Sunday, April 24, 2011

Having an Eggstatic Easter!

A very quick post from the hen house, one of my girls laid her first egg today of all days!I check every couple of days, just lifting the lid of the nest box a couple of inches but today I did a double take when I saw the small light brown egg inside.
It is small but perfectly formed!
The knitted egg cosy was made by Aisling's MIL, it originally covered a small chocolate egg. I imagine the hen responsible had the same look of shock and surprise when she laid her first egg!
A very Happy Easter to everyone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seedlings Everywhere!

We have had the most marvellous week of sunshine and high temps which sadly for us here in the south seems to have had a slight hiccup today.
We did not quite have rain but very heavy mist, what we would call ' a soft day'!The moisture was badly needed and was ideal as it seeped into the ground and did not run off as heavy rains would.Everything looks so green and clean this evening.

The salad pot is ready to start cutting, this was planted up with mixed salad leaves. I will plant another pot as I begin to use this one to have a steady supply until the heads of lettuce in the green house are ready for picking.
The sweetcorn was not a very successful sowing. I planted 16 seeds in these 2 trays on 9th of April and only 4 of them had grown into seedlings by today the 21st.
I potted them into 3" pots to grow on.
I investigated the compost and found the other seeds had become soft and were much the same as they had been when planted except for one other one which had a tiny shoot so the sowing yielded 5 plants!
These seeds had been opened last year, I used a new packet of seeds to make a second sowing today so fingers crossed.
Matron, you did say these were Dwarf french Beans?!
These are the thriving seedlings from a sowing of Dog Bean seeds which Matron saved from her own garden and passed on to me last year.They are described as Dwarf french beans but I think are related to the original bean stalk the way they are growing!You can still see the seed case on the plant if you look closely!
View into the plastic greenhouse this evening. I had to erect the mini greenhouse frame to have enough shelving to hold what is here at the moment and what is upstairs on the bedroom windowsill and due to come down soon.
Top shelf on the left:
Sweetcorn,Inca tomatoes,Sweet peas

Middle shelf:
Salad pot, more of the Inca toms.

Back, Top shelf: 2 aubergines, 2 cucumbers, 5 sweetcorn
Middle shelf:2 x trays Brussel Sprouts, Dwarf french beans
Bottom shelf: 2 x trays calabrese, 1 x cauliflower

Right,Top Shelf: Cabbage, lettuce, Yellow perfection tomatoes on their second potting on, now in 5" pots.
Middle shelf: More cabbage and second sowing of beetroot in peat pots.
3 x pots of Spring onions on the ground.

Lots going on on the windowsills which I will cover soon.

Happy Easter to everyone ,where ever you are may the sun shine!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rhubarb Shortcake

D.Aisling gave me this recipe for rhubarb shortcake which she got from a friend of hers.It has been tweaked a few times so I don't know where the original recipe came from.We all have a glut of rhubarb so something other than crumble is welcome. This is delicious hot or cold with cream or custard.The shortcake pastry is a bit fiddly to roll out but take it nice and easy and don't roll out too thinly.A spring form tin makes life easier, I don't have one so used just a cake ring on a baking sheet.
Soften rhubarb first and allow to cool completely before adding to the pastry. I used 400grms of rhubarb,washed and cut into 1 inch pieces. No extra water is added and cook on a very low heat until soft. I used 100 grms sugar to sweeten but added more when cooked.

185 grms butter
185 grms caster Sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk (beaten)
275 grms Self raising Flour

Cream butter + sugar
add beaten egg mixture
Add flour and mix together
It makes a fairly dry dough.
Divide in two, cover with cling film and put into fridge for approx 30 mins.
Roll each piece into a round, press bottom layer into tin.
add fruit leaving a border all round.Brush border with water.
Add top layer of pastry and press down all round to seal.
Bake 35-40 mins at 180c (Gas 4)

I put it onto a plate with a slight dip and the crust cracked but that made no difference to the taste!I will have to invest in a proper cake plate.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting Down and Dirty!

I left the hens out around the garden this evening and three of them made for the flower bed as usual. I saw what they were up to and went to get the camera.
They were rolling around in the dirt!
They burrowed down in to the soft compost and then rolled over! The one in front stood up with that 'who me' look in her eye when caught rolling around.
Is this something hens do?
The hens were not the only ones getting into the compost!
I checked the mange tout which I had put into damp compost in the freezer bags. All of the seeds had sprouted in 5 days.You can just see the 'tail' on each sprouted seed.This part is put down into the compost as the green shoot grows up from the opposite end, they actually look a little like tadpoles!I emptied the bag carefully in case I damaged the tender root and set each one into a deep seed tray to grow on.
i have 24 Mange Tout which is enough if they all grow on.

I bought these peas in Dunnes, a national Supermarket chain.They are Bees brand ,one I have not seen before.
2.95E for 250 seeds.
They are Early Onward, they only grow to 24" high so should be easy to manage.
I went with the moist compost in the freezer bags again, this time 2 bags with 12 seeds in each. If they germinate in 5 days I will be doing well!
Planting them directly into the ground takes longer and there is always the danger of pests and predators who like the taste of nice new seeds.

2 bedroom windowsills are now in service, as of today the following are in the propagating process:
Window 1:
Topepo Sweet Peppers, Rosso & Giallo repotted in to 3" pots.
Matron's seeds: Lazy Housewife, Dogbeans & Crimson Flowered Broad beans all germinated.
Yellow french Beans,
Sweetcorn x 2 trays
Tigerella, Moneymaker & Marmande tomatoes.

Window 2:
Peas,Early Onward in freezer bags.
Courgettes x5 in 3" pots
Mange Tout x 24 in trays
Musselburgh Leeks in seed tray.
From now on as seedlings come through and the need to move them on once germinated and also harden off is going to entail some juggling of space on the windowsills and in the greenhouse!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Forgotten Flowers?!

Have you ever bought bags of Spring bulbs as soon as they appear in the shops in September?
Have you intended to plant them as soon as you get home ,if not, definitely tomorrow?
Have you ever discovered said bulbs in various stages of distress in a cupboard/shed/under the stairs, weeks/months later?
Then read on, I bought daffodil bulbs back in October, brought them home and put them into the shed intending to plant them soon (the road to hell is paved with good intentions)!
I remember reading a blog around January saying daffodils could still be planted if anyone had been guilty of any or all of the above, I had just discovered my forgotten flowers in the shed.January was cold and the ground was icy and too hard to dig in any case and the flowers were forgotten yet again.
Photos are not in rotation, top pic is the daffs as of now in full bloom when all of the others are gone over and even dead headed!

My daffs languished in the shed until I happened to be looking for something and spotted pale green shoots peeping out of some netting.I investigated and there they were, most of them had produced shoots of 1 to 2 ins long and these were curled around one another. I prised them gently apart and thought they looked OK to plant, and this was?
18th March, yes the day AFTER St Patrick's Day!
Photo above is the daffs on 29th March, just over ground and the other daffs can be seen in the background.
Same daffs in the flower bed out back taken a couple of days ago, one in full bloom and some which had no shoots when planted are just coming through now.
Moral of this story....
Its never too late!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seedlings coming Through

Lots of pics to put up as they are sitting on my computer. Today was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to get the remainder of the seed potatoes in the ground, mainly because I now need the space in the plastic greenhouse for the seedlings which are starting to take up more and more space.The seedlings will be left in the greenhouse only until the newest seeds planted need to come down from the bedroom windowsill by which time I hope the weather permits planting out on the plot.
Yellow Perfection tomatoes were left on the windowsill as they were looking a little wan after the last repotting they have now overtaken the Incas which came down to the greenhouse.They are now repotted into 5" pots
Spinach which will go out to the cold greenhouse on the allotment making use of it before the tomatoes are ready to go.
The Inca tomatoes still in their 3" pots.
Sweet peas in their toilet roll tubes.
Bolthardy beetroot in peat pots, some did not germinate but may do so yet, if not I will resow a few more
Carrots in bottomless peat pots.
Greyhound cabbage, I only sowed a few I swear!
Lettuce will go out to the greenhouse border with the Spinach.

Salad leaves will stay at home in this pot for easy picking, I will sow another pot next week to have a continuous supply.

Grow your own Mojitos! I repotted some of the mint which are growing fast.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Lamb and Seeds

We have a new resident on the Hydro allotments!Zwena has added a lamb and there is a companion arriving in the next day or two.Willow is the German Shepherd standing guard with Owen and lamb.I am always fascinated at Zwena's control over her dogs, Willow is a young dog and is in the process of being trained.
Owen and Lamb who I don't think has a name yet!
A seed sowing marathon was in progress today before I went out to the allotment in the afternoon.Matron visited Cork last year and very kindly brought me some packets of her own saved seeds.
This one is Lazy Housewife, a Victorian heritage variety, read about it on matron's blog.Recycled tall plastic containers with ready drainage holes underneath and most of them have clear covers making an instant incubator for small amounts of seeds. They came with soft fruits from Aldi.
Dog beans!Also from Matron,they have a stunning colour but are plain broad beans!
The windowsill is filling again, peppers on the left,I am leaving them here in the heat for another while.Lazy Housewife, Dog beans and Crimson flowered beans in tray all from matron.
Next to them are mangetout peas sown according to Terry Walton and put into a bag of moist compost to sprout before planting.Watch this space!
Far right two trays of Sundance Sweetcorn which we grew last year with great success.
Outside in the plastic greenhouse, calabrese,cauliflower and brussel Sprouts are sown. they do not need too much heat to germinate so are OK out here, I will cover them at night just in case!
Update tomorrow on what is sprouting at the moment.

Homing Hens!!

Hen update, these are photos I took on Wed evening when the hens were roaming around the garden.Sam had not seen them up close before and stood inside the patio door actually struck dumb at the sight.He never barked just stared out at them, anytime I left the room he did bark I think to warn me they were trying to get in?!

They came right up to the patio door, one more daring than the others took to staring in at me!
The hen is actually tapping on the glass with her beak?!
Looking around for reinforcements or another way in?

Reinforcements have arrived, she is now trying to lift her feet over the edge of the glass!
I remember reading somewhere hens are the nearest in body shape etc to the dinosaurs, why am I thinking Jurassic Park and velociraptors??!
Ooh look, a rocking chair in the corner, I bags a roost on that.

Forget the chicken coop I want to move in here!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I spent quite a while on the plot today and came home looking windswept to say the least!The strawberry bed got a complete makeover.This is the finished bed under wraps.The cloches were on sale in Aldi a few weeks ago for 6e each, I bought one of each and had to use both to cover the length of the bed.There are flowers on some of the plants so bit of mollycoddling may produce some early fruit.
The before shot,brown leaves since last year and some leaves have brown spots?I cut them back to allow the new leaves to emerge.
The after shot, I did not realise there were so many blossoms until I had cleaned all of the plants up.I gave them a dressing of potash also, a Spring dressing is recommended for all fruiting plants.
Three more drills of potatoes went in, this time Duke of York which is another 1st early.There is space for about 3 more drills which will go in ASAP!Good Friday is often mentioned as the final day for putting in spuds but as this is a movable Feast day and as such is very late this year it may not be ideal!
Our asparagus is coming up and I forgot to take a pic,nearly all of the new plants which went in last year have spears coming through.I had bought 2 year old crowns so this year we will be able to harvest them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Hens

I allowed the hens out of the coop this evening for about an hour, it is not a particularly nice evening being wet and miserable so I felt sorry for the girls and opened the doorway to let them stretch their legs and explore the garden.It took a few minutes for one of them (Shelly) to investigate the outside world, the others followed tentatively spreading their wings and flying awkwardly in short bursts.

On sat morning Kevin and myself headed down to Midleton to the Farmer's Market. It was early and the market was quiet,the serious shoppers were filling up their shopping bags.This is the poultry ark where the hens and ducks are on sale.We picked up 2 more hens and brought them home to introduce them to the others.I thought there was going to be a bit of a showdown as the newbies were blocked from the food bucket by the other two standing solidly in front of it!

Midleton is one of the first Farmer's Markets and continues to attract large crowds, ,most of the stall holders are sold out each day.There are organic beef and pork stalls here, the stall holders are the producers also and love to answer any questions about their products.
The poultry ark was always the centre of attention, the owner told me he had sold quite a lot of hens for Mother's Day complete with coops!

The hens were not long finding the flower bed, they are still clustered together even though they could spread out.The first two hens are the leaders it seems, the two newer ones follow along.
Shelley got into the coop on Sat night and sat in front of the doorway blocking entry to the others!After standing around in the cold they eventually pushed their way in, tails sticking out and D.Ais had to close in the door pushing them in while doing so.
I noticed one hen outside tonight for quite a while on her own,the others had gone inside and I began to wonder if they were blocking her from entering.I had a look inside and could not see where they were as it was nearly dark at this stage.I opened the nest box at the side and here were the 3 hens snuggled up together!The 4th one did not want to roost on her own I think, she eventually went in and I closed in the door.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hens Have Arrived!

I had tried online and rang various phone numbers to obtain hens as soon as I had the hen house & garden ready. I was told this seasons chicks had just hatched and would not be ready to lay for about 18 to 20 weeks. Yesterday I was walking through the
Mahon Point farmers Market to access the shopping centre when I walked into a man selling hens,ducks & geese from a poultry ark!
He is doing a roaring trade he told me at 3 farmer's markets and is sold out each day.He had 3 Rhode Island reds so I took 2 home with me!I thought I better get used to these before adding to their number.
I had them in the back of the car in a box listening to their soft cooing, I got them home and realised I had never actually handled a hen before and do not particularly like anything feathered and flying?!
I gingerly picked one out of the box half expecting her to peck my hand, but no and neither did the second one!They strutted around the run as if they were on 4" Jimmy Choos, looking decidedly displeased with their new surroundings.
I had to purchase the feed and drink containers and a bag of feed from the same vendor as everything had happened so fast!
I put in a cabbage leaf and a small hawthorn branch with new leaves growing.They pecked at everything including the new grass.Come 8 o'clock last night I was wondering what time do hens turn in for the night and would I have to tuck them in?!
Shelley went in 4 times turned around and came out again, did she not think the boudoir was up to standard?!
Katie in the meantime made no attempt to go in and I was thinking she might be pulling an all nighter but eventually she did and I locked them in for the night.
They went in tonight at 7'o clock.
The bubble wrap is to keep their food dry and rain out of their drinking water.The weather here has changed for the worst with rain and gale force winds.
Kevin and myself are travelling to Midleton Farmer's market in the morning to pick up 2 more hens, they are all point of lay and expected to lay in about 2 weeks time.
I planted out the Broad beans on the plot today despite the gale force winds, the roots were coming through the ends of the pots for the last couple of days.I need the room in the greenhouse to continue planting, I spent a wakeful 2 nights expecting the wind to blow it around the garden but so far so good.
The shallots are coming on out on the plot.
Sturion onions are putting up green shoots, I took the covering off once they began to sprout as they would be damaged growing through it.
Asparagus is sprouting. I think the frost got the last few spears that came through quite early.
I noticed a flower growing on our rhubarb today and removed it, when taking it up to the compost heap I saw a few more dumped so others are having the same problem as we are. We have had an exceptionally dry Spring so far and the rhubarb reacts by flowering, expecting drought conditions! It is the plants way of propagating.

From the flower bed at home,one little Snakeshead Frittillaria! I only saw the slug? damage when looking at the photo.