Saturday, 22 September 2018

And it did didn't it:

   Well I have mentioned that there has been a long spell of hot sunny weather. Yes, the weather did the dirty on me and it rained. Steady down pour. It did not last too long but it was welcome. Looks like the weather is taking a turn towards late autumn and the mornings are most definitely cooler and the length of daylight is shrinking (currently roughly 0800hrs to 2000hrs).
  So what has happened over the last week? Not a lot I am afraid to say gardening wise although there is plenty to do. Picked tomatoes, one round courgette which is probably the last courgette and cucumbers, little bit of poly tunnel weeding but nothing more. To be honest the ground is now too dry to fork or do anything with. Despite all the cucumber crop has been very good. I do like the variety Wautoma. They do very well outside the poly tunnel and they continue to produce to the end of September. The tomatoes are now coming to an end and again despite the weather the crop, especially of Champeau Gardeners Delight and Champeau Jens Orange, has been ok, not fantastic but satisfactory. I guess if I had watered there would have been a lot more larger tomatoes.
  On the animal front the hens I think are starting to slow up a little on egg production and the ducks and sheep are being ducks and sheep. 

Champeau Gardeners Delight

Saturday, 15 September 2018

It getting boring...

   Yes the sun is still shinning and yes the temperatures during the day are in the upper twenty degrees Celsius. The garden is now as dry as a bone. I have one crop - hops! The hop vine has grown well up the side of the barn. I think the deluge of rain earlier in the year
has something to do with its vigorous growth to be honest!
Desiree main crop potatoes
Another crop that came in well this year were the potatoes.

24.835 Kg
RIKEA (second earlies) TOTAL:
32.580 Kg
68.17 Kg
I was particularly pleased with the DESIREE, 68 kg from a five kilogramme bag of seed potatoes. Cucumbers, especially the outside ones, are doing well and continue to produce one or two every other day or so. I have now been round the outside tomatoes tidying up and cutting off dead or blighted leaves. Still a few to ripen and I am continuing to gather a handful of ripe Champeau Gardeners Delight (grape tomatoes) every day. In the poly tunnel tomatoes are ripening and I should get quite a decent crop considering they were planted late. Despite regular watering the lettuce in the poly tunnel has suffered from the excessive heat in there and have not done well. This is the pattern it would seem. Lettuce is grows well in the poly tunnel early in the season but it get too hot during the middle to end of the season for it to grow successfully. I need to find another crop for the poly tunnel that would like the heat more. Maybe I should try melons. Cucumbers do not do so well either. 
  In the animal world just normal maintenance. The chickens are still laying well but I am expecting a decline soon as the days draw in.
  So autumn is all but here and I have little or no winter crops. Those planted out in August have just suffered with the heat and dry conditions. Watering was really not an option. Oh well there is always next year.

Chickens in the shade....

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Its staying warm

   The rain continues to miss my patch of France. Up the road, about five kilometres away, it rained. As I write this looking out of my front room window the sky is dark with clouds that look heavy with rain. Will it rain here I wonder. The garden is as dry as a desert!
   In the poly tunnel lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and basil hang on in there. Hopefully the nice looking green tomatoes will have time to turn red or orange! I have planted out a good number of beetroot in the poly tunnel more in hope than anything that I may get some this year. Those in the outside garden have suffered from lack of rain and I have not pulled any this year. First of the main crop potatoes have been dug up, variety Desiree. The rest of the crop looks promising. Outside tomatoes are now well and truly finished with one or two hanging on in there with the promise of few more tomatoes to come. There is a good number of butternut squash ripening and the outside cucumbers are still producing one or two every few days. Some are starting to go over now. 
   I have been busy cutting down hedges and clearing out overgrown areas in the front of the house. Half of my barn roof is currently being replaced and my long suffering rear garden (from the fosse installation a couple of years ago!) is once again being battered from falling roof tiles.
   On the animal front Mrs Chick lost her third chick, probably to a rat. The hens are laying well, five to seven a day. Sheep are being sheep!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Its just around the corner...

    Yes autumn is just around the corner. August is closing fast and September will be upon me. All the plants and trees are beginning to show signs of closing down for the oncoming winter.
    In the outside garden the last of the second early potatoes, variety NICOLA, have been dug up. I have been disappointed in the total amount of NICOLA potatoes harvested. From a three kilogramme bag of seed potato just over twenty four kilogrammes harvested compared to the three kilogramme bag of RIKEA seed potatoes first earlies I harvested nearly  thirty three kilogrammes. I have a couple more NICOLA plants to harvest, one in a pot and another two or three in a spare piece of ground when I found I had a few seed potatoes left over. The may produce another kilogramme or so between them. Main crop DESIREE left to harvest. Several melons picked along with a continuing harvest of cucumbers (Wautoma, Market Maker, Gagante), mixed variety tomatoes and courgettes. It has been a very poor year for haricot vert and not the most brilliant for tomatoes. A success this year has been the bramley apples. The tree was absolutely covered in apples this year. First time there has been a bumper crop. They are on the small size but that must be due to the hot summer and lack of rain. Anyway I still harvested a crate full! See photo. There is a good number of butternut squash and given another week or two of reasonable weather the harvest should be good.   
In the black box the Bramley apple crop
   In the poly tunnel I have transplanted few more beetroot more in hope than anything else. Nothing ventured nothing gained! The lettuce in there are having a real hard time  getting going with the hot weather. Hopefully now it has turned a little cooler (22C rather than 32C!) they may start to do something. I have some tomato plants in here too and they were late planted and look really good! No blight (famous last words) and tomatoes are starting to ripen. Fingers crossed I may get an extended crop!
   In chicken world nothing really new. Mrs Chick continues to raise her one surviving chick which is growing nicely now and the four chicks at my daughters are growing fast and becoming more adventurous. Egg production has possibly been on the low side but I think several of the hens have been in moult. Certainly lots of feathers about!
Four chicks in a row
    The start of autumn brings about the desire to make cakes and with the brilliant apple crop make stewed apple etc etc.
Cherry cake

Bramleys being stewed

Sunday, 19 August 2018

And the sun beats down....

   The weather has been relentless. Day after day of sunshine. Oh there was one day where it was cloudy all day and dark clouds too but did it rain? No, it did not. So the ground is becoming drier and is now impossible to work. The only thing that one could do is hoeing but that is hot work in the sun. Tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes all being picked. Nothing else. The brassicas are virtually a complete loss and I am not going to start watering them. I water my poly tunnel plants (lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, thyme) and outside the melons, cucumbers and squash. Everything else has to take its chance. I am still digging up second early potatoes and the crop is proving to be good. I have missed the chance to buy leek plants in the local market much to my annoyance. They have been available for several weeks now and when I decide to buy, none! Man! Looks like I will not have leeks this winter in the garden. In fact, I will be fortunate to have any winter crops I think.
   On the animal front the sheep are managing with the hot weather. All the Ixworth's (two mature hens, probably two immature cockerals and two immature hens are all together and are now living in the new plastic coop. Mr Ixworth, our aggressive Ixworth cockeral, has been dispatched and is now in the freezer waiting to be slow cooked as coq au vin. Mrs Chick has lost two of her chicks. Rats are suspected for one and the other is an unknown fatality. The five chicks at my daughters continue to grow and now have a larger run with the move of the Ixworths.
   The weather forecast is for more sun over the next week with no rain in sight.

Friday, 10 August 2018


Chicken damaged tomato
   Vegetable gardening on the scale I attempt it has ups and downs. Keeping animals like chickens adds to the downs and ups. Like in the picture.  Chickens like tomatoes. Seems it does not matter if they are ripe or not they will go for them. There is a preference for the red bits but if the weather is dry then they will eat the green bits too. They also like anything  young and green, like lettuce, beetroot, kale and cabbage! Having said that the amount of slug and snail damage I get to anything I grow is minimal. I am happy to say that one of our hens we call Mrs Chick (do not ask why)  has managed to hatch out three out of six eggs she was sitting on. We have also managed to incubate four Ixworth chicks and have obtained another five chicks from a friend. Our current Ixworth cockerel will now be heading for the freezer. He is just too aggressive.
Three latest arrivals...
   All in all not a lot done in the garden or the poly tunnel this last week. It has been too hot and as I have nothing to plant at this time. Picking cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, digging up some potatoes and harvesting tree onions is about as much as I could manage! Of course, watering has been done in the poly tunnel also the melons and squash still had to be done. There has been a little rain this week accompanied by a stonking thunder and lightning storm so sitting back and sipping an ice cold beer has very much been the order of the day. All the first earlie's, variety Nicola, (new potatoes) are now dug up. Thirty three kilos harvested from three kilos of seed potato. Reasonable crop I think. In the supermarkets here new potatoes cost around 1 euro 60 cents a kilo! A very small number of borlotti beans have been picked, de-podded  and put aside to use in stews etc. They had dried on the plant. It has been that hot. Failure of another lot of own sown lettuce has meant the purchase of another lot of Batavia Blonde lettuce from the Aigurand market. I lost eight out of twenty four of these to the hot weather and the rest are now established in the poly tunnel. Now I will not have any till the end of August for lettuce. Annoying as my succession planning was working well.
    So, what is on the horizon? Next Friday I will purchase winter leeks from the market and plant those out. No swede this year, seedlings killed by the heat. I may strike lucky and find some in the market but it is not a usual plant to find there. Hopefully it will get cooler and maybe a bit of rain? Who knows. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Summer heat

Stutgarter Risen onions
Red Sun shallots
   It is about two weeks since my last blog entry. That is quite some time in the vegetable garden at this time of year. I
 was away for a week in the UK to see my youngest daughter and grand daughter up in Gods own county, Yorkshire. Plants grow quickly and before you can say "Bobs your Uncle" you are inundated with produce. And so it has happened. On my return I harvested shallots, onions, cucumbers, haricot vert, carrots, haricot buerre (yellow beans), potatoes, mixed variety tomatoes, courgettes, parsley and lettuce all being harvested in various quantities. The last week has seen daily temperatures of thirty degrees plus Celsius and not a lot cooler at night! I only water the plants in the poly tunnel and outside cucumbers, melons and squash. The rest take their chance and unfortunately the winter vegetables (cabbage, purple sprouting, sprouts) are all starting to look a little tired. Despite the continued hot weather when I was digging up potatoes the turned over soil was still damp. A testament to how much rain we had earlier
 in the year. I continue to sow lettuce seed 
to maintain a supply. Slugs managed to 
Sibley winter squash
demolish half of the last ones I had grown but fortunately I still have enough to eat! So it is back to the market to get lettuce plants to cover the gap while waiting for the seeds to germinate and  grow to a size that they can be transplanted.
Waltham butternut squash
   On the animal front things have been happening. The female duck and the Limousin hen have died, however, a lamb has been born and one of our hens (Mrs. Chick, do not ask) is sat on seven eggs and is two weeks into her brood (eggs should start to hatch at about twenty three days). Our first pair of Ixworth chicks are now close to being integrated with the others and the second pair now have adult feathers. It looks like we have an Ixworth chick coq so our Mr. Ixworth will be replaced by his son.

Burrowing critters eating the carrots
Cucumber and mixed variety tomatoes