Spring 2019, warm then so cold

I am writing this in May, the coldest May for 178 years, which followed a very warm April and in Suffolk at least, pretty dry January and February.

All this  unexpected cold is very unfortunate as I was planning to do a lot in the garden over the early May bank holiday.  Still the cold has inspried me to look at my wild life cameras and to write about our veg, bees and Moorhen.

Fruit and

Veg

No pretty pictures at the moment but I have weeded and planted the veg patch. I leave it to weed over during the winter so spring is always a bit back-breaking.  We have broad beans, rocket, red chicory and lettuces growing well (but slowly).  The winter cabbage has now sprouted and we have eaten much before it actually flowered. Now the hens have the luxury of finishing it off.

We have just started to get wonderful Asparagus and Globe Artichokes both my favorities and only worth eating fresh from the garden and in season (at least in my mind).  The strawberry bed is flowering up so I hope we will get a bumper crop this year. The orchard has had wonderful blossom on all the trees, I wonder if the cold will prevent much of it turning to fruit.

Bees

I am on a beekeepers register so if you have a swam and live nearby you can call me up and I will come and try to deal with it. The oil seed rape in the area and very warm April has caused the bees to get a bit cramped and some decided to decamp off to new accommodation. I caught my own swam and got a new hive ready, oddly be the evening the swam had largely gone. Having checked my hive, it would seem that they may have gone back home!  Both hives were full of bees, I now have two supers on and was hoping to take off the first lot of honey in early May ( that was before it went so cold). As luck would have it just as I was settling down after teh dissapointment of missing my swarm, the phone rang and someone in a nearby village wanted me to collect their swarm. They were keen I took it away immediately so I could not leave it in the skep until the late evening. Still I managed to get most of the bees into the Skep and wrapped it in a sheet then put it in the back of the car and drove it home. I let the bees have a small opening until around 7pm when I ‘walked’ them into the hive I had prepared ealier. See pictures one hour apart.

 

This is the first time I have successfully done this, the bees have stayed and I am feeding them with sugar solution until they build up the wax frames and can find and store enough of their own food ( probably once it warms up).

Deer

Fallow deer captured by wildlife cam

Fallow deer captured by wildlife cam

We are surrounded by field and woodland, their are Munjac and Fallow Deer about. Normally we don’t see them closeby and hardly ever in the garden although I do have the veg patch surrounded by a 6 foot chickenwire fences to stop the deer eating all the tasty produce.

This year must have been a particularily bumper year for deer, We have had  a couple of Fallow Deer munching on the hedge behind the kitchen and one in our small copse.

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The did trample the electric fence around the hens but have only done this once so I hope they learned to avoid it in future.

The wildlife cam has also shown night visits from a large male Fallow Deer,  a fox  and some Munjac. It is difficult to believe how busy the garden is at night.

Moorhen

Every year we have a Moorhen nest on our pond, some years she manages to raise her chicks and other years they are eaten by cats, foxes, rooks or magpies.

This year there are three chicks all fluffy pom-poms at the moment. Mother Moorhen has been leading them over the grass and feeding them as she goes- it is a lovely sight.

 

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Getting going on the Allotment

Having spent as many dry days as possible over the winter, putting in fencing and gates and digging over nearly all the plot I am now ready for spring. So far I have planted some broad beans and some winter lettuce which are growing well under cover. I have put in some pea seeds which have not done anything – they were only put in a week ago, some are under fleece and some under a cage to stop the pigeons.

I have decided to keep one leek going and see if I can grow another crop from the seeds – something of an experiment.  My globe artichokes are beginning to sprout but it looks as though around half ( 3) have been killed by the early and harsh winter. I will have to wait a month or so more to be sure.

The Medlar and Quince trees, planted in big buried pots are sprouting as are my red and white currents and gooseberries. The vines are still asleep.

The only crop apart from purple spouting and Calvo Nero from last year is rhubarb, my forcer has enabled a couple of crumbles worth. Very tasty. I am going to use the last bits as a sharp sauce for slow roast pork belly.

Having done a brief Twitter survey on seed potato planting, I have decided to wait  a couple more weeks, the nights are still cold and I guess we will have some heavy frosts in April.  I am warming up the soil under black plastic sheets which look horrid but should do the job.

At home the window sill and polytunnel are  full of tomato  and chilli seedlings. Also courgettes, aubergines and climbing  beans of various types in root trainers. I am hoping to plant runners and french beans across the full width of the allotments with an archway over the path.  Around the arch I want to try cucumbers and small squash.

I am very keen to get on with everything but feel the weather still has a few tricks to play before we can really get going.

Winter allotment work

>Temperature is -2c and bright and sunny. Sunday is the only day I have time to work on the allotment. Last time I visited I found a rabbit under one if my cages. So now I have to put in a proper fence all round. On arrival I discovered that my kale has been stripped by birds. So it will have to go under a cage again.
The ground is so hard that to dig a suitable trench for the fence I needed a lump hammer to break up the frosted clay . Two hours later and I put the back fence in but ran out of daylight for a proper job on the front. So I have tacked an unburied piece of wire across the front as a temporary barrier. The rabbits will not be able to get under as the ground is too hard for them to dig.
It is too cold to harvest anything but I hope the kale grows back.