daily update & a flash back in time

Went up late afternoon after a morning on computer – checking emails, being a virtual worker, trying to fix problems and what-not.  Remote working is strangely stressful but mustn’t grumble – we got an email from the big chief who said there would be no job lay-offs during coronavirus.  And the super-dude will be on 80% “furlough” deal with his bosses.  So we’re ok for the time being.  Phewf!

Today’s coronavirus death totals: up to near enough … UK = 1,789 Spain = 8,189; Italy =  12,428; USA = 3,415.  Is it ghoulish to keep count?  By why not?  Everyone else is.  And later the numbers might change….  

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Here’s a rift in the timeline: the photo to the left is of lungwort, in flower – early March. It’s a photo from the back patch/ woods, taken maybe two or three weeks ago.  Dusty pink to pale blue flowers.  The buzz of bees.  White speckled foliage, lush and verdant among the mud and muck of late spring.  And all of a sudden in a flash he got it: the value of these late-summer bedraggled green and white speckled soldiers comes clear: an early oasis of flower blossom for the bees.

Big huge seemingly lazy bumblebees stumble in and out of these little trumpets of colour that brighten the muck of a wet spring.  Seemingly lazy, as in these bumblebees look big & lazy but are really just stumbling around, dazed by the blaze of spring, the shock of it all, the shock of life, and stagger from moment to moment, clinging to life.

But yes, there you have it.  An otherwise unloved garden plant redeemed by bees!  Plants he’s said in previous days when he said he couldn’t see the point of them – they were so dusty and flopped and worn out looking by mid- to late-summer. And all that’s true.  But in early spring, there’s really nothing like ’em!

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Lungwort patch, bordered by Artemisia (aka Wormwood).  Back patch perennial bed, late February 2020.  Photo by G.

And thinking of bees… that’s another reason to always have little pots & saucers to catch rainwater, as these parched little wild beings need to whet their whistles and succour themselves with cool drops of water in order to survive.

And not just early emergent bees – dishes of rain water are used by traveller birds, as well by lady birds and other beetles and invertebrates.

Water, water, water….  The recipe of life, its secret, surely, is water.  So elemental.  So basic.  You can’t garden without it.  Or do anything else.  It’s simple: life depends on water.  

So: there’s no reason why not!  Give the bees a break!  Leave dishes of water… Put pots and little saucers all around your gardens.  It’s the good thing to do.  And make sure your garden includes virtual wildflowers like lungwort – always, forever!  So say I.  For what it’s worth.  And so it goes.  Ahem.

Ho-hum.  Life during the apocalypse at the allotment was quite peaceful.   All in all there were lots of people puttering about on the allotments, including R, the nice couple at the bottom…  The bottom of us had someone there (Jenny?) for the first time in a long time. Mark was there too.  

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Spring hyacinth – LCCWoods

The magnificent Malink discussed with R the ins ‘n outs of the issues with the water tank.  (Back to the essential theme of water.)

He was admirably focused.  Kept returning to the issue.  Made good points: why dig up & then rebury a line if  you don’t know where the problem is?  And so on.  All very sensible.

In short – there’s no water. Never is.  Tank’s empty morning and evening – and all the time in between too.  And so the super-dude kept at it, with significant focus and persistent attention. No letting up: there has to be a solution.  And there’s an easy way (and a more difficult way) to go about it.  So how ’bout it then?

And so it goes.  Progress.  Slowly.  One step at a time.

Drip.  Drip. Drip.

TBC

 

 

 

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A whole new bed

CIMG6714Yahoo!  The big guy built a new raised bed frame for a new salad / greens bed.

This used the solid wood planks we found in the rubbish on the street yesterday.

We still have to fill it with soil and manure.  In the end this will be a semi-shaded plot as it sits at the base of the fig tree that’s on our front neighbour’s plot.

I’m thinking of planting with plants that often are quick to ‘bolt’ – like spinach. lettuce, pak choi and other greens – dill, coriander, etc.

The photos below show the greens patch (at the base of the rose arbor), and tonight’s harvest of pink and yellow stemmed swiss chard.  Yum!

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Spinach & Asian greens. Parsley & chard to the left. Garlic chive at back. (25 March 2020)

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Swiss chard (25 March 2020). (Photo by G)

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet Percival, our Palmate Newt & a Peacock Butterfly

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Life abounds – the pond is exploding with activity.

Tons of frog spawn and tiny little tadpoles already.

And the palmate newt survived another winter!  I think his name might be Percival.  We scooped him up by accident when we were taking some of the fallen leaves from the pond.

CIMG6696copyIn spring, life in the air is just as exuberant as it is under water in the pond.

This beautiful butterfly kept close to us as we worked.

The butterflies seem to love dandelion flowers, so I’ve resisted cutting them away.

The big guy looked this one up and says it’s a Peacock butterfly

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mid-week photo album

Some photos taken in the last few days.  There are tulip and cyclamen in bloom. Sprinklings of celandine in flower at the base of the damask rose.  And a big bunch of bluebell bursting forth in the path on the upper terrace area – promising wild blue blooms in the coming weeks.

 

The garlic bed is looking tidy.  I inserted a new brick path and in-filled part of the old path to maximise growing space.  The garlic bed is kept weed-free and we’re watering now and then to keep growth steady.

The small bed in front of the garlic was planted last year with red & yellow cherry tomato, and they did very well.  It’s a good, open, sunny patch.  I spread manure over that area, and yesterday I dug out some of the calendula growing in there (replanted into the planter tubs at the back boundary, under the front neighbour’s fig tree).  Some of the calendula right on the boundary of the bed have been left in place as they probably wouldn’t have survived transplanting.  I’ve not dug out the forget-me-not either, but will do so soon, and likewise will transplant these elsewhere in the hope that at least they might self-seed to a new area for next year.  I turned over the soil (very heavy clumpy clay!) in half of this small bed and will do so again before planting some purple beans in there.

 

The Malink has been delighted to find that after a full winter, the shed doors and window still open easily, and everything seems in good order.  Everything was removed and the whole place swept out of bugs & spiderwebs (not many but still..) and then re-ordered.  The back netting and lattice fence collapsed a little, but it’s now been screwed back into place and standing straight and firm.  The rain water system set up to feed into a tub from the roof gutters is working well; the tub was fairly full of clean, muck-free water, which we used a little of to finish the watering of the strawberry and garlic patches.

On the way to the allotment yesterday, we found some solid wood slats in the rubbish, so scooped those up and they are already tidied away, ready to be fashioned into a new raised bed form…  So much of our allotment has been provided by garbage-picking! Amazing.  The trellis, the plexiglass for the shed windows and roof lights, the wood…  We plan on making a new raised form at the front corner, in front of the holly and under the fig tree.  It will be a semi-shaded space, but may be good for crops like lettuce and spinach, which prefer cool conditions and may bolt easily in full sun conditions.

These final pictures show the rhubarb bed.  Richard next to us divided his rhubarb over a year ago and gave us some root cuttings, which I ‘dug in’ to a plot.  I had planned to move them to the back patch, but they do seem happy where they are.  We harvested a little for a tasty rhubarb crumble.

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pea prep

We plan on bumper crops of tasty crunchy peas this summer.  Peas to eat fresh right off the plant – to snack on while we work.  Peas, peas, peas!: delicious green-tasting, life-affirming, easy-to-grow peas!

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The planter at the front side of the shed was built especially for an annual pea crop, in a raised wooden planter that can easily be topped up with rich garden compost and manure, to stop the soil becoming depleted.  

We hung a nice piece of pea netting along the front of the shed to provide support.  The netting is held on by hooks, so easy to remove when we want to.  The netting is down close to the level of the soil, to make it easy for tender seedling tendrils to grab hold and get growing upwards.  

A second, shorter support may be needed at the front of the raised bed to stop plants from leaning forward and cascading down the steps rather than clinging onto the netting.   But luckily we have plenty of netting (all of it rescued from local rubbish bins!). 

I checked my packet of pea seeds and they can be planted in March, so the next time we go up to the allotment I’m going to plant the first of a series of succession pea plantings.  Yum!

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garlic beds & spring prep

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The small bed of garlic we planted in late autumn (November) are doing well.  We also planted two giant garlic in a mini-plot.  These provide a flash of hopeful green growth in the midst of bare patches that have been turned over and topped up with manure.   Little patches of self-seeded forget me not also add bursts of green with light blue blossom.

The big guy tidied up the canes and supports on the raspberry bed.

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And the potted cyclamen is again adding a huge splash of colour to the upper terrace – and also a tasty treat to early emerging bees.

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spring harvest – bitter greens & tart crumbles

CIMG6649This is what our coronavirus survival kitchen looks like.  Our weekend harvest from the allotment included sprouting broccoli (tiny but powerful & delicious), spinach, purple & yellow stemmed swiss chard, marjoram, winter savory, and rhubarb.

On Saturday we had a magnificent egg omlette with tons of bitter greens (chard & spinach) with allotment herbs (marjoram, savory) and mild cheddar cheese.  Yum!  Followed by a sweet and tart rhubarb crumble.

In the background is the big bag of onions I picked up on the Crescent last week, to make a mega batch of French onion soup broth.  And the big bag of long grained white rice.  We also have lots of brown basmati rice (in the large glass kilner), as well as packs of paella and risotto rice.  As well as a big tin of olive oil.

So we should be ok for food for a while yet!

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Signs of Spring – despite the apocalypse!

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In spite of the coronavirus apocalypse that’s hit Europe and London, life is full of bustle and buzz on the allotment.   Went up this weekend and we kept our distance, but the place was eerily empty, with only four people out – and all of us very well spaced out in the open air.

As always, our friendly and wildly territorial robin was there en garde!, plucking-up worms and grubs as he carefully monitors our actions, and inspecting every little stone we may have unturned.  He’s got his eyes on us! 

 

Over on the neighbouring plot a butterfly and hoverfly shared space on dandelion bloom.   And elsewhere, a little ladybird was on the prowl on the blackberry canes, monitoring for early aphids and other tiny edible bugs.

Life abounds wherever you look!

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Garlic

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Cosmos in bloom with blue dragonfly, Sat 9 Nov 2019. (Photo by G)

It’s been monsoons – too wet & mucky to garden.  Last weekend was a complete wash out. This week there’s been flooding up North and one woman died when a river overran its banks.  Yikes.

This morning started with heavy mist – the hills of the heath were invisible in the milky skyline.  But by mid-morning the sun started shining and it looked like it would be nice, so we went out to the allotment.  Brought up three more water jugs to use as cloches in the early spring, as well as the bag of onion, garlic and tulip bulbs – and the little dragon fly garden twirler that Peej sent for my birthday.  Put together the little dragonfly right away and installed him to watch guard over the blueberry pot.  After that I only got the garlic planted, as by the time we were done with that simple task it had started to drizzle.

But in the meanwhile, before the drizz, the big guy hung up the Canadian license plates on the front side of the shed and tidied up the paving stone steps.

I puttered, and harvested us a sweet treat in a handful of ripe yellow raspberries.  Raspberries in November!  Go figure!  The pink flowered cosmos are also still in flower. Amazing! Continue reading

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Let’s Talk ‘Bout Sheds, Baby

Actually, let’s not.  I’ll let these pictures tell a thousand words or more.

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Our new shed, only recently completed and already looking part of the habitat.  As seen from standing behind the raspberry bed, September 2019.

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Shed, complete with a scaffold-pipe raised bed along the side for pea growing.

Continue reading

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