Sunday, 13 March 2011

Spring is springing!

Well, it seems that winter is over - the buds are swelling and it's time to get down to some serious work in The Allotment. That's not to say that we can't have more  frost and snow - in 2008 we had 6" of snow at the beginning of April, and neighbours say it has even snowed in June...

The first buds to break are of the rosa rugosa that we have alongside the path that runs up the side of the garden, with hazel coming along too. The snowdrops have been up for a month and the daffs are budding up nicely - many are out elsewhere, but at 875' above sea level ours are a little shyer. That's all well and good, but you can't eat the daffs, so we decided we'd better get some work done planting food.

When we created The Allotment a couple of years ago we saw just how thin in places the topsoil was. Pentre Galar, we discovered, means Village of Mourning (I know, it's cheerily named isn't it), but a friend also said he thought it had another meaning. Looking it up in his old geiriadur he said, "Yes, here we are, it means 'Village With Crap Land'".

A great location for us to start growing veggies then.

In order to remedy this a few weeks ago we had 8 tonnes of rotted manure delivered. Between us Louise and I barrowed it onto 2 beds of The Allotment and are awaiting the next load. As it's a freebie we have to fit in with when our mate can deliver it. On top of this we were topping up with topsoil - see picture. We had 12 tonnes delivered and the pic shows what's left - I guess around 4 or 5 tonnes. You can see how big the area was that was covered by manure and soil by the brown stain on the field... 

Again this was barrowed onto The Allotment - hard work. I can't wait for the next load of manure and the fun of barrowing tonnes more topsoil.

Having the tractors on the land when it wasn't bone-dry has done some damage and I'm not sure how to remedy it. The wheel ruts are deep so filling with molehill spoil won't cut the mustard. I think I might have to get some more topsoil delivered then use a fork to spike the sunken areas (to create drainage) then top with topsoil and seed.

All in all though things are going well. We've a lot more seed to sow: runner beans, broad beans, dwarf beans, climbing peas, mange tout, squash, pumpkin, cauli, cabbage, broccoli, radish, lettuce, spinach, carrots, turnips, parsnips - the list is endless.

You can see from this picture how nice and full the beds are now.

We've managed to get the spuds in. Let's hope the blight keeps off this year. The garlic was planted in fibre pots back in autumn, but we have a load more in the greenhouse, and plenty of onion sets in too. There isn't enough space in the greenhouse - we really need some more stiff seed trays to hold the flimsy cell trays so we can get them off the ground.

Louise limed the chickens' pen in January to help keep it fresh and they seems to be happy. We are getting half a dozen eggs a day again now that they are back in lay after the short winter days.

The sheep too are doing well. All seem to be in-lamb, with the first ewe due around the beginning of April. We lamb in the stables, which makes night-time checks easier and more comfortable than wandering round a field in the rain by gradually-diminishing torch light.

The fruit trees too seem to be growing well, all apart from the Victoria plum that I massacred. 
I know you are supposed to summer-prune plum trees but somehow it all went wrong and now i'm not sure if i've knackered it for good. At least the apple and pear trees are doing well - a big difference in 3 years.

One big job we have on is the removal of all the stones from where last year's pigs were. As you can see there are several tonnes of all sizes of stones to shift. We then rotovate the land and seed it. I think this year we'll invite some friends down to give us a hand...

The garden is looking smart too - very tidy, even if I do say so myself. 

I found some frogspawn in a local pond a few years back and brought it back home in a jar and the offspring have now returned for a second year to spawn with us. No toadspawn, though we do find the occasional toad under a plantpot or log.

So, all is well at the moment. We've got lambing to get out of the way - anyone with sheep knows what a lot of work they can be (what with foot trimming, Heptavac-ing, worming, dagging, getting the feeding regime right to avoid twin-lamb disease and all), but lambing is always an exciting but slightly worrying time of year. Wish us well and come back soon to see how we get on.