Friday 30 May 2014

When cows attack...


Actually there are lots of things to blog about but it took a disaster to bring me to the point of spilling over into words.

This week the Mr. has been in residence and we've started a long planned task to fence the vegetable patch against the marauding deer that so often destroy my precious plants.

Putting up fences is a stressful task and we'd only managed to place a couple of posts vertically in suitably reinforced holes before deciding, rather bad temperedly to call it a day and come back inside for dinner. Whilst words were being exchanged he suddenly dropped in a complete non sequitur and told me there were cows in the veggies. I almost ignored him, the silly moo, but curiosity got the better of me and so I looked and there they were, six of them, stomping over the garlic and beans.

We chased them off, of course, but the damage is done and then I had to phone the farm next door and tell them about it. Not my favourite task, my French isn't really good enough for face to face conversations so telephones scare me a lot. Luckily the neighbours speak some English so between us we shared the information and buckets of food were brought to tempt the bullocks back home.

The cows are not the only unwanted visitors this week. A rather cheeky beech marten turned up and decided to take residence. We're not entirely sure he/she is completely well as it's behaving rather strangely but after we had to evict it from the swallow nesting barn it's been hanging around the yard. The cats don't seem too bothered and we think it's eating up discarded mice left over from the hunt.

They're not entirely welcome visitors but it's another mammal to add to our list of local wildlife and very cute.


Tuesday 20 May 2014

Wild Life - some snaps

Male Pale Tussock moth

Last night's stormy weather seemed to encourage the moths to batter themselves at the window. I snapped a few at the height of the thunder and rain. This morning there are still some there, resting through the day, including several Pale Tussocks, extravagantly hairy.

The Green Silver lines was a night time shot, I didn't even realise what it was until I looked at the photo this morning. It takes a flash to freeze their motion so that they can be seen. In their frenzy to unite with the light they never stop fluttering long enough for human eyes to identify.

Green Silver lines moth

On Sunday though, the weather was still beautifully sunny and warm and as I wandered aimlessly up to the big field to see if I could catch the buzzards unawares for once on their favourite telephone pole this little fellow tiptoed into view.


So small I thought it was a cat to begin with but the mother was there, hunting along the track. She made a magnificent leap into the long grass to capture something but I couldn't get a clear shot. Junior though, thought I was fascinating and came so close back along the path to investigate me that in the end I had to warn him off.

He didn't leave in rush though, just trotted away looking back over his shoulder from time to time. Adorable.

fox cub in the field

Thursday 15 May 2014

Planting record

seper vivum

Not so much a post as an aide-memoire. The good weather is here at last and like the sun, I've got my hat on and I'm making hay, or something.

I'd planted a few sad seedlings out before the gales and hail and they're hanging on in but now I've started trying to fill the beds in earnest with all the leggy youngsters that have been languishing in pots.

Already in then, swedes (ravaged by slugs), Starley Road red peas (didn't like the cold much, I'm hoping the check isn't fatal) and spuds various. There are other things like overwintered garlic and shallots etc but they're not (all that) important right now.

Today I've dug a bean trench and planted out around it the Purple Giant and the Carlin peas leaving one pole to pop a Lady's slipper achocha in when I get around to it. Unfortunately I now have to make several more trenches for climbing beans (and where I'm going to get stakes from I've no idea) and find beds for all the ulluco and oca refugees.


The butterfly season is getting off to an impressive start. This pretty little thing is probably (and the id is very tentative) a female sooty copper. Usually we don't see these until much later in the year. I'm guessing that the mild winter allowed the second brood to overwinter successfully and these are local rather than the migrants we usually get.

Monday 12 May 2014

Bottled shark's fins

may blossom

This year's new arrivals include the Shark's Fin melon (Cucurbita ficifolia although the wiki article is a bit of a mess) and the Dudhi or Dudi (Lagenaria siceraria ) aka the Bottle gourd or Calabash. The seeds came via the HSL (they appear to be updating the site at the moment and that link might redirect in time) from their Sowing New Seeds initiative and were collected from British allotment growers so should be adapted for local conditions to an extent.
In fact the Shark's fin melon (Rhizowen calls it Chilacayote  and has used it in hybridisation) is one of the hardier cucurbits and it is said it will survive outside over the winter in mild places like Cornwall. I have grown it before, way back when in the heady days of the Worthing microclimate, from a fruit purchased in the local Asian supermarket. The flesh I candied and it was jolly nice, as anything with pounds of sugar in tends to be to a susceptible tooth.

I'm hoping it will do well here as I crave the style of huge vines clambering over old apple trees and providing tropical ambience, even in these turbulently climate challenged times. And the fruit will be a bonus really, with those I don't need providing excellent shot for the trebuchet I plan to build to discourage the hunters in the autumn. Or maybe I should cut out the middlemen and just aim directly at the deer.

The bottle gourd is another matter. Really I should have waited until the gods have seen fit to visit a polytunnel on my unworthy patch (which will probably never happen) as just like loofahs  it's going to take a very warm summer indeed to make much of them. But the flowers are sweetly scented (I think, as I can't find reference to that and yet somehow I 'know' it, perhaps it was a dream) and pretty and I might get lucky.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Weather or not


It's been another horrible week of weather, very windy and a lot of rain, nothing like the idyllic scene above taken during a brief day of sunshine, probably the only one in the last seven days. It's still appalling windy today and I've had to bolt the front door to stop gale force gusts from bursting it open and blowing everyone away. It's cold and gloomy indoors too and I'm playing that well known game of trying to keep the woodburner in 24/24 . Normally by now it would be on for just a couple of hours in the evening, more for company than anything.

So everything is behind and plants like beans and peas started under cover are beginning to miss their window for most successful planting out which is annoying.


This sculpit seedling in the yard is an escape from a patch I had up the garden which seemed to have given up the ghost entirely there. I had the original seeds, it's just a selection of that old time weed Silene vulgaris , from Seeds of Italy but despite their glowing recommendation never found the leaves tasted of anything much but grass. Anyhow, now I have this self seeded survivor and I'll save seed from that because the very young fleshy leaves do look appealing and are probably fine in mixed pickings of horta.

naughty black cat

Cats aren't too keen on the weather either although it does provide them with another way to demand my services. Cats that are very wet get a special wipe down with kitchen towels and Crow (in the picture) particularly loves this, which means as soon as he's dry he's straight back outside to get wet again.

The forecast is for a dryer time next week and I can't wait.


Monday 5 May 2014


crab spider and prey

Just a quick post to document these two lovely bright crab spiders I saw yesterday. I think they are female Misumena vatia and had previously been hanging out in the buttercups before they came over to the clover for a snack.

The pictures would have been better but for a big fat black cat that saw me at a disadvantage crouched down to get the shot and decided that was the moment to leap onto my shoulder for a cuddle.

crab spider two

Friday 2 May 2014

Planting Potatoes


I started this blog entry on the 18th April expecting to finish up the work in a few days and use it to document the planting.  Two weeks later and I've only managed to get three rows planted, 12 Epicure in one row and two 9 spud rows of British Queen. I can't complete the planting because I can't walk on the potato patch without leaving a Hollywood style footprint autograph behind me.

It's rained again for the last two days but this afternoon the skies are clearing slowly and the forecast is for a dry weekend stretching out until next Tuesday, so I'll leave things to drain a bit and start pulling rows on Monday.

These are the potatoes that will be planted although the row numbering will necessarily be adjusted - the plot is narrow and long so single rows of any particular variety are unlikely. There's nothing very unusual, just our favourites plus Sante which we've not tried before. The Ambo are self saved from last year's crop, We were unable to source any certified tubers this year and I hope this doesn't mean they are going to fall off the list, we have found them excellent general purpose potatoes with good yields.

Row 1: Epicure
Rows 2&3: British Queen
Row 4&5: Sante
Row 6: Ambo
Row 7: 4 more Ambo and Pink Fir Apple
Row 8: Pink Fir Apple
Row 9&10: Sarpo Mira
Row 11&12: Arran Victory
all in by 8th May - just two rows of odds and sod leftovers to plant if it ever stops raining.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Mayday visitor


Dreadful weather again today but that's of no interest to the Maybugs. If a bug's gotta fly it's gotta fly and so they did. Right on cue one flew into the house on the stroke of midnight (well, almost) and proceeded to attempt suicide on the light.

Once it was inevitably stunned, and they are so noisy and scary when they fly,  I was able to catch it and take it outside again. That didn't stop it trying some more.*

*might have been a friend.