Monday, 24 December 2012

What a busy month!

Hello my trusted Blog followers, gosh its been a busy month.
After the sad death of Peggy, one of our Ex-Battery Chickens, it left Maud all on her own, Chickens are flock birds and don't do well without company, so I had to do something to rectify this.

I contacted a few organisations that re-home ex-battery chickens the one nearest to me didn't have a date until early 2013, but the British Hen Welfare Trust had a date this month in Oswestry Shropshire, which is where we got our 1st Chickens from.

So I put a request in for 4 Chickens & it was accepted, so on Saturday 15th December we traveled to Oswestry to collect Flo, Freda, Matilda & Mabel.

Here you can see a video with Maud looking on:

Its not a good idea to mix established Hens with new ones, so I had to separate them for at least a week, the new Hens live in the run & hen house I built last year and Maud has to live in the greenhouse, but I did make her a hen house all to herself and she loves it. The garden has been split up with some temporary fencing so Maud and the newbies can see each other, but not fight etc.

Here they are a week on and they meet Maud for the 1st time beak to beak & how well they have settled in:

But back to the Allotment, the weather hasn't been very kind and I have neglected it a bit, well the Chickens have kept me busy! But as Christmas was so near I went to our plot on Saturday to dig up some Carrots & Parsnips, they will make Christmas dinner all the more special, along with the Potatoes dug up in the autumn.
I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Fruitful New Year.
Lets hope 2013's weather is a bit kinder!

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sad news

Soon after filming our Chickens, Peggy (the darker feathered one) had an off day and didn't come out of the hen house all Friday, when I went to let them out on Saturday morning at daybreak, only Maud came out. So I looked into the hen house and found Peggy stiff & cold, sadly she didn't make it through the night.
We were happy to re-home our Chickens, back in March 2011, as they were ex battery hens and in a poor state, if you remember I posted a photo back in March this year on the one year anniversary, so Peggy had a lovely 20 months with us. 
The Warren breed, which most ex-battery hens come from, are only expected to live about 3 years, so Peggy did well and more than half her life was spent with us.
 R.I.P PEGGY 2009-2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Maud & Peggy Chickens at feeding time

I have been meaning to Video our Chickens, Maud & Peggy tucking into their favorite treat, so here it is:

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A chilly November afternoon

A lovely day today, even the sun came out, but as its November it was chilly. 
So to keep warm I cleared the Sweetcorn away, we didn't get many Corn Cobs this year, again due to the poor summer weather. So we left the cobs on on the plants for the birds to peck at and they did a good job of it! I then dug over the soil, removing any roots & weeds as I went. 
We also cut back the Raspberry canes, cutting out all the old wood that had fruited this year. Our Chickens, Maud & Peggy had a fine time scratching around pecking up bugs etc.
But the main job was to dig up some Parsnips for tonight's dinner, as we have now had at least 2 frosty mornings, they will taste much sweeter. 

I hoped to video digging theses up, but sadly the battery had run out on my camcorder! I also wanted to video the Chickens for you, but there will be plenty of other chances to do that.
So I have quite a job on my hands over the next few weeks, to clear this area ready for Spud planting in the spring, but will need to incorporate Manure first though. I have made a start though where the Sweetcorn was, upper right of the photo.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Our Chickens in HD

Our remaining 2 Chickens Maud, the pale one and Peggy the darker one with a small comb.

We have had them since March 2011, so now about 3 years old. 

You can see them here enjoying some Corn just before going in for the night.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Last of the Sarpo Mira Spuds dug up & Moles!

Lovely sunny day today, luckily I had planned to dig up the last of the Sarpo Mira Potatoes and that's just what I did.
You will have to excuse the weeds & grass that has sprung up, but I made the mistake of mulching the growing shoots back in the spring with freshly cut grass, this must have contained seeds and they germinated and grass popped up everywhere!

But after and hour or so, it was clear of all weeds, grass and Potatoes, my trusty Potato fork did its job well and not one spud was speared.
The fleece tunnel to the left still has some Carrots growing, so will be keeping them there for a little while yet, well until the ground freezes that is.
So from the 2 rows I dug up, the yield was about 30.5lb so I estimate the total yield to be 45lb as I planted 3 rows, not bad from 30 seed tubers.

I have left them in the Greenhouse to dry out & harden the skins, for a few days only, don't want them to turn green! 

Compared to the Cara I dug up last month, only 40lb from 72 seed tubers. 

But next year I will be trying 2 different Main crop potatoes, see last Blog entry.
My main reason for choosing Sarpo Mira was because of it high resistance to Blight.
Earlier in the week, when I visited my plot I was surprised to see Moles had visited my neatly planted Red Onion patch, a few Onions had been taken from underneath, but most of the damage was from the mole hills.
I managed to flatten the soil and replant most of the dislodged Onions.

Typical the Moles chose the neatest, dug over patch to invade!

So I quickly made a few of these from things in my shed:

A Bamboo cane, split at the top, a CD pushed into the split & tied to the cane, then another disc loosely tied to the string loop made from attaching the fixed disk.

Hopefully in the wind the fixed disk will vibrate the cane and the loose disk will fly about also shaking the cane, Moles don't like vibrations in the soil. So today I took note and no more Mole Hills had appeared, will see long term if they work.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday, 21 October 2012

3 days weeding, digging, preparing & planting Onions

I started this task on Friday, by pulling up all the weeds which included Dock, Nettles, Bindweed, Mares Tales, Comfrey and various other unmentionables.
But as you can see by Saturday it was much clearer. The 1st early Potatoes 'Rocket' were growing here and it wasn't until I had cleared all the weeds I realised there was a full row I had over looked along with 2 part rows that we had started to harvest from.
So I dug up all the 'Rocket' Potatoes, turned over the soil to get all the weed roots out, well as many as I could!

Then tidied up the edges that were overgrown with grass from the path, I also pulled up some self seeded Artichokes that were growing very tall by the fence. We have a well established Blackberry growing along the fence, so I trimmed that by cutting out all the old wood too.

So from the area cleared I dug up all these 'Rocket' Potatoes.
As I said we had started to harvest these since about June/July and only dug up what we needed, so these are the last.
What you can see here is about 18lb, so I estimate the total yield this year to be about 36-40lbs. The row I had missed along the edge nearest the path didn't yield very many, I suppose they were suppressed by the grass from the path.  
So this morning, using a rake I leveled off the soil, walked all over it to firm it, because digging it over yesterday made it very light and fluffy. 

I then measured the area to calculate how many Onions I could fit into this space, knowing they need to be 4"- 6" apart.
So my calculations allowed me to plant 10 rows, 12" apart, with 10 Onions per row 6" apart. The variety I have planted this year is 'Red Cross' a red Onion.

I should be lifting them around May next year.

Another job done this weekend I put my Potato order in for next year. But I have been warned that due to the bad weather there will be a shortage of seed Potatoes, so I might not get all I ordered. 

So here's what I requested:
Anya (salad) 
Foremost (1st early)
Charlotte (2nd early)
Picasso & Valour (main) 

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Another lovely sunny Autumn day

As it was so nice today, first we cleared one of the raised beds,  topped it up with home made compost, mixed well in and leveled.

Then stopped for a Coffee & Cake break.
After Coffee & Cake we planted a row of Alliums each end of the raised bed, then three varieties of Garlic, two rows of each. 
Then put a net frame over to stop the birds pecking them out.
Next job: To dig over part of the patch where the Cara Spuds were dug from, remove all the roots from weeds etc. 
Tamp it down by walking all over it, then raking it level.
I then planted six rows of over winter white Onions 'Radar' 15 in each row. Should lift them about May next year.
I might clear another patch soon and plant the Red Onions too.
Another good harvest today:
and a few Cara Spuds found when digging over the Onion bed! 

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Lovely sunny autumn day

As the weather forecast said it would be dry today I decided it would be a good opportunity to do some much needed weeding.

Believe it or not there should be Leeks here I planted them out in August and are competing with the weeds, so I must release them.
As I know some of you like before & after shots, this Blog contains 2 for your delight.
And a hour or so later and the Leeks are now out on their own, making full use of the remaining sun and the plentiful rain, more is due on Thursday!

Incidentally they are 'Musselburgh' Leeks, I found the label too :) 
Another patch that was desperate for a bit of weeding and clearing is this one. 

You can just see the Parsnips, I harvested some last week and they were lovely roasted. There are also Peas and Mange Tout, no more pods but the frames and dead foliage are still there.  
And here is the after shot. 
It took me a few hours, but I had a much larger area to clear of weeds and I dismantled the pea frames and Mange Tout netting and canes.

But it looks a lot better, next year this area will be used for the Potatoes, so will be covered in manure soon ready to dig in.

Of course I had to have a bonfire to burn all the weeds and a good bonfire it was too.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Autumn Harvest continues

 Lovely day today, especially after a wet day & night yesterday. Rain forecast for tomorrow too!
Anyway back to the autumn harvest. Here you can see Sarpo Mira Spuds, Parsnips & Carrots. There is about 5lb of the Sarpo Mira, so I estimate the yield from the 3 rows I planted to be 40lb, far better than the Cara. The Parsnips are quite impressive too, long & straight, the Carrots are a mixed bunch small & large all in the same row.

The Tomatoes are almost finished, very few are left now on the plants, but I have left them as they aren't ripe yet.
And yet more Raspberries, the Autumn fruiting 'Joan J' & 'Autumn Bliss' are still fruiting  but as daytime temp is getting colder it wont be long before the last harvest.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Just harvesting & weeding

It may still be September but the weather has been so awful, not at all like last year.

But still harvesting, here you can see:
Purple Climbing Beans
Raspberries (Autumn cropping)
Climbing French Beans
Tomatoes (from the Greenhouse)
Dwarf Runner Beans
Last year we were harvesting well into October!
The Pumpkins are doing well, at least these are benefiting from all the rain, we planted them in the Manure heap, so they have all the nutrition they need too. They are only about the size of a large Orange at the mo, but will hopefully put on weight in time for Halloween. 
I uncovered these whilst weeding, but at least I have cleared another patch ready to re seed.
Don't need to tell you what this is, but had to take a photo of it growing on the plant, its so perfect.

Have already received my Autumn planting Onions, this year I am trying 'Red Cross' (red) & 'Radar' (white) I will plant these, 100 of each, in the space left by the Cara spuds I dug up last weekend.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

2nd Blog of this weekend

You lucky lot getting 2 blog updates this weekend, but as you saw yesterday there was a lot to do.
So today I did a bit of Harvesting.
The Carrots that we keep under fine mesh because of the carrot root fly that we get, are still cropping well. I only harvest when its safe to do so, as disturbing the Carrots releases the carrot smell the Root Flys home in on, so its always best to do this on a dull cool day or evening.  
The Tomatoes in the greenhouse are almost finished, only a few ripe fruit still left, we removed most of the leaves so the remaining fruit could get the benefit from full sun, when there is any.
The autumn Raspberries, Joan J and Autunm Bliss, don't seem to be stopping just yet, I collect half a punnet full every few days, again its down to the available sun to make them sweet and rain to make them juicy.
If you look at yesterdays blog, see the patch of soil I dug the Cara spuds from, well that produced quite a pile of weeds & roots, more weeds and roots had been collected & dried so today I had a Bonfire and managed to burn most all of that, a very important job done. 
I feel sorry for people not allowed Bonfires on their Allotments, I don't understand why some councils don't allow them, unless close to housing etc. But luckily ours is surrounded by farmland and a bonfire wont annoy anyone.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian   

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Potato digging day

I was so glad the weather was fine today, because I planned to dig up the Cara potatoes I planted way back in April.
On the 8th of April I planted 72 tubers of 'Cara', in 8 rows, I have grown Cara many times before so expected a good yield again, but didn't expect the weather to be so bad this year. A very cold spell just after planting, little sun but plenty of rain.
And here is the result, almost 40lb, but as you can see quite alot of small spuds, that didn't get a chance to swell due to the weather. Sadly a fraction of our usual harvest. In 2010 I dug up 214lb of Cara from the same amount planted as this year!
But I did leave some of the 1st early 'Rocket' in the ground, so I dug up half a row and these look much better, there is over 7lb just here. I grew these last year and was happy with them.

But still have 3 rows of Blight resistant 'Sarpo Mira' to dig up, a test dig recently showed they are bulking up nicely so hope these red skinned spuds will make up for the bad Cara yield.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A quick harvest before the rain!

Today we left early for the Allotment as heavy rain was expected by lunchtime.

Managed to harvest all this:
Peas and Beans. 
I dug the last row of Charlotte, 2nd early, Potatoes. 
Didn't get a very good yield this year, what you can see here only weighs 3lb I planted 3 rows so I estimate 9-12lb was harvested in total, I blame the shocking weather we have had. Last year I dug up 45lb from only 2 rows!
But I managed to plant 5 seed tubers of 'Nicola' late cropping Potatoes, so will see how they do, might get some new spuds for Xmas dinner.
There are still the 'Cara' and 'Sarpo Mira' mains to dig up though. A job for the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian  

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The better late than never Blog

Sorry haven't Blogged for a week or two, but have been rather busy on other projects.
But don't worry I have not neglected the Allotment.

There is no sign of the Rhubarb dying off yet, I want to pick a few stalks, but read somewhere you shouldn't harvest after the end of July. 
The late Raspberries are still producing, here is just today's haul, but have been gathering them up weekly.
These are a mix of 'Joan J' and 'Autumn Bliss' varieties.
In the greenhouse the Tomatoes are doing fine, I know lots of you have suffered from Blight this year, but as we always grow our Toms under glass we never have that problem.
This year we tried a new Runner Bean, a dwarf variety, meant to be picked short & tender.
This is just a few, picked today, from the many already harvested.
The climbing French & Purple Beans have started late this year, I blame the weather. But as you can see they are cropping well now.
And here it is:
The obligatory Courgette.

Chicken News:
We thought we were going to loose another this week, Peggy has been staying in the hen house, not eating and generally looking miserable. But the last few days she has perked up, even laid an egg, so she's much better now.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The last Sunday in August

So today I decided to lift the last of the summer Onions, Autumn Gold & Stuttgarter Stanfield.
I planted 54 of each back in March and with all the rain we have had lately it was time to get them in. Had to weed the patch first though!
 Here you can see the Autumn Gold cleaned up and drying, they do look fine. There are 42 from the 54 planted so not a bad crop. Sadly the Stuttgarter didn't do as well, only got 20 small ones, so wont be growing those again!
Harvested today:
Potatoes (Cara)
Courgettes (Round & Standard)
Runner Beans
Asparagus Peas
and still a few Raspberries.

But at least the sun shone for us today, the forecast for the following week is wet and windy. Sad as its the last week of the school summer holiday and tomorrow is a Bank Holiday too!

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian.