Saturday, July 22, 2006

There is always a surprise up the allotment - good and bad though today

I expected to wake up to a wet garden and clean fresh air – it was not to be.

The storm only lasted just over half an hour last night and the ones promised never materialised here but hit further south around 3am.

It has been hot and humid all day, but despite that I took a trip up to the allotment. I wanted to let the girls out to forage over the plot, as I hoped that the storm might have encouraged some good titbits for them to scratch up. Instead of running to freedom, Adelaide and her best friend KoKKo, pottled out of their run and out of their fenced off area, and walked around the back to the cutting border that has black membrane down. They proceeded to snuggle down and do a bit of dust bathing – I noticed later when they did go for a wander that they have pulled up and moved the membrane where it was overlapped and made two very nice and deep dustbowls for themselves.

I collected their eggs, and went back to the shed to gather the tools I needed and carried on where I left off yesterday – in the tomato tent. I did some weeding and although the ground looked bone dry as if not a drop had fallen, it was easier to pull out the weeds, with root intact (except the dreaded dock weeds). I spent about an hour working on that area, and outside where I have more tomatoes and the courgette patch. Ginger ambled up to me for a chat from behind the row of raspberries – I think that she must have found some ‘windfalls’ after that rain. She stood and chatted and watched what I was doing, and decided that it was like watching paint dry, and that scratching about for worms was far more interesting!

I pulled up some weeds that were appearing on the onion patch, and also helped myself to a few large and ripe ones for the weekend.

The main crop potatoes had soaked up some of the rain as they seemed a bit perkier today.

I looked at the sacrificial peas – the pods of which had dried to a transparent parchment. I peeled back that (they were to dry to do that so very satisfying ‘pop’ with the pod unfortunately). The peas inside look fully formed but dry – well almost dry. They were not wrinkled but a pale green. No holes or maggots, or mealy bugs, just perfectly formed peas in need of some water. I decided that on another day I will collect the pods, removed the seeds, and pot a few to see if they will germinate. If so I will dry them fully to the wrinkled stage and use them next year – if not the chooks will get them, or if there are lots I will dry them in the dehydrator for use in the winter.

The climbing beans looked refreshed, even though the temperatures and the sunshine were very hot. White Lady is doing well with the first runner beans appearing. We do not seem to have had a shortage of bees – well I haven’t noticed on my plot, but across the country I read that there were and that the wild flowers were suffering. Any volunteers with a paintbrush or two, to do a bit of tickling? There seemed to be busy bees on the bean flowers, which is a good sign, otherwise I would have to be doing the pollinating myself – either with a paint brush or spraying them with water.

I noticed a few loganberries – the last I should think this year, because of the drought. So I went to get them. The summer flowering raspberries have all but finished and those remaining are shrunken or small.

Whilst mooching about in the fruit cage, (I thought I might as well look to see if there were any odd berries left on the bushes to have enough for a pudding) I took a look at the little gooseberry bush in the corner that I harvested a couple of weeks ago. I spied a couple of gooseberries. On further inspection and scratched arms, I collected an ice cream box full. Enough for a big fruit crumble. I was amazed as I was so thorough with that bush, but I do remember leaving some tiny wee berries that were too small to top and tail, smaller than black or red currants. They have somehow managed to swell into nice large ones. That is one of the joys of having an allotment – or even garden, you are guaranteed a surprise at every visit – not always as nice as that though.

Which reminds me, someone asked me how tall my gooseberry bushes were, and I don’t think that I replied at the time as I wanted to measure them properly. The tallest bush is waist high at the highest tip of the tallest branch so that would be no more than three feet tall. This year is my first good harvest. I rescued them from being ploughed in, so I don’t know how old they are. As it was the height of the summer at the time, two years ago, I pruned them right back hard,to increase their chances of survival, and then they put on some growth. Last year, I pruned them quite hard in the middle, so that they get lots of light and air in the middle – keeps the pests and illness down – and left just outward facing buds. The main structure is covered with lichen so that might suggest they are old – or else it is the position they were in – a windy open field amongst tall weeds.

A couple of hours had passed by this time, and I headed off up the path to put the girls away. En-route I noticed some fresh rabbit dropping in my ‘inner sanctuary’ area, which is where I grow carrots, parsnips, potatoes etc. all the main crops that make up our staple vegetable diet. I hadn’t seen any dropping in that area for a while, as I did a fence examination and added an inner fence where I found a little hole.

On my hands and knees, inspecting this length of fencing I found two holes. Again, how they got there I do not know. This years rabbits seem to have razor sharp teeth if they can make a hole through strong small gauge chicken wire that is not rusty. Luckily I had a part roll of the stuff, so make a quick phone call to Pat to see if I was allowed out to play longer, then off I set fence repairing. I have now run another length in front of the one with a couple of holes in. I have attached it to that fence and bent the wire inwards like on the chicken run, so there is no way they can get through there. That whole 100 plus feet, has a double thickness of fencing, so if that doesn’t stop them, I don’t know what will.

Adrian turned up with more horse manure, so I am getting well stocked up for the winter.

At that point, hunger pains were forcing my attention to home – but not before I had cleaned out and moved the eglu and run, filled up their water containers with 5 litres of clean water, and finished filling up their food hopper that I had to abandon doing last night. All the chickens were walking along behind the tomato tent, one behind the other, so quite what they had been up to I do not know. They were trying to look all casual and nonchelant, and didn't hurry themselves as they usually do, but just ambled along behind me. They soon ran hell for leather when I threw some corn in the run for them!

I retrieved last night's abandoned wheel barrow, and was amazed that I had spent over three hours up there.

I had expected to see a number of plot holders coming to inspect their allotments or to pull a few weeds – not a soul. Even the pigs were quiet this morning.

Storms were due for tonight, but I think that they will miss us here, as most of the country seems to be having a deluge during the day today or overnight last night.

Fiddlesticks, I forgot to check to see if any of my asparagus ferns have got seeds on them yet. I promised a lady on one of the forums that when they are ready, I would collect some and post them to her.

I did get side tracked today though. – Blame it on the rabbits again.

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