Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Smallholding Update: September 2012

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it's been an appalling year for growing.  An army of slugs rose up and engulfed our garden, leaving trails of slime where seedlings had once been.  We watched as one fledgling crop after another was decimated - parsnips, onions, kale, peas - even the potatoes were not immune.  We dug the potatoes up last month - earlier than usual - as blight completely destroyed their foliage in a matter of days.  Afraid the slugs might feast on the underground tubers, we made short work of digging, drying them out and bagging them up for storage.  The few surviving onions have stunted leaves and are (if lucky) only slightly larger than they were when we put them in the ground. 

The polytunnel has fared a little better, though the lack of sun this summer meant that the tomatoes were still green until early September.  Soon after we had the first few red fruits, the plants were spotted with blight, so our picking has been curtailed.  The cucumbers were also slower than they have been in previous years, but have been abundant for the last few weeks.  We grow both Marketmore (long, green, spiky ones) and Crystal Lemon (round, juicy, yellow fruits) always ending up with more than we can eat.  The sweetcorn seems to have ripened suddenly, all in one go, just like the cucumbers.  It feels like the harvesting season has been condensed into a couple of short months this year. 

We were forced to plant our winter squashes in the polytunnel this year too, the endless rain and slugs meant that we couldn't risk putting them in outdoor beds.  From the Real Seed Company we bought some new (to us) varieties of winter squash - mostly they are looking pretty good, and hopefully the heavy fruits will see us well into the new year, if not February or March.

Outside, we have covered many of the beds with black plastic to prevent weed growth, and to make life easier in the spring.  The fruit bushes are now free of fruit, but we had good crops of blackberries and raspberries, with a couple of stray gooseberries and blueberries from the two bushes we planted out earlier in the year (incidentally, I put Meggie's placenta under one of the pair of blueberry plants - it had been taking up space in the freezer for too long - and will be interested to see whether there turns out to be a marked difference in growth between the two).

Currently we are able to gather a variety of squash fruit, the odd tomato and aubergine, corn on the cob, cucumbers, peppers, and potatoes from the store.  From the outdoor beds we are harvesting the runner beans, and dwarf beans, and waiting patiently for the leeks, chard, lettuce and parsnips...

The chickens' egg-laying has become rather unreliable, and due to fox attacks we are now down to only four birds.  Our first loss came at the end of May on my mother's birthday, and the second a few weeks later.  There is a certain broodiness surrounding one or more of the hens (I'd be interested to get some fertilised eggs and start rearing some chicks...) and the egg numbers have been down - some days we've only had a single egg!  Then we discovered where they'd been stashing the missing eggs - in the stump of an old tree (the one which produces fantastic oyster mushrooms!) Phil found a nest of eleven eggs!

Cheeky chickens!!!

In other news, our house is now feeling much warmer since Phil and my dad whacked on an eight inch layer of hempcrete during the sunniest part of the spring.  It effectively coats the outside of the house in a sort of duvet, meaning that when you heat the house the heat gets stored in the thermal mass of the thick stone walls.  Since it's been getting colder again these last couple of weeks, we've had the wood burner lit in the evenings again, and the next morning our sitting room is still super warm. 

Meggie is using her potty for poos, and sometimes wees - hopefully the endless cycle of nappy-washing will be over for her soon (in time for the next one, ha ha).  She's talking lots and lots now, going from mime-artist to conversationalist in just a couple of months.  She can string eight or nine words together in a sentence, the clever little monkey. 

We had a 20 week scan on Monday which means that baby number two is halfway grown.   Time goes by much quicker when you have a two year old to focus on! 

I'd better get off the computer now, and give Phil some attention... We've been getting into the Game of Thrones series lately, and it's calling me now :)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Suddenly Meggie is Two

Q: How do you face blogging after a silence of over a year? 
A: Pretend it never happened!

Are you with me?

Good  :)

Meggie turned two yesterday - TWO!  Which is to say that she has successfully traversed two entire circuits around the sun.  And in that time her hair has grown, she's learned to jump, and has fallen helplessly in love with "Pingu-ong."

She's an expert at opening presents now

She has always shown a strong interest in books, so most of her presents were of the literary variety.  It feels strange for her to have graduated from the hard-wearing board books to which we've grown accustomed over the last couple of years, but I'm going to trust her to be careful with these beautiful paper pages. 

Totally absorbed

We had a party at Machinations in Llanbrynmair again - it was great to see Meggie fearlessly going down the tunnel slide and running about, when last year she was only able to get about on two legs with the help of the walker. 

So much has changed. 
For example, she can talk now.  About two months ago, all in a rush, she suddenly progressed from pointing and miming to speaking full (although not perfectly grammatically correct) sentences.  "Mummy moop (milk) all gone 'way."  (I stopped in July and it wasn't as challenging as I'd feared)
"Nana-Dad teddy bears upstairs, Meggie get dem now?"  (Actually, forget that question mark - this was more of a bossy statement, she very rarely asks permission for anything, ha ha)
"Meggie Mummy got small Meggie in der now."

Oops, probably let the cat out of the bag now.

I had asked for a smile