A quick update

Just a quickie to note I planted 3 courgettes stations (F1 Zucchini) and one third of a row (10ft) of beetroot (F1 Kestrel) today, both from Dobies. The Zucchini I planted 2 feet apart, about an inch under soil, 2 to each station and on their sides. I’ve also covered them with cloches. This is a little test as last year one of my two cloches didn’t sprout and I ended up resowing some seeds, which seemed to do almost as well, if not as well, as the early starters. I’ve planted 3 stations today, and in a month’s time after the frost I’ll plant another 3 stations not under cloches, to see what happens.

The beetroot advised me to sow thinly then thin out to 4″ apart, but to be honest, the cost of F1 seeds made me feel that I’ll sow every seed every 4″ and I’ll see what the germination rate is like.

Other than that I watered everything as it’s been dry here for about a week now and the ground is beginning to crack, and I re-hoed the spare earth again to bring more weedlings to the surface to dry out…mwahahah.

Moving Piles of Poo & Dirt…

Today Suz & I donned thick gloves for one of those jobs that just needs to be done, but no one really wants to volunteer for it. The year old horse poo and acumulated top soil needed barrowing to their new home in the allotment. 2 hours later and only every-so-slightly dirtier we’d managed it. It looks a bit odd to see a compost bin and two containers of soil and do-do sat in the middle of a flat expanse.

I also planted out 3 more rows of potatoes – our second earlies (Kestrel and Cara) and our main crops of King Edwards and Desiree. On account of my rather dubious counting ability ( I’d run out of fingers) we have space for another 90 seed potatoes, so I need to find some quickly to fill the gap before the weeds take hold!

Chickens rehomed :)

With the paddock area now fenced off I could set to work moving the chooks’ coop and run into it – fresh grass for one and all! I started by stripping down the coop, cleaning it thoroughly with a Jeye’s fluid dilution and then repainting it with a water-based wood preserver which would dry before they were rehomed in it for the evening. I then dug up the run, which has a mesh skirt all around it to deter digging animals – foxes in particular. This skirt goes down about 6 inches, then out perpendicular to the ground by about a foot. The run was then carried (dragged) by yours truly to its new home on the east-facing wall, so the chooks get the benefit of the morning sun but won’t cook ( in the warmer afternoon sun come summertime. It’s going to be so much better than their current north-facing location which ended up a bit of a mire.

For now I’m using temporary netting to contain them, but on my ever-expanding list of things-to-do we’ll put in fence posts on which we can hang chicken net hurdles. These will partition them off from one grazing paddock to the next, so we can alternate them every 6 weeks to keep down risk of disease, and we can remove them completely if we open it to sheep grazing in the future. We’re thinking of also planting some half-standard fruit trees here as well, for some shelter.

I have to say, they do love their new home, like pigs in muck…except they’re chickens…on grass…

Let the Fencing Begin!

Glorious sunshine glooped down, puffy clouds sidled by and the delightful chords of a diesel engine trumpeted the arrival of a whopping great tractor and accompanying post piler, along with Clive and JB, the men-at-arms, and Amber, the dog-in-charge.

There isn’t really much to comment on except that copious amounts of tea and biccies were consumed, posts were driven and sheep netting/barbed wire was fastened, so that the paddock area at the back is now safe for John next door to put his sheep, and we can wander down to the acre field with impunity regards evil sheepses. We also have a couple of 5-bar gates to swing on…weeeee!!…

We’ve also laid new turf in the rabbit run, which is being watered daily to help it take root.

Digging for Easter Eggs…

…I wish! A call from the fencing contractor means we might have a paddock fence sometime next week, so the rush was on to level the 2 foot step from the paddock to the main field. Gary and Liz next door needed to level it as it crossed a vegetable plot in their land, and we needed to level it as it would prove rather inconvenient to jump 2 feet every time we wanted to enter the field!

The other problem with this border is that it’s the lowest level in that corner of the field and in heavy rain we end  up with a decent pond – not something you want on your entrance or veggie patch. Our solution was to collectively remove the headland strip from the main field, which was about 5′ across and 1′ deep, and drop the soil into the ditch in the water logged paddock to raise it. Before we did any moving of soil we needed to lift the turf so we could reuse it, and peel back the existing fence (sheep netting and barbed wire) on the border so we could shovel the soil across.

On removing the turf we thought it would be a good time to see just how deep the surface water level is around by us. We know we’re in a 100 year flood plain, but the farmers like the land as whilst it does get wet in heavy downpours, there’s enough flint in the soil to help it drain quickly. The soil is also sandy loam, so good for growing most things 🙂 We dug down and no sooner had we dug a spade’s depth in the lower levelled paddock did we hit water. This means our houses are only about 3 feet above surface water level – admittedly after it’s been constantly raining. We felt quite cheery about this as one of the plans is to build a well for us all to use. We have them dotted around us in fields and front gardens, but the pump outside ours was removed a while ago, so we thought we’d put a new one in to the rear of the cottages. To be honest, for irrigation purposes, we could probably get away with digging a pond! The water level is so high as we are in the Trent Wash and, as someone pointed out to us, only 25% of the water travelling down the valley is visible in the river – the rest moves through the ground! So what we were actually looking at was the River Trent running under our feet! Sure enough, when we dug a channel out we could see, as it filled slowly, that the current was ever-so-slightly running in the same direction as the river over a mile away! We dug this channel out to about 3 feet below our final level and filled it 12″ high with flint pebbles we’d rescued from our vegetable patches. We then backfilled it with almost 2′ of top soil from the headland and replaced the turf. We hope this will help that part of the paddock to drain quicker, but we know with the extra foot of soil we’ve added that the water level is at least 2′ below now, so great for roots but won’t sit high enough to water-log our root veg.

All of this took 2 solid days of digging and moving the soil, but it sure was worth it! Gary and Liz now have a flat vegetable patch and we have a smooth-ish transition from the paddock to Acre Field.

On other fronts, the tomatoes inside are almost ready to pot into individual pots, the cucumbers are showing their faces, as are the marigolds and nasturtiums, and I believe some lettuce outside are peeking out! Things are happening 🙂 We also have around 25 house sparrows, up from 5 the first year we moved in. We put this down to no more cats that the previous owner had, extra sparrow boxes we’ve put up, and regular seed being put out by Suz. Excellent!

Our two new chickens are now laying as well, so we’re getting around 18 eggs a week at the moment which is plenty!

Last but not least, a coupe of shots of the rear of the cottages as another reminder of what they used to look like 🙂

Trench Digging

More is explained in the next post, but the essence of the Easter weekend task list was to level the step from the paddock field to the acre field. Suz and I are going to have a gate put in and need it level, and Gary and Liz are going to have a vegetable plot spanning the change in height which is about 2′ at the moment. The downside is also that it happens to be a rather natty water trap in that it sits so low on the paddock side, so the plan is to move the higher headland from the field-side to the lower ditch on the paddock side. Much spade work methinks.

Suz’s dad, Colin, came along to help out – not sure he knew we were planning on digging but it just so happened that we had a spare spade. How lucky.

We needed to remove all the turf from both sides, to resuse once we’d shifted the soil. Then we had to move the soil from one area to another, and replace the turf. The big ‘but’ was that once the turf was removed from the paddock side, we dug a further 2 feet down to below the surface water level (you can see the water lying in the dug trench), to produce a long trench  running along the boundary between the two fields. We’ll fill this with the flint pebbles we’ve griddled from both of our allotment patches – we have buckets of thin things!

Rabbits and Raspberries

I’ve mentioned we’ve turned half of the old veggie patch into a seed bed and somewhere for salad veg, but I’d neglected to mention that the other half is going to be a new home for a couple of pet rabbits. So the Easter weekend’s first job was to build a new partition fence, leaving enough space for a gate I’m reusing from the chicken run once  they move to the paddock. We’ve also found a good supplier of chicken wire and weld mesh locally, at Pukka Pens, in Stanton by Bridge. The only thing left to do is to buy the turf and lay it. The cabbages in the foreground were casualties, the rest will follow soon…<sniff>

Last spring I planted 5 autumn fruiting raspberry canes in the border to the side of the now-rabbit-run, and 10 summer fruiting canes. I’d also tried to construct a wire support structure using locally scavenged crack willow, but as I’ve now found out, crack willow cracks and snaps. Didn’t really need to be a genius to figure that out I guess. So having been faced with droopy raspberries every time we come home (do you know how disturbing  that is?), I made it my second job this weekend to do something better for my soft fruit. The result is 3 x 8 foot posts dug 2 foot into the ground, with support posts and wire tensioned between. I also have enough materials to build another 30′ stretch in the new vegetable patch once I get the fruit netting in place. Is it possible to get sick of raspberries?

For those who don’t know, autumn fruiting raspberries fruit on the current year’s growth – so after they fruited the previous autumn you should have cut them right back, and the new growth the following spring will bear fruit. Summer fruiting raspberries differ in that they fruit on last year’s growth – so you don’t cut back the new growth of the previous year as that’s where the fruit will be the following year, but you *do* cut back any growth that has already bourne fruit. Simples. The shot to the right shows summer-fruiting rasberry canes that grew last year. You’ll likely get too many canes popping  up so cut out all but the strongest 2-4 and tie them to the wires. The wires need to be spaced at 2, 4 and 6 feet from the ground. We’ve also pinched out the tips of these raspberries to encourage side growth.