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Long Overdue Update

July 13, 2010

Nearly a month has slipped by since my last post. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in blogging – more a case of being away on holiday (Portugal), plus been too busy doing other things. Anyhow, enough of excuses! 

So what’s been happening? Well, first an update of the chicken situation. Back in mid-June when I put up my last post, my Pekin hen was happily free ranging with two of the three chicks that she’d hatched (one having died after getting stuck behind a nest box). Unfortunately, one of our neighbour’s cats made an attack on the two free-ranging chicks, and the Pekin chick was killed. The Pekin mammy lost a few feathers in the fight, and managed to save her Red Sussex chick. As a consequence, I’ve had the two of them (Mum and remaining chick) isolated in an enclosed run ever since, and I’m happy to say that both are doing well, and I’ll be introducing them back to the rest of my small flock in another week or so. 

Pekin Mum & Red Sussex Chick

Pekin Mum & Red Sussex Chick

 

Talking of introducing new arrivals, the first of my ‘chicks’ to get big enough to join the adult birds, were my first two Light Sussex [hatched on 14th May]. I put these two in a fenced off area at the back of the chicken coop on Friday 2nd July, and they stayed there for a week. Last Friday I removed the partition and they’ve been mixing with the Goldlines and my black Pekin, and are free ranging nicely. They get harassed quite a bit by the older birds, but are still happy to go in together at night, so I’m happy enough with that. Another few weeks should see them fully integrated. I’m not sure yet when I’ll start introducing the other young ones – some of them will have to be sold as I simply don’t have room for all twenty-odd of them. I reckon five of the black Pekin chicks will be moving on, and at least half of the Red Sussex will need to go too. 

Light Sussex Growers

Light Sussex Growers

 

On the egg hatching front, when I last put up a post, I had four Light Sussex eggs, plus four Pekin/Goldline cross eggs, in the incubator. Out of those, two Light Sussex chicks, and two Pekin/Goldline cross chicks hatched. Of the latter two, one promptly drowned itself in a shallow water dish. The remaining three chicks are all now over three weeks old and doing well. The Pekin/Goldline chick and has slightly furry feet, with white feathers – I can’t wait to see what it’ll grow up to look like! Anyhow, the incubator is now turned off, and at the moment I’ve no intention of hatching again this year. 

Out in the garden, things have really been moving along. We’ve been eating cucumbers out of the greenhouse since mid-June. The ‘telegraph improved’ variety that I’m growing is highly prolific and easy to grow, but once the fruits get large, they become bitter, so they need to be picked small and picked often. The same can be said for my courgettes, which I’m growing in pots this year – they need to be picked small and harvested regularly. As per the cucumbers, the courgettes have been fruiting now since mid-June. 

We still have loads of new potatoes to be harvested. They’ve been ready for a few weeks now, and the foliage is really dying back fast, but I’ll leave them in the ground and dig them as/when they are needed. In the other raised beds, my main crop spuds are coming on well, as are my leeks. I’ve actually had a problem with weeds, but not the normal type of weeds – my problem has been with self-sown pansies which seem to be just about everywhere; I  must have pulled literally hundreds of them out of my raised beds! Guess what I did with the old compost out of the flower pots from 2009…. 

The onions are coming along very well – both those grown from seed (‘Beacon’), and those grown from sets. If I had to choose, I’d say the seed grown ones are doing slightly better. 

Raised Onion Bed

Raised Onion Bed

 

My broccoli (‘Iron Man’) is ready to pick now, and looks to have been a great success – providing it tastes as good as it looks, I think I’ll be growing more next year. The butterfly net that is covering both the broccoli and the cauliflowers has really done its job and all the brassicas are consequently looking very good – long may it last! We started picking the beetroot (‘Sanguina’) last week, and it’s just delicious – small, tender and sweet – I’ll be pickling some over the next couple of weeks too. 

Broccoli - 'Iron Man'

Broccoli - 'Iron Man'

 

The soft fruit has done really well so far this year. I picked just over 2kg of black currents on Sunday (11th July) and half of this has already been made into black current jam by my wife. 1kg of black currents yielded four and a half jars full of jam – not bad! Now I have two large bushes of red currents waiting to be picked…and the gooseberries are almost ready too. We’ve had a great crop of rhubarb so far this year, and it’s still coming on now. 

Back in the greenhouse, I picked our first tomato of the year last week. The smaller varieties are, as usual, ripening fast, and I think a big crop will be taken over the next few months. I actually only used the last of the 2009 tomatoes (out of our freezer) last week, when I made a batch of tomato relish. This relish is something we love on sandwiches and if the jars are properly sterilised and sealed, it keeps for a couple of years. 

The aubergines look to have been a failure, though. The plants don’t look happy and are not forming fruits, so I think we’ll write them off to experience. Maybe they don’t like grow bags? Any thoughts or comments would be welcome! 

Again in the greenhouse, this year’s sweet and chilli pepper crops look like they are going to be good. I’ve actually never seen so many fruits, and some of the plants are up to the roof at the side of the greenhouse. I’ll post some pictures of these when they ripen a bit. 

Finally, my dwarf French ‘Purple Pod’ beans have done very well for the second year in a row. They have been cropping now for the past three weeks, and look like they will continue to do so, as long as I keep picking! As a reminder, I have these growing in pots in the greenhouse, as I find that no beans will tolerate the windy conditions of our site.

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