Day 4 – Christmas potato seed planting and rumtopf

Day 4 of my holidays has seen a beautifully sunny day here in the North East of England.  It’s still breezy though but this year has been.  I’ve never known it be so windy for so long in the past but then I suppose I’ve  not been growing fruit and veg or looking after so many animals before, that the wind impacts?
I’ve still been getting the kids up at a decent time as mine seem to suffer if they have late mornings and inevitably later nights as they can’t sleep.  The kids helped me by feeding and watering the chickens and then collecting the eggs.  What a haul from the last couple of days!

 
The kids spent the next couple of hours playing and I started off the Bachelors Jam or Rumtopf as it is referred to.  Growing up I’d remember an earthenware jar that was in my parents house but I didn’t know what it was for.  Then when I started blogging and read Patty Pan’s blog about Rumtopf and I realised what it was for.
 My Mam kindly gave me the pot when I said I was going to make some.


I added 500g blackberries from our haul last night (which was over 3kg!) along with 250g sugar and left it for an hour before adding a litre of brandy as this is what was given to me by my lovely Mam at the same time as the Rumtopf jar.

I was supposed to make a crumble at the same time but the clock was ticking and I was itching to get out in the veg plot so I left that for later and put the brambles back in the fridge to keep a few more hours. 
The bed I’d tasked myself with today was the fire pit bed.  The previous owner had burnt allsorts in it and I’m forever finding nail, hinges and the like.  I added manure to the soil along with blood, fish and bone and hoped for the best.  Well the cabbages did marvellously and I’d put off harvesting them until my 2 weeks break.
It was a mammoth task.

They were dug out and the area cleared of weeds which was back breaking but very worth it. The Christmas potato order has just arrived so I set about putting them in.  I ordered 15 tubers from crocus – 5 each of Charlotte, Duke of York and Pentalin Javelin.  These were the only ones I could find as the other online stores I either missed or didn’t sell any.

I planted them all 30cm apart and 60cm between rows as there was plenty of space to do so.  Here they are with their beds now looking like something from Halloween (picture taken from the opposite end of the bed than the earlier one).

 Here’s the bed once I finished with it.

 
I then tidied up another bed which wasn’t too bad thankfully and sowed some quick crop salad leaves and radish in a space that’s appeared there, where the first early potatoes came out.

I tested out a panoramic view, so this photo is slightly distorted but you get the idea. 

 
Soon it was time for tea and I decided to cook one of the hams we’ve had in the brine.  It’s been in since Sunday so over a week which is a bit too long but after cooking it, it was perfect!  I’ll post the recipe another time.  All of the hams will be cooked and sliced for the freezer.
 
We finished the day off with a walk to forage some bullaces (wild plums).  Someone has already raided our spot but there is a tree most people haven’t found yet, and that was full though it did require some acrobatics.  They are in the fridge now.

 
Ste also finished the stock fencing he wanted to get done.  This will deter the chickens from scratching the area where we use as a dumping ground for weeds, branches that are no good for anything, leaves etc etc.  It’ll keep the animals safe and the rubbish separate.  It means he can move on to the next part ultimately giving the poultry more space. 
 
The kids got their craft items done, the dogs are happy and I’m enjoying my time off.  All in all, a great family day together.
 

Rain, rain and more rain – but that’s ok!

I think most of the UK has had rain this week.  The ground here desperately needed it.  It’s rained non stop for a good few days so all of the water butts are full.  Some of the barn guttering is blocked from downpours and things are looking a bit depressed (my chamomile is squished for example) but once the sun comes it’ll right itself.  However some of the animals are loving it:
Some not so much
 The 4 Vorwerk girls and 2 boys sought shelter in the barn, you only ever see them in here at feeding time but looks like they all fancied a trip to the hairdressers together.

After complaining about the pigs not turning the field over as much as we’d hoped – look at it now after the rain!  I’m really pleased.  These 2 will be going within the next month and they will have done a great job by then.  Once they go we will get in there and take out the roots they’ve uprooted but not eaten, maybe rake or tiller it depending how it is and then leave it until March when it’ll be planted up with potatoes then squash later in the year.  We’re also growing 2018 pigs fodder in here.

The sunflowers are now heading for 5 or 6 foot and some are really strange looking!  Pretty colours all the same.

Look at the sweetcorn!  This has flew up with the recent downpours!
 
This morning I was outside at 5:30 sowing seeds.  Crazy you might say but there’s method in my madness.  Firstly, my back was giving me jip and I needed to walk it off, secondly on a weekend I always seem to get distracted by other jobs like weeding and thirdly I find I get a lot more achieved when I get out of bed and get on with it straight away.  Of course I had to go to work so the only way to get everything done is get up early and crack on!  The seeds I got in were spring onion, pak choi, leeks (second cropping, winter giant 3), perpetual spinach, cauliflower autumn giant, cabbage verbote 3 (which was organic and I’d not realised).
The rain always makes the veg plot look so green so I quickly snapped a couple of shots for you to see from this morning.
Beans intercropped with spinach in this closest shot

Lavender and spuds in this view, plus the obligatory steel bin to burn stuff in!
 Chamomile is what you can see, all squashed in the middle of this pic.
Brassicas with Jerusalem artichokes below.  I wasn’t sure if these would be ok together but I am moving the artichokes to a metal bin (with holes in) one this round is done.

That’s my round up done, enjoy the weekend.

Photos of our harvest and growing update – we’re in full swing!

I thought I’d take a snap shot of some of the things going on in the veg garden and veg plot. It’s that really busy time of year when you don’t really know if you or the weeds are in charge. One thing I wanted this year was more potatoes and so far, so good. We’re harvesting the first earlies (swift variety) when we need them and the growing space is being turned over to squash, courgettes and the like. They are beautiful and I’m very impressed.

These salad blue variety, my ‘out there’ choice of the year are starting to flower and their flowers are blue too! They look lovely against the green leaves.
The bags were disappointing. Hardly a meal from 3 seed potatoes. Next year I’m trying a different method.
The tomatoes seem to be doing well though I’m worried no more flowers are appearing on those with fruit on already. 
There’s Jersey Devil for preserving 
Marmande for BBQ burgers!
Tigrella 
My outdoor variety
The aubergine is flowering
The cucumbers are too – I didn’t appreciate how tall cucumbers grew!
At the weekend we harvested our first broad beans, more courgettes (first green), a yellow scallop, out first large tomato and a few strawberries.  I took a mental note to go back and check for more strawberries, which we did last night.
Boy we were not disappointed.  We stopped picking when the trug was overflowing and it help 4 kilograms!
 
Remember my skeletal brassicas?  Well they seem to be fighting back.  Despite the lack of leaves, we have some broccoli heads forming which may be stunted but I will take anything given I thought we have lost the lot.  They’re all coming at the same time despite planting a couple of weeks apart.  I’ll freeze them, as some seem to be wanting to go to seed.

 Grace is on nightly caterpillar watch and if you look closely you can see how many she took off just 1 plant.  Speaking of which my PSB is ready already!!  I only planted it this year so I am thrown and slightly concerned I won’t have any next year now.
Next year I am going to net and enviromesh the lot but it is a lot of money to fork out at once.
This is my bean bed.  Climbing beans in here, with more to go in and I’ll risk some direct sowing too.
I have also sown some more spring onions as I lost the first lot.  Plus I’ve some cauliflowers in, these are the all year round variety.  I’m not sure if we will manage to get any now, but we can try.

 All the rain we had followed by the heat wave has sent everything in to growing overdrive, this lettuce is nearly as big as the kids!

 The sunflowers are starting to open

More than anything, it’s been too hot to work in it for too long, so we’ve taken some time out to sit and enjoy the rays every now any again.  Although, when I looked up and saw this, it did make me chuckle.  My daughter getting a Frisbee out of the bush whilst Ste had 40 winks!



Tomato update

Early in January I sowed some beefsteak tomato seeds.  The first lot failed which was my fault, they shot up before I realised.  Some I saved by replanting to their first leaves and some I started fresh.  Both have done fine.  Here’s the beefsteak one (Brandywine) which needs potting on again.  It’s also starting to produce side shoots which I am nipping out.  I’ve planted the other one which is as big as this one directly in the polytunnel bed to compare which one does best so I can just do that in 2018.
The tomatoes below were all getting far too big for their pots, so instead of a pot bigger, I potted them on into their final resting pots so to speak.
It took the best part of an hour but now I have 18 tomato plants ready.
The tomatoes are the big pots, the smaller ones are caulis, cabbage and calabrese.
 
 These little things are Gardeners Delight, sown after the first tomatoes in the hope of extending the season as long as possible.  I have some that have just germinated too and will keep sowing for a little while yet.

I also have a variety called outdoor girl which, as the name suggests, will be going outside when they can.
This weekend I will pot on everything that needs it and plant out the PSB for next year.  It’s too big for its pot now and I don’t want to have to pot it on again. 
I think I am going to need more growing space !
Have a lovely weekend all, it’s due to be sunny here so I plan to get in the greenhouse and polytunnel before they get too hot, then in the veg plot to get some much needed vitamin D.  I think Sunday afternoon may be a day of rest and enjoying some rhubarb cocktails…..

The growing season is well underway.

If you want me, I’ll be outside getting on with the growing season!  That’s how this last whirlwind of a week has felt.  We are out of the starting blocks and in it for the long run. 
April is the month when even more seeds can be sown and there can be a false sense of security weather wise when we’re sat in the baking (ok, warmer) sun, without the need for jackets or gloves. 
I’ve noticed new growth all around, replacing the snowdrops and early daffs.  However don’t be fooled. April has seen snow in the past so those of us growing our own need to be ready to deal with it if it’s forecast.  To lose seedlings or plants now after nurturing from seed as far back as January would be devastating.
We’ve been working hard on the new orchard (mini orchard) and feel it is really getting there.  What do you think?

It’s hard to see in the above photo, as I was trying to capture the width of the plot.  The back trellis shows the 10 apple trees we planted on a 45 degree angle and a couple of them are already showing growth.  The conference pear tree (below) is growing ridiculously fast.  These leaves were not there last week!
We have managed to get all but two of the soft fruit bushes in that are going here.  Two are outstanding as they’ve not been delivered yet.  So far we have 2 varieties of cranberry (mountain and ), a honeyberry, 2 varieties of blueberry (north county and aurora).  We have a pink lemonade blueberry, billberry and goji berries due soon.  There’s also another 3 blueberries (Duke) that are going in another part of the veg plot.

The soft fruit has been spaced out around the other fruit trees and planted in large holes filled with ericaceous compost where needed.  For those who don’t know, blueberries amongst other fruit bushes don’t like “normal” soil.  You can buy the ericaceous  soil at garden centres or some people make their own.  I’m short on time for this planting, but plan to top them up with home made stuff.
Blossom is coming thick and fast on the new fruit trees and I hope it’s a good sign of the harvest to come!

 

The greenhouse is well and truly filling up.  My problem now is trying to keep it cool when I am at work.  The doors can be left open but I have to put the mesh door on to stop the chickens going in and eating everything!
My blackcurrant cuttings have rooted but the red and white aren’t doing much.  Also a raspberry runner that I severed and rooted to see what would happen.

The PSB, caulis, calabrese, cabbage, corn salad, carrots, leeks, onions and sunflowers are all looking great.  The tomatoes are growing strong and need to be potted on this weekend before they become pot bound.

I’ve sown more of everything to try and harvest everything at staggered intervals.  Some peas and broadbeans went in directly outside at the weekend, as did a tester row of carrots and beetroot.  Inside the polytunnel I have lettuce, swiss chard, kale, peas, beans, potatoes (earlies) and some marigolds to deter nasty bugs away from my food!  The marigolds are sacrificial plants, no holds barred in this game!
I’ve also got half of my potatoes in to their new beds and a full bed of red and white onions.  I have underestimated how much space I will need for the potatoes though, so I need to come up with an alternate solution!
Finally here’s another addition to the fruit and veg area.  A tea plant (Camellia sinensis).  Steven drinks a lot of green tea for its health benefits and I try to every now and again.  I thought it’d be nice to grow our own.  After all, the idea is to be as self sufficient and self reliant as possible.
 
 

I hope you’re all enjoying the sun which we seem to be having in fits and spurts.  I’m not complaining one bit!  It’s starting to dry the fields out just in time for the horses to go back on them and it can’t come soon enough!