Monday, December 23

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 21

Nothing much happening outdoors

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you may have noticed a lack of posts recently. One reason for this is that nothing much has been happening - garden  and allotment wise at least - so I didn't have anything to share. My poor camera thinks it has been made redundant and my camera finger is restless and itchy.

Just to try and  ease the withdrawal symptoms, I searched in the garden for something, anything that I could point my camera at. 
We have had frosty mornings and damp and murky mornings most of which have set the tone for the day. There's plenty of outdoor jobs waiting to be tackled but it's just not been conducive to outdoor activity.

You may notice in the photo, bottom right above, that the spring bulbs are made of hardier stuff and many are pushing through the frosty earth.

Other plants are optimistically preparing for spring. The hazels and garrya already have produced catkins and other bushes are in bud.
We did manage one job in the garden which was to clear away a pile of debris that was abandoned after a lanky mahonia was cut hard back.
I also decided to plant some garlic in pots, in the garden, rather than try to plant in the allotment mud. I planted soft neck garlic in one pot and hard neck in the other. The cloves were saved from last year's crop so fingers crossed that they will manage to grow.
When we visited Harlow Carr to see the light show I bought a couple of amarylis bulbs, (or hippeastrums if you prefer). One was for me and the other for my sister. We have each planted them. Both bulbs had started to grow and both have two flower buds. Earlier in the month, I'd seen some ready potted bulbs that already had tall stems topped with fat buds but for me part of the fun is watching them grow.
On Thursday the rain held off until late afternoon - can you call it afternoon at three o' clock when the light is already fading? We decided to make a quick visit to the allotment to collect some fresh vegetables as stocks at home were dwindling.

Whilst, Martyn took care of the harvesting and did a bit of filming, I decided to start pruning the jostaberry bushes. At least, it is one job that can be done when the soil is soggy. The problem is that routes around the plot have to be varied to try to prevent the paths from becoming a slippery mess. We haven't been altogether successful and some care has to be taken walking in some parts.

I managed to prune two of the five jostaberry bushes.
They probably don't look vastly different but I actually removed quite a lot from each bush. I prune them in a similar way to gooseberries. Lots of straggly growth was cut out and any stems heading into the centre of the bush which I try to keep relatively open. Any branches crossing were also removed. If left to their own devices jostaberries will grow over 2 metres or about 6 feet tall and so I trimmed branches back to just above my head height so I can easily pick any berries. I also cut back any branches spreading too far to the sides either blocking the paths or interfering with other nearby plants.
For the past few weeks our harvests have been very similar - cabbages, carrots and parsnips. This week we also lifted a stem of Brussels sprouts which will be kept in a bucket of water and the sprouts picked off as we need them. Last year our sprouts were pathetic so we were happy to see that this year they have grown much better.

Unfortunately the wet weather is spoiling quite a few crops. Lots of layers of outer leaves need removing from cabbages and as you can see from the photo below the slugs are prolific and not even deterred once the carrots are harvested. The small species are particularly destructive.
Fortunately the carrots are large and once the damage is cut away there is some left for us. It makes you wonder how farmers manage to achieve such perfect roots.

Let's hope the New Year brings us some friendlier weather.

Wednesday, December 11

Buds and berries - taken at Harlow Carr

Monday, December 9

At least we got something done

It didn't rain on Saturday and it wasn't really cold so we decided on an afternoon at the allotment to try and get a couple of jobs done.

Almost two months ago, Martyn chopped back a couple of cobnut bushes and was left with a pile of debris to sort out.
The pile was still sitting there waiting for a day when, both the weather and the pile were dry enough to make the task possible.
On Saturday, the two required elements at last aligned, so, Martyn sorted the pile into twiggy bits for pea sticks and long straight poles for bean or sweet peas supports. 
The leaves had all dropped from the branches so when the twigs were removed we were left with quite a large pile of leaves which will compost nicely.
Gales were forecast for Sunday and so the pile of leaves were covered to stop them from being scattered across the plot.
Jan, one of our plot neighbours had acquired lots of bags of leaves and he offered us some, so these too will be composted in due course.

Whilst, Martyn was busy trimming and sorting, I decided to tidy up the pear bed. Regular readers may remember that we let various plants self seed under the pear trees. The annual plants had now died down and any seeds shed so I could now  pull out all the dead plants. 
Once I had done this I found that one side of the bed was covered with moss. It was an indicator of how wet and dull the conditions have been. I scraped away the moss and removed a few weeds taking care not to disturb small plants that were already emerging.
It doesn't exactly look tidy but it's an improvement.
We also cut out a branch of one of the pear trees that was obstructing one of the paths. This tree produces more than enough pears for us so we won't miss one branch.

We didn't need lots of fresh vegetables but we gathered a small harvest.
We picked a small helping of purple sprouting broccoli which is always a treat.
We pulled a few leeks as I wanted to make a batch of Wensleydale patties which are basically a mixture of leeks, Wensleydale cheese, breadcrumbs and egg formed into a patty and coated with breadcrumbs. It's an adaptation of a Glamorgan sausage recipe.
We also needed some carrots, although were not expecting to dig up a monster, like the one pictured above. It's like four large carrots fused into one.

By the time we had finished, it was  almost four o' clock and already becoming dark, however we both felt better for having actually got some work done. It looks like this week's weather is going to prevent any more allotment activity.

We also put together a video of our afternoon which can be viewed here

Saturday, December 7

Glow Winter Illuminations at RHS Harlow Carr

I mentioned in an earlier post, that, the last time we visited RHS Harlow Carr, preparations were being made for a winter event. Lights were being put in place around the gardens to illuminate areas in the central part of the garden. We thought that it would be interesting to visit and test the capabilities of our cameras, and indeed that of the photographers behind the lenses. Martyn, has just acquired the same camera as I use, and so was keen to give his new camera a test run.

We had been waiting for a dry day and had earmarked Thursday evening for our visit. Of course the weather forecast changed on Wednesday night and it seemed that the dry day we had hoped for was not going to materialise. During Thursday, Martyn monitored the rain radar. Patches of rain teased us as they crept nearer to Harrogate where Harlow Carr is situated. After much deliberation we decided to set off on the 45 minute journey and just hope for the best. If the weather was poor when we arrived we'd just turn around and head back home.

At intervals along the way, spits and spots of rain fell on the windscreen so we were not too hopeful. On arrival the only sign of rain was moisture in the air so we headed to the entrance. There we found that we were 30 minutes too early so we decided to pop into Betty's coffee shop which is located on the same site.
By the time we had finished our cappuchinos (or should that be cappuchini), the event was opened.

Cameras at the ready we headed out anticipating a chiaroscuro of colour. At first that was just what we were greeted with.
However, looking beyond the trees in the foreground all we could see was darkness punctuated by colored floodlights. It seemed that we were going to be disappointed.

Then something magical happened. I pointed my camera towards a group of trees that were faintly coloured and saw quite a different world.
The difference was amazing. The trees and shrubbery glowed brightly green, red, blue and gold. The camera saw things that the naked eye couldn't.
The only downside was that the flood lights produced flares of light that spoiled the effect but given that without them there would be no effect to spoil, we couldn't complain too much.
I overheard one woman complaining that her flash didn't fire which surprised me as use of a flash would wipe out rather than enhance the coloured lights.
Obviously lots of people were not there to take photos but I couldn't help thinking that they were missing out, as the camera transformed the scenes. I found myself, as well as using it to take photos, using the viewfinder just to see what was hiding.
Another aspect of the display was that lots of the lights were on a rotation with trees and plants changing colour so photographing the same scene could give very different effects. 
It was another thing that made obtaining a sharp image difficult along with the fact that quite a strong wind developed.

When we headed home, Martyn and I each had over a hundred photographs to sift through but one thing was certain - we were glad we went.

If you want to see more photographs, I have posted some on my Flickr page and Martyn has created a slideshow in YouTube.

Wednesday, December 4

November in Pictures

Monday, December 2

Twenty icy fingers, twenty icy toes

I have a shocking confession to make - we try to avoid visiting garden centres once everything gardening related is pushed aside to make way for fairy lights, grottoes and all things festive.
The problem is that this seems to be happening earlier and earlier. No sooner had the last sparkler faded than the snowmen and glittery trees were moved in.

I really wanted a couple new houseplants, to replace ones that had faded once summer had passed, so we bit the bullet and made a visit to a particular garden centre that usually has a good selection of plants suitable for growing indoors.

We negotiated all the twinkling lights and came away with a couple of cyclamen.
It was really cold last week. The miserable gloom gave way to some brighter conditions and a clear blue sky. As usual, at this time of year, there was a price to pay and the temperatures dropped below freezing. 

We needed some fresh vegetables, so we wrapped up with plenty of layers and headed to the allotment looking as though we had each gained a couple of stones in weight. Although it was the middle of the afternoon frost still lingered.
As well as harvesting some vegetables, we decided to make a quick video. We post an allotment tour on our YouTube channel at the end of every month. Despite the freezing temperatures the birds provided us with some lovely background 'music'. It amazes me that such tiny creatures can survive in winter, their little feathered duvets must be super effective.
Inside the greenhouse the tiny spinach seedlings are making a slow but valiant attempt to grow. I'm guessing that it will be some time before we are harvesting any leaves.
Our harvest was typical for this time of year. A couple of the cabbages were masquerading as giant sprouts. The Savoy cabbage was a reasonable size although icy droplets were caught between several layers of outer leaves.

We also seemed to come across a batch of carrots that the slugs had actually missed which was a bonus.
We've tried for ages to grow swedes that actually have swollen roots so, even though the one that we harvested had been attacked and was sporting a fair number of holes, we counted it as a success. Hopefully we will manage a taster from what the bugs have left.

I managed to quickly pull out some dead hardy annuals but, other than that it was too cold to hang around so we headed home to bring some life back into our fingers and toes.