing around the country after rare birds!


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