Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Bees Knees Must be Freezy...

Medlar in hibernation.


A rare frosty morning here this Winter, picturesque, but can present challenges.
Not just for our friendly pollinators who have been out very early this season foraging in amongst the dandelions and snow drops.

Bee numbers do drop dratically, but quite naturally during the winter, so that the nucleus of the colony has a better chance of survival through the lean months. The hives here are left undisturbed, as the consumable honey they produce is of secondary consideration compared to the value of pollination services to vegetable and fruit gardening they provide.

Some beekeepers harvest honey and then replace it with sugar syrup or fondant to feed the colony.
 Of course I can't speak for the workers in this case but one would suspect, that given the chance they'd rather hang onto their original product....

In a good year there is a honey surplus; that can be freely extracted without any peril to the bees.
But it could be argued that there hasn't really been a good  year for bees for quite some time now. They and many other less lauded pollinators are under pressure from many negative influences, mainly around degraded habitat. pesticides, and  diseases introduced from overseas.




The plan was to move the old flock of chickens this morning. But even after cosseting and charging the humungous (din) tractor battery indoors overnight; the Ford still didn't want to play. 
There was talk of lighting a fire under the engine block; which is an old school remedy which has been known to work. 
But there have also been times (not here thankfully) when the results would have produced fascinatingly incendiary pictures....
 But i'm afraid there is only so far I'm prepared to go for dramatic effect.

So it was a case of waiting for the midday sun to work it's warming charms. and then a rather unconventional, but pleasingly sucessful movement of the old flock in a momentarily 'ultra free range' style.

That is; take down their fence; let them wander about the farmyard and garden like something out of 'My Big book of the Farm" , and meanwhile move their house without them in it; re erect their fence; then collect them back in with a few handfuls of irresistible mixed corn...Pretty smooth operation all in all.

It only works when all the tastiest crops on the plot are already covered against the cold. I wouldn't like to see them hens marauding in an uncovered bed of lettuce. 

Sophisticated ladies; investigating the last of the Spanish Radish...

This is a particularly bold (for bold read cheeky) member of the new flock. She has a curiously turned down tail. Not certain whether this is the cause; or as a consequence; of; previous misdemeanors ....
She was lucky to only get her leg ringed today; such was her beakiness; the little plastic anklets will help to identify who belongs to which flock once the new birds reach mature size. If you put an escapee back in with the wrong bunch it will be bullied mercilessly.

cheering and cosy solution to the needing nimble but not frozen fingers for work problem.
Who says workwear has to be all sludge green and muddy browns? At least not initially.

Sculptural tyres and silage sheet keeping the compost pile dry and preventing the weeds getting on top of things.... She does take photos of the oddest things...




Self Sufficiency....That used to be an aspiration of many people a few years back..

But of course there's really no such thing in physical terms.

Yes we can provide for a lot of our own material needs.
And if we're lucky enough to have access to a patch of land, and a bit of energy and know how, we can grow a lot of food for ourselves.

But in and of itself; trying to do and make everything for oneself is far too energy and time consuming and denies the fact that some people are better placed to produce certain essentials than others.

Having said that, many of us do have an urge to grow some of our own dinner at least...
My hail fellow, well re-met friend from Oxford contacted me the other day.

She has just got her hands on an allotment - Much excitement - And what should she do first...?

Well this is what I advise most people in that situation...First; calm down a bit; hold the seed packet; better still put the seed packet in a cool dry place..

And get thee to the nearest farmers suppliers to purchase for yourself the biggest toughest sheet of black plastic you can....The same size as the area you intend to cultivate if possible. Its commonly sold as silage sheeting...

Then mow down; within reason; maybe leave the fruit bushes if you must; whatever is on the plot.

Cover the whole lot with the plastic. First having accumulated many suitable objects with with which to weigh it down....Lots of old tyres, bricks, or bags of soil. Bear in mind that the wind will try everywitch way to lift it; so there needs to be as much stuff in the centre as around the edges.

If gustyness causes struggles during laying; you may wish to co opt a friend to fly a kite nearby. In my experience that pretty much guarantees an immediate  cessation of even the most persistent breeze.

Then; over the subsequent weeks peel back a manageable amount, and extract the vegetation you don't want with a fork.
 Or double dig; if you can carry off a waistcoat, tweed cap, and stout leather boots...
Then recover with the plastic, to stop any fresh weeds growing, and to keep it all dry and workable. So when its finally the right time to sow or plant you've got something resembling the soil "As seen on T.V."

What and when to sow might have to be another post... planning to write my way out of a job?.....Unlikely.





A number of years back there was a brief spike of interest in 'growing your own', well over and above the many who do it as a matter of regular habit.

I love nosing at the allotments that seem to grace so many town edge railway lines; that and getting a glimpse of the generally more unselfconscious  back gardens.
The most interesting stuff is usually kept out of general view.....

So, as a result of this green fingered resurgence, several customers phoned to inform that they wouldn't be needing any of our produce from now, on as they were going to be feeding themselves and their families from their own plots....

Well the outcome was, in the main, as you will doubtless already have predicted....
But thankfully; no one actually died of scurvy.....
And those experimenters were quite cheerfully welcomed back to the fold after a few months of vegetable dalliance elsewhere...

The people who do; or at least have tried growing; a bit of their own veg' are usually the most appreciative of having it done for them...

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