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!

 
 

What a beautiful weekend

I know it’s a common thing to say, but this weekend just flew by.  We did have a busy one mind you, it was glorious weather! 
The greenhouse was difficult to keep cool and I actually lost some tomato seedlings which I’m gutted about.  They were in this heat in the propagator too, so even hotter.  I have lots more sown, but still sad when it happens.
It was a weekend of fencing again.  We have a stock fence that separates the small paddock and the field.  The field has a gate which is not linked to the small paddock and it’s become a mud bath over winter, so we’ve decided to put another gate in as an alternative route whilst that one recovers. 
Ste took part of the stock fence down, to make room for the gate.  A trip to Mole Valley (agricultural store) later and we had the wood necessary for the job.

In no time at all, Ste had dug the holes out, post crete’d in the posts and added the fence rails. 

 
We then had a chat about the stock fence which started to look tired and aged against the new post and rail section.  Our intention was to eventually replace the full thing, but not immediately.  This weekend’s task was to get the gate ready for use.
Of course, best laid plans were thrown to one side and we set about (we being Ste) and took up the stock fencing, keeping it for the pig area at a later date.  The field now looks amusing in that there is a gate in place, but an open space which you can just walk around.  We had another run to the agricultural store and got the rest of the wood needed to put a full fence up. 
 
I wasn’t sat on my haunches whilst Ste was busy with the fence.  I’ve planted up the rest of the trees in to the mini orchard and am really pleased with the results.  It’s still work in progress as there’s a lot of soft fruit to go in, but so far, so good.  We’ve the last 2 apple trees, a pear, 2 apricot, an almond and a rogue fig…the fig isn’t in the ground yet as I’m not sure what to do with him.
The grass area will eventually be removed and some replaced with culinary and medicinal herb beds.  That’s something I really want to learn a bit more about. 
 

Can you ever have enough apple trees and a blog award.

No is the answer!  We are the proud owners of 12 new apple trees of the following varieties:
Fiesta
Howgate Wonder (cooking)
Discovery
Ellstons Orange
May queen
Bakers delicious
Winston
Scotch Bridgett (cooking)
Bramley (cooking)
Red Windsor
Winter banana
Cookers are labelled, remainder are eating apples which will produce at different times of season.
Kev from An English Homestead sells them and we can’t praise him highly enough.  Excellent prices, brilliantly packaged and a wealth of information. 
It was a big job to fit into a Saturday, as there was a lot of clearing to get on with before we could plant them.  You may remember the front fence coming down, not a year after it went up (oops)?  Well that was the start of the mini orchard.
The area along the trellis was cleared except the huge plant in the middle.  Everything is being rehomed that was there.

 We rotavatored the patch and cleared it of debris, weeds and odds and sods.

 The Ste set about digging holes around 60-80cm apart so we can grow these trees as cordons.  They will be pruned when needed in the summer (next year Kev?) to restrict their growth.

 A total of 10 went in at these close intervals along the back row.  We have 2 left to go in, 1 of which is going in right about where Rodney is sniffing in the photo below!

This grass area will house other fruit and nut trees, all I need is chocolate and I might be on to something 😉
I’m really pleased with them and how they went in.  We followed instructions online, loosely.  A bucket or 2 of rotted muck went in with each of them along with a bamboo stick at 45 degree angle.  They will look great.  One is coming in to blossom already!
Finally, I’m really pleased to say my little blog won an award for “best smallholding blog” from Walton Blog awards.  There were only 13 nominations but I’m really pleased and would like to thank anyone that voted 🙂

Seed sowing, promotion, poorly kids, angry sheep and fighting cockerels!

The week started off promising as I found out I’ve been given a promotion at work which is great as at one stage I wondered if I would be laid off. 
Then my son was off school with a terrible cold which doesn’t sound too bad, but sleepless nights and snotty noses take their toll on him and me!
Yesterday saw my 2 Vorwek cockerels were told off by the sheep.  They were arguing and the sheep decided they didn’t like it and hilariously started chasing the cockerel who was “winning” around after headbutting him 2 foot into the air.  After videoing (It won’t let me upload) said chase I set about my jobs but they continued and it got nasty so I broke it up and put some septicleanse on the wound (too strong of a word) and received some good advise off my facebook friends (thank you bloggers who are on there and responded – it’s given me some good ideas for what to have in my first aid bag moving forward). 
They are stunning, however 1 is now up for sale.  They’re both coming into their own and do their jobs well, but they will hurt each other if they stay together.  I think I will keep the stronger of the 2 as he will do a better job at keeping the fox away hopefully.

Did someone order March?  I’ve gone from feeling it will never arrive to hardly believing it is here!  I’ve been keeping on top of the sowing of seeds as I am trying to do some successionally to ensure we have crops of things throughout the year.  The heat bench is a blessing and it is on permanently now.  This is what the greenhouse looked like at the weekend.

Tomatoes and some flowers, also PSB on this one
Corn salad in old strawberry box – reusing is very important
Carrots, 1 aubergine and all season kale at the back
Leeks, cauli and cabbage and more flowers I think
Sweet peas, peas in drainpipe, blueberry plants and fig tree (stick!)
3 “free” blueberry plants from GYO mag (paid postage) and some currant cuttings I took myself
My comfrey is coming through, yey!

I have taken delivery of 4.5 tonnes of screened topsoil.  This will go on the veg beds which have been filled with muck.  John Seymour grew carrots in muck and said his were fine, so I am going to try it.  I don’t mind forked carrots, I just want food!

 The wagon was huge but it did make me appreciate the late February blue sky.  The driver also bough 3 1/2 dozen eggs off us, so a good day all round.

 My lovely parents bought us a conference pear tree just because they wanted to, so I promptly soaked it, dug a hole and put a bucket of rotted muck in and firmed the tree down.  I love that we’re planting trees for future generations to benefit from, as well as us of course.
I got my first/second earlies in, some outside and some in the polytunnel to experiment and know what to do next year.
I’ve planted Swift (FE), Athlete (SE) and British Queen (SE)
We have been getting goose eggs regularly for a couple of weeks now and I have found they make the best frittata I’ve tasted.  We had a massive one which turned out to be a double yoker.  I’ll be using the rest to make some cakes for the freezer that I will pre slice and pack ready to use in packed lunches.
 
 
 I can’t recall if I posted this already, but these are some bulbs which the chickens must have scratched out last summer and have self rooted in silly places.  I rescued them and look forward to seeing what they are.
 
 We are expecting new additions Saturday!!! Stay tuned!
 

Beautiful blooms!

Happy Friday!
What a lovely way to have spent Friday afternoon into early evening. I’ve had a couple of hours in the greenhouse planting up the tomatoes into their final resting spot for some. Others that were planted later have gone into the middle size pots and will go into their buckets in a few weeks. They were all planted with half manure half compost from Tesco and had a good feed with Tomatorite. I love the smell of the tomato plants, it makes me think we might actually get a harvest!
My lovely Dad spent an hour digging over the dreaded stony veg bed. It’s still in huge chunks but makes life easier for me tomorrow digging it down further.
We had a dead pheasant in the woods today which is the third unexplained death around here. Firstly was Mr Fox, secondly was a rabbit in the middle of our drive and today a pheasant. None of which had any marks to suggest how they died!
We had a wander around the small holding tonight and took in the prettiness around us. The fruit trees are in bloom, the bluebells out and life couldn’t be better. Have a lovely weekend everyone.