Monday, 31 August 2009

Critters, bugs and weeds

First: Insects.
Tonight I found yet more caterpillars in the poly tunnel. I thought I'd got the lot a couple of days ago, but found another 6 lurking around. Some were doing me a favour, eating a bramble shoot that came up through the earth floor, the others were having a hard time trying to nibble cucumber leaves and two really brave ones had been at the chillies. I think they were pleased to be relocated to some outdoor bramble!
Here's a side view of one of the little blighters. It's a Tussock moth caterpillar, but I'm not sure if it's the brown or yellow tailed variety. They are both pretty voracious - I wonder if I can get them to eat all the bramble for me?
Next: Amphibians!
When I was watering the outside grow bags with the tired-looking courgette plants, out popped this froglet from one of the watering holes!

I'd seen a larger frog next to the bag a couple of days before but hadn't a camera to hand, so was very pleased to capture a photo of this little chap.

It must be one of the bathtub froglets that hatched out earlier this year. I need to be rather careful when I do my clearing up and leave them some grow bags for them to use as shelters and as hibernation sites.

I love being on the allotment. Sometimes I'm there for hours being really busy weeding, digging and planting. Other times I'm there for a quick visit to pick up some spinach or salad greens and to water the plants in the poly tunnel. Now I've got a water butt inside the tunnel (Thank you Doug, for that suggestion!) life is somewhat easier! I still need to visit every 2-3 days, though, depending on the weather and temperature, to check on things.

My time at the allotment is precious. It's a time out of the usual routines; time for myself and to enjoy the plants, the wildlife and the company of the other gardeners. I love seeing the results of my work but know I have a lot more to learn and a lot more work to do before the plot is the way I want it to be.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Keep up! Keep Up!

Oh, it's impossible to find time for everything I need to do.

I must weed the plot properly soon and put down black plastic to stop weed seeds germinating. However, I estimate it will take about four full days of hard work and unfortunately, I can't manage more than a 4 hour stint at a time. This means it's going to be a battle royal between me and the massed ranks of bramble, fat hen and spiny lettuce for the next couple of weeks.

Some of my time has been spent making a wedding present - a bride and groom (cockerel and hen) set of egg cosies, complete with presentation hen house. It was like being back at art school again, designing a portable hutch!

I could almost hear my tutor's disparaging comments! Still, it did the job and didn't look too terrible, thankfully.

Cartridge paper is such useful stuff!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Rain + Sun = WEEDS

It's hot and humid again. I think I can hear the weeds growing wild in the allotment; a quiet, persistent rustling as they burst forth and overcome my seedlings.

Weeds grow so much faster than my beans, lettuce and stuff that I'm tempted to give in and start growing Fat Hen as a crop. Inside the polytunnel I'm able to keep things under control as my plants are in grow bags so relatively few brambles and convolvulus shoots manage to get through the beaten earth floor and grow to a decent size.

Today I battled the heat and damp to do some weeding, water the grow bags and take photos of the plot and some of my egg cosies as the light quality was really good.

I scanned the skies with binoculars but once again, there were no signs of swifts over Carshalton or Walligton. This means my last 4 youngsters have probably moved South since I last saw them on Tuesday 4th August. I suppose they might still be somewhere over Surrey; the skies have been rather horrible for the last part of the week, lacking thermals and banks of low cloud to keep the insects relatively low. There are still flying ants waiting to launch - maybe they will come back for a final feast before migrating South. It would be nice to see them again after spending so much time as a foster carer, but I am happy believing they are acting on instinct and doing whatever is best for them. I just wish them good luck on their long, hard journey to Africa.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Swifts, felting and cucumbers

Friday 31st July 2009
Three more swifts took to the skies above Wallington! It's lovely to see them fly up and up until they find the thermals and soar effortlessly for the first time. I kept looking out for them for the rest of the day and took binoculars up to the allotment with me. It was very hot and sunny but I did see a group of three high in the sky several times, so hope it was them!
Now just have one left - it is starting to flap the wings and climb, so will probably go on the next decent launch date. Sunday looks like the best weather for a first flight. Fingers crossed!

Picked my first cucumbers this afternoon! Gave 2 to Nick in return for some of his very tiny courgettes. I'm going to make more potato and courgette soup from mine, as they are like bludgeons! His are just right for eating raw, as matchstick thin strips or thin slices, like linguine. How nice to have something other than salsola to trade with!

Dug up the onions so now I will have a bed for autumn/winter salads, once the beastly and ever present bramble roots have been dug out of it. Again. Amazing how it keeps coming up. If I'd wanted to nurture it and grow blackberries you can be sure it would all have died by now.

When not feeding birds, weeding or being at work I've been making more egg cosies. The latest two are for quail-sized eggs and were made just for fun. I've been using a rather fabulous fleece bought from The Threshing Barn, in Derbyshire - or is it Staffs? (must check that). It's from a cross between a coloured Ryeland and a Black Welsh and is rather lovely, so I'm using it for several new projects.

This is a pic of Betty and Bessie, the normal-sized egg cosies. I'll have to take one of them with the quail cosies, as soon as I can get my little camera working properly again. it's being a bit moody at the moment. Ever since I dropped it, in fact!