Monday, 12 July 2010

Surprising finds

Our three ponds full!
We are amazed by the amount of life in our ponds even though they are new and can spend quite a while gazing at the busy water boatmen, backswimmers, pond skaters, frogs and now a newt. Where do they all come from? Frogs I can understand because they are all over the place and right now the whole of the countryside seems to be alive with tiny tiny frogs, but where did the newt come from? It must have travelled quite away. Water boatmen and backswimmers can fly as I discovered on the internet, so that explains their presence (what would I do without the internet?). Unfortunately we also had some very unwelcome pond life this week in the heat, algae! I made up some mini bales of straw and chucked them in the pools and it seems to be helping, no idea why that idea works but it seems to, and I can't even remember where we first heard that gem of advice but I know it was a long time ago maybe even pre-internet days. At the start of the week we had some blessed rain  which filled the ponds, all three of them, that is a lot of water over a day and it emphasises that we don't just need a soakaway around the polytunnel we will need storm drainage. Pond number 2 though, we found out, does not hold the water and drained away quite quickly, so it looks like we might need to line that one, we were hoping the clay filled soil would retain the water but obviously not. So our ponds remain works in progress as we reshape and dig more out until we have something along the lines of what we need that will keep the water in. Eventually they will get landscaped and seeded which will also help with water retention, the ground cover helping to keep the ground moist and therefore less likely to steal the water from the pond in the dry spells.

Member of the pea family
After the rain the temperatures rose and it has been very hot up to 31C (88F) in the shade that has meant a switch to Mediterranean type work practices - up early to work in the garden, home for lunch in the heat of the day and even a siesta one day then work in the cool of the evening. We are not eating like the Mediterranean's though with very late meals, instead we continue to have an early evening meal and then Ian eats his way through the evening. Trying to keep his weight on is a challenge at the moment but at least we don't have the normal problem that in trying to keep Ian's intake up high enough to keep his weight on mine goes up to compensate, mine is dropping too thank goodness. How much of it is sweated off, I have no idea. I do try and keep the fluid intake up as I just drip most of the time. Okay enough information there!

Not sure you can really see the detail in the hat, but it
pretty. Honest!
Had quite a successful week of purchasing items that normally I cannot get easily, first it was steel capped work boots for me, and considering I am a size 4 (37 European, 6.5 American) they are not the sort of thing that are readily available. At least I can now stop digging in my good walking boots, and I don't have to wear wellies (rubber boots) all the time. The next successful purchase was a hat, again I have problems as I have a small head (shame my girth is not as dainty as my feet and head - whoops sorry too much information again) and so when I was living in Colorado and managed to find an Australian hat that fitted I bought it. It was great for keeping off the sun and fitted in nicely with the culture but somehow it doesn't quite fit in here when walking to the shops or at the agricultural show we attended, fine for on the land but not around town. So now I have a pretty hat, that I can wear out and about that doesn't come half way down my face. Also the perfect travel hat too as it folds up without crushing!

These blackcurrants are huge, they are the size of a small
grape. The teaspoon gives an idea of scale. They are from
the garden at the other flat and a surprise find last week.
I mentioned that we went to an agricultural show this week, it is so long since I have been to one of those and it brought back memories of some pretty hot days working on my parents jewellery stall that they used to run at agricultural shows in England. Sometimes we were in the shade of a hot sticky craft marquee and sometimes in our own caravan. There were some good times but mostly it was actually quite boring, once you had seen one agricultural show you had seen them all, well that is what it felt like as a teenager; the upside of it was the wonderful settings for some of them and the earnings were good. My favourite memory was getting up early for the Rose show at Cartmel in the Lake district and seeing the mist clearing away as the sun rose, and the deer making their way across the parkland, it was magical in a magical setting. I think they moved site since so don't know what it is like now. This Latvian agricultural show was just a local one with the usual big tractors and huge implements, makes us wonder what many Latvian farmers with their small plots of land make of it all. Some of the tractors are so huge they would barely turn around on our land and we have 33 acres, admittedly it is a long narrow strip with forest down one side but still a standard size for a Latvian farm. It just appears that the tractor companies are not really interested in the small farmer, probably because they do not make much money and they cannot get credit for the type of farming implements they could really do with.

A tasty way of using up a radish glut courtesy of Sophie  Grigson
only I used a red grapefruit instead of an orange as they didn't
have any oranges at the local supermarket and I added some peas
Thanks to a kind comment by Denise Thornton on last week's blog I found out all I needed to know about the wild parsnip  and that confirmed to me that we don't want it around. It is hard to believe that seeds are for sale - don't buy them whatever you do! A friend of ours was strimming by the lake when he felt his arm burning and rushed up to the house to clean off whatever it was that was burning. When we were talking about the wild parsnip he showed us his arm with little burn marks all the way up it, he didn't know what had caused it at the time but he does now. Denise's blog seems to be a mine of information and it is interesting to see someone trying to manage land from a conservation point of view but in a different country and yet some of the issues we face are the same like the wild parsnip. Another piece of infomation I found out on her blog was that you don't have to preserve wood. At first I found that hard to believe, especially in such a wet country like Latvia but when I think about it, there are lots of grey wood buildings around and they have been around a long time. Often the barns and houses are unpreserved wood but they might be raised up off the floor on stone foundations - makes sense when it can be under snow for a long time during the winter. Mind you does the wood rot in the cold? I guess it might not and it might only be at risk of rot setting in during the cool wet spring and autumn days rather than over winter as you might think. A challenging thought to our throw chemicals at it way of life of the 21st century.

Another surprising find this week is that clay pot irrigation is 10 times more efficient than surface irrigation. We are struggling at times to keep the polytunnel watered properly and it set me thinking about some drip feed irrigation when I came across the article above, it would be interesting to find out how efficient this system really is and whether we can make some easy low tech plant watering systems. We have commissioned some pots from a local potter to try some ideas out, so watch this space!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi