Monday 18th May: The weather looks set to be fair this week, no rain in sight which means lots of watering to be done! I’m pretty good this morning once I’ve taken something to help out so John did half the birds and I did the other half, we have 10 hatchlings in the final count, good strong chicks though so hopefully they will continue that way. Weeding and foraging for the rabbits goes hand in hand so I did some of that, there is plenty for them at this time of year. I made up a cutting compost mix as I have a few bits I want to try and strike, the mix is compost, sand and vermiculite and then the cuttings dipped in root gel and put on a lower shelf in a unheated propagator in the greenhouse out of direct sunlight, nothing to lose really so I will give them a go.
I sold 6 quail over the weekend 5 female and one male so the urgency to find them a proper place is not so bad now, my plan, I think, is to keep a male (and I have identified which one already) with a few females, that way I have two separate flocks and if I want to breed I can swap the males over for new bloodlines, the rest of the males I will probably let go and they can have a couple of days freedom before they become dinner for some other wildlife, it’s a dog eat dog world out there 😩 The POL sales also went crazy at the weekend, we haven’t sold any for a couple of weeks then all of a sudden 20 in one weekend!
Lots of pottering in the garden and a bit of planning for ‘forest gardening’ which I am going to have a go at, to be honest I already have bits of it in place I just didn’t realise there was an actual term for it! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening
Harvested some potatoes from the self setter box I have, it’s a large crate and I have now grown self setters in there for about 4 years in a row with no problems whatsoever ever, basically I harvest as I have today, leaving behind all the tiny potatoes and they grow again, I will probably get some more in time for Christmas and do the same all over again.
Picked a few strawberries and raspberries, not many but I plan to plant strawberries in with the forest garden as I have found that the best plants are always the ones that have self set, I’m beginning to think all this preening, pruning, row growing etc is a complete waste of time, I think I will let nature show me how it’s done 😀
I have noticed a fair bit of ‘June drop’ from the fruit trees, I just hope there is enough left at the end of the season to harvest, one of my plum branches has already snapped under the weight and the plums are pretty small at the minute. I have an apple tree in the paddock that is struggling, it’s been struggling ever since I put it in but this year it’s just not managing at all so I need to dig that up and move it, I think I will plant a sweet chestnut out there instead.
On my down time I am continuously learning, today it’s all about ‘swales’ as far as I can make out, it’s basically a ditch dug out on the contour or slope and piled up on the other side to create a water catchment that is ‘level’ this collects the rain and then filters it slowly or much more slowly at least in the downward direction meaning the plants in its pathway can utilise the water more efficiently. I am definitely going to give this a try, Swales can be large covering a whole field or they can be smaller such as in a veg plot setting, interesting and pretty obvious when you think about it, and obvious that our ‘natural’ Swales run in completely the wrong direction! I have also been reading other bits and pieces that seem obvious but I had never thought of it, I seem to be having my eyes opened just recently to a number of things, maybe I had closed my mind and was just bumbling through. I couldn’t really get my head around permaculture being anything more than lots of people trying to make money out of writing a book about it but I am beginning to see exactly what it’s all about and how to apply it, looking, learning and applying. Sure we are doing the basics, collecting rainwater etc but I am still having to stand and water everything which takes time, and I am missing out on useful water such as the duck pond when it’s emptied just gets tipped out, all those duck poo nutrients going to waste waahh what was I thinking 😜
Sowed a bed of carrot seeds where I had pulled the onions from.
I have spotted, pardon the pun, many, many ladybird larvae all over the garden, on a positive note this is fab for my garden however they are Harlequin larvae so not so good for the native ladybird ☹️ firstly, parasites that attack native ones don’t attack harlequins and secondly if the harlequins run out of food they will eat native ladybird eggs.
Had a dental appointment then dinner then out to cut the front paddock, it’s grown so much since we last did it which doesn’t seem that long ago, while John was on lawnmower duty I did a bit of watering then went to help him, typically it’s now spitting with rain 😝
Ordered a book called ‘Permaculture in a nutshell’ hopefully it will help me see what it is we need to be putting in place, meanwhile I am looking at things with new vision, I also ordered an Alder tree as apparently it fixes nitrogen and will be planting that out near the fruit trees in the paddock, and some horseradish, the last lot I bought as dried foot failed to appear although (I had forgotten) there is some on the side of the road just a bit up from us so I may go and dig a piece up from there as well.
Found a baby bird dead in the water butt, how it got there is a mystery as there is a lid on it, the only thing I can think is that it has fallen down the drainpipe?
Tuesday: Apart from John carrying two feed buckets to the front for me it was, me, myself, I, on morning duties today, I don’t mind telling you I was worn out after lol. Mum arrived fairly early to do some gardening 😀 yay many hands make light work as they say and I am always grateful for extra hands. She did some weeding up on the far end while I did some in the middle, then I potted up a thornless blackberry and some black currant seedlings that had grown in the brassica cage. I cut some broccoli, one for Mum and one for our dinner later.
At the moment I am collecting eggs from the Welsh Harlequin ducks that I separated off they will be the last batch of eggs to go in the incubator this year, I should be able to fit about 12 in there hopefully.
Some trees I ordered have arrived, not any old trees but ‘sacred’ trees, small leaved lime or linden, multiple uses including using the young leaves in salads, linden tea can be made for blood pressure and the bark can be used for rope making if I ever need it 😀 They are small at the moment but will reach a great height eventually, I will pot them up and bring them on keeping a close eye on them for a year, they can be used as coppice for fuel so there’s an option, I will probably use one in my ‘edible forest’ that is the veg garden.
The summer solstice is fast approaching, why does is come so quickly when winter drags on so long, anyhow I have found a recipe for honey cakes which are used as an offering for the ‘faeries’ on Midsummers eve, a pretty simple recipe and something I haven’t tried before so I will be giving them a go.
Wednesday: Ooops totally overdid it yesterday and by the evening I was not too good so a dose of painkillers and a good nights sleep was in order. This morning John kindly did the morning routine before going to work bless him, I showered and by 8.30 I had started to clean the kitchen which has been bugging me for a while. A deep clean, drawers, cupboards, walls etc so at this present time 12.30 I’m having a break and still have plenty to do in there.
I noticed a grasshopper on the wall by the breadbin, thought ah that’s sweet and took a photo,
I thought about putting it back outside but forgot, now I have to live with the consequences because on my, hoovering the tops of the walls round, I found a spider had wrapped said grasshopper up for lunch 😩 so I hoovered up that bastard too 🤪
Went on clean the living room and the bedroom, knackered now and shoulders are killing me ☹️ still it feels nice and clean everywhere, well not everywhere there is still the boot room and the office to de clutter and deweb but they can wait for another day.
After some more anti inflammatory pills and a rest some dinner it was back to work watering, picking etc and I made the honey cake, I use the term loosely and I won’t put the recipe on here because there are probably far better examples out there. Honey cake, well it has honey in it and it’s definitely cake, it also has a fair amount of coffee, I used decaf so we won’t be bouncing off the walls after eating it, it’s edible, pleasant enough but not what I would call honey cake really.
Today I picked a small tub of strawberries and raspberries, 4 heads of broccoli, some beetroot, a courgette, rainbow chard and some new potatoes, most of which I have put out for sale as we have already eaten. The dilemma is what to charge for naturally grown veg, I always check the supermarket prices but I feel that if I priced them like that they are grossly underpriced for what you are getting, something that actually tastes like its supposed to, been lovingly tended, had nothing sprayed on it whatsoever, the best veg you can get to be precise 😀
Thursday: Up in the middle of the night to eat and take anti inflammatory! The trouble is when I feel ok I get stuck into jobs then pay for it later on 😜 Anyhow, John did the morning routine then went off to get feed then take the van for a service, I had some paperwork to do so got on with that as much as I could because for some reason my iPad and printer are not talking to each other 🤪
In the afternoon I used the cardboard, that I had put on the floor in the greenhouse over winter, to cut and place round the squash plants that are growing outside, it’s a start to the mulching I need to get done. Mulch, mulch, mulch is my mantra of the week, we are in for a serious lack of rain and some very high temperatures which won’t do the plants any good at all so best start preparing now. John came home and was on in ‘half a job John’ mode, at this moment we have everything pulled out from under the kitchen sink as he is putting in an outside tap but that’s as far as he has got, then we have tools out in the orchard area where he has half fitted some angle irons at the top of the fencing with wire attached to it to stop the fox getting over, at one point I wondered where he had gone and he was up the garden weeding in goggles due to the high pollen count!!! “There is medication available you know” but you can’t help those who won’t help themselves can you 😩
Just been informed after asking what the plan is, that every time he goes to do a job he needs a tool that is in the van that has gone for a service, I get it now, I thought he was just being unproductive lol.
My bit of bedtime reading arrived yesterday ‘permaculture in a nutshell’ and today I have been making a plan to start the polyculture, permaculture, forest garden approach, I have a pear tree in the orchard that I will start with. I have chosen plants that I already have available:
Comfrey – Mulch/insect attractor
Lavender – attractor
Borage – attractor
Fennel – attractor
Rhubarb – mulch
Strawberry – attractor/stabiliser
Thyme – soil stabiliser
Peas – nitrogen fixer
I still need to have fruit bushes which will probably be currant and roots which may be onion or wild garlic or chives but this is the basic outline of my ‘guild’ I will observe and see what does well and what fails, either way I will learn a fair bit I think.
I’ve just read a blog on a forest garden hedge so that will be another project to think about, ooo so much to do and so little time 😜 Inbetween that I fancied a snack so I made some raspberry fritters 😀 mashed banana, flour, cinnamon, mash and stir then add the raspberries then fry in coconut oil, rather delish with some creme fresh though they didn’t hold shape too well, still it all goes down the same way 😝
So I asked for an outside tap under the kitchen window and this happened!
Well I wouldn’t mind so much except that John is a time served plumber 😩 there was a LOT of swearing and a bit of a puddle and apparently the kitchen tap (which admittedly we had been having problems with) was f**ked this is why it has been leaking even though John fitted new washers a while back. On the up side I now have an outside tap to water the front plants with 😀
A bit later I asked John if it was connected to the hot, “nope, it’s just a cold tap and before you say anything, a hundred years ago they would have delighted with that fitted” so I said, “a hundred years ago they would have been delighted with rabbit for dinner “ guess what’s on the menu tomorrow 🤪
Mowed the grass and used the mowings for mulches on various plants that are in danger of drying out too quickly when this hot weather hits us.
Friday: By mutual agreement I have decided to take it a bit easier today, I find that I am suffering a lot once I stop in late evening and then the joints seize up over night. Having said that there are a couple of jobs I want to get done, the first is my second ‘guild’ an Apple tree this time. It was growing out in the paddock but it has never been happy there so I dug it up and pruned it back, put in in water to soak for a couple of days and planted it elsewhere this morning. So far I have planted comfrey, strawberries and black currant round it, there is a pumpkin growing close by and some Welsh onions, I need a few other things in there, I will probably try coriander as a quick growing herb and some broad beans for fixing nitrogen. I have some b bean plants that I cut back after they had finished, they are in a pot so will transplant easily.
As I look at things with new vision so much of ‘traditional’ gardening seems pretty foolhardy now, most attributed to the victorians who liked neat and tidy rows but then they had plenty of man power in the kitchen garden which I definitely don’t have here. One of the practices I will definitely adopt is the ‘chop and drop’ I mean unless you want compost to plant into then why on earth spend all that time taking it all to the compost heap, turning it and hauling it back again, chop it, leave it where it is and let nature do the work for you seems obvious now, unless of course there is disease but even then burn it and use the ash on the garden. I am rather liking this new outlook, how can I save time and work but still reap the benefits. Another thing I have taken more notice of is how/where plants grow, one instance is a rogue strawberry plant that had escaped out of the fruit cage and is growing in the path, it’s not watered or fed or tended in any way and yet it is in much better health than the cosseted ones inside the cage? Another observation is of 5 sweet potato plants, 4 of them struggling 1 which is under the tomato plants is romping away, again the 4 had greenfly which I wiped off but the other one didn’t have any, that information will be consigned to memory for future years.
Today I picked raspberries and strawberries, in previous years we had an abundance but I dug three rows of raspberries up last year as they were getting out of control in terms of I didn’t have time to tend or even pick them properly and the strawberries had got in the same kind of muddle so we cleared them, sadly this year I don’t have very many so there won’t be jam!
Saturday: Up early to take painkillers again so that I can get up at the usual time and be able to do some work! I did the morning rounds with John then onto a bit of watering in the shady areas, then I put up a temporary fence in the orchard to let the Welsh harlequins have more room but not get on the veg garden or they will eat the courgettes 😜 Then I planted a lime tree in the duck pen and put some protection round it, we were going to change the duck pen and move it but actually all it needs is some greenery in the form of trees and bushes and preferably ones with berries that will feed them too such as elderberry and currant, they will provide shade, shelter and forage. Then onto foraging for the rabbits, willow, hazel, lemon balm, plenty of plantain, dandelions, clover, thistle and birds foot trefoil and grass. It’s getting quite warm out there now after a cool start.
Charlie is making smoothies with the few berries I have collected 😀 there looks like there will be plenty of black currants and gooseberry and hopefully I will get some jam made with those although John is not particularly keen on those flavours as that’s all there will be he may actually try them 😝
I watched a red legged partridge, that had somehow managed to get in the front paddock with all the birds, frantically running round trying to find a way back out while being chased by all and sundry, it must have eventually got out as peace was resumed pretty quickly. We get a pair visit the farm every year, I presume they are the same pair and it’s always the same time of year.
Picked some gooseberries (I know they are ready because each time I go up there the blackbirds are ferreting about underneath them) topped and tailed them and made some jam with a bit of elderflower cordial in for good measure. I went slightly wrong, don’t know what I was thinking when I put the sugar in at the same time as the gooseberries 😜 no harm done really it just meant I needed to cook them slowly to begin with then on to a boil. While I was waiting I put the contents of the under the sink cupboard back after John advised me to leave it all out and check for any leaks after fitting the new kitchen tap, we now have a proper mixer tap back. I always sterilise my jam jars in the oven, it’s just how I prefer to do it, I know it can be done in the microwave or with sterilising fluid but that’s my preferred method, wash with hot soapy water, rinse and then with the oven set at around 120/30c they can stay in there until the jam is ready to jar up, I use a thermometer rather than a plate from the freezer, mainly because I can’t be bothered to keep going backwards and forwards to the freezer which is out the back! I was surprised how quickly the temperature went up to setting point so I’m hoping it does actually set. It was only after I made the jam I remembered I had bought a proper jam pan last year, I had to search for it but I will definitely use that next time so as not to burn it which can happen in a thinner saucepan. I had enough strawberries and raspberries to make a couple of jars of mixed jam so that’s what I did, in the proper pan this time. This jam had quite a lot of foam, you can remove it with a spoon just before putting it a jar, you can use a tiny amount of butter or oil when you cook the jam or you can do what I do and leave it. It is said that it can shorten the life of the jam but as two jars will probably not even last a month in this house then I don’t worry too much, I prefer to take it off when I open a jar. If you take it off you can heat it in the microwave and it will make a bit of extra jam ready for instant use, the foam is just jam bubbles so nothing terrible. Obviously if you are wanting to give your jam as a present/gift I would recommend scooping it off, if it’s for home use then don’t worry unless you really want to.
I made a pineapple, turmeric and ginger blitz in the nutrition bullet tonight, I need to try and get this inflammation down and I’d rather try and do it naturally rather than continuous pills.
The sunset tonight was magnificent, Charlie took some photos 😀
Sunday: I’m not in very good shape this morning, I will have to relent and call the doctor tomorrow and see what can be done. John did the morning stuff while I hobbled around, had a shower got dressed etc then I did manage to go outside and pick a few raspberries and do a bit of watering of stuff in the shade. Then I heard a peculiar noise 3 times so I was about to go and investigate when I heard somebody shouting hello across the hedge. It turns out a chap who was hawking at the farm over the back from us had lost his Harris hawk, so that’s the noise I could hear. We eventually located it in the top of one of our conifers and he called it down with a tit bit to entice it, her name was Missie and she was a beautiful bird. I invited the chap to feel free to catch rabbits with her here and I hope that he will take us up on the offer at some point as we are getting over run with them.
Didn’t do much for the rest of the day except watering in the evening, John cleaned out the front birds and we had to move a duck that the geese have regularly been picking on for some unknown reason ☹️