Saturday, 20 May 2017

Never too old to learn

Watched an episode of gardeners world last night, such a perfect garden Monty Don has, I can but dream!
For some time I have been looking into organic ways of weed control. The programme showed the no dig method. I have been aware of this but not looked at how it works. This was brilliant and introduced in a simple way. He put a wooden frame on the lawn, filled it with compost and planted veg plugs! Basically you just keep covering the weeds around the growing veg with compost. Cutting the light kills them and they become compost as they rot. By continually doing this you eventually eradicate the weeds. By not digging you maintain the quality of the soil. This flies in the face of all I have believed about growing your own. I have even done double digging which is hard work.
I plan to start using this method. As I get older digging is harder and this method will mean I can keep growing my veg. It will be wonderful to move away from the weed patch!

My sock knitting, I managed to turn the heel but when looking at the sock realised I had dropped a stitch further back. It was not possible to recover it so I had to undo all my work and start again. I now know about the lifeline. You thread a piece of wool into a row which means you can undo back to that point. I will be using this before I turn the heel this time! Still enjoying this latest venture though.

My second bee hive has settled in and the bees are busy collecting pollen. The first hive is still strong too. Hoping for a good crop of honey this year. The next few sunny days I will open both hives to see how the honey production is going.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

And for the next project.......

firstly sorry still no pictures, just cannot figure out how to do it. I follow the instructions but cannot get to my album. One day maybe.
Meanwhile I started a new venture this last week. I have my first ever knitted sock underway! I have never knitted on a circular needle before and it took a bit of getting used to. I found a great facebook group that has been so helpful! Lots of newbie questions. I am really enjoying knitting the sock. A little concerned about turning the heel but know where to go for help. The other tricky bit will be knitting the second sock to match. There is a natural stripe in the wool I am using and I bought two balls so I can do one sock from each hoping it matches! There are some wonderful colours out there and I am longing to have hand knitted socks! No more cheap socks made by three year olds in China! It might be that I start a trend in unmatched socks!
I have also started another of Lucy's blankets. This is a ripple pattern and the colour way is called seaspray! Another beautiful combination of colours, blues, greens and silver. Him indoors just raises his eyes heavenwards! So I am now dividing my time between sock knitting and crochet. A happy place to be!
This afternoon we are off to spend time with a lovely French lady who helps us English with all things official! To fill in our tax forms. Normally him indoors does them but we have the complication of having sold our English house. It is too easy when dealing with a foreign language to do something wrong. We manage most of the paperwork but feel happier handing this one over!
Early summer is here with the days now much warmer. We no longer need the wood burner in the evenings and it is light until nearly ten pm. I love the softness of this time of year. Beginning to think of getting the shorts out!
We have an egg mountain just now! The chickens are doing well. We are not raising any chicks this year as need to reduce the number. We currently have eleven girls and four boys! The ducks are not doing so well as we have lost most of the girls this year and are left with various breeds of boys. Again I am not doing anything about this as need to restart with a small group. My pair of geese have failed to sit again but that is fine too. We are never going to eat any of the birds, they are here because I enjoy having them around.
The bees are doing well. The swarm I caught are happily settled in the new hive. The two hives are side by side  but the bees go to the right one. Even though the swarm came from hive one! Amazing little creatures. When I last checked the honey was not capped off so am leaving it a few more weeks.
The Elders are just coming into flower so I have stocked up on lemons to make the cordial. I need to make more as it did not last all year.
The Raspberries look like giving a bumper crop as do the blackcurrant. Hoping for lots of fruit for jam and bottling. It will be a busy Autumn!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Big sigh of relief!

The French elections are done and the Front National did not win. Phew! It would have made life very difficult for us if they had. As we are not French citizens we are not allowed to vote. The manifesto of the new president looks good but politicians have a habit of promising the moon then forgetting they ever did so. The new president speaks English!
We still do not know what challenges Brexit will bring us but we are feeling more settled already.
Sadly I lost another duck this week. A female again. It is time to sort out the ducks. I need to find more females. Or maybe a new group. The boys seem happy and stay in a tight group.
Tomorrow I will extract some honey from the hive. The original hive has 7 full frames of honey. I have to take it now as there is a risk it is from the rape flowers. This will crystallize if not removed. I do not have an extractor so googled it. I will use my colander to do this. I will heat the carving knife to remove the wax caps then drag off the comb into the colander. I will place this over my stewpot to drain. I will then warm the pot and the honey and pour it into a large bowl. Any remaining wax will rise to the top and can then be removed. I can then pot up the honey. I will let you know if this is successful. At some point I need to invest in an extractor.
In September I hope to take more honey from both hives that should give us enough to last until next year. I plan to use the honey to replace most of the sugar I buy in. It is my only non vegan thing and I am comfortable having it as the bees do not die and are not exploited.
Meanwhile the Gite bookings are increasing. We took the decision the change to flexible arrival and departures and set a minimum 4 night stay. This has resulted in more bookings. We are now on 11 weeks. The trend now seems to be to book nearer the arrival date. We are hoping to sell more weeks nearer the time this season.
Gite number two is almost ready. A couple more weeks will see it done. Then onto the final one which has already had a lot completed.
A friend came over last week with his mini digger and did the groundwork for our pΓ©tanque court. Work is now progressing on that. It is another area of the garden that has been cleared of brambles. The idea is for guests and us to have games. In September all three Gites are booked for three couples. I am sure they will enjoy a game. Eventually when the bread oven barn is renovated into a little pub it will be a social area.
It really feels like our dream is coming together now.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Life 🌈🌨🌞

Sometimes the sun shines sometimes it rains and sometimes we have rainbows when the two come together. Bit like life really.
We had a last minute booking for a week and they arrived this evening. This flexible booking seems to be the answer for now.
I managed to break a tooth which I know will have to be removed. Being someone who has a fear of the dentist and as it did not hurt I shelved it! This bank holiday weekend I paid the price. Today after much chasing around I have started on a strong dose of Amoxicillin for an abscess. It also brought to light that my carte vitale does not work! This is the healthcare card that holds all your details and allows you to be treated for minimal cost. It also allows for reimbursements. The doctor joked that it is because I have not used it for nearly two years. We now have to start the battle to get a new one! The doctor did mention that because I have two siblings with type 1 diabetes I should be having regular blood tests. I have kept away from this but think maybe I should have it done to stop my carte vitale being blocked again! I now have to make an appointment with the dentist.
Yesterday my little Mrs Mallard went missing. A fox was seen in the area so I am sure that is where she went. The three boys are rather lost, the four of them have been together from eggs. There is not much chance of finding any female Mallards.
I have lost a lot of my veg plants to unexpected frost. I mentioned this on a forum I belong to and a complete stranger has offered me replacements. How lovely is that? Just need to arrange when I pick them up.
Hopefully the Frosty weather is behind us and I can really get going with the veg.
A few days ago a friend with a holiday home nearby came over with a mini digger and prepared the pentanque court. We now have the basis to create the court. We took him round a case of wine!
We are getting there slowly.
The bee hives seem happy. Busy coming and going. Next sunny day I need to have another look. Make sure eggs are being laid. We are going to have to take some honey off soon there is so much already. I will have to get the help of my mentor for that as I do not have the gear yet.
Summer is just around the corner!

Monday, 24 April 2017

🐝

First my apologies, for some reason the add a photo is not working. Probably due to me!
This morning I checked the hive. 6 of the 10 frames in the super are filled with honey with a seventh frame started. I tried to check the brood box for signs of a new queen but it was so busy I could not lift a frame out. There were signs of a swarm starting but they did a practice run yesterday so I thought it was the same thing. I have never dealt with a swarm before!
A couple of hours later my son in law called me out. The bees had swarmed and were hanging in a cone shape in the holly tree. This was too good to be true! So many people told me that bees always swarm to inaccessible places, never play ball! Mine are within easy reach! I assembled all I needed and suited up. I asked him indoors to suit up too as knew I could not do this alone.
I put some frames from the new hive brood box into the nuc box ready to take the swarm. Then him indoors held the branch while I cut it and we tried to get the bees in the box. Quite a few went in but the majority headed back up to the tree so I knew I had not caught the queen. Second attempt most of the bees went in the box. The queen was in there! I have kept an eye on things and a few bees are buzzing about but most are in the box. They are already working on the foundation wax and I guess the queen is already laying eggs. They seem happy. Once the sun lessens I will check for any stragglers then close the box. My plan is that as it becomes dusk I will move the frames into the brood box of the new hive. Then I will seal the door for the night. In the morning I hope it will be business as usual with two hives!
The original hive is happy, with normal behavior of bees gathering pollen. I would guess that they had already raised a new queen which is why they swarmed.
I cannot believe it was so easy but am grateful it was as this is my first time dealing with a swarm.
As with most things it was nothing like I had read being in fact much easier.
I love bee keeping!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

πŸ“πŸ₯’πŸ†πŸ…πŸŒΆπŸ

Whew! Marathon effort this week! Polytunnel is up and planted and three raised beds have been thoroughly weeded and planted. It is major effort to do the daily watering as I have  to get from the kitchen and carry it to the veg garden. The watering is very important in the early days whilst everything is growing roots and shoots. I have a big greenhouse frame that we found free in England years ago. Some of the glass was broken brining it over and is nigh on impossible to find here. We put down a concrete slab for it to stand on and there is where it has say for years! The plan now is to turn it into a large shed. I will put a potting bench in and store the tools in it needed to care for the veg patch. We need to decide what we will use for the roof and walls. I favor a tin roof but not sure what to use for the walls. I need to do some research. It would be good if we could upcycle something but it needs to be inexpensive if we buy something. It need to be strong enough to take guttering as I want to put a water butt on each corner. This will mean I have access to water on site added to which it is good to collect free rain water! Talking of which we have had nothing for weeks. Just when I most need help with watering the veg
I am keeping a close eye on the bees expecting them to swarm any day. The second hive is ready and waiting. I think this next week one sunny day I will check the current hive again as I think they may need another super putting on. It is possible we could take an early crop of honey.
All the roses I have planted are growing fast! My rambler round the front door already needs tying up! The wisteria across the front of our house is in flower and looks beautiful. The Virginia creeper across the front of the Gites is growing well and the grape vine has lots of tiny grapes!
We put the flea and tick collars on the dogs yesterday. They stay on until autumn. Little Frank had yet another tick which I know hurt when I removed it. Hopefully now with the collars no more will survive. He is small and long haired so picks them up easily and they are difficult to find. I regularly check the outdoor cats too. There are so many different aspects to being self sufficient!
I am working on getting to a cheese making course. It will mean going back to England for it but that is fine. I really want to add this to our make it yourself list but feel I would benefit from a course.  We can source a ready supply of raw cows milk and I still plan to one day have goats. The less I have to buy from the supermarket the better!
As ever lots of plans and ideas.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

In the garden πŸ’£

One of the problems with going organic is weeds! Hence the bomb in my title! I have five raised beds in my potager garden and now have three under control! I am still raking them over daily to remove hidden weeds but feel I am winning. Tomorrow I will dig in the well rotted horse muck I have been given and then the planting can begin.
Today I have planted up my strawberry pot so now have five strawberry plants in situ. They all have some flowers so I was keen to get them out for the bees to do their job. My potatoes and red onions are in and seem to be going well. The blackcurrant cuttings I was given have all taken and have leaves and blossoms already.
I have butternut squash, courgettes, cabbage, cucumbers, peas, runner beans and tomatoes to go out. I hope for good crops this year. For the peas and beans I will make a wire fence that they can climb up. This will be easier to remove in the Autumn and can be reused next year. It is an idea I saw on the internet and have decided to adopt. I will have to stake the tomatoes as they grow to give them support. The squash I plan to put in the tractor tyre planter I have created. This will contain them and enable them to hang over the sides so they will be safe from insects! The courgettes will fill a bed! I use lots of these for chutney and now my daughter lives here have to make enough for two households! Our long term plan is to fit out a barn with shelving and put a chest freezer in. This will become our store.  When all the produce comes in I have so many jars of jams, chutneys and bottled things I cannot get them all in the pantry! The freezer will be good for fruit and veg.
I have today finally sorted out the water butt. It has been leaning! Due to a severe lack of rain it was empty enough for me to move. I have dug out the ground under the stand so it now sits straight! It has been annoying me for a while! I would like to increase the water butts, putting guttering on the chicken barn that feeds into a butt and the same on our shed which is up by the veg patch. It is hard work lugging up water daily.
I have planted my new rambling rose against a barn near the bee hives. I would like it to turn the corner around the hives. Another long term project.
I have treated myself to a new book! I know it is all on the web but I rather like to curl up with a book too. This is the one acre garden. I have the Seymour self sufficiency book that is well thumbed but that deals with a minimum of five acres. I only have one. It is made easier as I will not be needing meat. My birds are not for eating! Maybe one day this will have to change but for now I cannot think of eating them! I want more ideas for becoming self sufficient in fruit and veg! I like to have plans laid out.
It has taken a long time but I now feel like I am winning with my productive garden.