Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ready. Steady. Grow!

20th January 2017
Christmas is over
Christmas is well and truly over for another year when the tree gets thrown to the sheep. As we had an artificial tree this year, I recovered the one which was about to go in the school skip. The Shetland sheep love a bit of Christmas tree and will spend the next week gradually stripping it of needles and bark.

21st January 2017
A pottering day. I finished pruning the apples and pears and moved on to the blackberries, which didn't get pruned in late autumn when they should have been. For now I've just cut back all the shoots which fruited last year and cleared some of the weeds from around the base. I am erecting new posts and wires when I get round to it, at which point I shall train the stems in hope of a better harvest. The blackberries and associated hybrids (tayberries, loganberries etc) have never really taken off, so this year I am going to put extra effort into them.

In the evening I met up with the Grow Your Own group for our annual meal. It was supposed to happen before Christmas, but I'm rather glad we left it till after.
A very nice time was had by all.

22nd January 2017
A late start today, but there was still a hard frost well towards the middle of the day. I took advantage and rotavated the bed where the garlic and shallots are due to grow.

Boris and Arthur keen to help with the plucking
Poultry executions
Then I'm afraid it was time for a few of the birds to go. The spare turkey stag was first and I got straight on with the plucking while he was still warm. This sounds a bit callous, but the warmer the body the easier the plucking. Hopefully the four remaining turkeys will settle down nicely now that there is just the one silver male.
Then it was a goose. I had only ever once dispatched a goose and that was a mercy mission, so I was a bit hesitant about this. However, it was actually fairly easy, nowhere near as difficult as some of the ducks are. Plucking, on the other hand, was an endless task. It seemed that the feathers had the ability to regenerate eternally. I left Sue to do the more delicate quills and down feathers while I got on with the next catch and dispatch, this time the spare old cockerel. I kept well away from his sizeable spurs, as these have been known to inflict deep wounds in the past! Again, cutting the number of testosterone-filled males down should help with the overall welfare of the flock, particularly with them all cooped up inside for at least another five weeks.

Finally, another four of the Ixworth meat chickens had grown plump enough for the pot.

23rd January 2017
Everlasting Garlic
I spent the first part of the morning jointing the chickens we dispatched yesterday.
The day started clear, but as the sun tried to break through it drove all the moisture out of the ground and into the air. A thick fog enveloped the farm for the whole afternoon.
I got on with planting the garlic and shallots. All the literature advises buying in special bulbs for growing garlic, warning of poor results and disease if you try to use shop-bought bulbs or dare to save a few from year to year. Well, maybe I just struck lucky when I purchased a few green bulbs from Pretty Fruiterers several years ago when I was down in The Big Smoke for a hospital appointment.
But those cloves have served me very well. I get juicy white bulbs every year which last right through into late winter. Come late January the strings of garlic cloves come back to life and cry out to be planted. I pick the best hundred or so cloves out and just poke them into the ground. The rest get given away or processed into garlic paste or powder.
Come midsummer, I'll be drying over 100 garlic bulbs.
Cost = about £1. Harvest so far = about 400 bulbs and rising.

24th January 2017
Crown fitting.
Tooth extraction.
Enough said.

I planned to travel North after the dentist to see a White-billed Diver, a high Arctic sea-dwelling bird which had somehow managed to end up feeding along a 5 mile stretch of inland Lincolnshire river for the last few days.
However, I had underestimated the impact of my dental work, so instead I headed home to sleep it off before spending the evening sorting my seeds.
Chitting begins
I did summon up the energy to set my New Potatoes chitting properly. They had already started of their own accord as I purchased them super early. These ones will be going into the polytunnel very soon to give me a fantastic early harvest.

25th January 2017
On a Cold and Frosty Morning...
We have had an excellent run of frosty mornings and today was no exception.
Still on the road to recovery, I decided to take the dogs for a long walk along the river. It was foggy again and we walked along in our own bubble of clear air.

I couldn't see the wild swan flock in the fields by the river today. I think they were there in the fog somewhere. However, one lone Whooper Swan was on the river bank and slid into the water as we approached. This is unusual for the whoopers, but I think it had lost its mate. It was calling quite dolefully.

Later in the evening the dogs, tired from their walk, took a well-deserved rest on the sofa, alongside Sue and Gerry.

26th January 2017
Today I compiled my seed orders for the year. The plans are done, the sowing season is upon us and it's all systems go!

27th January 2017
First seeds planted - chilli, aubergine and celeriac.
These three need a long, long growing season so I have taken to starting them off very early over a heated propagator. The seedlings will need some tender care during their early lives, but hopefully I will be reaping the rewards later in the year, when the fog and the frost are long forgotten.

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