Monday, 6 June 2011

Mulching, watering and battling hornets

These colourful wooden insects are based outside the
local bakery for children to play on
I like the banking arrangements this week, as we started to get money back in, instead of it going out, which is encouraging. Also encouraging is the fact that hopefully our house sale will complete on Wednesday, that should make things easier to manage as it will finally mean only having one tax authority to deal with and not two or even three as I have had to do some years. I shall enjoy filling in our final British tax form and informing them it is all finished with. Yet another piece of encouraging news is that I am a couple of steps nearer to completing my diploma, as my tutors have almost finished marking my work, just one piece more to be finished and I will know for definite if I have passed and what kind of grade to expect. So far it is looking really good.

Looking quite neat and tidy
We are getting the greenhouse planted up and it looks nice and organised, pity the plants have suffered from being too long in small pots, so we'll have to see how they fare later on. We have even finally planted up our grapes that have survived two winters in pots as well as adding two more vines to our collection, so now we have one white vine which looks like it is going to give us our first harvest of grapes, our old red grape is still just hanging on in there after dying back to the roots for the second year in a row, but at least it is recovering well now; we also have another red grape and one bluey coloured one. I have refrained from planting much else as it has been far too hot and too dry and with a bit of a breeze to really dry things out it would mean even more watering than I am doing now. I think my arms are stretching with all the carrying of water and this is made even more interesting when I have to navigate the electric fence which doesn't have a gate and so it means ducking between the wires (don't worry I do turn it off first or it would certainly make the navigation even more interesting). I have been putting as much straw as possible around all the plants to reduce the drying effects and I am just hoping we can nurse things along until some rain, hopefully this coming weekend but with temperatures up to 30C in between it is not good, especially since it is over two weeks ago now since we had a small shower. So we would gladly trade a few days rain with anyone who wants to send some our way, even Ian is hoping for rain which is not normal as he is definitely a hot, sunny weather kind of person.

Our white grape with flowers
Besides watering I haven't really done much else this week apart from weed plots and mulch them. I did have a scary experience with the mulching at one point today as I was in competition with a hornet for the straw. I think that it was contemplating using it for a home and was not best chuffed when I was removing it for my plants, in fact I decided to give it a rest this morning as I didn't really think I stood much of a chance against an angry hornet with just a hay fork for protection. If you have never heard a hornet or seen one, they are scary - think humungous wasp on steroids and you have the picture, next add in the drone of at least 10 bees and you have the sound. I hadn't realised how much straw is coveted as a home for bees and hornets until we have built piles of the stuff, we have two bees nests in the straw on the land that we try and remember when we are shifting it for mulching but they don't tend to build their nests in the most convenient of places and it is a pity they are not honey bees either but still they are important but hornets are not something I particularly wanting to encourage to set up home. I think the one from the morning has given up thinking of moving in as this afternoon it did not reappear, much to my relief.

The red grape just hanging on in there
I did manage a creative few hours which is wonderful. We took as much of my sewing stuff up to the other apartment as possible, so I can get on with some panels to hide curtains which will be different sizes and also to make a belated birthday present of some cushion covers for our daughter. Not sure if she will like the designs so far, but I had fun making them and if she doesn't like those, they will end up in the panels instead. In fact something similar may end up in the panels anyway as I had so much fun making them.
Ian trying to hide behind a pole. Actually
he is tacking up the fleece to give a degree
of shelter from the sun. 

Ian has been pretty busy too, getting the greenhouse sorted as well as the land. As it is so hot he has to get out there early to open up and stay late to close up. Sometimes he bikes out there so he can spend time in the gardens at home but most times he is out on the land. This week he has been using the two wheeled tractor to tackle the ground elder, particularly before it flowers. It has definitely become an ever increasing menace and we hope that by continuing to cut it every couple of weeks we will give other plants a chance to out grow it and drive it out, but it is certainly a battle. At least using the two wheeled tractor is a lot quicker than strimming it as Ian has done in the past to keep it down. He has also been ploughing a vegetable garden for our neighbour as all the other tractor drivers she normally asks to plough for her are either busy doing their own plots or broken. It was a good job they mentioned it yesterday as Ian was going to swap the plough for the spring tine to sort out the piece of ground he ploughed the other week. Our next task is to hopefully get some buckwheat as it is a short season grain to put in. That should be an experience harvesting that.

A tenacious daisy growing in the dry and compact soil
The E. coli outbreak in Germany has thrown up some interesting debates on our approach to modern life and how we abuse the use of antibiotics. The E. coli is apparently resistant to many antibiotics, but in some ways this should not be of particular concern as antibiotics should not be given to patients with diarrhoea anyway, as it can knock out the good bacteria which helps to combat the dangerous E.coli. Our digestive systems are full of bacteria and living in harmony most of the time, it is only when they get out of kilter there is a problem. We can help to keep our digestive systems healthy by eating certain foods such as yoghurt or kefirs and other fermented foods too. I hadn't realised that sauerkraut and certain pickles were actually probiotic foods until recently and apparently very healthy for the gut and so a return to home-made processing of foods maybe a good thing for our health - which is very convenient when one of the books my daughter got me for my birthday also contains recipes for fermenting foods. Another issue the outbreak raises is the routine use of antibiotics in factory farming as this is part of the reason for the increased in multi-resitant bacteria. If animals were not housed in confined conditions they wouldn't need to use the antibiotics, as they would be much healthier, so our cheap meat comes at a great price in terms of quality and health of animals and humans. Isn't it about time we thought more carefully about where our food comes from and maybe going for more expensive, well-cared for meat eked out with some cheap pulses like beans and peas, than continuing with our addiction to meat?


Gina said...

Really interesting post Joanna. Good luck with your diploma. I don't know how you fit in studying with your busy life.

Mavis said...

Sounds like you're being kept very busy. I am amazed that so soon after having all that snow and freezing conditions you're now having temperatures of 30 degrees. Wow! What a contrast! I agree with you about hornets - awful creatures.

Joanna said...

The secret Gina is I don't have a full time job, otherwise I would never fit it all in.

It is amazing Mavis, but over the years we have found that Latvia has much colder winters and much warmer summers than the UK.