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The good, the bad and the beautiful

The good, the bad and the beautiful

The good: it’s been raining. In fact we have had rain every day in March except 13th. This means the grass is green, the well is full and there are puddles galore for Jussi on her walks. The saplings we put in are beginning to show the very first signs of life.

The seed sowing has been slightly delayed this year until it’s a tad warmer, but those on the kitchen windowsill are coming through.  Each of the sweetcorn has just germinated, I can taste those already. The purple sprouting broccoli is out and being eaten (by us!) and the lettuce, radishes, rocket (and some nettles) are thriving in the demipoly:

The bad: it’s been raining. In fact we have had rain every day in March except 13th. This means the hens and roasties, and even the ducks, spend more time sheltering despite so much lush grass to eat. The broad beans are up and flowering but the flowers look rather soggy and there doesn’t seem to have been many insects about, I’m waiting for the first pod to appear. The peas are bedraggled. The raised beds in the veg patch, it seems not that long ago, were looking great but the weeds love this weather and are slowly taking over:

The beautiful: but we have had some sunny intervals, enough for the spring flowers to appear:

And the blackthorn at the end of the garden has put on a marvellous snowy, showy spectacle:

We have left it too late to clean out the bird boxes as the blue tits are already making themselves at home. And on the morning walks nothing is nicer than hearing the Song Thrush echo down the valley. They have normally gone by now, being winter visitors, but it seems they have decided to stay this year. How nice:

Away with May

Away with May

I mentioned in the previous post that most of the beds would have been filled with little plants by now, but this year I was waiting. The reason for that was because we had decided to take a two week break in May for the first time, rather than in September. I didn’t want the (wonderful!) people looking after the house, dogs and hens to also have responsibility for the veg patch. So the plan was to put in as much as possible before leaving, and then to buy little plugs as soon as we got back. Well, the rain put an end to that. I did put in some plants: courgettes, gherkins and some buttercup squash. But it was far too cold and wet to risk anything else. Already planted were the broad beans, peas (we were just starting to eat those) plus runner beans and broccoli (calabrese) and we were just finishing the asparagus.


Coming back we discovered it’d rained like mad in our absence, so much for May bringing sunnier weather. The garden looked like a jungle: the weeds had grown and flourished; the bushes, trees and flowering plants had also burst forth in a frenzy of leaves and blossom. It looked rather charming in an unkempt, shabby chic kind of way. So we spent the next two days doing exactly what we did before leaving. Richard donned overalls, earmuffs and glasses and got started with the strimming, and I raked and mulched.

The hens weren’t too sure about their new botanical garden, they’ve started jumping out again despite being caught by Betty and so we’ve had to add reinforcements to their fencing and gate.


Then the horrid weather returned, what a rotten spring. We discovered the honesty plants by the pond were completely covered with caterpillars, the great white butterflies had been busy. There were dozens of long stripey green creatures all over the leaves and stems. These were pulled off and thrown to the frogs in the pond, lucky frogs.


Meanwhile, down in the veg patch, there were mixed results. The rain meant that the broad beans and peas continued growing and despite a tangled mass of pods and stems we’ve managed to have quite a few meals from them. There are even broad beans in the freezer. Next year I shall sow fewer of those, more of the peas, and stake them all up. Really pleased too that none of the plants suffered from any pests or diseases, and not a single maggot in any of the pods!


The broccoli too has grown amazingly and hurrah! no problems with either the ants or the moths’ larvae from last year, just ten huge plants. Just as well as I’d molly coddled them all spring. They’d been planted with plastic rings around each stalk (to keep the moths from laying eggs at the base of each plant) and a handful of oyster shells to keep the slugs off. They’d also been planted in a bed I’d started mulching with compost from last year and which, when I put them in, was also covered with newspaper and more grass cuttings. Whether it’s luck or all these things have paid off I don’t know but they are the healthiest plants I have grown.


The strawberries are doing well too. Some of them have been eaten, I think by the voles, but there are plenty for all of us. The runner beans are climbing and have little yellow flowers on but otherwise the rest could do with a good dose of sunshine, the courgettes in particular still look rather pathetic.

Today was spent pulling up the garlic and red onions. I think we got about 80% of the onions, and perhaps just a third of the garlic. A real shame as we’ve never lost anything before but those winter rains really didn’t help. Those that have survived look good, so that’s something. They have been replaced with tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and chillies. In today loads of squash too, buttercup and butternut, plus some melons. Must just remember to sow some brussel sprouts.

Tomorrow though is summer, it has never been more welcomed.

The waiting game

The waiting game


We are waiting. We are waiting for the buds to open, for the leaves to unfold, for the blossom to burst forth and for the clouds to disappear. We are waiting for the meadows to be blanketed with wildflowers. What a wet spring! A real damp squib of a season. Drizzles, downpours and drenches. Enough, no more. ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. The tulips have failed to become a mini Keukenhof in a pot, the forsythia (which was a huge flaming bush of gold last year) has only a smattering of flowers and the pond has almost overflowed, at least the frogs are happy. So don your wellies and come down to the veg patch and see what’s happening there.

Actually, not a lot! There are beds of yellow and red onions, not looking toooo bad but the garlic has suffered terribly and I fear has rotted in the mud despite being in raised beds. There are things growing though and we are eating some home grown stuff, including the purple sprouting broccoli:


We are also eating the asparagus on a daily basis. Other crops are growing, some peas have somehow come through the wet weather and have pods on.


But the most dramatic crop is the fava, or broad beans. They’ve gone mad! They have never been too successful and I put the blame on buying English seeds. So, having had a good trial run last year, I sowed a whole load of seeds bought locally. The packet suggested putting 3 in a hole. Well, perhaps I should’ve thinned them because everything germinated and grew and grew. The wind and hailstones from the winter knocked everything over but they simply grew again with twisted stems. Onwards and upwards. They are taller than me, really. Should you have staked them, Richard asks. Imagine!


They have fallen over the paths and carried on growing, it’s impossible to walk past them. The triffid bean.  We’ve picked a few of the pods but they need to grow more as the beans were rather small inside but I have no doubt, once the sun does come out properly, that we will have fava beans until the cows come home.

Which is just as well as there is only one bed that has been planted this year. That’s where you can find the runner beans and the calabrese.  The former is very slow indeed, struggling to climb up the poles but the latter are doing well, hurrah.


Otherwise most of the empty beds have been dug over and remulched with cardboard, grass,  straw and or compost. I’m determined to keep both the moisture and the goodness in. (I am ignoring the fact that the voles have returned). Previous years these have been full of little plants but this year I’m waiting. There are a few things in pots in the polytunnel also waiting, including courgettes and, a first for me, some gherkins.

Anyway, ending on a positive note the wait for the nightingales is over, they arrived a few days ago. Let’s hope their song brings spring as well as a mate.

Gloomy June

Gloomy June

chickenThere’s an air of despondency here at the Casa Azul horta. It’s the middle of June and everything should be about to burst into fruitfulness but, alas, everything is rather soggy and, like me, feeling sorry for itself. For this morning’s early morning walk I donned waterproofs and wellies. Call this summer?

So what’s the state of play now? Well, most of the onions and all the garlic have now been pulled up. The garlic survived the wet winter and spring better than expected but the onions are rather small. They were all hanging out to dry but are now back in the barn where it’s dry. The potatoes have all sprouted into bushes but they are so small too, have no idea what kind of crop we’ll get. Our neighbour said that those he knew who’d planted their potatoes before the rain have nothing, those who waited have got half. I also waited and it seems likely that it’ll be half a crop for us too. The delay has meant that they won’t be pulled up until next month this year, I had worried that this’ll be too late for the leeks who go in the bed next but I have to admit that they too look rather feeble.

This time two years ago we were sun drying the first lot of tomatoes! Ha ha they may have flowers on them now but they have a long way to go yet.


Tiny toms and tatties…

The corn is up, their tassels are out and hoping to be germinated, again not as tall as last year. And the courgettes too are putting on a brave face, we’ve had a few this year already.


Meanwhile the asparagus, artichokes and purple sprouting broccoli have all come and gone. I have sown some more artichoke plants, these ones are now 4 years old and will need replacing soon.

So any good news from the horta? Well, we have raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and red currants. But veg wise? There are also aubergines, peppers, beans, cucumbers, melons and squash growing but nothing to eat from them yet. The chard bolted. The cauliflower and calabrese are also on the pathetic list. So not really. However, ever the great optimist, I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful July and we’ll be swamped with vegetables galore.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying the green grass and flowers, both in the garden and in the countryside. It’s just a shame the mornings are a touch damp for breakfast outside… roll on July!


Stormy weather

Stormy weather

We’ve had the most incredible stormy weather: gale force winds, hailstones and lashings of rain. It was with some trepidation that I set out this morning to walk the dog; what would the storm damage be? Well, actually very little. All the trees were still standing, as was the polytunnel (hurrah) and the chickens still had 4 eggs waiting for me. Only huge puddles gave a clue to the downpour. Or so I thought…

Emptying the rubbish into the compost bins I saw that their corrugated roofing had blown off despite being held down with heavy rocks, and then something caught my eye. What was that hanging in the corner olive tree? A large, black plastic bag? Approaching I saw it was part of the roofing from the potting shed. It been ripped off and blown into the tree, and another large patch was hanging off. So the next 10 minutes or so saw me clambering over the shed and trying to put it all back. Luckily I had just bought a new box of roof tacks, and luckily too the rain had briefly stopped but it was a battle against the wind and dark clouds were approaching. My first attempt saw the whole thing blow off again before I could tack it down but eventually I managed to bang it back on as large drops began to fall.

Now I have lived in a number of developing countries and got used to power cuts but no where, really, has been as bad as here. I knew that the electricity would go off last night when I heard the thunder rumbling overhead. Sure enough the first candle had just been lit when it went off. Back on and then off… and then this morning there was no water – again! I can’t believe that so much was falling from the sky and none was coming from the tap! I can (sort of) understand why the power goes but why the water goes too is a mystery. Ho hum!