Tuesday 08 January 2013

These are some of the jobs I do in the garden in Dec/Jan

In the Garden

  • Move pots of herbs, ornamental plants etc inside shelter if you can, if not, wrap with pots bubble wrap and secure, cover plant with horticultural fleec.
  • If you grew Celery, lift what you need and cover the plants in the ground with a thick layer of straw to protect them from winter frost.
  • If very cold weather is forecast, lift Parsnips, Carrots, Leeks before the ground freezes. and store in a cool place.  Pick Spinach and harvest Celeriac as these will not survive a hard frost. Fleece plants left in the ground for protection.
  • Plant Garlic if the weather is mild enough. Garlic needs a period of cold weather to grow well so now is the time to get those cloves in!

  • Protect your Worms! Wrap up your wormery or move it into shelter.

  • Stake and earth up Brussels sprout plants, PSB plants and also larger Kale plants that are at risk of blowing over in harsh weather. Loose soil around the roots leads to Brussels sprouts not hearting up properly. Kales and PSBs can fall over if blown around.
  • Ensure brassicas and any other vulnerable crops are protected from pigeons by using fleece. Build a frame over the crop and line it with fleece to keep them off.
  • Make room for a new Compost bin. You can NEVER make too much compost, in my opinion!

  •  BUt, do not add any material infected with soil borne diseases to your compost heap when doing the final clean up. This will put a stop to the spread of disease through your compost the following year.

  • Mulch bare beds with last year’s leaf mould. If you’ve only got leaves from this season they can be used as a mulch. Rake them back before sowing and put them into a bag or compost bin to continue to compost down.
 Inside the house/in the polytunnel/greenhouse/store

  • You can make early sowings in pots and trays in January. I sow Lettuce, Rocket, Mizuma, Spicy greens, round varieties of Carrots, Salad onions and Radish for harvesting from the pots. I also plant Summer cabbage, Chard, Spinach for transplanting later on.   They will all need a bright, cool location to keep them safe until they can be planted out under cloches or in cold frames in February.
  • You can sow greenhouse tomatoes, for growing on in a heated greenhouse, as early as January. Tomato cultivars are available specifically for growing under cover, for example, Shirley F1 (medium size) and F1 Aromata (large). I grow early varieties such as Salt Spring Sunrise, Roma and Latah as well as Shirley in my Polytunnel, which give me fruit in early June well before other varieties are ripening.
  • Sow onions in January, as onions from seed need a long growing season. Raise in modules on a warm windowsill for planting out in March. Mine go into the Polytunnel for a month or so before planting out.
  • I start my Broad Beans in paper toilet roll tubes in Jan, ready to plant out under a cloche in the veg garden in March. I do not over winter mine as it does not work here! Again these start on a warm windowsil then are moved into the Polytunnel.
  • Wash all your pots, trays etc with hot soapy water and put them to dry in the sunlight if possible. If they can't be washed give them a good clean with a stiff bristled brush. This will reduce pests and diseases being passed on in the new growing season.
  •  When you’ve got your seed potatoes, put them in a light, cool, frost-free spot and leave them to sprout. This is known as chitting. Egg boxes make good chitting trays so start saving them now.
  • Check stored crops regularly. Remove immediately anything showing signs of decay, to prevent rots from spreading. Some varieties of potato will begin to sprout sooner than others – so if one variety shows signs of sprouting, eat it up quickly.
  • Need more space? How about finding out about an Allotment? Now is a good time to get you name on a list! Or register for Landshare.
  •  One of my favourite jobs at this time of year - check over the seed packets! Before I buy any new seed I go through all the packets to see what I have and what I actually really NEED to buy. I also weed out the less successful varieties or those which we dod not like or which did not do very well. Apart from parsnips, most seed will keep for at least a year. If you are not sure if the seed is still viable sprinkle a few seeds on a bit of damp paper and see if it germinates. I do this with my parsnip seed to see if it is still ok even though it is last year's seed.
  • If you are planning your veg plot for next season don’t forget to use a crop rotation.
  • Start collecting plastic bottles! I find 5 l water bottles ( I collect them from a friend) make excellent individual  cloches and plastic milk bottles, bottom cut off and upended, make excellent watering devices when buried top down in the soil next to large , thirsty plants such as Courgettes.

  • What about investigating  Garden Organic membership ?
Fruit trees/bushes.
  • Take off any ‘mummified’ fruits left on the trees as they can provide a source of infection later in the year.
  • Complete picking very late-maturing apples, before the hard frosts come.
  • As with herb pots, insulate pots of container-grown fruit to protect roots from the worst of the winter weather.
  • Plant new fruit bushes, trees and canes when the soil conditions are suitable. If the soil is too wet heel (temporarily plant) the plants in at a 45-degree angle. If the soil is frozen, keep the plants in a frost-free shed or garage, in their loosened packing material, till the ground defrosts.

    There are lots of other things to do, but all these jobs will keep me going for a few weeks - assuming the ground dies out enough to actually walk on.

Having had one lot of chickens , I couldn't resist - the chicken bug had taken over!
The second set we went for were pure breeds- a Light Sussex, a Cuckoo Maran and a Rhode Island Red.      

Magnum and Edwina Mai

 These came from the same breeder and all got on very well.

Magnum , the White sussex was quite placid and not very bright.
Stardust The Cuckoo Maran, we called Stardust, used to bustle about quite like Queen Victoria in her dark skirts and was often prone to getting broody. We likened it to her having the vapours! She was also very much the boss. The Rhode island Red - Edwina Mai was our definite favourite- keeping out of everyones way and the most amenable to being picked up and had a fondness for sultanas and currants. They all loved playing tomato rugby and we were entertained for hours watching their antics as they chased each other for the cherry tomato. grabbing it at an opportune moment and then running with others following, waiting to tackle!

whats going on out there?

 We lost Edwina Mai suddenly. We had a rethink -the pure breeds were large- probably a bit to big for the Eglu and run and they were making a big mess of the garden. They were great diggers- not sure where they were hoping to go! and so it was decided the last two would go to make friends with other chickens nearby.

 In fact one of our chickens became very chummy with  one of the chickens in the new place called Cookie who had been bullied by her contemporaries. The two became inseparable and it meant that Cookie and her new friend were reintegrated into the group again! I'm so glad that one of my chickens helped Cookie rehabilitate into the group!
ohhh how I miss them bustling about calling in the morning, and  charging up and down the run when they saw movement in the kitchen!  I must try and remember the mess they make- but it is soooo good for the allotment dont you know!!!! and the eggs  the yellowest of yolks and all so fresh  !!!!!!

No we really are very camera shy today!

Monday 07 January 2013

I promise there WERE signs of spring and it was NOT raining - it was actually rather nice :-)

Tom Cat looking thoughtful

 Cassi Cat as always with me.

 Look! Wild daffodils poking through! :-)

 Recently I  have been  thinking about the chickens we have had and whether I will have more and in order to help me think I thought I would tell you about them. It only  seems like yesterday but It was Christmas 2007 and I  hard started to think about having chickens- we had an allotment and it seemed a natural follow on to keep poultry. I really became obsessed with reading everything to do with chickens. I spent a lot of time on the Omlet Forum but how was I going to persuade Mr H? It didn't take much I think he was so fed with me on the forums that in the end he agreed as long as I spent less time on the computer - Hurrah a result!The chickens and eglu were ordered ( before Mr H changed his mind) and we were given a date! We couldn't wait and when the van drew up I was sooo excited. The delivery man was fantastic- he helped put the run and house together. He was so knowledgeable and reassured us. He then brought the chickens out  of the van and showed us how to clip the wings and we settled them into their run.
 The fun started that night as they didn't found their way into the coop. We ended up opening up the house from the side and shining a torch in and they eventually were drawn to the light and once one went in the others followed. At last they were tucked up for the night!
Sun bathing them in the run
Babs Ginger and Betty Boop free ranging

Mountaineering - instead of going to bed!
First egg - hmm hope the cost of these comes down!
 I really enjoyed having my chickens. I have since had two lots more. This  first lot of chickens were  two  Gingernut rangers  called Babs and Ginger and a Miss Pepperpot called Betty Boop.  The red girls bullied my poor Miss Pepperpot who appeared to be a few weeks younger than them. Those girls were very naughty and were very definitely characters and despite there naughtiness were very endearing. We had a lot of fun with them. One day I looked for them  free ranging in the garden and couldn't see them from the kitchen. I panicked, opened the back door to go searching for them and there they were huddled up together next to the back door on the mat listening to the noises in the kitchen!
  Their habit of pecking each other did get to me and eventually they had to take a trip to a local farm where they then stayed in the company of lots of other chickens and a cockerel who told them who was boss!
Part Two tomorrow see you then...........

“What is it with all this lemony-ness lately?” I hear you ask. I can’t honestly explain. But currently, it’s all …

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It’s been a while since my last visit to the allotment, about 4 weeks to be exact, I went on a scouting mission today to see how bad the soil is and boy its bad, my allotment site is on a slight hill and I am at the bottom of it so all the water runs right down to my plot, good if we are in a bit of a dry spell I don’t need to water as much, bad if it’s done nothing but rain for 4 weeks. Working on the soil was a non-starter so I did a few other jobs that needed doing around the plot. Firstly I covered over the Purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) as it had been attacked by the pigeons, most of the leaves had been stripped but the precious heads of broccoli are still intact so I swiftly covered them with netting, last year my PSB was a complete disaster completely covered in white fly and I planted them far too close together. This year I have given them plenty of room and picked out the bottom large leaves to allow air to circulate and I think (fingers crossed) I am going to get a good crop.
I also dug up one of the best crops I have grown to date on the plot…. my parsnips, I used some great advice from sue over at our plot at Green lane allotments. She told me to dig the soil over and rake it as fine as I can get it then add a layer of multi-purpose compost as I could not get the soil fine enough to sow direct on my clay soil. I did this and they have been amazing I had nearly 90% plus germination from my parsnips and they tasted so sweet and they were the talk of the table on Christmas day so thanks for the advice sue. I also put down more bark on the paths on the plot as it was starting to get a bit thin in places and    weeds were starting to poke through, it made such a difference to the place made it look a lot tidier! I didn’t do anything to my January kings(cabbages) today they look a little messy but the cabbages themselves are in good shape, just can’t get on the soil to tidy up cause if I step foot in the beds I am liable to lose my welly! I am planning on another visit this week as I need to prune my raspberry bushes ready for the new season but that will have to wait now…..

Sunday 06 January 2013

 Yet again it did not rain over the weekend, so we all got busy in the garden. Compostgirl gathered up a load of wet leaves and put them into the leaf mould bins, ready to rot down and make lovely soil conditioner for the veg patch.


Here she follows a fine old tradition of jumping up and down on the leaves!

The hens are still not too keen to venture far from us and tend to spend a lot of time in the barn, so I have put the Eglu house in there ( in case any hen wants to lay an egg) and also food and water for them.

For the last couple of months we have only been getting one or two eggs a day, and for the last two weeks less than a dozen a week but finally they girls are coming out of moult/winter darkness sulks and today we had three eggs! As one hen has given up due to old age, three are moulting and not laying that is 100% laying rate from the other three so well done girls :-)

Yet again we were rewarded with another lovely sunset :-)

It was my birthday on 3rd, but as him indoors was working all day, we decided to go for a meal on the 4th, a much more convenient day of the week! We drove over to Alvechurch, scene of the New Years Day morris dancing, and to the Crown Inn....

We had a fabulous couple of days up in the North East visiting family. Well it was really only a day and a bit, once we took travelling time into consideration. We all love visiting there so much- spending time with family and there is always plenty to do and lots of places to visit.We invariably make a visit to Longsands which is just down from Tynemouth and this weekend was no exception. The beach is wide and has the most beautiful sand you could imagine! There were lots of families out as well as dog owners walking their furry friends. Its so heartening to see people out taking advantage of the dry weather and getting fresh air and exercise!Isn't this just such a lovely view- from the top of the cliff before the descent down to the beach1
I love this sign so polite but self explanatory- It wasn't quite sun bathing weather so we didn't need to take the sunscreens this time!

This is our favourite cafe which is right down on the beach . It has seating both inside and out and serves no  nonsense food- from panini s - e.g. tuna melt with jalapenos_( yummy) to cheesy chips- all at a very good price and decent portions. The rule in our family is that we have to do the walk first. So after a quick look at the menu we headed out onto the beach

Lots of families and dogs all playing and enjoying the fresh air! Even my young people reverted to the child within and chased about with seaweed!

The views were lovely if a little dark and wintry

and once you start you can find lots of things to photo!

At last we claimed a table and even sat outside the cafe and enjoyed the view

Lots of hungry eaters and their coffees! and of course the cheesey chips!
On the way home the signs on the arches in Gateshead made us smile  as we have been watching episodes of Vicar of Dibley  this Christmas.! Good family viewing everyone was happy to watch ( and  that can be difficult ) for both those new to the programme and those that had seen it before!

Christmas and our trip up North have been  a lovely bonding time! and now sadly back to work, college , Uni and on with all that 2013 has to bring us!

Yesterday it did not rain ( again!) and it was Twelth Night, so we spent a few minutes taking down the cards, removing the decorations from the tree and packing them carefully away for next year, Compostman took the tree outside - and then we spent ages vaccumning up the needles!

I was actually impressed at how few there were - obviously going to the field on Christmas Eve, eve ( ie Sunday 23 Dec) and cutting down a tree means it keeps much fresher and does not drop its needles so much!)

We did this in the morning, while Compostgirl did her Saturday jobs of room tidy, bird feeder restocking and guinea pig clean out.  After I let the hens out I spent some time in the Polytunnel, tidying up and putting things away. I managed to get a load of washing done as well as a good tidy up of the downstairs ( why do horizontal surfaces accumulate so much stuff? Why?)

Later I put the hens away for the night and we went out to Hereford, shopping. We did not leave home until 4.30 pm and IT WAS STILL LIGHT!  Hurrah!

I dropped into Hobbycraft hoping to buy another needle holder for felting, but they had sold out. I did buy some  Rico-Design-Can-Can-Wool not red and black though! I liked the purple shade so will make a scarf from it - that is the last of my craft budget money gone!

We went to Sainsbury and stocked up on ( mainly) basic stuff, not a huge shop though as we are planning on eating the cupboard and freezer items this month to reduce stocks ( We need to defrost one of the freezers!)

I also had arranged to collect a Tapestry frame from a Freecycler, but we could not find the house in the dark, so I have had to email my apologies to them.

And then after a meal we all settled in front of the woodburner to watch the Christmas "Outnumbered"  and then QI - Compostgirl and Man sat on the sofas and I sat at the table under my new lamp and did some more crochet squares and made some more fabric yarn from old clothes.


Saturday 05 January 2013

 Just to say we have been up north for a day or two and have a a few photos to post - so look out for the next post!
 I have been thinking about new resolutions and what means the most to me. Santa was lovely and left me a Kitchen garden magazine and I used to be an  an avid reader but time got the better of me. Anyway suffice to say - my love for growing vegetables was always there- its just had an extra Christmas boost so watch this space. I hope to blog about my  plans my successes and and of course  my failures! I have an allotment but hope to keep that for longer growing vegetables and fruit. I  will grow some vegetables at  home as well for quick picking! I know I will miss the chickens but I think we really need to let the area rest for a year or so! The area will definitely be well fertilised!
I love growing our produce and finding ways of keeping it for the new year. I am so excited for 2013!   and hope to update you with my successes and failures with regard to preserving!
 First on the list will be the satsuma and cranberry relish which I will post in the next few days - this was described as sublime! so watch this space !

I am investigating how easy it will be to transfer this blog over to a ( same name) Wordpress blog. I set that up in 2009 - when I was having what I thought were major issues with Blogger ( they pale into nothing compared with the current spam issues!)but have never used it.

I have no idea if I can do a straight forward copy accross ( I suspect not) but I will keep you all posted as to what is going on. I promise I will not just abandon Blogger and leave you all dangling, my post...

Although why any of you read my ramblings is always a bit of a mystery to me, tbh ;-) I am pleased you do, though :-)

I am really sorry but I am now going to have to turn on the full set of comment moderation tools -

I used to get the odd spam comment slipping through Blogger's spam filter, a few a day to my inbox, which I found acceptable. Recently I have been getting 100s of spam emails to moderate - which is just too many for me to tolerate! I also have to go through all the rubbish email comments to find your good ones, which takes ages.

I added word verification yesterday but it did not stop the problem  so I will have to turn off the "anyone can comment" feature.

Many apologies if it annoys you - I did not want to take this measure, but have no choice.

Please keep on commenting :-)

Friday 04 January 2013

We had some of Compostgirl's friends around for a visit and we had a trip to the Worcester Scrapstore - for once I was the only person who came away with nothing! I guess I must have so much stuff in my crafting stash that I felt no need to add more ;-)

Once back at home we ate an interesting mix of lunch - home made soup, pizza and "pigs in blankets",  baked brie parcels and mince pies - guess who was trying to use up assorted seasonal fayre?

The children loved it - a sort of party buffet!

The children settled down to watch  recorded "Mr Stink" in 3D which they loved, while I went outside and talked to the Hot Bin and the Hungry Bin, making sure all the worms were still OK - will post about that another time.

I got out my needle felting stuff and as she was interested I showed K how to needle felt and she made a felted heart which she seemed pleased with. When the children's mum arrived to collect them we had a nice catchup chat with her ( she is a good friend) and tea and cake

Later on Compostman, girl and I ate fish, chips ( home made) and assorted veg and then even later on I finshed some needle felting which had been lurking in the box ( hurrah! a UFO completed!) I started on a new set of crochet squares which will use up some of the leftover yarn I have - I have spent a few days thinking about colour schemes and sorting out the yarn, and now I can get started on it.

Happy New Year one and all! There is so much to be miserable about at this time of year: the rain, the lack of money, the taking down of the twinkly things.. but I bloody love the first few weeks of January. Nothing gets me going like the annual clear out, the new stationary to be filled and the return to crunchy food after a good month of existing on cheese and chocolate. With my new house nearly ready for furnishing (after the boyf's many many hours of toil) my favourite part of the new year, resolutions, take on more importance. So here they are: 1. Be less wasteful 2. Buy second hand or swap where possible 3. Be more organised (I make this every year it NEVER happens- but this year, there's stationary!) I have got off to a pretty good start. The skater boy and I vowed to deck the house out second hand and the kitchen is coming along better than I could have hoped. We bought this unit and another like it from a charity shop for under £200 for both. These will form the basis of our kitchen units and we're reclaiming stuff from skips and my parents kitchen renovation to do the rest. The de-clutter resulted in 3 bin bags for the charity shop and a bag for ebay. The money from flogging the more valuable stuff will go into the allotment fund. Whilst selling on ebay it seemed rude not to peruse the goods on offer and I have nabbed myself 2 brand new dresses for work for under a tenner for bot- one woman's unwanted Chrimbo pressie is another woman's back to work wardrobe! During the clear out I found a tonne of unopened make-up and in the spirit of New Year I offered them for swaps on a beauty forum I am addicted to. So, one unopened dusty foundation bottle has got me 2 stunning vintage necklaces. I am feeling inspired and hopeful for the new year- I just need to start the diet...maybe I'll wait till back to work times next week....hmmmm What are your resolutions?

Thursday 03 January 2013

I am really sorry but I am going to have to turn on the full set of comment moderation tools - I am getting so many spam comments and I hope this measure will stop it.

Many apologies if it annoys you - I did not want to take this measure, but have no choice.

Drumroll please… Wowzers. Today was the day when my special fruit and veg box was due to arrive. Mr D-F …

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It's my birthday today, and Mum and I went into Brum for a shopping trip. Trouble is, I really don't like shops! Don't get me wrong, I like a good rummage through the charity shops, where things are usually really cheap, but high streets leave me cold. There's a sense...

Wednesday 02 January 2013

Yesterday we spent a very entertaining afternoon in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, watching several troupes of morris dancers perform in a pub car park! It was a great way to celebrate the new year, and we got a bit of fresh air and exercise too. The dancers were all brilliant! Here's some...

Today was dry, all day ! ! !  And we had sunshine ! ! ! This is the sunset we had at 4.45 ! ! !

Sorry about the excessive use of the exclaimation marks,  but for us here this is little short of miraculous - it has rained every day for months now and most days have been gloomy and dull as well.

So I took advantage of the dry weather to clean out the hen house and we finally did something about the rat "issue" which has arisen in the Mega Hen Pen (MHP).

The MHP has pallets down on the ground in two corners for the feathery laydies to stand on and keep their feet warmer. It also has a lot of wood chip down on the floor, for the girls to scratch about in. We regularly rake the chip up and replace it  ( we make a lot of wood  chip from felling trees here) and the used chippings eventually make fabulous compost .

But it has rained so much here that the ground is saturated and the wood chippings in the run are wet. Indeed there is a severe problem around here with ground water rising up, even though we are on top of a hill

Also the rats have been burrowing in to the MHP and hiding under the pallets, and although they have not done any harm, apart from forcing us to remove the food from the run at night, I do not like the idea of rats in with my hens!

So today we also removed the pallets , which were giving the nasty rats somewhere to hid under inside the run. We have dug out and filled in the tunnels and found a nest which we dealt with. I have sanitised the run with Nettex worm oocist powder ( I have just finished worming the hens, so this was due) and we have put down a thick layer of Aubiose, straw and dry leaves for the girls to rootle about in.  They seemed very pleased with their new floor coverings, it is much drier and more absorbant for them under foot and hopefully there are less places for the rats to hide under so they will not bother coming in the run again - there is no food there except during the morning when the hens are around the feeder and they keep the rats away.

The hen house is now also clean and warm and sweet smelling - I must admit I have just been adding more bedding on top so as to maintain a deep litter system over the last 3 weeks, due to illness and the appalling weather we have had, so it really was well overdue a deep clean!

Update at 9 pm tonight - Tabitha Cat brought a very large Rat inside the house - to show us - dead, fortunately and we praised her a lot as she, the most timid and smallest of the cat family has actually caught one of the nasty things :-)  The other two looked on in amazement but did not stir from their cosy beds!

Omlet Cartoon