Monthly Archives: January 2017

arc de triomphe…

No, not in chic Paris, but here on the holding.   The lovely OH has cracked on with erecting his home-made rebar pergola.  This not only adds structure to the garden but will provide support for some luscious climbing roses and clematis.  I love the way the rust colour of the bars mirrors the hues of the house bricks.

dsc_0024dsc_0025We’ve pushed ahead with pruning 2 more rows in the orchard….

dsc_0028and the potting shed has been cleared ready for sowing and propagation…

dsc_0027all systems go….



packing a punch…

Wassail 2017!

Okaaaay, confession time, we missed celebrating on the Twelfth night, (old Twelfth night that is, we’re well past the equivalent Gregorian calendar date).  To be fair it was very dark when we got back to the holding on the 17th so the wassail was rescheduled for the following day.

This year it’s ‘Dry January’, so we laid aside the mulled cider in favour of spiced apple punch, which is just as delicious.  To 1 litre of juice, (the last bottle that had been given to us by a local cidermaker), I threw in a couple of star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and some strips of orange peel, then simmered for 5 minutes and left to infuse for another 5.  We were also a bit shy on the bread front, (it’s a no wheat/dairy/caffeine month for me as well).  I eschewed hanging wraps or a pitta in favour of small slices of rye.  dsc_0010wassail2The lovely OH found a different toast this year…

Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!

WASSAIL the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum and many a pear:
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.

Keeping with tradition we toasted our Bramley in the old orchard, but this year, in the new orchard, it was the turn of the ‘Pitmaston Pineapple’, to receive the libation.

dsc_0014(Pitmaston still needs its winter prune…)

To round things off we started pruning the orchard – first row done!

Reading this week: The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

signs of new growth…

There is no better way to banish the January blues than to get outdoors and look out for new shoots. Yes, spring is a while away but today I saw the first snowdrops, just coming through, in the old orchard.  This early flowering cultivar is John Gray.  I bought a specimen ‘in the green’ last year from Ashwood Nurseries.  I’m pleased to see it has survived!

dsc_0018Garlic and rhubarb are both showing signs of growth.

dsc_0021dsc_0024We’ll be propagating from and transplanting our ‘Timperley Early’ this year.  This can be done in early spring or autumn, though as we need to prepare the new planting area at the end of the piggery it’s likely the move will be in the autumn.  I may add ‘Poulton’s Pride’ and ‘Sutton’ as these varieties are reputed to have very good flavour.

The globe artichokes came through the cold snap unscathed; I leave the flower heads on through the winter as a potential food source for the birds and an overwintering home for ladybirds.

dsc_0016dsc_0017New leaves are already appearing at the base.

The hazels are awash with catkins and tiny female flowers; looking hard I can see the tuft of red styles.

dsc_0015So lots of signs of new growth – spring will be here before we know it, so now is the time to kick back and have a breather before the main sowing season starts in earnest!


she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown