Two exciting bits of news to start with. First, I saw three swallows on Monday afternoon (25th) swooping over our field. They were just passing through but it’s great to know they’re on their way back from their winter hols and I’m hoping they’ll bring us a bit of African sunshine. Second, a potato has popped up in the polytunnel so we will have some early earlies after all, and I am smiling this morning! 🙂
Talking of things that make me smile, meet Pica: our neighbour Daniel’s dog and self-appointed gardening companion.
She spends a lot of time ‘helping’ us outside – I use the term very loosely as most of the time she just rummages about looking for field mice and grass snakes. She has a great character (you need to think Grommit here) but she and I have fallen out over the fact that she has no respect for seedbeds whatsoever. I’ve had to make a temporary barrier from hazel and willow wands to stop her dancing up and down the parsnip row every time she comes into the garden. I’m sure the willow will strike and we will end up with a living fence we don’t need but if that’s what it takes, so be it. We’ve just had one parsnip-less winter and I really don’t want another.
It’s been a ‘sorting out’ sort of week here and we’ve got on top of some major jobs that have needed doing for some time. Roger has laid a long hedge in the orchard, coppicing several mature hazels in the process.
He says he wouldn’t win any prizes for technique but it looks a hundred times better than it did and should thicken up into a decent hedgerow now. We had a big bonfire to clear the brushwood and winter apple tree prunings, having saved the best bits of wood for barbecues when it warms up a bit.
We’ve also been busy cutting, stacking and hauling logs and it’s good to see the wood store gradually growing. The wood-burning range we installed last summer has kept us snug all winter and is fantastic to cook on. It goes so well, we’ve nicknamed it ‘The Beast’ but like all large animals it has a hearty appetite! With a shed full of logs and a good range of winter veg, we should be able to enjoy plenty of roast roots, stuffed squash and cheesy leek bakes when the need for comfort food comes round again.
Yesterday we cleared out the barn which has a carpet of several inches of well-rotted muck and straw. I spent all afternoon barrowing it out into the garden and making a couple of huge heaps. I love that kind of job, it’s good physical work that is always satisfying (I did reward myself with a large glass of Merlot last night!). We won’t have any ‘manure’ worries for a couple of years now.
The cold weather is becoming very frustrating, we had one heck of a frost last night which even got into the polytunnel. We are having to tuck everything up in fleece and light a paraffin heater every evening, luckily we haven’t lost anything (yet). When the sun does break through – wow, what a difference! The air suddenly hums with insects, including delicate yellow brimstone butterflies and bumble bees as big as shrews. We counted five different kinds of bee on the grape hyacinth and violas, including a very dark honey bee. That reminded me to get a shift on and finish building the frames for the ‘bait’ hive to go out in the orchard before the swarming season kicks off. I’m not sure what French bees will make of a ‘rosbif’ hive but it’s got to be worth a try.
Although things in the garden are slow, everything continues to rocket up in the propagators. It’s the first time I’ve grown vegetableseeds.net seeds and I’m fascinated at how they seem to push and jostle to be first up every time. The ‘Sweet Dumpling’ squash, ‘Crystal Lemon’ cucs, ‘Red Bull’ Brussels sprouts, ‘Long Red Marconi’ peppers and ‘Bulgarian Orange’ chillies have all germinated several days ahead of their counterparts from other companies. Is this normal behaviour or just beginner’s luck? I’m hoping it bodes well for all the seeds I have left to plant, including my package of blogging voucher seeds – of which, more next week!