Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sneaking in through the blogging back door

Hello you lovely lot, I should apologies for my absence and thanks to those of you who keep getting on at me about posting again!!

February! February was my last post!! 4 months!! Probably one of the busiest times of the allotment year and I haven't been around!

I have to tell you I started writing this post back in June and I've only got round to completing it tonight!

 So, I'm going to do a brief monthly round up of plot and life shenanigans to get back on track! (using the power of images taken and stored on Instagram to remind me)

March: Onions were planted! Sweet peas were planted (hens ate the sweet peas!) In other news lots of crochet was done this month and I got in March what is turning out to be my dream job.

April: Brussels Sprouts (from seed) where planted, and lovely gooseberries and rhubarb started to appear. Cauliflowers and peas where planted, as was a courgette plant that didn't last more than a day (I cant even blame the hens for that one!)

May: The last of the leeks where picked, and the hens are laying like there's no tomorrow.  Sweetcorns where planted and Martha Hen became very broody ad just attacked all the other hens, so she was brought home and we put 4 eggs underneath her to see what would happen.
In other news this month, I ran my first 10km since being diagnosed with M.E. and didn't do too shabbily!

June:  New Job started!  The onions have grown massive as have the brussel sprouts cauliflowers, the sweetcorn and peas.

Day 21 of the the chicken hatching came and there was some cheeping from an egg on day 22 look who I found:

July: Gooseberries, enough onions to feed an army, peas, cauliflowers and rhubarb all picked, 

August: At the beginning of august a local farm had an outbreak of bird flu meaning at the beginning of the outbreak no egg produce or livestock could be transported to and from the allotment, so Martha and the chick have been at home ever since.  I think it was maybe last weekend that the ban was lifted and so they can go back hopefully this week.  The weather this weekend has been dreadful

I have blueberries ready to pick and a freezer for a gooseberries!  

oh and the lack of photos?? Well you can thank nokia for that who promised the me the windows 10 preview would be totally legend (!) it wasn't it wiped every single photo amongst other things and ill be damned if I know how to get them off the cloud!

So that's it, I'll promise to blog more, but bye for now and happy planting xx

oh and by the way I passed my level 2 British sign language course :-)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

lay lady lay

This week has been mega busy! And I'm blogging on a Saturday because tomorrow (Sunday) I'm on a mammoth 12 hour shift!

Monday started with playscheme, Miss Boo and I went bowling with the playscheme children who are deaf, Boo had a great time meeting new people.

Tuesday I spent on the plot

First things first on the plot make a brew and as I'm there Martha and Dolly caused a door blockage and mugged me for ginger biscuits!

An old farmer once told me if you crush ginger biscuits up and put it into the hens food, it encourages them to lay.... I  know how true that is but they do enjoy a ginger biscuit! (Not so much a brew though)

One of hens has started laying again!!

There is nothing more exciting for a hen parent to find an egg in the coop, it literally makes your soul giddy, well it does me!! And what better way to enjoy said treat:

Look at the colour of that yolk!!!

I think it's the clever lady Poppy who laid this, the white Sussex but Penny and Martha aren't far behind, I'm not sure if you can see because I couldn't get a good picture but when they are coming into lay their 'cheeks' and combs and wattles (the bit under their chins) become really red, like redder than red, you can just see on Marthas face the red bits.

As well as this, if you walk upto a layer from behind, they will crouch and stop dead (think for cockerel purposes - hussies!). These two things Martha, poppy and penny have (redness) and are doing.  However, I think its poppy on this occasion because she's been loitering in the hen house and spent a good 10 minutes telling me off on Tuesday because she wanted to go in and I was cleaning the house out!!!

On Tuesday, I also put wire around the border of another bed

The weather was glorious, the ex batts spent some well deserved time sunning themselves

Honestly, if these two never laid again, that'd be on with me, they have such a happy life now.

And then I went home - and ate far too many pancakes!!

Now, I'm not sure how other M.E/CFS sufferers cope with white flour, but for me a complete overload (from pancakes) put me in what I can only describe as an achey, comatosed, brain fogged state all of of Wednesday, I wouldn't mind I know it has that affect but yet I do it anyway!

Oh......I found out on Thursday I passed my sign language exam *insert big smiley face here*!!!!!!

Finally, I went to Crosby today with mum and miss boo and muttmutt, the tide was in, it was choppy and freezing and raining intermittently and absolutely beautiful.

Enjoy the rest your weekend, I how you manage to make it to your plots.

Bye for now & happy planting!


Sunday, 15 February 2015

garlics, beets and caulis

My week has been so busy! Monday, i nipped to the plot to top up food and water for the hens knowing that  Tuesday and Wednesday I was training for my new job. I travelled over to my brothers Monday night and came back Wednesday night. Thursday and Friday I was on catch up and meeting up with friends, so it was nice to go and potter on the allotment on Saturday for a couple hours, even though I was absolutely exhausted (1\2 a day of being man handled in physical intervention training and a 2 mile run on friday will do that to a girl)!

After consulting the growing wheel I decided planted up the garlic.

I never have any luck with garlic, I don't know why, but this year I have a new tactic, I'm growing it in trugs as opposed to the ground, maybe I'll have better luck this year!

So armed with dibber and ruler I set to work planting the cloves 4 inches apart 3 inches deep.

I've then given them a little water and put them outside under a piece of greenhouse plastic. They might not need it over read they like the frost but...

After that, I've planted up some caulis and beets in the propagators, as an experiment really. It said on the packets plant early spring outdoors. I've never grown beets ever and never cauli from seed so I thought I'd see how they get on and I've got more seeds if needed. I've weeded half a bed, the other half has leeks in and then picked some leeks for tea. Though still at time of blogging on Sunday night I've not used them! I'm thinking leek and potato soup!

Today I've made some headway on the greenhouse. By that I mean I've taken down the majority of the wire that was on there used for the rabbit run.  I'm going to use the wire to put around the rest of the beds on the plot.

This weeks jobs:

Play scheme!
Frame the raised beds with wire
Weed the rest of the beds
Get past a one and a half mile run without getting a new blister!! ( any tips?)

Bye for now & happy planting! Xx

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The last week

A whole week off work!! It has gone rather fast, and has been rather busy, consisting of the gym, the plot, the car in the garage and school family bingo (two hours of my life I'm never going to get back!)

I went to the plot on Tuesday even with the sun out and it being 9:30 in the morning the car temperature said it was -2 (I'm not sure how much I believe that car temperature gauge),  I had to put the car in the garage so I walked to the plot from there, it's only about a mile.  I walked through the lodge local to there, even though it was cold, it was beautiful.

                                                      Tiny little waterfalls on the brook.

This old house (Arrowsmith House) is at one of the entrances to the lodge 

Blue frosty skies

Once I got to the plot after letting the hens out and putting the kettle on, the realisation set in, that actually there was not much I can do (other than take selfies with Martha Hen).

The ground was rock hard with the frost, great for walking on in trainers, but not for anything else!  I couldn't even do any weeding, but the girls had a good couple of hours out and I tided the shed a little bit.

Yesterday (Saturday) it was chilly but quite warm (if that makes sense?), the sun was shining and due to the plot being south facing it warmed up quite quickly, and the ground was cold but easier to work with.

I've planted some peas (variety: misty), they grow to a height of about 24" and I've planted them in the box that the carrots have been in the last couple of years.

I've planted 10 of this variety.  Allotment Nigel was on his plot too, and turned up with a plastic bag for me to cover my peas.  I'm sure he watches from afar wondering 'what is she doing now?' and then comes over with various bits of advice, he's great and really helpful, I've learnt a fair bit from him (and he's also given me lots of polythene for my greenhouse project).

Once the peas get going I'll make a frame for them.  I might also plant another variety of peas maybe one that grows higher, I'm not sure yet.....

I also did some work on one of the beds.  The beds have weed membrane on the bottom and have had for the last two years, it's been great to stop any weeds coming through but because the beds are only 6 inches high there's not much room for root growth.  So yesterday I started on the mammoth task of getting the weed membrane out from underneath the soil.  It was hard work! Shifting bits of soil each time and then dragging out the membrane.  I eventually did it and put it on top of the soil to warm it up a bit ready for planting.

The soil underneath is in really good condition and what with that and mixing in the surplus soil from the chicken coop (from a couple of weeks ago) I should get a good crop off this bed this year.

The ladies enjoyed a good dustbath in one of the empty beds.

I also noticed yesterday, the rhubarb is starting to make an appearance as well.

Today (Sunday) I've spent a couple of hours on the plot in the cold.  It was really foggy and nippy, to the point where I've been home for a couple of hours (at time of writing) and my hands are still freezing, and my fingers are hitting the wrong keys on the keyboard!  Even the hens weren't for staying out opting for being in the coop most of my couple hours there.

The unruly gooseberry bush has been tied back to the fence allowing better access down the path (up until now, it's been happily trying to tear the skin off your leg when you walk by)  it really does need pruning...

Now, last night about 1 o'clock in the morning I remembered, last year when I was moving things around on the plot I needed to move a compost bin and its contents.  I had nowhere to put said contents so I just shoved it into a bed threw lots of stuff on the top to make sure the wind couldn't blow off the sheeting and left it - and forgot about it, until last night.

TA-DA!!! Lovely jubbly compost!! I'm going to take half of (possibly even two thirds) this out put it into another bed and replace it with just top soil, I don't want the soil to be to rich.  But for now, I've just recovered it, again to keep it warm.

I've weeded and covered a second small bed too 

All these smaller beds are down the right hand side of the plot as you look at it. There are about 5 in total down the side and they're a great use of the space down the side.  I'm hoping to get all of these side beds up and running this year.


There's Papa O on the plot frankly driving me mad with his new found growing knowledge thanks to the Grow your Own Magazine subscription I got him for Christmas!  
It's like spending an hour with an amateur Monty Don!

I've set one bed aside and put it in the middle of the plot just to trial it being there, ideally  I want to make a small arch over it and try and vertically grow squash this year in this little bed.  (Papa O/Monty Don is not impressed by this idea, there is no mention of it in GYO so it can't be done!)

I've also started on chicken proofing the beds.  I found some wire on the plot that I'd taken down there a couple of weeks ago, and to be honest I think this works a treat, good old garden canes and chicken wire around the beds will keep the hens out and is low enough for me to step in.  I have more wire at home on the rabbit run that will be the greenhouse so I'll be tearing it all down and bringing it to the plot.

Finally,  I've brought all the panels from the old greenhouse home to make a start on the 'new' greenhouse!

A busy weekend all in all!!

This weeks plans;

  • Start new job 
  • Make a start on the greenhouse
  • Plant up some seeds in the propagators
  • Buy some bloomin potatoes to chit!!! 
  • More training for The Great Manchester Run in May!
      (You can read all about that here: )

Bye for now & Happy Planting!! 


Sunday, 25 January 2015

wintery colds and new ideas...

Eurgh!! Yet again I am full of this horrible cold that is going around, its grim and I just find I'm staying indoors keeping warm. Equally the weather this last couple of weeks has been so cold, with ice, snow and really cold winds, its been hard to hibernate!! The hens have no interest in coming out, they maybe mooch for 5 minutes then go back into the warmth of their under cover.

Our (not so lovely) tabby cat had to be put down this week.  He was about 14 and just had a massive stroke.  (I know what you're thinking 'all that girls animals keep dying'! But we rescue them at an older age) There's no denying it, he wasn't the most pleasant cat and attacked pretty much every visitor as well as us and the other animals in the house. But we got him 2 years ago and have no idea of his previous history, so he had a good couple of years here:

       Sargent Tazbo the bad ass cat who needed an ASBO

This is my last week at work!! I start my new job on the 10th February, I'm so excited for new challenges. It also means I have a few days off so I'm going to make good use of my time.

On friday, I went to b and q with my birthday gift voucher (from September) and stocked up onon a few seeds for the new planting year:

In that lot I bought some fennel and asparagus, two things I've never grown before, but always wanted to try. I'm sure there will go more purchases as time goes on, but these will keep me busy for now.

I was going to take them over to Papa O's and plant them up in his greenhouse, I do have windowsill propagators but they take up loads of room, so I was going to take the seeds and propagators over there, then, I had a brilliant idea!!! 

Below is a picture of our back garden:

It was taken a few years ago, but its pretty much the same (minus the pink house) Anyway, the structure to the right of the picture used to be the rabbit and hen run:

As Hugo rabbit lives in the house, we have no use for the rabbit run anymore, so, in the few days I have off at the beginning of February I'm going to make this into a greenhouse, using clear plastic!! Then I'll have more planting space on the plot.  Also, it means things can get watered everyday in the height of summer because its easier to get to, I'll keep you posted!

Bye for now and happy planting xx

Sunday, 11 January 2015

"Do you even know how to dig........ feckin' gobshite?"

The above question (insult) is just one of the many I've had to endure from Papa O on the allotment today.  To be fair the answer was no (the best bit was when I spent ages getting soil on my spade so proud of myself, went to throw it in the wheelbarrow, hit a piece of wood and it all fell off back to where I'd got it from).

Give me a track to run round any day or a rowing machine in the comfort of an indoor gym and I'm away, but actual full blown hard labour - its not for me (and for a further excuse, it was weights day at the gym yesterday!)

Honest to good god hard graft was performed today  (as well as some serious swearing from an Irish man!), in a stinking, wet, muddy chicken pen.

The rat has been getting in to the back pen and not only eating all the food but because its been burrowing, it's caused uneven muddy ground.

So myself and Papa O have been down today trying to stop it from getting in.  We've firstly had to take everything out, which in itself is hard because the top only comes off on one side as you can see. Then the other side you only have 3ft of height to work with:

We had to take everything out though to see the extent of the burrows:

These two picture were taken from right at the back normally not accessible when everything else in there. The top picture, you can see there looks like there's a little nest been made and you can see just how much soil its kicked to the back.

So, we've had to mesh the entire floor of the pen.  Now personally, I don't like the idea of hens on mesh,  but the mesh is well covered with earth and to be honest I'm at a loss as to what else to do.  (other than rat poison and that's not really a route I want to go down. 

We've overlapped panels to create smaller holes, nailed them to the wood on the bottom, added more mesh and tiles and anything really that will stop the rat getting through.  I asked Papa O to get a picture of me grafting - he got one of the phone case (he couldn't figure out where the lens was) and one of my bum (- I wont put you through that!)

So three muddy, cold hours later, there's no after picture I'm afraid because well it would just be mesh covered by mud, but - I did pick these to make some leek & potato soup later

A note from Papa O (in an Irish accent):

 "..and you can tell whoever reads yer blog,  If I find out that the little bastard rat is back in 'ere, I'll come down 'ere and damage the little fecker.  I don't give a shite about animal rights and all that malarkey"

Bye for now & Happy planting xx

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chicken keeping - not for the fair weather allotmenteer!!

In winter you can always tell who are chicken keepers on an allotment, because whilst everyone else is having a nice warm lie in on frosty cold Sunday, the hen parents are  the ones who are wrapped up carrying bottles of warm water down to their allotments unfreezing water feeders.

On a Sunday it's not so bad, you can have a little lie in but during the week, my god, it's hard work but absolutely neccesary.

The night before I check the weather to see if it's going to freeze overnight, if there's a slight chance, I then start preparing.

I set alarm for half 6 get my work clothes ready and my allotment clothes ready and fill the kettle.  Then in the morning the alarm goes off, I jump onto the bed look out the window to see how frosty it actually is. If not, I can get back into bed for a while, but if so, its all go!

I make a brew for the journey fill empty milk bottles with warm water and go out and de-ice the car in a ridiculous amount of layers so much so I look like the marshmallow man off Ghostbusters!!  Its still dark and honestly it's not a part of chicken keeping that I ever anticipated!

A quick de-ice of the hen water and then back home to get ready for work.

And it should be noted there is no return for your hard work in winter, no eggs are laid!!

This morning I went to the hens at about half 10 and it was reading 0c on the car thermometer and there was frost everywhere:

To be perfectly honest they would have been OK to not go this morning but I also wanted to make sure the water in their feeder was changed. Obviously, though with the cold weather last night the hose pipes on the allotment from the farmers house are likely to have been frozen. Not taking chances:

The good old camping water carrier has to come out of storage! It holds enough to completely fill the water feeder.

Here's is the chicken set up in winter:

Yes that's my finger at the bottom of the photo *rolls eyes at my amazing camera abilities*

The back part of the pen is completely covered, their house is in there as well as their food and the main water feeder. Even in heavy rain and wind they are sheltered and a little warmer at nights. The other two pens as you can see are just open at the front, though in summer I can take the cover off the end pen.  It still gets very wet in there but not as bad as it could get.

So there you go, chicken keeping is not for warm weather allotmenteers, you have to be prepared for many things and cold weather is just one of them!

This week I will be mainly taking my Sign Language exams (fingers crossed please) and researching celeriac!

Bye for now & happy planting!!