Sunday, 30 March 2008

Those darstedly meeces !

Trying to make a little space in brick greenhouse this morning, I moved some clutter, err, stuff out of the way and saw that last years seeds and packets have been raided by the dratted meeces. They've picked over each packet and helped themselves to some tasty treats. A clearout has been long overdue, so I've spent the best part of the day finally clearing the brick greenhouse and potting shed out. I'm ashamed to say that not only were most of the ring cultures and boxes still in place, but they were also complete with crispy plants !

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A new family appeared in Joe's lottie, the next but one to me. The lady was very sniffy and complained very loudly at the top of her voice about the state of the lottie, her kids, husband etc. It is pratically weed free, due to Joe's love of spraying anything that moves with weedkiller, but he has a greenhouse frame (needs glazing), a tool store, a sitting shed, fruit cage, paths, waterbutts etc and over the years has really looked after his lottie - it will only take a couple of months of digging to get the whole lottie functional again. Joe was ill last season and is getting on a bit and I think it has just become too much for him. It also turns out that some vandals have kicked in his gate, forced open his shed and then been into each of the lotties on the row - so it seems that my innocent wind damage isn't mother nature at all (it does also explain why my radio was part way down the lottie, when nothing else was - at least they didn't seem to take anything or damage any of the plants). If I'd been offered it I would have been skipping with joy - perhaps she'd expected the council to plant it up for her. I really hope they don't take it.

Sadly old Ken has also given up his lottie, next but one the other way. He suffered from a heart attack last year and was reduced to very light duties, so more changes - again whoever gets it will be very lucky as it will need minimal work to turn it around - not like the jungle next door. I've not met them yet and they've done a lot of work, but it will be a long haul similar to mine to turn it around.

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I've set the potting shed up with its temporary seedling station (wallpaper pasting table) and even managed to sow my first seeds of 2008 - some marigolds. I stuffed loads of seeds into an old tub, as I seem to remember that the meeces ate three trays of them last year. I think I'll sow most of my seeds next weekend, I know I'm behind lots of people, but I don't think it will be long before I catch up - especially as I'm not going to grow aubergines or okra this year. I said I'm not going to grow them .. I will not sow them ...

Even though I haven't yet lifted last seasons potatoes that did not deter me from planting my first of this season - 10 x Vales Emerald. OH thought I'd started a pet cemetary. It does look a little creepy.

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I was midway through planting them when I heard a loud rustle between mine and Ken's lotties. I glanced up and saw a very striking cat, it had such a beautifiul coloured coat that I stopped to watch it slinking between the fence panels, just catching glimpses of it. I made a kissey noise and it stopped and turned to look at me - then I realised it wasn't a cat at all, but a young fox. He was beautiful, with a lovely bushy tail. I realise now that perhaps if it had been a cat, maybe I should have been running, vs sending it kisses as it would probably have wanted to eat me for dinner :)

The parsnips were looking decidedly healthy, with lots of green leaves, but I wanted to dig the bed over, so it was time for them to come out. Lookey at the size of them !!! I was screeching with excitment as I wrestled them from the ground. They're my biggest ever - I have about four monster sized ones ... probably normal size to you :)

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I've started to lift the Cara (potatoes) and am very pleased with what I've dug up so far - miminal critter damage and no shoots. Not tried them yet, but OH loves them as chips, so I'm guessing they'll be making an appearance on the dinner table this week sometime. I'm hoping that he is going to make some leek & potato soup too ... she said loudly.

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I came across this little plant yesterday and decided that it was a flower, vs a weed. It has a very strong smell, almost herbal, however when I got home and checked my weed book I couldn't decide whether it was feverfew or ragwort. Fortunately next door confirmed it is feverfew - I think it has arrived on my lottie via the wind or our feathered visitors.

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Mr Froggie has been staring up at me from the bottom of the pond today, lurking in the weed. I've spent ages starting back into the water (its a real distraction LOL) and nearly fell in when the hugest tadpole nonchalently swam in front of me. I didn't think anyone would believe me, so I hunted down a clear container and eventually managed to catch him - unbelievely he has legs developing. I wondered whether he could possibly be left over from last season, but OH thinks that he is from the warm weather we had in February (not that I remember any warm weather).

Its not a great photo, I'm afraid my camera was about to die, so it was snapped in a hurry, but it proves he is definitely a tadpole:

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It has been a beautifully sunny day here in Sheffield and the wildlife could be forgiven for thinking summer has arrived. I'm really glad now that I haven't pulled up the flowering salad just yet:

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Back in business

Spurred on by my earlier forays to the lottie, I tried my luck for a third time and managed to get a bit done before the heavens opened.

I've been thinking about what to plant in the bed that is next to the glass greenhouse. From memory it is the only bed that has not been manured (originally it was my root bed) and in honesty I think its probably my poorest bed. I dug out last seasons remaining beetroots and added them to the 'eat all you can buffet' formerly known as the compost heap. I'm pretty much decided that I'll sow Phacelia and perhaps some buckwheat - the bees absolutely loved it last year so it should be beneficial for the greenhouse too.

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I've noticed a big problem with my compost heap ... most of the 'good' stuff is disappearing, yesterday for instance a huge carrot that was past its best was added .. today it had disappeared ! OH suggested putting up a polite sign ... I wonder what he has in mind ... perhaps it will need to be multi-lingual.

The Phacelia in the Artichoke bed was springing back into life, so I have turned it in - I think this has the effect of improving the soil. I'd also promised next door a Globe Artichoke when I thinned them out - its heeled into bed no. 2 for now until I see them next, hopefully the plant will recover - it had huge tap roots. Whilst turning the soil I came across one of my missing gloves - I have no idea how it got there ... I wonder where the other one is ...

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Mr Frog was back again, he is a very happy fellow and let me tickle his tummy. He is a very patient subject. No sign of his friend today, just him.

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There was no croaking today, perhaps it was too cold. I'm sure he is smiling at me :)

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Some fresh frogspawn has appeared in the pond overnight - I have about 10 clumps of it now at various stages of development. The new stuff looks like jewels glittering in the sunlight.

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frogspawn close up copy

Frogspawn copy

There is evidence of a visitor to the pond, either a cat or a fox ... I hope they are not planning to practice their fishing skills ... Its surprising how protective you can feel towards little globs of spawn !

Thursday, 27 March 2008

just like a bus ....

you wait for months for an update and then two arrive together !

I finally made it to the lottie for the afternoon .. why on earth haven't I been sooner !! The sun came out and smiled on me as I checked out what has been happening for the last 5 months. Actually it is not too bad at all, considering how little time I've spent there. The greenhouses have suffered some wind damage, but not too much considering the gales that we've experienced lately. Will have to get OH to do some maintenance for me.

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I was very pleased to see my broad beans looking nice and healthy. They are about 5 inches in height and look to have overwintered very well. Curiously the ones in the green manure bed are not doing quite as well as the others - I had thought it would be the other way round.

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My garlic looks fabulous too - the best I've grown yet. I hope that we don't get a repeat of last season. I've got two varieties and they look very different at this stage.

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The beds are amazingly clear of weeds, I think the hard work and time I spent sifting the soil when I first got the lottie has really paid off.

It looks as though I'll be enjoying some rhubarb crumble soon

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This is my rocket in the glass greenhouse, it looks to be growing with a vengence now:

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the salad leaves that I left last year are still flowering, they look great, but I bet the mizuna will blow my head off

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The cauliflowers that were planted late last year look really good. I need to think about moving them outside, but I've heard they don't like being disturbed. I gave them a good water (the first for 2 months !!!!) I'm amazed they've not pegged it.

Here are my electric onions which have survived the winter. They look OK for now, I guess we'll see what happens over the next couple of months. Last years onions were dismal.

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The raspberry canes have overwintered very well - OH will be delighted when he sees this photo, fresh raspberries are one of his favourite things from the lottie.

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I tidied up the wild flower bed, getting rid of the weeds (dandelions, docks and creeping buttercups) and noticed that some of the flowers are budding up already:

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I'd been weeding for about 10 minutes when I noticed a really annoying noise, a kind of weird low, croaking ... and eventually the penny dropped:

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There were two froggies in the pond, but one of them was very shy ! The pond has lots of frogspawn in it

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Look at my lovely new potatoes
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I'm almost too shamed to mention that they are last seasons, nah, who am I kidding, I have no shame. They are last seasons :) Maybe tomorrow I'll dig up the remaining three quarters of the bed ... now I do feel a little shamed. Bet they taste nice tho'. We are having them for tea with leeks in white sauce and vegi haggis

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Crikey, its almost April ... I'd better get cracking

I've been very remiss regarding my lottie this year. I still haven't spent any real time up there and am going to be playing catch up later in the season - don't tell anyone, but I'm actually thinking of getting some vegetable plants from the garden centres this season.

In my defence I have been very distracted with other disasters - I finally chose a new car to replace my written-off one, only to find that the paintwork was damaged when I picked it up. Of course we bought the car from a garage in Stockton, which is an hour and a half from us, so we had the hassle of dealing with the local dealer to get the damage sorted out, but its all fixed now and I really like my car - not so sure it should be used for the lottie run tho'. The rubbish hire car has finally gone back - the hire costs alone must total more than the repairs would have been for my old car, as I've had it for nearly 5 months ... but I'm over it now.

The builders, who said that the job would only take 3.5 weeks have still not finished. It is so unfunny, I can barely speak about it. We went for three weeks without hot water or heating during the really cold snap, when it snowed. For a couple of days during that time we also didn't have a roof on the kitchen - I can't describe how cold we have been. Everything is upside down and covered in thick dust. Its pretty grim. At least the plumber and electrician have finished, so we appear to be on the home stretch - if we can just get them to come back - they've gone off to another job. Its very frutrating and as nice as the house will be when it is done, I'm not sure I want to do it again.

A happier distraction is our new arrival - Ianto

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Ianto is a Welsh name and apparently it is short for John (make of that what you will). It is prononced 'ee-an-toe'. He is absolutely gorgeous and we are totally smitten - his eyes are bluey-green, they are like saucers.

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Ianto close up copy

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He is supposed to be eight years old, but he is very kittenish - his favourite things are chasing his tail and eating food. He is also a very chatty cat and makes funny little churruping and cooing noises - just like a pigeon.

So how come you got a cat I hear you ask ! Well, of course there is always a funny story ... I actually started the conversation by saying shall we get a little dog and before you know it, I'd been duped into not one, but two cats and no dog. I'm still reeling a little. Apparently when we move I'll be getting a dog ... but at this rate, I may well have died before the builders even finish this house. So that was number one cat, who moved in this week, here is number two cat, who is actually a 6 week old kitten - she'll be moving in at the end of April hopefully.

Here she is at 4 weeks:
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no name yet, we have shortlisted 'Kia' and 'Drift' so far ...
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with mum:
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ghostly kittie at 4 weeks copy

pretty cute huh.

and even now as I am typing, thinking maybe I'll go the lottie after all and see what is happening, it has started to pour down with rain. Ah well, I like visiting garden centres ...