Puppy pick and mix

January 19, 2011

Spent some time with friends and their puppies this weekend. I think the pics speak for themselves…


And still it comes

December 2, 2010

We’ve had snow here for over a week now.

It was first forecast to last just a couple of days, but by the weekend it looked like it was here for a bit so we ventured out and “did a shop” (AKA any excuse for a Starbucks!).

It snowed some more over the weekend, but by Monday the OH confidently announced “I think we’ve seen the worst of it”. Tuesday morning he let the cat out and said it had snowed a little more overnight. When I asked how much he said about an inch. It wasn’t until I took the dog for a run [read as swim through the drifts] that we realised it was more like another 4″.

It snowed pretty hard throughout the day yesterday, and a little more overnight. All the time, the daytime temperature had remained around freezing, so we now have some spectacular icicles. Despite the steady thaw we still have about a foot and a half of snow on the flat, 3′ where ploughed and the drifts and cornices up the road are head-height.

Really can’t believe I read this on the Met Office website this morning:
“If you have seen snow recently, please let us know…”

We’ve also discovered that clearing a path in the snow obviously effects the delicate balance of the universe somehow, for no soon have you finished, it starts to snow again!

As I was getting ready to take the dog for her swim this morning I looked out the front door and there was a lovely blue sky, just starting to colour up with the sunrise… and a bloody great big snow cloud building on the horizon. Needless to say, it reached us before we got home again (that’s another daily occurrence just now) but madly, we don’t mind.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it.


Growing sweet potatoes in Scotland

November 6, 2010

Anyone else out there mad enough to grow sweet potatoes in Scotland? North East Scotland?

3 years ago, I decided to buy some slips. I know, they grow in warm climates, but I like a challenge. They’re expensive, but I thought I’d give them a try. They arrived early July, I rooted them, planted them and waited. The results – pencil size pointless waste of time and money.

I decided not to bother buying slips again, so the following year I tried to grow my own slips from a shop-bought sweet potato. I know, the slips you can buy have been developed to grow in the UK and those grown in Peru… in Scotland… I know! The results were worse – the slips didn’t start growing until June/July, meaning they wouldn’t have been planted until later than those the previous year.

This year, armed with the heated propagator I was given for Christmas last year, I decided to try again. So, in January, the halved, shop-bought sweet potato was set in the propagator, suspended in water, wished well and left alone.

I really thought I’d failed. It did nothing for a few months (except turn the water manky). Then, around March time, it started sending up slips. I’m guessing it was to do with light levels (not sure if that’s right, as moth people I’ve heard of growing their own slips do it in an airing cupboard). So, the slips got rooted, potted, and finally planted in the polytunnel through black plastic in the sunniest spot.

Today, I dug them up (had a few about a month ago, but dug the lot today).

The Results: about a 300% improvement on those designed to grow in the UK. These were as fat as a thick thumb on average. I did notice the ground appeared to be quite compacted though.

Knowing my capacity to think “next year, I’ll do…” and then never quite getting round to it, I decided to prep the area they’ll be planted in next year (yet, a 300% improvement can only mean I’ll be trying again). So, gave it a deep digging, broke the soil down well, added a couple of large buckets of 4-year-old leaf mold I had bagged and stored and half a dozen buckets of 2-year-old compost. Lightly forked it over and watered. Hopefully the worms will finished the job over winter, but I’ll see how it’s doing in spring and add anything else I think it needs before I cover it with black plastic to start heating up.

Watch this space – next year I’m aiming for a bucket full! Yeah, I like a challenge!!!


Don’t you just love banks

April 28, 2010

Had to phone up to activate a new bank card today. After all the usual security questions the “customer services operative” then launched into a cross selling schpeal…

“I’ve been asked to tell you about XYZ”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have time to discuss this today”
“I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you”
[Funny, you didn’t have any problems 2 minutes ago] “I said I’m sorry, I don’t have time to discuss this today”
“So I’d like to tell you about…”
“So you’re not going to bother to listen to me then?”
“I can now confirm that your card is activated. If you’d like to hear about…”

Click, brrrrrrrr


Spanner in the works

May 21, 2009

That time of year again when blog posts become scarce. All the usually gardening and poultry tasks to be attended to, plus the allotment and bees to see to. Been thrown some curved balls by the weather too to deal with. There’s quite a bit of other “stuff” going on too round here at the moment just to keep us on our toes.

Last week when I checked the bees I took my guru along (after sales service he called it). Hive full of bees all looking very happy and healthy, brood, egs, feed, pollen, queen etc. No signs of swarming.

Today when I checked – hive full of bees, starting to bring in some honey, pollen, capped brood, erm, no queen (not unusual – she goes for flights and sometimes just has too many attendants to spot her), but wait, no eggs either. Bugger.

A quick call to the guru confirmed what I suspected – leave the hive alone for 2 weeks and they’ll rear a new queen. Bit of a pain as it’ll set the hive back about a month and I was hoping to make a second colony with a controlled swarm, but they’ve already started raising there new monarch and with no eggs in the hive she’s unlikely to swarm, so fingers crossed.

All part of the learning curve.


Buzzing about

April 29, 2009

Had a few new arrivals on Friday night – hundreds (possibly thousands, but probably not yet) of honey bees.

Having spent last year reading up and learning from my mentor, I finally got my own hive. Brought them home in the back of the Landie (only 3 escapees) and left them to it in their new home.

Went to inspect them today and all appears to be well – Queen, brood, eggs, food and of course bees, all present and correct. Some were bringing in gorse pollen, but we’ve had a cold morning, so I was quite surprised at that. Given a bit of warmth (that we’re not forcast), I’ll be able to put a super on soon for my very first honey crop.

A very exciting time.


Off at a tangent

April 7, 2009

I used to have an allotment – actually, I’ve had 2, but not at the same time. For a while now I’ve been missing having one – I miss the banter, I miss excitement of seeing how it’s doing, I miss showing it off to people, I miss the ritual of “going down the plot” and I miss the escape.

Friends have an allotment in a nearby town, and they very kindly let me plant my over wintering onions there when I discovered I had white rot at home. They also said I could use as much of it as I liked, but that’s never felt right to me. I’m the sort that would always ask if was OK for me to do something – which could become wearing for them, but the way I see it that’s surely better than them turning up ready to plant something out only to find I’d used the space they had earmarked.

Last week I confessed to the OH that I might ask them to let me know if a plot comes up – these things don’t come up very often and it’s only a small site.

On Saturday, I was out collecting manure with one of the aforementioned friends. He asked if I’d like an allotment, and after a few seconds of deliberation, I admitted that yes, I’re really like one. “There’s one just come up, I’ll get you the guy’s number”. Oh, OK. So maybe not next year then, maybe rather sooner.

I didn’t hold my breath, as I knew my friend had to jump through hoops to get one himself. Saturday lunchime (in between manure runs – so to speak), I gave the guy to call. Having quickly established that there was a plot available and how I’d found out about it, I asked if I could put my name forward (thinking there was probably a list of people wanting one). “It’s yours” he says. Oh, OK. Thanks. So maybe right now then!!!

I think my friends were a little miffed – they’d had a struggle to get theirs and I’d walked straight into one. Not only that, it’s a good one – fenced, with shed, the beds are edged, loads of strawberry plants, well dug, hardly a weed in sight.

I’ve already planned it out and planted my onions out. Found some old drums in the shed that I’ve now installed as waterbutts. There are some changes I’d like to make to it, but most of the major ones will be made in the autumn and winter. For now I’ll concentrate on the rowing bit and worry about the structure later.

It’s funny actually, After I had a look at it I thought “what on earth am I going to fill that with?”. Then I got home and had a look round the greenhouse. I’m careful with seed – only sowing what I need plus a bit extra for spares (I hate “pricking out” – it’s my least favorite gardening job. I’d rather do the weeding!), but this year I’ve sown far more than I’d need for the beds in the garden. Spooky!