Monday 18 May 2020

Lockdown Day 56 - Planting Out

Now that the risk of frost appears to have gone (though the way the weather is nowadays you can't say never!) the job in the allotment is to get all the vegetables that have been protected under cover out into the plot and into pots in the yard.

Yesterday, it was various cabbages, mini sweetcorn and more beetroot and these are all now protected against inquisitive sparrows and, more worryingly, a couple of woodpigeons that have taken to sitting on one of the carrot tyre stacks. Usually, the pigeons are afraid to come in as we have hedges around the plot and I think they like having good line of sight of any danger, but earlier in the year we gave the main hedge a good trim back and I think they are more bold just now.

For a couple of days now, a large flock of starlings - a mixture of adults and some very noisy youngsters - has been sitting in the trees around the allotments. The youngsters keep up a constant barrage of squawks as they beg the adults for food. This evening, they all took off suddenly in all directions, and I saw that a couple of crows, and later a jackdaw, were chasing them in the sky. Now, I knew that crows will predate nests of birds to grab eggs or the chicks but I didn't expect them to be going after fledgling birds like that. They were, as far as I could tell unsuccessful, and I am now wondering whether it was a young starling that the kestrel the other day was after although we do get mice and the occasional rat around the allotments. In fact we have discovered a cache of mouse-chewed hazelnuts underneath one of the compost bins! 

Some of the peas are now getting quite tall and I have had to take the netting off some of them, and hope that the local sparrows and pigeons don't decide to eat them. Hopefully there will be flowers soon on these. I have planted some borlotti beans in the house too. The two bean plants that got damaged by frost may be still alive, we will just have to wait and see, but the stalks do look as if there is growth there. The potatoes are recovering with some new growth appearing. 

All in all, things are progressing well. I am very conscious that later this year there may well be shortages of certain vegetables and maybe fruit here in the UK for several reasons. One, that due to the Covid-19 restrictions the usual supply of foreign labour that many farmers now rely on to harvest crops is not here, and it has not been sufficiently replaced by local labour. Secondly, the prolonged dry weather will start to have an impact on crop yields. At the end of the year, there is - due to absurd ideological reasons of the UK Government, the looming cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit. This will produce another dislocation in supply chains, both in terms of imports (and indeed in terms of exports of UK produce) which will mean that many food producers and processors here will lose a lot of income or be hit with extra costs at a time they are still recovering from this present crisis, and farmers, by the looks of things, will be undercut by sub-standard produce from overseas. 

So, we are preparing and trying to grow and subsequently store as much home grown food as we can. We have a couple of boxes of bought in provisions that we have kept topped up ever since the threat of a no deal Brexit was forewarned and this did help us a few weeks ago when panic buying cleared the shops of many staple foods. As being infected with Covid-19 would mean a fortnight in isolation for you and anyone you live with, having extra food in the house - whether dried, tinned or in the freezer etc - also acts as a resilience. 

Of course, unless you have a couple of acres of land and keep livestock, you can't be fully self-sufficient but anyone with access to an allotment or a reasonably sized garden can produce enough to avoid having to buy things like potatoes, apples, onions etc for several months of the year. Only once have I been able to store enough onions to last until just before the first new season ones were ready but that was due to an exceptionally cold Spring that stopped the last ones from sprouting! We do however have more than we need all year of jam and of chutney and I am, after a successful trial over the past year, going to be doing more fruit in sugar solution in Kilner jars, and indeed some blackberries in brandy or vodka! 

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