First whole weekend outdoors

What a beautiful weekend we had here in North East England.  It was glorious for a Winter’s day in February.  It’s due to turn cold by the end of the week again, so I’ll be sure not to get caught out.
After the usual daily/weekend jobs I started as I meant to go on and got the peas moved to the poltyunnel as they are looking nice and strong and rather big in their modules.  I know we risk losing them, but I am sowing every couple of weeks so that I can mark off which sowing date was best for me. 
I moved the strawberries that were in little pots, taken from runners, to the polytunnel too, for an extra early lot.
I also got a bin of carrots sown.  I have another bin I will put some more in but I want to add sand to that one to compare.  On the below photo, I put the bubble wrap over the top to help germination.
Strawberries planted from 2016 finished plant runners
 Once I’d finished with the polytunnel, I took a stroll into the veg plot.  The garlic is growing very well, but something has had the first few cloves away.  This line went all the way down to the bottom of the bed before.
I then dug a bean trench and filled it with the compost bin’s contents.  I intend to dig another bean trench to the right of this one, leaving a gap, and filling that one with rotted muck.  That one will be for French climbing beans.  I’m using muck as I’ve no more compost from the veg peeling composter.
It was a day of pondering as I worked.  I have the area where the rescue hens lived in 2016 before the lockdown.  I think I would like to bring this area back to life as a flower garden/mini orchard.  There’s already lots of things in there at the back of the grassed area.  Last year, I was adamant that anything that didn’t provide food was to go.  However I’ve since learnt the importance of flowers, bees and pollination plus beneficial insects (not to mention the decline of the bee population).

 This is the area I was thinking about putting a few fruit trees, maybe an apple off Kev, a pear (already got) and almond?  I need to find out more about the fruit trees.  The space is quite big so I was thinking maybe I could make a bed for my berries and bushes that like ericaceous soil if I don’t put fruit trees in.  We do have 3 apple trees already, would 4 be too many?  Should I get another pear (the one I have is conference, self pollinating).  Decisions….

Whilst pondering this, I remembered I needed to cover another area of the plot that was all weeds last year with membrane, to hopefully eradicate them.  This is it:
Looking up and over the fence, I then started pondering something else…so I walked out to the front of the house and took a photo of what’s there.  I could tidy up around the bridle path sign and plant some wild hedging here, like Tricia suggested.
I have a wall that runs along the front of the house which is very long and south facing.  Now I don’t want anything high, as it’d stop the view from the rooms, but maybe I could grow peas, mini sunflowers or such like along the wall?

Whilst I was pondering, Ste was actually working.  He made a new feeder for the growers.  Their normal feeder is insider this bucket and they have to put their heads in the holes to get to it.  It stops them wasting it all as this bunch are terrible for that.  These guys will be back out soon hopefully.  The ban for my postcode is being lifted shortly.

He also lined the last bed with membrane and we set about filling it with muck, so that’s now done.  I just need topsoil for them all now, which I am ordering at the end of the month.
I saw my first dandelion emerging on Sunday which is telling me things are starting to grow and I need to start the weekly weed if I have any chance of survival this year.

 There wasn’t just me having fun in the veg plot.  Grace knows how to dig up the leeks.

Jack helped out too with the last of the sprouts.

 Steven did the man thing and had a fire!  Incidentally the weed bed I mentioned is behind this fire bin, pre cover up.

As I left the plot for the afternoon, I couldn’t help but look back and get that giddy feeling that all gardeners so as the season starts. 
As always, comments, questions and advice are welcome.  We’re very much learning as we go, jumping in both feet first.

The Veg Plot

A lot of people are asking, jokingly, if we will open a market garden.  Whilst I smile back at them and laugh along at the idea of us being able to do anything like that, I really like the idea of it.  We are hoping to sell the eggs on, for eating and fertile, the muck heap can go for free to allotments and home made bread is a hit with the family already, so the thought of growing something that people might actually like to buy isn’t too far out there. Let’s get it supplying food for our table first I can hear my husband saying!

We have a rectangular shaped veg plot, sectioned off and rabbit proofed (I presume this should state as much as possible here).  Looking from google maps you can see the veg plot on the bottom middle of the picture. 

The beds are as follows:
Central far bed.  Soil based, obviously used by previous owner as fire pit area.  We’d like to grow in it.
Onion bed before
Onion bed after

Stood at far end of veg bed looking back on row one

Bed 1 currently has roses in.  Not sure what value they have from food production point of view (for us I mean, not the previous owners)

Bed 2.  Why only half covered?  They had spare tarpaulin so wondering if there’s a reason.

Is this asparagus?

No idea what’s in here but there is some sort of frame at the far end.

Hopefully a bed ready to use this week.  We’ve not looked underneath.

Another one that should be ready to go.

Blue arches?

I think this is just weeds now.

Might weed this and leave it to see what comes up

This is where the ash was put but it hasn’t been dug in?
The only bed DH has managed to start, which is more than I’ve done, is the onion bed.  We bought some onion sets from B&M to try and popped them all.  They take up about 2/3rds of the bed I labelled.  I am going to plant some mint around it too as apparently that’s a good companion plant.  The remaining 1/2 may be potatoes, which will also have a full bed of their own.
How exciting!!!!!
The post wouldn’t be complete without the latest animal pictures.
Not interested in getting their faces on the blog

Love this photo

The new and the old, all friends.

February thoughts

We don’t want to waste a minute of our new lives.  Time goes by so quickly that we are making sure we embrace every minute we can.  With both of us working full time, that’s especially hard, though it does allow for some thinking time.  In addition to everything we want to do on the smallholding, I want to ensure a good quality relationship between us and the kids.  Making sure we find time each day to listen to their day, enjoy a game or two and generally be in each other’s active company.  That includes making time for the cheeky dogs who are not allowed to sit at the table despite their sweet looks towards me.

Without wasting any time then,  the sourdough starter that I referred to on my “we did it” post didn’t ever activate.  So I tried Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s method in the River Cottage Everyday book and by gum it’s worked!  I put around 100g wholemeal flour in with a bit of warm water to make a paste and whizzed it with my hand blender for a good few minutes, covered it up with cling film and left it in the kitchen.  After 24 hours it was bubbling a bit so I added a bit more flour and water and it’s well and truly away now.  I am really drawn to this type of bread as it’s made from the wild yeast in the air meaning it’s truly our smallholding’s bread. 

This morning, the wind was stormy again, however when I left the house at 7:20 I was amazed that it was light enough to see and without the need of my trusty torch.  I stopped to take a couple of photos of the vegetable patch.  I can’t wait to get in there and working on it!  It won’t be until this weekend, or even next before we can realistically make a start on it.  This weekend it’s my daughter’s 9th birthday so the focus is on that at the moment.  However it doesn’t stop us planning what we’d like where and trying to identify what is already there. 

When we viewed the house, I thought there was rhubarb but I can’t see any shoots so I wonder if they took it with them.  Surely not!  There is a bed of Asparagus which I need to identify and mark down as one to leave.  Also raspberries and blackcurrants I think.  Some items (not sure what) have ash on them around the base, so I need to read up on that too.  Hubby bought a new raspberry and blueberry cane to see if we can bring those on.

I also have seeds en-route from Thompson and Morgan that will be ready to plant as soon as they arrive.  We plan on staggering their sowing period to hopefully keep us in veggies for a period of time opposed to a huge glut.   Those that we planted last night are in the kitchen, greenhouse or utility depending on what temperature they require! 

Tomatoes – cherry and beef

They are taking over already!  Seeds due for delivery today are:

Pea ‘Terrain’
Broad Bean ‘Jubilee Hysor’
Dwarf Bean ‘Golden Teepee’
Leek ‘Autumn Giant 2 – Porvite’
Broccoli ‘Aquiles’ F1 Hybrid (Calabrese)
Carrot ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ (not dispatched yet)
Potato ‘Rocket’ (not dispatched yet)

Our electric fence has arrived, ordered from Mole Valley Farmers so that needs putting up in the main field to hopefully keep the horses in.  Something we have never done before, so that will be interesting.  We can’t afford to put a new post and rail fence up yet so this is the next best thing.  It is to stop the horses getting down in to the river which is down a bank at the bottom of our main field. 

It’s always nice to come in and warm your bum on the Aga