Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 Allotment hours: Me:13 He:13 Eggs:80

Have you ever worked so hard physically that you work yourself to a standstill?  That is what I have done today, so it is great to finally sit down with my feet up, having a rest

Breakfast at Lottie's
You can't help but smile first thing in the morning at breakfast time

Snowy is so nosy - stop squeaking, it's all the same food; get back to eating

It doesn't take them long to eat their fill and scramper off around the garden

They have a drinker of fresh water 24/7 in their run - so why do they insist on drinking from the bird baths?

As much as I love too, I couldn't stand watching them for long as we were off up the allotment.
I wanted to get in my early potatoes, and its hard work.

Patrick bless him, was in charge of barrowing the well rotted horse manure
Whilst I dug the trenches and filled them with it

I planted three rows of Rocket - first earlies - they were lovely last year

And one row of Charlotte - second earlies which never lets me down.  I earthed them up as I did each row, leaving some extra soil either side of the trenches to earth them up again when the leaves show.

Patrick weeded the Jostaberry bed - and a great job he did of it too!  There are always sneaky creeping nettles that are hard to dig out, and the deadly deep rooted dock weeds.
We were up there almost three and a half hours - the time flew by.    Luckily I had a cooked chicken at home ready prepared for lunch, so he did the salad whilst I showered and  I finished preparing it whilst he did the same.

I was so worn out that I thought I wouldn't be able to do another thing - but I soon got distracted once I went into the garden - more of that another day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 Allotment hours: Me:9.5 He:9.5 Eggs:70

This is what my allotment looked like on Saturday.

We had a lovely dry day and sunny day today - so I covered myself from head to toe, slapped on factor 50+ on my face, wore a big floppy hat and off I went up the allotment with Pat.

I had a great time up there - worked my socks off.  Pat had a bonfire to burn all the winter vegetation that could not be composted including the Christmas tree.
He got my rotorvator out for me whilst I rolled back the rubber path in the fenced off area and pulled up the bean strings before going over the plot.  The front bed I can dig over next time I am up there as it is nice and soft with all the well rotted manure from last year's pumpkin patch.

The wind didn't manage to lift the weighted covered bed - so although unsightly perhaps, it is better than a bed full of dock weeds - the seeds of which germinate round about now - and there must be millions of seeds in these beds due to all the surrounding plots which had the weeds and seeds blow over

I think you will agree that this is quite a transformation since those Saturday photos.  I got Pat to take down the netting protecting the brassicas, and to pull them all up - and he pulled up the canes too.  We removed the rubber paths, and then I went over it several times with the rotorvator - and put the mats back - voila!

This next bed got the same treatment - Pat pulled up the dead sweetcorn plants, and we weeded around the gooseberry bushes - and I rotorvated it a couple of times.

I think it's looking pretty good for an OAP not in the best of health!  The 'sticks' in the foreground are Jostaberry bushes, which I grew from 2 inch cuttings.  I stood behind the bed to get the photo

Here is the view from the other direction.  The Jostaberry bed at the bottom which looks lovely in the summer, behind that is the row of a water butt, and the compost bins and to the right is the enclosed bonfire area with an incinerator inside it.  We can only have a bonfire under certain conditions.  The wind has to be blowing away from the houses (which are to the left of the field, and others at the bottom of the fields.  It also has to blowing away from the pig farm behind me - as the smell of smoke would panic  the pigs.  The ideal conditions are if the wind is blowing to the right and at an angle away from us.   Which doesn't happen very often -hence the build up of bonfire material - but today it was perfect!
As you can see though, there is still a pile to burn!

Now those with keen eyes might have noticed the sudden leap in my egg total - and wondered how that occurred with only 8 hens and two of which do not lay any more - and those that do, do not lay every day!

Well, on Tuesday, I did a lot of work in the garden, after which I decided to sit and just relax, admire my handiwork and listen to the birds.
The place I chose to sit was on the chair beside the gazebo -notice the roof - another job that needs doing after the winter storms damage.  Whilst sitting there in the shade, I became away of a rustling noise coming from under the floor boards of the gazebo - at least that's where I thought it was coming from. I sat quietly and listened and watched - expecting to see a rabbit or evidence of one - when out popped a bantam - Twiggy - and off she ran up the garden.  On closer inspection I saw an egg amongst the leaves.  You would have laughed to see me - lying on my tummy - my legs sticking out of the gazebo, my head to one side, with my arm stretched out scrabbling about in the leaves.   In the end I retrieved eight eggs.

Yes EIGHT from under here!  They were not only Twiggy's either, but the Poppy's and Snowy's too!  I took them in and did the float test and they were all fine!  So I  used them to make a lovely big tray bake sponge cake with Morello cherries - and it's yummy and will last us a week!  What a bonus!  They haven't laid any more there since - but I got three today in the nest box where they should be!

Monday, March 15, 2010

If you can't find me - find the chickens. 2010 Eggs Total:56

I am still on a 'high' after spending all day yesterday with my sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson. 

For the first time ever we all went out for a meal to celebrate Mothering Sunday, and it was just perfect - absolutely wonderful.  A memory that will stay with me forever.

Today was the perfect spring day, the sun shone, the wind blew, just right for a bit of gardening. 
Firstly I let the bantams out

Whilst they were happily scratching about, I decided to do a bit of gardening.
When I came home yesterday, a friend had delivered some bags of well rotted manure.

So I dug over my raised beds, got my wheelbarrow out, and trundled the seven bags, and emptied them and dug them in.  My little shadow Gozzie, who follows me around like a faithful puppy, decided to help me dig over the beds too.   So if you can't find me in the garden - look for the bantams and you'll find me.

Then the others came too.

If you want to see them in a video the link is HERE

And at my side is the lovely Gozzie, so we left the others, and did a bit more weeding

We dug over the bed alongside the new vegetable patch
We didn't do a bad job did we - manure is next, but I have to get some more first

Then we tackled this one - again it needs the manure

Next came 'Maxine's' bed

Then a bit more of the gravel bed.  We are going to renew the gravel this year

Then me and Gozzie weeded all along the side of the bungalow

We did a good job didn't we Gozzie

If the weather is dry - me and Gozzie still have more to do!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Allotment hours: Me:6 He:6 2010 Eggs:52

Rather reluctantly I managed to get Patrick up the allotment on the pretext that it would be for only half a hour.  He'll believe anything I say!
The idea was to just cover over this bed.  It had the spuds in it last year
I can't manage to grow as much as I used too as I have to stay out of the sun
So rather than give up any more of my plot, this is a compromise.

I know it is not a pretty sight - but trust me, it is far prettier than dock weeds

You may wonder why I am not using a green manure on this bed.
Firstly, the 'thug' weeds will not be suppressed by the green manure, so I only use it on small beds

This area was beautiful last summer.  I grew pea and mange tout, onion, shallots, beetroot and carrots as well as all my brassicas (the remainder of which I need to did up)
I will now dig up over and re-design it.  I need to fence everything to deter the rabbits and deer.

This bed had the sweetcorn, drawf beans, and courgettes.
This will be dug over and used for potatoes.

This area was covered over last autumn - its will be lovely to dig over

I have taken up the raised beds which were here in front of the fenced off bed.  I grew pumpkins here

I put barrow loads of rich rotted manure on here last year and it is now perfect for potatoes.

This had green manure on the bare spaces last year, and I also packed it with courgettes, sunflowers, leeks, parsnips, and onions, runner beans, and Cherokee Trail of Tears.

I have removed the winter cover, repaired the bean frame and am ready to dig this over
It might all look a bit untidy to  your eyes  - but it is a very big plot and as well as being 250ft long it is 33ft wide.  And compared to the other plots it is really tidy.
Until that was

My next door neighbour had his plot ploughed by his son - all the mess and the weeds gone in half an hour at most!  I dig all my perennial weeds out, have done for years - and it does keep them under better control.  We were the only ones up the field - but spent a very industrious two and a halfs in the freezing cold wins - but it was so worth it.

My banties as usual spent the whole day outside.  Each day they get fresh water - but they choose to drink out of the bird baths!  Typical!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

As usual, it's all Patrick's fault! - Muffins

The other evening Patrick appeared with a big grin on his face and presented me with a surprise 'present' at tea time.

It was a HUGE muffin.  He said that he had popped in the supermarket to get some milk and just happened to see them.  It was a  blueberry muffin.  It looked rather peculiar to me, but bless him, I couldn't say.  It was a greyish bluish colour and pale - and looked like it had been cooked in a microwave, and didn't have the least bit of a 'tan'.  It tasted O.K. though - but a bit cloying.  He said that he thought he'd read somewhere that blueberries were really good for you - and as I had been working hard, he thought I deserved it!

Today, I sat down for a few minutes when I came in from the garden before lunch - and thought of muffins and remembered that whilst on a tour of  New Zealand a number of years ago, I bought some little cookery books as souvenirs and one of them was a book called More Marvellous Muffins!  We stayed on farms in remote places, and a few of the farmers wives recommended it to me.  

So this is how I came to be cooking muffins just before lunch.  I looked at the recipes to find one that I could do with things from my store cupboard - and here it is.

Apple, Oat, & Raisin Muffins

2 cups wholemeal flour
half a cup of oatbran
half a teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 tsp baking powder
half a teaspoon of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
half a cup of brown sugar
1 cup of sultanas or raisins
half a cup of pumpkin or sunflower seeds

half a cup of yoghurt - any sort - even fruity
quarter of a cup of canolo oil - I used rapeseed as it is the best for your cholesterol levels
1 large egg - I used three of the smallest bantam eggs
1 cup of apple sauce (I used a chopped up eating apple with the peel on)

Mix all the list of dry ingredients together so that all the flavours etc are combined

In a another bowl whisk all the 'wet' ingredients together.  (I used a blender)
Fold in to the dry mix and if needed add a little milk, or fruit juice if it is a little dry.

Pile the mixture into lightly oiled muffin tin/s (this is enough for 12) and bake on 200c (180c fan oven) for 12 - 15 minutes

I only have the big size muffin pans so only made six but they are huge - as you can see above, photographed on a dinner plate.

These were lovely and light, and full of texture.  The combination of the apples, juicy raisins, crunchy seeds, and cinnamon flavours was delicious.  Reminded me of Christmas and just perfect for a cold day.  What I particularly liked about this recipe was that the muffins had 'body' and were not all 'cloying' like the supermarket blueberry muffin which stuck to the roof of your mouth - and I am sure these are much healthier.  I glazed them with a mix of brown sugar and lemon juice whilst they were still hot and it was a lovely crunchy zingy topping.

Egg total 2010.....46 - Chook flicks in the garden today.

I managed to get some time in the lean-to, sowing some broad beans into pots - I got bored after 30 so put the rest of them in the garden   It will be 50/50 if any of them grow as I didn't really plant them but just put them along the fence and threw over some compost.  I have more broad bean seeds as 'extras' for up the allotment in case any get eaten by 'pests' up there.
Out and about today - the bantams of course HERE

I have been exceedingly organized and made a spread sheet of all my seeds - and have way too many as usual!  I really should have checked my fridge in the garage where I store them before being tempted into buying some more on the internet.  I had decided not to grow as much up the lottie this year - but may have to now - he he.  At least if I grow lots of squash up there it will act as a weed suppressant. 

I really had hoped to get up there today, but it didn't work out that way - too many pressing jobs here - plus the weather was frrrreeeeezing and windy, and I still feel a little jaded after all the gardening I have been doing - plus 'other stuff'.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chick Flicks - bantams in the snow!

It was only two weeks and two day since we had snow, I know this because the chooks were out in it as you can see here on the bantams video - and I was shaking a bit with cold!

Ok so the snow was on it's way out - but just wanted to record the difference a couple of weeks can make.

Bare bare bare.......................2010 Eggs 42

This time of year the garden looks so bare. 
But there are things to see
The sage looks sadly at the perky snowdrops.  Once the new growth starts I will give it a prune
The snow drops came for Walsingham it is such a beautiful place to visit.  There was snowdrop walk in the grounds of the Shrine - and it was amazing.  The weather was awful, and cold, and sleeting, but I had the most amazing time - and I bought a small bunch of snowdrops 'in the green' and they have formed clumps over the years
The spring bulbs are not up yet  - bare it might look. now that all the dead foliage has been cut, but underneath the soil there lurks lots of plants ready and waiting to burst through as soon as the weather warms up.
This bed is 24 feet wide - the rose has been pruned, but come early summer it will be a mass of white, and will hide the bungalows in the distance
It's a dull day!
The chickens will brighten it up
All ready and waiting to be let out.
Charge of the light brigade - what have you come back for Twiggy?
They are so quick - scuse the bucket - still doing some weeding
The woodland garden isn't looking too bad
Chasing insects - and soon they will be scratching around in the gravel bed - such fun to watch

I recorded them, not sure if I can get the video on here!