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.
 

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!

 
 

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!