Sunday, 31 January 2016

Now That's a Turnip!

I have recently heard at least three people say they get confused between parsnips and turnips. I have a solution, this book cover can now be in your mind's eye whenever a turnip (or parsnip) is mentioned!
An enormous parsnip would be more difficult to pull, even for the whole family :-)

Forgive the unusual post, but it came to mind after reading this Brown Envelope Seeds blogpost today. I've been inside most of the day reading blogs and sorting out our seeds for this year. We have a few more to buy. Hopefully we'll get our seed potatoes bought from Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage this week. They do a large selection of varieties and it's possible to buy individual tubers rather than huge bagfuls. It does mean the potatoes will be chitting for a long time, but it should mean we get the varieties we actually want!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Strange Birds

I was pleased to see the sun was due to shine this afternoon, so got prepared for an hour of birdwatching while Jamie went off to clear some old raspberry plants from Plot3.
I had my logbook (haha, funny, huh?), our new monocular, my fancy camera and hot liquorice & blackcurrant drink (so delicious).
I turned the bench round so I had a better view of the hedge. Our robin, looking stunning in the sunshine, arrived for the worms we put out. Good start...
And, then another robin. Lovely, always nice to see robins.
Jamie saw a chaffinch, but it was flying over so I didn't count that..
And that was it, for 25 minutes. I decided to move along the hedge to another location and start a new hour of counting.
It wasn't so comfy; (I didn't like to sit on Tui & Glen's bench), I sat on the ground, but at least I was a bit protected from the chill wind and it's nice seeing the site from a different viewpoint.
Woodpeckers have been seen in that skeleton of a tree in the centre of the photo. I saw a flock of pigeons fly out of one of the trees and I could hear a lot of birdsong. It was very pleasant, but the birds didn't want to show themselves, apart from these:
  • 5 Wood Pigeons
  • 1 Chaffinch
  • 1 Blackbird
  • 2 Robins
I don't think they were the same two robins that were by our plot!
Where were all the long-tailed tits that we usually see? Where was the bullfinch? Even the magpies and pheasants stayed away!
Tut, strange birds!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Squelch Squelch!

Last night was Burns Night. We aren't Scottish, but any excuse for a little celebration! So, we had a lovely Stahly's vegetarian haggis with our neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes). And enjoyed tasting 5 varieties of Scottish whisky. I, sensibly, had pre-booked today off work, but it wasn't really a day to spend on the allotment!
The ground is sodden but we needed some sprouts so just a quick visit.
Plenty more sprouts to pick...
And plenty of work to be done before any sowing, if it stops raining for long enough!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Chop Chop!

Sometimes it helps to be slow. We had a lazy morning and didn't make it to the plot till 2:30 but then the sun was finally managing to break through. We had a pleasant 2½ hours with a temperature of about 9° listening to the red kite calling overhead and the terns (Oops! See comment below) screeching over the canal.
A less welcome sound was of shooting in the distance, but some people do seem to hate deer and pheasants :( It upsets me, but perhaps they were clay pigeon shooting ...
We had our plans for what to do today; Jamie potted on the raspberry bush ('Ruby Beauty' from Thompson & Morgan). It claims to produce lots of fruit even in its first year and we intend to net it so we get to eat more than the birds!
My aim was to clear the two raised beds. The big salad bed was full of weeds and grass so at least now there is an area of clear earth showing! We should cover that until it's time to start sowing otherwise the weeds will take over again quite quickly.
The smaller raised bed still had beets in it... It seems wasteful, but at least the uneaten veggies are perfectly recycled as compost.
Lessons learned: don't grow Cylindra beets in a raised bed and don't leave them to get too big... Look at those prize-winning funny-shaped vegetables! I'm sticking to Boltardy beets this year.
I got chopped out of the photo...but chopping the beets up in a bucket was pleasing and warmed me up so even I took my coat off.
The resulting purple mess was layered in the compost bin with dry waste, like the the dried-out tops of the wildflowers. That should rot down nicely and fairly quickly - though may also prove irresistible to mice!
Another vegetable destined for the compost bin - the swedes. We didn't get to eat any of them - they all bolted :-( Shop-bought neeps and tatties for the Burns Night meal on Monday I'm afraid!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Frozen Sprouts and Skittles

The weather has gone really cold over the last few nights with some proper frost which stays put all day in the shade. The temperature has been down to at least -5°. The skies have remained clear with beautiful blue skies during the day and fabulous starry nights with a bright waxing (e.g. newish) moon. Jamie visited the plot yesterday to feed our ever-present robin and pick some (frozen) Brussels sprouts for our evening meal.
We had a lovely cheesy, sprouts and Quorn lardons bake - delicious, but wish we'd had some mixed chopped nuts to add to the top to make it extra crunchy. It was a very tasty way to eat the sprouts.
I think the frost had done its job of making the sprouts a bit more flavoursome.
Last Saturday night we had our HAHA skittles evening at the Royal British Legion in Hungerford. It was a great night, really good fun. There were at least 24 people on each side (HAHA versus RBL) which was such a brilliant turnout we're sure to hold another event later in the year I'm sure. Anyway, the RBL need another chance to beat us ;-)

Saturday, 16 January 2016

As Cold As Ice

Finally we've had some frosty nights this winter, so we went to see the plot this afternoon but not to do any work - too frozen. I mostly played with the ice while Jamie fed and watched the birds.
I think this looks rather galactic, but actually it's just our rain gauge...
This looks like a PhotoShop effect...
But it's the real world though the ice from a bucket...
And the birds were very lively. Starting with a beautiful male bullfinch, but he didn't hang round for long enough to get a photo with my small camera. So, it's mostly robin photos but I did also manage to snap this long-tailed tit - such pretty little bids.
Now, bring on the robins...
There were 3 trying to get at the food Jamie put out at one point. These two had an argument and flew off across the site.
Leaving just one to eat the worms!
Last Sunday a few of us from the HAHA committee enjoyed a lovely New Year's lunch with the Curridge Horticultural Society - very pleasant at the Newbury & Crookham Golf Club.
Then on Monday we had the HAHA general meeting. Lots of plotholders turned up to hear what the committee are trying to achieve and what possibilities may be available for us. The District Councillor, Mayor and Newbury Weekly News journalist were also in attendance.
And tonight we have a HAHA versus Royal British Legion skittles evening! What fun!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Nice Weather for...

It wasn't raining when we walked up to the allotment today. We knew it would be soggy after so much rain over the last week though. We did have one night of frost, but it's mostly been about rain.
At the Town Council meeting on Monday we heard that the housing developer is granting us a one year extension on the site lease - with the 'possibility' of a permanent lease if planning is granted on an entirely separate piece of land in the town. We have the HAHA General Meeting this Monday so it'll be good to hear how the other plotholders feel. 
So, it's great that we can start preparing for April now, but will likely have to look forward to this again in a year's time. 
Some things are still growing (not just the grass). This is one of the beetroots which Jamie sowed in late July (or possibly later than that)! Wonder if it'll actually ever bulb up?
We have started ordering. Jamie's ordered some tomato plants and I've ordered some stuff, including loofah seeds! We also have plans for spuds but more on all this when things actually get delivered!
I bet mine won't look as perfect as these ones!
We hadn't been on site long when it started pouring and the wind blew up. This year's robin hid rather than eating the food we took up for him and I hid too, thank goodness for the greenhouse! (It's the sound that's better than the video on this...)
I hope it's not like this for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of the month!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading. 
Thanks for your comments. 
Thanks for the inspiration from other bloggers.