Just keep digging…

It’s been a week of digging. Digging. And more digging.

It may only be January, but things on the plot are technically behind schedule. We didn’t get as much ground preparation done as we should have in the autumn, and there is a lot of ground to cover.

The walled garden, where I have been grafting this week is 15m x 15m, and has about 60sqm of planting space. What is known as “The Allotment” is a third of an acre, with a possible 300sqm of planting area. If we use 200sqm of it I’ll be happy.  So yeah, a way to go. 200sqm+ to go, to be exact.

It’s pretty addictive seeing the improvement as I go. Looking carefully there are early signs of spring; wild garlic peeking through, chives appearing, mint making an appearance and daffodils braving the wind. In total, 198 garlic bulbs were planted, 65 strawberry plants were saved and repositioned, and 6 blackcurrant bushes got a new home. I lost count of the chives I split and replanted, and the mint… well, that marches to its own tune.

The wind has taken its toll on the net tunnel, and on one of the polytunnels. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of ingenuity, though! Tape sorted the polytunnel.

And it’s not just me working hard. Whilst I have been working outside, Jane has been working in tunnel 2, clearing the detritus of last year, and getting it ready for planting again – which involves barrowing a sizeable quantity of manure! We gained 3 large frogs in the course of the winter – there should be some delicious slugs for them as soon as the weather warms up!

For anyone interested in the avian flu situation, the hens and ducks have been locked up since 6 Dec, and despite that are doing ok. I would much rather they were outside but so far so good. Combs look good and thanks to a window they are laying at about 50-60% capacity. The cost of bedding however is a different story. If I never clean the hens out again it will be too soon. On the flip side, we won’t be short of fertiliser next year!

Best to just keep digging. Tomorrow, the right hand side of the net tunnel will get done, at which point I will move on to the even bigger challenge… the Allotment (unless I give in to temptation and sort out the paths in the walled garden first. We shall see).

 

Verkís “Message In A Bottle” makes landfall in Tiree

I was quietly digging in the walled garden this morning when my phone alerted me to a facebook message. A journalist friend of mine wanted to let me know that a message in a bottle had arrived on a beach near me. Would I go and look for it? Well, if it’s a toss up between digging in the rain and going on a treasure hunt, I’ll pick the treasure hunt every time. I set off with nothing more than a google map of the location. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of finding it was pretty exciting – I am a geocacher after all, I like a good hunt for a needle in a haystack. I can also quote chapter and verse of pretty much any Famous Five or Secret Seven book, so all in all, the kid in me was pretty darn up for it.

It look less time than I thought to find the bottle, because as bottles go, it was practically bomb proof! Once I got it home, I did a bit of research and found out about the story behind my new yellow friend.

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One year ago (January 10th 2016), Verkís, in collaboration with Ævar the scientist, a popular Icelandic children’s TV personality, launched two messages in a bottle. The bottles were equipped with a satellite transmitter that locates them every four hours via a GPS receiver.

The route it has taken in the last year is bonkers! Check out http://gps.verkis.is/. The one I found is bottle number 1. Its friend is 10-14 days behind it, following a similar route. You can read more about the project here http://www.verkis.com/about-us/news/message-in-bottle-traveling-for-a-whole-year

Since it was the BBC who called me and asked me to go on this delightful distraction of an excursion, I indulged myself with a little filming. The video below is my attempt, with a phone and movie maker. It is a sad indictment of my 6 years in media and I wouldn’t speak for its production values, but I hope it gives you a flavour of the discovery ( I was fresh out of the garden which should explain my muddy hands. My mother will doubtless suggest I should have washed them before filming…)

Keep an eye out for the Scottish and Gaelic news tomorrow to hear my dulcet tones. In the meantime, I have been instructed not to open it, as there is nothing exciting inside, and to cover it in tinfoil ASAP in order to reduce the signal. It is sitting outside on my bench as, quite frankly, it stank to high heaven. I shall wrap it up as instructed and have a little dram to celebrate its auspicious arrival on the shores of the best island in Scotland 😉

Never a dull moment, I tell you.

Lazy-not-lazy garlic

In case you are wondering why on earth I am making homegrown garlic concoctions in January, there is method to my madness.

It all goes back to the unholy disaster last year was. I planted garlic. It didn’t do well. I left it too late to lift it, and was so annoyed, I ignored it hoping it might turn into a delightful something, maybe perfect bulbs… Funnily enough, it didn’t. What it did do was sprout.

I was rotavating in the walled garden today and my thoughts turned to the wretched garlic. Never one to waste things (my mother is to blame for that) I thought I should use it, rather than fire it on the compost. 

So, I am undertaking two experiments.

  1. I am going to plant the best cloves in a nicely fertilised plot and see how they do. They have already sprouted and aliums hate being moved, but hey ho, they need to be separated.
  2. I have taken the smaller, usable cloves and turned them into lazy garlic. Rest assured, having dug them, sorted them, washed them, peeled and topped and tailed them, crushed them and jarred them, I am certain the lazy garlic is in fact not lazy at all. We’ll see how it keeps. 

The injured cat is locked in the kitchen, and has eyes the size of saucers. He may be high on garlic fumes… I know I am.

Hens got cleaned today too, I got one bed ready for planting (complete with edging, and all thanks to Morag the Mantis) AND the new to me sit on mower arrived (name suggestions?) 

Getting ready for season 3 seems to be the name of the game. Not sure I am ready for the hard graft yet…

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