Monday, 21 May 2018

Planting out continues apace!

   Here we are now into the middle of May and sowing and transplanting starts to warm up along with the weather. One hundred and three tomato plants of various sorts have been transplanted outside the poly tunnel. I am not going to grown tomatoes in the poly tunnel this year. More Provence Thyme transplanted to pots. Courgettes, round and stripy ones also planted out.  Lots of general tidying up work done in an attempt to beat the grass! Some hope! More beetroot sown in modules and more lettuce. Lettuce being pulled on a regular basis. The area designated for the pumpkins and squash is being prepared and I need to get the poly tunnel area ready for the cucumber plants!
   On the animal front the missing generic red hen reappeared, safe and sound. We now only have two Ixworth chicks left. We have little idea as to why they have died but fatality amongst chicken chicks can be quite high. The reduction in the Champeau flock continues. Only three rams left with one about to go soon. On the ewe side only ten left, two more also about to go. Once that has happened our flock will be down to a level that is more suitable for our requirements!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Time rolls by!

   Ok so where did the last week go? This week I am  going to start with the animals. We knew we had too many sheep. This week fifteen (fourteen ewes, one ram) went to a new home. Homes for four more ewes, one ram and lamb have been found. This will reduce our flock to a core of eight ewes, seven rams and one lamb. Homes for more rams are on the cards so that in the end we will only have our two bottle fed rams left and  the eight ewes and one lamb. That is a more manageable number.  On the chicken front four new generic brown hens have joined the flock. Also we managed to get hatched out using an incubator five  Ixworth chicks. Long way to go though. I would be happy to get two or three to sixteen weeks of age, that is, point of lay!
First to hatch! Ixworth chick 110518

Three out of four new arrivals

Peas and mange tout
Batavia Blonde lettuce
  In the garden it has been busy busy busy. Nothing new there then for this time of year. Pulled rhubarb, lettuce and radish and cut asparagus. There has been a handful of peas from the poly tunnel. These were an over winter experiment which has proven to be more successful than I expected. This winter I will make sure I give them something to climb up. More Batavia blonde lettuce plants purchased and transplanted in and out of the poly tunnel. More weeding and tidying of border edges completed. Always more of that to do! The last of the leeks which were going to seed have been removed and the bed prepared for tomatoes. Transplanting tomatoes is going to be the next big job. This will be undertaken after the 15th May the last frost date for this part of France. New experiment for me. I have sowed Haricot Buerre and Borlotti beans into modules, one seed per cell. When I was at the local market I saw one plant stall holder had done this and the I saw the light and am giving it a go! 
   The weather over the week has varied between hot and cool but mostly very  good for gardening. On Saturday 11th May it rained. That was welcome as it will refresh everything and away it will go again!

Friday, 4 May 2018

Onwards and upwards

    What a week for weather! 29/4 we had thunder and very heavy rain. Today, 04/05 it is clear and sunny. In between it went on the cool side but is now warming up again. Hopefully we are now out of the cold weather and can look forward to warmer days, however, last frost date is the 15th May!
   So despite the weather I have prepared a bed and transplanted Evesham Special Brussels sprouts. I was not going to grown sprouts this season but I had the seed and they were given to me by my youngest grand daughter so I could not really not. They are looking ok and have got over being transplanted. Lots of weeding done. Small bed prepared for the courgettes and the parsnips thinned out and blank spaces filled with those removed. Did some concentrated work on the herb beds and now they look a little tidier! More tomatoes transplanted to pots. There are now over one hundred plants. Not the mix I would have really liked but hey these grew! Thyme transplanted to pots and am currently pulling lettuce on a regular basis. There are still a  good number to go and hopefully the next lot with enable me to carry on pulling lettuce into the summer.
   On the animal front we have succeeded in finding homes for a good number of of Ouessant sheep. Our numbers will now drop to a sensible size for the ground we have. We still need to get rid of some more rams and hopefully not to the abattoir.

Egyptian tree onions

One herb bed

Friday, 27 April 2018

Darn the grass!

Toasted buttered English muffin, asparagus and poached egg
Well all I can say is "Damn the grass!" It is that time of year where the grass grows almost as quickly as you can cut it. Now both of my mowers are out of action and I need to cut the grass!
  The weather has been really good. A couple of days of hot beautiful 
Early purple sprouting and savoy type cabbage

sunshine with others a little overcast but warm and very pleasant. Lots of blossom on the apple trees.
Lots of jobs done, lots of jobs still to do! As the picture shows the first asparagus has
Parsnips Jersey Royal
been cut and eaten! Lots more coming on but a cooling of the weather slowed it up. Even thought it is spring thoughts already turn to autumn and winter vegetables. Early purple sprouting and Piacenza savoy type cabbage have been planted out and the two small rows of parsnips look well established. The potatoes are now coming through and among the evening tasks is earthing up to protect from any frost. Frost is possible till the middle of May in this part of France. I have also transplanted beetroot to an outside bed and I need to transplant the spouts as soon as possible.  Once more I am trying to grow my own leeks from seed and I have sowed a couple of small rows in an outside bed rather than in the poly tunnel. We shall see! Inside the poly tunnel we are pulling radish and lettuce. I have been transplanting tomatoes and I have getting on for eighty or ninety done. Still more to do!  More weeding and forking done, more grass cutting until my mowers broke! Yes, mowers. Both my normal petrol mower and my bush whacker are in need of some loving care. 
Our two lambs (so far)
   On the animal front another lamb has been born, another ewe. The female runner duck still has a dickey leg and our Buffy hen got abused by the Ixworth coq and is now being kept away from him while she recovers. Hopefully she will be fine. Egg production is an average of four a day. Not excellent but is meeting our requirements. Four new point of lay hens have been ordered. My daughter Sophie has taken it upon herself to try and hatch out some Ixworth eggs and has a dozen in an incubator. I guess we will now find out whether or not Mr Ixworth is firing blank shots or not!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

At last!

   I am sitting here typing this and the sun is shinning (17th April). I am feeling mellow after lighting up the BBQ and having had a burger and a glass or two of rose wine for lunch. Guess what? Not much done in the garden this afternoon!
   I cannot believe another week and more has passed. Work in the garden has involved transplanting tomatoes to pots, digging up leeks, pulling radish and sowing a whole range of seeds! (Cucumber Wautoma, La Diva, Gergana (new this year), courgettes, basil, water melon). I also transplanted some Jack Ice lettuce to a small poly tunnel bed. We have now started to eat the lettuce I bought a couple of weeks ago at the local market and transplanted into the poly tunnel. The early potatoes are now showing and I now must check them every evening and cover up if they show themselves. Frost can be expected in this part of France until mid May.
  On the animal front normal weekly maintenance (clean out coops). Three ewes have been moved to my back garden to get the grass down. Today (17/04) a ewe gave birth to a ewe lamb. Our female duck has a poorly leg but she is  getting around ok. The chickens are laying reasonably well but could do better.
  As always lots of work to do. More seeds to sow, more grass to cut, compost heaps to relocate and a host of other jobs to many to mention. 

Emerging rhubarb

Early potatoes start to show

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Go! Go! Go!

   It is all go in the garden. Even the cherry trees are now showing signs of going into blossom burst. Onions, shallots, lettuce, radish, parsnips all growing away! I have even seen one (yes only one) pea popping its head up. Seeds in the poly tunnel are germinating and it will only be a couple of days before I will have to start transplanting tomato plants to individual pots. Finally got the last of the potatoes planted dodging rain showers at the end. First lot of carrots are in along with some spring onions. Spring onions (White Lisbon) are a hit and miss in my garden. The only success I really had was when I grew them over winter,  however, it has been wet so a sowing is worth the gamble. Just the melon bed now to clear of weeds. A mammoth effort this last week in getting the last large plot cleared. Among the weeds were a good crop of carrots! I had forgotten about them and the weeds had hidden them from view.
   On the animal front the egg production this last week has been an average of three a day. Not brilliant but good enough. Hopefully now the weather is getting warmer and drier more of the hens will lay consistently. Sheep are being sheep and are enjoying the sunshine. The ducks are being ducks. No duck eggs yet though.
  As a comparison the pictures are of Red Sun shallots taken on the 22nd February and the 7th April. 

Shallots 070418
Shallots 220218

Friday, 30 March 2018


Potato planting. This plot is main crop DESIREE
   Well between dodging tempest and chickens I have been planting my potatoes over the last week. Varieties I am growing this year are early NICOLA, second early RIKEA neither of which I have sown before and main crop DESIREE. I have also sowed a row of early peas. This variety of pea I have overwintered in the poly tunnel and tried to grow outside over winter. Poly tunnel sowing is very successful, outside was good until the pigeons found them after the wind blew off the netting. So I am hopeful for an early harvest of peas. Sprouts, cabbage, sweet peppers, aubergines and Tyme de Provence has all been sown and placed in the poly tunnel fleece cloche. Tomatoes, cabbage, thyme and beetroot have all already germinated. 
   All quiet on the animal front. The chickens egg laying seems to be picking up and the rams are more or less behaving themselves. 
  The weather has not been very kind. Mild but rain and rain showers have kept me off the garden. There is plenty to do and time is marching on.