Now that all our pumpkins have gone (see www.BigPumpkins.co.uk) it’s the quiet time before the wreath making season begins so time to clear out the debris from the poly tunnels, then wash and disinfect everything ready for spring.
There are a few productive tomato plants left but all the rest are on the compost heap. Today we picked the remaining peppers of the Thunder Mountain and Jalapeno chilli plants.
Even the shed has had a tidy up. Everything seems to expand to cover any available floorspace so a determined effort is needed to put everything back where it should be in order to make some room for the Danish trolleys needed for our www.Christmas-Wreath.co.uk wreath collections.
In quieter moments it is also time to do the field plans for next year (what crop goes where) and order seeds. The first of the bought in specialist culinary pumpkin seeds arrived this week and we started drying our own pumpkin seeds as well. All of a sudden 2019 doesn’t seem that long off.
The (hopefully) annual audit of our farm ponds happened yesterday with pond experts Peter and Helen visiting along with Helen’s Mum on admin duties and Millie the dog.
Samples of water clarity, ph and electrical conductivity were taken along with the invertebrates and plant life which have taken up residence in the restored farm ponds and our new scrapes.
Hopefully we will be able to share their findings in due course but in early news, there is a degree of excitement as Zannichellia, the horned pond weed, was one of the plants found thriving in the restored pond. I hope to learn of the significance of this but I am told it is worthy of informing the County Plant Recorder! Who knew!
It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we were pricking out these trees as seedlings and growing them on in pots ready for planting out. It turns out we started planting out in this field in 2010.
It was a bit of a milestone to be starting to do the first cut on selected trees this week. Alder was urgently needed to replenish the wood chunks used by our local smokehouse customers with Ash and Silver Birch used for making things and (as a last resort) fire wood.
The little Makita electric chainsaw was given it’s first outing on coppice duties and performed well, if anything too well as I had hoped the batteries would give out before I did.
The bar is for measuring the log length. The majority will not need splitting but, if they do, that is the maximum length that the splitter can take. The sticks also fit in an IBC crate which facilitates drying and minimises further handling.
As we were only taking out selected trees it opened up the canopy just enough to let some light in. The remaining branches will be ‘chunked’ for wood fuel with the fine brash stacked to provide habitat as it rots down.
It’s that time of year when our wild damsons are just coming ready so time to risk life and limb reaching over the very deep ditch to try and hook the branches and get them harvested. Probably three quarters of the fruit is inaccessible so I don’t feel that guilty about raiding the natural larder.
Most of our share will end up as jam courtesy of mother; some sold to raise money for her charities, some for us and some for the breakfast table at Coed Cae
As some will know we try and do a little trial of the more unusual in the hydroponic tanks each year. This year it was the turn of ginger.
Having read up about it I went down to our local Booths supermarket to find a suitable fresh ginger ‘root’ tuber with lots of nodules on. The reality was somewhat different, with the offerings off the shelf being very dry and even though they were all quite large (and expensive) none had more than one ‘eye’.
The best I could find was purchased and placed in clay balls with a 24hr constant pumped leaf feed circulation as (I read) that they do like moisture.
Despite being in a very small greenhouse and suffering some of the highest temperatures we have ever seen in this country it has done reasonably well although the new shoots that are appearing now that a normal British summer has returned are much stronger and healthier. I look forward to the luxury of having some fresh stem ginger in the very near future!
All in all, it looks like ginger is a decent performer in a hydroponic system but I haven’t yet had a peek beneath the clay balls to see what is happening with the ginger root but I will post an update here when I do.
Whilst clearing out are farm ponds last Autumn, whilst the digger was on site we also took the opportunity of putting in a series of wildlife ‘scrapes’.
Our scrapes quickly filled up with rainwater during one of the wettest winters on record.
The scrapes are just shallow depressions in the land with gently sloping edges, which (importantly) only seasonally hold water.
They create wet areas in the field that are very attractive to wildlife and support a wide variety of invertebrates that provide important feeding areas for breeding wading birds and their chicks as well as a watering hole for passing mammals.
The most important parts of scrapes for wildlife are the margins. Shallow water and muddy edges provide ideal conditions for wetland invertebrates and plants, and allow access for waders and their chicks to find food. Scrapes should hold
water from March ideally through to the end of June.
An invertebrate survey was done whilst the main ponds were being sampled. All three scrapes were teeming with life only a few months after being dug which begs the question where do they all pop up from?
Our cluster of three scrapes provides a variety of shapes and depths, designed so that each is at a different stage of it’s cycle at any one point in time during the breeding season. The middle one was the first to dry up in mid June after a prolonged dry spell but the other two still held water.
Update September 2018
Heavy overnight rain has meant standing water has once again returned to all of the scrapes. It’s only a bit but it is the start of the next cycle. I am just pleased they are doing exactly what they should do.
For the record (and our more sceptical readers) there were no grants received or stewardship schemes entered into etc. Just us doing our bit.
Processing Oak logs into wood chunks for use in offset smokers
It might be Bank Holiday Monday and it might have been a lovely sunny day but all I could think was to get some Oak wood chunks split, sawn and seasoning to replace all those being burnt in BBQs and Smokers.
It is a tedious job sawing down all the oak splits but it needs to be done well in advance of demand as it takes so long to season properly and all I could think of was how much would be being burnt on a day like today.
Not a lot but at least there are eight more trays seasoning than there were this morning.
An out of the blue call from Helen Greaves changed the plans for the day as it became the day to do an audit of invertebrates in both the restored farm ponds and the newly created scrapes.
A lovely hot sunny day isn’t the best sort of day to don waders but, if you want to count pond invertebrates, they are essential attire. Sherpa, helper and stopwatch operator were just some of the roles fulfilled by Helen’s mum with Millie the dog just enjoying the walk and the sunshine.
A three minute sampling technique was interesting to watch and tubs of findings have been taken away for analysis. I really do hope we can share the data here in due course.
It’s been a few wet months since we cleaned out and restored the main pond and despite the rain the retained water level held in the pond has been disappointing.
As we had a digger on site today to prep a shed floor, it had a few minutes diversion to carry across a few buckets of clay to raise the level of the outfall ditch. Not a big job (with a digger) but hopefully it will have a big impact.
The vegetation around the pond has started to reappear after the shock of all the cleaning out activity.
The only wildlife I spotted today was a moorhen hiding in the scrub, four male mallards on the pond and a frog in the ditch.