Saturday, 20 August 2011

Spontaneous Wildflower Meadow

It's not much but it's ours! The new Community Garden  for our village is set to get the green light any time now, and although not a sod has yet been turned, and the Lottery Award is still sitting in the bank, it's already gone from grass, nettles and docks,

to this

all by itself!

Well almost by itself. Jackie and Jeremy across the road are having a new extension on their house and during the work they helpfully offered to donate a skipful of topsoil to the community garden rather than sending it to landfill. This was earlier in the year, and since we weren't allowed to start work it just sat there doing nothing. But then as the weather warmed up it just burst into life. Obviously there are lots of the usual suspects, Fat Hen, thistles and so on, and I suspect some locals may think it's a big patch of weeds but to my eye it's an impromtu exhibition of what nature can do with so little help from us, and until we can get going with the garden proper, it's just a lovely thing.

Poppy seeds are well known to lie dormant in the ground for very many years, springing into life only when the earth is disturbed and they are brought to the surface for some reason. Hence the famous poppy fields of France after the battlefields of WW1. However on closer examination I found all kinds of other interesting things, presumably seeds from whatever had been growing in Jacky and Jeremy's garden!

calendula and sunflowers

evening primroses
more poppies than you can count

this tasselly grass don't know what it is

 this looks like fennel or dill

and I think this is a tomatillo, though I'm not sure.

lots of brassicas, including some fledgling brocolli

but it won't last long with these visitors chomping away .-  it's a wildlife garden after all!!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Gonna Eat a Lot of Peaches...

Millions of peaches, peaches for me, or so it says in the song, and although I can't lay claim to millions,relatively speaking, I do have more peaches than I could normally dream of producing. I've never seen so many peaches on my peach tree. Normally we're lucky to get half a dozen, and then they rarely ripen properly. Now I know there are lots of lucky people out there who live in places where you can pick peaches by the bucketful every year, and think nothing of it. Not so here in England. We can do that with apples, pears, plums and many other fruits, but the problem we have here is that peaches flower very early in the spring, and unless you are obsessional about watching the weather forecast and hurtle off off down the garden in the dark with a a sheet of horticultural fleece if a cold night threatens, and then remember pollinating insects are also few and far between in early spring so you have to rush back down the garden next morning to uncover them  and possibly also help pollination with a little paint brush if you can, it's certainly not a plant and forget it type of crop.

But this year we had a really lovely warm spell in early spring, which  caused all kinds of odd things to happen in the garden, but the happiest outcome has been my wonderful crop of peaches. I did absolutely nothing to help them this year, no fleece, no paintbrush, but nature has rewarded me with these. I must have had this tree for fifteen years, I even dug it up and brought it with me when I moved here, so I'm extra pleased that it's done so well in the year we're moving away.  They're a bit small, some are a bit pitted and knobbly, and compared with the perfect giant blemish free specimens imported from the meditteranean and the USA they may seem rather unimpressive, but they are juicy and delicious, and all the more treasured for being so long arriving.

Here's the Millions of Peaches song, I never realised how many famous paintings feature peaches either!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Monty Don's Trousers

We were lucky enough to be given tickets for the preview day  of the Hamptons Court Palace Flower Show,and  got to see the BBC filming for their coverage later this week. Here's Monty Don and Joe Swift getting ready for a cosy chat.

Monty Don's trousers are an endless source of fascination for me. He always seems to be wearing the same ones. Doubtless organic fairly traded cotton, the creased blue suit has become a kind of uniform, underpinned when demonstrating work in the garden by elastic braces of the kind my grandad used to wear, I notice the braces come off for interviews. Time was, a man taking off his trouser braces in public would be time to make yourself scarce, but Monty doesn't strike me as a fisticuffs type. But I do wonder if he has a huge gothic wardrobe with a line of sinsisterly identical organic blue suits stretching off into the distance... Or maybe it's always the same one, I'm sure I could detect a hole in the knee of one leg...

Anyway, we had to wait for The Organic Monty to finish his interview in the RHS Grow Your Own garden before we could go in, so we were forced to partake of refreshments while we waited. I know, it's a tough job but someone's got to do it. It was well worth the wait though, this was the best part of the show for me, far more than the usual pretend rustic allotment display that you tend to get at shows, this was a really cutting edge grow to eat collection of displays. Herbs, fruits, nuts, edible flowers, there was even a mini vineyard interplanted with edible wild flowers, and olive groves which were quite lovely. The theme of the garden is that everything displayed is edible, so I learned a lot more about what a huge variety of plants are in fact edible as well as ornamental. Including my bete noir, cow parsley, see below.

The Garlic Farm won the award for best exhibit in this section with their gorgeous Garlic Plaiters Cottage, featuring together with lots of garlic of course, large quantities of cow parsley, It was a lovely day, far hotter than I had expected, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.The best day, weather wise of the week I suspect.  We also had the honour of being amongst the peasants to be swept aside at one point by a flurry of suits and uniforms ushering the Duchess of Cornwall around, I wonder that poor old Camilla got to see anything much from inside the battalion of escorts, she'd need to be eight feet tall.

The show gardens were all interesting, with the quest to be different in the concept gardens veering off into the frankly weird, but I was amazed to see that the brilliant garden by Chris Beardshaw, the Stockman's Retreat, was only awarded a silver gilt when it was to my mind the best garden in the show, not just because it was beautiful but it was about gardening and practical skills, and certainly one of the few show gardens bearing much resemblance to reality. Ideas, and concepts are great, but unless you're a millionaire you need practical skills to bring your ideas to life, and to avoid having a huge disconnect between the idea and the reality which I often feel is where show gardens can fall down.

Although I am prepared to suspend disbelief  when viewing show gardens, I was nevertheless disappointed with the upside down garden that I had seen previewed on TV,  Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky - sounded good  and looked great on tv, but in realityit was just too much scaffolding and didn't work at all for me.  And The World Vision garden for example was lovely to look at but the gardener in me couldn't help wondering how on earth you'd  get a lawn mower into the bowl of grass apparently floating on water!

And lastly I must say I was staggered at the amount of Cow Parsley on show,  or Anthriscus sylvestris as I must now learn to call it. . You can even buy a cultivated form from the RHS Anthriscus sylvestris var Ravenswing, for £7.99 no less. Having spent years strimming it away in the wild areas under the trees (or rather David and James have), I now find that it's fashionable Plant of the Moment! I've always thought that clouds of cow parsley do look lovely in the hegerows in spring, but not in my garden, now I'm thinking maybe I could leave them all and be the height of fashion!

Coverage of the 2011 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is on BBC2 on Thursday 7th July 8 - 9pm and Friday  8th July 7 - 8pm

Friday, 24 June 2011

Lettuce Lawn

I've heard of a chamomile lawn, indeed I've tried to grow one several times, with limited success it has to be said, but how about a lettuce lawn? This bit of grass is where the Hubbard table chickens lived, and where they consumed many bolted lettuces, and that's possibly the reason for this patch of Green Salad Bown growing in the middle of the grass. Come to think of it, the bolted lettuces were overgrown, but I doubt whether many had had chance to set seed, so maybe it just blew in from the veg patch. I bet I couldn't grow lettuce here if I tried.

It's growing really well though, so as I said before, if things just come up I like to leave them, extra pickings of salad for free. Watch out for Mr Wilkinson coming along on his lawn mower though!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Unexpected Item In The Potting Area

If you share the rather relaxed attitude to the garden that I have, you can often come across unexpected lovely, and sometimes not so lovely things, small pleasures which tidier gardens may miss out on. 

There are weeds. I know there are weeds.

In fact there are quite a lot of "arisings" which have not yet made their way to the "unplaisance". But lots of things come up in the garden which can turn out to have  beneficial effects. Now I'm obviously not talking about horrors like Couch Grass and Bindweed here, and I do my gardeners best to keep such things at bay, but I do allow many things to self seed, and if I like the look of them when they grow I just leave them. Even if it looks to someone else like I have just failed to weed properly.

So the little bit of apple mint by the strawberry bed has turned into a bit of a hedge, and likewisethe odd comfrey plant in the path. But passing the apple mint yesterday on my way to the greenhouse, I noticed this eye catching chap

so I had a closer look, decided I didn't know what it was, and had to nip indoors and check it out online. Turns out it's a Scarlet Tiger Moth (Callimorpha dominula), -the scarlet bit's on the underside so you see it when it flies off - and it loves to feed on comfrey! So that's my bit for wildlife, and a good excuse for leaving the comfrey growing in the path. Bees also love comfrey flowers, so it's useful for the "June gap" when early flowers are over and high summer ones not yet out.
So anyway,when I eventually got to the greenhouse, the first seed tray I lifted revealed this somewhat warty gentleman having a nice after lunch siesta. We seem to have a healthy population of frogs and toads, despite the presence of grass snakes, I guess it's all a question of balance. One thing we don't have a major problem with is slugs though, this rather fat toad looks as though he's been enjoying regular slug banquets.
It was all he could manage to do to waddle off (toads tend to walk rather than hop like frogs) in a huff to find a quieter spot where no one would come along poking about with trowels and generally ruining the ambiance of the restaurant.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Rhubarb, The Colonel Gaddafi of the Allotment

Well rhubarb time seems to be drawing to a close. Thank heavens. It (the rhubarb patch) never seems to get any smaller, though goodness knows I've done my best - I've given lots away, - visitors are seen staggering off down the lane, two bowed legs tottering along beneath the mountain of red stems and green leaves. I've even dug some up in an effort to reduce the Occupied Area, but rhubarb clings to its power base in the allotment with a tenacity reminiscent of a middle eastern despot. I'm expecting Tony Blair to be popping round any time now.

And worse still,  much to Mr Wilkinson's consternation, Rhubarb Crumble is off the menu as I'm still on the diet.  Sort of.  So casting around for ways in which I could  usefully put this earliest of the year's fruit crop on the menu, I came upon Jamie's idea of Rhubarb Bellinis which I rather fancy.

Or possibly this reasonably healthy idea from one of my favourite cooking blogs Smitten Kitchen

neither are stricly in the diet regime though....Ah well, the things one has to endure for International Diplomacy.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It's been a while....

I can't believe how long it is since I last posted. Shameful. But you'll be relieved to know that the weeds in the veg garden are as prolific as ever, so plus ca change, as they say....

The lack of rainfall here has meant a great deal of time moving the hosepipe around the garden just to stop things dying of thirst. And the blog isn't the only thing I've neglected either - the tomato plants have only just gone out,

 and other tender things like peppers and aubergines are still in pots!

Also shameful. So now that I've given myself a good ticking off, I can at least say that the long border is looking pretty good.

 The roses are just coming out,and the peonies and delphiniums are inadequately staked but really lovely for all that, albeit  with a slightly inebriated Saturday night at 2am sway.

These are my favourite kinds of plants, early summer cottage garden reliables - a bit blowsy for some but perfect for me!

Life in the chicken run is pretty quiet at the moment. My two new Goldtops have gone broody already, which is just what I hoped for, and they are installed in two separate runs with six each of Lavender Auracana, and Rhode Island Red eggs to sit on. In fact three of the Lavender Auracanas have hatched this morning.

Not a very good picture I'm afraid, but you have to be a bit quick around grumpy mother hens with new chicks. But then I suppose I'd be a bit grumpy if I'd been sitting on my own in a box for three weeks....

 The three Cuckoo Marans that I hatched in the incubator earlier in the year are now in the run, but I have the suspicion that two of them are cockerels. It's too early to tell definitively, but it looks like at least one roast dinner in prospect! We will have to see.

One of the reasons for my lack of posting recently is we've been busy looking around at houses, as we are thinking of moving to somewhere with a bit more land, not just so that I can grow more weeds, though no doubt I will, but so that I can keep some livestock. I've had quite a bit of experience now with chickens, ducks, and bees, but as I said to the estate agents, I'd like to branch out into something without wings. Like say, pigs, or sheep. Or a lovely Jersey cow. I think I'm probably getting carried away to smallholding heaven - pigs might fly, oh no not wings again.....

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Two New Recruits

I picked up these two new recruits to my increasingly fortress like hen run the other day. I think I'll call it the Henitentiary.

Anyway, these two are what's known as Goldtops. They are a cross produced by a white silkie cockerel and a light sussex hen. They really are a lovely golden colour, and are very pretty. I bought them because I was looking for a hen who might go broody fairly easily and hatch out some chicks for me, as I've found the trio of Marans chicksI've been looking after to be quite a lot of trouble, though I'm sure they'll be worth the effort in the end. At the moment the chicks are in the garden during the day, and brought back into the house in their large cardboard carton overnight. They will go outside permanently as soon as they are fully feathered, probably in about a week from now.

My Goldtops came from my new friend Niall Jones who has a lovely smallholding down near Marlborough, not too far from here, where he raises chickens, pigs, sheep and other lovely stuff, on a smallholder scale. What he doesn't need for himself he sells to help support the smallholding. More or less what I'd like to do if I had the space.....

When released from the Henitentiary, the birds have been having a great time sifting through this old compost heap, that I dug out last week. The remaining bits and bobs are just full of bugs and worms, and the chickens love it. I think I will let them clear the area of any pests and then maybe plant it up with some maincrop potatoes. It should be a lovely fertile area. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Raising Your Own Chicks

With all the attention I've been giving to the Robin family, the arrival of these three little chaps, or rather  chapesses, let's hope, has gone fairly unremarked. They're about three weeks old now, and looking a bit less adorable than they did when they arrived, as they are starting to lose all their soft down and grow proper feathers, which makes them look a bit tatty for a week or two. I did take a pic of them at their downy best..

- note  I gave them a pretend Mum as they were hatched in the incubator so didn't have a proper mum. I kept them under a heat lamp for the first week or so, but they seem fine in a large cardboard box by the Aga now, where they will stay until they are fully feathered, hopefully at about five weeks or so. Then they can go outside and start exploring the big wide world. 
Sadly I only managed to deliver three of the six eggs I had, - I always find incubators more problematic than a broody hen, - there was nothing wrong with the eggs I had, two of the three had died in shell and one had failed to develop. Hopefully the next lot I do I will have a broody for, and won't have the same problems. But for now I have three lovely English Cuckoo Maran chicks, let's hope they're hens not cockerels.

What with the chicks, and the Robincam it's just babies. babies, babies round here these days....

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Birth Announcement

Mr and Mrs Robin are pleased to announce the birth of several of the really ugliest little scraps you can imagine today, around lunch time, weight I imagine about half a nanogram.
I expect Mother loves them though! Click on the live link on the right of the page to see what's happening.

Young Farmers New Recruit

Thought I'd just post a picture of the youngest prospective recruit to the West Country Young Farmers - this is our grandson Brown with his two new friends. As you can see he's already got the green wellies, and the tractor - just needs a few acres now (bit like his Granny Kathy...) 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Still Sitting Here.....

You  know what it's like at the end of a pregnancy, waiting and waiting, gets a bit boring just sitting around. I feel for Mrs Robin, not even a Hello magazine to flick through, though she does still get out and about a bit each day. My daughter says she saw Mr Robin pop in with a snack for her, but I missed that. Nice to know he's an attentive partner though.

With a somewhat vague 10 -14 day sitting period, the young robins' EDA should be somewhere from Monday onwards, so do check back when you can to see how things are going in the delivery room. I feel a bit like one of those over enthusiastic 70s hippy dads with a video camera, but in this case I feel assured that the expectant mother isn't being distracted in any way by the presence of the camera. I hardly dare say it, as it will surely bring down Sod's Law down on my head with a vengeance, but the video link seems to be working well now and is pretty stable most of the time. There's a box at the top right of the page with a play button that should link live to the nestbox camera. If you find it's saying "off air" it probably means my network adaptor has gone offline, but I try to keep an eye on it and reset when necessary.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

My New Swedish Garden Assistant

Allow me to introduce Johanna, my new Hot Composter from Sweden.

Not tall blonde and willowy, but rather short dumpy and green, the Green Johanna is my new compost bin. She represents the latest enclosed, and therefore rat proof, composting system. Rat proof is quite important to me as I live near the Cotswold water park it doesn't take much to encourage Mr and Mrs Ratty and their many offspring to make a holiday home in the compost heap.   I do quite a bit of composting, indeed I am a trained, card carrying Compost Ambassador for the local council, and find the subject fascinating, (I know, I never thought I'd hear myself say that either).

 As a friend of mine said the other day, rats are the elephant in the room in composting circles. Everyone is being encourged these days to compost their household waste, but no one likes to mention the R word in polite society  in case it might put newcomers  off. Which of course it would. Who wants to let their children play in the garden which is also home to a nest of rats? Obviously, no one. I've heard no end of ways you are supposed to "discourage" rats from your compost - kicking the bin everytime you walk past is the favourite - I heard it on Gardeners Question Time again recently. Take it from me it's a waste of time. Not putting cooked food waste in the compost is another, - but I've even had rats in compost made entirely from garden waste, it's such a warm cosy place to make a nest.  

And lest people think I'm being excessive about it, remember that rats carry disease. People still die, albeit not in large numbers any more, from Weil's Disease, which is a kind of leptospirosis caught from contact with animal, notably rats', urine. And so I have tended to be wary of encouraging people to have garden compost containers other than enclosed wormeries,  until now.

The Green Johanna could be the answer. I've had her for a few weeks now and she's doing a good job. She arrives in bits, and is quite simple to put together. The main difference is that the bottom is not open to the ground as most compost containers are, but has small holes in it, to allow for the entry of worms, which are so necessary to the composting process, but are too small for rats to gain entry. The lid screws on quite firmly and the access doors at the bottom fit quite snugly and can even be screwed down for extra rat proofing. And because it's enclosed you can put all your household waste , including meat, fish and bones into it quite safely. You can even buy a winter jacket for Johanna so that she works faster in the cold weather.

Well that's the good news, the bad news is that price -see  the north american site and even the European one . But since good old Wiltshire council are offering them at a subsidised price of £24, I thought it worth a try, and so far I'm quite glad I did. If you live in the UK you may find your local council running a similar scheme. 

 It occured to me though, as I was assembling Johanna, that I could probably achieve a similar kind of enclosed decomposition in one of these second hand plastic drums that I bought  last year to use as water butts. If I just drilled some holes in the bottom? Might give that a try too.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Robincam off air

Sorry to everyone who's tried to tune into Robincam and found it offline or not working. I don't know why it won't work anymore, I'm trying to fix it, but frankly I'm losing the will to live  there's not all that much to see at the moment. I will upload videos as soon as there's any hatch activity if I can't get the live feed to work. This computer stuff takes us far too much valuable garden  time especially at this time of year. Must get my tomato seeds sown or I'll have no crop this year!

Video from this morning, still sitting here.........

Friday, 25 March 2011

Robin Cam Goes Live

I think I've managed to work out how to broadcast the bird box camera live to the blog. Amazing!  I don't know how feasible it will be to have this on all the time, but I'll see how it goes. The broadband service is terrible where I live, so I may have to switch it off, for bandwidth reasons, but I thought you might like to have a look at how Mrs Robin's getting on.

The box should be at the top of the page on the right hand side.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Plague On Both Your Houses

Mr Wilkinson and I take our dose of culture once or twice a year at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon.  Stratford's only about an hour or so's drive from here, so we've  taken advantage of the close proximity for all the years we've lived here. Most of the productions we've seen have been excellent, as you would expect. Though some, to paraphrase Orwell, are more excellent than others. Mr Wilkinson has been known to nod off, and I've found myself drifting away during some of the less exciting moments.

This was the first production we'd been to in the new RSC theatre which has been undergoing refurbishment for what seems like aeons, and we had got quite used to going to the other place, down the road a bit. So it was nice to get back into the proper theatre, though I'm a bit confused as to what took so long and cost so many gazillions of pounds. Anyway, not to carp, it's all very nice.

But yesterday's visit to see Romeo and Juliet, surely the play everyone thinks they know inside out, was quite stunning. Whether you've seen a million Shakespeare productions, or never seen one at all I would thouroughly recommend it. It's very much an all action production, with fire, noise, explosions and violence aplenty, enough to keep the least Shakespeare oriented teenager transfixed, and great comedic elements supplied mostly by the nurse, played brilliantly by Noma Dumezwen, and most especially by the hilarious and somewhat pornographic Mercutio played with a strong Northern Irish accent by Jonjo O'Neill (that's the actor not the race horse trainer). I loved it.

This is the trailer, just to give you an idea.
If you get a chance to go, don't miss it, you'll love it too.

Birdbox update

I've invested in some of this for my new garden residents
Who knew you could get gourmet food for robins? Mr Wilkinson is complaining that they get better food than he does. (I'm on a diet, and when I'm on a diet, he's on a diet)

 I don't know how many eggs robins normally lay, but as you can see she is proceeding apace. But then why wouldn't she - comfortable modern house in a good area, and  more worms and peanuts than you can shake a stick at, so no worries about the kids going hungry.

She only visits the nest once a day though at the moment. She's there in the mornings when she lays an egg, and then she's off until the next day. So we will have to see when she thinks she has enough eggs to start sitting. I'm finding all this fascinating, and can't wait to check in the mornings to see what's happening. So exciting.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Marital Bliss and Harmony

Mr Wilkinson and I inhabit for the most part, a pink fluffy cloud of matrimonial bliss and harmony, but occasionally something comes up on which we hold, lets say, a divergence of views. One such is the matter of garden Edges. Not Hedges, edges. 

This is how the garden looks when the grass is mown, the border weeded and the edges cut..

This is how it looks before..

So there is no doubt that cutting a nice defined edge really shows off the border, and the lawn. The point of contention is whether the "edge" is in fact the edge of the lawn (and therefore the responsibility of the Lawn Cutting Operative - the said Mr Wilkinson)  or whether it's the edge of the border and consequently the job of the Border Patrol - me. There is no doubt in my mind that even our rather weedy old  lawn is enhanced by the clear definition of the edge, but Mr Wilkinson is adamant. Doing the edges would entail him descending from the mower and wielding a tool, not within his remit. So in the end, for the sake of marital harmony I do the edges, and it does make all the difference, don't you agree?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

First Bird Box Movie

Just a quick post today, to test out my first birdbox movie. Go on, press play -

I know, I apologize that although it's called a movie, there isn't actually any movement in it. I was thrilled last week when a pair of robins started building a nest in my camera bird box. And for the last few days Mrs Robin (or possibly Mr and Mrs Robin, since I can't tell them apart) has been in and out of the nest all week adjusting the grass and moss to her satisfaction, and has laid the first egg this morning, since when she appears to have cleared off. Temporarily, I hope. Probably stocking up on worms and peanuts, for the forthcoming brooding scenario, during which she'll get precious little of anything I imagine.

 If the scheme is the same as it is with chickens, and I imagine this applies to all birds, she first makes the nest, but doesn't sit on the eggs until she has laid as many as she considers make up a decent family, so we should see one extra egg a day until she decides to sit. This is obviously so that all the eggs hatch at more or less the same time.

I haven't worked out how to stream live video to the blog yet or indeed if this is even feasible, so this is just a quick test video to see how it looks. There doesn't appear to be any sound either I notice. I will continue to update as things proceed. I hope this is viewable to everyone, please let me know if it isn't.

Hopefully I'll have more action in my later movies, this is after all, my directorial debut.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Small Scale Hatchery

As my stock of garden poultry was somewhat depleted last year (don't mention the fox) I thought I would have a go at raising some of my own chicks this year. I've done this before and it's always an exciting thing to do, although it can be disappointing and a bit sad if all does not go well. I would very much prefer to use the services of a broody hen, who would happily sit on the eggs for three weeks, and then look after the chicks until they were big enough to manage on their own, but since I don't have one, the incubator is the next best thing.
Cleanliness is definitely next to godliness with incubators - it's amazing to me that hens produce healthy hearty broods of chicks in general farmyardy unsanitariness, whereas if you tried to replicate that in an incubator you would almost certainly fail dismally. Everything has to be sanitized properly before you start. I use Brinsea Incubator disinfectant specially made for the purpose, and I don't recommend using anything else.  Switch the incubator on at least a day before you need it, so that it can get up to an even temperature. My Brinsea Octagon has a rocking cradle integrated into it, which is not to rock the embyos to sleep or anything, but to ensure that the eggs are turned regularly which is essential to their development. (Another job the broody hen does on her own).

So that's the incubator. Now you need some eggs. Lots of people who keep the older breeds of chicken will sell hatching eggs in the spring. Unless you're seriously into breeding you probably won't want to keep your own cockerel so it's easier to buy fertile eggs when you want them. Ebay is a good place to look and I've had some good eggs via ebay in the past.

This time I was looking for some good birds that would provide me with a supply of lovely brown eggs, and possibly the odd cockerel for the pot, and having looked on the Over the Gate country forum, I found a nice lady called Sue who keeps a lovely strain of English Cuckoo Marans, (as opposed to the French Marans, which can be discerned by their tendency to have hairy legs. Well they're feathery legs really but who can resist a joke about the french). If the eggs are clean, and these were, you can put them straight into the incubator. If they arrive in the post, as mine did, you need to allow them to rest in a cool, but not cold room for 24 hours, before setting them. Some people like to dip them in the sanitizer, and some people don't. I dipped mine breifly and dried them carefully before setting them in the incubator
All that I have to do now is to check on the eggs each day, to see that the temperature and humidity levels are correct, and keep my fingers crossed for three weeks time when there should be a patter of tiny feet, or a tapping of tiny beaks, or something. I've had failures before though with the incubator,and I would feel a lot more confident with a broody, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

Thanks for everyone who wished us well for the Community Garden Open Day. I'm pleased to say it went very well and we are working towards getting the project launched in the coming months. Updates to follow. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Just The Two Of Us

I don't want to bore everyone with local politics, but people who know me know that I've tried before to set up a local food group/allotment/gardening group in my village, with, it has to be said, less than 100% success. However, I'm very pleased to say that there has been a revival of interest locally so a couple of us are organising an Open Morning this Saturday in the village hall in Latton. The village is lucky that the landowner, the Co-operative Group, have offered the use of some of their land in the middle of the village for community use, and if we can just get enough support, I'm hoping we can maybe set up a Community Orchard, which once planted will be low maintenance, and possibly other things, like a seating area, and a couple of veg growing beds, not to mention things like composting, a wildlife area beekeeping, childrens growing area, preserving, and competitions, which could all follow on from this.

But Latton is a tiny village, and most people who live here commute to other places to work. And they often can't spare much time to devote to projects like this, - I'm hoping on Saturday we'll be able to persuade them otherwise. This is the field we may be able to use a bit of..

We have to make a reasonable compromise between what everyone wants including of course the landowners, who have said they don't really want to see an untidy allotment style arrangement with it's attendant sheds and plastic bins and so on, (the site is in the middle of the village) but something more attractive to the eye, and I think an orchard, and a seating area with a few shrubs, would be a great start. And before you allotment holders all start to take umbrage, let me say that I love looking round allotments and rarely if ever find them an eyesore, but I have to bow to other views here!

The Parish council are fully in support of the idea, and I've had loads of informative stuff sent to me by all kinds of organisations like Garden Organic, and Wiltshire Wildlife, and the Federation of City Farms and Gardens, to use at the open morning. But we will need funds the get the thing off the ground which means someone to organize paperwork/applications for funding/committee work etc and look after the money. Plus people to dig holes in the ground, and do all sorts of practical stuff. So our current "committee" which is in fact just me and Anne, will have to be expanded quite a bit if things are to proceed.

So I'm giving this my best shot, everyone in the village has had a newsletter with details, signs have gone up, and people are starting to avoid me in the street in case I start harping on about the Open Morning, so it's really up to local people to decide if this is something they would like to see in the village, and whether they will be up for it, or not. If anyone's passing Latton on Saturday morning we're providing coffee and biscuits, so do drop in. I so hope it won't be just the two of us.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Oops I did it again

Last year when digging over a neglected part of the plot I found I had inadvertently left some parsnips in the ground  and they had grown to humungous proportions - well,  while digging over a neglected part of the plot this year, I expect  you can guess the rest.....

Some people just never learn, here's a picture of one of them  next to my size sevens for comparision. Not many of those to the pound, as they say. Amazingly, they're not tough and woody as I would have imagined, and although they're not as sweet as they might be, roasted in the oven and glazed with a bit of honey or maple syrup and they're still good to eat. That's the parsnips, not the wellies.

 Under these two old shower screens is where I came across them, while preparing a section for some early salad sowings in a week or two. I thought I could put them to good use as lights for a cold frame type thing. But I didn't make allowance for the fact that they weigh a ton, (probably some sort of safety glass I expect) and are not really ideal. They'll help dry and warm up the ground a bit though, ready for  the seed to go in next month, and then I think they will have to go to the tip or be Freecycled.


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