Speaking of sheds and storms ….


As you may be able to see, storm Gareth has wrought his worst with some of these sheds on the site.  The new one that just blew over was so heavy I couldn’t even lift it a single inch.  The rest – to be fair – had seen a bit of life previously but the storm delivered what’s probably the coup de grâce for most of them. What’s surprising is that most of the damage was done the day after the worst of the storm was supposed to have passed by. Even today there were some thumping gusts but the sun shone brightly.  The place was half deserted because of the the Bath half marathon which puts us in lockdown between 10.00am and 3.00pm.  Anyone planning to drive there would have to have to have come very early or waited until later. We walked up at 9.00am but the stewards were all in position already. We watched thousands of runners pass us just the other side of the trees while a rock band on the skateboard park played its entire repertoire over and over.  We must have heard “Losing my religion” about 100 times. Somewhere a long way away a thundrous drum ensemble celebrated the fastest and encouraged the slowest runners – and quite a few walkers too as they entered the second lap.

Having been kept off the ground for much of the last fortnight, we spent the morning and most of the afternoon planting out sowing and netting the succession crops and the overwintering peas. At last it’s OK to sow carrots and leeks straight into the ground, and while Madame was doing that I cleared the carrot patch ready for a salad catch crop.  I dug up a bucket full of a mixture of Nantes and Chantenay carrots.  It seemed a good idea to clear them out before the carrot fly arrives again. There wasn’t a trace of fly in last season’s crop which we grew under Enviromesh from sowing to harvesting. The succession broad beans have rooted wonderfully well in the root trainers and they went in during the afternoon.  By lunchtime we’d installed the pea netting and supplemented the mouse and slug eaten gaps in the overwintering plants with healthy ones grown in the greenhouse. Then there were innumerable little jobs that we needed to catch up with. It was a lovely day but we’ve both come home with backache!

Leaving Llŷn. Mark V watering device – DOA

2018-02-06 16.13.36There are several ways of driving back from Llŷn but we’ve settled on the shortest by distance, the longest by time and the one that surpasses any other route for sheer beauty. Naturally the sensible way would be to drive across to the M5 and plough down the motorways, concentrating grimly on not being trapped in a long line of lorries attempting to overtake one another with a 0.1mph speed advantage. Not being sensible but loving mountains, the scenic route takes us through Snowdonia past Cadair Idris, through the Cambrian Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, finally entering Bath via the last remnants of the Cotswold Hills. Somehow the drive through the landscape effects a similar transition in the mind.  Leaving and arriving need time if they’re not to jolt.

IMG_5059The weather last week was pretty stormy and in consequence we hunkered down to writing and drawing, sharing a table in companiable silence for hours at a time and punctuating our days with trips to the local Spar shop (8 miles away!) and further afield to visit galleries. We had a lovely time, but at the back of our minds we knew we’d left a load of very young plants in the heated propagators with only my Heath Robinson watering device to keep them going  Outside on the allotment we were concerned about the broad beans in the high winds and all the seedlings in the greenhouse.

IMG_5063The Mark V watering device proved a complete failure.  Every modification I had introduced had increased the level of complexity and the possibility of failure.  What never even crossed my mind was that the string with the key tied to the end as a counterweight to keep the corks from turning turtle – bear with me here –  would dry out and stick to the side of the repurposed kitchen waste bucket thereby suspending the business end of the apparatus in mid air over the reservoir. Happily the young plants were entirely indifferent to my care-plan and got on with getting bigger anyway. If there’s a lesson in that I’m determined to ignore it!

IMG_5056The allotment turned out to be in great heart – not only had all the seeds in the hotbed germinated, but the broad beans had survived the winds that had been so strong as to lift the (toughened) glass panels from the top of the coldframes and throw them several feet away. The beans are very securely netted and supported with string, so that must have saved them. Far from being damaged, a couple of the plants have come into flower which, we were inclined to think, wasn’t a great idea. The meteorologists might call this early spring but it’s not too late for a dose of severe cold.  The hotbed is mooching along at a constant 15C: not as hot as I expected but plenty hot enough to germinate spring onions, radishes, lettuce and beetroot. It would have fed my pride if it had shot up to 65C, but then we’d have needed to wait so long for it to cool down we’d have lost all the early advantage.

IMG_5057As if to underscore the resilience of nature and the indomitable will of young plants to survive, the Sweet Cicily that survived my clumsy attempts to germinate them plus repeated slug attacks last spring, is beginning to romp away in its inauspicious corner next to the water butts. Eight seeds – one plant.

On the aparagus bed the first couple of spears of Mondeo are peeping through, needing to be covered with fleece once more I think, and back at the Potwell Inn the potatoes are chitting very well.  I took a tip from Alys Fowler in the paper and I’ve sprayed them a couple of times with very dilute seaweed solution.  It probably stimulates the growing shoots, but possible keeps the tubers moist as well so they don’t shrivel up too much.