Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Nutty weather

This must be the longest cold snap we have had in decades, I cannot believe that it is Easter and Scotland and N.Ireland are being swept by blizzards (although we have had snow on my birthday when I was a child; end of April; when we lived near London). The Cairngorm ski resort is closed down because of the conditions and thousands of people are without power! Even down here we are not exempt from the conditions. I had a particularly exciting drive across Bodmin moor yesterday morning in blizzard conditions. The temp gauge in the car dropped 6 degrees in under 30 miles/40 minutes as I drove from home up to the moor. Yesterday and today we have gale force winds and sleet, hail and the odd snow shower!, last night the temp dropped to 1 degree and today it hasn't got above 3! Thank goodness we looked ahead before planting out seeds last weekend, shall have to wait a bit before the spuds, runner beans and shallots go out! All the lovely daffs that had come out are now battered and broken and our poor hen (who hasn't been herself recently and maybe coming to the end) is really fed up and crouches in a sheltered outbuilding all day.

Apparently the Met Office are no longer going to do seasonal forecasts as they have been badly bitten with their mistakes over the last two years; remember our barbecue summer last year and our mild winter this winter! However, I saw a report on one news website that said a group of academic forecasters who rightly predicted the terrible weather we have had over the last 2 years have said it will be a hot dry summer. Difficult to imagine it at the moment and I am not holding my breath, but it would be nice to not be cold any more!

Edited Wednesday 31st March. Dartmoor has a snowy top and Exmoor does too. Still bitterly cold, very very very very windy! What an end to March.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Green and Yellow (with a bit of history thown in!)

When it was still dry, and we hadn't had rain until last week for some time; the farmers were busy spreading muck on the fields to fertilise them in readiness for silaging and summer grazing. It was a bit smelly but you get used to these things. Until the rains came, the fields were very brown and dry and the mud was the fields are green again and you can tell which ones have been fertilised and which ones haven't, there are definitely different 'greens' out there. (The field in the the background of this picture has been 'mucked' the field in the foreground hasn't)

An interesting story about this part of the world and relating to fertilising the fields is that centuries ago this area; from Hartland across to Bideford and down to Launceston (Lanson) and back across to about Wadebridge; was very rough ground and mostly heath and moor land, you can still see it today in fields which have not been managed. The land was pretty much unusable (probably why this area is still relatively 'remote') and the only way the farmers could make it productive was of course to use fertiliser. The best fertiliser for this land was sand, so farmers would go down to the beaches in their carts along the dirt tracks to get the sand, you can only imagine how much work this was. Then in the early 1800's someone had an idea to create a canal that would bring sand in from the coast to the inland farms. This eventually (after alot of work, planning and trying to find funds) resulted in the Bude canal, a small part of which can still be seen at Bude. Tamar lakes near to Kilkhampton were created as feeder lakes for the canal. Sadly when the railways came (and of course round here went; they had a shorter life here than the canal did) the canal was no longer financially viable. If you are interested in the Bude canal and its history, I can recommend 'The Bude Canal' by Helen Harris and Monica Ellis (1972!). Fascinating reading, the feats of engineering are quite amazing. The map above shows the route of the canal in red (taken from the internet), the picuture to hte left shows the remaining part of the canal by the sea at Bude Also interesting (and equally sad in its way) are histories of the railway in this Bude/Holsworthy area. Just a note to say, that generally this land is used for stock rather than arable farming, and you can see the moorland trying to take over in places still. If the farmers stopped grazing the land and fertilising it, it would soon revert to how it was 200 years ago.

OK, so enough history and 'green', what about the yellow. Well the spring flowers are now making a real effort, thanks to the rain and the odd bit of sun. I just hope that with the forthcoming cold spell over next week, it doesn't put everything back again (apparently Spring flowers are late this year). We would normally have planted our runner bean seeds (under cover) by now, but we will wait until it gets warmer again. Have been busy digging though and the veggie beds are looking good and all will be ready when it is time to plant out.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Spring is on its way.

Oh dear, 6 weeks since my last post, it has been very busy with work for both of us and just no time to keep this up to date; must do better (reminds me of my school reports!).

Been trying to get the veggie plots up to scratch again, lots of compost from our own little heap and some lovely well rotted chicken do dos that has been maturing for over a year in plastic bags in an outbuilding - nice! Had I heard about it in time we would have done the no dig method of gardening - look it up. It's too late now, but will definately look at it for next year, but will need to start collecting the chicken do dos again! Have planted marigold seeds out and getting ready to do peas, runner and french beans soon. I would have done this a while ago, but up until less than a week ago we were having severe frosts and night time temps of minus 5. Have to say mind you that we have very impressive coriander going in the porch which has survived the cold nights very well.

Been on some lovely walks round Hartland way and M bought one of those silly foil kites (the ones that lift you off the ground) so we have been flying that from the fields (in amongst the silage, yes it's spreading time again and they always seem to do it when I have the washing out, some of our clothes have a lovely 'eau de countryside' aroma about them!). The kite is great and can really pull you around, you have to keep tight hold of it as if it crashes it can seriously damage it (and anyone standing underneath it I expect), it certainly makes your arms and shoulders ache. We also took it to the beach yesterday, but the wind wasn't really strong enough and you do have to keep an eye out for stray small children or dogs that might get swept off the ground if it flys too low... lots of fun.

The snowdrops are out and have been for a while, and we have crocuses. In the last couple of days the first primroses have poked their faces out, they obviously think Spring is here, but I do wish it would get a bit warmer, we are still very cold with a fierce (most of the time) easterly or northerly wind; really had enough of being cold now. The cats are enjoying the sun though. This is a picture of Charlie enjoying some rare spring sunshine!

The yellow hammer is also back, he/she disappeared for ages, so its really nice to hear it again, only not so early in the morning. We also have a chaffinch, this is a newbie as I haven't heard him/her before round here, so the word has obviously got round that this is a nice place to stay. On the subject of birds we still have only one hen we just haven't had the time to go and get any more; it looks as though the two Easter weeks are going to be quiet on the work front as most of my work at the moment is with people in the tourism and leisure industry (not surprising really bearing in mind where we live) and they won't want to see me over the Easter hols; so it should be a good time to introduce some more birds to our hen house. We are not sure that our current incumbent will be very pleased as she gets all the food and all the treats, but it will be good for her to share again!

Meanwhile I have been trying to get on top of my wine collection and have now bottled the banana (15% ABV) and racked off the gorse (25% ABV - that can't be right) and the primrose (our own flowers, I didn't destroy the wild ones of course). The banana looks good but tastes of just alcholol, maybe it needs to be treated like a vodka, but it is a bit disapointing, I think I left it on the lees (the yeast and bits) too long.

I have also restarted to use my bead loom, something I learned from my sister who in turn learned it from the native Cree in Northern Canada. Sadly my eyesight is not what it was and even with glasses it is difficult. I am going to get myself a proper loom and some slightly larger beads and keep at it. I do find it quite relaxing. Photos will follow.

Right must stop procrastinating and go back to some work.