Friday, 19 June 2009

Nearly mid summer

Time flies and the longest day is nearly upon us. That somehow gets us in gear to get moving on the house more, so we've a chance of being in before those nights get too long and the weather gets too cold.
The strawberries are enjoying being in the tunnel now (even if I never got them out of their supposedly temporary pots that I put them in earlier in the year)
The ducks are still moulting, so there are no eggs yet. They now have lovely new chest plumage and only the big feathers left to moult. You can see they are 'bleaching' out i.e getting pale in the picture

It has been slow going in the house - still finishing off the passive upgrade (insulating the walls inside) and the final stud walls down stairs.

I managed a day or so of oiling the outside wood .. and got rather covered in the oil, so I ended up looking like I had a fine tan before I washed it off.

Very soon we're onto the second phase - first fix electrics and plumbing. Then things will really look different inside.

Outside, the weather has normalised somewhat - with a mix of sun, rain and wind. Means that our grass is coming up well.

Our broad beans have lovely pods (much better than this oldish pic shows)

All in the tunnel is going great guns. Here are the first flowers on my Auvergne peas.

Already there are lessons to learn. Firstly, the south end of the tunnel can be quite draughty. Already it caused a couple of young sweet corn to fail (I've put up a mini windbreak to minimise the damage). Next year there will be hardier plants by the doors. See in the pic how the top row suffered compared to the other two.

Also, I must get my irrigation system sorted. We have water butts now - which help warm the water from the well (it is very cold). Surpisingly, I don't have to water that much. The straw in the mushroom compost holds the moisture well .. even though the top surface dries out.
I was very overoptimistic with my theoretical plant spacings - and I've had to plant some squashes and other things outside. Some intercropping is working e.g. cauliflower and mizuna (see below).

As hoped, the tunnel is a great place for a washing line!

It is always warmer and more sheltered than anywhere else .. and I love nothing better to spend a few minutes sitting inside admiring the growing plants. The squashes are really growing fast.

Outside, the south face of the house is VERY exposed to the wind. I have plans to plant a fedge (fence / hedge made from living willow) 10 m away from the house to shelter the raised beds (will do the beds in September) but I may need additional precautions. Sam made a herb planter for outside the kitchen door and I must admit that some plants (a thyme!! and goji and even chamomile are suffering - from the windy days this week).

I have time over the summer to sort out some more ideas for extra wind breaks.
For now, it's on with the oiling and final studding.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Busy in the polytunnel

Well, the weather has been absolutely glorious and rather HOT, so hot that Sam has been wilting and that I have been having great fun cooling off in the stream after a hard days planting. The water is a tad cold - as this picture shows.

It's been hot, hot, hot in the tunnel but the weather is cooling now so it's rather lovely in there (I'm thinking of moving in full time).

Here's the field in it's full buttercup and blossom glory.

We've been - well I've been - very busy in the polytunnel since the last post, making the raised beds and planting. Somehow I thought I'd get it all done in a couple of days - ha!

I'm only just about done now .. and I've been working flat out (sending Sam demented as I haven't been able to help with the house).

Here's the progress.

I started by marking out the raised beds.

Then I got planting!

Here's a sample of what I put in ..

Sweetcorn and lettuce (and beans up top)

Lots of squashes - summer and winter varieties

Brussel sprouts and lettuce

Cauliflower and mizuna (we're already grazing the mizuna).

Tomatoes and peppers - peas at far end.

Sam made me some fab planters for outside the tunnel .. to put some extras that didn't quite fit in (more on that next time). There are beans to climb up the poles and some quinoa.

We also made a mound bed out of extra mushroom compost along the edge of the tunnel, with the idea that it will soften the view of the tunnel from the house. There are peas, squashes, oca and will be some flowers too this week. It is actually quite a breezy spot, so my initial idea of sunflowers may not be ideal.

Finally, as if all that isn't enough, we got a neighbour to rotivate the  ground out the back. It was really rough and weedy. It's only just dry enough to work. I'm not a great lawn fan and intend to have raised veggie beds there by next year, but it is handy to have some grass there for now - and for paths between the beds in the future. I'd planned on sowing a wildflower mix BUT would have had to rotivate it in after - so to save time and energy we've gone straight to grass.

I'll make the raised beds in September - the no dig way (cut the grass, cover with cardboard, then rotted manure / compost, then straw, then black plastic). I'll leave it over winter and plant in the spring.