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Monday, 17 February 2014

I am now trying to blog post on my new tablet, which I got online for about £40. A little quirky at times and doesn't handle all apps and games, even occasionally hides apps! However for the price and general convenience it is fine. Also using Bloggeroid from the Google Play store, which works much better than the actual Blogger client.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Winter Pruning

I managed to finally get some allotment time when it wasn't raining!

Today's job was winter pruning of an espalier apple tree that we have on the back fence of the allotment. This apple tree produced a lot of fruit this year and I hope I haven't exhausted it for this year.
However, it does need keeping on top of for training on the fence and is roughly laid out as follows
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This is simplified, there were some more sticky out branches and perhaps another vertical.

Now, ideally you would want
 ----------------- |---------------------

It's a bit too far gone I thing for that however I think I can get  some more horizontals higher up, and the existing verticals which I have left in have fruiting buds

So, I have chopped a quarter off the highest (middle) vertical, back to a bud on either end, and taken out a few of the other straggly branches to neaten the tree up but I didn't want to go too far for fear of weakening it at this time of year when it is starting to bud. I have also tied some of the verticals a bit better
                          |                         |                |
                          |                         |                |
So, next year it will get further neatening, and over time I should build up the training along the fence.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


I am not sure when it is going to stop raining! Seems like every day has some rain, and so I haven't been up to do much meaningful work in the allotment recently.

One job I have done though is to space the fruit bushes out a bit. The two minarette apple trees and the damson tree have been getting rather crowded by blackcurrants and raspberries and I think last year this, combined with the poor cold start to the year, caused them to have problems. We had blackspot fungus on one of the apples and the damson crop was much reduced, with quite a few of the fruits getting mould. There also seems to be some kind of insect that is laying clear sticky egg sacs on the damsons which is really annoying as left unchecked these seem to burrow into the fruit, damaging the skin and the whole thing goes mouldy.

So, last weekend my youngest daughter and I set to and cleared a bit of ground to extend the fruit patch and then we dug some holes, filled them with some lovely compost from the bottom of the compost bin, and then carefully transplanted two blackcurrant bushes, and several raspberry canes into their new homes, making sure we kept as much of the rootball and associated earth as possible, and made very sure not to damage them.

A week later, and they seem to have taken hold, and the rhubarb that we also split down is and replanted a chunk is sprouting already.

Thus, the two apples and the damson have a lot more growing space, and it is currently clear of weeds etc. So we'll see how they get on.

Current crops are parsnips, a bit of green sprouting broccoli, some sprouts, as well as the occasional tomato and pepper from the plants in the house. Yesterday I had to buy an onion for the first time in 18 months! There's still some green beans in the freezer, and dried kidney beans in a tub, as well as 4 bottles of the parsnip wine I made last year.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Perhaps we all ought to sit in the dark and cold!

This past couple of weeks, the main energy companies have all been putting up their prices. A lot. Like 10-12%. This is despite making huge profits, and paying those at the top massive wages and bonuses.

And leaving their lights on - as was pictured in a couple of newspapers..

And the head honcho of one of them having a big country pile with heated swimming pool...

At least John Major, who I had assumed had gone to live out his retirement at Lords or the Oval, was willing to put his head above the parapet to complain about the injustice of it all. Although he probably doesn't need to worry about a 10% increase in the cost of his leccie....Nor I assume do the rest of the present government especially as presumably quite a lot of the cost of the energy they use comes from the public purse....

It's not just gas and electricity, look how the petrol price has stayed at over 130p for ages now. I think that it the Government adjusted the tax such that petrol was a stright £1 a litre, then this would reduce haulage costs, thus decrease the cost of goods in the shops, increase employment by increasing profitability and reducing costs for business, and give people money back in their pockets which could then feed back into the economy by increasing purchasing and investment. More employment means more tax receipts, more profits means more business tax paid and so on.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Little ways to save energy - 10 tips

1. Switch off lights when not in the room and use natural daylight as much as possible.
2. Switch off the cooker ring - if using electricity - before the end of cooking time, the residual heat will keep a pan boiling for several minutes afterwards.
3. Drive slower - I generally drive at 60mph and get average of 41.5mpg from a 2005 Renault Scenic - in a mixture of urban and motorway and A road driving.
4. Boil only what you need in the kettle. I have heard that it is more energy efficient to boil water in a kettle for vegetables than heat the water up on the hob, but this needs verifying.
5. Invest in a wind-up radio, you get exercise as well from all the winding!
6. Shut curtains at dusk - a lot of energy escapes through windows at night.
7. Put a jumper on rather than the heating when reasonable - obviously there comes a point where the heating needs to go on!
8. Laptops and tablets use less power than PCs
9. Share a bath! (You may do this anyway for reasons other than energy saving!)
10. Re-use heat - keep your toast warm by heating the plate up on top of the toaster, removing just before pop-up! Put plates in the oven to warm, do more than one dish in the oven, or do enough for 2 or 3 days in one go - e.g. Sunday + Monday plus a tub full for the freezer.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Autumn jobs - almost in the dark!

It is a good job I have got good eyesight in the dark! Even the local bats seem to want to stay close to streetlights (definitely Pipistrelle, and another larger species, fyi)

It is becoming a rush now to try and get things done in between coming home from work, having tea, picking the kids up and the sun going down, and frequently these past few days I have been trying to do work in almost darkness.

Still has to be done though, and for the record I have:

Finished digging over the potato patch - although I am sure a few will pop up next year as always
Dug over where the broad beans were
Planted winter onions in the former bean patch
Planted overwintering broad beans where the potatoes were
Watered - until today it has been very dry and the lettuces were suffering.
Started to pick windfall apples, and there's still some late raspberries to pick

There;s still plenty to eat, courgettes, tomatoes, leeks coming, parsnips coming, lettuce, beetroot, broccoli, green beans and in store onions and potatoes, broad beans in the freezer, and plenty of jam made from damsons, strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and raspberries.

And baby carrots from the window boxes in the yard - high up on the wall away from the carrot flies and they are really sweet and free of black dots and holes that the flies create.

Next job is to pick and store apples and pears, though they are really quite late this year with only one or two windfalls so far (which are eatable) and the rest not seeming in any hurry to be pickable.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

An experiment in peas

I read about how the Victorians used to grow things out of season by using hotbeds filled with manure, this gave off sufficient heat as it decomposed to keep plants warm and growing at times where normally they would suffer.

So, I thought I would give something a try. Unfortunately I don't have any horse manure at the moment, those Victorians had it in mountains in the days of horse drawn travelling! But I have plenty of compostable fruit and veg peelings and skins, as well as some guinea pig manure!

Into a wall-mounted tub goes some compost, followed by a deep layer of compostables, then a layer of compost on top for the peas to get stuck into while the decomposing gets going. The peas had been grown indoors and are about 3-4ins high right now.

Location is also important, our yard wall is in direct sunlight until about 2pm, and the corner where I have put the peas is the last to go into shade, but actually once the sun has gone round a bit, in late afternoon, that corner comes back into sunshine again (our house is east/west facing). The wall absorbs heat during the day and thus acts as a retainer, releasing heat back into the environment during the evening and night.

I put some twigs in for the peas to climb up, and we'll see what happens. I can always move them into the lean to greenhouse when the tomatoes have finished. Or put a clear plastic bag over them.

If I can get them to grow fast enough and we have a mild autumn we might well get peas this year. We'll see!