26 May 2012

Chick update

The month-old Buff Orpington chicks are growing fast and now look a lot more like chickens:

There's one of them which is growing much more slowly than the others and which spends a lot of its time eating, so there's something not quite right about the way it's digesting food. But it seems happy enough and is slowly catching the others up.

Out in the barnyard the robins have hatched out.

After being used to the development of chickens, it was a bit of a shock to see how relatively undeveloped robin chicks are at first. These little things hatched two days ago. If they were chickens, by now they'd be running around and getting their own food. But these guys are fit only for being fed and sleeping.

It's a way of life I feel I could get used to...

22 May 2012

Rain, rain, come again

It's back to that time of year when we're anxiously watching the weather satellite pictures, hoping for some rain to come our way.

Yesterday I completed a weekend of gardening by sowing squash and cucumber seeds in the patch of land Mike had tilled in the hayfield. This is quite a long walk from the barnyard and doesn't have water nearby, so will have to depend on nature's hand when it comes to liquid refreshment. After last year's experience with squash bugs, I didn't want to put plants from the squash family anywhere near the barnyard and greenhouse. I sowed seed in about a third of this area. It was already pretty dry, so we definitely needed rain to give the seeds a good start.

It was supposed to rain overnight, but didn't. This afternoon, though, the clouds started to bubble up in a promising manner.

Within half an hour of taking the photo above, the sky was dark and the rain was hammering down. Then it happened all over again, two hours later. Perfect.

In the evening, the rain stopped and I went out to do my customary hour of weeding. Well, strictly speaking that is my aspirational hour of weeding: I don't always do it, but always feel better when I do. A bit like any other sort of exercise, really. The brassica bed which was looking so awful two weeks ago has bounced back well.

...even though I've lost one or two of them to this little varmint and his or her extended (and extensive) family.

It's hard to feel resentful towards something quite this cute-looking, I must admit.

The strawberry plants I put in at the weekend are perking up nicely, despite having lain forgotten in Child#2's school bag for 24 hours. Luckily he remembered them on Saturday and didn't wait until today to find them again...

On my way back to the house I spotted this frog in the grass. I think it's a wood frog (Rana sylvatica) - not one I've noticed here before. Like the rabbit, it was very willing to sit still and be photographed.

I think the wildlife is enjoying the rain as much as I am.

20 May 2012


Labelling things isn't a strength of mine, as I've admitted before. Sometimes it matters, as with tomato plants - you need to know which variety is which if you're going to be selling them. Although even then, some people were willing to buy my 'pot luck plants' at the farmers' market yesterday - these ones were half the usual price of the labelled ones because I didn't know which variety they were. Not a labelling problem this time, but a self-seeding one. All those tomato plants had grown from seeds dropped by last year's plants in the greenhouse beds and consequently I didn't have a clue which was which.

Usually, not labelling things isn't a problem as the seeds germinate quickly enough that I remember where I've sown them and recognise the seedlings as they emerge. With basil, though, the seeds take so long to germinate that there's a danger of forgetting where I've put them. I was fairly sure that I had sown some in the greenhouse already this year, but today I thought I'd better sow some more, as I couldn't remember where I'd put them and was worried that I'd accidentally disturbed the slow-to-emerge seedlings by putting something else in the same spot. Labelling the area where I'd sown them would have helped, I'm sure.

Of course, as soon as I'd sown the second set of seeds, I found the original lot - tiny, but intact:

Apart from the stint at the farmers' market, Mike and I have spent most of this weekend in the garden, tilling, planting, mulching and sowing. And labelling what I've sown. Not.

As this is likely to be the neatest the vegetable garden looks for the rest of the year, here's a photo. At the very bottom is the garlic I planted last October, growing well. Above that is the bed into which I sowed beans, greens, carrots and parsnips today. Behind that, under a layer of grass-clipping mulch, is one of the potato beds (there's another opposite it).

Now all I need is some good rain to water everything in. I gave this bed a preliminary drink with water from the greenhouse tank last night. In my mind's eye I was going to be serenely standing there, creating rainbows in the last of the evening sunshine with the water from the hose, satisfied with my day's work. In reality, I struggled with the tangled hose for five sweaty minutes and then was swarmed by mosquitoes when I finally got the thing in the right place. There wasn't a lot of serenity involved.

12 May 2012

Set in stone

It's cycling season again and I've been out twice so far this month, starting fairly gently with 16km and 20km rides. When I started cycling last summer I struggled to do 6km, so I've somehow maintained a degree of fitness over a fairly inactive winter.

Today I visited the Loyalist cemetery on Burr Road. I drive past this all the time but haven't ever gone through the gates before.

The stones are small and skew-whiff and in most cases there isn't much left to read on them.

I like the home-made feel they have about them and the way they've weathered over the years. The last burial here was in 1927, according to the sign on the gate, but for some reason the local people decided to put up another monument to commemorate the early pioneers in 1928. This huge, stone-studded edifice dominates the tiny cemetery and, in my view anyway, spoils its homely nature.

Next to this monstrosity is a poignant marble slab recording the deaths of the children of Samuel and Harriet Wakeford. There's something not right about the date of five-year-old Harriet's death, though...

11 May 2012

Robin's nest

I'd been vaguely aware of a pair of robins flying around the barn yard near the entrance to the greenhouse in the last week when I'd gone through the door. Today one of them was bolder and scolded me as I watched it.

Wondering why, I looked more closely at the fence he was sitting on and realised that the pair had built their nest on top of the orchard fence, between three posts.

Robin's aren't famous for choosing sensible locations for their nests but this one is particularly badly located. The weasel that was killing our chickens in the winter is still around and I've seen it running along the fence this week.

I don't think the contents of these beautifully-coloured eggs stand a chance. :-(

06 May 2012

Brassica massacre

The broccoli, cabbage and swede plants were beginning to outgrow the corner of the greenhouse bed which I have been using as their nursery. They were looking very good and I knew it would take a while to transplant them all. I decided that today was the day.

First I had to clear the bed they were going into of weeds, then I spread some of last September's chicken manure over the area. Just doing that took about an hour. Then I carefully dug up the young plants, separated them and transferred them into the new bed. That took over an hour.

I didn't think I'd sown that many seeds, but the plants now fill a 30 foot by 4 foot bed. It was a very sunny day, not ideal for this job, and by the time I'd finished my vigorously healthy young plants were looking anything but:

I feel like I've murdered them all.

This evening I've given them a thorough watering-in and there's some good rain in the forecast for tomorrow night. I hope that will be enough to perk them up a bit. Once they're back in a more upright stance I'll spread some grass-cuttings around them as a mulch to keep down some of the weeds.

I'm hoping this will be a better year for brassicas than last year was - even if it doesn't look terribly promising right now.