Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phacelia in bloom

Bumble bees working on phacelia flowers.  We grew phacelia as a green manure over the winter. I left a few plants to go to seed so as to save the seed for another sowing.  I didn't expect such a striking flower - would be at home in the flower border as well as the veg patch

Poor hatch from our broody hens

We are getting very poor results from our broodys this year.  Some of the failures are infertile eggs and I guess our cockerel may be struggling to cover our twenty four hens.  We have also had lots of eggs developed but not hatched and I am wondering if this is to do with the dry weather.  I have built the nests with soil as usual but the soil is dryer this year.  Anyone else had similar experiences?  The last hen to hatch was distressing for me as she hatched some chicks but killed them all herself -young inexperienced mother I guess freaking out when the chicks appeared underneath her!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Now the wind!

Yes, on top of the drought (three months and counting since significant rain!) we have strong winds this week battering and damaging the plants - especially the courgettes and squashes.  I have had to cover them with cloches to protect them.  The Bees swarmed yesterday in spite of the 40mph winds, they hung very tightly together on a tree and were easy to shake into a basket and run into a hive.  The good news is that the solar water heating panel and the solar PV (electricity producing panels) have done very well over the last two months averaging more electricity than ever before.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

WWOOF helpers are great!

We have just had a family from WWOOF staying with us to help in the wood and smallholding - a great week with very nice (highly skilled ) people.  WWOOF is a great idea, people stay with us (usually for a week ) living as part of our family and trade their help 5 hours a day 5 days a week for board and lodging. No money changes hands and we have made several good friends in the process.
Nessa, Christoph, Gabe and Alma removing bracken in the wood   

Monday, May 16, 2011

Swarms in unusual places

We had a call about bees just entering the space above a porch
 The bees had already moved in but the owners allowed me to remove the side of the porch roof
We constructed a device from a snow shovel a piece of carpet and a sheet.  I slid it under the bees and used another construction of a telescopic paint pad with cardboard taped to it to dislodge the bees.
 Gingerly pulling the snow shovel covered in bees out.
 About one third of the bees were on the sheet
The bees climbed up into the basket.and the basket was propped on a ladder near where the bees were entering the roof.  The queen must have been in the basket as the bees flowed out of the roof down into the basket.
After an hour most of the bees were in the basket and were covered in a sheet and transported to their new site.   They were introduced to a hive the next morning as it was late by the time I got them home.
They are doing well and will be passed to a new beekeeper just beginning in beekeeping.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Broody hens everywhere

Yes our hens are going broody left right and centre (must be the hot weather).  Two of the sitting hens have hatched so far but with disappointing results so far with four chicks each (out of 8 and 11 eggs ) don't know if our cockerel is a bit past it or its the weather (again!) here is a picture of the coup ready for the next hopeful mother.  The coup is filled with earth to make a nest which will keep the eggs in the right humidity.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Desert Gardening

We are now entering our third month with no significant rain!  The garden is looking amazingly good considering but given our resolve not to use mains water to water the garden with we are very dependant on the well we dug out.
   The techniques  we use for dealing with this climate are evolving:  
  • Planting in the autumn and early spring under protection - plastic cloches, polythene and fleece is essential and not expensive if you use recycled materials.
  • Mulching everywhere makes a huge difference - we use grass cuttings supplied by a few professional gardeners who are keen to have an alternative to the recycling centre for them. Because they cut the grass regularly we get little problem with seed in the cuttings.
  • Learning which plants can cope and need little watering is also essential - for instance leeks are able to survive on very little but squashes need the water.
  • Every drop of water from the house is used either by pouring it from the bowls onto the plants or via the reed bed and of course we harvest all the rainwater we can if it does rain.
  • We use deep beds and add lots (and I mean lots) of compost and rotted horse manure to the beds.
  • We pray for rain!!!