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Sunday 08 December 2013

Never Got Light

It never made much effort to get light on Sunday. Of course the sunrise was at around 08:09 setting again at 15:47 but we just had a little bit of light as heavy dark clouds remained over us nearly all day. I’ve shown the output from my weather station measuring solar radiation.

I’ve shown the chart for the last three days starting on Friday. Bear in mind when looking at this chart both Friday and Saturday were themselves dull days. That little blip around midday on Saturday amounts to about 20 minutes of sunshine which is all we’ve had over the three days. Sunday’s level is tiny confirming just what a dull day it was.

Now to show just what a silly day it was I’m going to post a picture of the sunset on Sunday evening. After blogging about Sunday being such a dull day this sounds stupid I know but around the time the sun was setting there was a break in the heavy clouds giving an interesting sunset even though we hadn’t actually had any sunshine during the day..

Somebody might have had a nice sunny day but it wasn’t in Ossett. By late evening the wind was once again whistling around the house.




Monday 09 December 2013

Proper Allotmenting - In December!!

Monday saw a massive improvement in the weather with some decent sunny periods and still with mild temperatures for early December.

Our new raspberry canes arrived first thing in the morning. When ordering online I’d been asked to give a preferred delivery date by Ashridge Nurseries and the delivery arrived as I requested.

The plants were unpacked and the canes looked to have some good roots which had remained nice and damp on their journey from Somerset to Ossett. These canes are to be shared equally with Jan our plot neighbour.

As it was such a nice day we decided to see if we could get the new raspberries planted up on the allotment.

Now to be honest we hadn’t prepared the allotment ready for these new raspberries. My intention was to store the raspberries in a large tub filled with soil over winter and plant them up next spring. The plan was to move the post and wire supports shown above which had been erected for our now dead raspberries to a new location along the edge of the plot.

This is the new location for the raspberries with the new supporting fence running along the edge of the path at right angles to the one supporting our blackberry, Loch Ness. The ground needed a quick dig over and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too wet to turn over and break up into a decent tilth. The wires were removed from the old fencing and the posts pulled up. This went much easier than I’d imagined it would and the old posts were moved to their new location and spaced out correctly. By sheer good fortune the length of the two fences has finished up the same. The posts were rather temporarily knocked into their final positions, the raspberry canes suitably spread out and planted.

Tulameen, a variety we haven’t grown before, are planted in the foreground and Glen Ample a tried and tested variety at the far end of the row. The posts still need to be hammered in a little more once I remember to take my sledge hammer down to the plot and then the wires can be rethreaded. The whole process was helped a little as I could work from the grass path and I didn’t have to tread on the soil or risk standing on any of our leeks. We plan to use some weed control fabric around the canes but that’s a job that can be done in spring.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

More Fine Weather - More Allotmenting

Tuesday started off sunny but clouded over around lunchtime.  It didn’t put us off visiting the allotment though. On the agenda was to finish off the supports for our new raspberries and get our honeyberries planted.

At the beginning of the week this is how our proposed new honeyberry bed looked. The lavender hedge around the outside is work in progress but inside the bed are (or were) some blackcurrant and whitecurrant bushes grown from cuttings taken off some very old bushes we used to have. Whilst the bushes have grown well enough the fruit they’ve produced has been second rate compared with that of some new currant bushes so we decided they might as well go. After some time mulling over various options we decided to try some honeyberries

The plants arrived from Victoriana Nurseries last week. They were unpacked and given a good watering and left in the cold greenhouse. I had planned to pot them on intending to plant them out in the allotment next spring once the weather warmed up a bit and their new bed had been cleared. This good spell of weather has changed that plan as the bed has now been cleared of the old fruit bushes, dug over and the new honeyberry bushes planted.

They do look a little bit lost in their new home but they are supposed to grow into bushes around 2.0m tall so we’ve given them a decent amount of space. They’ve also been planted through weed control fabric which has been covered with a thin layer of wood chippings to keep it in place.

The plants certainly had plenty of roots. I did my best to tease out the roots as recommended on all the best gardening programmes so I’m hoping the honeyberries will grow away strongly come spring time. Trying to decide how much to tease without causing too much damage to the roots was a little tricky. I’ll have to hope I got it about right.

I even had enough time left to finish off the raspberry supports. The posts are hammered in and the supporting wires threaded.

So it’s been a couple of very productive days on the plot. I’m hoping that getting our new raspberries and honeyberries planted now rather than looking after them over winter in our cold greenhouse at home will turn out to be a good move. I can’t remember planting anything on the allotment in December before. I suppose we’ll have to wait until next spring to know if it’s been a success.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Aarg!! - Our Poor New Fruit

Wednesday was a lovely sunny December day but it might have been a bit of a shock to our new raspberry canes and honeyberry bushes. Gone were the mild overnight temperatures and hints of double figures by day. Wednesday morning was frosty, down to 0.3°C, and despite the sunshine for most of the day 6.6°C was as high as it got in the afternoon. Perhaps I should have grown them on in our cold greenhouse after all but it’s too late to worry now. They’ll just have to take their chances.

With more changeable weather forecast towards the weekend I thought a trip to the plot to burn some rubbish would be timely.

This is part of the pile of rubbish left over from tidying up the overgrown blackberry a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly dry, still damp from the overnight frost. Luckily I’d taken some cardboard boxes and shredded paper to the plot so decided to give a bonfire a go. I needn’t have worried. The rubbish was soon well alight.

It became a question of getting the pile of rotten timber and the like onto the bonfire as quickly as possible. In no time at all the heap of rubbish had all been transferred onto the bonfire.

All I had to do was keep messing about making sure the old bits of wood around the base of the bonfire kept getting replaced back on the centre of the burning heap. It was a lovely warm job on a cold day. A little too warm at times as I had to back off due to the heat from the fire and just let the flames do their own thing.

After an hour or so all that was left was a red hot heap of smouldering wood ash. I reckon that rogue swede in the foreground can be dug up ready roasted. It felt a little bit on the chilly side as I moved away from the warmth of the fire and headed for home.

So far it’s been a very productive week down on the plot for December.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Taking Advice

It was a cold start to Thursday with the temperature falling to -1.2°C in the early hours but then recovering well during the day to reach 11.7°C. It was a dull day with bits and pieces of drizzle throughout the day.

If you are a regular reader you’ll know we’ve used plenty of weed control fabric on the plot over the last year and been very pleased with the results. I did blog about how tricky it was to harvest our leeks through the fabric. CJ over at Above the River and Sue had suggested sort of rolling up the fabric as the leeks were lifted so that the leek had just pass through the hole in the fabric rather than the entire process of digging up the leek through the hole in the fabric if you get my meaning.

This how the fabric looked, buried along its edges to keep it place during windy weather. The empty holes show where leeks have already been harvested. I wasn’t too keen on lifting one edge and then having to secure it again having dug up a few leeks. On Wednesday whilst I was waiting to give my bonfire the attention it demanded I thought I’d see if the rolling up method might work.

I uncovered the edge of the fabric, which was easier to do as the row of Prizetaker leeks adjacent to the edge had already been harvested, and rolled over the edge of the fabric.

I lifted a few leeks which as you can see came out intact without the root snapping off in the ground as had happened before.  I’d found a couple of lengths of old warped decking boards on my scrap timber pile and thought that they could be used to hold down the edge of the fabric.

The decking boards are wet and heavy so I’m hoping everything will stay put through the next spell of windy weather. If this method works it will avoid having to cut long slits in the fabric keeping weeding down to an absolute minimum.

Friday 13 December 2013


Friday was the mildest day of December to date with the daytime temperature reaching 12.6°C. Even more surprising the over night temperature Thursday into Friday only fell to 10.4°C very mild for the middle of December.

The rain in the early hours of the morning amounted to 5.6mm bringing the monthly total up to 17.2mm around 50% of what we might expect by the middle of the month.

The mildest December in the last 25 years was in 1988 and at the moment this year is on a par with that record.

Rather strangely to beat that record the temperatures for the rest of the month will need to stay around the same or be slightly milder than the first half of the month.

Saturday and Sunday 14/15 December 2013

Christmas Specials

Saturday was yet another mild day for December although it was windy at times which meant it didn’t necessarily feel as mild as it was. Sunday’s temperature reached 13.9°C the mildest of the month but it was another rather blustery day without any sunshine

Saturday was a day for indulging in steam train photography.  Christmas is a time of year when the steam charters head for York for Christmas shopping specials. This Saturday was extra busy with two steam hauled charter trains each called “The Christmas White Rose” arriving in York around lunchtime one having travelled from London and the other from Birmingham.

As the trains were due to arrive in York only 10 minutes apart photographic locations were very limited if as, I did, you wanted to catch both trains. The other problem is finding a photogenic location which is almost impossible on the East Coast Main Line. It’s not like a visit to the Settle and Carlisle line or capturing pictures in Cumbria.

This is the first train which came from Birmingham.  This train was early, as we arrived and were just preparing to get out of the car we heard the telltale whistle so had to spring into action just in time to catch the train as it sped past.

This is the train from London, Kings Cross running exactly on time just a few miles outside York.

It was amazing to see how many enthusiasts had turned out to see the two locomotives. The opportunity to see two steam locomotives working on the main line within a few minutes of each other is a rare opportunity these days.

This is just a small part of the crowd that came to watch. Even the police arrived at one point. I’m not sure whether they came to watch too or felt there might be a need for a bit of crowd control. They unfortunately didn’t bring any horses - Sue likes to have something to photograph besides steam engines - just a police van. In a few minutes it was all over and everyone went off to download their prized pictures and add them to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or whatever.

Locomotive details for anyone interested are as follows:

Locomotive No 1

Ex Great Western Railway Castle Class no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe hauled the Christmas White Rose from Tyseley Warwick Road (Birmingham) to York. This locomotive was built in March 1936 being withdrawn from service in December 1963. Its restoration to allow it to run again on the main line was only completed in October 2008 when it ran under its own steam for the first time in 45 years. Vintage Trains Limited were the tour organisers.

Locomotive No 2

Ex London and North Eastern Railway A4 Class no 60009 Union of South Africa hauled the Christmas White Rose from London Kings Cross to York. This locomotive was built in 1937 and was withdrawn from British Railways service in June 1966. In July 1966 it was bought by John Cameron (a Scottish  farmer) who still owns the locomotive. The charter train was organised by The Railway Touring Company