Saturday, 30 April 2016

Deep freeze

blueberry flowers

It's a strange time when I spend more time looking at the Météo than I do playing Bejewelled. But so it has been for the last couple of weeks as the temperatures have stayed resolutely 5 or 6 degrees below average day and night. Unpleasant enough for day temperatures to barely reach double figures, disastrous for spring planting when there's a frost nearly every night.

I've been glued to the forecast desperately hoping for good news to appear on the screen but unusually the long term view has been quite consistent and accurate, horrible cold until May. Tonight is, I hope, the last night I'll need to fleece within the polytunnel and greenhouse to avoid losing everything to frost.

play list

This is the rough planting list of plants I'm expecting to grow this year. Today I finally sowed the indoor melons and cucumbers, tomorrow the rest of the cucurbits - pumpkins and ridge cucumbers. The beans have been waiting for today although I did start the soya and Hutterite soup beans a week ago and they're just unfolding upwards now.  The tomato seedlings have been in stasis since germinating at the beginning of the month but I'm hoping that the improved warmth will give them a rapid boost. The okra was started far too early and is only just hanging on in there but while there's life there's hope.

There are more things to plant than are on the list, as usual I've given myself far more to do than I can possibly achieve successfully along with 4-500 oca plants that will need planting, tending and recording throughout the summer.


Today the sun was out and although it's another cold night it was possible to work outside and take a few cheerful pictures at last. The marigolds have been out for a month, plucky things, but I particularly like this dark centred one that overwintered in the shelter of the myrtle.

Before the cold snap came we did see quite a lot of butterflies on sunnier days, Brimstone, Peacock, Speckled Wood and I think I spotted a single spring Map butterfly. There was also at least one male Orange Tip. It's harder to spot the female, she lacks the bright wing tips but I think I caught her on camera today on the Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis) which is just coming into bloom.

female orange tip

Not a great picture but I was pleased to get it. And to finish, my favourite rough comfrey shot, just love these curly flower heads.

rough comfrey

Sunday, 10 April 2016


23 spot

I was about to stop blogging, had a whole rant in my head. Decided to come here and just make sowing notes and when I got here, there were a couple of supportive comments that had slipped into the spam bucket and were nearly missed.

Thanks kind people.

Still don't have much to blog about so here is that list.

Planted today, four sorts of peas. Salmon flowered, Irish preans, Magnum Bonum and Raisin Capujiners which I liked a lot when I grew them a couple of years ago but failed to take a harvest from. HSL have come through with another batch so I'll try again, harder this time.

We had a big push a couple of weeks ago and ground is cleared for spuds so the first row of earlies, Premiere this year, are in. To follow mostly our favourites; Ambo, Sarpo Mira, Pink Fir Apple, some Highland Burgundy Red as my nod to novelty for this year (although we've grown them many times before) and Mr. C snuck in some Golden Wonder. I've no idea why but if it keeps him happy.

Onion sets mostly settled. Really too late for garlic but I'm going to set a row of cloves from the chunky bulbs I bought on the market last autumn which are still hard and healthy looking and hope for the best.

My pomegranate seeds came up. They're looking good.

In the new hoop house there are currently 400+ pots of oca but as soon as they're out and into the ground I shall have okra and melons in there. The okra is up already, lovely strong plants.

And I've made start on planning the rest of the vegetables. It always stuns me how a little vegetable garden can contain so many different plants and varieties of plants, no wonder it sometimes seems unmanageable but it's all good stuff and offers the promise of summer to my jaded senses.

Friday, 18 March 2016

I think I'm going mad


We're well into March and it feels like I'm stuck in a vat of treacle. Can't move in any direction. There are household troubles, emotional impediments and now for the last week I've been ill with some sort of noxious virus that stops me from doing anything but coughing and crying in my bed. I would say I can't bear it but of course that's not true, most things will pass and neither ranting nor passivity makes any difference at all. So it is with this situation but the numbers of tasks that are on hold are now assuming massive proportions while the time available to make a success of them dwindles. There is real despair here.

What little progress can be made is being attempted, I've not given up and can still envisage a couple of solid weeks work getting everything back on track but not yet. Some other things have to finish first. I wonder if either of us will survive that long.

Anyway, today as part of my plan to reclaim my direction I planted some more seeds. Whacky seeds for the most part that are reliant on hope and good fortune to get anywhere. They were:

Padron peppers - not so whacky but they couldn't wait any longer. Now I'll have to transport them as seedlings which is another issue but not as difficult as not getting them to fruiting size at all.

Tamarillo tree tomatoes -  having some poly tunnel space will make these more plausible and they have always amused me.

Tomatoes Scotland Yellow and Indigo Kumquat. The yellow one is one I've had from HSL before and is a very useful sort of tom, easy to grow. The indigo I have no idea about, it was a bonus pack from a supplier and I've never heard of it (goes to look...). Seems it's a F1 variety not particularly blue but orange with an indigo blush. Sounds attractive althought I don't do F1 as a rule. All my other tomato seeds are the other side of the channel. Hugely frustrating and I can only hope that a late sowing will catch up in time for harvest.

Pomegranate seeds that I saved from a Xmas fruit. Pomegranates are very nearly hardy enough to grow and fruit in Normandy so I'm going to give these a go on the same regime as citrus, outside during the summer and frost free in winter. If they germinate of course.

And finally in this round the least likely to achieve maturity some Baobabs - Adansonia digitata. Don't ask me why, it's a great tree and all that but totally impractical for my situation. Maybe it'll make a bonsai.

I've also got some lychee and tamarind seeds from bought fruit to sow as soon as there's room in the propagator. Madness indeed.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


raven feb 
Cheeky girl cat enjoys a spot of sunshine.

This is the internet so here is a cat. I've noticed something odd happening to my blogging habits. At the moment blogging seems like a self indulgence when there are more and better things to be doing elsewhere.

This isn't really true, this blog is where I hold onto a shred of personal awareness and autonomy. But I'm not doing it, or anything else much. So. What has been happening? Seeds came up.

Purple basil and the old favourite, sensitive plant. Just kids at heart.

There's been a bit of self indulgence in seed buying at least. I've obtained seeds for two sorts of Armenian cucumber. I'm not sure how they'll do in Normandy but I've wanted to try them for a long time and also some Queen Anne's pocket melon. This small melon which ripens to reddish brown with yellow stripes is not particularly nice to eat but allegedly has a lovely fragrance, the sort of thing to keep in your pocket for when the nosegay has wilted and the orange pomander seems too wintery. If I can get it to set fruit at all it will be interesting to see what it smells like.

Plans to get on with the new plantings at the farm are progressing. Something that has come out of my efforts for ocabreeders is that we may be getting a polytunnel at last. This is to make the nurture of over 700 new seedling varieties of oca just a little bit easier in the short term but of course it will quickly be turned into a useful area for our other crops as the season progresses. Also planned a new deer proofed area. It's all good stuff which helps to offset some of the other life impediments we're experiencing at the moment to do with jobs and family.

Next week I'm taking a trip to Devon to meet up with Incredible Vegetables. Mandy has been generously growing out some of ocabreeder's babies and will grow more for us this year. She's got skirret too and I'm hoping to buy some to bring back for a new bed in the vegetable garden as several attempts to start it from seed have been unsuccessful.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Exercises in hope


I've often said how difficult I find it to start writing without a relevant picture to hang my words beneath. Finally something turned up although I'd rather the cats hadn't done it (and thank goodness they couldn't get it through the cat flap).

The winter is horrible, no matter this is one of the mildest I've ever known and that on most counts my life is pretty good, there's something about grey skies and my life style choices that don't mesh and the sooner it's over the better.

On a moment of slightly more manic exuberance I did buy a lot of seeds from Thompson and Morgan, even though I despise them, who had a whole load of cheap packets. Just 99p each made it worth my while to pick up various exotics and ornamentals that would ordinarily be left behind to allow for more odd vegetables to be collected. There was a list on the site of these bargains but I can't find it now. Somewhere under special offers I think, you may be more lucky than me. At any rate some of the cheap things I bought are still listed at that price so just search for your favourites and you may get lucky.

I'm now waiting on three types of banana, some sensitive plants and lithops to come up. All things I've grown before that have been lost by the wayside of too many relocations and unexpected cold snaps.

Also in this first batch of seed sowing some oca seeds, bought from Cultivariable and from their out crossing project, seed type OC-14-2x08x05 x OP ( whatever that resolves to and written here because I always lose these things). These along with some others yet to start will, I hope, form part of my contribution to the Ocabreeders project this year. The seedlings, if they come up, are only part of my commitment as I've promised to create, tend and protect a bed of many of the Guild's germplasm, something which is nagging at me more and more urgently as the year trundles on and getting started never seems to happen. I'm hoping that some volunteers will appear to help me look after these valuable babies, so if you fancy a week in Normandy doing a bit of light hoeing (ha!) please contact me so we can make arrangements.

So, now the blogging baton has been picked up again perhaps it will keep running for another season. Happy growing, everyone.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


medlars and mulberry leaves

Medlar time of year again. Unlike some years when I've picked the fruit in a snowstorm the very mild weather this year has kept the fruit maturing on the tree only to be brought down with a bump in recent gusty winds.

Luckily they're pretty hard and landed softly on a bed of leaves from the beech and mulberry tree losing their lovely coloured foliage at the same time.

Rather than give you a repeat recipe - we'll probably make these into jelly again - here are the links to previous years and how we used the crop then.


2006: Medlar jelly
2007: Medlar and Quince jam
2008: Medlar butter or cheese

fb header nov

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

bit of a test....

testing testing, one, two, three.