All posts by Stephen Cullen

This Blog is a record of my love of the countryside, all things in it, especially old tractors, growing good food, drinking good tea and taking time out to enjoy life.

Residents In My Rhubarb

I had no idea as I am visiting my allotment so infrequently at the moment, but a fellow allotmenteer told me that I had Blackbird that had set a nest in my Rhubarb. I did indeed have a Blackbird in my Rhubarb, and she was sitting on four eggs. I left them alone for over a week and have been today to see that the nest is now empty. Hopefully, all four and the parents are doing ok and I look forward to the extra members of the choir when I’m listening to the Blackbirds singing.

First Earlies

I’m sure that I am planting potatoes early this year. I think I will have to look back in my diaries at some point to search for previous years’ plantings. The weather (apart from yesterday’s sleet) has been really mild, and as the sun shone today, the earth was dry – perfect time to get some spuds in.

As every season I am growing “Arran Pilot” again. They have chitted nicely. With a helping of organic fertiliser in the bottom of each trench they are now planted and earthed-up.

This particular raised bed is not quite wide enough to take three rows of potatoes but I managed to get all the remaining onions sets into the remaining space, which was nice.

It is nice to get the hands into soil again.

 

Spring has Sprung!

It has been a very mild and wet winter, it is always great to see the first ‘greens’ of spring.

There are currently restrictions on personal travel, movements and a ban on all social gatherings due to “Corvid-19” or The Corona virus. However, one is allowed one exercise per day;  taking advantage of this unusually warm weather it is time to start planting, getting out into the garden and the allotment. The Rhubarb is shooting away again, as it has every year. I will take a couple of stalks shortly to try in a pie. (That is, unless there is a total lock-down and everyone is not allowed out of their houses).

I had purchased my onion sets for this year some time ago and had left them in trays in the greenhouse. This year I am trying a couple of varieties for the first time – A white onion called “Snowball” and a coloured onion called “Pink Panther” both of which I cannot wait to see how they get on. I have also planted the usual “Sturon” and “Red Barron”. I have most sets in the ground now with only about one hundred remaining to plant.

Potatoes this year are “Aran Pilot”, which I grow every year. To me it is the finest First Early, but my second early and main I have not tried before, they are “Cara” and “Charlotte” both of which I am looking forward to getting in the ground very shortly.

No more rain please

Well, yet again the rain gods frowned upon the last day of this course fishing season. Again, I spent the final days in Wessex. After a couple of days without rain, the river had fallen back into it’s banks and although still flowing quite fast, I ventured forth to give it a try.

What a fool! As I strode from the car in brilliant warm sunshine I wondered why no other anglers were to be seen? It was not long until I found out. I first setup with a float but the current was just too fast, so I re-tackled the rod with a feeder. As I was re-baiting the hook I heard what I thought was the wind really getting stronger through the trees. However, as I looked up I was met with quite literally a wall of white! sleet, and it was really heavy. This was accompanied by a couple of loud rumbles of thunder. It did not take long before I was soaked – no I had not brought a coat or umbrella as the weather was so nice at the start of the day. The only thing I caught today was the beginning of a bad cold.

The next day was spent at a pond, and although I was treated to the first real Blackbird song of the day (full verse and chorus) I did not catch a thing.

As my cold developed on final day of the course fishing season I just had to drive home, sneezing all the way.

Never mind, there is always June 16th to look forward to.

Bringing In The Crops

It has been a while since I have made a chutney from my surplus crops. This has been due to the fact that the past two years have really not been that productive. This year has been very different indeed. Although some fruit and veg have still not produced as well as in previous seasons, I have had a bumper crop of tomatoes; so it’s time for Christmas chutney making.

I’ve grown a number of different tomato varieties this year. As per previous chutney’s that I have made, I am including a bowl of dates, raisins, two cayenne chillies for a little bit of after-heat taste, two bell peppers, muscovado sugar, fresh rosemary, two small tea spoons of mustard, red and white onions, and a bottle of malt vinegar. This is all cooked down for three hours and carefully deposited into oven-hot glass jars. The sharp vinegar taste will disappear completely after these have matured for a couple of Months, and will be grand on the table at Christmas. I will as ever, keep aside a jar for the final day of the course fishing season on the 14th March 2020. I can’t wait to try it now with a slab of cheese, or even better a good quality pork pie, but one must wait.