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Thursday 22 August 2013

Back to Dry in Ossett

Thursday was a hot sunny day with plenty of sunshine and the temperature reached a high of 27.8°C. Early evening it clouded over and we had one very heavy shower accompanied by a few claps of thunder. The downpour added another 0.8mm to the monthly total.

Rain is forecast for later today and into Saturday. We’ve had a dry spell of weather and our annual rainfall is once again below average.

This is my rainfall chart from October 2009 and rather unsurprisingly we’ve had times above and below average. We can expect around 650mm of rain each year but as things stand at 22 August 2013 we’ve had 618mm of rainfall in the preceding 12 months or around 95%. Both the garden and allotment are very dry and would welcome some rain.

On a different topic altogether I had some courgette crumble with Greek yogurt for dessert on Thursday and what’s even more surprising is that it was very nice. It’s not April 1st either! If you want more details or even to try this crumble out check Sue’s blog here for details. It’s just a pity we’ve found this out as lots of more usual crumble fruits - apples, plums, blackberries and pears - are starting to ripen.




Friday 23 August 2013

Bucketed Down!

Friday was cloudy and mild and, as forecast, by evening the storm clouds were gathering and threatening something rather spectacular. We had a few claps of thunder and some spots of rain but that was all.

Then in the early hours of Saturday morning it tipped. At 03:42 the rain was falling at 138mm/hr. That’s three times the amount we might expect in the whole of August in an hour. It obviously didn’t last that long as, when the storm ended, the total rainfall came to 12.4mm.

Just in case you were wondering yesterday’s blog still remains true. It takes more than one heavy shower to change the fact that we have had a rather prolonged spell with below average rainfall. Another 20mm of rainfall is required by the end of the month to return the running 12 month average to 100% of annual expected rainfall.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Typical Holiday Weather

After the heavy rain in the early hours of Saturday the rest of the day was dry, well almost, with the total rainfall notching up another 0.6mm throughout the day. It was dull all day but the rain threatened by the heavy cloud cover never came.

It was the first rainfall of any significance since 28 July. Although we’ve had lots of showers in August they’ve never amounted to more than a few millimetres at a time and done nothing more than wet the top of the soil or plant foliage and drying out almost as quickly as they’ve fallen. In fact this little and often watering is just the way we’re always advised by the “experts” not to do watering, but to give plants a good drink and then let them dry out again. Well nature’s chosen little and often this August.

It wasn’t a gardening sort of a day with heavy rain threatening so I decided to use up the crumble topping left over from the famous courgette crumble Sue made. I’m not sure how much crumble mix was supposed to be used with the courgettes but Sue only made half the amount suggested in the recipe and I still managed to make four plum crumbles out of the remaining mix.

Rather dull and conventional but very tasty never the less.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Plums with Protein

We had a dull start to Bank Holiday Sunday but by lunchtime the sun had broken through the cloud to leave us with a warm and fairly sunny afternoon.

On our last couple of visits to the plot we’ve picked just over 16kg of plums, Oullins Gage. Our tree is a true biennial and this year is its cropping year. It was very late coming into flower, 3 to 4 weeks later than normal due to the exceptionally cold spring.

Although we’ve had some good summer weather including a very hot July the plum crop hasn’t caught up and is cropping the same 3 to 4 weeks later than normal.

This year we’ve noticed some extra protein in our plums. Some have a little pink maggot around the stone helping themselves to our delicious plums.

It certainly cuts down on the number of plums eaten on the plot. This little beastie doesn’t exactly tempt you just pop a plum in your mouth and spit out the stone or just have a good bite into a large plum. Cutting into the plum it’s obvious which plums are full of protein as its easy to spot the brown waste left by the maggot around the stone. Fortunately not many of our plums are affected.

The little maggot is caused by the plum moth. I’m assuming it’s not plum saw fly as there is no sign of anything having tunnelled into the fruit. The maggot has developed inside the ripening fruit. As we like to avoid chemical controls wherever possible a pheromone plum moth trap, hung in the tree next spring, will be put into use next year. I guess it’s also likely that our Marjories Seedling and Victoria plums might have some unwelcome guests inside too.

I think all our plums will be cut into two before being eaten this year. Must take a knife to the plot!

Bank Holiday Monday 26 August 2013

A Lucky Escape for Us

We had another dull start to Bank Holiday Monday, but just like Sunday, by lunchtime the sun had broken through the cloud to leave us with a warm and sunny afternoon.

As any regular readers of this blog might know I enjoy a little bit of steam train photography along with my love of gardening. So for Bank Holiday Monday we decided on a trip to our local heritage railway at Middleton, just a few minutes drive down the M1, to visit the Festival of Transport it was hosting. Although this is situated on our door step. so to speak, we’d never visited before and didn’t really know what to expect.

It was a much larger organisation than I had anticipated with lots of people turning up to visit the railway and ride on the trains. We were no different and spent a couple of hours riding and photographing some brilliant little locomotives.

As part of this Festival of Transport the historic Leeds Horse Tram No 107 was making its public debut after restoration and offering rides to the public.

By the middle of the afternoon we decided to have a ride on the tram. We’d already put off having a ride as the Lord Mayor of Leeds had been inspecting the restored tram so rather than wait around with the melee of folk associated with his visit we made better use of our time photographing and riding on the steam trains.

Later we returned, paid for our ticket and climbed upstairs onto the tram.

No sooner had we taken our seat than the two horses for some reason were spooked and reared up. Out of control the horses and the tram with us onboard set off along the tracks. From our upper deck seats it was impossible to see what was happening around the tram but the reality very quickly dawned that we were in serious trouble. Then from nowhere a man ran in front of the horses with his arms raised above his head attempting very successfully to stop the runaway horses.

The result of all this was that the groom who had been working the horses was trapped under the tram. The fire brigade, police and ambulance were called to the scene to free the woman. She was freed and taken to hospital with what the press are calling serious leg but not life threatening injuries.

It’s amazing how such a great day out can so quickly go wrong. We’re hoping that the groom makes a full recovery from her injuries and also a great big thank you to whoever it was who stopped those run away horses.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Not Quite Back to Normal

Tuesday left out the dull start and we had sunshine for most of the day. There was a time early afternoon when it looked like a thunderstorm was brewing but the cloud just broke up and disappeared leaving the rest of the afternoon warm and sunny.

We were looking for a less eventful day after our fright on the horse drawn tram car on Monday. It didn’t quite work out to plan as first we had a telephone call from a plot neighbour to report that our shed had been broken into.

I’m going to call the culprits vandals as we had nothing stolen, not that we keep anything worth stealing in the shed, but they had the decency to carefully remove a pane of glass to gain entry after trying to prise open the door. The glass was propped against our tayberry in one piece.

After climbing in through the window they must have then gone through everything in the shed to discover that there wasn’t anything of value before moving on to try someone else’s shed. Surely a look through the window would have served just as well and saved them some trouble. At least the break-in spurred us into cleaning and tidying  the shed

As we arrived to assess the damage to our shed an ambulance was on site. Apparently one of our other plot neighbours had decided to take on trying to remove a wasps nest. The wasps won. As we left the site to buy some putty to repair the shed window one of the ambulance crew confirmed that the plot holder was okay.

It goes to show that you’ve always got to treat nature with a bit of care and respect as you never quite know when it’s going to turn on you.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Just Made It This Summer

Much more cloud about on Wednesday and a little bit cooler but still a very nice day.

At last I picked some runner beans. We’re growing St. George, Enorma and Desiree and all three varieties have been very slow to produce beans. In July’s hot weather they came to what seemed like a total standstill and refused to grow. Meteorologically summer comes to an end in 3 days time so we’ve only just managed a picking before summer comes to an end.

These are from our wigwam of Desiree a white flowered variety. The plants look really well with plenty of flowers and young beans to come so we’re expecting to be able to stock up our freezer supplies before any cold weather kills off the plants.

So far it’s been a poor year for our tomatoes but I picked a few Sioux from our plot greenhouse. It’s the first time we’ve grown this variety. It’s got a good crop of tomatoes to ripen but the taste test is still to take place.

To be honest they’re not the best looking tomatoes in the world and you’d never find them on the supermarket shelves. I think the splitting of the fruit is due to the irregular watering they receive as allotments tomatoes. They get watered when I go down to the plot so they go from a soaking to drying out but surprisingly they haven’t got the dreaded blossom end rot which has afflicted all our home greenhouse tomatoes.

Summer as far as our runner beans and tomatoes are concerned is just starting.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Too Quick

Thursday continued the mild but cloudy theme.

We decided on a trip to RSPB Old Moor to see if we could spot any new birds. When we arrive it’s normal for any “star species” to do a disappearing act for the day. We did actually spot a couple of birds we hadn’t seen before but these were at the extreme range of our spotting scope well out of the photographic range of our cameras.

I know I should be videoing birds at an RSPB reserve but I couldn’t help focusing on a hare. Whilst I was concentrating on the hare a stoat made an appearance, a very brief appearance at that.

The stoat appears in just 3 frames of my video and my camera takes 25 frames per second so this little stoat was in and out of shot in 0.12 seconds. If you haven’t spotted it have a look in the top left hand corner of the picture.

With a little bit of cropping and adjusting this is the best picture I can get. It’s the only shot of a stoat I’ve got.

Wonder if I’ll get a picture of a kingfisher one day. We saw two on our visit today but neither wanted to be photographed. Another time perhaps.

Friday 30 August 2013

A Harvesting Afternoon

Once again it was mostly cloudy but we did have some sunny spells and it felt very warm in any sunshine.

We spent all afternoon harvesting on the plot. We didn’t go with the intention of just harvesting but with such a variety of fruit and vegetables to pick we just couldn’t help ourselves. There’s no point going to the trouble of growing it if you can’t be bothered to pick it.

Not a bad afternoon’s work. We even managed to pick a few runner beans from Lady Di and St George before summer turns into autumn. The stars of this little bounty are undoubtedly the greengages. We haven’t so many but the sweetness is unbelievable coming from such a small green fruit.

These are our greengages, a variety called “Reine Claude”. The only problem is deciding when greengages are ready to eat. These still look very green and are quite firm to the touch. I did cheat before picking and we had a couple of testers with our afternoon coffee. They were absolutely superb.

I’m expecting a good carrot crop this year if our early “pullings” are anything to go by. So far we’ve only tried the Early Nantes variety which have produced some very good sized carrots.

They’ve had the taste test which is excellent. These are as lifted without any washing or sprucing up. The soil is very dry and the carrots have come out without any soil needing to be washed off for kitchen use.

Our first few Victoria plums are in the harvest picture too.

Our Oullins gage cropping has just about finished but it’s provided us with 33kg of plums most of which have gone into the freezer.

I might try some of the Himrod grapes in our home greenhouse today and see if they’re sweet enough to eat. Gardening can be tough at times.

Saturday 31 August 2013

What a Contrast

There was a real contrast between the weather on Saturday compared with the first day of the month. Saturday was cool and breezy with the overnight temperature down to a pretty cool 6.7°C and a high of just 17.7°C. Contrast that with the first day of August which was a scorching hot 31.1°C and corresponding overnight low of 17.1°C.

In the end hot and cold really did cancel each other out and the average temperature for the month equalled the long term average.

Rainfall on the other hand was well below expected with only 38.2mm against a long term average of 46.7mm.

So summer for 2013 has come to its meteorological end and it’s turned out to be a warmer than an average summer and the warmest since 2006. That probably doesn’t give a true representation as 2006 (17.23°C) was the fifth warmest summer over the last 300 years and 2013 (16.85) will slot in at around fifteenth position.

It’s rather puzzling as to why the plot and garden is so dry as we’ve had about 85% of our expected rainfall over the summer period with 123.0mm falling against a long term average of 145mm. It’s obviously been the wrong sort of rain but it doesn’t change the fact that the plot is very dry and in need of some water.