Wednesday, October 28


Sunday, October 25

Branston - the kestrel

In an earlier post I introduced Spike- the barn owl who we met and handled at Thirsk Falconry Centre.

Spike, however wasn't the only bird that we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with. Our other close encounter was with another British bird - meet Branston the female kestrel.
Kestrels are a very familiar bird in our area and we regularly see one hovering alongside the motorway. When hovering the kestrel's head is remarkably still as it scans the ground for signs of a meal.
Even when sitting on Martyn's hand Branston was watching out for a meal and she was also keeping a lookout for any potential danger from above - after all there were eagles and vultures about.
The closest that I had previously been to a kestrel was one morning when opening the bedroom curtains and looking down on a male sitting on one of our bird baths.

Up close Branston was smaller than I thought she would be. In the photos below she is sitting in either Martyn's or my hand. Can you tell which is which?
It was difficult to capture Branston in flight. Below are my best efforts/
Once she had finished her performance Branston was well rewarded.
Who could fail to appreciate the beauty of such a bird except a small mammal such as a mouse?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, October 21

Just flowers

Monday, October 19

We have a little nut tree

Last week saw the last of our major tree fruit harvesting. This fruit always keeps us guessing as it seems to wait until the last possible moment to increase in size.

The fruit on this variety - Meeches Prolific - is pear shaped, in fact many people think that it is a pear tree.
After the fruit was picked I cut back any upward pointing branches or any extending too far.
There are still one or two branches that I couldn't reach with the secateurs which will be trimmed back when I take the loppers. I also need to cut out the suckers around the base of the trunk.
We lifted the first lot of carrots from the third sowing - the first two lots were cleared by slugs.
We haven't anything like out usual quantity but at least we have carrots to harvest which at one point seemed an unlikely prospect.

We also picked the first calabrese and just in case you didn't notice them in the group photo, we cut a couple of lettuces to supplement the salad leaves growing in the garden.
When I went to cut our one and only pumpkin, I found another butternut squash that I missed last week.
We don't usually grow pumpkins or butternut squash but Marshalls sent us some trial seeds of both - the pumpkin is Knucklehead - so we gave both a try. Neither have yet been subjected to a taste test.

We are still picking a few berries and cherry tomatoes. The raspberries are  now spoiling on the canes if they are not picked as soon as they are ripe. Strangely in this topsy turvy year the yellow raspberries are lasting on the canes longer than the red ones. The yellow ones usually spoil quickly.

I'm still managing to pick some small posies including a smattering of sweet peas.

As for the little nut tree - nothing does it bear except two lonely cobnuts. Last year we had a good harvest. The tree is already sporting immature male catkins but will the girls come out to play early next spring? Last year I didn't notice many female flowers.

Saturday, October 17

Spike - the barn owl

On a recent visit to Thirsk Falconry Centre we had a rare treat. We had the opportunity to handle two birds that are resident in the UK but rarely seen at such close quarters.

The first was a male barn owl called Spike.
It's the second time that we have each handled a barn owl. The first time we were really surprised by how light they are. On that occasion the owl flew towards us and landed on our gloved hand. We felt no extra weight at all as it landed.
Spike is content, in the above photo, sitting on Martyn's hand. Looking at his claws you can appreciate that the gauntlet, which actually weighed more than Spike, was necessary.
Feathers almost cover Spikes beak.

The photo below is a female . She is a little larger and has darker markings.
I managed to get a few photos of Spike in flight.
Barn owls' legs are feathered which helps them to fly silently.

They keep their head remarkably still when flying.
Their silent flight and the fact that they scream rather than hoot once gave Martyn the fright of his life. We were staying in a remote house in France and Martyn had gone out to close the shutters on the windows.

It was silent when suddenly he heard a scream and looked up to see a white shape coming silently towards him out of the blackness.

It was only once he had fled indoors that rational thought kicked in and he realised what the ghostly form was.

Just to finish here is Spike sitting on my hand.
Isn't he gorgeous?

Wednesday, October 14

Monday, October 12


The first harvest if the week came from the garden greenhouse. All the aubergines and peppers were cleared. The aubergines were not going to do any more growing and the fruits were a variety of sizes. The variety - Jackpot - produces fruits that can be picked when small so this wasn't a problem and all the fruits are useable.

We also picked all the peppers as they were showing signs that they would start to rot before they turned red. Some had achieved the expected orange and some had started to make an effort to redden but hadn't quite got there.

Any remaining tomatoes were also gathered.

Behind the garden garden greenhouse, in what we tongue-in-cheek refer to as the cold-frame courtyard, is a kiwi berry - Issai- growing in a large pot. Last year we had a few berries which we really liked and so this year we have looked after it better and it has repaid us with quite a lot of berries. As they were beginning to fall from the vine it was time to pick them. The fruit are about the size of a small grape and taste just like the larger kiwi.
The main harvest from the plot was the squashes, mainly Crown Prince with one or two butternuts and spaghetti squash grown from the trial seeds sent by Marshalls. There is also a single round courgette in the photo below - can you spot it?
I picked the few fruits produced by the small Queen Cox. This was less prolific than the two harvested last week but the apples were delicious.

There are still berries to be picked and the outdoor cherry tomatoes are still ripening. The raspberries have plenty of buds and flowers that the bees are making full use of so even if they don't manage to set fruit they will have fulfilled a useful purpose.
The cabbages had suffered from the attentions of nibblers but had enough good leaves to make harvesting them worthwhile.
The weekend harvest saw the last of the potatoes lifted. These were planted quite late to use up the left over seed potatoes.

We also completed our apple harvest. We think these last apples are Golden Delicious but they came from our inherited apple hedge so we can only guess at the variety. After picking we made a start on pruning the hedge but need a step-ladder to finish the job.

I am also still managing to pick a few flowers for vases.
Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at G Dreen Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, October 9

Medlar - is it a taste we will acquire?

Our medlar is gradually edging into autumn. The edges of the leaves are yellowing.
Many of the uniquely strange fruits are maturing on the tree. The fruit is ready to be picked from late October to early November. It can be left on the tree as long as there is no danger of frost. 
The fruit isn't fully ripe when it is picked from the tree and needs to be bletted. This process softens the fruit which are hard when picked. To be honest I'm not totally sure that we have got this right and stopped picking the fruits, maybe we should try again this year so if anyone has any tips they will be most welcome.
 The photo below was taken to give some idea of the size of the fruits.
The fruit has been likened to the rear end if a dog which doesn't exactly enhance its appeal does it?

This post is linking to  Lucy's blog if you would like to read about more of the trees that are being followed then  pop across and visit