Thank goodness for the greenhouse. I managed to stay warm and dry all afternoon and avoid the hail stones, snow and rain while the husband dodged the storms out on the allotment. I bought all my seeds this weekend and so had a good excuse to spend the afternoon hiding in the greenhouse planting everything up. I also took the opportunity to give it a good clean out too as it tends to end up as a bit of a dumping ground at the end of the season for used pots and anything else we can’t be bothered to sort out. I had to evict some pretty huge spiders who had made their homes in the plant pots but after the way was clear I could focus on sorting out the seeds. If there is one plant that is the easiest thing in the world to grow from seed and you end up with thousands of seedlings most of which you have to throw away which is heart breaking it’s the leek. From one packet of seed at a cost of about £2.00 you can grow thousands of leeks if you want too. This year instead of buying the seed I actually bought a tray of seedlings from the garden centre for £2.50 which when you consider the compost I’d have had to use means they were no more expensive and I could miss out a stage in the planting cycle. When the seedlings are no more than three-four inches tall and look like individual blades of grass you can seperate them and pot them on until they grow to about pencil thickness when you plant them out. This is what I did this afternoon and potted on 75 leeks and still had hundreds to throw on the compost heap, but unlike most seedlings where the success rate is low and so you can keep the others as spares just in case, with leeks it doesn’t seem to matter what you do to them, other than if you let them completly dry out, they all grow on fine. The other seeds I planted were my brassicas. I plant a few seeds in individual pots and then thin them out later leaving one plant in each pot to grow on for planting out. Once they are all planted and watered I cover them over with an old compost bag to keep out the light and then it’s just a waiting game. It means daily trips into the greenhouse to make sure they don’t dry out and as soon as the seedlings show through I will remove the plastic and let them enjoy the sunshine. I’ve stuck to the usual favorites purple sprouting broccoli, brussel sprouts and green kale instead of the purple this year. We need to lime the brassica bed now to give it time to settle before planting as brassicas prefer an alkaline soil and we won’t dig the bed over as they also prefer a solid compact soil. This helps to stop the brussel sprouts from opening up and keeps them nice and tight. We are still harvesting out broccoli and next on the list to try is the rhubarb which you can see from the picture is going mad. I want to see if I can use it savoury dishes this year as I’m not a fan of rhubarb crumble, so I’ll be having a look in the internet to see what I can find.
Bob is now getting very comfortable with us being around at the allotment and I found him this morning in next doors greenhouse sitting in this planting tray and he didn’t run away as I got close with my mobile phone to get this picture. All the cats up here look the same and are not blessed with the best looking faces but give them their dues they do seem to be having an effect on the rat population and it is nice to have them to pass the time of day with when I make my early morning trips up to feed the chickens. We spent a lovely day on Sunday pottering around with the cats passing through and sometimes settling down to rest on a warm bit of ground. We have continued to dig over the beds and remove old crops and weeds. It is looking very smart, but empty! I meant to plant my first crop of peas but forgot to bring the seeds up with me. I also need to make a trip to the garden centre to stock up on compost as I shall be planting most of my seeds in the next few weeks in the greenhouse. It is that time of year when if you miss a week then you find yourself running behind and your seedlings aren’t ready quickly enough to plant out. It’s always a fine line when to plant as you don’t want weak seedlings that have been kept in their pots too long before you plant them out but also you want them to be big enough to plant out at the right time to give them maximum growing time before cropping. Of course it is also weather dependent and we can do nothing about that. If we get a few cold weeks in April it can knock everything back. All in all it’s just a case of doing it when you can and crossing your fingers that it all goes according to plan.
This great weather means we are wanting to spend every spare moment we have up at the allotment and we have had a great time clearing out and tidying up ready for the summer madness. We have rearranged the chicken run and now we can keep the chickens well away from the oak tree and they can help keep the weeds at bay around the raspberry canes. It is at times like this though that you realise that chickens are not the brightest birds on the planet. Changing the run has really confused them and they haven’t quite worked out how to get round the re-arranged wire fence to the new areas of their run and getting them back in is not quite so easy either as they have options now rather than the nice wire tunnel back to their permanent run but I’m sure they’ll get the hang of it eventually. We have also been emptying out the compost heaps on to the beds to get them ready for planting and that means we can then turn over the newer stuff in to the now vacant bin. I try and rotate the beds that we compost based on what goes in to them each year and use manure for the potato beds this hopefully means over a number of years all the beds get the right treatment for the crops we grow and we don’t deplete them of nutrients. Compost is wonderful stuff and ours is enriched with lots of chicken poop so hopefully the plants will love it. Our other exciting news is that we have acquired a massive water container, I know allotment holders are sad people but I have envied the other allotment holders who have these and this year we were lucky enough to be offered one. I guess they are some sort of industrial container but they are huge and should solve our summer water problem meaning no more carting water containers there if we have a dry spell like last year and I will probably have enough water to be able to water the potatoes if they get short. Last year we couldn’t do this and I am sure this had an effect on the condition of our potatoes. Talking potatoes we have changed tack on those this year. Over the last few years we have only planted Sarpo Mira potatoes a main crop potato which is blight resistant. Last year they didn’t do as well as previous years and seemed to suffer from the drought and from slug damage, so this year we have changed the mix and added other varieties to experiment and see what happens. We do suffer from blight up there so I have stuck to a row of the Sarpo variety but I’m trying Axona this year as I’ve read it is a stronger variety. We are also going to plant Albert Bartlet Rooster which are apparently more slug resistant and an early potato Rocket too. I haven’t really planted new potatoes in the past as I’m not really a fan and prefer to mash and roast my potatoes but this early variety is good for those too so let the potato test begin. They are all nicely sitting chitting in the study and we’ll see what happens.
These light mornings are great but I am creating a very long list of jobs that need doing now I can actually see. It is brilliant though being able to wander around again in the morning taking in the scenery and chilling out. My poor purple sprouting broccoli and kale have been well battered by the wind and are leaning at all sorts of angles. I’ve managed to keep the pigeons off this year by netting them (the one in the picture is from last year and you can see how eaten the leaves were) but that has also now blown all over the place too and so this weekends job will be trying to get them all standing again and tying them in to their stakes before covering them again. The broccoli has started to sprout now so we will be able to enjoy fresh spears this weekend. I read in the mags that I need to take the centre flower out first, which I didn’t do last year and this will then encourage more side shoots which are more like the ones you buy in the shops, though I can assure you they taste so much better fresh from the plant. I will never tire of that even though I have to wait nearly a full year from planting to eating. The kale might also send new shoots out of the top now the light is improving so I’ll leave them in a bit longer to make the most of it before removing them and feeding whats left to the chickens. They have been living on brussel sprout stems and the top growth from them for the last month so they’ll be ready for a change. Over the winter I’ve been doing a bit of googling about my chicken problem and why I might have lost a few these last few years and have found out that they oak is poisonous to chickens and we have a small oak tree growing just next to the plot which would shed it’s leaves and acorns on the ground where the chickens forage when we let them out of their pen when we are at the allotment. I wonder if this might be causing their demise. I don’t want to get rid of the oak tree as it is thriving and the birds love to sit in there before they come down on to the bird table so another job for a nice weekend is to totally re-arrange the wire fencing that allows the chickens some freedom when we let them out but keeps them off our crops. I’m going to route it so that they can get into the area where the raspberries are planted as that gets lots of weeds in around the bottom and chickens are very good at clearing the ground. It needs a bit of planning to make sure we can access all areas easily but hopefully if it does the trick we won’t have any more poorly chickens and I can rest easy letting them out.
At last the mornings are starting to lighten up and I can see the end of what must be the worst winter I’ve ever had at the allotment. I know we have been really lucky because there has been no snow and very few frosty mornings, but they are what make January interesting. I’ve had absolutely nothing to blog about as every day it’s the same old thing sploshing and sliding through the mud and rain in the pitch black. It has been really miserable and even the weekends have been a wash out, as when the rain stops and the sun glints through the clouds we can’t do anything as the soil is just too sodden to walk on. We tried to do some work this weekend but ended up sheltering in the shed as the rain came down again and the wind blew. The chickens made me laugh as they scurried back in to their run to avoid the worst of it. They eventually gave up and had an early night retiring into their hut before we even left which is unheard of. Guess they are fed up of it all too! Lottie and Bob are still around most of the time and Bob is getting more used to us, though we can’t get very near to him. Lottie knows exactly what to do when it’s raining as we found her sitting on one of the armchairs in one of the sheds on the allotment in front of the wood burning stove. It’s a hard life being an allotment cat. Anyway here’s hoping that things change soon and we can start to prepare for a new season.
Well here we go again with another year to start again on the allotment and another opportunity to get it right! After a relatively quiet period running up to Christmas it won’t be long before the days start getting longer and we will be preparing the beds ready for the first plantings. I can’t wait! It is always a time of year for taking stock of what we did last year and what worked and didn’t work. I’ve been really pleased with the winter veg as always but I think I’m going to go back to good old green curly kale next year as the red variety we tried this year looks great but is really tough. I’m going to see if I can find a cure for white fly though as it really does get attacked every year and I’m sure it does nothing to help the quality. Brussel sprouts are still my favourite and they are so easy to grow. I walked up early on Christmas morning and just like Santa delivered freshly picked sprouts to friends and relatives, leaving them on the doorstep. They will definitely be getting space next year. As you know if you have read my blog I am definitely not going to be planting any radicchio but one veg I thought I might try to take it’s place in the scheme is salsify. I watched my dear friend Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall cook with it the other day and he raved about it so here goes. I grew sweetcorn for popping this year for the first time. The heads were multi coloured and looked fantastic but I didn’t take the outer leaves off before I dried them out and they seemed to go mouldy inside so I’ll give them another go next year and see if I can actually pop my own corn. I have a spreadsheet which I use to plot out the veggies and make sure I get my rotation right so I will be digging that out again as I peruse the catalogues that have already hit the doormat. The chickens are doing really well after their moult and we are getting two to three eggs on most days which is great. Blue in the picture who nearly lost every feather this year is looking fluffy and beautiful again now and has started laying again. Natasha seems to be the only one who isn’t laying but hopefully she will start again in the spring. They have managed to put on a good bit of weight to so they should see it through any chilly weather that might be on it’s way, though at the moment it’s just dealing with soggy feathers with all the rain. We seem to be increasing the cat population as they migrate from the farm down the road to the more luxurious surroundings of the allotments with food, friends and a bed. Bob is still around and getting a little friendlier but we also seem to have another female around who looks just like Lottie but has a softer coloured face. I only really get to see their eyes shining in the torch light but occassionally they are at the gate in the morning when I pull up in the car. I wonder if we will see any kittens in the spring time?
I hate sitting at home listening to strong winds as every year it is the one weather system that causes the most problems at the allotment. The most common problem is shed roofs blowing off and yesterday was no exception. I battled my way against the wind wondering what I was going to find and at first we seemed to have escaped, all sheds intact and nothing seemingly out of order. It was only when I opened up the girlies run that I found someone else’s shed roof in there. Shed roofs are not light and yet when the wind gets under them it seems they can travel amazing distances and clear great heights. I imagine they must look like a magic carpet, sailing through the sky then plummeting to the ground when the gust passes. Luckily no damage was done and the girlies although a little perturbed by this new object were all fine. I feel really sorry for my neighbour who owns this shed as every year it gives up in strong winds whereas other flimsy little sheds seem to stand up to it. Our own blue shed which is fairly rickety just leans more after each strong gale and the bracket for the door has to be adjusted each time so that we can close it again. One day I am sure we will arrive to find it flat packed as it leans just that bit too far and folds over. Perhaps we need to start looking for a shed that someone is getting rid of to replace it before the inevitable happens!
This time of the year there is nothing much going on at the allotment, hence the slow down on blog entries. It is very much routine, keeping the girls fed and watered daily and grabbing any dry spells for a bit of digging when we can. However having been away for a long weekend I really needed my fix this morning. It doesn’t matter how cold, wet or windy it is there just isn’t anything better for the soul than escaping the humdrum of work, shopping, Christmas preparations to the quietness and that link to nature that the allotment provides. I’m an early morning person and getting up there before seven in the pitch dark as it was today sets me up for the rest of the day. I guess some people would think I was mad to leave my warm bed to do this but for me it is food for the soul and something I will never tire of.
It is amazing what the first frost has done to the look and feel of our plot. Before the frost some of the summer crops were still going strong such as our french beans and the dhalias were still in full bloom and I was able to take a vase full every week, but on Wednesday morning the dhalias were completely black and the beans had all died back. So we have spent this weekend digging out the dhalia tubors to protect them over winter and clearing out most of the remaining beds which leaves the plot looking very bare and empty. There are just the leek bed and brassica beds to see us through the winter. The next job will be to spread all our compost over the soil to enrich it ready to start the process all over again next year. Funnily enough though despite the frosts the pepper plants in the greenhouse are having a second go at producing fruit, I guess they are probably more susceptible to lack of light and we still seem to be getting plenty of sunshine even though it is cold so I’m hoping they might grow big enough to eat. We are storing the pumpkins in the greenhouse to keep them dry and they looked wonderful in the sunshine this morning. There is nothing better than a crisp frosty morning as the sunshine is always so bright and shows everything off at it’s best on the allotment. We planted some globe artichoke plants this summer and they have produced massive fronds of spikey grey foliage which sparkled this morning. I need to mulch around them to protect them from the worst of the weather and I’m probably going to put a windbreak around them too so they don’t get too battered with the wind, then hopefully next year they will mature in to huge plants. Not sure we’ll get an edible crop but they should look stunning. Next weekend we need to tackle the raspberries taking out this years fruited stems and tying in the new ones for next year. Crossing my fingers we get another sunny day rather than the cold and wet one we had yesterday but either way it’s got to be done.
It is lovely when the clocks go back as it gives me a few weeks of light mornings to enjoy again before the long period of dark mornings starts again. When it is dark the chucks are still in bed when I get there and reluctantly get up when I go in to clean them out but at the moment they are all up and about when I arrive. I’ve had the tests back from the vets and there is nothing that they can see is wrong in the flock so I have a feeling there may be something they eat when they are let out on to the allotment that doesn’t agree with them. I’m reluctant to keep them in all the time so I guess it’s a risk I’ll have to take. They are going through the autumn moult again and there are clouds of feathers in their run. This time it’s Blue and Natasha and they look very disheveled. The dark nights mean our allotment efforts are concentrated on the weekends now and mainly involves clearing out old crops and keeping the winter ones weed free. It is a much more relaxing time on the allotment but it is cold so you don’t want to be stood around too long without digging or some other activity to keep you warm. I do love winter veg though and we are now starting on the sprouts, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes. I gave up on the radicchio and that will be dug up, put on the compost heep and added to the list of tried but never again. It is back to the catalogues and magazines to see what else we can find to try out next year.
I have been very reluctant to write my next blog as over the past few weeks I have had chicken trouble again and lost another. Helga the one in the foreground of my last picture started with the same sort of symptoms as the others a couple of weeks ago. I left her for a little while and then as she wasn’t improving ferried her off as before to the vets. This time the vet didn’t give me anything for her she just suggested that there might be an underlying bacterial infection in the brood or living area. She suggested a few very pricey options and then a more sensible one which involved ordering a faeces sample kit from a website called ‘the chicken vet’. I took poor old Helga back to her friends and ordered the kit. I was feeling very fed up with chicken keeping and guilty as we seemed to be causing this problem with our chickens when others around us had no problems and hadn’t lost any chickens. Poor old Helga just stopped eating which in itself caused problems as I wasn’t going to be able to take a sample at this rate. Eventually I had to make the decision to take her back to the vets and have her put down as she was so weak. We are therefore now down to only four chickens and I will not be getting any more as I am not sure that chicken keeping is a hobby I want to continue with. Anyway I am waiting for the results of the tests now from the remaining ‘healthy chickens’ to see what we might be able to do. I have also sent a long letter with the samples to explain our routine just in case they spot something that we do which might affect them. In the meantime we continue to harvest lots of fantastic crops and the garage and freezer are filling up nicely. My favourite at the moment are my pumpkins. I wasn’t sure at first as my first attempt to cook them didn’t work but this time I cut them up small and roasted them in the oven with olive oil and chilli flakes. Yummy, they have a lovely sweet flowery texture and as they are much smaller than the ones I grew last year are far more practical.
What a great day. After a late start due to a late night we had nothing else to do today but enjoy the sunshine and spend the day pottering. We were never going to be very dynamic but there wasn’t anything major on the job list so we could afford to have a few breaks to absorb the rays and build up some strength to start again. We even managed to have our lunch alfresco. The girls enjoyed the sunshine too taking the chance to sunbathe and have a dust bath. It is great watching them create an indent in the soil and using their wings to throw great clouds of dust into their feathers? They never look very good afterwards but as the dust falls off it leaves them pristine and bug free. Helga has started her autumn moult and is feeling a bit sorry for herself. I don’t know if it actually makes them feel off colour but they do seem to eat less and stay away from the others. We decided to use an old door which had been left on the bonfire to create a sheltered corner in their run as the cold spell earlier this week made us think about giving them somewhere to get out of the rain and wind when it starts again. We spent the rest of the day gathering the usual harvest and got to the point where we had done everything we planned to do and feeling satisfied with ourselves packed up to go home. When we got in the car we realised we had managed to while away a good six hours and now it was early evening and we had all this harvest to sort out. So we’ve got jam on the go as the freezer is still not repaired and we had so much fruit, more tomatoes being cooked for sauce, beans to blanch ( just got enough room in the indoor freezer to squeeze them in) and other veg to wash and tidy up to keep for the week. Growing your own is great but just sometimes you wish you could just come home on a Sunday evening and not have more jobs to do before you can chill.
What a great time of year. We spend a few hours at the allotment and come home with baskets full of fresh produce. The colours are so fabulous too, with all the reds and blacks from the fruit and tomatoes, the greens and purples from the peppers, kale, beetroot and salad veg and then the wonderful dark blooms of the dhalias (Sarah Raven Dark Collection). Unfortunately the seal on our spare freezer in the garage has gone and when I went to put the next lot of fruit in there the other day I found that it was like a frozen water fall inside. We have therefore had a go at raspberry wine and our small inside freezer is packed to the gunnels with blackberries and the produce we were able to save from the garage freezer. As it’s only the seal we are going to try and replace it, but the harvest won’t wait so we need to do it quickly. We had our first sweetcorn at the weekend and it was delicious, a few of the cobs had not formed all the way up which I think is something to do with the pollination so I need to read up on that for next year. I also tried our radicchio. When we were skiing last year I am sure that a friend bought radicchio and fried the heart in olive oil and garlic, which I remember was fab. I decided to try this with ours but it was awful. Radicchio is very bitter and I thought the cooking might recuce this but no it retained the bitterness and was really horrible. I shall be googling radicchio because I can’t think what on earth I’m going to do with a full row of bitter radicchio now! Ah well it was an experiment, but usually at least with most of my experiments that go wrong I can give them to the chickens but I don’t think I can even inflict these on them so they’ll have to go on the compost heap if I can’t find a google solution.
As usual Lottie came to join me the other day when I got to the allotment. She loves to run down the path with me and then hops on to the fence and walks alongside me at waist height until I open the gate for her to leap through. I always give her a stroke and it is nice to have the company and someone to talk to. As I opened the gate we both heard a noise in the dhalias and when I looked through I did a double take as Lottie was staring back at me intently from the other side, of course it wasn’t Lottie but it was definitely her double as they had the slightly cross eyed look that she has unfortunately inherited. I then noticed a baby bunny who took the opportunity while the cat was looking at me to make a run for it, but with that the cat disappeared into the potato patch and I never heard or saw either of them again. Lottie was phased for a minute then she just carried on as normal and headed to the shed to wait for her breakfast. I don’t know if it was Bob back on the scene or another cat as I didn’t really get to see how large it was but it’s funny to know that there are always animals around on the plot when we are not there. I am guessing they come from the farm down the road as they all look exactly the same and there must be rich pickings of rabbits, mice and rats up here on the allotment.
Ah well the summer holidays are drawing to a close and after a couple of weeks off on holiday and Bramham Festival we are back on the allotment tidying up and seeing what has been growing while we have been away. Allotments are another thing to have to plan for when we go away on our holidays. Luckily the lady I have used in the past to tend to the girls while we are away, who runs Pals 4 Paws a dog walking/chicken minding business in the area (recommended), has taken up the plot next to ours and has chickens of her own so she was more than happy to check on ours every day as she was up there anyway. Another friend on a neighbouring plot offered to water our tomatoes as we had done hers earlier in the year. So it was nice to go away knowing that everything was to be cared for while we were away. After such a wash out at the festival I couldn’t believe how hot it was up there today, lovely but boy it makes digging etc. very hard work. I’m chuffed to bits with how everything is growing though. I have a fantastic crop of the sweetest cherry tomatoes which I use to make pasta sauce as there are too many just for salads. It’s great as I can freeze it and enjoy that lovely fresh taste of summer in the middle of winter. I’m taking up beetroot every week which is delicious, chard, kale, green beans, lettuce in fact I don’t think we eat a meal without something from the allotment included. Next on the menu will be our sweetcorn which is looking very good and then the pumpkins. I think I said in an earlier blog that they weren’t as rampant as the others we grew last year, well that isn’t the case. They are growing out of the bed on every side and have created a massive dome of foligage, now twice as big as the photo. When you part the massive leaves and look inside the dome you can see the little pumpkins beginning to form, some are actually quite large now and are starting to take on the distinctive colour of this variety which is pale green with dark green stripes, can’t wait. Because it has grown out of the bed most of the fruit is actually laying on our bark chipping paths which is great as that will stop the fruit from rotting underneath. Those that are on the ground will need to be lifted soon and placed on a brick or something similar. At the other end of the plot is the brassicas that are now growing so tall that they are straining against the mesh we put over them to protect them from the cabbage whites. I’m going to have to find some taller stakes to make another cage for them. Ah yes back to work with a vegenance, so many jobs to do! After we had finished today we took the opportunity to sit on the bench and admire our handiwork. The girls also decided it was time for a rest and settled down around us for a groom and forty winks. It was so lovely sitting in the sun watching them all fluff their feathers up and get their beaks into their feathers to give them all a good clean. They are looking really well at the moment and it’s just nice to relax with them like this. Now the nights are drawing in it means we can come and attack them once they have gone to bed with the mite powder which is so much easier than chasing them round the pen but for now we’ll leave them alone to enjoy their grooming.
When I arrived at the allotment the other evening I noticed lots of activity on a neighbouring plot. These wonderful flowers are the flower heads of leeks left in the soil from last year and are obviously bumble bee heaven as they were absolutely covered in them. One of the best things about the allotment are the little things you discover like this every year. We always end up with a few sorry leeks left in the soil after winter which we normally dig up and discard on the compost heap but not this year I will be leaving them in and letting them flower like this. Bees are everywhere at the moment and particularly on the raspberries. We are picking the early fruting varieties and the bees are flying past us to get to the ones behind. They are so intent in what they are doing that they ignore us completely. We were putting in extra supports this weekend to support the autumn raspberries and they just carried on as we lifted the canes up. I also noticed that in the evening once it just starts to cool off a bit some bees end up falling asleep hugging the raspberry flower, obviously shattered after a hard days foraging and taking the opportunity to be in prime position in the morning to start again. They really are lovely insects and an allotment holders best friend.
This weekend is Tockwith Show (Sunday 4th August from 8am) and when I first started with the allotment one of my best mates who happens to be on the committee for Tockwith Show persuaded me to enter the horticultural classes. I was really excited as I love my allotment and think that everything I grow is so lovely, but oh boy as the time drew near I suddenly realised how stressful it could be. One thing I didn’t really think about was timing, you see when I pick my produce it is perfect, just the right size and perfectly formed. The thing is I pick it at the right time whereas for the show everything has to be perfect on Sunday 4th August and that’s not how it works. I remember the stress that morning as I patrolled my allotment picking the vegetables for every category I had entered. The cauliflower that had probably just gone too far and was a little brown on some of the florets, the green beans that were too small and I couldn’t find the right amount that were all the same size and shape, but all was not lost. I found three of the most perfect courgettes, with flowers still attached at the end. They were almost identical to each other, surely these were the winning ones! Oh imagine the shame and embarrassment when I was disqualified. As they say always read the small print, apparently my courgettes were too big and therefore did not meet the show standard. Needless to say I made the decision not to enter any more competitions but every year I still can’t resist thinking about what could have been. I picked a good washing up bowl full of broad beans for freezing last weekend and sat in the sunshine podding them all for the freezer. As I worked my way through I pulled out those that were show standard and of the 100s of pods I found the six in the picture that if they had been just right on 4th August I am sure would have stole the show!
Ah at last a bit of respite from watering. It is amazing how everything has taken on a new lease of life with the rain. The pumpkins particularly have just grown enormous over the last week. They are great plants sending out wonderful curly tendrils across the soil like a triffid. These ones are a little less rampant than the variety we had last year and haven’t taken over the whole plot this time. I took our first crop of kale this week, following a tip I read somewhere to harvest the bottom leaves off the stalk first so it continues to grow from the top. Logical really but I have always taken the younger sweeter leaves from the crown before. This variety is a red curly variety and has the most vivid luminous purple veins running through the green leaves. It looks amazing. While picking the crop I also took the time to tie in all the brassicas to their stakes. It is a job that is not much fun as you struggle to get in there but these crops will still be here when winter kicks in and particularly with brussel sprouts if you don’t keep their roots solid in the ground the Brussels tend to blow and that ruins them. I also took the opportunity to look for caterpillars. It amazes me how the odd cabbage white still manages to get through our fine mesh somehow and lay it’s eggs. I only found a couple but unlike last year there is no abandoned allotment nearby for me to deposit my spare caterpillars on and so I just had to dispose of them which I hate. Next year I might plant a few extra sacrificial brassicas so the butterflies can have them as a breeding ground. We have been eating lots of scrumptious tender broad beans as well. I love podding these and we try to pick them all before they become too big and tough. That way we don’t have to worry about the skins. Any surplus will go straight in the freezer. It certainly is a time of plenty and everyday brings a new treat to the table.
I spent last night getting scratched to bits picking our bumper crop of gooseberries. When I got home laden with three carrier bags full I used the bathroom scales to weigh them and they weighed in at 21lb. Unbelievable from two bushes we only planted a couple of years ago. We have frozen lots and given some away but have also decided to try our hand at wine making. My hubby went out and bought all the kit today and having topped and tailed a whole bag full of gooseberries we now have a bucket full of prime squashed gooseberries waiting to be processed into fine wine. A friend mentioned today that they had made some and forgotten about it for six years, apparently it was delicious so here’s hoping. We are still seeing plenty of the new cat and my nephew decided to name him Bob as he looks like a bob cat with pointy ears. He doesn’t hang around but it’s great trying to spot him. I’ll try and get a photo of him for the blog. The daily grind in this hot weather has taken it’s toll and I was positively grumpy yesterday after lugging another load of water in the back of the car after a long day at work. We have to decide each day what to water and some things just have to do without. It is interesting which plants seem to cope and the brassicas have had no water since we planted them and seem fine whereas the beans seem to struggle. Of course I’m still picking punnets of raspberries every day and those sweet peas just don’t stop. Needless to say I’m not getting to watch much telly these days.
I had a really horrible shock when I went to the allotment tonight. When I opened up the run to let the girls out, while we pottered about, I found Paris dead. I couldn’t believe it as she was fine this morning. I picked her up to look over her and she had a full crop and weighed a ton so was feeding fine but it looked like she had had a prolapse. This is quite common apparently, having googled it when I came home and is when the egg duct protrudes outside a bit like piles in humans. It wouldn’t normally kill a chicken and there was lots of advice for treating it but I wonder if that with the hot weather had something to do with it. I guess I’ll never know and will just have to put it down to one of those things. After that shock I then thought I was seeing double as we seem to have a new cat on the allotment. It looks exactly like Lottie but is a lot larger, it was stood on one of the paths looking straight at us and then laid on the floor next to him was Lottie. I’ve decided he must be a he as he just looks like one. I’m guessing he has come from the same farm down the road and is hoping to share the high life with Lottie sharing her food every day. Lottie seemed to be quite happy for him to be around and so we’ll see, at least we know Lotie has been spayed so no kittens!