Monday 4 March 2013

Jam and Jerusalem

18 days in and we are still very much enjoying (and being amazed by) this lovely dry spell and we are getting as much outdoor time in as we can while it lasts. The current forecast from "Wet √Čireann" (as it was becoming called, really it is 'Met √Čireann', of course, the Irish Met Office) is that the rain returns on Wednesday but we can't complain now for a while - we've had the best innings ever for a Feb/March nearly-three-week spell.

My first 2 pics here show a before and after of the old compost site mentioned in a previous post. You can see what I mean about the rather unsightly and rushed construction based around an old fence line and loaded with compost more as a way of suppressing nettles and brambles than anything else. The triumph of hope over experience? When did you ever manage to kill nettles by piling 'rubbish' on top of them?

With the compost moved you can see that the space has now been leveled for use as a flower bed and is, in fact, already planted with some Crocosmia (Lucifer) which we had bought in Lidl's. The third pic shows the neater new arrangement. The 'good stuff' is held in behind the wooden paling fence and the nettle-y rubbish, now buried under some rabbit cleanings, held in by corrugated sheet. The chickens are on hand, as ever, to inspect. They loved it - all those worms! Our friend and Mentor, Anne actually grows worms in wormeries as a source of vital trace elements and key base proteins for their (many!) hens and estimate that each hen needs only 7 worms a day to meet that need. Anne was in that business (organic eggs) in a 'former life' and has all the scientific knowledge backing it up. On that basis, our hungry worm-guzzlers have had about a month's worth.

Along the outer edge of our Kitchen Garden we have created a row of currant and berry bushes which we hope will grow to form an edible hedge. I have seen this done before in Kent while judging the Environmental Action category of the Calor Gas "Village of the Year" competition where the team making it happen called it their Jam and Chutney Hedge. They had damsons, gooseberries, currant bushes and more in theirs. We do not have damsons in ours but the name still fits except that we started jokingly calling it the 'Jam and Jerusalem' Hedge and that name has now stuck.

So far this 'hedge' has been a bit of a piece-meal affair with the bushes going in at roughly the correct spacing as and when we bought or were given them. Liz today decided that this needed to be a proper 'project' and the line of the hedge should be more formally marked out with stones and weeded. She's been getting on with that, barrowing weeds round to the new composts, robbing stones from up the left side of the hay-barn and gathering good topsoil from the hay-rake bank. With this area being still on the flat and not yet a raised bed, it has been a damp job even after the days without rain.

Our main weeds in there are creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and good ol' couch grass, neither of which will happily let go the soil around their roots when damp. By comparison, I have been weeding around my allotment raised beds and I am delighted to find that the soil there has dried nicely enough to crumb up easily at the touch of a shuffle-hoe, and to fall easily off the buttercup, dock, annual grasses and nettles which are 'my' main weeds. It is pure joy weeding down there. We look up occasionally or call 'Coffee?' across the orchard to one another, and then meet up at the chairs by the nearly-pond to chat and sup in the warm sunshine.

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