Tuesday, June 8, 2021


 Just a few days ago we were commiserating with poor little broody hen Cookie who had dedicated so much time and effort to sitting on a clutch of duck eggs which just hadn't hatched.  Duck eggs take a full week longer than chicken eggs to hatch, and she'd been trying to brood for a few weeks before we actually gave her any to sit on, so she's been extremely patient.  But to our surprise, about three days after their due date, two little peeps were spotted in the chick house!

Mother Cookie is very experienced in hatching and raising a family, but we do wonder what she thinks of these funny little "chicks."  She's treating them just like she has all her other children--and they know she's their mother--so everything is working out just fine.  

I'm not totally sure, but it's possible that these two little ducklings are even cuter than chicks.  Here's hoping they get ugly soon so I don't feel too bad about eating one or both of them;  maybe they're both girls and get a free pass?  We kind of think one might be, but it's hard to tell at this age.

The two new Cherry Valley ducks are enclosed with the other three in their large yard in the Perennials section, but are still very wary of both us and the old ducks, who were spotted trying to drown one in the half-filled pond.  We've let the pond empty and will keep it that way until we're sure everyone is friendly--or at least neutral.  The new ones are mostly keeping under cover in the very back corner.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Food totals, May 2021

21.5 oz purple sprouting broccoli
17.5 oz salad greens (chard, miners lettuce, lettuce, arugula, mizuna)
3.5 oz turnips
46 oz chard
8 oz leeks
20.5 oz iceberg lettuce
0.5 oz oyster mushrooms 

Total: 117.5 oz, or 7 lb 5 oz

No fruit harvested

123 eggs from 10 adult birds

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Two more ducks

We had a last minute offer to pick up a couple more rescue ducks this week, so we took a box and off we went on an adventure.  We could have got more than just two but our broody hen Cookie is sitting on four of our own duck eggs, due to hatch on the 31st which is less than a week away.  We don't know if they will hatch, but we don't want to be overrun with ducks just in case they do!

However we are very clear with ourselves (and especially the son) that we are eating any boy ducks.  We already have two, and that's too many.  Our older female (her sister died last year) is overmated as it is, and it's not fair on her.  Hence the need for a few more females.  Thankfully the males give up on mating over the winter, so at least she gets a break then.  

Our two new ducks are Cherry Valley ducks (our other female is a Campbell and the males are of unknown heritage:  mutt ducks).  They are very wary of us, just as the to Campbells were when we got them, but it's understandable;  they've been locked up in a barn their whole lives and not been handled at all.  It took several months for the Campbells to get accustomed to us without running away in a panic--the remaining one isn't friendly, but at least she's not particularly scared any more.

The original three are currently free ranging while the two new ones are quarantined in the chicken yard;  the chickens are at the allotment.  I actually am planning on bringing the chickens back home this weekend so we might play musical yards and switch everyone around:  all the ducks in their own yard and the chickens in theirs.  Luckily ducks aren't sharp like chickens so hopefully integration won't be too painful for them.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Gardening in May

 I had a really good look at the trays holding the hazel seedlings and found one tiny slug hiding--is it responsible for the lack of hazel sprouts?  After dispatching said slug I also moved the pots to a different location.  Hope some of them can manage to emerge now.  And one batch of French beans really were moldy--they just went soft;  the other batch got planted out at the allotment at the weekend, and I put some very prickly gorse trimmings on top of the rows in an effort to deter mice digging them up again.  I hope to get the runner beans in within the week too:  I've cut up another pile of gorse trimmings.

I've been trying to hand weed the beets and other root veg I sowed in the kitchen garden.  I really should have put down a string between two sticks to mark the rows, so I could hoe them!  As it is, I'm pulling by hand very carefully and I can only identify beets and turnips (or possibly kohlrabi).  The weeds are mainly self sown mizuna, chard and poppies and they come up pretty easily.  I have a little more unsown space left, which I have hoed a few times, trying to clear away enough so that not quite as many unwanted seedlings pop up later.  Maybe I'll mark these rows clearly.

My summer veg seedlings on the kitchen windowsill are all up, and a few trays have gone outside for acclimatization:  two kinds of climbing beans and some sweetcorn.  All the rest are still a little small and the temps are still a little cool (around 15C during the day).  

I think the main gardening effort has now been made;  it's time to mop up those last little jobs (transplanting mainly), and then move on to maintenance until harvest time.

Monday, May 10, 2021

French beans and hazel seeds

 After a largely dry April, we're back into some rain.  The rain barrels are finally full again, and the soil is damp.  Only last week I could let the daughter loose at the allotment and only have to worry about dusting her off at the end;  but two days ago she found herself a big puddle to sit in (and try drinking from! eek) and there was no dusting that off.  She's walking independently at last and we now have to keep an eye on her there--while she still enjoys sitting and digging, she also wants to explore.

I think it's also finally turned warm enough to start getting the French and runner beans in.  We also had a lot of frost in April, and though we had a mid-May frost last year (unheard of!) I'm pretty confident that was just a freak and won't be a regular thing.  I've been gardening here for 16 years now and that's been the first May frost I've seen;  I'm happy to start transplanting.  

However, some of the French beans I put on to sprout just look like they're going moldy.  I hope they do something--a little bit of mold shouldn't hurt, but obviously not if they aren't germinating.  I've got two trays of them now sprouting in paper tubes though, so all is not lost.  I didn't get any French beans last year:  I think the slugs ate all the seedlings after I transplanted them at the allotment. 

The runner bean seeds aren't yet germinating either, but don't look very moldy either, thankfully.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  The slugs also ate the first batch of runner beans I'd transplanted, but I started a late second batch, and also had a small batch at home--not quite so many slugs here, thanks to the ducks.

Incidently, some of the hazel seeds I'd stratified over winter did start to sprout;  I  potted them up in March but they're still not doing much.  One finally sent up a shoot, only for something to nip off its newly emerging leaves.  A slug?  I don't know.  I can see some roots growing out of the bottom of a couple pots, but no other shoots. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Food totals, April 2021

10.5 oz salad greens (lettuce, miners lettuce, chard, mizuna, radicchio)
5.5 oz iceberg lettuce
27.5 oz leeks
1 oz oyster mushrooms
14 oz purple sprouting broccoli
4.5 oz kale
57 oz squash (last of the 2020 harvest)
25 oz chard
1.5 oz red cabbage

Total: 146.5 oz, or 9 lb 2.5 oz
No fruit harvested this month
144 eggs from 10 adult birds

Monday, April 26, 2021

Getting the allotment into shape

All the action is at the allotment right now:  the most exciting thing happening at home is the kitchen window filled up with seed trays--most of which will be planted out at the allotment!  Some seedlings in the kitchen garden are sprouting (pretty much all root veg this year) but it's mainly a waiting game here;  the allotment's where it's at.  Warning:  allotment photos to follow!

An allotment mulched with straw, a person in the background
The view from the allotment track, Apr 2021
And yet, I'm still only getting work done at the weekends.  The son, daughter and I manage to walk up in the mornings before school for chicken chores:  feed, water, collect eggs.  I try to dig a few clumps of grass for them before we leave and the son might water a few things, but there's no time to tarry;  he's got school and I've got to get Joy to childcare and myself to work.  The husband generally does the evening chicken check after work, and he will dig a few more grass clumps and/or water as well.  That's it for weekdays.

However, we try to get a good couple hours in at the weekends.  This past weekend I cleared the remains of the leek bed of grass/weeds and spread compost over the top.  I also sheet mulched another (small) grassy bed further down with cardboard, paper feed sacks and straw on top.  I also put down a few dozen sticks for the peas to climb up;  they're just emerging now, both snap peas and regular ones.  

Raspberry canes and a partial tool shed at the allotment, Apr 2021

And the husband put together a ramshackle tool shed out of odds and ends we'd scavenged from the allotment rubbish heap and our own garage.  He also dug out a wheelbarrow of compost and topped up the newest bin with fresh horse manure from the stables on site.

We are still eating the last small leeks, a few lettuces, and the somewhat scanty purple sprouting broccoli.  The garlic and broad beans are looking sturdy and some of the strawberries are beginning to flower.  Next month I'll hopefully be planting out the summer veg:  pumpkins, sweetcorn, French and runner beans, and more;  and a little later on I should be transplanting the autumn and winter brassicas.  It's shaping up to be a good season. 

Two rows of leeks growing
A few leeks left, Apr 2021