Monday, December 12, 2005

Seeds, empty bed, and a lovely neighbour

Eggs - Total to date: 74 - Day 33

KoKKo 25(86grms)
Adelaide 25(76grms) New personal best
Ginger 24 (76grms)

Once Pat has gone to golf, the plan is to take a walk up the allotment today. I so miss working up there. In the summer it got to be a daily routine, and you get used to being out in the fresh air, and with so much too do. (You can remind me of these words when I am bemoaning that fact in the summer!)

Of course having the daily routine of looking after the chickens is good, because I end up spending quite a bit of time working in the garden, but there is only so much you can do in the winter months isn’t there.

I want to have a look to see how my broad beans are doing up the lottie – I hope that they have not been decimated by the pheasants or pigeons or the weather. Having been told that the aforementioned do not eat them when they have grown, but go for the seeds, they should be alright, but it is nice to check. I completely forgot to look at them last time I was up there. It was bitterly cold and we were in a bit of a rush – as usual.

The farmers have been out in the fields ploughing lately, so maybe those other plots up the lottie have been ploughed too. Maybe Mike my new lottie neighbour will have brought his fencing and put it up. There is usually something to see that is different.

I went into the garage yesterday afternoon to get some seeds from my car that have been there all summer tucked behind the back seat, together with lots of other useful things. I thought it time that I sorted everything out, and wanted to see what vegetable seeds I had left before I ordered any more. Having started to order some ‘special offers’ it is very easy to get carried away and end up with duplicates or far more of any one variety than you need. This was my biggest failing last year.

The first year I had only tamed half the allotment so did not get too carried away with seeds. Last year, when I cultivated the whole lot – I did! Having ordered seeds over the winter, I put them 'somewhere safe' where I would remember, then promptly forgot about them. Then when I was out and about on my travels I would see packets of seeds on special offer that took my fancy and would buy them, leaving me with several varieties of runner beans, carrots, lettuce – well all sorts really.

I got carried away looking at the heritage sites, and organic sites, and I gave a list to Haruko to choose some for my Christmas present, and she bought me the lot bless her – which was wonderful - a year's worth of free food, and I have two packets left to use this year.

The spring weather this year was disastrous with the late frosts killing off a lot of plants, the torrential rain rotting seeds and seedlings alike, so I was in fact, grateful for the duplications.

I did however, make the classic beginners mistake of sowing too much of everything. Having not realised that seeds do last longer than it says on the packet, and that you really do not need to sow 150 fine broccoli seeds – all of which germinated. Ditto the other brassicas. Finding myself swamped with so many young plants that I had spent ages prinking out, then putting into pots, and finally at planting stage not having the space for them all – even with a 330 foot plot – I gave most of them away. Which was nice for me and the recipients, but I did waste a lot of time, energy and money doing so.

This year I hope to find a balance, and grow even more sorts of vegetables as well as flowers, but in fewer quanities of each sort.

With this in mind my seed hunt ended up with my clearing out most of the garage again, as well as my car and I have typed up a list of seeds that I have, their ‘use by’ dates, sowing dates, and put them in alphabetical order. I then added the seeds that I have ordered to the list, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I may have some tucked away in a box in my pig shed up the lottie, so that is my main mission today.

Then I can update my list, sit down, and actually make sensible choices of which seeds I need to order.

I found three packets of organic parsnip seeds, and they have a use by date of 2007, and as they are still sealed in their packets I was wondering if I can use them next year. It is tattooed on my brain that you have to use parsnip seeds the year that you bought them as they are hard to germinate. If that is so, then I wonder why the organic seed company that these came from have given them a life span of 3 years after they were harvested. I shall be trusting the company that packaged them and use them next year. We love parsnips and eat a lot, and I put in three rows this year and we do not have an enormous amount left.

Timing seems to be of the essence with me. Something that I must concentrate on. I got so carried away that I planted too much too soon, so that is something else for me to be strict about. I guess I was swept up in the excitement of having all this space and wanted to fill it up quickly. Planning - by choosing different varieties of the same vegetables so that you have an early and a late crop is something that I only did with the potatoes and salads, so that is another thing that I have to concentrate on.

You can never get bored with growing your own food can you? I have learnt so much in my two year’s learning curve, mainly of what not to do, and it feels like bits of a jigsaw puzzle are falling into place each time I do. I never was much good at puzzles, losing bits, and trying to do the skies and other boring bits drove me to distraction, a bit like my gardening really, but when you finally find pieces that work right and click into place it is very rewarding isn’t it?


My trip to the allotment was cut short as I remembered an appointment I had in town at 12.30pm so I scooted up there before Pat went to golf and he was gone when I came back.

As usual it was very cold and the first thing I noticed was KC's old plot. The one that someone reserved long before they moved, and hadn't been touched. There were some brassicas there that I rather fancied for my chickens if the owner did not want them, but I had not see hide nor hair of the owner and the site remained untouched, neither had Geoff.

But it must have been over this weekend that someone had paid a visit and dug over the patch were the brassicas were. Woe was me. But then I saw them all piled up in their compost bin! I didn't think that they would mind me helping myself to three out of the huge pile that was dumped in their, and I will own up to doing so when I get to see the new tenant. I will even replace it with some of my rubbish if he wishes, I get lots. No one was up there that I could ask to pass the message on if they saw him. So I got three brussels stems, minus the brussels of course, but with lots of dog eared top leaves. The were the plants that got chewed to ribbons by the caterpillars in the summer, so it just goes to show that apart from looking ragged you can still get a crop off them if you leave them in.

Mike had a pile of paving slabs on his plot ready for a shed base, and the remaing plots hadn't yet been ploughed.

I have to say that I am rather proud of how neat mine looks with the grass paths and beds - even in winter it looks interesting.

I needn't have been concerned about my winter beans, apart from a nibble here and there from probably a slug, they look very healthy and strong - so far! I thought I had better put that in just in case.

I still have enough parsnips to see us through the winter, and the plot is relatively weed free. The areas we have dug over certainly are, and the rest if covered. The caterpillar cafe where the purple sprouting broccoli are, is a bit lop sided where the wind had blow over the middle support a tad bit, but it won't fall down as I had tied up both ends securely to metal poles - a bit like tethering a tent. I am so looking forward to my first meal of those spears. The plants are getting so tall and so purple, they look great. All that hard work picking off caterpillars by the hundred during the summer has paid off. Or did I really have to do so. Friends of mine left theirs to be eaten and they have recovered. Maybe I will try a comparison next year and see if there is any difference in the yield.

I didn't discover a single packet of vegetable seeds in my pig shed, so maybe they were all in the car. That is good news in a way, as I do not have as many and I had thought.

The cuttings I took look healthy and the un-named, unknown shrub cuttings which I think is a Fatshedera look brilliant, and have even come into flower which gave me the clue to what they are. They have the flower of ivy and the shiny leaf texture is like that of Fatsia Japonica. I do so hope that is what they are as they are great in flower arrangements.

When I got back from my appointment in town, my neighbour was just arriving with a bag of peeling for the chickens. She offered to look after them whilst we are away for a day or two in Newcastle when the baby finally arrives. I told her that they would be fine for 48 hours in their locked run, just so long as their water was changed if it froze. She said that she wanted to look after them as well as I do, to let them out into their pen, lock them up at night, and even clean them out! Isn't that kind. When I showed her the egg port door and opened it, right on cue was a lovely large warm egg so I gave that to her.

They won't need cleaning out whilst I am away, nor feeding as I can leave enough food for them, as chickens only eat what they need and their crops limit them to that amount. But my neighbour give them their daily treats, that will be nice, and of course be repaid with eggs!

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