Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Not quite the Triffids … but close!

Thanks to my work commitments and the various chores and duties around the farm, with the exception of digging up several rows of potatoes, I managed to ignore my vegetable garden for a week. Possibly more. Well, definitely more. Call it ten days.

This was, it turns out, a big mistake…

Why?

Because the last time I checked, there were a couple of courgettes, similar in size to this:

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

Yesterday, I remembered the courgettes.

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

Ooops!

Advertisements

What a day!

As days go, yesterday was one of those…

It started well enough, a bit chilly, but not enough to make me want to put a jumper on. Why would you, when the sun was shining bright in the sky for the first time in, well, ages?!

View of the field - 5 September 2009

View of the field - 5 September 2009

I started feeding the pigs, but only made it as far as Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini when I discovered that Brini was lame. Her appetite wasn’t diminished: in fact, I spotted her limping when she had finished her food and was making her way over to steal Perky’s!

Using the offer of a belly rub as bribery, I persuaded her to lie down and examined her off fore leg (front right), suspecting a thorn. The thick mud obscured things somewhat, so I tentatively cleaned it off, all the while keeping up the belly rubs with my other hand, wishing (not for the first time) that I had an extra set of hands. However, it came as a shock to discover the true cause of her lameness. Not a thorn, but a deep cut where she (or one of the others) had obviously trod on her foot in the night.

At this point, Brini decided that enough was enough and scrambled to her feet, snorting in disgust at my probing. Watching her limp off through the mud, I realised what my first course of action must be: get them off that patch, onto somewhere drier. Cleaning it would be a waste of time if she had no means of keeping it clean afterwards…

Unfortunately, the only mud-free (ish) patch of land was Tia and Bailey’s enclosure, to the east of the field, where they were helpfully grazing down the long grass before winter. What’s more, there was a large area to the west of their enclosure, which could be incorporated into the pen by adjusting the electric netting. This would be perfect for Brini, as the long grass was still wet with the morning dew, which would do a great job of cleaning the cut out naturally, making my job that much easier.

It took of a bit of skilful manoeuvring, but I eventually swapped the two groups over, despite Fergie’s insistence on leading the way, despite not actually knowing the way…

The four pigs were thrilled with their unexpected move:

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Tia and Bailey were not as happy. In fact, they were downright miserable and Tia spent the rest of the day giving me *that* look. The look that says she’s going to cause trouble. And judging from her previous behaviour, I believe her… I just wish I had somewhere for them to go! Even though the pair had the largest run with the best grass, leaving the four pigs a much smaller ratio of space and grass per pig, the “unfairness” of this was overwhelmingly compensated by removing Tia’s urge to roam whenever she had less than perfect grazing…

Oh well, the electric fence is on, the battery has been recently charged, and they’ll just have to put up with the mud for another week. *Gulp*!

Moving the six pigs and adjusting two hundred metres of electric netting took me over two hours so it was late in the morning by the time I had the opportunity to re-examine Brini’s foot. As I’d hoped, the long wet grass did a wonderful job of cleaning the cut and it was virtually mud free, and that meant I was able to see that there was no blood and that the cut was the porcine equivalent of cutting the skin around your nail. Painful, but not as bad as cutting anywhere else on the finger.

Even better, the heat and swelling had both gone down considerably (so much so that I had to double check I had the right foot) and watching her walk, it was evident that the she was feeling much better, as she wasn’t limping nearly as much as she had been.

I (finally) headed back to the feed shed, checked the chickens, who were most indignant at being ignored for so long, popped to the loo (note to self: always, always go before feeding the pigs!), grabbed my wonderful Purple Spray, and walked back to the pigs, intending to settle Brini down and spray her foot to (hopefully) kill off any infection that may be lurking.

As plans go, that one sucked. Scrumpy wanted belly rubs, Fergie wanted belly rubs, Perky wanted belly rubs … Brini told me to go to hell. And continued to do so for the rest of the day. I know because I went back every hour or so and the pattern was the same. Every other pig was thrilled with the idea of belly rubs in the afternoon sun. Not Brini. In fact, she was so determined that she never did get her belly rub and I never did get to inspect and spray her foot!

Having said that, not only did she make a break for Perky’s food again that evening, but she actually ran after me when she got a whiff of the contents of the their veggie bucket and realised that bananas were on the menu.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s recovery continues and that her foot heals itself without any further problems – or infection. I’ll obviously try again today, hoping that it’s not a case of bolting the stable door after the fact, and will keep all fingers crossed for a speedy and trouble-free recovery.

And the rest of the day? Well, having lost the whole morning, in the afternoon I culled and plucked the three bantam cockerels, checked Brini, cleaned out the chicken houses, moved the Pekins and Silkies out of the horrible old wooden ark and back into the Eglu, which had been acting as a temporary broiler ark for the boys, collected the eggs (four today, bringing the total for 2009 to an astonishing 1003!), checked Brini, cut the grass around the chickens’ electric netting, had a very late lunch, checked Brini, walked the dogs, dug up a row of potatoes, checked Brini, cut up the pigs’ fruit and veg, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, checking Brini one last time as a I did so, then headed for home, knowing that I still had the three chickens to draw and one to cook, putting the other two in the freezer.

The Trio - 16 August 2009

The Trio - 16 August 2009

I hate drawing (aka gutting) chickens, and never seem to do a neat job. Still, practice makes perfect, and I’ve now done the grand total of five cockerels and therefore know one thing to be true: big chickens are much easier than small ones…

I decided to try poached chicken, intending to make a chicken and vegetable broth. B’s away at her parents, so although I know the broth was missing something, I don’t know what that something was (B’s a skilled cook, I just cook…). It was still tasty though, and there’s plenty in the freezer, not to mention some extra stock!

I eventually fell into bed with a well-deserved bowl of chicken broth at about ten o’clock.

Phew!

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Marrow-tastic!

I planted my courgettes quite late so I’m only just reaping the benefits of fresh, cut-that-day, home grown deliciousness. Judging by the way that the vines are creeping here, there and everywhere, all I can say is that it’s a damn good job I like courgettes!

We decided to let one grow on and try our hand (well, B’s hand, to be precise!) at stuffed marrow. Although I was tempted to leave it much longer, just to see how big it would get, I cut this beauty when it was the length of my forearm, from my albow to the tip of my fingers!

Marrow - 22 August 2009

Marrow - 22 August 2009

B made the stuffing from minced beef, leeks, garlic, mushrooms, soy sauce, herbs and some other ingredients that I’ve since forgotten (which is why she’s a far better cook than I). And it was wonderful. Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to the gods of courgettes, not forgetting B for putting it all together!

The woes and lows of a first-time vegetable gardener

This is my first attempt at growing vegetables, and it sure ain’t easy! Not that I thought it would be, but I’m starting to understand why there are so many books and magazines on the subject. I’m also convinced that without human intervention, left to their own devices, vegetables would swiftly become extinct.

In the spring, with vast amounts of help from Jennie, I planted courgettes, cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, garlic, swede, peas, beans, potatoes, pumpkins, gourds, leeks, broccoli, sprouts, spinach and sweetcorn.

Success!

  • The potatoes seem to be doing well, as do the peas, beans and garlic.

Failure 😦

  • The leeks failed, and each and every pumpkin seedling was eaten. Oh, and don’t ask about the corn…

Hit and miss

  • Only one cucumber plant seems to be trying to make it, and it’s so small and undeveloped that I doubt it even knows it’s a cucumber.
  • I planted 12 courgette seeds. 9 germinated, 6 were completely eaten, 2 only partially. One is going great guns, and its surviving companions are giving it a good go.
  • The only surviving gourd plant is looking to take over the whole garden.
  • The broccoli and sprout plants are still being eaten alive, even though they’re massive. Oh – only two of each actually survived the slugs and snails.
  • A couple of spinach plants are putting on a good show but the rest just sit there.
  • The first lot of carrot seedlings literally vanished overnight, though the second lot of seeds I planted seem to be doing better.
  • Sadly, my swede army is also vanishing before my very eyes – blink and another one runs away.
  • Finally, the parsnips are hanging in there… all four of them!

So, all in all, I can safely say that my first year has been a bit of a disaster. Looking back at all the effort that went into digging, I want to cry! On the other hand, I’ve harvested some potatoes, and they’re absolutely delicious, which is a massive relief.

Ah well, better luck next year!

Making hay while the sun shines!

Yesterday’s predicted rain never arrived so at lunch time I decided to tempt the weather gods and watered the vegetable garden, cursing the slugs who have attacked my courgette plants. Amazingly, this did not instigate a downpour and so I spent the afternoon cutting the long grass in the orchard. Thing is, I cut it by hand using some loppers, so that I can leave it to dry and become hay which I can then use as bedding for the hens’ nest boxes and in the pig arks.

The orchard - 10 June 2009

I took a much needed break to take this photo of what I had done and what was left to do!

Midge in the grass - 10 June 2009

A close up, using Midge to show you just how long the grass is!

Snipe - 10 June 2009

This was as close as Snipe could get to me when I was behind the electric netting in the chicken run!

Finally, take a look at this:

Pea plant in the field - 10 June 2009

Pea plant in the field - 10 June 2009

A while ago, I idly pushed some peas that the pigs hadn’t eaten into the dirt that they’d turned up in the field. Look again, can you see the pea pod?! I’ve managed to loose the feral garlic (the undergrowth grew up around it and I’ve no idea where it is!) and the feral broad beans are growing but haven’t flowered yet, but this looks as though it might actually do something! And the amazing thing is that I haven’t looked after it at all. It’s survived on rain water, so got no water during the week and a half of blazing sunshine, and I only propped it up with a stick last week. Nature rules! I just hope my domesticated peas make it. The slugs really are on a mission 😦

Bank holiday sunshine

Ok, so maybe the sun didn’t shine yesterday, but boy, was it hot on Sunday!

Brini and Scrumpy - 24 May 2009

Brini and Scrumpy enjoy their fresh grass. I moved the pair (and Fergie and Perky!) onto new ground on Sunday afternoon.

Pinky - 24 May 2009

Pinky made the most of her wallow

Potato patch - 25 May 2009

The potato patch is coming along well. Not sure when I should start earthing up though

Molly's eggs - 25 May 2009

Molly the Pekin bantam has started laying her eggs in the grass outside. Thing is, she's laying in the grass in the big chickens' run, not her own!

Update on the lasagne garden

Last autumn, Jennie and I set about establishing a lasagne garden. I’ve been slowly adding to it all winter and spring so it’s very much in various stages of development and is what could honestly be described as a “work in progress”!

However, having read Compostwoman’s excellent post about making compost, I realised that the lasagne garden is quite clearly too dry as there are a fair number of ants hanging around it.

So yesterday afternoon I whipped off the tarpaulins that have been covering the patch so that the overnight rain could get it nice and soggy.

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

As you can see from the photo, the bit we did first has come along and nicely and is, in my very inexpert opinion, ready for planting. I’m going to use the lasagne garden for things like courgettes, melons (well, it’s worth a try!) cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, etc.

There’s one patch that we’re not using this year so in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to turn this into a lasagne garden in preparation for next spring. If I start now, it should be more than ready by next year!