Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday 30th April - Blue Tit Update VII

The female blue tit laid her 10th egg on Thursday this week and has been incubating ever since. She now only leaves the nest briefly spending most of her time sitting on the eggs and turning them over. She often calls out to the male who will come into the box to feed her.

Petunia has a lovely American Robin nesting on her blogsite. Back here , Tig starts watching tv at 9.30am...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Saturday 29th April - Top Tip

Have woken up stinking of booze & fags after the gig last night... Our rivals were both there and told us that out of their 5 seeds they have germinated 1 giant marrow. The sun is shining and I am off to Allotment 21 with Mel to tend ours soon.

Before I leave, my top tip: Never buy corriander from seed suppliers. The 99p bumper pack from Julian Graves cooking shop all germinated and are growing really well. I used the bashing between 2 bricks technique from the Allotment Special tv programme which seemed to do the trick.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday 28th April - Marrow Germination and Pest Disposal

The lunar Gods and reiki are working, Simon-the-marrow has germinated. I am extremely relieved as there were only 5 seeds in the 'giant marrow' packet and a fairly narrow biodynamic time slot.

We now have an ant problem at work and reki-master Clare says we must all think of a nice place and they will go there instead. This is her best environmentally friendly pest disposal method... Does anyone have any other tips? As an insurance measure, I am planning to sneak some nippon in over the weekend.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thursday 27th April - Fame

Ireland was fantastic, toured all the ancestral highlights (some photos on flickr), sampled plenty of Guinness and came back to famous tits. Wiggly Wigglers produce a weekly podcast which Spouse & Steve are hooked on, they download it every week and discuss it in the pub. The lovely Wiggly roving-reporter, Richard called in to take a look at our bird box cam and has recorded me wittering on about the blue tit on podcast No. 28. Listen very closely and you will even hear Tiggy the cat at the beginning!

While Richard was here, he noticed our kitchen compost bin and told me about Bokashi. This stuff consists of micro-organisms that create brilliant compost very quickly. I didn't really believe it but ordered some and have been converted.

And the famous gardener?? Spouse smugly informed me that while I was away he posted a clue as Parus Palustris which, "As any good birder would know" is Latin for Marsh Tit. Yep, it's Alan Titchmarsh 10 points to all who got it right.

Finally - here she is leaving 10 eggs this morning...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday 22nd April - Guess the Gardener

I am off to the Emerald Isle for a few days with Sister and Mother which means:

a) Leaving Spouse to his own devices
b) No blog posting 'till Thursday next week

To pass the time, I suggest you try and Guess the Famous Gardener parked in the car next to mine....

10 points if you can guess who it is... Answer will be posted on Thursday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday 21st April - Blue Tit Cam Update V

We now see a new egg every morning which the tit covers lightly before leaving for most of the day. She should lay between 8 and 14 eggs before settling down to incubate for 11 - 15 days. This clip was taken around 6.15am yesterday. She has just laid her fourth egg and the male has been calling her.

Tiggy the cat has become a telly addict.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday 20th April - Tomatoes

The tomatoes sown in February that I thought had no chance have all germinated and are doing much better than the fast germinating but soft and leggy propagator seedlings. Proof that the organic 'treat 'em hard' system works.

Unfortunately they are unlikely to bear fruit in time for Den-the-Pun's forthcoming gig with the Pork Dukes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesday 19th April - Competition Time

One of the more 'senior' allotment holders came over for a chat last week. He looked at our sweet pea tunnel and said, "I suppose you'll be entering the garden competition then?" It turns out that there is an annual allotment garden award which he said was "for lots of flowers and sticking labels on everything." Being a Virgo, labels are my forte...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tuesday 18th April - Easter Egg

Unfortunately the hangover self-perpetuated itself the entire weekend which meant only Friday was spent on the allotment.

On a positive note, we woke up yesterday to find a pale smudge in the nest which looked like it could have been an egg. It was covered with fluff and feathers which made it impossible to be sure. There was little sign of the tits all day however they must have called in the nest at some point because by mid afternoon we could clearly see that they have indeed laid their first egg.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday 17th April - Potato Trench

The first of our potatoes went in last weekend. We have Charlotte, Pink Fir Apple and Sante. The Charlottes went in using a layer of grass cuttings with 2 sheets of the 'Hereford Times' method in some trenches, manure and the 'Guardian' in the rest. They took up a lot more room than we'd expected and we can see why people advised us to only attempt 2 or 3 varieties.

Had hoped to get the Pink Fir Apples in this weekend - perhaps this afternoon if the hangover wears off?

We think we have an egg in bird-cam-box.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday 16th April - Cat Television

Tiggy the Cat is 18 years old and rubbish at catching birds. I hope she's not getting any ideas.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Saturday 15th April - Parsnips at Dawn

I had a lovely time in the sunshine yesterday planting spinach, radish, sprouts etc when an almighty row erupted a few plots down. Two plotholders were shouting and swearing at each other, I could hear one shouting, "Don't you threaten me!" I desperately wanted to film it on my camera for the Allotment 21 movie but thought they might attack me with a pitchfork.

One of the protagonists had a distinct Welsh accent and he should definitely be worried about threats. In Hereford it is legal to kill a Welshman in the Cathedral Close with a bow and arrow, so long as it's not on Sunday.

Friday 14th April (Good Friday) - Simon the Marow

Without giving away date / time or lunar phase, Simon the Marrow has been sown. Clare is working hard to reiki Simon into speedy germination.

Was surprised to discover that you can buy a gadget that lets you hear your plant. This box with 'Bioactivity Translator' stuck on to the top and 2 knobs on the side will plug into an amp and let me hear Simon sing...

Can't be any worse than Spouse's Roy Harper CDs.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wednesday 12th April - Who Buys These?

I am following Horticultural's train of thought lately. A catalogue has appeared with one of the most bizarre bird boxes I have ever seen. No, your eyes do not deceive you, this is a birdbox disguised as a Panama Hat and there are people in a plot near you who will buy one of them.

Do they knit these to go in them?

Still no eggs in our box this morning but I confessed to Spouse that I ate Nephew's easter egg last weekend, not the cat.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wednesday 12th April - Red Barons

The red baron onions are finally all stuck in (on) the ground. They were placed in perfect rows and then covered with netting to keep the pigeons off. When the netting was raised on sticks, it had trapped all the little red barons and pulled most of them out. They are now plonked back in random fashion.

Have noticed that one of the other plots has this rather gorgeous object on his shed roof.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tuesday 11th April - Another Visit From Sister

The school holidays are here and Sister decided to show both Nephew and her 4x4 what mud looks like and to demonstrate that vegetables grow out of it. Neither have ever seen much of either.

Nephew helped us plant potatoes while Sister, worried about her hairdo and concerned for her manicure, took shelter in the greenhouse and read the papers.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday 10th April pm - Will We Have Eggs For Easter?

Still no sign of an egg although the nest looks ready and the female is roosting there every night. Here she is preparing to roost. You can see how 'rounded' she looks at the beginning of the clip.

Monday 10th April - Ladybird

Another sign of spring on Sunday was the first sighting of a ladybird.

In the spring, ladybird beetles and larvae are common on any plant with aphids or scale insects. Home vegetable and flower gardens that are organic or where no insecticides have been used may be a good place to look.

I hope he's hungry.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday 9th April - Girlification

Steve had collected some hazel sticks during the week which Mel and I used to construct what we hope will be a sweet-pea tunnel through the potato beds this summer. It took under 2 hours, cost nothing but we hope it will look and smell great when the flowers start. Our 'painted lady' sweet peas have germinated well and now we have such a big frame, we will buy some different varieties to climb up it.

All very Gardener's World...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Saturday 8th April - The Were Rabbit Commeth

Never mind Bird flu, Steve sent me a link to the BBC news site which is reporting a monster rabbit eating large amounts of veg from allotments in Felton. The plot holders have hired two gunmen to shoot the beast on sight. The ITV site quotes allotment holder Jeff Smith who claims the footprints are, "about the size of a deer's". Northumberland Today shows this picture of Mr Smith with what the giant rabbit might look like.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday 7th April - Instant Veg

I am no longer worried about growing veg - if all else fails, I will knit some. Look closely at the picture on your right, all the veg has been knitted ... and it doesn't end there visit's glorious website to see a whole allotment full of knitted veg.

Now, where are those needles I'm sure I could manage a potato?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thursday 6th April 7.50pm - Bird-Box-Cam Update IV

An 'Eagle has landed' moment in bird-box-cam tonight. That dark shape on the tv screen is a puffed up roosting blue tit with her head under her wing. Not a lot of point creating a movie clip as all she is doing is breathing. It is quite magical.

Thursday 6th April - Moveable Paths

Not only do we have ponds on Allotment 21 but 'moveable paths'. This technique, devised on the weekend is to lay weed suppressing fabric where you want your path to be, shovel barrow-loads of bark chippings (free on site) on top and tread it all down. When you realise it is in completely the wrong place, have two people at either end lift each corner of the fabric making a long, thin hammock for the mulch, shuffle over to the correct spot and re-lay it. Tread down once more and fork over previous path before anyone notices.

Allotment 21 now looking very lovely - all we have to do now is grow some veg, gulp...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wednesday 5th April - Bird-Box-Cam Update III

A longer movie clip taken at 8am(ish) in the morning. Neither tit roosts in the box overnight and each morning we see this ritual. Both appear on branches close to the box, the male goes into the box and calls his mate. If she doesn't come he looks out of the hole to check she is still there. Eventually she appears in the box and he flies off while she makes it comfortable. Much less nest building activity in the day now and my chocolate mini-eggs are at the ready.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tuesday 4th April - Mel's Guide to Pond Building

1. Collect tadpoles and frogspawn from your pond. In Mel's case, the frogs were breeding about 4 weeks ago and much of the frogspawn has turned into tadpoles. Dylan-the-dog stands guard in case an adult frog makes a leap for freedom.

2. Dig a hole and remember to cut pond liner in shed whenever a force 9 gale is blowing outside. If you forget, warn the neighbors that a 30 meter sheet of black plastic might temporarily envelop their house.

4. Sit in pond to prevent liner blowing away while securing edges under greenhouse and shed on either side. Line edges with big stones from the allotment.

5. Fill with water from the butt and release frogspawn with weed. In a few weeks a small army of frogs will eat all the teetotal slugs which have managed to avoid the beer traps.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday 3rd April - Bean Poles

Inspired by WiZer's blog, Mel and I finally had a go at constructing our own bean frame yesterday. We had forgotten how far apart we should place the supports but luckily one of the other allotment gardeners had done theirs and we sneaked up while no-one was around to have a look. The poles went up really quickly once we got going, I stuck them in and Mel tied them up at the top.

In the afternoon, Spouse paid us a site visit. Spouse is trained to inspect overhead electricity poles clad in a fluorescent yellow jacket, helmet and clipboard. Spouse's arrival on site can make grown men quiver with fear. He knows every Health & Safety/ Risk Assessment rule in the book and can quote them all. He marched up and down, poked the bamboo and glowered menacingly before proclaiming the structure a success. I nearly fainted with shock.

We then found our runner bean seeds and discovered that they should not be be planted until May. At least we know why so few of the other plots have erected bean poles.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sunday 2nd April Eve - Men & Motors

If it has an engine, wheels and drinks petrol Spouse & Steve insist on driving it even if it is only a rotavator. They were really excited to see that it had two forward gears, reverse and several other engine related features that I had never heard of.

Note in the picture that it took two of them to operate it, one pushing, the other lurking in bloke like fashion.

Sunday 2nd April 2pm - Bird-Cam Update II

Much more interesting than Mel & I errecting bean poles.

Sunday 2nd April 9am - Bird-Box-Cam Update

The bird activity slowed down on Saturday and we thought that they might have abandoned the nest. They reappeared at around 5pm and once more started bringing in mossy material. These photos were taken at 9am this morning and show that there is still a long way to go. The lighter coloured patch in the empty nest is the floor of the Cam Box which they still haven't covered. If you look through the window behind, you will see one of the tits on the bird table eating the sunflower hearts which we have delivered by the sackload.

The second photo shows one of the tits 'on the nest'. When in the box they have started to sit like this for a few minutes after they have pushed all the moss into the corners.

Have decided that if they do abandon the nest I will push some chocolate mini-eggs through the hole, invite Sister round for a coffee and see if she notices anything...