Friday 13 October 2017

Friday the 13th


Summer which had gone too soon has returned briefly on the tail of Hurricane Ophelia which is pulling warm air up from Portugal and Spain to give us a few days of delightful weather. I'm making the most of it where I can and hoping that the late blooming oca will set some seeds before the frosts arrive.

sweet chestnut

Foraging today for sweet chestnuts produced a good haul. I'd take more but we rarely use them all and although I always mean to set the germinating leftovers out in the hedgerows I've yet to complete the task successfully. It seems wasteful. Perhaps I should cut out the storage in the middle and take some chestnuts straight to where I'd like another tree. We have three good trees in our hedgerow already but it wouldn't hurt to start another generation and the wood is good for fencing if the trees prove poor croppers.

Untitled collage

Still lots of late butterflies including some Clouded Yellows.

Wednesday 26 July 2017


is my word of the day.

I just took a look at a blog I used to read, there was a new post. It was o.k. (Sorry Tim). Anyway while I was there I fell down a rabbit hole of blog lists, you know pick one at random, rinse, repeat. I ended up in a place where the message was basically "Did you miss me? I'll be back". It was dated in 2013.  My, how time flies, did you miss me?

Anyway, here are a few random pictures with captions. You can tell I've lost heart with it all because I'm hosting them on Blogger instead of the paid for hosting. No, you're stupid.

I was going to sort them into chronological order but honestly... anyway this is this year's chicken of the woods which has come back in the same place even though said place is almost sawdust now. If you're going to eat one, cook it well. 

The veg garden is doing o.k. apart from the onions. I don't know why. Actually I do, I abandoned the patch to look after the oca which needed me more and they were swamped in weeds. The corn this year is Stowell's Evergreen which I'm hoping will be nice.

After the mice ate most of the sunflower seedlings I almost gave up completely. There are five plants left and this is the first and possibly the prettiest until the next one comes out.

The waterlily stock tub is looking rather lovely this year. We swapped a red lily for a pinky cream one which is flowering beautifully. This frog has made his home here along with newts, beetles and pond skaters. Nature is amazing.

Potatoes - these are the very first red Duke of York - are doing pretty well this year. Bluebell are absolutely fine but we probably won't grow them again. Mayan Gold are delicious but impossible to cook. The Ambo are large and good. Still to come Arran Victory, Sarpo Mira and some Prunelle. No doubt the blight will be along shortly.

Is the sun going down? Brexit has buggered up most things, my always tenuous grip on security is now dislodged again. Tune in again, there may be another episode later in the year.

Monday 29 May 2017

Bank Holiday

We had the mother of all thunderstorms last night. Although I didn't know it, because we'd had to disconnect from the world to protect our equipment, the over-excited commentators of Twitter claimed it was the size of Wales and producing over 300 flashes of lightning a minute. It was, for a while, directly over the farm.

I'd like to show the pictures but we didn't take any in the end. Imagine a malfunctioning stage light coming on and off every 15 seconds with a background of gravel pit explosions.

After the first couple of hours of oohing and gasping we began to become bored and settled down to watch an episode of The Handmaid's Tale with a glass of the good whisky.

Clearing skies - it doesn't actually look like this today but it should.

Pictures are a bit random all over in fact. This has been an odd spring in the garden. The potatoes are doing well, most of the peas and beans are in and staked although the soya beans are being very slow to germinate. Mice had a go at my direct sown sunflowers, nipping off the fleshy seeds leaves and killing the seedling as a result. I've saved a few later germinating ones by covering with plastic bottle cloches and laying fresh mint leaves and stems along the row. So far, fingers crossed.

Forester moth

Cucurbits: I decided this year not to grow Whanga Crown squash so I could have an exciting mixed bag of colours and sizes, then totally got it wrong and ended up with Black Futsu and Muscade which apart from a slight size difference look almost identical. So I've hurriedly slung a few Sweet Dumpling into pots in the hope they'll come up in time. I've got lots of greenhouse cucumbers but the Petit Vert de Paris rotted in the pots on the first sowing and are now resown. The Armenian cucumbers are also looking good so far this year but I need to get the oca out of the polytunnel so the melons can move in.

There are more courgette plants than I needed but that's usually true. This year, two types, the Lebanese I grew last year and Romanesco because I can.


Tomatoes: Have been so slow. The first batch suffered from mice and the second just aren't nearly as fast as I want them to be. I bought a few supermarket plants to help things along, two Marmande which are outside (at risk of blight but they do so much better if it can be avoided) and a St. Pierre which I was unfamiliar with but seems to be a popular French sort. Waiting to be planted out a lot of Roma and for the greenhouse, Black Russian, Costoluto Fiorentino, Gezahnte B├╝hrer-Keel, Scotland Yellow, a couple of Tigerella from an old pack of seed and some Salt Spring Sunrise, again very old seed that I'm hoping to renew my stocks from.
Sooty Copper

Alliums: Most of the onion sets are doing o.k. but some of the garlic has rust already. I've multiplied up the walking onions from virtual extinction, found some Welsh onions and repatriated them from scrubland and moved Babington leeks and Elephant garlic back into the main patch. So that's all good.

Have sweetcorn and yacon still to plant out. And there will be more...

Ox-eye daisy and insect

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Peas and good will

I'm not feeling very peaceful at the moment, if Brexit wasn't bad enough now there is a general election designed to confirm Tory dominance for another five years whilst they rip everything apart in pursuit of their own careers.

Please, if you have a vote, use it tactically to prevent Theresa May's cronies from turning the UK into a dictatorship which is happy to ignore  or even trample on the wishes of half the people. If you don't know which party to vote for in your constituency have a look at this resource here and consider donating to Gina Miller's initiative to support MPs who promise to work for a fair solution to the Brexit problem.

It's no better in France with the far right and far left setting up for a stand off in the elections here and the more or less centrist candidates losing ground to both.

Sweet Cicely

Anyway, to the garden.

It's slow work, and I've not really written down a proper plan this year. Consequently I wake up in the early hours in a cold sweat remembering some project that should have been started three weeks ago. To add to this mice developed a taste for the tender new leaves of tiny seedlings and chewed nearly all the tomatoes down to stumps. Since I was late getting started anyway this is a major setback. None of the peppers have come up. Things are not progressing well.

Wood from a fallen apple waitng to be split

Today I thought I'd better get sowing some peas - most people would have been sowing successionally since March, not me however. And I have so many peas to sow. This year I'm growing Carlins, Irish Preans, Magnum Bonum (which were great last year), Salmon flowered (more for the flowers than the peas) and a sugar snap Sugar Ann which I hope will satisfy my need for juicy pods to eat whole. Which means several peas will have to wait until next year for a chance.

Most of the potatoes are now in and the Red Duke of York are already showing some growth above ground. Still have a couple of rows to plant, mainly Sarpo Mira which I've come to love more and more. We are still (just) finishing last year's crop of them and they've kept brilliantly.

Onions and garlic are in place. Seedling tomatilloes  seemed to have avoided the mice so that should be o.k.  I need to get more herbs sown and work out which squashes and pumpkins I want this year. Also need to choose beans from the 10 or so that I keep seed from. This really is a stream of consciousness post.

Pelargoniums, Lavender and a Ceanothus - Easter garden centre haul

And the Ocabreeders continues to take my time. We've closed for new members now but there are group emails to write, websites to maintain, databases to create and I still have a lot of plants here to look after.

Friday 7 April 2017

Words, who needs 'em?

A foggy start

Dandelion clock

Sour cherry blossom

Seedling tree - probably Aesculus flava

Apple stump


One of the last Whangaparaoa Crown pumpkins, still in good nick

Wednesday 29 March 2017

The sun is hot, but the wind is cold.

It's not been a bad spring, weather wise, but here we are, nearly in April, and everything's all behind like a little lamb's tail (not that we want to think of what happens to them).

There has been a tsunami of personal events shaping these last couple of months, career challenges,  health issues, bereavement and of course Brexit. It all adds up to an uncertain and unhappy time. Gardening has suffered.

When we got back after a break in the UK to attend to a lot of this there was a problem with the phone line and unusually it took over a week to get someone to look at it. I was told it was because the engineers couldn't find our house - I think they must be outsourcing because there's never been a problem before. It's a telephone wire, you just follow it. Still the chaps when they arrived were efficient and only a little bit mansplaining. It's all fixed now thank goodness.

So, to the garden. I managed to get the cover back on the cheap Chinese polytunnel and it's now weighted down with bits of concrete detritus from around the farm. I doubt the cover will last another winter but it's going to have to do for now.

Then I planted up the first 150 oca. The mice found them and spent a couple of happy nights digging up the tubers, eating some and distributing others across the bench. This has produced two problems. Some of the pots attacked were my seedling tubers raised from Cultivariable seed last year. They were in very short supply and I fear some varieties may have been lost for ever, the other is that tubers pulled from pots are unidentifiable. I need to replant anything affected with known correctly named tubers. It's a big task made harder by not wanting to have to empty out every pot to see if it still has a start in it or not. My heart has collapsed a bit at the thought of this.

I've rearranged the staging with much bigger overhangs so the bloody creatures can't climb up again -  I didn't think it was possible before, they have achieved new skills this year and I've already caught a couple in my only mouse trap. More traps are expected soon.

In the rest of the vegetable garden I've only just managed to get most of the onion sets in. Some spring planting garlic is in pots but to be honest it was so close to rotting when I put it there that I doubt much will come of it. The potato beds aren't started and worst of all, I haven't begun any seeds of the usual suspects for the summer, something I hope to address today now I've shamed myself by writing it down here. Travel back to previous years in the archives to see just what a failure this is.

All in all rather depressing. And I've just read Theresa May's mealy mouthed excuse for diplomacy as she tenders Article 50.  Where is there hope left in the world?

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Oh my goodness

How poor is that, months have passed and another year is 1/12th over already.

Winter is a wretched time and usually there's not much to report anyway but actually over the Christmas break quite a bit of gardening got done. A huge amount of oca was gathered in for the Guild of Ocabreeders and that took a lot of time. When I wasn't doing that I was helping Mr. Catofstripes gather as much wood as we could find to replenish the rapidly diminishing wood pile. It was a cold old holiday.

I also managed get overwintering onions and garlic planted and we did some rather fancy dead-hedging work to help protect the new orchard and vegetable area from deer. Some hope!

Back in the UK for a break all my time has been taken up with shepherding the Guild into a new season. The results are now gathered for the 2016 harvest and the doors have been opened for new members, read all about it here.  Perhaps you might like to give it a go this year?

seeds oct

There has been a certain amount of retail therapy, these are just a few of the new seeds I've bought. Every year I tell myself off for all the wastage but as vices go, it's relatively benign. I've also sourced most the seed potatoes now and ordered them as well as some more onion sets.  What I haven't bought (yet) are any Rocoto chilli seeds despite finding a new company selling a wide range. There's still time.