We had a little downpour in the night – but by morning you would never have known that we had, with dry paths and foliage.
Resting up a bit today, and reading up more ideas for jams – unusual ones for a change – but a task for a cooler day.
Up the allotment I have been growing on a courgette into a marrow, with a view to using it in a recipe I had found for a marrow jam – hence me spending an hour getting carried away browsing through my recipe books.
I have also been looking up recipes for chutney – although we don’t really eat much at present, mainly because I have not really tried any other than the Christmas ones; I thought that if I make them myself and know exactly what is going into them, preferably mostly my produce, I will be more tempted to eat them. I have found wonderfully colourful recipes for all sorts of pickles too, including one for runner or French beans – I am going to have a go at that. I found it a couple of years ago, printed it off, and kept it for future use.
This Friday, I am going on a flower arranging workshop, and have been doing a bit of research for that too. We are going to make ‘Something completely different’ which sounds like either fun or a trial. I have so missed going to the workshops, but now that the shingles is definitely on its way out and I can drive longer distances now without being in considerable pain, I will be going out and about more.
It is sometimes nice to have half a day of doing not much, especially in this humid heat.
When it cools down a tad bit we are off up the allotment to let the girls have a nice scratch around as the rain must surely have ensured more goodies will be lurking on the plants or in the soil for the girls.
And that is precisely what I did.
Monday, 24 July 2006
Today, after a sleepless night (due to the high humidity levels) I was up early, so before breakfast we went up to let the girls out. There was plenty of activity going on, on the farm as usual, and some of the pigs were going to the abattoir –makes me shiver just thinking about it. They do not spend much time on this planet, poor things, hence my not eating any pork unless it comes from Paula’s rare breeds – they get the very best life, and care, and are treated like pets not just a commodity.
I think that all the foxes have been taken care of, but if there were any stray ones, they steer clear of the farm especially when there is so much ‘traffic’ and noise, so I know that the girls will be fine.
Back home for breakfast and then off up the allotment to mow the lawns and paths. The chickens were just sunbathing, but soon came running when I called them, then followed me around whilst I took a tour of my plot. I took lots of photos today – but when I went to download them I found that I had not put the memory card in – it was still in my printer. Hey Ho.
The onions are ripening and turning golden, I am thinking of pulling them right out of the ground to that they get really golden all over. The poor squash, courgette, and pumpkin plants looked flat – but hopefully it is the heat of the day and they perk up tonight.
The runner beans – White Lady – are really starting to do well with some nice long ones developing – but I did not pick them today, that is an early morning job when they will be more turgid. I have a nice bunch of yellow dwarf haricot beans to use first.
I want to pick the pea pods off the ‘sacrificial’ row – but as we had a downpour Saturday in the night, I am going to leave it until tomorrow when it is hot and sunny, so ensure that they are really dry, in case I don’t get time to process them as I have an appointment in the afternoon.
The tomatoes are still holding their own, with a cluster of nice red ones ready to pick on a little bushy plant – but again, no time for that today, as I needed to get the mower out. Not a job for a hot day – and I have been putting it off for a cooler day - but one hasn’t arrived so it had to be done.
Where I sowed new grass seed this year – it has failed miserably and some weeds have taken hold. The path that I sowed in the spring that was looking nice – has been burned to a crisp, but the paths that I sowed last year, and have had time to establish over winter, looked lush and green – so too the meadow. The rest of the lawned areas were looking rather parched, but with a weed or two here and there, which got the chop. I cut the paths and lawns on a high setting to prevent them dieing back in the hot sun, but you do get the odd weed spring up that way.
It took me almost three hours to get the lot done, but I did the sensible thing and sat in the only bit of shade – right down by the field – and the girls joined me too.
For some reason they are fascinated by my green wellies, and spend ages pecking at them. They also peck all the bits of grass off my trousers – almost like they are grooming me – but Ginger took it a bit too far when she pecked at my green long sleeved shirt and got a bit over enthusiastic and started taking a beak full and trying to pull it off. I crossed my legs at my ankles and they all started cleaning the bottom of my boots for me. Finally satisfied that I was as clean as I would get, they sat in front of my and preened themselves before laying down, closing their eyes and having a doze in the shade. Shame the photos didn’t come out!
When I got up they did too, and I left them pecking bits of grass – they like the seed heads off the top I noticed and the amount they consumed in the five minutes I stood watching them really amazed me. They had over five hours roaming today, and when I called them they ran straight into their run, and were happy to peck around in there – especially as I had moved it to a fresh part of the meadow with nice lush grass. But not too long, as I know that can harbour bugs.
The grass cuttings I used as mulch, and it really does the trick – the secret is to put it on thickly though and to add layers when the grass cuttings have rotted. I pulled up a few weeds that managed to poke through those areas.
The flower beds have been a disaster in some aspects – the 30 packets of annual flower seeds failed to germinate or if they did the seedlings were burnt up. Those beds need weeding – but not in this heat. The iris plants love being baked so they will be brilliant next year, and even bigger clumps. The phormiums are loving the dry weather too, so lots of plant material for autumn and winter flower arrangements.
I took a photo of the one surviving achillea, that the rabbits did their best to kill, but it survived anyway and is now is flower. A lovely shade of yellow – will get some photos tomorrow! I will pick some of those for my workshop on Friday. The roses are struggling, and have flowered, but not enough or of good quality to use – but they are only two years old from cuttings and with the drought it is not a surprise. The tall Rudbeckia is at last just starting to flower, but again, not ready for me to pick for their seed heads yet, but something to look forward too later.
The best way to treat the flower beds, I have now decided, is to cram as much as I possibly can into them, so that there is less space for the weeds. I do that at home, but thought I would give the plants lots of space to develop – but realise that you have to grow things differently up there with different conditions to take into account. I already have my eye on quite a few perennials in my gardens here that are big and can be divided and transplanted up the allotment in the autumn.
Walking back through plot making my way to the shed, it was nice to take the time to have a close look at things. For example, the broad bean seeds I sowed really really late, and just as an afterthought in the gaps that were left by the ones that failed in the winter, and also because I just happened to have them and didn’t want to waste them – have grown into fine plants, without a single black fly – far too late for those – and I had a nice second crop to pick – the podding of which I will assign to Pat.
The thick mulch of wet horse manure that I covered the rhubarb and gooseberry bed with, is now bone dry – to a crisp – didn’t take long for that to happen, and proves that the rainfall was not even enough to dampen the mulch.
The gooseberry bushes, now having done their job, are starting to look a bit tired, their leaves turning a darker green and beginning to look a bit dry.
Further up, the summer raspberries are all but finished, those left are for the birds, but the autumn fruiting bushes are really lush – amazing in the drought.
I wondered why I scarcely got a strawberry from the ones in the fruit cage, especially as there were some green ones earlier on. On my walk back I noticed why. We made the cage with builders pallets all around from wind protection, and I covered it with green wind break material. I noticed today that a hole had been made – rabbit size – at the front. It is only material so quite easy for a rabbit to do. So it is perfect for a young rabbit to use it for an entrance and exit, as the gap is at a corner join, hence the gap in the side of the pallet. I can see that I will have to think up something better to keep them out in the future.
More lettuce have bolted overnight, so more for the chickens, but still plenty for us. I did sow some more rows, but they have not materialised, so perhaps I will have to sow more and keep them watered.
I left the plot very tired but happy. The mown lawns and pathways really look great – but chaos reigns one more on the allotments all around me. They seem to have been abandoned yet again.
When I was sitting in the shade ‘chilling’ out with the girls playing at my feet, and birds in the trees behind me, I was almost in a trance watching the thistle seeds swirling up and around on the heat thermals on all the plots either side my little oasis. I sat there thinking. ‘What am I doing all this mowing and weeding for – I don’t stand a hope in a h*** of ever winning the battle.’ There are literally thousands and thousands of waist high weeds as far as the eye can see on each side of me, and all sorts of seeds blow across.
I know why I do it though. For the exercise, for the satisfaction of growing things, especially food and fruit, for the joy of being in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, sitting on a bench looking out onto acres of golden barley gently swaying in the breeze – (sadly without a poppy or a weed in it as they get sprayed) – for the pleasure, just for me, of seeing it neat and tidy and cared for as best I can, even though there are weeds in the flower beds, and the utter feeling of peace and contentment with my chickens at my feet, bees buzzing on the achillea flowers, and though still caring about the troubles of the world, having. and appreciating, that I am so lucky to be where I am – for that moment – and making the most of it.
I hope that you have that experience too – it is something to really treasure.