A humdrum update

Work has been crazy the last few weeks and I have barely made it down to the allotment, let alone had time to post an update. Now however, this shall be rectified! Over the past few weeks the weather has been horrendous, repeated deluges, high winds and cold snaps so it has been difficult to have a clear day to do anything productive.

At the start of December, my long anticipated Plymouth Pear delivery arrived! It is approaching 5ft in height and the cutting has been grafted onto a dwarf quince rootstock. Surprisingly, the tree has arrived without a pot so as a temporary measure, I have planted it in the massive pot on the patio behind the greenhouse. It will have some protection from the worst of the wind whilst still being outside. Due to the continued flooding, I will be waiting to plant it out on the plot until the flood waters have reseeded.

The chickens have been doing well too. Unfortunately, Holly is currently under law supervision as it looks like she has gape worm. Cliff has been helping me dose her with cider vinegar in the hope she perks up. As an additional precaution, I have moved her into the greenhouse with Rey and Leia. Neither of the other two were particularly impressed with the new arrangements. So much so, that Leia shouted her disapproval for several hours on end. Rey had an attempt at being top of the pecking order, only for Holly to swiftly put her in her place despite having issues breathing! Hopefully Holly will improve over the next day or so.

A couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of my husband being free for a day and we managed to start digging over the plot. We got about a third done before calling it a day. The eternal joys of the British weather has curtailed any further digging as the rest of the plot is completely water-logged. After a surprising two days without rain, I managed to dig over another small section today. It wasn’t much and I gave up when I started to sink into the mud. If I sank, who knows if I would ever escape!

This weekend was also a long overdue clean out of the chicken coops. The greenhouse was done yesterday and is much quicker although constantly breaking up fights between Rey and Holly slowed the process considerably! The removal of old bedding is definitely the longest part of cleaning the greenhouse. As I was clearing stuff out, I discovered two green eggs! It turns out Rey has been laying in stealth mode! Just as I was about to give up on either her or Leia ever laying an egg – contrary animals!

The main coop was massively overdue for a clean. Taking advantage of the dry day, I cleared out the old bedding and removed all the internal boards. Coop cleaning in the winter has additional difficulties as the site taps have been turned off. This means all water required for cleaning either has to be lugged from home or from a waterbutt. Happily, all of our waterbutts are full (the only upside to the unending rain!) so I had a plentiful supply. I washed off all the boards with a diluted anti-mite fluid and thoroughly checked the ends of the perches. This is the favourite place for mites to lurk as they are close to their food source. No mites found but I still soaked both ends of the perches in anti-mite fluid for a minimum of an hour just to make sure! I then sprayed the inside of the nest box with anti-mite fluid before leaving it to dry. By this time a light breeze had begun and combined with the winter sunshine, the boards and box dried relatively quickly. I added a thick layer of sawdust to each nest box as well as a generous sprinkling of diatumous earth to stop the mites. As I was finishing Hattie came into inspect the nest box. After poking around for a few minutes, she left. I assume this means it is acceptable?

All the girls have been busy moulting over the last few weeks. Despite all of them finishing moulting over a week ago, there is still a distinct lack of eggs. So much so, that we have had to resort to buying eggs – the freeloading slackers! Honestly, what’s the point of owning chickens if you have to buy eggs from the shop?! I have had stern words with them and hopefully their new clean nest box will encourage them to get laying again.

All the new allotmenters have been busy. My friend Sarah and her family have taken over the top end of Sam’s old plot and have been busy planning for the spring. Ron’s old plot (previously Bentley Mick’s) has been taken over by a family who have transformed it from overgrown to fully functioning in mere days – it may even rival Phil’s this summer! We also have several new women on site who have taken over Mel’s and Keith’s old plots. All the old gang are plodding on although we only see chicken people for the next couple of months. Those that don’t need to be down every day are sensibly staying at home out of the torrential downpours.

It’s terrifying holding a chicken for the first time, especially if you are scared of birds!

As I write, I have several ideas for the next season. The shed will need repainting both internally and externally to ensure it continues to survive the harsh northern climes. We are also planning on upgrading parts of the main coop including finishing off the roof, fixing a leaking roof panel and putting down slabs beneath the nest box to stop its slow and inevitable sinking. I also hope to get some quail from the breeder that Phil got his from. They are stunning little birds and lay lovely eggs. I plan to copy Phil’s excellent idea of using an indoor guinea pig enclosure to keep them in. As for planting, I will chose a special spot for the Plymouth Pear and expand my fruit section to include lingonberries and possibly goji berries. Potatoes will be grown in pots after the success of last year and I might get another fruit tree. This year may also be the year I start my tea plant experiment. Watch this space!

So much to do and so little time! The end of January is the Allotment Federation’s annual seed sale. It has an amazing selection of seed potatoes, plants and seeds and I always end up maxing out my seed budget. Over the next week, I will, weather depending, finish digging over the plot and clear out all the old plants and rubbish.

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