Sunday, 14 April 2019

Tawny Mining Bee!

The other day in the garden I was stripping off part of the lawn (I say lawn, it is a small patch of grass that has suffered over the years with a swing and children on it!) in order to plant some wildflower seeds. I noticed a couple of bees going down into the grass and a day or so later discovered some small neat holes in the bare earth where I have planted the wildflower seeds.

I also rescued a bee from the house. Very sluggish, maybe just woken up from hibernation. After I took a few photos I put it in the lean to greenhouse to sort itself out, which it did after an hour and then flew off.

Having struggled to match it up in the Field Guide to Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk (this is probably due to my problematic colour vision and nothing to do with the excellent illustrations by Richard Lewington!), I posted one of the photos in this post on Twitter and thanks to Brigit Strawbridge Howard ( I now know this is a female Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena Fulva).

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Planting out peas, and our friendly robin(s)

It is still feeling quite cold out there with possible overnight frost forecast. However, it is time the peas went out into the big wide world!

Last year, they got nibbled by the local house sparrow tribe so this year the sparrows will have to look on in envy as I have bought ten metres of fine mesh to make an ark to protect them, at least until the flowers appear and they are big enough to withstand any small beaks.....

Inside the ark there are sticks for the peas to grow up, the only thing that does worry me is whether the peas will use the mesh to grow up as we'll need it for protecting other crops later in the season and it will be really tricky to untangle the peas if they do grow into it.

Now for our friendly robins! They really are getting quite unafraid of us and will come down to about a foot away from where we are working. There's definitely a pair of them, if it was two males coming into the same territory then there would be open warfare!

What you don't notice when you see them at a distance is that they whistle quietly to themselves whilst pottering about! They also make a quiet "pseep" noise. Both of them do sing, but it will be the male that is blasting it out from the hazelnut tree in the allotment!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Spring - or is it?

After last week's record - but unnatural - temperatures, this weekend has seen a return to what should be the case for this time of year, wet and windy and cooler.

But there are signs of Spring in the allotment. The temptation if there is a mild spell of weather and it starts to seem Spring-like is to get planting - I have seen a row of potatoes sown into a nearby allotment for instance - but in my experience it is better to wait until at least the middle of March before planting anything. The first things to go in are early potatoes - which will be under the ground for most late frosts (though I have on many occasions had to hurriedly earth up shoots in early May) and parsnip seed which will germinate in its own good time when the weather is right.

Indoors I have planted peas, peppers, gherkins and my wife has planted salad leaves for cut and come again harvesting indoors in window boxes. Have started chitting Sarpo Mira, Duke of York and Desiree potatoes. Next will need to be some brassicas, and regular sowings of peas so that they are big enough when the weather improves to survive the house sparrow parties that we have in the yard and in the allotment!

I have I hope, been able to thoroughly root out a dead nettle that was invasive underneath the rhubarb.

Other jobs undertaken in the allotment have been trimming the top of the hazelnut tree - done without managing to remove too many catkins - I wanted to get this done before the bird nesting season - whilst I like the tree and it does produce some hazelnuts, it is very vigorous and does need to be kept in check height wise. Also, making sure the hedges are a suitable height - again before bird nesting time.

I have dug over all the areas that can be done right now just leaving those bits where there are still winter vegetables in.

The robin (s) - I think there are now a pair of them - regard my activity as just solely on their behalf and will come quite close as they search for tasty morsels that I have exposed whilst digging. I think though that the male robin regards the allotment as his and flaps his wings at me on occasions and sings at me rather than to me as well!

The cornflowers have overwintered and, I hope, self seeded a bit, and are now flowering. We have also some asters and marigolds and nasturtiums that we have left to self seed to create opportunities for pollinators and a bit of distraction for such as the blackfly. We also have some lavender which I think might be reaching the end of its natural life, but when in flower is a magnet for bees and - as it goes dark - moths.

We left the sunflowers to die off and so that the seeds would be available to birds over winter. The remaining stalks and flower heads are now getting composted.

We have done well this year for overwintered vegetables. The carrots and parsnips are still going at time of writing, although the beetroot have now finished, There is still a bit of spinach and the inevitable stray potatoes when digging over last year's patch.
In store are still some onions which have kept pretty well. The stored apples are pretty much finished now, but it has been a very long apple season! And of course the jam and chutney and gherkins we have in jars!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Allotment update

We are extremely blessed with plenty of home grown vegetables and fruit at the moment. 

There's been several days when I have come home with a basket full like these. 

Carrot harvest has been pretty good this year, as noted elsewhere on the blog we grow them in compost in stacks of tyres (second picture on here ) which means they have plenty of depth to grow and at the bottom of the tyres is a thick layer of weeds and other compostables for them to dig down into for nutrients. 

These are just some of the apples, mostly Falstaff but some Chivers Delight. The Falstaff has perhaps about a dozen remaining on now (hopefully the high winds forecast for Friday night won't knock them off) and the Chivers Delight and Gala (the latter being very late ripening) still have a lot on - although unlike the Falstaff, the other two varieties are really quite small this year, probably due to the lack of rain this summer, 

These are new to us this year - yin yang beans (I wonder why they are called that? 😉 ) Quite prolific and have been grown up an old swing frame - which reminds me that there's another old swing frame to transport to the allotment at some point. They are now drying in the spare bedroom on some newspaper. 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Cottage pie - with lots of home grown veg

Still a time of plenty here on the allotment! Today's lunch (and indeed tomorrow's tea and an as yet unspecified future meal!) is cottage pie, with the following ingredients for 7 servings:

1.5lb minced beef (from local butchers - local supply too)

5 large carrots - sliced (allotment grown)
3 slices of a large swede - cut into small chunks (supermarket)
15 or so mushrooms (supermarket) - quartered
2 medium onions (allotment) - sliced and separated
1 sweetcorn (allotment) - sliced off corns after cooking. 
1 medium head of calabrese (allotment) - cut into chunks
5 large potatoes (allotment and a farm shop) - cut into chunks then mashed with milk and margarine
1 small beetroot - diced (allotment)
mature cheddar cheese for topping (supermarket)
1 Knorr stock cube mixed with a bit of cornflower mixed with 3/4 pint boiling water from the veg.

Here are many of the ingredients - picked fresh this morning from the allotment. 

And here is the result of a lot of peeling, washing and cooking!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Blackberries and Blueberries

'Tis the season to get scratched arms and hands!

I have picked at least 6 of these tubs of blackberries so far ad there are still many more to come!

The blackberries were there round the edge when we took over the allotment in 2004 (I think!) and they get a good trim at the end of the season and if they decide to explore the main part of the plot!

My wife makes jam, lots of jam! In fact we have all year round jam - well actually jelly - blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, raspberry (though not many of these this year), and sometimes damson when we get any. Or combinations of all of these and maybe a bit of apple or rhubarb thrown in too!

The blueberries haven't liked the dry, hot weather to be honest, they really need rainwater and eventually I had to resort to using tap water from the one on the plot as the berries were shrivelling up. But they recovered ok and have been producing plenty of berries. 

There's a few damsons this year, and indeed some hazelnuts on the tree at the back which I hope to get before they drop off or get eaten by a local critter! (and I know where there's a wild damson/plum tree too)

Friday, 29 June 2018

Allotment report 28/6/18

It is hot! And dry! The allotment needs watering with a hosepipe every two days and some things in containers every day.

This is the pea and bean, courgette and cucumber patch. For some reason, the past two years haven't been good pea years at all, or it could be the sparrows....

We've had the old swing frame for some time and this year it is black-eye and kidney beans and cucumbers that are being trained up it.

At the back are the supposedly Autumn fruiting raspberries which get going round about now....

This is the part where this year are onions, leeks, parsnups, carrots (in the tyre stacks again), the asparagus bed, sweetcorn (behind the tyres) and there's some Cosmos flowers just getting going in between the onions, as the onions will come up very soon - in fact we've had some already.

At the back are blackcurrants and raspberries, and the Gala minarette apple tree. Also in the soft fruit area are a grape vine, a minarette damson, rhubarb and comfrey, the latter of which the bees have been really enjoying!

Two more patches are at the top end. The first one as you come in the gate is potatoes this year, Red Duke of York and Desiree as for some reason I couldn't get Sarpo this year, shame as they were very heavy croppers last year. The other patch has now got turnips, radishes, beetroot and broccoli and cabbages in, with some blueberries in tubs, the cornflowers which have now finished and two minarette pear trees.

Elsewhere in the allotment are a Chiver's Delight and Falstaff minarette apple trees, the strawberry bed which now needs replacement, there's a hazelnut tree at the back too as well as blackberries growing in the hedge.