Thursday, September 30

Monkey business

When we visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Park we are always pleased to see something that we haven't seen before.

A relatively new feature of the park is the sea lion enclosure which features two large lakes. The surrounding area has been designed to mimic the natural habitat of the family of six Californian seals that live there. It isn't the first time that we have watched the seals but there is something very therapeutic about watching them swim.

Also enjoying the water were the polar bears. Currently there are eight bears living in the park in two different areas. One area houses a mother bear and her three 'cubs'. The cubs, two males and one female are around two years old and two of them are shown in the top two photographs below. I'm amazed how such a large animal can float!
Four adult male bears live in a separate area, far enough away from the female bear to avoid any 'restless' behaviour. Three arrived recently to join the bachelor group after two other bears left as part of a breeding programme. I'm not clever enough to tell the bears apart but I think that the two cubs splashing in the water are the two males. It's the first time we have seen them albeit at some distance away.

We saw some other animals for the first time on Monday. They aren't new arrivals it's just that, during past visits, they haven't chosen to come outside when we have been close by.

It's the first time the we have seen the Roloway monkey family. They are one of the most endangered primates so it was a cause for celebration when a baby was born at the park last year.
Another first sighting for us were the white-faced saki monkeys.
As we were leaving the park we were treated to another first as the keepers were putting some more fresh food out for the tapirs. Just lucky timing!
Not a first sighting as the baboons are always out and about but I couldn't resist including this photo of a mum tenderly holding her baby.

Swans were browsing the weeds in the area set aside for British wildlife.
Despite our regular visits to Yorkshire Wildlife Park we have yet to see any of the hyena family, other than the top of a head and ear poking out from the vegetation. Other no sightings are the biturong and the white wallaby. We have only managed to have glimpses of the cotton top tamarinds by peering through the foliage in their indoor area.

So there are still plenty of reasons for a return visit.

If you are interested, Martyn posted a video of our visit on his Youtube channel here.

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

Monday, September 27


The allotment was somewhat neglected last week.

On Monday we decided to pay a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.  We aborted an attempt to visit last month. When we came across a long queue of traffic stretching some distance from the actual entrance, we turned around and headed home. Even in pre-Covid times we wouldn't have enjoyed our visit. We decided to wait until after the school holidays when hopefully things would be quieter. I must admit I was surprised that there were several school parties so soon after the start of the new school year. For anyone who is interested, I'll post more about our visit on Thursday.

Tuesday we had planned to go to the allotment but instead I had a doctor's appointment. I now have a fourth type of cream to try a clear up the rash on my leg.

We did get to the allotment on Friday, when we dug another lot of potatoes. This time the variety was Rudolph. The ground was bone dry. We can't manage to water all the potatoes and so they have to make do with whatever moisture comes from the sky. The result was that, although we harvested some good quality potatoes with no slug damage, the actual yield was lower than usual.

We made a second visit to the allotment on Sunday. The main aim was for, Martyn to finish strimming the grass paths, a job that was started on Friday. We posted a video here.

On Friday, I noticed that the garlic planted earlier had produced shoots. These were bending under the weight of the enviromesh cover so we needed to lift the mesh higher to stop the shoots from being damaged. On removing the mesh we could see that the onions had also started to produce shoots. As the ground was really dry I watered the bed whilst, Martyn constructed a frame to lift the mesh.  We didn't want to remove the mesh entirely as the shoots would risk being damaged by animals prowling about at night.

You may remember that I mentioned that some of our new strawberry plants were persisting in flowering despite me cutting off all the flowers as they formed. During an enforced absence when, Martyn was in hospital, the plants had not only flowered but had set fruit. The plants were gifted by Thompson and Morgan after they had featured us in their blog. I originally thought the variety was Christine but this is an early variety. Looking back through my emails I found that the variety is Albion. This makes more sense as Albion is an everbearing variety that crops from June to October. On Sunday we picked the first ripe strawberries and if the weather is kind there are lots more to come so we decided that we had better net the plants in case any hungry birds spot them.
Friday as well as the Rudolph potatoes, we harvested a variety of produce.

24 September - Potatoes - Rudolph, Apples & Tickled Pink- Fiesta, Mixed dahlias, Raspberries - All Gold & Joan J. Blackberries - Loch Ness, Cauliflower - Zaragosa, Courgettes - Boldenice & Ambassador, Tomatoes - Shirley, Crimson Crush & Crimson Plum and Cabbage - Kalibro

Heavy rain is forecast for Monday morning so, just in case the rain actually arrived, we decided to harvest the squash. (Monday morning saw heavy rain so ir proved to be a good decision). We cut nine Crown Prince, three Pink Banana and one very small Autumn Crown. The tiny yellow one in the photo below is Autumn Crown - just big enough for a taster.

26 September - Squash - Crown Prince, Pink Banana & Autumn Crown, Apples - Fiesta and Egremont Russet, Quince - Meeches Prolific, Pears - Invincible and two Albion Strawberries

Squash Pink Banana on the left and Crown Prince on the right.
On Friday, we picked a bucketful of Fiesta apples and on Sunday we picked more Fiestas and a bucketful of Egremont Russet apples.

Fiesta on the left and Egremont Russet on the right.

Invincible pears
We also picked some of our Invincible pears which will finish ripening in the summerhouse and a bucketful of Meeches Prolific quinces. Quinces are picked once they have lost their fuzzy coat, some that were still a little fuzzy were left for a little longer.

Meeches Prolific quinces,

Last week we used some of our carrots and potatoes to accompany a turkey and red wine casserole into which went some of our onion, garlic and carrots.
I also cooked a Runner and Broad Bean tagine that used our runner beans, broad beans, onion, garlic and tomatoes. This was served with couscous. I can't find the link to the recipe but to give a rough idea, other ingredients were red pepper and dried apricots. The onions, red pepper and tomato were first fried and then garlic, apricots, turmeric, chilli powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground almonds were added along with vegetable stock. After simmering for 10 minutes the beans were added and continued cooking until the beans were tender.

One other incident of note was that on leaving Nostell Priory after our walk with Ruby, Martyn managed to drive over his camera bag. Ruby's ball and bottle of water were scattered behind the car but the camera bag was wedged under the front wheel. Incredibly the camera survived the ordeal. The videographers' God was watching over us!

On that note as always, wherever you are stay safe and well.

This week I   am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres.

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

Monday, September 20

Corn and carrots

In my last post, I mentioned that we picked our first sweet corn cob to check on ripeness. As it was ready, we decided that we ought to harvest the rest of the crop.

Thinking back to when we planted the young plants it amazed us that they produced any harvest at all. The plants suffered badly from a wind battering and were clinging onto life by a thread but they rallied and surprised us.

In the end, last week we harvested a satisfactory haul. The cobs were taken home, the kernels stripped off and frozen as quickly as we could. A video has been posted here.

The sweet corn was just part of Monday's harvest.
13 September - Mixed Dahlias & Cosmos, Climbing French Beans - Cobra, Dwarf French Beans - Safari,  Beetroot - Boltardy, Raspberries - All Gold & Joan J, Carrots - Romance & Sweet Candle, Cauliflower - Zaragosa, Plums - Marjorie's Seedling, Sweetcorn - Earlibird and Sweet Peas

Safari dwarf French beans usually provide us with a late harvest of tender young beans but we are not expecting much from them this year. Events meant that they have been neglected and, in the bone dry ground, they have been struggling and are only just hanging on to life.
18 September - Peas - Terrain, Blackberries - Loch Ness, Broad Beans - Luz de Otono, Carrots - Amsterdam Forcing, Flakee, Sweet Candle & Romance (not in photograph), Cauliflower Zaragosa, Raspberries - All Gold & Joan J, Tomatoes - Crimson Crush, Crimson Plum, Shirley & Sungold and Mixed Dahlias

Martyn posted a video about our late sowing of broad beans here.

As well as harvesting all the sweet corn we decided to lift all the carrots. In the past we have left our carrots in the ground and dug them up as we have needed them. The problem is that, usually, slugs move in before we finish using them. We have tried various methods of storing lifted carrots in the past but with little success. 
This year our carrots are probably the best crop that we have had in all the years that we have been allotmenting.
Some are really huge and we have fewer strange shaped individuals than usual.

We want to make the best of the harvest so we are trying another method of storage. This year we are reburying the carrots in containers filled with compost.

These have been placed just inside the garden greenhouse and will be kept just damp enough to stop the carrots from drying out. Fingers crossed that this method works.

We have continued to harvest tomatoes from both the allotment and the garden. Last week I made a large batch of tomato sauce which has been frozen and will be used with pasta.
Monday, I made a vegetable 'cottage' pie into which went homegrown onion, garlic, courgette, potato and basil. 
On Sunday, our cauliflower, onion, garlic, tomato, peas and carrots were used to make a vegetable biryani.

In other news, the four young swans - I'm not sure when they cease to be cygnets - continue to thrive. I wonder how much longer the parent birds will tolerate their presence. It's been great watching them grow over the weeks.
Although, at Nostell, the trees are still fully clothed with green leaves, there are signs that autumn is moving in.
In the garden the insects are making the most of the flowers whilst they can.
The asters were particularly popular. I thought one flower had a bit of dried leaf stuck to the centre. Then the 'leaf' moved.

Closer inspection revealed it to be the tiniest moth that I had ever seem

Can anyone identify it? 

That's all for this week so, as always. wherever you are stay safe and well.

This week I   am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres.

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

Wednesday, September 15

Late flowers

Monday, September 13

We're not crying over our onions

Thank you for all the good wishes following, Martyn's hospital adventure. Thankfully, he has had no further nosebleeds, although we made sure to take things steadily last week. Martyn, had been instructed not to do anything too strenuous for a week. It’s a bit like treading on egg shells wondering whether a repeat is imminent.

We did pop to the allotment a couple of times, mainly to harvest a few things although on Saturday we did plant some overwintering onions and garlic. We planted two varieties of onions - Radar and Senshyu and some White Casablanca garlic. 

Fortunately, we had a bed ready for planting. Birds appear to consider beds that have been cleared and dug over to be excellent places to use as dust baths and so we covered the onion bed with a layer of enviromesh. We posted a video here.
Onions were a feature last week as I also tidied up the bulbs that had been drying off. Any loose skins were removed and roots trimmed off. The onions were then placed in a single layer in cardboard boxes and placed in our summerhouse for storage over winter. The summerhouse doubles up as a fruit and vegetable storage area once summer winds down. It is ideal as it is cool/cold and dry.
Any suspect bulbs have been set aside for using as soon as possible. I'll also keep checking the boxes and remove any onions that show signs of rotting.
The new strawberry bed had taken full advantage of our absence from the plot. I had been diligently removing runners and flowers from the plants so that they could build up strength during their first year. Whilst I had taken my eye off the ball, the plants had produced a mass of runners and one variety - Christine - had not only produced lots of flowers but had also set fruit. I removed all the runners but hadn’t the heart to cut off all the flowers and immature fruits. I doubt that any fruits will ripen but Christine deserves to be given the chance to try.
7 September - Mixed dahlias,  Peas - Onward & Terrain, Runner beans - Moonlight and raspberries - All Gold.

Tomatoes - Sungold, Crimson Plum, Shirley & Crimson Crush
The tomatoes are now in full flow. We are picking ripe fruits from both the garden and plot greenhouses and a raised bed in the garden.

I've been busy roasting tomatoes, as this way, they take up less room in the freezer than as ready made tomato sauces, which they will be used to make later.
11 September - Peas - Onward & Terrain, Courgettes - Ambassador & Boldenice, Raspberries - All Gold & Joan J, Broad bean -  Luz de Otono, Blackberries - Loch Ness, Tomatoes - Shirley & Crimson Crush and Sweet Corn - Earlibird

The last lot of Onward peas, that we sowed, are now starting to be affected by mildew which is affecting the leaves and the pea pods, Fortunately the peas inside are fine. Terrain produces small peas more like petit pois.

The thornless, Loch Ness blackberry produces some very large berries.

We have a few Joan J raspberry canes that, each year, enter into a battle with bindweed, however, they continue to produce some tasty berries.
We picked the first of our sweet corn to check whether the cobs had ripened. They had so we will strip the plants when we next visit the plot. The kernels will be stripped off and frozen.

We also picked the first few late planted broad beans. 

Fortunately, Martyn is now back eating warm food and last week we used some cabbage and onions in a chicken dish based on this recipe.

Carrots, tomato and peas were included in a minced turkey and quinoa dish.

Our onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and courgette were ingredients in a tomato and courgette risotto.

Nostell was looking very autumnal last week. The flower meadow had been mown the previous week and last week bales of hay dotted the landscape.
I was also attracted to the bark of various trees as we walked around the lake.

The four cygnets are now just about fully grown but are still sticking close to their parents.

We often spot a heron patrolling the shallows. Last week he or she was wading through the flowers.

By the way is anyone else finding that they are collecting more and more itchy bites on a daily basis. We all are, in spite of using copious amounts of repellent.  Is it our imagination or this year are there more creatures around after our blood?

As always wherever you are keep safe and well.

This week I   am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres.

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