Sunday, 22 March 2015

Black Gold

Low tech farming or small-holding doesn't use expensive chemicals where free alternatives exist. In Galicia this is particularly true with most farms still being small and family run like my next door neighbours. Their main product is veal from the traditional Rubia Gallega breed, a high quality product covered by the European Protected Designation of Origin - PDO. The cows all graze outside all year round on unimproved permanent pasture, they also have a very small dairy herd, goats, pigs, chickens and grow their own hay. They also grow fodder crops and vegetables for themselves.

They pump out the slurry tanks under the barns and spray it on their fields before growing hay. They throw their vegetable waste onto the vegetable patch over winter before ploughing it in, in Spring. Soiled bedding is neatly stacked and left to age. Nothing is wasted.

Yesterday they were preparing the vegetable growing area and adding some wonderful aged manure to the soil. I asked nicely for some and they were kind enough to set some aside for me. I will add most of it to the soil in my new poly-tunnel when it arrives and the rest to the squash growing sites. Although I have chicken manure and compost my own waste, there is never enough of it to go round. Aged manure really is black gold and is valued accordingly.

After a warm couple of weeks the recent weather has mostly consisted of grey cold days with a biting Northerly wind. Leaves are slowly emerging and occasional blossom can be seen but it has all been a bit slow. Recently whilst gardening I occasionally caught an unidentified flowery scent which I couldn't pinpoint. Yesterday all was revealed, it is the Cornelian Cherry in the forest garden, looking beautiful and smelling divine, an absolute magnet for small flying insects. It needs to be because at this time of year there isn't much insect life about.

 Luckily the flowering dead nettles offer another snack to those hardy flying insects and one brave outdoor geranium is trying to flower.
I can't wait for more warm weather so that I too can blossom instead of hunching over the fire.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A Spring In My Step

It is amazing what sunshine can do. Suddenly we are having warm sunny days getting to 20 degrees C and every plant is bursting into leaf or flower.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing and I saw my first butterfly this morning. I haven't managed to finish the winter work yet and suddenly I am joining the frantic rush to sow seeds and prepare the ground. Pruning did get finished but brush cutting the brambles is not finished and I have only mulched a few of the trees and shrubs. We seemed to be under snow or suffering torrential rain and then suddenly it stopped with far too much work still to be done.

The stalls at the local market are full of home grown seedlings and I succumbed to their lure yesterday buying lettuces, onions and various brassicas. The onion seedlings are tied using the local 'string' plant so everything is biodegradable, no plastic bags in sight. I hope to get them all planted this afternoon. We have finally saved enough for a poly-tunnel and it is on order to be delivered in mid April. This will allow me to raise more of my own seedlings. I have a propagator to start off my chillis, peppers and tomatoes but I have always lacked a warm light area to bring them on but the tunnel will enable me to be much more self sufficient in seedlings, nurturing the plants from seed to fruit/flower and back to seed saving again.
The calendulas have overwintered as usual and are in flower already, an ideal nectar snack for early flying insects.
Although there is plenty of work still to do I make sure that sitting on the patio and enjoying the warmth, scents, views and sounds around me is still high on my list.