Pawprints, parsnips and pushy seedlings

 

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.

Pica: pawprints or parsnips?

 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.

Hedge laying: work in progress…

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.

…and finished!

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.

A sight to gladden the heart.

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.

For some women, it’s flowers; for others, it’s chocolates. Me? I just love a load of muck.

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.

What will the bees think? Maybe the ornate hive stand (made from an old French wardrobe) will tempt them in.

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!

There’s no holding this lot back.

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2 thoughts on “Pawprints, parsnips and pushy seedlings

  1. Hello, Happy Easter! That is fantastic news that you saw swallows. I think Pica the dog looks very cute but I understand how frustrating it is when dogs don’t have any respect for seedlings, we have some midnight rabbits that seem creep off the river bank near us looking for tasty seedlings to eat.
    The hedge that Roger laid looks fantastic, what a good job & fantastic that you now have logs for the beast to use 🙂 we have a wood burning stove at our house too, which seems to be on rather alot at the moment, as it currently has been the coldest March in 50 years in the UK/Norfolk where we live, at least the snow has now disappeared that we had last week!
    I agree that the physical work of mulching the land is really good and it makes it feel like spring has arrived. I like to have a little look at the plants coming/bulbs as I mulch.
    That is brilliant that you have already seen 5 honey bees! We have two bee hives at the moment. I was a bit worried for the bees due to all the cold weather but the sun managed to shine for a few hours on Easter day today, which was delightful and I did spot some bees flying, so that really is good news! I really like your old french wairdrobe bee hive stand, that really is resourcefulness at its best.
    That’s great your seeds are all doing well, I think it’s all that tender loving care. I have yet to plant my vegblog seeds yet but I am looking forward to doing so over the coming weeks.
    I really liked reading your french blog and looking at the pictures, thank you.

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    • Hello, Happy Easter to you, too! Thank you so much for your kind comments. I’m glad that your bees are ok, it’s been a hard winter for them, hasn’t it? In fact, it’s been a hard winter for everyone and very frustrating for us gardening types. My neighbour Rolande told me yesterday that we are getting our weather from Norway and Sweden when by now it should be coming up from Spain and Morocco. We’re not as cold as Norfolk but cold enough! Hope you have some warmth and sunshine soon.
      Best wishes,
      Lis

      Like

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