Monday, April 24, 2006

Catch up time - a precis

Having had a later than usual startup the allotment this year, as bad weather stopped play, I am a bit behind my planting plan – but am still quite pleased with how it is looking.

Here are some photos that I have taken this week so that you can compare the before and after photos as the growing season progesses.

This photo shows the view from the bottom up to the first fencing. Behind me is the chicken meadow and behind that is the 'wild' area to attract insects etc and the big composting bin for long term perennial weeds and woody stuff.

You can see some of the flower beds and beyond that is a big bed which, at the moment. I have dug over and covered to keep it clean.

Beyond that are the overwintered broad beans that took a bashing from the harsh weather, a deer, rabbits, pheasants and pigeons - but some have survived. I am not sure whether I will sow some more - there is still time - but I mainly grow them for my OH so might leave it at that.

Some of the flower beds just starting to burst into life. It is nice to see that the hostas have survived the winter, together with the flag irises and other plants.

I am really pleased with the daffodils - they were free - went in late, got dug up by the deer or rabbits and one or two got a bit chewed - but aren't they glorious?

So far this week I have been up the allotment every day.

Bank Holiday Monday – we spent the morning getting ready for my friend Rick to do a bit of rotorvating for me – just a small bit where I wanted to plant the potatoes. He has a big beefy rotorvator that will dig down deeper than mine, and can cope with the 20 barrow loads of well rotted pig manure that I had spread on that area. I tried with mine but it just danced over it all!

I had a bit of help from my other half to help me uncover the areas I had covered up with black plastic to keep the plot clean. It entailed removing lots of weights of all descriptions, including barrels filled with water, planks of wood, and various other things.

Not an easy task on a very windy day – but being out in the fresh air was a real tonic as always.

We then covered up areas that I rotorvated last week, in order to keep them clean for later planting – the weeds grow so quickly, and this method helps me control them.

Tuesday was a weeding day for me - rotten dock weeds - you have to dig down really deeply to get all the root out or they just grow again. A friend of mine rented a meadow for her horses and apparently the dock weeds were 100 years old. (I don't know who was there when the weeds first arrived to take note - but I can well believe it!)

Why on earth am I showing you a photo of purple sprouting broccoli? Well last year, (my second growing season) I decided to grow some, and it turned into a labour of love and devotion. Each day I went up the allotment and saved and protected them from not only the usual predators, but also spent hours in the blazing sunshine picking off caterpillars every day - one day I stopped countint at 200!

They have survived the winter - I lost about 20 to an attack of pigeons then the winds blew the netting cage down so that the birds could sit on the top and feast!

But on Tuesday I picked my first crop - and boy did it taste delicious. I have blanched and frozen some too, and will probably now have a glut and will dish it out free to all and sundry. It has been in the ground 11 months, so I am not sure that I was worth all the pain for the long awaited reward - but it looks beautiful and tastes wonderful and full of vitamins.

Looking down to the bottom end. In the foreground are three rows of strawberries, and the rows of the surviving broad beans - a few of which are in flower. Beyond the flower beds and meadow and wild area and the fields and gorgeous big skies.

Wednesday I had an early start and met my friend up the lottie, who was going to do a bit of rotorvating for me where I wanted the potatoes to go. Heavy rain was forecast for the rest of the week and I was desperate to get my spuds in. He has a really heavy beast of a machine and it went through my ground like butter - even though my land is full of stones and flints which get stuck in my machine and make it bounce about like a bucking bronco at times.

It did help that I had dug and manured it before winter and kept it covered, but it did look nice after he had done it.

You can see the bean trenches, which I filled all winter with kitchen waste, added a few barrows of well rotted pig muck, then I covered it all with soil whilst Rick was doing his bit.

Three hours later, I had planted 7 rows of potatoes, 25 in each row. It rained for the last hour or so, but I was determined to get it finished. OK so they are not quite straight, but it was tipping it down with rain and I was rather worn out at the time.

And this is what it looks like now. The rows of potatoes now ridged and marked and labelled then a spare bit of land then the broccoli cage.

Beyond that is a fruit area with summer and winter fruiting raspberries, jostaberries, black currants, black berry, goose berries, rhubarb and asparagus!

And you still haven't seen it all yet!

I went home that day with 2 newly laid eggs and a carrier bag full of purple sprouting broccoli - some of which I blanched and froze.

I got home before OH so had time to prepare a lunch of fresh cod which I topped with a herby crust consisting of wholemeal breadcrumbs from a loaf I made a couple of days ago, a dollop of virgin olive oil, mixed herbs and garlic – dried unfortunately as I had to be quick – and as an afterthought a bantam egg added to bind it. All mixed up and the herby bread mix spread on top and baked in a hot over for 15 minutes whilst the purple sprouting broccoli steamed. Simple but tasty and the lovely crusty, crunchy topping was a nice flavour and texture and looked lovely against the pure white and smooth cod fillet.

I spent some of the afternoon potting on some seedlings – courgettes and squashes and tomatoes – and I ran out of energy before I ran out of things to pot on!

Thursday, after a trip to hospital the morning, I was itching to get out in the fresh air after lunch.

As I didn’t think that I would be doing any work, a nice walk up there – in the rain – would be good exercise.

First job was to go and pay a visit to my ‘girls’ who I must say, did not seem too bothered about my visit as they were happily scratching about in their run. They were happy to be let out into the meadow though and totally ignored me, so I didn’t even get a cuddle. Still I did get three huge eggs so no complaints there then.

Old G was up there and lamenting the fact that he only ever sees me and a couple of chaps down the bottom end – the rest only visit for an hour or so now and again. As they have tractors and all machines known to man for working the land, I guess that is all the time they need to spend as they don’t do any hoeing or hand weeding! Off he toddled and the rain had stopped – it was only light – so I got out my little tiller and dismantled one of my raised bed ‘Heath Robinson type’ home made frames and ran the machine over that, so have created a lovely tilth in readiness for the salad seedlings and seeds. I then weeded around the pathway all around that bed, and got a second burst of energy and tackled the next one – again a dismantling job before and after, but it looks good.

Just one more to do, but first I have to dig out the big old dock weeds and a couple of raspberry roots that have somehow managed to get there from the fruit cage!

Heavy rain forced me to stop, but not before one last distraction. My horsey friend had brought some more manure and plonked a pile of it is the pig manure bin that I had just cleared out and wanted to remake – so I had to shift the pile over.

A quick dash down the bottom to get my girls back in the dry and safety of their run – which took no encouragement from me, other than to throw in some apple cores and a handful of wheat and corn mixture, and I left them tucking into that without even a backwards glance at my departure.

Then followed the long walk home, in pouring rain, with muddy trousers and sodden hair – hoping that none of the neighbours would see me looking like a drowned scarecrow.

Not such a good idea for a walk up the allotment for some fresh air – I might have realised that I would be distracted again for over 2 hours!!

This morning I spent sowing lots of more seeds - barlotti, climbing beans, Cherokee beans, dwarf French and yellow haricot beans, and Echinacea.

This afternoon I moved the chicken run again, did some weeding, raked a seed bed, and sowed salads - rocket, coriander, mixed lettuce, spring onions, red beetroot, and swiss chard.

I rebuilt a raised bed with odd bits of wood I had lying around up there and looked up and saw this when there was a break it the weather and the sun came out for a few minutes.

I can not decide if it looks more like a love heart or and African continent - what can you see in the clouds?

A phone call beckoned me home - another few hours whizzed past in a flash!

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