Friday, 30 April 2010

Oh Dear

Well, this blog is our warts and all account of our adventures in our field. This post tells of one of our wartier moments.

Unfortunately, this Monday we had a rather nasty adventure, well Sam did.

We were down checking over the site, Sam doing some mowing and myself sorting out the old tunnel area (we're still not able to resume the build so were busying ourselves with other stuff) when Sam had a bit of mishap with the lawnmower and we had a serious trip to the Accident and Emergency of the hospital.
I won't go into the details - a bit gory and long winded, but the whole experience has left Sam with quite a bit less of his right hand ring finger than previously and some injury to his right hand little finger also.

We're still in a bit of shock really, but he's come through the surgery well and is determined to be back playing music as soon as humanly possible.

I must say a huge thank you to Kim and Alistair for looking after Sally and for driving us from Cavan hospital to Drogheda hospital (so Sam could see the surgical specialists) and to Milly and Tony for putting us up in Drogheda and recusing the van. Thanks also go to everyone who saw the ambulance and was concerned and to all friends who have sent good wishes and healing. Thank you all.

Here's hoping that next month will bring some better luck and that by this time next month Sam will be well on the road to recovery .. and that we might even have our planning through.

Here is a picture of himself smiling through his adversity!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Mice, slugs and Spring blooms

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I had a mammoth seed sowing fest - and have these shelves up now in the barn to accommodate all those new seed trays. I had the seed and even if i don't know where I'll put all the plants I couldn't face not growing them this year.

The weather has been quite warm during the days for a while, so I've also been hardening some seedlings off outside.

I thought, with the weather warming, that I wouldn't have a problem with mice anymore. If you remember, they ate some broad bean seeds - from the pots - back in February.

Alas, I underestimated the dedication of mice to finding a good snack. Stupidly, I'd put some seeds on the bottom level of the shelves and that proved too much of a temptation to Mr / Mrs / Miss Mouse.

I noticed on Thursday that I'd lost some cauliflower, calendula, sweet peas, sunflowers and nasturtiums. I've had to re-buy the nasturtiums and sweet peas. I have reserves of the rest.

If you look closely at this pic you can see that Mr Mouse likes a nibble of nasturtiums, but won't finish the lot!

On Thursday I also noticed that the broad beans I'd put out this week have started to get slug damage.

You can see it here on these leaves. I did a night time patrol yesterday and caught three big slugs!

Yesterday, Frenchie the chicken had a relapse (she was a bit poorly over Easter - but improved again). The vet thinks it's a gut infection. So, we've had to separate her, so we can give her medicine in her water. She isn't impressed. We put Madelene(the friendliest and daftest chicken) in with her at night to keep her warm and cosy.
Here's Frenchie this morning in her makeshift little pen.

Hopefully, thats all our 'bad luck' for now (I'm trying to not even think of the ongoing planning hold ups - we're now waiting on the reedbed report, which we need before we can make our next submission. We were meant to get it three weeks ago - but it's hard to hurry anything up in Leitrim - even if it drives you daft waiting!)

Anyway, it's a new day today and I have some replacement seeds ready to sow.

Our potatoes are starting to make an appearance now in the bags.

My red lettuce if finally turning red (after being green with nasty dark blotches).

Outside, work goes on clearing the drive at my aunts.

I even got her a couple of herbs for the sunny south facing bed, which should be done soon.

For myself, I couldn't resist a wee anemone that will probably come to Leitrim with us. It's always out so early in the year, I find it really cheery.

Outside we have some willow cuttings that I'll try to plant up.

They are this years prunings from the teepee we made a few years back.

Out in the lane, the spring flowers are well underway. Here's the aconite (?).

and here's some wood anenome.

I'm not sure what this is, but it's growing up the wall of my aunts house. Small, but beautifully formed.

Here's her Camellias, just coming into flower now.

Even her redcurrants and showing signs of life.

I've even taking some cutting some rose prunings. It's a big, old fashioned, shrub rose. I'll pot it up soon and see if it 'takes'.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Edible Garden and seed sowing

There is a very interesting programme on the tv tonight (BBC2 at 8pm) called The Edible Garden. It seems just my sort of thing. As I may have said before, I love the idea of having edible gardens and landscapes, especially forest gardens. I'm hoping this programme will give give me some ideas and inspiration (and eye candy!).

It seems that the presenter, Alys Fowler (as seen on Gardener's World I think - didn't have tv on site so am out of the loop on such things) will attempt to live off home grown vegetables, without turning her garden into an allotment.
I must admit to secretly dreaming of living mainly off my own produce, but I think it will be a gradual process. For one thing, I'm vegetarian and have had a difficult time trying to get soya beans to germinate for me this year. I had planned to try some in the tunnel, but that is no longer an option. I think I'd starve if I had to rely on my own resources for soya. Mind you, I do have a plentiful supply of protein from eggs.

Anyway, I digress. I do love the idea of integrating vegetable growing into the garden as a whole, rather than in lines or rows - or even formal beds. Now, I haven't quite managed this in the tunnel last year. Yet, looking back, I did integrate some flowers in with the veg.

I had a herb and flower patch by my folding chair.

The flax had beautiful blue flowers (gone to seed in this photo) as well as giving me edible seeds.

I planted nasturtiums on the edges of the borders, but they are thugs and did take over in some places. The worked really well in with the leeks. Here they are at the base of some sunflowers.

Nasturtium and flax made a good combination.

Of course, some vegetables look very ornamental and pretty anyway. Climbing beans are an obvious example, but there are others, such as these onions below.

I do plan a mixed cottage garden / herb garden which should have some veggies dotted around the place, but I'm wondering now if there is a way to grow the majority of my veg 'in a garden setting'. Hmm. Since the tunnel came down, the beds there are looking VERY linear. Yes, lots to think about.

As well as such musings, we (well Sam actually) did some more 'weeding' of the drive at my aunts (after a couple of days where wind and rain stopped play).

I decided to tackle some more seed sowing. I'm not 100% of this years 'revised' plans yet, as we still can't be sure when we're back on site (so don't know when we can plant down there) but I can also give away any excess seedlings.

Inside, I have my 'pet' peanut - I grew it as a trial, from supermarket raw peanuts. I'll try it on a windowsill this year.

Here are some basil and celery that I started a while back.

Here we are today, in my aunts barn .. which is slowly being taken over by my plants and seeds - oops.

On the ground are some mini salad leaves I started in January (they were a bit sulky after spending too long indoors on the windowsill).

Here, left to right are my tomatoes and melons, onions and salad and todays mixed sowing of all sorts (marigolds, rocket, celery leaf etc)

Here is a cucumber (from an early test to see if the seed was still viable) and a tray with oriental leaves (up as seedlings) and some new sowings - leeks, lettuce and other goodies.

Here are some onions I started from seed earlier in the year. Even if they don't grow full size, I find them useful as small onions.

Here's a close up of the melons and tomatoes (from seed testing earlier in the year - I just can't bear to throw them out if they germinate - so I'll have to find some cover for them this summer).

Here, I've decided to test some potato planters and I have put 2 first earlies and 1 second early in today. It's a little late, but better late than never. I'm unsure if I'll get a good result - and generally find spuds good for breaking up new ground, but, this year planters are an easy was to get a taster of home grown spuds.

The browny orange bags are also 'planters' and, getting desperate to get planting I thought I could start some things off in them and they could later come down to site with us. Have to decide exactly what to put in them now.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter. After days of crazy weather, including heavy rain, storms, snow, heavy frost and freezing winds, it was a great relief to have a fairly mild and sunny day yesterday.

We thought we'd better 'make hay while the sun shines', so ventured outdoors to continue to work on my aunts garden, clearing the overgrowth by the front of the house.

Sam was first out, shovel in hand, getting rid of the grass that is always attempting to take over the drive.

He cleared almost the whole frontage of the house - aided by the dedicated team of chickens!

I worked on clearing the old borders and ended up doing more archaeology than gardening. Here we've unearthed an old concrete slab that we think was a stand for the water butt many many years ago.

Here is the old edge to the border that was hidden under the encroaching grass and brambles. It was fun to 'discover' the edging. I've never been on an archaeological dig, but feel now that I've had my own equivalent.

Here are the chickens (and a duck) helping with the cleanup operation.

It wasn't an easy task though and we filled many a wheelbarrow with grass, brambles and saplings of ash and sycamore that were hard to dig up.

We also dug up a lot of pieces of brick - I'm sure we'll get to re-use them somewhere.

Everyone enjoyed the sun and the adventures of the day including the ducks ..

.. and our supervisor, Leo the cat.

Hopefully, I'll get out again today to tackle some more brambles and grass!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

How to take down a polytunnel

Well, we did take the tunnel down last Saturday (see previous post), as we said we would, with the much appreciated assistance of neighbors Brendan and William - thanks guys, we couldn't have done it without you.

Thanks also to everyone who offered their help, sympathy, food and suggestions - it all helped.

Here are some pictures of the event, in the hope that they might be useful to anyone having to take down a tunnel themselves or just change the plastic cover - which does need to be done every 5 - 7 years.

First thing to say is that it isn't a task to be taken lightly. It's messy and really does require at least a few helpers and a sunny still day is preferable. Luckily, we had helpers and good weather.

First things first, uncover the edges of the plastic (if you used the trench method, like we did). If you used base plates that you can attach the plastic to feel free to grin smugly and you watch the mess unfold as we uncover our trenches.

When we put the tunnel up, last May, we put weed suppressing membrane over the trenched soil and then gravel over the membrane - to make it neater. In this first picture I'm in the process of moving the gravel and membrane away from the trenched area.

Now we (I actually) have got to the soil that the plastic is buried below.

Next step is to evict the happily sleeping dog (and apologize to her and the plants that their shelter will soon be removed).

Here Sam has removed the plastic from around the doors.

Here Brendan is unearthing the western trench, so we can lift the plastic.

Now the cover is off (I was too busy helping to take pictures of that bit - sorry) and the tunnel is in skeleton form. If you are just changing the plastic cover, you just put on the new plastic and cover it using the soil that has just been excavated from the trenches. If only we were that fortunate.

Here you can see the trench depth - not too big at all, but it held the plastic firm through some rough winds last year.

The ladder is up, so we can start dismantling (it's the royal we this time, I'm helping from afar).

Here are the three lads taking down the hoops - there are already two hoops leant up against the hedge in the background.

All done now, time to survey the chaos left behind. There is a lot of spoil (unearthed clay soil) on the long bed that was beside the tunnel. Mind you it was looking scrappy anyway. To be honest, it all looked pretty dreadful once the tunnel was down and a few plants got damaged while the lads were maneuvering the frame.

Here's the view looking south. Even the planter on the right got damaged as we moved it out of the way in order to remove the tunnel. Yes, there's quite a bit of fixing up to do.

The planting beds were just shaped out of the soil and mushroom compost when I created the beds last year. With the tunnel up the environment was dry and the paths stayed relatively weed free. I have a feeling that now the whole area is open to the weather I will have to cover the paths or they will easily get squishy if wet and weed filled. I may use black membrane and tiles to start with (as I have them already available).

Here is a good example of the benefits of the tunnel for shelter. The two plants together in the foreground are sutherland kale, planted last spring in this borer outside the tunnel and overwintered there. They did well and have some nice new growth even though there is some wind / frost damage. The plant seen behind them is the same kale, planted inside the tunnel last spring. The leaves are all soft and tender and more lush - because of the shelter they got over the winter.

Here are the 'inside' and 'outside' kale again.
By now, I have made progress in backfilling the trenches and re-covering them with membrane and re-instating the gravel. It was harder work than I expected and I really felt it in my arms and back for a few days afterwards.

This is as far as I got with 'making good' before we had to leave site on Monday. There is still a lot of soil to move at the far end .. I'm not looking forward to it (and dread to think what it all looks like now after days of heavy rain).

I had better success on the western side, which I've completely leveled and covered with membrane and gravel.

Here is the south end after some hard graft.

Here's what's left for next time! The rest of the east side.

Yes, there is still work to do to 'make good'. At least then I can re-shape this long bed .. and the bed beside it that has been half taken over by grass. Hopefully things will start to look better then.

At least now we have the pictures taken of the tunnel being removed and so can proceed with the latest round of submissions for the planning authority. All we want is to be able to get back to our build and our land. My fingers and toes are crossed .... but, judging by recent experiences, I'm not going to hold my breath.