Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The fields are alive...

Spring is beginning to show herself, finally.

There have been signs all over the garden and allotment, albeit somewhat intermittently at the moment. The herd of Dexter steers have returned to the field opposite, so the mornings are gently broken up by their lowing and mooing. The mornings are lighter, we are getting up in the light and the evenings are allowing us a few hours to do things before hitting us with the dark.

It's at this time of the year that things begin to ramp up, there are seeds to be sown, earth to be turned, repairs or changes that have materialised during the winter as well, this year, as decorating, putting together stuff for the barn and jobs...that is, life outside our smallest of smallholdings.

Where to start? Well, the barn is now nearly complete. We are on the tiling. Next week the floor coverings go down, then we can put the furniture in upstairs and all the cider, honey and smoking equipment downstairs. It's really turned out beautifully. I will aim to get some photos up here in the next few days.

Of course, now the new patio has gone down and winter has passed, there is lawn to seed, and then the patio tubs to sort. Unfortunately many of them are in a bit of a sorry state this year having stood on the deck out of the builders way, but not in the best place and they're covered in brick dust or rather waterlogged or just plain sorry for themselves. My next few weekends will be spent trying to salvage and re-pot what I can.

We, sadly, lost a hive this winter. No idea of the cause, just bad luck I guess. So we had to take the hive to pieces and blow torch it to ensure that we had killed any possible disease (not that the bees looked deformed or anything). We discovered several pounds of honey on the brood frames, so we took to rather crude methods of extracting as we didn't want to extract the grubs into the honey. We called it the 'spoon to gob' method.

I have a pot of cooking honey and, whilst this honey was no good for jars, it has made a fine addition to my cooking honey and Master Beehive the elder made a rather scrummy honey cake with some of it.

So we are on the look out for a couple of swarms once the weather warms up after we re-assembled the old hive and have assembled a third one.

The chickens and ducks have nearly survived the winter. We have one rather sorry looking chicken who is keeping going despite the odds. She spent an evening warm in a towel in the utility room a few weeks back and then spent a week living in our greenhouse. She seemed to find a new lease of life, so, having given her a reprieve, I popped her back in with the rest. Since then, she has gone downhill again. She still seems to eat and drink, but her comb is very pale. I know what the kindest thing to do would be, but...erk! I keep hoping I might just wake up tomorrow and find her having passed on. Not a very good farmer really :-(

The allotment is looking much healthier this year. We composted all the chicken poop and have spread that, horse muck and topsoil on all the beds. Mr Beehive has built up the sides of the beds more so we may have some luck with root veg and LMB and I have spent HOURS picking stones out of the beds. I'm told 7 years is the magic amount of time to see fruition with soil improvement...7 bloody years! Gah! However, it looks much healthier than last year and whilst I have been turning it, the worms are in abundance. I'm told that is a sign of healthy soil.

I spent a weekend building a makeshift fruit cage which guards my blackcurrants and I still have to make one for the raspberries.
Whilst thinking of ways of protecting the plants I often peruse various websites to see if I can find really nice cloches or protective covers, I um and ah for ages, put things in my basket, ponder over ridiculous postage charges and then shut the website down having wasted an hour but achieved nothing. I then move over to pinterest (have you been there...of course you have!) OMG! The creative ideas that people have!

There is no need to buy when there is pinterest.

I have made my pea support walls, my fruit cage and I have made some short seed protectors from galvanised wire (really easy) and am going to make a few more longer ones using corrugated plastic and rope - for the grand price of £7 per 1.5 m tunnel - not bad considering they were asking over £30 on the websites!

I'll post pictures next weekend once I've built them.

Let the busy seasons commence!

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