Not sure what to call this update. There's nothing much of substance in it and yet I feel the need to mark my presence in the world.
The lovely weather has definitely morphed into summer. This is marvellous and has made me much happier. Unfortunately, the very high temperatures give me another excuse to shirk on work in the garden, it's just too hot out there for most of the day.
The replacement beans and sweet corn are just beginning to sprout. I did put up a couple of bean wigwams on some land Paul cleared while he was here and hope soon to be able to plant out the Painted Lady runners and a mishmash of climbing French beans, Carter's Polish which impressed me last year and some Cosse Violette which are part of my ongoing search for the lost purple bean of my youth. I'll probably start another half dozen climbing beans to extend the season and there are some bush beans, Royal Red, nearly ready for a row of their own.
I've also got a batch of Striped Bunch half runners but I have to clear the land for them in the back garden where they are isolated from other beans and also from the depredations of deer. To plant out with them I have the Dutch Cappuciner peas that came from the Heritage Seed Library this year and survived mouse attack in the greenhouse. One lonely Moschata pumpkin makes the set for the patch which is sharing with the soft fruit until a new fruit garden can be made for it.
I'm disappointed that the other pumpkins, Whangapararoa Crown and some Sweet Dumpling are yet to germinate. I don't think the seed is too old but they do seem very slow and if they're not up in a couple of days the worst will have happened.
The fluffy girl cat managed to choke on something yesterday evening and has hurt her throat. Her meow, always a bit reedy, has gone altogether and she has had some wheezy breathing over night. I've been worried enough to consider taking her to the vet although I could see no obstructions but she had some breakfast and seems happy enough so I'm hanging on to see if the irritation passes by itself.
Crow is looking skinny and rather seedy too but that probably comes from lying in the long grass waiting for mice to pass by. He is still the best hunter of the three and the most demanding of my time waking me at all hours of the night for no particular reason I can see.
Big fat Rook on the other hand never seems to trouble himself over much. As long as he gets a good cuddle when he wants it, and he'll jump right up and take it, he manages life with dignity and gravitas.
Just for the record, our only pair of swallows have successfully raised their first brood of the year. The strongest baby came out for a flight a few days ago and for the last couple of days there have been four young swallows practising their flight and enjoying the sunshine. It's remarkable how the parents managed to find enough food for them all during the terrible weather of April and May but they did it. I hope the babies grow strong quickly and learn to look after themselves in a wicked world.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
After 72 hours of nearly constant rain and heavy overcast which prevented any warmth from reaching the soil the wind changed and spring arrived. The weather forecasters assure me that it's going to last in the region of 10 days or more although somewhat unusually that it won't be as warm here as it is several hundred miles north in Newport Pagnell.
No matter, there is blue sky and solar heat, it's a relief.
Still a bit breezy for butterflies, if any have survived these last two apocalyptic months of dreadful cold and wet, but small flying insects like this hoverfly on a strawberry flower are out and about for a good feed.
This orange-red bottomed bumble bee is, I think, a queen Bombus Lapidarius. There were a couple of them about foraging greedily on the clover.
And there you have it. If my resown seeds come up, if the weather holds and if I don't go mad with the isolation this year, the season has begun. Roll on summer.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
It was easy to get a few seeds to germinate indoors, I sowed sweetcorn and some Striped Bunch half runners. As soon as they started to come up I moved them from the propagator to the windowsill for a few days to harden off and then out to the greenhouse where it was warm and the light was good even if the weather wasn't.
The mice didn't just eat what they could see, they dug up each baby seedling and chewed off every last scrap of cotyledon and seed under the ground.
This was so depressing I held off doing anything for a while. I'm beginning to wonder if I should just write this season off and do something more useful instead. But the sun came out today and I found, contrary to my recall, that I did have a handful of sweetcorn seed left so I've brought the seed trays back in and resowed. Who knows what will happen.
Despite the continuing poor weather the imperative of growth keeps things moving on slowly in the garden. There are a few flowers out now, the elderflowers are just coming into bloom, some may, lilacs and other garden shrubs showing blooms.
On a sunny day like today that's quite cheering.
And this is our new toy.
Saturday, 5 May 2012
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
I've been offline for a few days although it won't have been obvious. Gales took down a tree and with it my telephone line. It's been quite a while getting fixed although putting the positive spin on it they did get it done two days before they said they would, so I'm pleased really.
Apart from the very first year here, when we didn't move in until quite late in the year, I don't think we've ever been quite so far behind with the planning, planting and sowing. Some toxic combination of missing direction or ambition and the appalling weather has put a stop to nearly all progress.
Yesterday finally I did plant some rows of root veg; burdock, large radish, carrots, parsnips and beetroot, but if the land hadn't been prepared in the last few days of the good weather of March it wouldn't even have been possible to do that.
I'm looking at starting everything else indoors this year, plug plants that can be popped into the ground when (or if) the conditions improve sufficiently for some rapid cultivation of a bed for them and it's become warm enough for growth. It's late for that but late starters often catch up better than weedy straggling seedlings that have struggled through the chill and poor light of early spring. With fingers crossed we should get some harvest.
It's in complete contradiction to everything I've been striving to study and improve on for the last five years because except for a very few tender or slow growing plants nearly everything we eat can normally be grown in the open without this sort of molly coddling. For sustainability that's the better way to be. Still, I'd like to have something good in the garden and so concentrating on things like sweetcorn and salads will be useful practise, these are things which have not been so successful in recent times.
The bad weather (don't be fooled by the picture, it's cold and windy and has been raining for two weeks) has had some effects on the wildlife too. We seem to have only one pair of swallows this year which is really sad and the early butterflies have had a hard time getting out and about to feed and mate, that's probably going to reduce numbers substantially next spring.
Can't wait for some real springtime sunshine and warmth.