Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Comedy Vegetable Parade!!!

I've been meaning to get down to the plopment for the last few days but always managed to talk myself out of it, knowwhaddimean? Anyway, decided I wanted to have red cabbage and apple as a side dish for Sunday lunch which meant that, quite reasonably, I had to go the allotment to pick some! Plus (rather excitingly - and alarmingly - but excitingly) snow is predicted across the UK within the next few days so if I wanted to start clearing some of the plot before spring, I pretty much had to go NOW.

So now that our Saturday and Sunday mornings are no longer in thrall to the tyranny of the weekend papers, I decided to head off down the road - and I'm jolly glad I did. Even as I write this, as the afternoon is sliding into early evening, it's still beautiful out there - blue skies with that hazy pink at the horizon.

I decided that it was time the leggy carrots and parsnips gave up their comfy beds as the space is going to be needed for something else, so out they came.

Honest to God - will you just LOOK at these freaks of nature? Far too many legs and carrot fly tunnels. The parsnips have a woody core as well. Oh well, I decided the parsnips can go into the dalek bin to make next year's compost but the carrots can be washed and then be fed to some grateful horses that I know.

I now know why they grew so many limbs. Turns out it's not such a good idea to grow them each in an individual pot then transplant the seedlings into their final place when they're big enough. For some reason they just don't like it and start sprouting new arms and legs like crazy. What I should have done was just plant the seeds where they were going to grow and then thin them out accordingly. This I will do in the coming growing season and see if it works. If it doesn't then I'm not going to bother again, especially as carrots are so cheap in the shops. I realise, for an allotmenteer, that this is almost heresy but I'm nothing if not realistic. Of course, having said all this, the taste of homegrown carrots is really quite astonishing so it is worth pursuing. Parsnips, though, hmmm. Not sure. We don't eat anything like as many of them as we do carrots, but perhaps I'll give them one more go...

One thing I did finally manage to get round to recently was drawing the plan for next season - I can't seem to insert a word document here so, sorry, no picture of it. But there's rotation!! And I'm putting this year's brassicas where last year's sweetcorn was so well-rotted horse manure was applied. This is the first time I've added the manure that I collected last spring and summer from the stables where I ride, and what lovely stuff it's turned into. I hope it does the trick.

While I was forking about in the poo corral I heard a rustling in the bushes at the other side of the site from me. I stopped to see what it was and saw the most beautiful fox having a sit down and a yawn in the sun. It was about 30-40 feet away from me and didn't seem all that bothered! It moved into some thicker undergrowth to one side and curled up for a sleep. I continued with what I was doing, then decided I would do my best to take a photo. I got as close as I could but didn't want to startle it. My new camera has a really good zoom but I don't have a tripod so please forgive me the dodgy focusing but at least I got a reasonable picture of it's ear and half-opened eyes! You can click on all the pictures to make them bigger.

I only hope that the new Chicken Palace, which is coming along well and now has proper netting (if that's the right word) to keep the predators like lovely Mr/Ms Fox out. I don't know when the little dinosaurs are arriving as I'm not taking part in the project, but I'm looking forward to their arrival all the same.

As these cold winter evenings give such beautiful night skies, I thought I'd finish with a picture that I took last night. I think that's a planet hanging underneath the moon, but can't be sure. Perhaps it's Venus which is usually the brightest planet in the night sky... anyway, enjoy.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

More of the same, really....

Well, it kinda shames me to say it but, for today's posting, you may as well read the last one on 6 January. It's far too cold and wet to get out to do serious allotmenteering (at least as far as I'm concerned it is). So The Husband and I just popped down there today to check that everything was in one piece and hanging on in there.

First thing I noticed was the berludy pigeons have been ransacking my purple sprouting broccoli big seedlings/ small plantlets that have been overwintering. Now, I suppose I really do only have myself to blame but, for some unknown reason, perhaps I thought the flying rats might just overlook my bountiful juicy brassicas during the coldest, hungriest depths of winter and leave them alone. 'Well, duh...' I hear you all scorn in unison. So, yes, they've been hammered but, to be honest, I'm not really that bothered. I planted these new seedlings before I'd started harvesting the previous crop of PSB and, you know what, I wasn't exactly bowled over by it. I mean, it's nice enough, sure, but I think I really do prefer the big, old-fashioned single-headed green Calabrese (the stuff labelled 'Broccoli' in the supermarkets). The pigeons are welcome to it. Actually, I'll just dig the lot up when I come to clear the plot of the remaining crops in the next few weeks. And at least know that I won't bother with PSB again. Another lesson learned.

What else? All the onions and garlic are fine and look much the same as they did earlier in the month. The Chard has now gone over so will come out of the ground. The broad beans are about an inch high and a couple of inches wide so it looks like they may come good this spring. There are still squid-like carrots and parsnips in the ground which I will excavate and see if anything can be used. The long plastic cloche (it looks like a miniature polytunnel) covering my winter salad leaves had blown over again leaving the plants exposed but they seemed to be fine. The leeks don't look to have grown any bigger, so I think it's time to stop waiting for them to actually do something and start eating them. The red cabbage is looking distinctly sad. All the outer leaves appear to have vanished (probably down some pigeon's gullet) and the burgundy globes of the tightly packed inner leaves definitely look as if they've been hit by frost. I've decided that I'll harvest them this week, salvage what I can of them and turn them into Red Cabbage Ragout (about the only thing you can make with red cabbage - it's yummy and has onions, cinnamon and cooking apples in it too). They look pretty small in the picture, next to the (also pigeon pecked) brussel sprouts and, in all honesty, they are a bit but never mind, although they were small, they did actually grow and I grew them from seed so I'm pretty chuffed all round.

The fruit garden is exactly as it was on 6 January, so we just have to wait until spring really hits us before seeing any changes there I expect.

So, this week I need to actively start thinking about what I'm going to grow this year and where I'm going to put it, rotation-wise. L8rs....

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Welcome to 2009

I'm trusting we all survived the excesses of Christmas and the New Year and emerged the other side in one piece. As mentioned in my last post of 2008, I can confirm that I did get a Stihl FS38 petrol driven strimmer - it's orange, noisy and very, VERY manly. Trouble is it's just too damn cold out there at the moment to go and use it. I dare say it's powerful enough to cut frozen grass but I'm happy to wait until my feet don't turn into blocks of ice just in order to give the plopment a bit of a haircut.

I tend to get stir crazy if I have to stay indoors for a few days at a time, so decided that today the weather was bright enough (and the green bin in the kitchen needed emptying) for a trip to see how the site was doing. I also wanted to pick the last few meagre brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli.

I also got a BRAND NEW CAMERA!!!! YAY!!!! So this was an also opportunity to play with the settings - The Husband took most of the pictures. D'you like my new hair? Nah, only kidding, it was so cold that I was wearing my Russian (fake) fur hat and even had the Deputy Dawg ear flaps down which left my head toasty warm but somewhat deaf.

Everything's doing fine down there although it's so cold that the water troughs have frozen completely - poor the Water Boatmen that live in there.

Anyway the onions and garlic seem to be thriving. If you recall, in Autumn last year I planted 200 onion sets of both overwintering Japanese and Red varieties, and probably about 50 Garlic cloves. The close up picture shows a few red onions (and even some frost on the ground, just as proof of the general coldness of the day).

The Savoy Cabbages are all coming along but weren't big enough to eat for Christmas Day lunch and, frankly, still aren't big enough to eat even now.

The fruit bushes and canes still just look like sticks stuck in the ground so we don't know yet how they're doing although all three Blueberry bushes have new buds. The cherry tree also seems to be surviving as do the many strawberry plants that went in at the end of last year.

We were only there for about 20 minutes or so before running home to the joys of central heating and a hot cup of tea!