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Sunday 01 September 2013

Blimey It’s Only the First

Sunday was the first day of autumn and it’s started as though it means business. It was cold with a gale force wind. A gust of 24mph was our strongest since 24 May 2013.

Through much of August our regular gardens birds seemed a little bit scarce but over the last few days they have returned in large numbers. They are managing to get through 500gms of standard bird seed, as well as tucking into golden chorus, peanuts, niger seed, black sunflowers, sunflower hearts, suet pellets, and fat balls.

By the middle of the afternoon this feeder filled mid morning is just about empty as this sparrow being blown about in the wind has found out. The black sunflower seeds do last a little longer as the sparrows leave these alone once the ordinary mixed seed feeder is empty.

As you can see there are still plenty of black sunflower seeds left for this young greenfinch to tuck into even though the sparrow’s feeder is empty. Fat balls have been put on ration. A mixture of sparrows, starlings, blue tits, great tits and the occasional long tailed tits can go through a container full of 8 fat balls in less than a day. Finally they manage to empty the bird bath several times a day and that’s refilled on a regular basis.




Monday 02 September 2013

An Improvement of Sorts

Monday was a better day, much warmer than Sunday but still windy.

I ventured down to the plot in the afternoon to harvest some more potatoes and check for plant damage from yesterday’s gales. Fortunately the damage was minimal. One of our cardoon plants had already suffered some wind damage and it’s now been finished off.

Even though the flowers are laid flat on the grass the bees carry on as though nothing has happened. Our other cardoon plant just a few metres away has escaped undamaged from the gales. It must be slightly protected from the strong westerly winds by our neighbour’s shed.

I managed to finish digging up our main bed potatoes. Last year I sowed some green manure to follow on from lifting potatoes and I’d been wondering whether or not to repeat this sowing again as it did a good job of suppressing weeds all winter and early spring. The condition of the ground has saved me any more wondering. The soil is really dry and has dug with large rock hard lumps. There is no way I can sow any seeds in this bed until it’s had plenty of rain on it and can be cultivated properly.

Besides clearing this bed of its potato crop I couldn’t resist a little bit more harvesting. Our later plums Marjories Seedling and Victoria are just starting to turn. Lots of the fruit on these trees doesn’t seem to have formed correctly, perhaps because they were very late into flower and some of the fruits have pesky plum moth maggots inside. So far our greengages appear to be free of this pest.

Tuesday 03 September 2013

Greengage Fest

Summer returned on Tuesday as the wind finally dropped. There was more cloud than sunshine but the temperature managed a very warm 24.2°C.

We’d tested our greengages and decided that although they were still hard and green they were certainly ready for picking. I decided to harvest them today and decided that it would be worthwhile taking my step ladder down to the plot to harvest as many as I could reach. I have to be honest I didn’t think there were that many to pick and we’d probably get a couple of punnets from each tree. I decided to do a little bit of tidying up first and even found time to go chasing this “Speckled Wood” butterfly around the plot.   

I thought it must be rare as I hadn’t seen one before but apparently it’s not. Eventually I got round to picking greengages.

They don’t really look ready for picking do they? It’s so difficult to believe just how sweet these firm green fruits are. I know from past experience that they can be left a little longer on the tree until the fruit develops a red tinge around its stalk. The trouble is at this stage the gages split acting as a magnet for every wasp within miles and the fruits and tree become infested making it not very pleasant to pick them. So the decision was made to pick them at this stage.

I was amazed at how many of these small fruits were on each of our trees as I kept on filling punnet after punnet. In the end I picked 9 punnets from each tree which when weighed up came to 9.9kg from “Mannings” and 9.5kg from “Reinne Claude”. There’s still a few gages left at the very top of the trees but I’m not risking life and limb to pick those. I’m more than happy with my 19.5kg and the wasps can help themselves to those that remain.

Wednesday 04 September 2013

Mini Heatwave Continues

Our early September mini heatwave continued on Wednesday with the temperature making it up to 25.2°C in the afternoon. There was a little bit more sunshine than the previous couple of days. The forecast is for it all to come to a sudden end with heavy rain on Friday and continuing into the weekend.

The rain will be most welcome on the plot and garden as they're both very dry and in need of a good watering.

Whilst the tomatoes in our home greenhouse have been a bit of a disaster this year as most of the fruits have suffered from blossom end rot our grape vine Himrod has gone through its usual summer routine of producing lots of bunches of small sweet juicy grapes. The first bunch was picked today and it didn’t disappoint.

A little bit more steam locomotive nostalgia is taking place in Grantham this weekend. 4468 Mallard the world's fastest ever steam locomotive is returning to the district where it broke the record on 03 July 1938. That record top speed of 126mph (203km/h) after passing through Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 3 July 1938 still stands. 4468 Mallard will be on display near Grantham station on 7 and 8 September, as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the record being set. The steam locomotive is normally kept at the National Railway Museum in York but I couldn’t resist the temptation to capture some photographs of Mallard as it made its journey from the National Railway Museum to Grantham.

Thursday 05 September 2013

Shed Refurbishment

Thursday was another lovely September day although it wasn’t quite as warm as yesterday.

Our allotment shed needed some refurbishment work to prepare fit for the worst of the winter weather. Last winter’s gales ripped the felting off the roof and I was forced to make some temporary repairs to make the shed waterproof. The repair almost worked but there were a couple of places where water could find its way under the repair.

I thought it looked like a good repair job at the time but the elements thought differently. The inside of the shed got some TLC after last week’s break in. Incidentally we’ve had more break-ins on Wednesday night but fortunately we escaped any more damage. The only option to repair the shed roof properly was to re-felt the whole roof. It’s best to do this on a warm day as the felt sheeting is more pliable when it’s warm but dealing with the bitumen sealant is always going to be a messy job.

I’m pleased to say that the shed does now have its new felt covering so I’m hoping that this will stop the water leaks.  

I’m not going to have to wait long to test out whether my repair is waterproof or not as it started raining early on Friday morning and is still raining steadily by mid morning with 15.0mm so far.

Friday 06 September 2013

A Rainy Day

Friday brought some much needed rain for the plot and the garden. The rain was heaviest in the morning and caused some local flooding in the usual locations. By the end of the day the total came to 17.8mm. Our new shed roof repairs will have been tested to the full.

On our last visit to the plot we picked some tomatoes which are now starting to crop much better. We’ve certainly got a heavy crop but they’re going to need a decent September to fully ripen.

This is a selection of the varieties we picked. Pink Wonder have split more than the other sorts and I put the splitting of the skins down to irregular watering but I don’t make trips to the plot just to water my tomatoes they just have to accept going from a good soaking to drying out. As most of them will be used to make tomato sauce for use throughout winter a few split skins isn't too much of a problem.  

Chopped and roasted ready for packing into containers and freezing for stews, casseroles, curries and pasta sauces.

Saturday 07 September 2013

Much Better - Sort Of!

Saturday’s weather was a big improvement with some sunny periods. We had just one of the forecast scattered showers in the late afternoon when the sun was shining. The clear skies of daytime led to the sort of description in my title as overnight into Sunday morning the temperature fell to 4.2°C. That’s not the sort of night time temperature that’s going to prolong our runner bean harvesting season or help ripen tomatoes, apples and pears.

I decided to clear our home greenhouse tomatoes to make way for drying out our onions. Throughout summer most of our home tomatoes have been consigned to the green waste bin with blossom end rot and with only a few tomatoes left on the plants I’ve cut our losses and will make better use of the greenhouse space by drying off our onion crop.

This is virtually, give or take the odd tomato, our total home greenhouse crop from 15 plants. We’ve still a few green Alicante tomatoes to pick once they’ve ripened. Fortunately we’ve lots of green tomatoes in the plot greenhouse - but will they get some good weather to help them ripen?