All Bee Hum And Bee Bums In The Raspberries

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I’ve written quite a lot about bees on this blog, and in particular the threat of neonicotinoid pesticides to which, researchers suggest, bees become addicted (see Bee-ing Bee-Minded), so I am hugely pleased to find so many bees feeding on my untainted raspberry flowers. Nothing like the sound of happy, busy bees and the sight of all those raspberries in the making.  Thank you bees.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Of Sunset Over The Rooftops From The Allotment And Much Toiling On The Plot (As In Gardening Not Writing)

All of a sudden we’re having summer here in Shropshire, and it’s a case of catch-up at the allotment – not only with the jobs that could not be done over the cold, wet thrice snowy winter, but also trying to keep up with spring-sown plants that are romping every which way and need to be put somewhere. The ‘somewhere’ inevitably needs more preparation than I’d realised, and more digging than I’d hoped to do, given my no-dig pipe dream objectives. I’m beginning to think our Silurian Clag really needs total soil replacement – as in complete interment by a foot of decent loamy earth. And if that’s down to me, then that means making humungous quantities of compost. It could take years.

Yesterday I did five solid hours of labouring under the sun. The new plot by the polytunnel was alive with bee-hum. The bees were whizzing by with such greedy intent among the raspberry flowers, I could actually feel the air move as they passed me. Bbbzzzzzzzzoom. And then the birds were singing their hearts out – loud, louder, loudest – especially the blackbirds. Which reminded me to put netting over the strawberries. I ate my first sun-warmed strawberry yesterday – the best strawberry of all – that first one.

The five hours slipped away. Gardener’s time is of course quite different from everyone else’s. He Who Waits At The Farrell Establishment never knows when supper is happening. Also when I do decide to head for home the light is usually so diverting that I have to start taking photos. Besides, the raggedy old allotments are a wonderful place to be at sundown – when you have put the spade away and shut up the shed – the wide views over Wenlock; the scents of growing; the quietness of plants.

Much Wenlock from the allotment 2018 sq

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Roof Squares #4

“The Rain It Raineth Every Day”

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Another day, another drenching. But sometimes we get rainbows too. This one was spotted at the allotment, though it’s not the one I saw the day before yesterday, because I didn’t have my camera with me. Pretty dramatic though, looking over the town to Walton Hill.

The quotation is from Shakespeare’s King Lear  Act 3 scene 2

Six Word Saturday Now please pop over to Debbie’s for a very astonishing vista

Spring?

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Dare one say it – suddenly spring seems more intentional, as if it’s meaning to stay for more than five minutes? These lesser celandines were blooming hell for leather yesterday when I was delivering stuff to the allotment. Even the spider seems to be having a bit of a sun bathe (apologies arachnophobes) rather than being sneekily on the hunt.

Things being transported to the plot included three black bin bags of leaves gathered from mother-in-law’s lawn (they will take a couple of years to turn into very useful leaf mould) and twenty new seven-foot canes. These last are not for this year’s runner beans, but for peas. After seeing last summer’s mega-pea-crop success of fellow allotmenteer, Dave, I thought I would give climbing pea Alderman a go. This is a heritage variety, apparently favoured by ‘good old boys on their allotments’, and not much to be found elsewhere.

You need to treat them like runner beans using plenty of tall supports because they may end up growing six to eight feet tall i.e. heading for around 2 metres. The beauty of this variety is that it crops without surplus production over several months. Whereas modern pea varieties tend to produce all at once, which is why you need to sow the seed successionally e.g. every couple of weeks, which can be a faff if you lose track of time.

At the moment the pea seeds are just germinating  (I sow in trays due to allotment mice), and yesterday I moved the first batch into the cold frame, so I truly am hoping that winter has gone. I will report back in a few months time on how this good old girl is getting on with the Alderman.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Magic In The Web Of It

I don’t think I’ve every thought about what spiders do in winter – apart from their sneaking into our house and lurking there for the duration. So I was mightily surprised on my way over the field to the allotment yesterday to find lots of webs like these among the tussocks of flattened, snow-emerged grass. I was also surprised to feel the sun warm on my head as I bent down to take this photo.

Up at the allotment, and despite the sudden warmth, all was in a state of post-snow-shock. The aged damson tree had lost a branch. The green manure mustard that I’d grown on several plots was sprawled about the place, and my pigeon defence system over the kale completely collapsed. It mostly looked damp and dreary everywhere.

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But I did spy some field beans sprouting, and the self-seeded marigolds were flowering heroically. I plucked a few leeks, and leaves of perpetual spinach, chard and kale.

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Then I wandered around other people’s plots, looking at what was what. At first I thought my only company was a wren, flitting like a little moth in the greengage tree.  But when I reached the big conifer on the allotment boundary, I spotted a Goldcrest foraging in its branches – our tiniest British bird (I think) apart from its cousin the Firecrest. And then there were the blackbirds feasting on a hoard of fallen apples. None of them stayed around to be photographed though.

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And that included the kestrel who was using the summit of an ash tree as a look-out post. It flew off as I drew near.  And it was then I noticed a very strange mist creeping across the farm fields towards the town. Some shape-shifting solstice invader masquerading as miasma…?

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P.S. “there’s magic in the web of it” is from Shakespeare’s Othello

Six Word Saturday  Please pop over to Debbie’s for more 6SW offerings.

A Little Bit Of Earth Magic While Out Foraging For Leeks And Parsnips

Well one thing was certain, when I waded through the snow to the allotment yesterday afternoon – no-one else would be daft enough to be there. A hundred or so yards from the house, I almost turned back. The snow was coming in over my wellies, and it truly was hard work tramping through the low drifts. My well trodden path along the field edge was no longer familiar. The world was iced blue-white with only a passing buzzard to break the stillness.

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You might wonder what had induced me to go up there at all – with all the garden plots buried under a foot of snow. But I needed parsnips, and I needed leeks, and parsley and Tuscan kale from the polytunnel. And once I was there, I thought I’d better shift some of the snow from the polytunnel roof, since we’d been promised all-day snow on Sunday, which has indeed come to pass.

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It took a while to find and extract the parsnips. The soil wasn’t frozen under the snow-blanket, but was very, very sticky – doing a good impression of stuff stuck in quicksand. But mission accomplished, veggie-wise, I noticed a change in the light and started taking photos instead.

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As I was heading home, I realised I could hear the whoops and cries of happy sledders. You can just make them out on the hillside north-east of the church tower. But for the power-lines (that intrude on most views of Wenlock) it might be a traditional Victorian winter scene.

Which reminds me. While I’m here, I’d like to thank all the local farmers who have been out on their tractors clearing roads and spreading grit. My entranced-by-snow moments are all very well, but some people need to drive places. Multiple gold stars to the farmers then.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

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Winter At The Allotment

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It looks pretty dreary on the plots, and these days the only person I see at the allotment is an elderly man who likes to walk his dog around the perimeter path. But there’s still stuff to harvest – parsnips, carrots, leeks, kale, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, purple sprouting, and in the polytunnel lettuce and various Chinese mustards. There are also 8 compost heaps to turn or add to, and now is the season for collecting leaves to make leaf mould. I’ve filled three new bins with leaves from the wood, and last autumn’s caches are beginning to rot down nicely; I’m hoping they’ll be ready for spring sowing. So despite these gloomy looks – all is filled with new possibilities.

February’s Changing Seasons ~ Shots From The Plot

 

Way-hay – it’s spring, or so it seems, and now I feel I need to garden on the run in order to catch up. Much earth moving must be done at the allotment – all the jobs it was too wet to do in the autumn. All the jobs that it’s still to wet to do now. But at least the temperatures are kinder.

And the light is so promising. I’m celebrating that fact in the re-composed top shot of an allotment sunset, captured through the neighbouring hedgerow.

In fact every day now you can see the over-wintered plant life responding as light levels and temperatures rise: purple sprouting sprouting, cauliflowers hatching inside their leaf-folds, chives shooting, rhubarb unfurling, spinach expanding. Then there are carrots to pull from their bucket in the polytunnel, and Chinese mustard and Russian Kale; the autumn sown lettuce are starting to fill out.

Meanwhile inside the polytunnel a big makeover is also afoot. He-who-makes-raised-beds-out-of-old-pallets has been dragooned  into  commissioned to reorganise the planting zones. Instead of wide beds along each side and a path up the middle, the plan is to have one continuous narrow but deep bed on one side, a narrow raised bed down the centre for tomatoes, and three separate raised beds down the far side.

After two days slog establishing the first and second phases, HWMRBOOOP heroically informs me that the stage 3 separate beds are now ready, flat-pack style, for the final part of the installation. The only problem is that it is now windy and raining and we don’t feel like leaving the house. Also this last part of operations will require shifting tons of soil from the old side bed into the new beds, and there’s only so much heaving and hauling one can do in a week.

I’ve already shunted and prepared the soil in polytunnel beds 1 and 2, turned over three big squidgy compost heaps (my compost making technique leaves a lot to be desired), sifted out enough usable stuff to cover several outdoor beds, while starting a new heap with all the stuff that needs to go round again. I have another six heaps to deal with.

At the moment I have one and half allotment plots, but I’m aiming to dispense with the top half of my oldest plot this March when the rents are due. Ultimately, I’d like to retreat altogether to my polytunnel half plot, by which time I should have a fully functioning NO DIG raised bed/terrace system. The theory is that since this system will be more manageable and productive, a half plot should be more than sufficient for our needs. However, as I’ve mentioned several times in other posts, this approach does rely on making loads of compost every year, and that takes up space. Anyway, one step at a time.

And in between compost turning,  moving the gooseberry bush, and pruning the autumn raspberries, there is always time to take a few photos. So here follows a gallery of shots from the February allotment, one of which makes me realise that my polytunnel now also needs a good wash. Heavens to Betsy – is there no end to the gardener’s toil:

To take part in the monthly Changing Seasons challenge please visit Max aka Cardinal Guzman.

Changing Seasons ~ January To And From The Allotment

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The field path behind the house is littered with skeleton apples – windfalls thrown out from a neighbour’s garden. The apples were whole, if a little bruised, back in October when they were tossed there, but it is only this month that the birds have been truly feasting on them. Blackbirds mainly. Little by little the flesh is being pecked away until all that is left is the thinnest skin, and perhaps some fibrous filaments around the core.  I was thinking of fellow blogger, Sue Judd at Words Visual as I shot and edited this ‘still life’. She captures beauty in decay with great flair. Anyway this painterly edit sums up January for me.

But then today I decided to go the long way round to the allotment. There was misty sunshine, and so the chance to get enough shots to make a gallery in line with Cardinal Guzman’s  alternative version for his monthly challenge. Pay him a visit to find out more.

The long way round involves going up Sytche Lane that skirts the field behind our house. In the top corner Shropshire Council is busy digging us an attenuation pond to slow down the flash flooding when a storm hits our catchment. The town has a long history of flooding, and the Sytche Brook, a generally nondescript trickle of a watercourse, can become treacherous, and has been known to add considerably  to the deluge that hits the town centre from neighbouring hillsides. Another pond is being built at the other end of the town. Neither are seen as total solutions, and some would argue that these measures are not suitable in a steep catchment such as ours. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the big digger driver posed to have his photo taken before I trudged onward through the mud.

The path behind the excavations then wends on along the field boundary and into a wood. You are right above the town here, so in the gaps between the trees are some good viewpoints for photos. From the wood I can then drop down to the allotment.

The following gallery shows all the things that caught my eye today. These include – apart from the ‘views’, Jenny’s watering can hung in a cherry tree, Simon’s wheel barrow, Phoebe’s budding rhubarb, my leaning shed with globe artichoke, and Ron’s much smarter blue shed. On the way home the sun was setting in the wood.

 

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copyright Tish Farrell 2017