Sunday, 28 May 2017

When she started sitting we had frosts and drought

Tuesday 23rd May
I decided to kick the black and white Muscovy duck off her eggs today. She had been devotedly sat for six weeks. Muscovy incubation is a drawn out job at 35 days, but I figured that nothing was going to happen now. When I cracked open the eggs, they were in various stages of development, so at least our male is not firing blanks. I think the problem was that some of the eggs were pretty dirty and duck eggs are porous.
Stretching her legs for the first time in seven weeks

Meanwhile, the white Muscovy duck is sat tight in a different house. Hopefully she will be more successful. Ducklings are cute to have around and grow quickly into very tasty meals!
In previous years we have hatched ducklings under our trusty broody hen, Elvis, but this year she is showing no signs of wanting to sit, even when we shut her in a house with a clutch of eggs. Maybe she is too old to be dealing with a clutch of young birds now.

I gave the sheep some new grass today. This is just a simple operation of moving the electric fence posts back a little to allow access to the lush grass on the other side. In fact, there were treats all round for the sheep today as I cleared out some of last year's overwintered Swiss Chard plants to make room for this year's tomatoes.

Wednesday 24th May
Temperatures are soaring. After a worryingly dry beginning to the year, recent weather has been just about perfect for growing with temperatures high but with significant showers every few days to keep the seedlings happy and the grass growing (and the weeds). Temperature in the polytunnel are regularly breaking 100 degrees, so watering and any significant tasks in there have to be done early morning or evening.
Most of the plants are in the polytunnel beds now and the melons, cucumbers, tomato and okra are thriving. In the next few days I'll dig the last of the new potatoes and turnips and
evict the mangetout, which is just on its way out. Waiting to jump in their graves are the peppers, chillis and aubergines.
There should be sweetcorn too, but I'm having to start a new batch after a very disappointing germination - I'll be changing supplier next year.

With the risk of frost over now and the soil warm. the next week will see me busily planting all of the tender plants into outdoor beds. They have been out in the cold frame to harden off. I have bean poles to erect and arches to build to grow my tall peas up as well as more mangetout. The few sweetcorn seedlings which did germinate will be going outside too and the outdoor tomatoes will appreciate some room to spread their roots.
There's Minipop sweetcorn too, which can be grown near the supersweet varieties since it is harvested before pollination. Fortunately 100% of these germinated, so it's nothing I'm doing wrong.

Saturday 27th May
The first day of half term. Hurray!
I took one last mangetout harvest from the poly before evicting it and planting the bed with young butternut squash plants. It won't be long before these are doing their best to take over the whole polytunnel but I will show no mercy in keeping them cut back.

A few weeks back I planted mustard green manure into the bean and pea beds. One moment the beds were spattered with small seedlings but before I knew it they were full of lush green growth. This is my first proper attempt at growing green manure. I chose carefully a crop which I would be easy to work into the soil. I also needed something which could grow quickly and be ready to rotavated before the main crop needed to be planted.
So today I let Mr Rotavator loose. He made light work of cutting swathes through the crop and turning it into the soil.

My work was cut short today though as Sue took the year's first honey off the giant colony of bees. They weren't happy about it and vented their anger on me. At the fourth time of being aggressively buzzed by a bee, I gave up and headed inside.
Sue has been waiting for the honey to be capped sufficiently to collect. She got about 30lb from the one hive which is great. Unfortunately the second hive continues to struggle. Sue has tried twice to add frames from the successful hive. If the weak one has gone queenless then the bees should have used the new brood to make a new queen, but they have failed to do so. The other explanation is that there is a queen in there somewhere but she has gone off lay. To be on the safe side, Sue has decided to split the strong hive into two. Swarm season is upon us and we could easily end up with two weakened hives.

With the warm weather we have been leaving the windows open at night which tonight resulted in numerous moths coming into the house. I am starting to get interested in moths and it is only a matter of time before I take the plunge and purchase a moth trap. But for now I am happy to photograph whatever comes into the house and then struggle to identify it. It is strange to be a total beginner.

Anyway, here's what I captured, along with tentative identifications - I love moth names, they are so eccentric.

Pale Prominent
Silver-ground Carpet
Bright-line Brown-eye
Yellow-nosed Bell
White Ermine

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