It’s definitely lambing time at the moment and the BBC Lambing Live programme gives a good insight into this busy time of year for sheep farmers. However our neighbour decided that his tups are just getting in the way so he was keen to shift them elsewhere for a few weeks.
They only need to be fed their ration once a day and that’s no problem as I also need to deal with the chickens who are right next door. It also helps that they will do their bit to keep the grass down in that paddock.
Obviously these two boys have nothing much to do now until next October/November so it’s quite a life for them. They don’t look it but I expect they could be a little nervous about the lambs due any day now because that cushy life through the summer could easily change if the lambs aren’t as good as expected!
After my efforts back in February with forcing rhubarb it is very pleasing to report that both varieties have yielded a small crop.
As both these plants are only just into their second year I didn’t want to push my luck but I did want to get some to try so that we will know what to expect in the future.
The Champagne variety was the first to reach to top of the covering pot so that got eaten first, mostly in the form of Rhubarb Scones. The Stockbridge Arrow variety wasn’t too far behind though and luckily the covering pot helped to protect it when we received a light dusting of snow recently.
I’ll leave the plants uncovered now and give a layer of mulch around the top of the pots to give them some more nutrients. Eventually they will be planted out into a dedicated bed along with the existing rhubarb plant which has been brought under control ready for later in the spring.
I think my remaining rhubarb worry now is whether to work on improving the rhubarb scone recipe or perhaps I should have a go at making rhubarb crumble? Either way it’s a delicious choice to be faced with!
Finally the new raised veg beds are nearing completion but the remaining work is probably some of the hardest. The timber for the outside edges on the paths is still to be delivered at some point but in the meantime yesterday was another exciting delivery day.
After much deliberation and indecision, I decided to use slate chips rather than trying wood chip first as a short-term solution. Although it’s more expensive in the early stages it will definitely last a lot longer and hopefully look nicer as well.
I may have ordered too much though despite careful consideration but I’m sure I can find a use elsewhere in the garden for any leftovers. So here you have it – 4 tonnes of the finest slate chippings from Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.
The delivery was a minor nightmare though mostly because the driver decided to reverse all the way down the track. This meant he couldn’t negotiate the corner at the end of the field without wiping out a row of willow trees so the delivery couldn’t get to the courtyard as originally planned.
In the end it all worked out okay though. We managed to offload all 4 pallets but the last one was the most fun – the dumpy bag had a split so the contents were shovelled off the side of the lorry into a spare bag I had lying about.
At least it’s still fairly close to the raised beds so all I need to do now is shift all 4 tonnes by hand with a spade and a barrow!
Both rhubarb varieties seem to be doing well – the Stockbridge Arrow is lagging slightly behind the Champagne but that may help to spread out the (limited) harvest. I don’t want to force these excessively in case the plants suffer as a result so I won’t be picking too much from each plant.
I’ve never forced rhubarb before so I used a couple of spare plant pots as covers on the new growth but in future I may go for something taller. Luckily the pots have worked very well so far this year but as the new growth develops there is not enough space so I will soon be faced with a choice – harvest them as shorter stems or find something taller so they can develop a little more height.
As I’m impatient to see whether this rhubarb tastes any better, my current preference is to pick them sooner rather than later!
First seeds sown
Last weekend I decided that I had waited long enough and it was time to sow some of the vegetable seeds indoors. Nothing too delicate yet because there will be a few weeks yet before I can be certain of the weather improving.
This year I’m using bags of a dedicated seed compost for seed sowing and for this first batch I carefully sieved it when filling the trays or tubes. I doubt that the sieving is really necessary but when I sow more in 2-3 weeks time perhaps I’ll skip the sieving just to see what difference that makes (if any).
I had planned to put all the covered seed trays on to window sills in the living room and kitchen but apparently this approach does not meet with full approval from my better half. Luckily I eventually realised that the loft room would be perfectly suitable for the early stages as it gets most of the heat from the house plus the sky lights should provide a decent amount of light.
Just a few standard vegetable varieties have been sown so far (leeks, carrots and red/green cabbage) but if I can get these underway successfully now then I should have some space and time for the more interesting varieties.
Once the weather warms up a bit more, it will be interesting to see how much success I can get with things like sweetcorn and courgettes (which I haven’t tried before) and also whether I have any luck with my second attempt at squash and parsnips when I can plant them at the right time of the year.
This bout of seed sowing also finally prompted some action on building the last raised bed (for this year at least). The original plan was for something slightly more contrived but as the work progressed the plans changed and the completed set of 5 raised beds should be more than enough for now
The path edging needs to be put down and I’m still not sure what to use for the paths but perhaps the easy option would be to use wood chip for now as we have lots of leftover small branches from the trees that came down. If that doesn’t work it can always be used for mulch elsewhere and the paths covered with slate chips or similar instead.
After the storm damage a few months ago with fallen trees taking out some dry stone walls, I have finally got around to completing some repairs. Luckily no one was around when they came down but the dent on the old gate is a good reminder of the event.
The eagle-eyed reader will perhaps also spot in the second picture below the remains of the offending tree which had rested on the broken wall and the gate.
Unfortunately I didn’t allow for the weight of the root-ball and once I’d cut off most of the top, the effect of gravity swung the remaining part of the trunk back vertical again using the wall as a pivot point.
Obviously I should have paid more attention in my physics lessons at school but to my untrained eye at least the wall repairs look fairly good!
After a couple of months waiting for the planning permission to go through, the installers have worked over the last week or so to get the solar PV panels up and running.
The whole set-up is just a bit larger than I had originally envisaged but it’s tucked away out the back and isn’t noticeable from the surrounding area. Who knows, maybe the chickens will be glad of the shade later in the year?
Finally everything was declared fully operational last Saturday and even the sun came out to celebrate for the commemorative photograph!
I now find myself regularly fighting the urge to check the generation meter every hour or two just to find out how much electricity has been produced. I’ll definitely keep an eye on the figures but I have to accept that the peak production obviously won’t be until later in the year!
Not so straightforward
There were one or two minor problems when digging the trench for the supply cable back to the house. It turns out that there are a few water distribution pipes buried under these paddocks which we knew nothing about.
These pipes don’t seem to be heading towards any of the existing field taps so we (and the installers) were a bit stumped what they were doing there.
They are definitely connected to our pumped spring water though! The tank nearly ran dry when they broke the pipes during digging but the relevant repairs were made fairly promptly
On the bright side, at least this was just the spring water supply and the result was simply that the tank was almost emptied.
I might have felt differently if it had been the metered mains water but for the moment we aren’t connecting to that and it’s only for emergencies.