Saturday, 20 September 2008

New beds up the garden path

The last few weeks have not been idle ones Up The Garden Path although as autumn arrives and the days are shorter and the nights cooler, things have been slowing down - including the weeds thank goodness! This year has been a learning curve - or maybe I should say the last six months as we haven't been living from the garden for a full year yet.

Our freezer is packed full of vegetables and fruit and I hope very much that together with any winter veg we succeed in growing, this will see us through the winter months. But of course, some things were more plentiful than others. We will be sick of French Beans before the year is out but wondering where all the peas are. There are no Broad Beans left in the freezer at all and all the onions have been used up - although that's partly the fault of the family who insisted on THREE batches of chutney this year. I have enough stewed apples to satisfy the entire planet's desire for apple crumble and apple pie. Also masses of blackcurrant and blackberries - but no raspberries or strawberries at all.

In an effort to put this right I recently ordered 40 bare-rooted strawberry plants; 20 each of Gariguette and Manille. For the past week I have been frantically digging two 10 metre long beds in a new piece of land which we will use as a veggie plot extension. Ultimately there will be three beds there this year and then about three more in the spring (if I still have the energy!) Yesterday the strawberries arrived and I spent two hours planting them through plastic. This morning they are still standing so I must have got something right! According to Alan Titchsmarsh's book planting them now will give us a decentish crop next year. They are under plastic because I simply don't have the time to weed every single vegetable bed and I plant as much under plastic as possible. I have bought a strong green plastic than can be re-used for several years. As in most things, a compromise between saving the planet and saving my back/time.

I also ordered some raspberry canes - these will arrive next week or soon after and there's a rush on to finish the third bed!

I would like this new piece of land to be, as much as possible, permanent beds although at least one bed will be part of our annual crop rotation (all those onions!). So as well as the fruit there will also be a bed for artichokes - I have six plants raised from seed already and waiting - and also a new asparagus bed. I planted asparagus eight years ago but it has only ever given us enough for two people on a strict diet. I think I planted them all too close together. Whatever, we don't get enough and a new bed there will be to supplement it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Goose Island

At the beginning of this year we had a visit from the fox who took our two remaining Donald Ducks. They were ten years old, walked with a limp and should have been dispatched long before; but our sentimentality wouldn't allow it. The winter was cold and for only the second time since we've lived here the moat froze to the extent that we could play ice hockey on it. Unfortunately it also meant that Donald and Donald couldn't escape into water when the Fox came to visit.

We gave Max some geese for his birthday and recently two small ducks have been added to our wildlife. As a result we have been humming and haa-ing about the winter and the possibility of a second visit from the Fox. Finally last month Pillock Island was decided upon. Max decided that a pile of rocks should be placed in the middle of the moat, surrounded by a wire netting to hold them in place, and a pallet put on top. It was a family affair with the two older boys helping their father and me taking the odd photo. The youngest very sensibly did his homework!

The pile of rocks were punted out (boy, they weighed a ton!) and dropped in place inside the wire. The pallet was put on top and Max even stood on it...briefly. It worked a treat and Dad was able to do his "I told you so" look as he'd taken a certain amount of helpful advice from his sons...and ignored it all.

But then, the island started to list a bit. And then it very gracefully sank. He hadn't counted on the amount of mud at the bottom which the rocks had disturbed and then sunk into! That was the moment it became Pillock Island although my naming ceremony wasn't appreciated!

My idea of four anchor rocks holding the pallet in place was scoffed at several times but finally a mixture of more rocks and the anchors was used to great success. We left some bread on the island and by the next morning both ducks and geese were happily using the island. Since then the geese have decided it belongs exclusively to them - hence the renaming of Pillock Island to Goose Island.