Fruit Garden

An Underground Surprise

foundations

Not a nice surprise at that.

On attempting to get our mini orchard off to a flying start by planting some of the fruit trees recently purchased, (including our rather lovely Scrumptious apple) we hit something hard with our spades, lurking just below the lawn. “Oh, it’s just a large stone” I said in hope. Surely it couldn’t be anymore loose bricks and rubble? We have already dug up enough of those from the vegetable garden plot to build a small house. OK maybe a slight exaggeration, but there are rather a lot of them.

On attempting to dig a little to the left, then a little to the right of the offending hard mass, we still hit it. We kept trying by going a lot further from the area but it was no good. “More bricks here then Rich, better get these out”.

Easier said than done. On further investigation which generally involved lots of probing and prodding with our forks whilst pulling very miserable looking faces, frowning and generally looking fed up, we had no choice but to keep trying to dig around the area until we found a way down and into the soil to lift the bricks out. At last we managed to find some soft ground and started to dig down, only to find the hidden foundations of a previous outbuilding. Oh no!

Looks like an earthquake

It all started to make sense. Whoever pulled down this building obviously buried all the bricks into what is now our vegetable garden, then chose to leave the foundations, fill them in, turf and forget about it. The foundations go down at least four bricks deep, on top of a thick layer of cement in a trench. We have removed the first two layers of bricks but we have to remove it all. Trouble is it gets more difficult the further down you go. Starting to see why they were buried and forgotten. Grrrrrr.

At least our kids had fun sitting on the foundations!  So, we soldier on with this setback and hope to get the trees planted very soon.

J & J playing on foundations as kids do

Bring back bramble roots, all is forgiven!!

Vegetable Garden

Seedlings and What We Are Sowing Now

sweetcorn seedlings

I love sowing seeds and waiting for them to germinate, be it vegetable or flowers it doesn’t matter, I find the waiting equally as rewarding. The sign of life within the soil, a little green seedling looking for the light. I’ve had a bash at sowing sweet corn, all the seeds germinated and the young seedlings are looking nice and healthy so far. I cannot wait to plant these out once the danger of frost is over. The height, the flowers, the crop that these seedlings hopefully will bring is very exciting to say the least. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Sweet corn is wind pollinated, planting in blocks rather than rows will increase the chances of successful pollination.

Other sowings this week have been tomatoes, courgettes and chillies, now cooking away in the propagator. Our chillies did reasonably well last year, although they refused to redden until brought inside. Sprouts and cauliflower are doing well in the outside mini greenhouse. Runner beans are next on the list for sowing as well as peas, beets, carrots and parsnips.

pots of seed

So far I have resisted buying in vegetable seedlings whilst browsing around mums local (and very reasonable) nursery. Who knows, it could all go boobies up and I may need to rush back there after all.

Uncategorized

Themes

I have been playing around with a few of the WordPress themes recently, apologies if the blog is different each time its viewed. However, im happy with this new theme. I think…..

;)

Pets

Piggies

Cookie & Muffin

Not Kune Kune pigs unfortunately, but you can find plenty of those over at Jo’s blog – Bring Me Sunshine. For now, our pigs are of the small furry pet variety. Meet Cookie and Muffin, 2 baby guinea pig sows. Aren’t they just adorable?

Vegetable Garden

Triumphant Bramble Diggers

vegetable garden so far

Oh yes, the sweet smell of success is finally in the air.  After many weeks, days and long hours, blood (quite literally, those bramble thorns are evil) sweat and near to tears we have at last rid the vegetable garden plot of those wretched brambles. And the roots. Yeee ha!

There are now 2 workable and very usable vegetable beds, already planted up with second early potatoes, onion sets, garlic and broad beans. What a difference it makes to be able to see the fruits of our very hard labour come together, to actually be able to get out there and sow, rather than wade through 12 feet of brambles. Fantastic. Another 2 beds will be finished by this weekend, then bed number 5 will be next on the list to get into position. This will still leave a lot of space free so we need to make up our minds if another fruit tree will take position or to go for more beds. Hmmm decisions.

broad bean

There’s still lots of work do, more agony to place upon our already aching muscles and limbs. We are not even half way through the whole plot that we have allocated for vegetable and soft fruit growing, but, the fact that the brambles roots are all out, thats got to make the whole process a little easier. Nettles are still a problem in next section of the plot, there are lots of them and those roots are just mind blowing. Its like an underground spaghetti frenzy going on. We are finding that digging at least a foot of the top soil is removing the runners, then, digging down a little further reveals the backbone of it all. Its hard going but its getting somewhere now, looking like a vegetable garden, behaving as a vegetable garden, which makes it all worth while really.

To improve the soil and feed it we have been using organic vegetable compost, those greedy bramble roots must have really taken it out of the soil even though its fully workable and seems quite reasonable considering. We have been composting like mad since moving into the property in November, sadly our own homemade compost is not quite ready to use just yet. Its going to be left to rot down, hopefully to be used this autumn. The hens oblige everyday with fresh droppings and we are actually running out of room to compost it all. My parents are now getting lots of free bags of straw and chicken poop till we get our act together and make wooden compost bins from the free pallets that we have been collecting. Anyone fancy some free bags of poo?

Flower Garden

Colour of the Season. Yellow!

forsythia

It’s all very ‘sunshine yellow’ out there in the garden smallholding. Forsythia, daffodils and spring primroses (or should that be Primula?) all competing with each other for the best and brightest shade of jaune. I just adore daffodils and was pleased to see a good number of them poking their way through the soil in January /February. I prefer the shorter wind tolerant varieties such as Tete-Tete, a strong wind is sure to arrive just as the taller varieties of daffodils burst from their buds. The garden ends up looking like a scene from a hurricane movie with sad-looking beaten up daffodils.

daffodils

Which varieties do you grow?

Fruit Garden

Apple Scrumptious

Apple 'Scrumptious'

We have been looking around for more apple trees to join our young Cox’s Orange Pippin. After some research we decided on Discovery, still debating on a few others.

Discovery was proving difficult to get on the rootstock that we wanted, so we had a chat with the fruit buyer at our local garden centre. He pointed out a tree that we had not heard of before. Scrumptious, a modern early variety. Its parentage includes Discovery, the fruit it produces are red which ticks the box for fruit colour that we wished for. As its name suggests, the fruit is said to excel on flavour. A self fertile tree with good disease resistance as well as  frost resistant blossom. We were told to expect some fruit this year from this young tree so we shall see how it does.

Chickens

When Brenda Met Dolly

Brenda and Dolly

Dolly is the hen on the right. She was a battery hen nearly 12 months ago. She has always been very petite, so when Brenda (ex battery hen of nearly 4 weeks) came over to say hello, Dolly stood up as tall as she could and puffed out her chest……

…..and decided to chest barge Brenda. Charming!

Wildlife

Sunshine Spells Butterflies

 small tortoiseshell

I’m loving this sunny warm weather. Its doing the chickens good, the garden is coming alive bursting with fresh spring colour, buds are appearing on deciduous shrubs and the butterflies are flying again.

Last Sunday was particularly warm. We have a large patch of overgrown nettles which were attracting lots of fresh Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. I have not managed to get a photo of a Brimstone in focus, wow they are fast.

Roll on summer!

Chickens

Hen Progress so Far – Latest Photos

Chrissie enjoying the sunshine

Apologies for not updating the blog recently, its been kinda busy round here lately with one thing or another. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete all the tasks / jobs that need doing. I will be honest, the new ex battery hens have taken up a lot of my spare time, but, I chose to dedicate this time to their care and needs. Its been hard going with them lately, a lot of worrying and finger crossing moments. They are very very worn out little girls and will take a lot more of my spare time to get them to a stage where I don’t feel the urge to keep checking on them, just in case.

 Auntie Marge

Chrissie has been doing OK recently with regards to laying. She has been putting smashed eggs into the nest box, which to most would not be OK at all, but I see it as a huge improvement to how she was. Since rescue day she had been passing 2 soft eggs at a time roughly every 3 days, which of course is not doing her the world of good and making her feel pretty awful. Aside from her egg system blips I am pleased overall with how she is progressing. She has gained a little bit of weight, not much, but enough for me to notice. Chrissie appears to be top hen, I had my money on Auntie Marge being the triumphant one. Her crop occasionally doesn’t empty properly in the morning, so I do spend a lot of time sorting that out. She is one brave little lady, even taking on Emily, the largest hen from our other flock whilst free ranging amongst the bigger girls. They had to be split up ASAP but Chrissie did not want to back down. Just goes to prove how tough ex battery hens have to be, to survive.

Chrissie

Auntie Marge, well what can I say about this very comical little hen? Apart from being extremely greedy she makes the most of her new found freedom by not wanting to miss a thing. She is very inquisitive, fast on her legs and will jump very high to grab at anything you may be holding in your hands. Even if its not food! She is still very very bald but starting to produce feathers here and there.

Brenda

Last but by no means least is Brenda. She had been doing very well but she has been a bit poorly the last few days, again egg related. I’m on to it and she seems to be OK at the moment. So there we have it, 4 weeks this Sunday out of the battery farm. We are still very sad about losing Shazzy, thank you to everyone who left us a comment about her.

I shall end this post with a photo of Auntie Marge, enjoying the sunshine warming her bones.

Auntie Marge, sleeping in the warm sunshine

Chickens

Goodbye Shazzy

Shazzy 28th Feb 09
 
Shazzy, one of our new ex battery hens freed on 22nd February 2009 has been very poorly. Yesterday her condition worsened, she could not breathe easily, was gasping and making such a noise each time she inhaled it was heartbreaking. We had a vet appointment already booked for her to be seen yesterday evening, which helped to ease our minds as we were very concerned about her breathing and we also suspected EYP. Our vet confirmed our fears. Shazzy was suffering from EYP – Egg Yolk Peritonitis (laying internally) and the respiratory infection that we were already treating her for had not responded to the medication from before, in fact it had got worse.
 
Our vet thinks these 2 ‘conditions’ were secondary and that she most likely had a tumour. She was very very weak, falling asleep as she was being examined and struggling to breathe. We did hope that we could manage her EYP (some hens can cope well) but everything else about her was not up to it.
We had to say goodbye to Shazzy last night. Our vet felt it would be cruel to allow her to continue and advised us to allow her to be PTS. She had 2 weeks of freedom.
 
Another victim of the battery system.
 
I feel so sad and so helpless that I could not make her strong. I wish we had more time with her, it does my head in. WHY WHY WHY??
 
Goodbye sweet Shazzy, you have been loved and you will be missed.
Chickens

Children and Chickens

Lily & Our Children

We have quite a few animals here, including fancy rats. Our children have a responsibility to feed the rabbits and the rats…..on rare occasions they find the enthusiasm to feed the dog. Sometimes.

When the chickens need feeding their afternoon grain or eggs need collecting, I don’t have to ask twice. Marvellous. They enjoy spending time with the chickens, which I think is refreshing. It gets them outside in the fresh air, away from the TV and PlayStation thingy ma-bobby. Chickens make great pets and are intelligent as well as educational, the children think its hilarious when they see the chickens marching off to bed one by one in single file fashion as soon as dusk comes.

 I do believe the chickens enjoy their company too.

Vegetable Garden

Sowing and Growing

Germination

A quick update on how the vegetable garden is progressing and what we are now sowing and growing. We had gravel boards delivered on Sunday with every intention of getting some frames built, but due to terrible weather conditions this was not possible to finish. We did get some more digging and weeding done, as well as digging in tons of organic matter to feed the soil.

The broad beans we potted up are germinating nicely on the window sill and are ready to plant out. Our garlic is going great guns, fingers crossed tightly that the very frosty weather recently has helped the cloves to split, seeing as we potted them up late. We are now sowing Brussels sprouts, sweet corn and cauliflower. Once the beds are completed the potatoes will be planted out as well as 2 varieties of onion sets.

The photo is a runner bean germinating from last year. We will be starting our runners off in pots this year, rather than sowing directly into the ground due to a terrible time with the seed beans being eaten below soil level. This meant we had to do a very late sowing of runners in pots and hope for the best. Due to a warm snap at the end of summer we were lucky to get a couple of harvests, but this year we hope to harvest a lot more.

We’re not lucky enough to have a glass greenhouse so windowsill space is getting tight. We purchased a mini greenhouse, yeah we know they are a bit flimsy but it helps out with sowing space!

Vegetable Garden

Digging, Weeding and Fires

fire

Yesterday we spent a lot of time in the vegetable garden and mini orchard area, clearing up as much of the twigs, branches and debris as possible by way of a good fire. Although we did clear a lot, we still have a fair few piles of it to burn.

The brambles are all cut down and there are only a few roots left in the ground, due for removal today. Hopefully we will have time to get some boards assembled to make frames. A quarter of the veg plot has been well dug over and weeded within an inch of its life. This area is now ready to receive some well rotted organic matter once the frames are in place. Then, we can sow!

veg plot dug over

No rest for the wicked, best get back out there and DIG!