Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Long Days

It is nearly the summer solstice or Alban Hefin as druids would say and the days are idyllic. We have had some showery weather recently which is great on one level but it just adds to the rampant growth which is beating me this year. A mix of ill health and a chaotic lifestyle, with Tim and I flitting between the UK and here has left the place lush and overgrown. I sit under the porch and a mix of flowers and weeds, nettles, brambles and arum lilies meet my gaze. The scent of mint crushed under foot, californian lilac and roses who are also fighting their way to the light, is wonderful. The fruit is really getting going now, loganberries are on the breakfast menu and jostaberries will be if I can keep the blackbirds off of them long enough so that they can ripen. You have to admire the fecundity of Nature at this time of year.
Pears have set well but I haven't found any baby kiwis that have set yet. Several species were flowering well including our full sized male kiwi so there is still a chance that we might get something later this year. The foliage is so dense that it is hard to get a good view of them so I remain hopeful.
The snail war continues, one of my tyre towers clearly has a hidden population of them. I have planted 5 courgettes there one after the other and each time the hapless plant disappears over night, with just a chewed stump remaining. This is despite a beer trap, egg shells and coffee grounds strewn around the hapless plants. Perhaps a guard duck chained to the said tyres might work?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Ram-a-lamb-a-ding-dong

We have two ram-lambs and they are wonderful. They are Galician sheep, less than five thousand in the world and two now live here. They are a small breed used to rough pasture and we will eat them at the end of the year. We hope that they will keep the grass down and manure as they go and so far they have been very relaxed and eaten tons. When confronted by our dogs they stamp their feet and toss their heads and the dogs back off because they have been disciplined by goats in the past and their butts hurt at the memories.

The bigger one is Rammstein and the smaller one is Uriah Sheep and we hope that they have a wonderful summer with us.

Fruit is now setting and we have apricots for the first time as well as many plums and cherries along with berries of every kind. We are very lucky to have so much.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Droughty Days

The weather continues to be mostly dry with an occasional rainy day. We never got the torrential downpours that normally defines a Galician winter and the lack of rain continues to be a problem. Headlines in the newspapers report that despite the reservoirs being almost full water issues are expected later this year. Our winter stream never flowed, there were some puddles in the stream bed but no proper flow. This means that the groundwater remains depleted. After some discussions with Tim we have agreed to downsize our vegetable growing areas this year. The soil remains poor despite my best efforts as I have been stretching the compost too thinly trying to meet conflicting needs. This year I will concentrate my efforts on the polytunnel, tyre towers and the best veggie bed. The rest will be covered and I will throw garden waste on top in an effort to improve the soil and reduce watering requirements. I see no sense in pouring effort and water onto bad soil if the expected drought tightens it's grip and the veggies are unlikely to thrive.
We are eating homegrown strawberries, broad beans and loads of salad leaves, the Chinese leaves have done very well. Fruit has set and the baby kiwis Red Ken and Issai are both flowering for the first time. Another fruit that I have never tasted.
Bees are working hard and the new cockerel Gandalf is settling in well He is a grey SureƱa Porcelana and very beautiful. He is still a bit young to take up full duties but he has two young Pineira hens to keep him company until he plucks up the courage to take on the older matronly hens.
The last of the apple trees is now in blossom and the squashes have survived the most recent heavy frosting I hope. They lost their leaves but the stalks with embryonic flowers and new leaves are still green. Tim is still back and forth to the UK but we both hope that he might get to stay here for longer than a week or two at some point. Happy growing all you gardeners out there.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Blast of Snow

I knew it was coming, timed perfectly for my Mother-in-law's visit and we went from snowy showers to this overnight.
It was the most snow we have had in the six years we have been here, fabulously powdery, all the sounds were muffled in a bubble of peace but no chance of getting out on ungritted roads up steep hills. We sit at 620 metres altitude and the views were spectacular.
The big dog loved it, the smaller dog hated it but bravely waded through the snow as I fetched wood for the stove. He wasn't going to let me die alone in the blizzard.
Poor Tim and his Mother were trapped in the hotel but their hosts were fabulous, feeding them and ensuring that they had a roaring log fire. We still have a leaking roof and no hot water so we felt that Tim's 91 year old mother would be happier in the best that money can afford locally, and we were right.
It was very beautiful though.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Blooming Marvelous

I have blossom and flowers, everything is waking up. The weather is still variable but I have seen bumble bees working so I am hoping for fruit later in the year. Butterflies appear at the first hint of sun all year round here. I have also seen the first few flies heralding the plagues that are to come.
The nectarine is a mass of blossom and the outdoor peach is not far behind, although less spectacular as it is still struggling with peach leaf curl which it gets every year. I hope that it will be less affected as it gets older.
The early plums are also in bloom but more bees are needed.
I am trying broad beans in the polytunnel this winter. I chose 'The Sutton' which is dwarf and so far they are looking good, I just hope that they again get fertilised.
Finally the kittens are now recovered fully from their spaying and vaccinations and are outwitting the dogs and exploring the garden. At first they would get stuck up things (trees/porch/roof) and I would have to fetch them down with a ladder but now they can go down as well as up which is a great relief to all. This is Dinah up one of the old apple trees this morning.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Catch Up

I know I haven't blogged for months but as I get older time seems to speed up and life has been rather more chaotic than usual. With close family members suffering from illness I have been upping my carbon footprint to visit them in the UK. Tim was also made redundant over Christmas so he is currently in the UK job hunting with silent desperation. The environmental news seems to be all doom and gloom and weather extremes are becoming the new normal for everyone.

There is good news however. I am in the latter stages of writing a book and kind family and friends are currently proof reading it prior to it's being sent to potential literary agents so everything is crossed that someone will like it enough to take it on. Spring is definitely in the air here, with raucous bird song and two days of sun which has found me neglecting my dirty kitchen floor and sowing seeds in the polytunnel instead. I also have cabbage, broccoli and onion seedlings to plant out as soon as I have some beds cleared of over wintering weeds. They were bought from the market because I never got my act together enough to sow my own.
I have however dusted off the propagator and I expect to sow tomatoes and peppers this weekend to be followed by squashes of all kinds later when space allows. The periwinkle has been flowering all winter long. It is a bit thuggish but I am going to leave it where it is as it saves me weeding and I shall put my more delicate herbs and flowers elsewhere where they stand a better chance. It has a loganberry emerging from it so it is productive as well as pretty.
The camellias have also been blooming since December and I have my first dandelion blooming as well. I am keeping some patches of them for tea. I have stopped my anti-inflammatory drugs as they make my heart condition worse and am currently exploring alternative herbs and spices to replace them.
The sweet kittens are now vaccinated and neutered and are ready to start their working lives as mousers (and ratters) we hope. We have eight juvenile meat chickens in the orchard which have settled down well but the white ones in particular are huge and lethargic. They are not used to free range and mostly walk from their shelter to the feeder and back with the odd nibble at the grass. I hope as the weather improves they will forage a bit further afield.
As ever the egg glut has started so some will be frozen for the winter. Hurrah for a new growing year.