Sunday, 30 January 2011

Spring cleaning

I'd been hoping to spend more time weeding my raised beds this weekend....but the mild weather has disappeared and it is back to frost and snow showers. So I thought I'd get the polytunnel sorted out instead.

This is a job I normally do before now - but it was just too cold over the Christmas holidays. And it's a big job so you've got to be in the mood for it. Today I was. I re-watched Rebecca Hoskins film A farm for a future again yesterday. This is the most inspiring film I think I have ever seen - you can watch it here -

(just copy and paste the link)

Apart from addressing the huge issues of climate change and peak oil - it really speaks to me with it's emphasis on permaculture and small scale growing. It suggests that on a small scale working with hand tools the grower is able to pay attention and to work with nature. This is exactly what I aim to do. Do watch it if you haven't seen it yet.

Anyway getting back to today's job. The spring clean has four stages...

1. Thoroughly wash the plastic to let in as much lights as possible. I don't wash the roof as the winter snow usually cleans this...but still with a 30 x 20 foot tunnel that is quite a bit of cleaning and rinsing! While doing this you are paying attention to the covering in a way you don't normally and spot any areas needing attention.

2. Repair tears with specialist tape. We bought our tunnel from a firm called Citadel...and the cover has lasted 10 years so far. I'm keen to keep it going for as long as possible.

3. Cut back brambles/tree seedlings/grass etc that grows up along the outside of the tunnel - again lets in more light and helps protect the cover from tears.

4. Re-paint the wood with a dark coloured wood preserver - to make it last longer and tidy it up.

This morning I got the plastic cleaned. During the week I'll buy the wood preserver, and over the next dry weekend I'll get the rest of the jobs done.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Winter preserves

During the week I decided to use up some of the Redcurrants in the freezer. I used 1 kg to make some Redcurrant Jelly. I used a thermometer to test for setting point ....but unfortunately when I tested some on a saucer it seemed a little too stiff! Well we'll just have to see what it's like when we open a jar.

My friend Julie gave me a jar of the Seville Orange Marmalade she has made to I'm looking forward to that as a change from my own three fruit Marmalade.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The weekend's pleasures...

include ...
1. finding a copy of this lovely book by Monty and Sara Don in the library. A real treat to read over the weekend.

2. Feeling very inspired by the River Cottage Preserves DVD - I've made some Lemon well as meringues to use up the egg whites leftover after making curd...and to go with some home grown fruit from the freezer.

3. Home-made Lentil & Carrot soup for a warming weekend lunch...following a walk along the river.

4. Gloating over some self-sown seedlings of Rocket in the polytunnel.

5. And a beautiful walk with the dog on Sunday afternoon, enjoying the scenery looking toward Hadrian's Wall.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Wonderful weeds

Now that the weather has turned milder, I'm able to collect wild greens again for the hens. I try to give them a bucketful of greens every day to supplement their layers pellets and mixed corn....and give them something to do.

During the summer they get lots of chard, kale and lettuce from the well as plenty of freshly cut grass. But right now I'm giving them chickweed, which is growing in lush mats on one of my neighbour's vegetable plot. I'm pretty sure he won't mind me taking his weeds...and the girls love them. I'm so impressed that even this early in the year I can find something green and free for them!