Tuesday 19 May 2015


Almost 2 weeks in to our latest chicken keeping venture and we still haven't had an egg. As you may remember we recently purchased 3 POL (point of lay) hybrid hens from Cotswold Chickens near Stratford Upon Avon.We have no idea exactly how old Clarice, Clarabelle and Clara are but point of lay suggests anything from 15 weeks - 6 months old. From my previous experience with poultry I would guess that they are all around 18 weeks old. 
Despite currently being eggless there are promising signs from both Clarice (White Star) and Clarabelle (Speckledy) that eggs are not too far off. Clarice's comb has doubled in size this week and it seems to be getting a darker shade of red every single day. Clarabelle's comb although small is bright red and in the last couple of days she has started 'crouching' when you approach her. Normally hens begin to do this at maturity and it is a signal to the cockerel that they are ready to mate. We don't have a cockerel, but anything tall enough to hover above them is easily mistaken for a potential mate!

So the race is on, who will lay first? Will it be a brown egg from Clarabelle? Or a white egg from Clarice?  I guess I've jinxed it now and it will be a blue egg from Clara, but she's showing no sign of wanting to lay at all! Clara is an Aracauna cross and Aracaunas are known for taking a lot longer to get in to the wing of things than other breeds.
As I write this Clarabelle is sat in the next box...
Have a great day!
Martin


In my post on Tuesday, I said that in order to get us up and running I was willing to buy a couple of plug plant packs from the local garden centre. In addition to the lettuce plugs that I mentioned the other day I also bought some 'Longbow' leek plants.I absolutely love growing leeks, they are a true staple for allotment gardeners and even though we are currently plotless I just could not imagine a growing season (or winter harvest) without them.
The first thing to do when transplanting leeks is to use a dibber (the handle of a trowel will do) to make a hole about 5'' deep. The leeks don't need to be planted too far apart, a distance of about 6'' between them will more than suffice.After making the holes it is time to seperate the leeks out. Remove the leeks from the container you have been growing them in up until now and then you need to pull them apart. Try and ensure you keep as much of the root system in tact as possible. Some people say that you need to cut 1/3 of the leaves off and also 1/3 of the roots. I have never done this but I have always had a bountiful harvest of leeks in the past.Once separated they should look like this...You then need to simply place the leek plants in the holes you have made. After filling all of the holes with your leek plants you then need to 'puddle them' in. You should NEVER back fill the holes with soil or compost because the grit from the soil will get stuck in between the leaves of your leeks and they will not be pleasant to eat at harvest time.Just put your thumb over the end of a watering can and allow water to dribble in to each hole. The objective of this is to allow the small amount of soil around the side of the hole to fall on to the roots and effectively cover them. The hole will be filled out over time by growth of the leek and by rain water causing compost/soil to fall in to the hole.
The whole reason we use this method rather than simply planting the leeks at soil level is to ensure that the white part of the leek is larger than the green leaves. If young leek plants were planted at soil level there would be lots of leaf growth but overall this has quite a bitter taste compared to the sweeter white part.I can't wait to harvest these beauties and I hope they grow as well as leeks I have grown in previous years. I'm going back in to the garden now to sow some radish seeds in between the leek plants. The radishes will be harvested way before the leeks require all of that extra space.
Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!
Martin

Thank you to everyone who has left kind comments after our posts and to everybody who has given us a warm welcome back to blogging.For those of you who have been reading you have probably ascertained that Paddington House has already begun its transformation in to a 21st century version of 'The Good Life'. We were without broadband from when we moved in on 27th March and it has only just been installed in the past week.Therefore the raised bed has been standing and full of plants and seeds for over 5 weeks already despite one of our latest posts only just showing it having been erected. So today I will attempt to bring you up to where we are today. The first thing we planted when we had finished building the raised bed were some lettuce plants we bought from our local garden centre. They were tiny little plugs when they went in, but now they are almost ready for harvesting. These are 'Little Gem'..
I normally detest buying veg plants from garden centres, but this year I said I would buy a couple of plug packs if necessary. It cost me £1.50 for 12 plants, but I know in some of the 'high end' garden centres they charge around £4 for the same quantity. Rest assured, I have already planted some more lettuce seeds and the plants can be transplanted in to the raised beds after this current batch has been consumed.Alongside the lettuce is some 'French Breakfast' radish. I absolutely detest shop bought radish, but I could eat the fresh homegrown stuff straight out of the ground. The stuff in the shops always tastes very woody and does not have a nice texture to it. These roots appear to be swelling up quite nicely, it shouldn't be long before they are ready to eat...
The raised bed is up against the shed and in order to maximise growing space I have attached some trellis to the shed and I have sowed some 'Blauhilde' purple podded climbing beans along the edge of the raised bed closest to the shed. I have grown these before on the allotment and they are absolutely delicious, they are fantastic roasted with other Mediterranean vegetables. The plants are just starting to take hold and should be climbing away in no time.. I was hoping to paint the shed before they emerged but they appear to have beaten me on this occasion.
Our raised bed also has beetroot and Swiss chard growing in it. The seedlings have just appeared and are making good progress. I can't wait to taste fresh homegrown produce once again, it surely can't be long to wait now.
Thanks for reading,
Martin

Sunday 17 May 2015

I thought I'd share a picture of this charming herd of cows who were intent on watching us as we walked around the beautiful village of Haselor...



I hope you are enjoying your weekend too.

Martin

Saturday 16 May 2015

It was always inevitable. A new home was always going to mean new chickens!

We managed to buy a pink eglu for £35. It was in a pretty bad state. The bolts had rusted and were not budging so the run was stuck to the eglu. After days of WD40, penetrating fluids etc. we finally managed to get a little bit of movement from the rusted bolts. Admittedly all 4 bolts did snap, but due to this we were able to drill them out. A few new bolts later, a can of green spray paint to respray the run and a couple of new bits from Omlet, we finally had an eglu which was in pretty good condition.

We visited Cotswold Chickens in Kineton, near Stratford Upon Avon. We chose chickens based on the eggs they would lay rather than considering any other factor.

We decided to go for their own blue egg laying hybrid creation which is Aracauna x Leghorn, they call it a 'Blue Angel' and we called her Clara!

Our next hen is Clarice, she is a traditional white star. She is already number 1 in the pecking order without a doubt. She is very flighty around us at the moment, but this is completely normal for the breed. She will lay beautiful, big, white eggs, perhaps in excess of 330 of them in her first year. Very exciting!

Our final choice was a beautiful Speckeldy, I have always wanted one not only for their big brown eggs but also for their pleasing appearance. Clarabelle is absolutely adorable, she appears to be very sweet natured. I thought she might have been number one in the pecking order based on first impressions, but she seems happy to sit back and let Clarice rule the roost.

(LtR - Clarice, Clarabelle, Clara)

We actually have some bigger plans for this space, maybe a walk in run eventually, but I will definitely be getting them off the grass and on to a wood chip area in the very near future.

Thanks for reading,

Martin

Friday 15 May 2015

Our aim was always going to be to grow lots of tasty fruit and vegetables in the garden here at Paddington House.

When we had the allotment whilst living at our previous address I clearly remember the back breaking slog of digging over the soil, forking in well rotted compost, getting on my hands and knees to sow the seeds and then.. having to get back up again!

Seeing as we are going to try and grow as much as possible at home before we reach the top of the allotment waiting list in our new parish, I wanted to ensure that vegetable growing here was as comfortable as possible.

I bought the raised bed from Harrod Horticulture. It measures 4ft x 4ft and is 2ft deep. I have put it behind the shed where it tucks in perfectly and I can easily access all areas of the bed without it being an obstacle in the garden.

One of the greatest fears that a new raised bed owner can have is that the cost of filling the thing with good quality material can often exceed the original cost of the bed. I did spend about £20 on 480 litres of compost, but if I had filled the bed purely with the stuff it would have exceeded that figure greatly.

I actually filled the bottom layer of the raised bed with turf which was left over from the border I created at the weekend. I turned it upside down and hopefully it will compost away under all of the layers of goodness I had to pay extra for.

I have cheated a little bit and I have bought 12 lettuce plug plants for £2 from the garden centre. I have put them in straight away and we should be harvesting fresh veg at Paddington House in absolutely no time at all. I also have an abundance of lavender, lots of strawberry plants, some gooseberry bushes, and 4 fruit trees to get in the ground too. Despite the joys of spring, roll on harvest time when we can taste all of our hard work's rewards!

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check back soon!

Martin

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Welcome to our garden at Paddington House!!
As you can see, it is another blank canvas and you can also infer from the houses opposite that we are living on a working building site! These houses are brand new and even though the house is very modern we really believe we can have our own good life here and we truly believe we will be very happy with it.


We have big plans for this little area here.. Tucked around the side of the house and in between our house and our neighbours..

We bought this house purely because of it's garden. It is the biggest garden for any of the 3 bedroom houses on the 168 home development site and most importantly it is south facing! Perfect!
We really hope you'll visit our blog soon to see our progress.
Martin

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Hello everybody,
It has been almost two years since we last blogged. In that time a lot has happened and I am delighted to tell you that Amy and I are getting married next month and we have recently just purchased our first house together.


Being such a momentous time in our lives, we have really got the urge to come back to blogging so that we can record our memories and also share them with you!
The theme of our blog was always 'living the 21st century good life' and this is still case. This time we really will be seeing how achievable 'the good life' is in the modern day. We have bought a new build house with a moderate sized garden compared to other new build gardens we had seen and we are wondering whether we will be able to grow, raise and make everything that we want to. We have had to give up 'Plot 114' due to relocating outside of the parish and we have left our 8 hens with Amy's Dad who is completely attached to them. We really will be starting again from scratch and implementing our own stamp on the blank canvas we have found ourselves with.
It feels so great to be back. I really hope you will join us on our adventure!
Martin

Tuesday 31 December 2013

It is with much sadness that I have not blogged since the middle of November. Christmas has passed us by leaving some wonderful presents on the way. Amy and I noticed an increase in 'joint' presents this year, of which the majority of them were very thoughtful and gardening related. Thankyou everybody. Santa also brought me a new iPad so there is no excuse not to blog more frequently now.

You will probably remember the unfortunate news I posted about last time where our shed had been tipped over and our contents ruined, moved or stolen. Well due to the awful recent weather and localised flooding which affects the bottom part of the allotment site near to the river we still do not have a shed standing. Instead, each time we visit we are greeted with this rather depressing sight.



By the looks of things it will probably be February now before it is upstanding once again. There is no sign of the weather letting off and January is going to be a very busy month anyway.

At least the new year will give us chance to have another go on this plot. Some things didn't work so well this year from things like onions to even getting around the plot. We've reevaluated our plans and we are all set to go. It may even be worth thinking about sowing some seeds next month, chillies, peppers, tomatoes and the like. How exciting!! It is also a great relief that I dug over 2/3 of the plot at the end of November. This should give us a really useful head start next year and will save a lot of back ache in early March. I hope this early start will also give the couch grass a bit of a battering. As you can see in the next picture the paths surrounding the plot are all grass and that makes it easy for it to quickly spread through the plot.



I'm hoping to sort the rest of the plot out before I go back to work on the 8th of January. But of course that is going to be weather dependant. Any more rain and the plot could quickly turn into a lake.

Well, I sincerely hope the new year brings you bucket loads of joy and happiness even if it comes in the  form of a trailer full of manure. Happy New Year, and a toast to happy gardening!!

Martin and Amy

Thursday 06 June 2013

I know I haven't blogged for a while, but what better way to get back in to it than a live post from my Grandparent's house whilst collecting a swarm.

I was down the allotment just about to put my sweetcorn in and my mobile started ringing. It was my Grandad
'Martin, your grandma wants you'
'Ok. Hi Grandma.'
'Martin there's a swarm of bees outside the back door do you want them.'
'Yes please. l'll be there in 5 minutes!!'

So, I put the sweetcorn in the she ready for planting tomorrow morning. Dashed home, got my veil and off I went. This is the 3rd year in a row that a swarm has congregated by/at my Grandma's house!! However this is the only year that I've had an empty hive to house them in!!

They were congregated on a wall so I scooped as many as I could in to the bucket before turning it over and waiting for the rest to follow on in. I'm just waiting for the last few stragglers whilst having a coffee indoors. Here's a few pictures, I'll let you know how it goes and maybe I'll even make an allotment blog tomorrow!!

Thanks for reading,

Martin



Thursday 02 May 2013


Well this blog post is certainly long over due. In fact, everything I will mention took place about two weeks ago when I took a couple of days annual leave to catch up at the allotment. So when you come back to read tomorrow's post, pretend it's been a whole two weeks since this post and not 12 or so hours...Anyway....The Potatoes and Onions are finally in the ground!! We might have slightly overdone it with our potatoes. We have 4 rows (5.5m long each!) of Desiree and 3 long rows of Charlotte and we still have some seed potatoes to spare. If I get some big pots I might just put them in there and see what happens. It's not like we are going to be short of them anyway... Well, I hope not after the back breaking amounts of work I put in to planting them..
Next along from the potatoes are two rows of Onions (Stuttgarter Giant) and then a row of Beetroot (Boltardy)!
After the onions there is currently a large gap which come the middle of May will be planted up with Cabbage, Kale, Pumpkins, Courgettes and Squash. After this currently empty space, closest to the patio area is the beans. 6 rows of broad beans and there is space for a further 2 rows of dwarf French beans. I have also dug out the trench and emptied one of the compost bin’s contents in to it and then filled it on top with some used compost from last year’s raised beds, the support frame has been erected for the runners, and finally the allotment looks like an allotment again and not just a wasteland!
Here's a full on shot of the once again allotment like allotment!

The next couple of jobs are to actually sow the runner beans, courgettes and pumpkins and also prepare the ground for the cucurbits by digging in some well rotted horse manure!! There is also the unappetizing job of weeding the strawberry bed at the top of the allotment. It will be done, but when... I am not sure!
More soon!!
Martin J

Tuesday 16 April 2013

This week the sun has come out and somewhat un-coincidentally everything is starting to look a little brighter. All of the seedlings are really getting a move on and it will soon be time to move things on up to the plot!!

For the first time I was able to make use of the extended daylight hours yesterday because it was dry, sunny and warm until almost 7pm! It was lovely to be back up the plot and I am so glad that we started digging it over last Autumn, because if we hadn't we would be in a real mess now. Thankfully the head start has really paid off!

The plot is now almost completly dug over and ready for use. We have 3 compost bins full of compost to spread over the potato patch, and providing the weather stays dry, I'm hoping that Friday might well be Potato day!! At last!! I have previously said that we always liked to get them in on Good Friday, but this year there was still snow on the ground and the plot was just completly unworkable. The potatoes still cover the kitchen table but all have really healthy strong sprouts/eyes which will be a real benefit when they finally get in the ground!

It's also good to see signs of life already emerging on the plot without having to plant anything, the rhubarb is getting stronger each day and I love seeing the contrasting colours of the bright red stalks and succulent green leaves! Rhubarb is an allotment favourite, and I really don't know what an allotment would be without it. After all, it comes back every year without much need for love and attention!


Inside, the tomatoes that we sowed in the last week of February are now several inches tall, the chilli plants have also started to kick on this week which is great news.


There is so much positivity for gardeners to embrace in April and May and it is much needed after the extremly long winter we have endured. I still can't believe that in less than a fortneight I should really consider sowing runner beans and courgettes yet on the other hand the potatoes and onions still aren't in the ground yet! Madness!!

I'll be back down the plot tonight finishing off the potato bed, and if I have time I will plant out my 30 new strawberry plants and 7 bareroot gooseberry bushes. That may have to wait until tomorrow though, we'll see!

I really look forward to catching up with other blogs over the common days. It is very nice to see so many signs of life on my 'reading list'.

Have a good week!!
Martin

Monday 01 April 2013

If you regularly use social media websites such as Twitter or Facebook then there is a very good chance that at some point over the last 7 days you would have come across a picture of unknown Lizzie Batchelor's 'Cadbury Creme Egg' Brownies. The recipe has become insanely popular and over 60,000 people have shared or tweeted a picture of her creation.

I do usually spend Sundays in winter/spring watching the football but this week due to the Easter break and also the unbelievable amount of snow still covering the garden and allotment we were left a bit stumped regards how to spend our time. But having seen the results of this creme egg brownie recipe there was only one place we would be this Sunday, in the kitchen (after the football of course)!!


Here are the results and I can say that if you like creme eggs then this recipe is a must, they are mind blowingly delicious!

Alongside the brownies we also made a lemon drizzle cake a chocolate mine egg nest too!! After losing over 2 stone since the turn of the year it was quite nice to have a day off over Easter!! But I'll be back to rations again tomorrow - that is for sure!!


If you hadn't stumbled across the recipe for the creme egg brownies then here it is. You must have a go!!


I can't believe that this time last year we had onions, beans, lettuce, raddish and potatoes on the grow already. So far this year nothing is actually in the ground and we have been restricted to growing a few bits in our. Pop up greenhouse!

Anyway, the cake was good so I am happy!!

Enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday and thanks for reading!!

Martin

Friday 29 March 2013

Today would be the usual day to get our potatoes in the ground but the truth is that the ground is still completely unworkable and the weather is so unpredictable. After a week of snow - we thought spring and sunshine were finally on the way yesterday. However to see it start to snow around lunchtime today, it has slightly dampened our spirits.

Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely Easter and are able to get growing soon!!

Martin

Monday 18 March 2013

We are giving our blog a bit of a facelift and if you happen to visit and everything looks out if sorts then do not fear, it's only temporary. We are hoping to have the new look up and running by the end of the week.

Thanks for reading...

Martin

Saturday 16 March 2013

I now don't feel quite as far behind as I was..

Sowing proceeded last week! It was very exciting and filled me with optimism.

 You can probably tell I have no loyalty to one particular seed company!!

Things ARE growing though and that's a good start. The lettuce seedlings that I sowed last week are starting to come through. I've put them in my new mini greenhouse and they seem to be doing ok.

 On the kitchen windowsill there are tomatoes and chillies. The tomatoes 'Roma' and 'Costaluto Fiorentino' are already up but the chillies aren't yet.

 I'm growing these Italian varieties for a good reason. I've always grown the traditional salad tomatoes and although they are delicious, I like to use tomatoes in cooking. Roma is perfect for sauces and in ratatouille and the like. Then the Fiorentina are good for grilling and also for salads so they seem like a win win!

There are 3 different varieties of chillies. 'Tabasco' which I have grown before and 'Black Pearl' which I have not. There is also 'Big Banana' which I think might be a long banana shaped sweet pepper now that I think about it..

This years showings started off particularly badly. I was in the garden and I filled my seed tray with small pots which were sown in to. These were the tomato and chillies and I wanted to put them on the windowsill. As I was coming through the door with the tray the dog clocked on and thought it must be food and jumped up at the back of my legs and the tray landed on the floor..

 Oops!!
Today I've been at it again - sowing that is, not making a mess!  I have been sowing Swiss chard to transplant later and also sowing my cabbages 'Golden Acre' and Kale 'Tuscano di Nero'.

The allotment is now more or less ready for action. The only bit which does need some attention is the top bit where the pumpkins were last year. It seems like couch grass enjoys congregating in this area and it is pretty rife! My idea is to get this part dug over in the evenings, after work next week. I'm then going to grow potatoes in this area because the couch grass won't like the constant disturbance of the 'earthing up' process. As soon as all of the potatoes are harvested in the autumn - the plan is to cover I over with black plastic to restrict light to the invasive weed and then come next spring the situation shouldn't be as bad as it currently is!

Anyway, it's raining today so that's not much use. Fingers crossed the weather makes up its mind and the sun shines bright in to the evenings!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!

Martin

Friday 15 March 2013

Is a very bad habit!!

Whilst stuck in the office with the sun glistening through the window - I find myself daydreaming about the allotment and just being outside.

Thankfully, here at Fircroft we have 6 acres of gardens which can satisfy my need to be outdoors.

Having a quick stroll around the gardens yesterday afternoon I was delighted to see so many signs of spring. I am not a photographer and I am pretty useless with a camera but since getting my iPad for Christmas I have been reasonably satisfied with the images that it captures...



   
This pak choi is definitely inspiration to get some crops on the grow on my own patch!!


Thankfully, I have the day off today and although it is far too chilly to go up to the allotment, I will be making a few sowings in my new pop up greenhouse!

Thanks for reading!!

Martin

Tuesday 05 March 2013


Spring has sprung and signs of optimism have come with it. Delightful days full of sunshine and fresh air have arrived!! There are crocuses and daffodils here, there and everywhere and I may even sow some tomato and chilli seeds in pots on a windowsill tonight.

The only slightly annoying thing is that their has been a frost for the last 2 days, and that has put me off continuing my digging at the allotment. Never mind, at least it will break up the ground which has already been seen to.

Another bonus of Spring is the first bantam egg of the year (foreground). There is nothing worse than buying eggs through the winter when you are having to feed chickens at home which will not lay! I think this one is from Barbaradeux, but I am not sure. It has felt like so long since we last had one of our own hen's eggs to eat.

I hope March brings you all a tiny piece of happiness and joy! After all, more daylight hours means more time in the garden or up at the allotment. Don't forget the clocks go forward on Easter Sunday too!
Enjoy the rest of your week!
I'll be back with another update before the weekend!
Martin

Thursday 28 February 2013

It's been a year since we took over plot 114!!

I can't believe how fast it has gone but then on the other hand it seems like we have had it forever!!

Do you remember what it looked like on Day 1? It was a mess...



Come May it looked like this...


Late June...


And earlier this week it looked like this...


To celebrate 1 year on plot 114 I went down after work and stayed until sunset at 18:19 - in that time I managed to dig an area about 10ft x 5ft and that has released a little bit of the worry I was feeling earlier this week.

If the pleasant change in the weather extends to tomorrow then I will be there for the first allotment DAY of the year. Happy times!!

Here's to another bountiful year on Plot 114!

Martin

Monday 25 February 2013

It's almost March! But where did February go?

Having been in France from the 11th-15th and then bed bound with flu from the 16th until yesterday, this month has completely passed me by. Whilst I lay in bed on Wednesday I was flicking through some gardening magazines only to start panicking by how little I had done in preparing for the new growing season. The only respite was that we only took over the allotment on February 28th last year and it was covered with brambles and couch grass from bottom to top. Despite all of that we still had an amazing year which kept us well fed from on a daily basis from late May until early October! So if I look at it from that perspective then I have such a good head start on last year with 3/4 of the plot dug over and ready to go. I want to get the other 1/4 dug over before I start planting so that I have a blank canvas to start from. That is something I would like to do on Friday - weather permitting of course!!


The plot would definitely benefit from a few days of TLC. Following the shed tipping, every time I visit I seem to find more and more bits of broken plastic pots or newspaper. There is still some stuff which needs clearing and the annual allotment skip can not come soon enough!! I think it normally arrives mid-march but you have to be quick because it fills in a day!!

Despite the little niggly negatives that I am confronted with, there are of course lots of positives too. The extended daylight hours mean I can get up to the plot after work for an hour or so which is of course very welcome, today I managed to clear some weeds from the rhubarb patch and then added a mulch of home made compost around each crown to not only feed them but also keep weeds further at bay. The crowns have burst open and there are lots of mini stalks of rhubarb emerging from the ground. I don't think I will harvest any rhubarb this year, I want the patch to get stronger for future years. Short term loss - long term gain! It is nice to see something actively growing on the plot in addition to the purple sprouting!


I haven't even thought about planting anything out in the ground as of yet. It's still far too wet. I think onion sets would rot and likewise broad beans. I think that when I buy my onion sets this week I will start them off indoors before planting them out when the elements are slightly more favourable.

Another positive thing is that the kitchen table is covered in 'chitting' seed potatoes..


This year I am growing Desiree. Although I did Maris Piper last year and they turned out fantastically well, I wanted to try and be a bit more imaginative and try a new variety for the first time. These potatoes come highly recommended by my Allotment neighbour and when reading about them I was impressed by so,e of tenor properties. I haven't bought my early potatoes yet because I haven't been out and about but I can not forego growing Charlottes like last year, because they were simply magnificent and after all.. Amy insists!! However, I would also like to try another early variety in addition this time!

There is certainly lots to do on the plot. If March lends itself to some warmer weather then I'll be spending every possible minute down the plot trying to make the improvements I want to. It was nice being down there today and just getting my hands dirty!!

Have a good evening,

Martin



Omlet Cartoon