Thursday, 4 August 2016

Mucho gusto

It's been a very positive couple of days, I've started harvesting more and more vegetables and on Tuesday evening we had a meal made from ingredients entirely from our garden. This included onions, patty pan squash, peas, beans, spinach, chard, herbs and eggs. It felt rather special to have a our first completely home grown meal.

Yesterday morning after I'd let the chickens and ducks out for the day I started to create the next raised bed. I laid cardboard across the pathway, for the base of the bed and the next pathway. I've found that it is easier to put the cardboard down for the pathways as I go rather than to go back and try to tuck it underneath the soggy cardboard at a later date. Or worse still, don't go back and cover the paths with cardboard and then have to deal with long grass and weeds growing all around the beds which, I have discovered, becomes a home for countless slugs and snails which then feast on seedlings and young plants.

 On the cardboard I put some hops and then some composted wood chippings in readiness for the top soil.

Earlier in the week I finished planting up the last raised bed with young leek plants that had been growing in a nursery bed. 

The vegetable garden is looking colourful and productive (which it is) and although we won't have any butternut squash as all the young plants were eaten by slugs, we may have some pumpkins. I am not as keen on pumpkin as butternut squash but it will help to give us additional food in the winter months as they store quite well.

I've also been having a battle with creatures that like to eat the brassicas. They seem to be being devoured from slugs from the surrounding ground and caterpillars from above. Each morning I walk around picking slimy slugs and green caterpillars from the cabbages, kales and purple sprouting brocolli. I hope that it's not too late to plant out more as I don't think there will be much left of the cabbages at the rate that they bugs are getting through them. Many of the cabbages look like lace doilies and the black kale looks like little cream sticks where the green of the leaves has been completely stripped away.

We've put in hoops and covered them with netting to deter the cabbage white butterflies, which made me very happy until I noticed that they can fly through the holes in the netting and lay their eggs on the purple sprouting brocolli before flying off again. Protection fail! So the next batch of brassicas will be covered with fleece to try to keep those pesky butterflies away from them.

While I was starting the raised bed yesterday, the wind started to get a little breezy and by nine o'clock it was blowing quite strongly and the rain started in earnest. So I turned my attention to tasks indoors.

I disinfected the incubator in readiness for the next batch of eggs. Mr J and I are so taken with the two ducklings that we have and have had several requests for ducks and so, in light of this, we've decided to incubate a batch of duck eggs. I've bought two sets of six Aylesbury duck eggs (so I'm not relying on one breeder to have fertile eggs) and we have three from Frederick and Mrs Warne. Our hatch rate for ducks last time wasn't very good, just two from six eggs. I was very disappointed with this as two of the unhatched eggs were moving around from day twenty-five onwards, but the poor little things just weren't strong enough to break through their shells. So working on a similar basis of hatch rate, I hope that we have five or six ducklings hatch from this batch, but we shall see. The eggs are due to hatch at the end of the month.

During a pause in the rain I moved the chicks from their box in the boot room to the nursery pen in the stable. It was still very windy and the rattling and banging of plastic sheeting and other bits and pieces in the stable made them even more wary of their new environment, but after a couple of hours, they had settled in well and were running around and trying to fly with their tiny half-feathered wings lifting them a couple of inches off the floor.

I could spend hours watching these little birds, they have a natural curiosity and are surprisingly quick to learn. It didn't take them very long yesterday to discover that they can't quite all fit into their food dish at the same time.

As the day continued the wind speed increased and the forty mph gusts became more and more frequent, so I decided that I wouldn't be doing much more in the garden for the rest of the day except to gather some vegetables to roast for supper.

The stony poor soil here means that carrots and other root vegetables are unlikely to grow straight and just as expected I lifted several twisted and curly carrots. I like to think of the yellow carrot as doing press ups and the white carrot as being a member of the cast of The River Dance.

The cylindrical beetroots are now about four to five inches long and have a delightful marbling through them. They are very sweet and not too earthy, I boil them for a few minutes and then roast them in the oven with a little sea salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic and rosemary.

Late yesterday afternoon I noticed that one of the ducklings was behaving oddly and I suspect that all is not well. I have searched for information on the internet and it could be one of two things. Neither are brilliant but one has a better prognosis than the other. The treatment for both is the same and so later today I will ask Mr J to take me to the farming supplies stores to buy some additional vitamins and minerals to supplement the ducklings' feed. It could of course, be neither of the things I suspect but I feel I need to do anything I can to help it. I will update if there are any changes in the duck's progress.

This morning the broody hen has decided that it's chick is now old enough to start exploring outside the confines of the hen house. I walked around the corner of the stable this morning to go to the chicken field, to see whether the girls have laid any eggs, to find the broody hen and the little pale yellow chick pecking away at the grass in the run of the hen house. It feels rather special to see mother and baby in these first exploratory moments.

I am tired today, I've been trying to do as much as I can between rain bursts for the last few days and tackled several tasks indoors but as so often happens, I have over-done it, so this afternoon will include the quick visit to the farming supplies shop and some sleep. Mr J will be home from work shortly so I'm going to put the kettle on and make a cuppa.

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