It was a cold day on Saturday here in Norfolk, and the ground was soaking wet from all the rain, but as the sky turned a lovely shade of blue and the sun started to shine, I just knew that I had to go up the lottie.
Just an hour to pull out those annual weeds around the parsnips and carrots and leeks, then back home to cook lunch and do other more urgent things the rest of the afternoon.
There was not a soul up the site, even the chickens on the top plot were quiet. But I wrapped up warm, donned my West Ham hat (mercifully without a bobble, and which I wear back to front for obvious reasons), strapped on my knee protectors, filled up the wheel barrow with everything I might need, and headed off into the wind.
Once I was down on my hands and knees with my trowel it was not so bad. I knelt on some of the black plastic beside the row of parsnips – big mistake. My knees made an indent and water drained off from elsewhere on the sheeting and created pools, which my knee pads soon soaked up! Won’t do that again - and added to the learning curve list! I tramped back to the shed and after a rummage around I uncovered my old kneeling pad – so back to basics again.
I had asked Pat to phone me after an hour as I have a habit of getting carried away and not knowing the time as I do not wear a watch.
It was hard work weeding the two 30 foot rows of parsnips and then the big space in between the rows which once had onions planted there.
It was whilst I was doing it that I contemplated making grass paths down this 'all veggie' section to create definable beds. When looking at other peoples’ websites I am envious of their lovely plots with raised beds and proper paths, but alas, finances and not being able to make them myself prevent that and size of site of course.
The men up the allotment prefer just to have a long plot that they plough up and rotovate every year. "Raised beds you can’t rotovate or plough" came with that knowing look again when they saw my three inherited ones. – I can see their point, it is easier trundling along on a tractor and then with a big beastie of a rotovator which digs all the weeds in etc.
After making the grass paths down the flower end of my lottie and seeing the results – definable spaces that seem psychologically more manageable for me, as I can look at a bed knowing that I can manage to plant or weed it in one go. But faced with a huge area, I find it a bit daunting and sometimes overwhelming, but it is more fiddly.
So what is easier do you think, mowing lawned paths or leaving a 3ft path that needs rotovating to keep the weeds down? Please leave your comments on this.
I was jolted out of thinking about this conundrum by the phone vibrating in my pocket – I could not believe it when he told me that an hour had passed already, and I still had three more rows to do! I managed to get an extension of an hour, so booked another ‘wake up’ call and went back to work.
Of course it is not only the digging out of the weeds by hand that took the time, but the many trips emptying the big plastic trug which I would just about lift and like an 18th century washer woman balanced it on my hip as I walked lopsidely to its final resting ground.
The carrot row I started on first were the Fly-A-Way variety. I have been rather disappointed with these, I have to say. Their germination rate was not as good as the Keratene seeds that I had which were left over from last year, and also they had not grown so well. I was also puzzled to see that some of them were almost papery with hollowed out middles!
Next came the Keratene row. These were huge in comparison, which was surprising, as both rows were planted on the same day, with rows of onions on either side and between them. They were more overgrown with annual weeds, and I found quite a number of the brightest and biggest slugs that I have every come across. They were the colour of the carrots and totally orange, not just around their ‘skirts’. I didn’t have my camera with me otherwise I would have taken photos. At first I thought that they were orange pieces of stone or worn bricks, and I cringed when I made the discovery that they were in fact HUGE slugs. As I came to them I picked them up and hurled them over the fence as far as I could into the middle of the acre of weeds next to my plot. (In hindsite I should have thrown them over my left shoulder and made a wish, after first accidentally spilling some salt onto them - hey, it might have worked, you don't know if you don't try it!) Only joking by the way, I couldn't waste the salt - I need it for the Caterpillar Cafe.
Further along the row I was flabbergasted to see a slug, with the barefaced cheek to be eating the top of a carrot! I never knew that slugs ate carrots. It was at that point that I decided that this back-breaking and aching weeding was a waste of time, so I turned my attention to digging up all that row of carrots and leaving the weeds.
A further phone call surprised me yet again that another hour had passed so I packed up and headed off home with a big trug of carrots filling the little boot of my car, which I now have to wash, peel, slice, and blanch to freeze. The alternative was to leave them at the mercy of the slugs and I didn’t spend hours on my hands and knees all summer to let those thugs eat them!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THESE – NORMAL OR NOT?
In this picture you can see on the left the Keratene carrots. These are the smallest and average size some of them are quite a bit bigger. They are on a sheet of kitchen paper so that you can gauge the size. On the right are the biggest of the Fly-a-Way carrots.
Now these carrots do not look like the ones in the supermarket or in the pictures in the seed catalogue of smooth uniform carrots.
So my question is, are they ‘normal’. They have grooves in them, but those do not go deeply as a rule, but they need peeling because of them. They have been grown in an open ‘field’ without being watered, just left to nature, but we do have flint in our soil which can cause distortion. Have I left the Keratene in too long do you think? They are the most strongest tasting of keratin carrots that I have ever come across, you just can’t beat the flavour and if you have a juicer – then wow – they are fantastic. The Fly-A-Way carrots on the other hand still have the same grooves but the crop have mainly been so small the ones in the photo are the bigger ones. The harvest from them has been very poor.
Can you tell me if I am doing something wrong or if this is usual?
I spent the afternoon roasting pumpkins – Hokkaido – and I mashed 6lbs of them and frozen them in containers. The rest, a further 9lbs I have bagged up to use in stews, curries, mixed mash potato ‘cakes’, soups, cakes, or just defrosted and warmed through to have as an accompanying vegetable.
We used just three pumpkins, washed them cut them up and removed the seeds, and cut them into chunks, (with skin still on) and roasted them with a touch of olive oil until they just started to caramelise, so that when they are thawed it gives me the opportunity to roast them for a few minutes for a browner colour or to use them as they are.
I am still doing lots of research on chickens and am keeping up to date with what DEFRA have to say on the subject. Seems o.k. so far. I think that with a couple of chickens, kept away from wild fowl (or parrots) are not considered a risk, and the worst scenario would be that they would have to live in a shed – as a last resort, so I think that I shall bite the bullet and get some – after Christmas, as they won’t be laying over winter I do not think.