June Update


What can I say?! The weather has been absolutely fantastic! Mostly sun, the odd shower here and there, then back to sun. Everything is growing as it should be – no late frost to nobble the early starters, no waterlogging, no drought. To be honest, it’s getting a bit scary.

So, to firmly plant the goodness that has been the last month, here’s a quick update on just how well everything’s growing.


Root Crops

Another scribbled mental note – these are so useful for the following year, to get a feel for the plants that do well here. The day began with the usual dandelion beheading – another barrow full, then watering the new fruit trees in as it’s been a dry week so far. The strawberries and raspberries had some of the lovely manure donated by Ken spread around their bases, as did the rhubarb and gooseberries. The geese had their full clean out – fresh straw in the houses, ponds emptied and refilled.

Then on to the root crops. This plot hasn’t been manured, but the squash stations will have plenty added just before they go in later in the year. For now the stations will have cloches dropped where the plants will go, to help warm the ground up. The seed that went in today were one 9′ row of Flyaway F1 carrot, three rows of Boltardy beetroot and three rows of Hollow Crown parsnip.

All root crops were netted against the dreaded pigeon, sparrows and rabbits. Or row of peas were also netted, but we need to rethink the layout of the peas and beans to make netting easier. Whatever the case, we need more netting!

The final job of the day was to water in all the seeds sown over the last two days – that was over an hour’s job as the onion patch was also beginning to look a bit parched. As were the strawberries, rhubarb, gooseberries and currant bushes. A quick check on the chicks, who have now taken up residency in the garage as the fluff and dust produced by week two was just too much to keep them in the house, and 10 o’clock saw me finally stumbling in, to a warm fire and mahoosive mug of sweet tea. Perfectamundo 🙂

Two New Merrybowerites

As so often happens here, we don’t so much as choose an animal as it chooses us. I happened to call in on some friends, Pete and Rob, this morning, to chat about incubators and geese as you do, when as I left Rob asked if I’d like to see his new William and LilyRhode Island Red hens he’ll be breeding from this year. Always keen to have a gander I followed him out to the array of pens. Lovely looking things, but it turned out Rob had decided to concentrate on the RIRs and his escapologist flock of Derbyshire Red Caps, so did I know anyone who would like three Andalusian pullets and a Light Sussex bantam? Needless to say, 10 minutes later ‘Freebie’ was acquainted with William and her new flock 🙂

The second newcomer is called Velveteen. Suz’s not so sure, but I think we first met Velveteen last spring, when we noticed a hare or rabbit had been nibbling the orchard tree trunks. Once the allotment had been sown with peas and beans, her diet moved from tree to green shoots. Later it progressed to sunflower seedlings, around 30 of them to be precise, half our sunflower bed! We tried a few things including electric wire (she bounced through it), so resorted to wiring over every new seedling – not a quick task. Every year seemed to throw something new at us – the year previous was slugs, before that white fly, before that rats, before that pigeons. Add to the mix voles, moles, green fly, black fly and saw fly, it was a surprise rabbits hadn’t appeared before! In fact it wasn’t really a surprise – this side of the canal bridge we tend not to get rabbits. They seem to prefer the hill side to the north, not the wet lowlands here. We do get hares, hence the outlay 20140114-131009.jpgon hare guards for the orchard trees, but we’d removed those this year as we’d seen none come through the fencing. However, No.1 cottage has been empty for over a year, and the garden which had previously been patrolled by Pete’s spaniels, Lady and Darling, was now the only open gateway to our patch, unguarded as it was. A few weeks ago we’d noticed the return of Velveteen, hanging around ‘the barn’ (a shed but I have delusions of grandeur) chewing dead asparagus leaves and grass. Two days ago I walked towards her, but she just looked at me, chewing. I moved closer, about 10ft distant, and she plodded a few yards away, to continue munching her mouthful. This continued for five more minutes, each time I managed to get closer. Eventually I was within arm’s reach, holding out my mobile phone, recording proof that I was, indeed, the new Rabbit Whisperer. Kudos was mine that evening when I showed off the video to the family if me chasing a wild rabbit around the allotment. Yesterday she was back, same place, but this time Suz had placed a bowl of carrots down, and Velveteen was happily munching her way through them. I herded her into the bantam enclosure, only for her to escape whilst I grabbed a quick breakfast. This afternoon she was back (more bait was down) and both Suz and I managed to finally capture the wild rabbit of Merrybower. But, as Suz had suspected, and the ability to drink from a bottle drinker confirmed, Velveteen was, in all probability, a stray domestic rabbit. Her coat was beautiful, big brown eyes, and a penchant for being tickled on her cheeks. So here she is now in Penny’s spare dog-crate, awaiting a visit to the vets before deciding if we can keep her (or him), though I suspect there’s no question really. And I’m also glad that the new rabbit explosion this side of the canal has been dealt with, and I can go back to worrying about pigeons, and slugs, and various flies…



Let the Fencing Begin!

Glorious sunshine glooped down, puffy clouds sidled by and the delightful chords of a diesel engine trumpeted the arrival of a whopping great tractor and accompanying post piler, along with Clive and JB, the men-at-arms, and Amber, the dog-in-charge.

There isn’t really much to comment on except that copious amounts of tea and biccies were consumed, posts were driven and sheep netting/barbed wire was fastened, so that the paddock area at the back is now safe for John next door to put his sheep, and we can wander down to the acre field with impunity regards evil sheepses. We also have a couple of 5-bar gates to swing on…weeeee!!…

We’ve also laid new turf in the rabbit run, which is being watered daily to help it take root.

Rabbits and Raspberries

I’ve mentioned we’ve turned half of the old veggie patch into a seed bed and somewhere for salad veg, but I’d neglected to mention that the other half is going to be a new home for a couple of pet rabbits. So the Easter weekend’s first job was to build a new partition fence, leaving enough space for a gate I’m reusing from the chicken run once  they move to the paddock. We’ve also found a good supplier of chicken wire and weld mesh locally, at Pukka Pens, in Stanton by Bridge. The only thing left to do is to buy the turf and lay it. The cabbages in the foreground were casualties, the rest will follow soon…<sniff>

Last spring I planted 5 autumn fruiting raspberry canes in the border to the side of the now-rabbit-run, and 10 summer fruiting canes. I’d also tried to construct a wire support structure using locally scavenged crack willow, but as I’ve now found out, crack willow cracks and snaps. Didn’t really need to be a genius to figure that out I guess. So having been faced with droopy raspberries every time we come home (do you know how disturbing  that is?), I made it my second job this weekend to do something better for my soft fruit. The result is 3 x 8 foot posts dug 2 foot into the ground, with support posts and wire tensioned between. I also have enough materials to build another 30′ stretch in the new vegetable patch once I get the fruit netting in place. Is it possible to get sick of raspberries?

For those who don’t know, autumn fruiting raspberries fruit on the current year’s growth – so after they fruited the previous autumn you should have cut them right back, and the new growth the following spring will bear fruit. Summer fruiting raspberries differ in that they fruit on last year’s growth – so you don’t cut back the new growth of the previous year as that’s where the fruit will be the following year, but you *do* cut back any growth that has already bourne fruit. Simples. The shot to the right shows summer-fruiting rasberry canes that grew last year. You’ll likely get too many canes popping  up so cut out all but the strongest 2-4 and tie them to the wires. The wires need to be spaced at 2, 4 and 6 feet from the ground. We’ve also pinched out the tips of these raspberries to encourage side growth.