Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Piccies, new work branch, plot updates and Balance Sheet!

 Well, I must apologise for the lack of updates recently, starting in my new branch on Monday, attending a Managers Meeting on Wednesday and working my new (3 out of 4 weekends working) rota means I've been a tad bit busy to say the least! The new branch I'm working at is 25mins from home, along a route that is fairly traffic free, so Im saving a good hour a day on my commute, which is great! The branch itself is a smaller one than my last, with a slightly smaller team, but I have to say that it is exceptionally well designed, well laid out and looked after by the team and so far appears to have a fantastic team of highly committed staff! There's a few areas I've found that I need to look at, but nothing major, so the stress levels here will (I hope) be much reduced! I'm back in my old area now, working for an Area Manager I've known for 20 years, who was originally my store manager, and was instrumental in developing me to progress within my career, which is great, not only because I know and trust the guy, but also because I find his style of management one that gets the best out of me, he's supportive when needed, but challenges you to deliver and is always pleasant to deal with, so I'm looking forwards to seeing how the next few months develop at work!

Anyhows, my new rota means I dont get the same 2 days off every week, I get 1 weekend from every 4 off and a 2 day break on a Weds / Thurs every month, plus 2 days off a week for the other 2 weeks, so not as many days off with hubby as I'd like, but a small price to pay for a much reduced commute! This week Lee, Pat, Colin and Sarah did the bee inspections on Wednesday (whilst I was at a Managers Meeting), and were able to take 23 frames of capped honey from the hives, which we all extracted on Wednesday night! 2 of the batches (from hives 2 and 3) were lovely smooth light coloured honey, but the 3rd batch (from Hive 6) appeared to be very heavy, possibly 'rape seed' honey, and looks like it will granulate very quickly, so we are thinking of using this to make a few gallons of mead! In total it appears we extracted about 70lb of honey, 20lb of which is the rape seed honey, so the 50lb from hives 2 and 3 will be bottled on Wednesday next week! They also reported that they think there will be more frames ready to extract next week, so fingers crossed we may yet get a good honey harvest this year!

I got up this morning to a lovely clear and bright day, although a bit chilly, its that time of year when the dew hangs heavy on the grass in a morning, the first autumn fruits are ripening in abundance and the feel is that summer is giving way to autumn, so after Lee had headed off to work I took Bella out for her morning walk, and brought along my camera to take a few piccies (inspired by a friend of ours whos been producing some excellent pictures, Jim)

Walking Bella along the Manchester Ship Canal I spotted this marker buoy, which with the reflections looked as if it was floating in the air, as Im always one for a photo out of the ordinary I thought Id snap it, what do you think?

The industrial buildings the other side of the canal, in Irlam, were beautifully reflected in the still waters of the canal, so again I snapped it!

And finally another reflection, this time of the chimney!

The Rowab trees hereabouts seem absolutely dripping with ripe fruit now, its one of the things I associate with autumn, yet they are very early this year, usually large crops of Rowan berries means we're in for a long harsh winter!

The rosehips are also ripening, another sign of the encroaching autumn!

Dew on the Rosebay Willowherb (at least I think it is, its something the bees are visiting very regularly as it provides a high nectar flow)

I hope you find the piccies to your liking, photography is something I enjoy, but rarely get the chance to go out and take piccies, or to display them! A few months ago at the Stockport BBKA meeting we had a talk on photographing bees, with a practical session, at which we were allowed to take our cameras into their apiary and then the resulting digital images were critiqued by the guest speaker, a beekeeper who is also chairman of the Stockport Photography Club. I was glad to have my pictures approved, and delighted when he invited me ti join the Photography Club, but unfortunately working a rota means its not possible atm for me to do so! However, at the Honey Show in November there is a photography competition, so I will be entering that! I was fortunate the other day to be loaned the use of a 100mm macro lens for my cannon, so I had a quick play with it today, capturing a couple of images of our bees having a drink, I'm hoping that next Wednesday I'll be able to take it into the apiary to see if I can get some prizewinning photos for the show!

This was the first of the 2 piccies Im happy with, it was a difficult picture to take because of the backlighting, but with the position of the sun at the time I was taking them, it was impossible to take it from another angle!

This was the second piccy I am happy with, you can see the bees tongue taking a drink! These piccies look even better if you click on them to view at full size!

Anyhows, onto todays harvest and some piccies from around the plot!

Just a bit to pack into the car for the journey home! 12 lb toms, 5lb spuds, the first 2 sweetcorn. 4 peppers, 4 chillies, 4 turnips, 2 swede, about 2lb broad beans, 3lb of french beans, chard, spinach, broccolli, 2 cabbages and a few courgettes!

Potato harvest from just 3 plants! I'm very happy with this, especially as this was from the second earlies, which got blight and succumbed!

All to be processed for winter useage, apart from the sweetcorn, which we will be having tonight for tea!

Broccolli and cabbages, 1 savoy and 1 golden acre primo!

We're taking about this amount of toms every couple of days now, there's plenty on the plants, but they are very late ripening this year!

So, onto the plots! The courgettes are still producing quite well, I took another 18 of them today, some the size of small dogs! I'm going to turn a lot of these into ratatouille (with the toms) and soup (with garlic and spuds), both of which will be frozen for use throughout the winter!

The mid sewn broadies are about finished now, the late sown are just starting to crop!

The late sown peas are now beginning to pod, for the first time ever we've managed to successional sow peas to maintain a good fresh supply, plus be able to freeze some for the winter!

The early sown dwarf french beans are still cropping like mad, and the climbing french beans are also now producing a good amount!

The late sown runner beans are now starting to crop, the borlottis are podding up nicely..........

.......... and the early sown runners are romping away, producing far too many beans! We gave away bags of beans, turnip, spuds, cabbage and other stuff to Yo and Bobn and Mark and Craig when they came to the BBQ at the weekend, but we've still got lots left to harvest!

The cabbage beds are still fairly full, we've been harvesting cabbages for our and friends use, but theres still more coming on behind, ad the main broccolli beds are still producing enough florets to do us about 6 portions of broccolli a week!

The sprouts arent looking too bad this year, even the purple ones are now producing tiny sprouts! Cant wait till they are at edible size, I love sprouts!

The chard and spinach is still doing well, we've been taking a bit for use in pasta dishes, but still plenty coming on for future use!

The hothouse is still standing, the aubergines are just about ripe, so Ill be harvesting them soon, theres lots of peppers and chillies coming on too, with several that will be ready to harvest next week!

The toms in the greenhouses had a collapsing fit when the support string broke, I tried to rehang them, but after breaking the first stem I let them alone, it looks untidy, but they are still producing fruit!

Plot 2 looks a lot more empty, yet in fact there's only 2 empty beds! The foliage from the spuds has now been cit back, we should be harvesting them next week! The beds the onions and garlic came from are currently empty, apart from 1 with the maincrop carrots in it, and the only real crops left are the greenhouse crops, the broccolli beds, the raspberry fedge, the fartichokes and the pumpkin / squash and sweetcorn beds!

Plot 2's greenhouse, still lots of toms, even if some of them are now growing in a heap!

The sweetcorn and squashes are really doing well! The first 2 sweetcorn were harvested today, they are jusy going in the pan now!

Lots more corn to come..............

... some of which is almosy ripe! Looks like it could be our best ever year for sweetcorn!

Pumpkins are also looking good...........

.............. as are the butternut squashses! Sooon be ripe enough to harvest!

So, although the nights are drawing in, the weather is beginning to feel autumnal and the weeds are becoming a problem, there's still plenty of crops still to harvest over the next few weeks!

As I've not produced a balance sheet for a while I thought I'd include one in todays post!

Balance Sheet Update - 27th August 2010

Total Veg Plot Costs 2010

Rent + Subs for 2 full plots £100
Seeds £20
Seed Spuds £20
Onion Sets £6
Growbags £15
Chicken Manure Pellets £8
Plastic 'wannabe' Polytunnel £61
Bamboo Canes £8
Flower Plants £28
Scaffolding Boards £100
Watering Cans £8
Soft Fruits £16
Clematis £10
Arbour materials £ 40
Cold Frames (2) £30 (1/2 price at Argos)
Redcurrant £7.50
Birdhouse £7
Birdfeeders (for arbour) £10

Total Costs £ 504

Next years costs should be significantly less than this year, as we wont be building the arbour, buying the polytunnel or cold frames or scaffolding boards!

Total Veg Plot Harvests 2010

Rhubarb £ 35
Fartichokes £ 4
Volunteer Spuds £15
First Early Spuds £15
Second Early spuds £10
Lettuce £14
Radish £15
Garlic £85
Strawberries £65
Raspberries £35
Blackberries £10
Peas £40
Broad Beans £52
Courgettes £85
French Beans £65
Red Onions £20
White Onions £50
Cabbages £15
Peppers £9
Chillies £4
Tomatoes £35
Turnip £13
Runner Beans £36
Broccolli £25
Apples £12
Plums £5
Sweetcorn £2
Chard / Spinach £2

Total Veg Plot Harvests £ 766

So, a total nett profit of £ 272 so far this year, with a large amount of harvests still to come! The toms are definitely late this year, we've still a large amount of fruit on the plants in the greenhouses and polytunnel, but its very slow to ripen, however, at least they have started to crop about 10lb or so twice a week now!

I'm working for the next 4 days, but then I;ve got Wednesday and Thursday off, so I'm hoping to be able to post a couple of full updates then, but if I get the chance to get to the plot over the weekend for half an hour I'll see if I can get a quick update in for you!

Hope your crops are harvesting well and your balance sheets are healthy! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

40th Birthday BBQ on the plot!

 Today dawned bright and sunny, a glorious day for Lee's 40th Birthday and the plot summer BBQ! I'd arranged with Pat and Colin for them to decorate the shed with some 40th birthday paraphenalia that one of our best friends had brought over for me (thankyou Mark and Craig, it was really appreciated), so I had to get Lee clear of the area until at least 12ish, which I did by dragging him round B&Q (for some wood to make a couple of birdhouses and a bat box from, which they didnt have in the correct sizes!) and Tescos (for some BBQ stuff). We decided to drop the BBQ stuff at the allotment before coming home to fetch the BBQ and a few othr bits n bobs (cutlery, condiments and booze - non alcoholic for me as I was driving)!

 I'm sure Lee was half expecting something to be waiting for him, (as he got me with a decorated greenhuse on my 40th), but as we drove up to the plot (with several plotholders shouting happy birthday to him as we passed), I'm sure he wasnt prepared for the great work Pat and Colin had put in!  (Many thanks you guys, a fab job!)

 As you can see, he was very happy with the results, like me he doesnt think anyone is going to make a fuss, he doesnt like to be the center of attention, but he took it in his stride! We dropped off the stuff for the BBQ, then came home to fetch our BBQ and a few other bits, before returning to the plot for 2pmish!

 By 3pm a few folks had arrived and the tables from the cabin had been bought out and the 2 BBQ's lit! 2 dear friends of ours, Yo and Bob (and their gorgeous 17 month old daughter, Esther) arrived shortly after, preceeded by 3 of my team from the branch I had just left, who brought a great prezzie, a keyring with an enamel bee and a watering can, guess the plot keys are going to look cool on it!! We met Yo and Bob through the GYO Magazine's online forum, the Grapevine, where after conversing in cyberspace we met up and became firm friends! Yo and Bob invited us to their fabulous wedding, held at Yo's folks farm in Todmorden, and their wedding prezzie was a days digging at their allotment in Huddersfield (which we organised with about 7 other folks from the Grapevine)

 Esther was resplendant in her 'Queen Bee' outfit, (worn in honour of Lee being a beekeeper) and had driven here singing 'Old Lee Dobby had a farm, Ei, Ei, Oo!'

 Esther took am instant liking to the Koppaberg cider, though thankfully it was one of the alcohol free versions that we were drinking! Lol!

 In total there were about 23 of us there, plotholders, and their families and friends, enjoying the August sunshine, good food, good company and some gorgeous wines (Dave brought some fab Rhubarb wine homebrew, and Pat brought some of her Elderflower Champagne, both were very well received!)

 The Birthday boy enjoyed himself immensely, until after we'd satiated appetites on jacket spuds, sweetcorn, greek salad, burgers, sausages, chicken, chinese ribs, crisps, scones and cream, Pat then pulled out the pieste da resistance, 3 cakes, a chocolate sponge, a vannila cream sponge and a strawberry gateaux!

 'Ta Da!!' Compl;ete with 40th sign and candles - tho not 40, we wouldnt want to cause too much global warming with the number of candles used!

 As you can see, 40th on the cakes!

Birthday Boy gets to blow them out, and make a speech! 'Erm, plot needs weeding...... anyone wanna give me a lift?'! Lol!

All in all a great day, Lee got some fab birthday gifts, a bottle of Jamesons, a pyrography kit (for making plant labels next year), socks, 2 belts, a very nice bottle of port, a fab extrabright led wind up torch, a fleece, a wall mounted thermometer and a large wall mounted clock (for the plot), a personalised pen, a tool box and the keyring with the enamel bee and watering can charms on it! I've also managed to bag him a load of homebrew gear off ebay, so we'll be picking that up on Wednesday, just in time to start some Elderberry wine off!

Hope you get the chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours with fellow allotmenteers and friends on your plots, thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Greenmen, Building a Hedgehog House & Pruning the Trees!

 So, we're on holiday for the weekend as its Lee's 40th birthday tomorrow, and he's already had one prezzie, a sting on his head from one of the bees! Lol! Today we spent the day on the plot doing a few jobs (including securing the frog guards for the compost bin to the front of plot 1), but tomorrow we're at the plot for a BBQ, although we may get a few more jobs done aswell beforehand!

 The Greenmen plaques I got through ebay arrived on Friday, so first job today was to put them up, 3 at the front of the arbour and 1 to the side where it joins onto the shed! They are really nice, cast in frost proof material and done in a 3d relief style, just finish the arbour off really well!

 This one is Spring, apt anough as its to the East, the usual direction (in the northern hemisphere) of youth, spring and waxing life)..............

 .. the next one is Summer, at the next point of the circle, facing south on the corner of the arbour, towards where the sun is at midday!

 Next is Autumn, in the center of the arbour.........

 ........ and finally is Winter, to the far side of the arbour! I think we both agree they look really good, not only hiding the joints between the bars that make up the arbour, but also giving the structure a pagan feel that is in keeping with our own beliefs and in keeping with our organic ways of working the plot!

Once we'd done this, we decided to finally get round to building the hedgehog house in the corner near to Apiary 2 (on Plot 1)

 We started by using 2 of the old solid floors from the beehives (that the original hives came with when we bought them 2nd hand 2 years ago), 1 for the floor and 1 for the roof. Then we built the side walls from bricks we brought from home (see, hoarding things you dont use is GOOD! Lol!), 2 courses high above the 18" square floor, with a side entrance that runs to the front (this entrance tunnel provides safety from predators and also stops the wind from blowing straight into the main hibernation area!

 We used an offcut of piping to provide a ventilation hole, which would poke out through the side back wall once the house is burried in bark chippings!

 The center was then filled with nesting materials, straw and leaf mulch, to keep the hibernating hedgehog warm and comfortable! We used empty plastic sacks to provide waterproofing......

 ............. then ensuring the accessway is clear.............

 ........... we fitted the second hive floor as a roof..............

 .............. before burying the whole thing under a pile of bark chippings, which should provide good insulation! On fetching the bark chippings I found the offcut of log, so thought it would make a good feature to top the hoghouse off (and give me somewhere to put a sign on in the future!)

 Hopefully one or two of the hedgehogs from the allotment will decide its a des res and move in soon, but only time will tell!

 After that we decided it was time to tackle the overgrown fruit trees at the side of plot 1. We've been trying to prune them back to a more manageable size since we took the plot over 18 months ago, but despite our best efforts we've not had a great deal of fruit from them, so we decided the time for drastic measures has now arrived......

 .......... armed with secateurs, loppers and a saw.............

 .............. this is what Lee did to the fruit trees! Hopefully this should allow them to grow in a better way, although part of the problem is the overshadowing from the trees beyond the plot boundary, so after tackling another small job on one of the newer planted apple trees.....

 .......... namely building a support system to try and pull one of the branches back a bit so it doesnt grow forwards over the bed...........

 ...... we then set about chopping back some of the overhanging branches to allow a lot more light into the side of plot 1!

 Some of the trees that were overhanging are very tall, and cast a lot of shade, so the only way we could reach one of the worst offending branches was to hook the extended ladders over a branch, and rest them ontop of the 4' high compost bins at the side of plot 1! This is not really a recommended way of working, but other than call out a tree surgeon (which we cant as its not our land that the trees are growing in), there was no other way to tackle it!

 Success! It was quite a big branch, but removing it has let in a lot more light, so hopefully our fruit trees will have a better chance of growing in a better shape now!

 Ooops! The hothouse yet again needed emergancy repair work!

Which I managed to do without too much difficulty, at least its only got to last us till the end of this growing season, next year we've the new coldframes to grow the peppers / chillis and aubergines in!

At this point it started to rain a bit, so after watering in the greenhouses and harvesting about 10lb of toms, we decided to call it a day! Not sure if I'll get an update done tomorrow, as we're BBQing and its Lee's 40th birthday, but I'll get some piccies and hopefully be able to share them with you on Monday, after my first day at my new branch!

Hope your crops are still doing well, and that your weed infestation is much less than ours! Thanks for reading!