Big Plump Blackberries

Merton Thornless Blackberries

At last our Merton Thornless blackberry canes are ready for picking, well worth the wait and it did not disappoint. Whilst waiting for the berries to ripen we snacked on wild blackberries, which were very nice indeed, but these babies oh what flavour! The berries are enormous and very very tasty (Rich showing them off in the photo) not overly sweet or bitter, just perfect in fact. The best bit of course is no fear of being ripped by thorns when harvesting, I totally recommend finding a spot in your garden for one.

Hopefully next season it will put on more growth and give a bigger yield. I might be able to make a crumble or pie!

Scrumptious Harvest

scrumptious apple harvest 2009

All our fruit and vegetable harvests have been pretty scrumptious to be honest, but this post is mainly about our Scrumptious apple harvest. This year was the first year of fruiting for our young Scrumptious tree and I’m very pleased with the quality and taste of the fruit. In all we managed to harvest 15 good size apples after a great deal of thinning to prevent the tree from trying to produce more. Also, like everyone else I imagine, the wasps got to some of the fruit.

The wasps have been a real pest this year due to the warm spring, we had a nest of them in a conifer tree and I received my first sting ever this year from a wasp. Ouch! I’m not ashamed to say it bl**dy well hurt too! Now they are becoming lethargic and seeking sugary energy, fruit trees and autumn fruiting bushes / canes are taking a battering. I spotted some hornets near our vegetable garden yesterday, oh dear. I know they are good pollinators but they do drive me potty.

Our other apple tree, a young Cox has also produced some lovely looking fruit, probably ready to harvest towards the end of next month. Provided the wasps leave them alone of course.

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn Harvest

The sweet corn is now ready for harvesting, this is the first time we have grown sweet corn and to be honest I was not certain of any success with it. I put our ‘luck’ down to a very warm spring and early summer,  just what the young plants needed to put on steady growth. I hand pollinated the silks by tapping the tassels to release the pollen, as well as running my hands over the tassels and then over the silks. Not sure if this helped or not, the hoverflies and bees were just as interested.

For me, I would describe the taste as not that different to shop bought corn cobs, but oh, how juicy! I will certainly try and grow corn again next season, its well worth the wait.

Chicken Dramas and Intros

Hope

It’s all been going on here.

The two new hens that joined us in May were not in the best of health, that’s battery farming for you. They have been very poorly indeed, lots of worry, lots of medicines and lots of finger crossing lately. They were suffering from a number of illnesses, the first one to come to light was brachyspira, becoming more common now in laying flocks. Just when things were calming down and looking promising for the pair, one of them was struck down with coccidiosis. Off her legs and passing blood, she really was on death’s door. More testing and meds from my saviours, Retford Poultry and once again we were on the home straight. Then, just when things were on the up, an egg drama reared its ugly head almost cruelly finishing off the other hen. She became egg bound which then burst inside her. I intervened in the end and helped her ‘deliver’ the mangled mass of shell which was well and truly stuck, managing to get it all from her in one large piece while she passed the yolk contents. Very messy indeed but also very necessary, many egg bound hens die.

I can safely say these ordeals have certainly added a few grey hairs to my locks and ribbons to my chicken CV. But most importantly, I have not been put off chicken keeping or keeping ex battery hens for that matter. They are little fighters and have such a zest for life, grabbing each new day by the throat and really going for it, despite already being weak and ravished by the battery system from which they came. A few months down the line and they both appear to be making a very good recovery, once again beating the ‘system’ and that makes me smile inside.

They have been introduced to their new friends and all went well, not too much fighting but of course being armed with meal worms really does help matters! Chickens are calmer as night draws in so sometimes it is easier to introduce new chickens by putting them in the coop with the others to sleep, then removing the new hens the following morning whilst keeping them within sight but out of reach for a few days, repeating the night-time process. Chickens are like us, they recognise faces and seeing the new hens regularly will help with the introductions. Once a new pecking order has been established the chickens will all be happier. When you are satisfied that fighting is minimal and not serious, they can be left together permanently.

I’m certainly no chicken expert, I keep a small flock of  ‘damaged goods’ hens packed with big characters that help me learn and gain new experiences all the time – not all bad either, most of the time they have me howling with laughter. Ex battery hens can DO that, they are infectious. I’m happy to share with others if it helps at all (not the howling) the knowledge and experience that sometimes manages to wedge its way in. Hopefully the two new hens, Becki and Hope will stick around for a while longer yet. Got to give it to them, they certainly enjoy life even though it has thrown a few cruel punches at times.

The Plot Thickens – Bring on the Digger!

Don’t turn your back on freshly dug earth……

It could turn into this nightmare……

bindweed

We took our eye off the ball with the remainder of the plot and look……. a jungle! Drowning in a sea of bindweed and other annoying weeds, our orchard area was looking bad, very bad indeed. Fear not, the weeds have since been dealt with! Actually, we cheated a bit. The mini digger we ordered to level the ground got to work on most of the weeds and root systems, only a little hand digging was needed to finish off. We don’t feel bad about not putting the man power in, we did a lot of digging and swearing just getting the brambles out. The plot has now been levelled and a brand spanking new fence has been erected which is helping to keep the Muntjac deer off the veggies. The little darlings managed to munch their way through half of the broad beans, but that’s OK, I’m not a huge fan of broad beans anyway.

Digger

The young plum tree we planted a while ago is doing well, no fruit this year but its putting on lots of growth, however, the apple trees are laden with fruit. I’m still thinning them to help their young branches cope with the weight before they snap, as well as providing support by way of bamboo cane framework. I’m looking around at pear trees at the moment, a pear tree would be nice to add to the collection. Any recommendations?

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