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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Having a block....



I’m having a bit of a block. We are still here and working away, so I’m sure we are making progress. But I am feeling it has all been said before and I have nothing to add.

Having read similar on someone else’s blog recently it seems I am not alone. One person went five years before re-starting and I have friends who used to write blogs and who just petered out. But I don’t just write it to keep friends, family and regular commenters informed, it is also a diary as my memory is not great and I like to see where we were last year and now, the year before. I am sure readers are getting bored too....one day I had only fifty or so  page views rather than the 150-200 on a normal day, and rarely get any comments which I really appreciate (special thanks to Jane, Mandy and Gill) So here I am, alone, stuck in the house as there is a cool wind and no good reason to be outside, no internet so, as Dave is out, only the animals for company. So for today I think I will write from headings to see if that helps.

IN THE GARDEN
As mentioned last time we are almost planted up. The only things left to put in are the sweet potatoes, butternut squash (I know I sowed some and no idea how I lost them!) melons and strawberry popping corn. Oh, and Brussels sprouts. The sprouts and corn are a problem. I want the sprouts where I can get to them in the winter without ploughing through mud, and had earmarked the small patch where the coldframe was last year. But it needs a bit of soil in there so I am unsure. The popcorn needs to be away from the regular sweetcorn and the only place is by the pool area, but I am not sure if it is sunny enough. I suppose there is no harm in trying it there, but the ground looks a bit hungry. Decisions, decisions
A strange looking thing, strawberry popcorn

New for us are artichokes, the globe sort not the tubers. We bought four new plants from Morgan's and David also gave us a bag with some well climatised plants from his own garden. With a bit of luck we might have a globe or two this year, weather permitting.
One of the plants from David's garden

And a bought plant

Elsewhere, the beans are all through and growing away, the tomatoes and cucumbers are all in, there are masses of flowers on the peas and lots coming on the broad beans. The potatoes have been earthed up and are already poking back through. The onions and garlic are generally looking good and bulking up well, though a few are looking a bit weak. The rest of the brassicas are standing tall and strong. I am not happy with the rhubarb. It was moved last year and has it’s own patch (with a few lettuce over winter) but has weedy growth. I have fed it and water it, but we have only had one pick and that was pathetic. It has had a lot of flowers on it, in common with most other people’s it seems so maybe that hasn’t helped. Nettle tonic is being brewed so that might help pick it up. We’ll see. I have read recently that moving it could set it back.
The first toms in now have trusses of flowers

The climbing beans are up....and now much bigger than these

Potatoes earthed up nice and neatly

Onions and garlic

First courgettelet
Peas

Broad beans in flower
Sage with huge flower buds about to burst

The thyme came through winter better than the UK, now flowering and the bees are happy
Not all great, radish are being eaten by something

Another problem we have is peach leaf curl on both peaches. Again, it seems to be a common problem this year, and although there is an organic spray you can use (Bordeaux mixture) before bud break (too late) and later in the year, we really don’t want to spray if we can avoid it. This remedy will become illegal on November 15 in the UK and there must be a reason for this. The apricot is looking healthier this year, but little sign of fruit. So it seems stone fruits will be in short supply this year. Hopefully the plums will be OK and raspberries and strawberries. Oh, and a few blackcurrants too.
Lots of blackcurrants

We have the first of the proper summer flowers open, the verbascum are putting on a great show of white spikes of flowers. The peonies are still doing well, we have masses of buds on the roses, the geum and lone delphinium are not far off, and the huge sage bushes I grew from seed last year are smothered in big fat flower buds. We still have to find space for some seed grown perennials and I’m hoping someone somewhere will be wanting to start a new flower garden, seems a shame to scrap them.
Our lovely verbascum, one of three

Not all great here either, sidalcea put in this year is looking sorry for itself

Dahlias up

CHICKENS AND DUCKS
They all seem healthy enough. The ducks are still laying well and giving us four eggs most days. On the other hand all the chickens we are feeding have dropped production. Whether that is due to age or they are hiding them I don’t know. We still have plenty of eggs but are not inundated. Dave is going to make a tall gate so that they can't get to the wood shed and bee area then they will hopefully start laying in the boxes provided again. Dave has set a dozen eggs in the incubator (yes I know, we said never again!) in the hope of getting some layers for next year who are not worn out. They will be a mix of brown ex-bats and Shumen so we will see what happens.
The ducks and chickens are enjoying the seeded paddock and so far are not trashing it
Baby in the big pool, with Cagney looking on


Little duckling is growing fast. He is now using the big pond for his dips, with Cagney keeping an eye out for trouble, but things seem much calmer generally since Spot and Spotty (now Hansel and Gretel) went to their new home.

CAR BOOT
Last weekend’s car boot sale was a very busy one again. In a different place (the camp site) again we have never seen it so busy with people having trouble finding a parking space. We were very quiet, sitting calmly in the sun watching other sellers being rushing around, especially the plant sales next to us. Then it all went a bit mad and we nearly sold out of jam and chutney, selling quite a few cards and all the duck eggs. So  good day all in all. I even got the first couple of bunches of asparagus of the season, being very kind I said I would let someone else have some and would take it if there was any left. I didn’t get the extra as it was soon gone! But it was delicious and thank you David and Graham at Morgan’s plants. David also gave me a bag full of artichoke plants from his garden so well acclimatised to Bulgaria, and I bought some pot grown ones too as mentioned above. With a bit of luck and favourable weather we might get a few globes this year.

We were given a sample bag of flour to try, but the chap who was giving it away was not the miller, who couldn't make it so no idea what it is. But it was very tasty and I made a loaf with half and half, even Dave commented on the flavour. I think it might have been unbleached stoneground. We might see the miller next time.



SOCIALISING
Yes, we did! We went into VT for a meal to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It makes a lovely change and it’s nice to catch up with people in a different environment. We didn’t stay late as Dave has never driven in the dark and was tired from working in the garden. The roads here are very dark at night, no lighting at all, not good with the pot holes and raised ridges on the main road, never mind the minor roads, so he took his time and we were glad to be home. It was the first night time drive in two years.

We are also going out in a couple of weeks for some friend’s 35th wedding anniversary bash which will be interesting. We should know a few people there as well.

IN THE KITCHEN
I’ve had to start to make all those jams and chutneys again. I have orders for the next sale so it can’t be avoided.

I am still making cakes for the freezer to use eggs, but have decided I much prefer to eat quiche fresh. On that note, we had a lovely smoked salmon and asparagus quiche tonight, so sweet, I think I had better order more bunches for next time, it’s such a short season.

It’s good to be using stuff from the garden, lettuce, chard,  herbs, radish, rhubarb, some carrots. I have designs on some of those fast growing pea and bean shoots too. But in the meantime the first tiny pods have been picked, and deciding there was not enough for Dave too, I tasted and Bella had the pods.

Not perfect, but a nice fresh crunch

Smoked salmon and asparagus quiche, with a bacon one for Dave's lunch today

The other 50g of smoked salmon went into some ravioli with wild garlic, on a bed of spring veg and a blob of home made low fat hollandaise. The little tortolini were me playing with the pasta

DOGS AND CATS
Splash is well and truly better now. He is loving hunting the crickets and turns himself inside out playing with them with no sign of any soreness. On warm, fine nights he often prefers to be outside and if the door is not locked he lets himself in by hanging off the door handle and sneaking upstairs quietly. With my poor sleeping I’m surprised he doesn’t wake me, but often there he is, snoozing away. Front door open to whatever creature wants to come in, dogs totally oblivious.

The girls are OK. They are enjoying getting warm sitting in the sun, as dogs do, and get far too hot before retreating to the shade. The novelty will soon wear off and they will spend more time indoors. After Bonnie keeping us awake with her panting last year we are giving serious consideration to an air conditioning unit for the bedroom, then we will all be more comfortable.

BLOG
This is the 200th post, and last week there was another milestone when the page views went through the 80,000 mark. So thank you all those readers, old and new...especially on the day it nearly reached 600! I really do appreciate all comments too.

I feel much better now!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

It's all go!

With the warmer weather comes lots of jobs. One of the biggest is watering and as wee were taken by surprise a bit (that the forecast was actually right!) we hadn't got all our hoses in place. The seedlings and plants in cells were drying out so quickly they had to be watered by watering can several times a day, never mind the chickens and seedlings coming up in the garden.
One of the big jobs...liming all the walls and ceilings in the poultry houses


They'll look great and hopefully knock some bugs flat

And they are all coming up. All the beetroot, carrots, spinach, chard and some peas are romping away. I say some peas because the little....ermm....cat is still playing hunting in the trenches and there are gaps! These have been re-sown and in the heat himself has taken to hunting in the wildflower garden...left long for our bees. That's our excuse anyway. Today it has been cut as there are plenty of other flowers for the bees. Also up are most of the potatoes, the only ones with a no-show are the very early ones....but Dave couldn't resist digging one up to look and they are well rooted even if they have no shoots yet. I've also put the seed grown onions out, and today we started on the brassicas. All the peppers and aubergines went out and are under fleece, but the cues and the rest of the tomatoes can wait till the cold nights next week have passed.
Our first pea pods, from the ones started in pots

A storm has boosted growth
Bella, not really helping the onions

First potato shoot



And the cat knocking the latest peas flat

Not pretty but tasty, over wintered carrots, with lettuce and herbs
The blackcurrants have lots of fruit set
Strawberries, not huge plants but plenty of flower, and now given a nice feed

I have done the pots for the outside stairs, a couple of them have some short sweet peas I sowed but without keeping the packet so I don't know what they are and what they do. I have also done a couple of troughs for the wall with them to give a bit of interest. The cherry toms on the wall look as if they have maybe got a bit cold but they are flowering well so we should have some early tomatoes all things being fair.


Unknown sweet peas

Cherry toms with lots of flowers

Among the established perennials all are growing well and there are buds on the peonies and roses, the verbascum and lonely delphinium. All the herbs are doing well as are the bedding plants grown from seed. We even have slips growing on the sweet potatoes at last.

The snowflakes are even better than last year

Wildflower garden
Gone
And Dave with knee high grass socks after strimming

Other happenings in the garden....the birds are coming back in numbers now. There is a lot of noise in the mornings and as well as our usual residents and the swallows, the nightingale is getting louder, the hoopoe is calling, as is the cuckoo, and we have both heard orioles...not the starling mimic this time. We are also getting more vareties of butterflies, crickets (great fun for the cat!) and lots of small bugs, insects and beetles.
Hawfinch

Swallow
Unknown (tatty?) butterfly, taken a long way off so a bit blurry


And one of the Shumens is trying to go broody. And we are trying to persuade her it is not a good idea. Meanwhile Cagney and her little duckling are doing well. As long as there are plenty of bowls of water about for the little one and dust for mum all seems well. They spend most of the time out with all the others now, though still sleep in the crate.


Teaching baby that chard is good to eat

Sleepy

Can just about reach the dirty duck water
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We have decided to sell the two white ducks, Spot and Spotty. The drake is harassing poor Spot, really giving him the runaround, so feel a home on their own would be better. They are such nice characters and I would hate for them (or Spot) to end up in the freezer. They have been reserved by the couple who had eight cockerels last year, with the proviso we will have them back if they don't get on with the boys.

On Wednesday we had a trip out to Ruse to pick up Dave's paintings, meeting the rest of the artists there. It seems no-one managed to sell much, not just Dave. Most of the paintings are now for sale at a reduced price (we can't keep them all!) and one has been sold already.
http://dcbartworks.webs.com/ruse-art-gallery-exhibition
In the paper

On the way home we called in to a superstore called Jumbo for a nosey around. Had a great time and came out with two large carrier bags of goodies, kitchenware (including cake tins) stuff for the animals, flip flops, craft materials, bathroom stuff, bug control, stationary....all for around 35 quid! Good job there isn't one around here! It was a bit like a pound shop on steroids, the only thing which cost a little more were the flip flops at less than 4 quid.

Flip flops x 2
Been trying out the mini 4"cake tins and freezing the results, using up eggs

And on the subject of using up eggs, the neighbours sent round some Easter bread which made a very nice, light bread pudding, went down a treat with a spoon of Chantilly cream