The sheep are back. The rent for the ground is conditional, a bit like having a caravan at the seaside, on it only being “occupied” for a maximum ten months of the year. Consequently, although there are rams in one or two of the fields from January onwards, ewes and lambs start to arrive, dependent on the quality of available grass, from the end of March. It isn’t my land but I do have an affinity with it and I’m happy to help out if and when a hand is needed. The old bath, which has served as a trough for as long as I can remember, is adjacent to the greenhouse. I used to just nip over the fence, fasten the end of the hose to a tap and leave it to fill while I got on with a few jobs. Sadly, my days of nipping over barbed wire topped fences are now behind me, so a “yawk up” it was. Cable tie the hose to a long handled rake hoe, insert in bath/trough, turn on tap, leave until filled. I didn’t even need Dave to think this one up for me.
Back to matters in hand and on we go, the first lettuce are shaping up nicely and the “mixed leaves” (really just lettuce in a weed bed) are starting to get some strength, I was a little concerned that planting early would hold them back and maybe even halt growth, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Could well be eating these this coming week. In the small raised bed where the onions and leeks seem to be thriving a couple of types of mustard greens (Mizuna and a red variety) which I tried to grow a couple of years ago without any great success, have self seeded. I’m leaving them in as “complementary” plants, chewing a handful of these leaves in a morning certainly wakes the old mouth up and they liven a salad up no end.
Another “self seeding” success story (I hope) comes in the form of half a dozen tomato seedlings which germinated in the bed I’ve been prepping for root veg. I didn’t really hold out much hope, but they’re potted on now and getting on for six inches high or so. The rough old, take it as it comes, gardener in me likes the idea of not knowing which breed they’ll turn out to be, if they ever fruit. They’re now ensconced in the nursery, along with around thirty others of various breeds, heights and leaf colours and half a dozen cucumber plants belonging to Dave. He’s got himself a trough of lettuce and now a bit of room for some cucumbers, he’ll be helping with the onerous and ongoing chore of, weeding before I know it!
The old “nettle soup” is coming along, it’s taken on a vaguely oily appearance and gives off a not unpleasant aroma. I’ve mostly been using it to prep ground prior to planting and to feed the plum tree. Apparently (I finally got round to looking something up on t’ tinterweb) it’s high in potassium, nitrogen and iron. I was right to think it just needs regularly adding to (I use the leavings from my nettle tea) and topping up with water to provide a good all round feed/fertiliser which hopefully will save me a small fortune on organic tomato feed. The wild nettles are coming through strongly now, too. I’m going to ratch out another tub and start making a second batch, if it works (and I’ve no reason to think it won’t) I shouldn’t need to buy tomato feed ever again. I’m beginning to like this self help, utilise natures bounty lark, a lot!
Dave has acquired himself one of those posh propagators, you know the ones? They have a sliding top to the lid, to let excess moisture escape and a thermostatically controlled heating element. Any road up, he was singing its praises to me (he germinated some sweet peas in double quick time) so I asked if he’d allow me to take advantage of its magical properties if there was room. I’d planted six bean seeds and only three had germinated. I was on the point of giving some fresh ones a chance but Dave afforded me the use of his new toy and, voila three nice healthy bean plants, which are now in the ground and doing well. The propagator is now home to the twenty compartment tray of pepper and chili seeds which had steadfastly refused to germinate. Latest reports, just in, confirm seven showing after a week, hope, as they say, springs eternal.
As the weather improves, so the tomato plants gather strength and take on height. There was me, messing about with half a dozen bits of lat and a handful of assorted screws, trying to “yawk up” a frame to support a fleece to protect the plants in the “nursery” from the cooler night air. Less than thirty feet away, if I’d only been bothered to turn around and look, was the template for the most simple of solutions. Dave (who else) to the rescue again. There’s pipe of all sizes lying around in the various sheds, waiting for its time to “come in handy” for one job or another. A quick measure up, three hacksaw cuts and a cane, cable tied along the top for rigidity and, as if almost by magic, we have a support frame which will be of use for as long as it’s needed, so long as, when I’ve finally planted everything out, I don’t forget where I’ve safely put it!
A quick word about soil, the sieving of, and the satisfaction afforded by taking earth, sharp sand, compost, coffee grounds (courtesy of a local cafe) and a small amount of organic chicken manure (the lumpy bits). Creating a small root veg plot isn’t easy (as I think I’ve previously mentioned) given the make up of the soil and the location of the greenhouse, but the raised bed I’ve set aside for this particular purpose is coming along nicely. I’m digging trenches about ten inches deep and a trowel width wide, making the removed soil lump and stone free then adding the other components/ingredients to create what you see in this picture. It isn’t very scientific and the picture’s not the greatest, but the resulting mix has a very nice feel and aroma to it. Once I’d back filled the trenches I watered liberally with the nettle solution before setting carrot and parsnip seedlings. I’ve got some spinach in there, growing from seed and some rainbow chard. there are three more trenches left to populate, I’ll put two lots of nine carrots in and one lot of seven or eight parsnips (seed). If this works out as I’m hoping, I’ll replant as I harvest, meaning a regular supply without glut. Nowt ventured, nowt gained.
The four beds; Top left, leeks, onions and the self seeded mizuna/rocket. Top right, hopefully chilies and peppers, all things being propagated. Bottom left, carrots, vacant trench, spinach, parsnip, three more vacant trenches, rainbow chard. Bottom right, sprouts, cavalo nero, cabbage. To the left, Dave’s lettuce. Directly behind, broad beans and peas, with the early spuds looking good (to the right) with the strawberry beds bringing up the rear. Handsome.
Of course, even an intrepid (if somewhat rough) gardener such as myself needs to take a break from the life horticultural and turn his thoughts to what goes on in the wider world, also (occasionally) taking a wander into the wilds to blow off a few of the cobwebs. I’d wandered down a farm track, hoping to get a picture of a Highland cattle calf, to illustrate this little section of my article, but, on seeing the somewhat Gothic gate ornaments at the farm entrance I thought better of it. I did hear a dog howl and a quad bike fire up, so walked (as fast as my little legs would carry me) up to Tewit Tarn instead. We are now entering the third Carolean epoch, following the accession to the throne of this once great nation by His Majesty Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor. I must admit to being conflicted. I’ve long been disinclined towards the concept of Titular/Constitutional monarchy, seeing it as something of an anachronism, although if pressed as to how we could better it I don’t really have a solution. If there were ever to be a referendum on the subject in my lifetime, then I’d vote to abolish, but I’m painfully aware, as loud as the voices on social media are, I’m in a something of a minority. I’m certain of one thing, should we ever end up with an elected Head Of State it mustn’t ever be anyone from our political or current Aristocratic/Monarchical system, far too many crooks and shysters amongst that lot for my liking. I could go on, but to summarise; I’m far from certain, for all the good works Charles has done (he’s highly regarded in these parts, for several reasons) that he truly has the interests of the plebeian masses at the centre of his particular brand of “blue sky” thinking. However, I’m certain both he and his elder son would contend the opposite to be the truth. I believe he’s far too close to the “establishment” (he would be though, given the circles he moves in), far too keen on the poverty creating scam that is “Net-Zero” and far too cosy in the presence of Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffett, the Big Pharma cartel and the rest of the cohort of Globalist/WEF “movers and shakers” of this world (none of whom are getting any younger), who he believes have the answers to all our many and various problems (when they clearly don’t) unless mass depopulation, with the survivors “owning nothing and being happy” whilst living in boxes in their fifteen minute cities, can be seen as an answer. I hold out hope (faint though it may be) that I’m wrong about him, his cronies, his advisors, his son and his very dodgy “friends in high places”, as with most things, only time will tell.
It was my youngest daughters birthday on Friday and she invited us out to join her for a meal at a decent restaurant in town. We rarely eat out in the evening these days but I always have liked to make an effort on such occasions. Why are there so many people these days, even grown adults, so irredeemably scruffy? I can understand young people who want to be seen to be “on trend”, but honestly, the “fashion” for wearing a shirt with a tail outside ones trousers, not to mention said trousers being worn at half mast, showing off sock-less feet in loafers, or even worse trainers, baffles me. They’re in a restaurant in England, not a bar in Torremolinos. Not least when this same look is being sported by men in their fifties, sixties and even seventies. A “smart/casual dining experience” obviously means something completely different to some than it does to me. Curmudgeon I may be, even a little “old fashioned” in some respects, but it comes to something when a simple ensemble of pressed slacks, polished brogues (with neutral socks) a freshly ironed (and firmly tucked in) dress shirt and contrasting sports jacket makes one stick out like a sore thumb. I’ll either have to stay in even more than I do now, or radically address the content of my wardrobe!
© Colin Cross 2023