Long Overdue Update

Everything here has been coming along really nicely. The hens have settled in remarkably well. They have been free range around the orchard/ future forest garden and though they are still a little feather free in places, they seem to be healthy and we have continued to get around three eggs a day from the six of them.

Chickens ranging in orchard Happy Chicken

Things in the polytunnel are also coming along really well and it feels rather crowded in there now! We have been harvesting quite a lot already- so far we’ve had the first plant’s worth of baby new potatoes (still pretty small), bucket fulls of mixed salad leaves and spinach, mange tout peas, radishes, small bulbs of red onions and their greens, spring onions, pak choi and little gems.

Peas and beans getting enormous! Plenty of mange tout.
Peas and beans getting enormous! Plenty of mange tout.
Flowering courgettes.
Flowering courgettes.
First tomato in the polytunnel - a Tumbling Tom.
First tomato in the polytunnel – a Tumbling Tom.
Uchiki Kuri squash plant.
Uchiki Kuri squash plant.

Inside the tomatoes in the porch are ripening now.

Ripe tomatoes.
Ripe tomatoes.

We had a lovely weekend sitting out in the sunshine in the garden with a friend who was staying – spending some time getting to know the hens – one of them who we have called Martha has already revealed a fascination with falling water – she came running while I was going the watering and stared in amazement. So if we want to find her we just have to fetch the watering can! The others are harder to recognise but I am getting there!

I’ll update on the vegetable beds tomorrow.

Hens Home At Last – But I am not!

I am writing this from my mother-in-laws house in Yorkshire. We are down here for a few days helping her with a few DIY jobs around the house. While we are having a lovely time it is bad timing as while my we are down here our new ex-battery hens have finally arrived! We adopted them in the end them through the excellent charity ‘A Wing and a Prayer’. Now we have not five as we originally intended but six lucky ladies who have now happily set up residence in the orchard/forest garden.

Hens HenIntroducing then, Clara, Henrietta, Florence, Martha, Gladys and Dorcas – though I am yet to meet them myself!

It sounds as though they are already loving their new lives – scratching around in their run. They have laid six eggs already – clearly as their systems have not yet climbed down from their intensively farmed schedule. It will be interesting to see what happens to egg production when they become fully integrated into free-range life.

In any case, the chickens are here to stay – any gifts they choose to give us are purely incidental.
Hens exploring their new home

First of many more to come?
First of many more to come?

Taking Our Minds off the Election Results

Well, we’ve had a crazy election here in the UK – we have an interesting discrepancy between the way England and Scotland have voted and we here are simultaneously elated by the historic victory in Scotland for the progressive, left-wing SNP and extremely depressed to be stuck with the Conservatives in Westminster – since (at least for now) we are still shackled to that government. Five more years of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and astonishing numbers of people having to rely on food banks. Five more years of a government that very few people in our country actually voted for.

Aside from staying up all night to watch as the results came in on Thursday night, we have managed to take our mind off it all by doing quite a lot in the garden and polytunnel. Though it is still a bit colder than we would usually expect for this time of year, things are still surviving and thriving.

Today we have planted out lots of tomatoes and bell peppers into the polytunnel.

I tied strings between the crop bars to which we have tied the tomatoes.
I tied strings between the crop bars to which we have tied the tomatoes. There are still a few more on the windowsill which we are going to put in grow bags tomorrow.
The tomatoes and bell peppers are underplanted with a few marigolds and some basil.
The tomatoes and bell peppers are underplanted with a few marigolds and some basil.
As you can see, things are really filling up now in the polytunnel.
As you can see, things are really filling up now in the polytunnel. We have already been eating a lot of mixed salad leaves, pak choi, spinach and radishes and the peas and broad beans are in full flower. 

Things outside the tunnel are looking pretty good now too.

Peas are popping up in the vegetable bed.
Peas are popping up in the vegetable bed.
First earlies just bursting through
And the first earlies are just peeking through the soil.
The calabrese and other brassicas are coming along.
The calabrese and other brassicas are coming along.
There are flowers on the strawberry plants.
There are flowers on the strawberry plants.
As you can see, the blossom on the fruit trees seems mostly to have survived the cold.
As you can see, the blossom on the fruit trees seems mostly to have survived the cold.

Oh, and here is one of the wood burning stoves in action, complete with the hearth dragon that lives beneath it.

Dragon sleeping under wood burning stove

More Planting, Pests in the Polytunnel and Wood Burning Stoves

Apologies for not providing a proper update after the snow. We still have rather unseasonably cold weather but nothing dramatic. Fortunately so far there has been no more snow. Aside from a fair few herbs and the marigolds planted in more exposed places, most things seem to be struggling through.

Brassicas seem to be doing okay in spite of the cold weather.
Brassicas seem to be doing okay in spite of the cold weather.

Direct sown peas, salad leaves and radishes are popping up.

Peas popping through

Salad leaves appearing.
Salad leaves appearing.

And everything in the polytunnel seems to be thriving.

The polytunnel is beginning to fill up nicely. Newly sown flowers and more kohlrabi have filled up the space on the hanging shelf.
The polytunnel is beginning to fill up nicely. Newly sown flowers and more kohlrabi have filled up the space on the hanging shelf.

Radish, carrots, beetroot, onions

New potatoes and peas

Peas and bread beans, with salad leaves, spinach and pak choi (from which we have already been taking some leaves).
Peas and bread beans, with salad leaves, spinach and pak choi (from which we have already been taking some leaves).

We do however have rather a large number of what I think (from looking them up on the Internet) are St. Mark’s flies, Bibio marci. I have read that they eat the roots of, amongst other things, lettuce so having so many of them is probably not a great thing. We will have to put our heads together and figure out how to deal with them.

Is this a St. Mark's fly? There are hundreds of them in the polytunnel!
Is this a St. Mark’s fly? There are hundreds of them in the polytunnel!

Today, in hopes that the weather will soon improve I have sown another batch of seeds. More kohlrabi, french beans, various flowers, basil and summer squash.

Basil and summer squash sitting in a warm spot to germinate.
Basil and summer squash sitting in a warm spot to germinate.

One of the reasons that I have not updated this blog sooner than now is that it has been rather a chaotic week. The two wood burning stoves have finally been installed!

The dogs have been wondering what on earth is going on. There was quite a lot of noise and of course things had to be moved out of the way.
The dogs have been wondering what on earth is going on. There was quite a lot of noise and of course things had to be moved out of the way.
The second stove. Just a bit of painting and these rooms in the main house will be much improved.
The second stove. Just a bit of painting and these rooms in the main house will be much improved.

Some wood has been ordered, since of course the wood we have chopped here and that acquired from my husband’s workplace will not be useable for a year or so. We were glad to be able to find a supplier of naturally dried wood. You may or may not be aware that much of the wood on the market is kiln dried – negating its carbon neutrality. Seems crazy to me.

We are glad to finally have the stoves in place. They mean that next autumn and winter we will not have to rely on the oil heating. It is a big step towards our more sustainable way of life.