13 April 2014

Actual gardening!

We were promised rain today and my gardening plans were suitably modest - maybe sowing a few seeds in the greenhouse.

But instead, the day proved to be gloriously sunny and warm and for the first time in six months I was able to get some work done outside. The chickens seem to be enjoying being out again after months of unusual captivity.

I never bother to cut down the old asparagus ferns in the Fall because a) I'm lazy and b) I kid myself that they give the asparagus roots a bit of extra protection in the winter. But that means that I have to do it in the Spring and today seemed like the perfect opportunity, given the unexpected window of lovely weather and the disappearance of most of the lingering snow.

Here's the 'before' photo of one of the tyre/tire beds, bristling with dead ferns and tangled with quack grass:

And here's the 'after', when I'd pulled out the old ferns and dug out the weeds (which is relatively easy to do at this stage of the year, before the new spears start emerging):

The last stage in the process was to add a top-dressing of well-rotted chicken manure. This is the batch-before-last, probably the one I made in 2012. It's lovely now - all crumbly and soft and full of insect and (I presume) microbial life.

My rhubarb plant from 2008 is also in one of these tires and is just starting to produce buds. I dug it up, split it in two and replanted half in the old tire and half in a spare one where one of the other original rhubarb plants hadn't survived. They got a shovelful of chicken-litter-compost over them, too.

By the end of all that I was exhausted and extremely warm. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to feel hot outside!

06 April 2014

You missed a bit

 The snow is melting away in a sometimes unpredictable manner. Lumps are left behind here and there, like a man who hasn't quite rinsed off all the shaving foam from his face.

The gate is finally clear of snow, although the lake you can glimpse in the distance is still frozen.

In places, the remains of the snow drifts create artistic cliffs above the fast-flowing meltwater.

Usually there are huge sheets of ice at this time of year, but all the snow has stopped much from forming around the stream this winter. It's certainly been an interesting season, but I'm not sorry to be seeing it leave!

01 April 2014

Yellow daffodils

Yellow in the 'we've been deprived of sunshine until yesterday' sense, that is. These miniature daffodils have become my springometer over the last few years. The snow which had been covering them finally melted yesterday (don't worry, there's still plenty everywhere else!). On April 2nd last year these daffodils were about the same size, but a bit greener:

And last year set a record for us in lateness of flowering for them. 2014 looks like it might top that! The average temperature in this area for March is -1°C (30°F). This year we've had an average of -5°C (23°F).

But, hey, I can finally see the daffodils, so at least things are improving!

30 March 2014

Another boring post about snow

I apologise - you  must be utterly sick of all the snow pictures by now. (Although not as much as I am, I suspect.)

As you can see, there's still a lot to left to melt - and guess what? It's snowing again as I type.

The depth of snow around the gate is back to about where it was in late-January.

It's funny to think that I entitled a post 'Relentless winter' back on January 7th. Little did I know...

My seedlings are keeping me (mostly) sane. Here are those little asparagus plants, growing away well.

22 March 2014

Snowing and going

When I woke up today, it was snowing again, but only enough to turn the world completely white for a few hours ('English snow', I thought to myself). By lunchtime the morning coating had melted.

The day warmed up a bit more and now there is some serious melting of the big snow banks going on. The ditch on the western side of the farm is visible again for the first time in months as the drifts have collapsed into it.

And the gate is a bit more visible than it has been of late.

The softening snow brings new perils, however. This next picture is the deep hole my right leg descended into as I walked back from taking the two photos above. The hole that made me tumble forward, flat on my face.

With a pocket full of eggs.

15 March 2014

First (or last?) harvest

The snow is slowly, slowly melting away as the sun gets stronger. The days are still pretty cold, but at least they are longer now. In the greenhouse the warmth has finally unfrozen the raised beds and I was able to dig up the remainder of my 2013 parsnip crop today. I thought there were only one or two parsnips out there - but I gathered nearly four pounds of them (1.7kg)! Some are on the slender side, but they look pretty good, considering the winter we've had (some nearby carrots had completely rotted away). If it's true that frost makes them taste better, they should be amazing!  

I've been slow to start seeds indoors because I've been so demoralised by the winter, but I did sow a few asparagus seeds a couple of weeks ago and was pleased to see that they've bravely surfaced.

Today I've set up the propagator and sown eight different varieties of peppers and one Cosmos (bipinnatus 'Rubenza' - which I don't remember buying but which looks pretty in the pictures I've found of it online).

I've finally got around to sowing the onions and leeks indoors as well, which my calendar has been reminding me about since late January. I kept hitting 'snooze' on the reminder, telling it to remind me again in a week. I've finally caught up with that one, but the trouble is, I've got reminders for sowing lots of other seeds popping up now as well. It seemed such a good idea last year to set all those reminders up, but I have a feeling that I will never catch up with where I think I should be this year.

06 March 2014


The average temperature so far this month has been -13°C. A pathetic 8.5° in Fahrenheit. The newspapers are full of advertisements for Spring products, the weather people are proclaiming that we're in meteorological spring, and yet the view from the window is determinedly wintry.

The garden gate is still comprehensively buried in its deep snow drifts.

And fences and barns are still sporting picturesque snowy highlights.

There is a chance that the temperature will edge above the freezing mark tomorrow, for the first time in nearly two weeks. The poor chickens have not been out of the barn since mid-December and they've probably forgotten that there even is an outside. In the kitchen I'm sprouting some green lentils - ostensibly to give the chickens something fresh to eat, but really to give myself something green to look at!