Thursday, 26 February 2009

Thursday, 19 February 2009

It's started

Finally, after much procrastination to do with the dreadful weather, the naughtiness of kittens, the indecisions born of uncertainty about when I'll be able to get to France next, I've started the first seeds of the new season.

This picture is a bit of a con, it's seedlings from last April but I thought a picture of small pots of mud would be even less interesting. I did buy myself some windowsill propagation kit, a long deep tray, three seed trays and lids so that there is some chance of keeping the plants and the cats separated, but even that isn't so exciting and would merely function as advertising for Sankey so I've given it a miss.

What did I plant? Onion Ailsa Craig, which should really have been started last month. Green Globe artichokes, lettuce Marvel of Four Seasons which I hope to have suitably modularised in time for an early plant out in April. Chilli pepper Trifetti from the Heritage Seed library and some rather hopeful Aubergines. We might get a good summer, please?

The most interesting seed I started today was something that came to me via the Seed Exchange; Lathyrus tuberosus. I'd never heard of this, actually believing all sweet peas and their relatives to be horribly poisonous but it seems this produces edible tubers and is hardy in Europe. There is next to nothing about it on the web, most hits returning the same scanty information and clearly copied around willy nilly. This site seems authoritative but is still short on detail. I'm going to have to resort to reading my books it seems. Poor me. If they germinate I'll document them as they grow, which might be helpful to someone in the future.

Anyway, now I'm started I'd better not stop until I've finished. I would have started some tomatoes but I've lost the seeds. Sound familiar?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Seed Swap Update #2

I've now sent out several packs of ulluco, a few oca and have a pending request for Carlins (Derek, I need your address!).

There are still some tubers of pink and red oca left and some ulluco but the quality isn't of the greatest. The tubers are small and although they aren't diseased as far as I know, they were snatched from the ground in a heavy frost and have various disfigurements and blemishes that might damage their viability. Further requests will be honoured if I can but it's entirely at your own risk.

Pat and Steph of Bifurcated Carrots are still holding the main list of Seed Networkers so pop over there to see what else is available.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Kitten Diary #1

This is blogging at its finest - online diary keeping as a aide memoir for the progress of the kittens.


The kittens had already received initial vaccinations for Feline enteritis and leukaemia when we took them from the RSPCA. We should really have taken them back to the vet's last week for the second part boosters but the weather was so bad with snow and ice that I couldn't face the drive. The weather today was still pretty poor but at least the roads are clear and Paul was able to take us in his car, a much more reliable starter in cold weather.


It wasn't too late for the boosters and the vet also gave them the once over for general health. Rook has been being a sick cat this week, throwing up once a day for the last three days. I think this is due to worms as he is cheerful enough otherwise, although a bit sleepy and clingy. He's also lost some weight which is more worrying than the puking.

They have all been dosed with Panacur for worms. The medication comes in a syringe to be squirted into their mouths. Crow and Raven took their medicine bravely but Rook, the little beast, spat his out and nearly airlifted himself off the table with disgust. I'm guessing he did this before which is why he seems to be more badly affected with parasites than the others. We have to give a further two doses to each to them on consecutive days, I'm not looking forward to this.


They'd had no breakfast before we left for the surgery so all three were starving when we got home. The vet had recommended that Rook have bland food for a couple of days to help his stomach settle - easier said than done to give separate diets to hungry kittens. I put Rook in the kitchen and fed the other two in their room. Rook was so hungry that he'd finished all of his portion in time to go and elbow Crow away from the remainders of his. I don't think there's all that much wrong with him.

More updates in a month or so, by which time they should have had their rabies injections and be started on the path to being passport holders.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Vitelotte noire

We've made an order for some seed potatoes with Alan Romans,* although they haven't arrived yet which is a little worrying. I expect it's just the bad weather holding everything up. This year I've decided to limit the number of varieties a little and grow more of our favourites but when I came across these blue all through potatoes in the supermarket over Christmas it seemed impossible to resist them.

pommes de terre vitelotte

The Vitelotte noire, sometimes called Négresse du Poitou seems to be a very old variety, quite distinct from the Salad Blue which we've grown before by virtue of its longer and more knobbly shape and possibly an even darker blue black skin colouration.

We've eaten a few, they seem unremarkable for flavour or texture but the colour and the novelty of the tubers has ensured that they have been preserved by small groups across France in the Auvergne and Brittany. There are references in the French literature to growers in the UK as well but I have to say I'd never come across them before chancing on this offering at Leclerc.

This is a late maturing potato, of a long oval to sausage shape with half-sunken eyes. It is described at Le plant français de Pomme de Terre as a tall, upright grower entirely flushed with pigment and other sources suggest it is susceptible to all the usual diseases and blights that old varieties are prone to.

So growing it this year as a novelty is to take a chance because these commercially produced tubers may not be virus or disease free but I'm going to give it a go because it'll make a change from the usual British cultivars. We are growing in France after all.

* Update - I've had mail from Alan, they're swamped with orders but are working through them as fast as they can, so no need to panic.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow all week

more bl***y snow

It's not often that we have such consistently snowy weather, even in Buckinghamshire, and so it should be welcomed as part of life's rich tapestry, a vagary of nature and an experience in its own right but I'm heartily sick of snow. We've seen it now, everyone (apart from Paul) has had a couple of 'days off' and the wonder of it has passed. Bring on the spring.

Because of the snow I've not managed to get out of the house for days. I mean, I can stomp around the garden and playing field but I don't want to drive anywhere, so various small essential trips haven't been made. Kittens are now overdue for their booster vaccinations. Also, I need to get the cats organised for passports as soon as possible or the inability to travel will cause problems all year.

I need replacement pot plant compost because certain kittens have taken out many windowsill plants in the three weeks they've been here. This is one of the reasons I need to get more seed raising equipment. I need something that's proof against a whirling maelstrom of brawling baby cats.

Because of the issues to do with snow, seeds and cats my plans for early starts on the onions and some greenhouse tomatoes are falling by the wayside and it's that sort of bad beginning that can ruin a whole year of gardening.

So I'm hating the snow. Wake me up when it's gone.