Monday, 7 July 2014

Unexpected Visitors

One of the visiting Toads

We had unexpected visitors to our small garden recently.

Having decided long ago to turn this small space into a haven for wild plants and any creatures who might want to come along we felt elated when two toads dropped in one evening after sunset.

These are quite rare creatures around this part of London. It was therefore a joy to see them, and also a vindication for the unkempt (to some eyes) look of the garden.

Perhaps we shall also dig a small pond here as well. One is already planned for the allotment, and I will be digging this out in the autumn.

Ponds (even tiny ones) make small spaces even more attractive to different wild creatures.  We already see damsel flies and the odd dragonfly here even though we have no standing water, so the addition of a pond would be a benefit to these and other animals.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Everyday Drinkers (11)

I have recently been drinking (I feel like that character in the Fast Show played by Simon Day writing this) 2013 Côtes-du-Rhônes and have found them very agreeable.

Priced from £3.99 they offer exceptionally good value and are soft and fruity. Served slightly chilled they go down well with anything you care to mention and disappear disconcertingly quickly.

As to how the wine can sell for this sort of price, suffice it to say that these are bulk wines produced in vast quantities by co-ops all down the Rhône Valley.  In good years they are all very drinkable, made from reliable Grenache and Syrah cropped heavily, sometimes too heavily. This explains why some years too much wine is chasing too few buyers and why we as drinkers should take advantage while we can.

This particular bottle is on sale at a well known retailer, and originates from the Cellier des Dauphins in Tulette, with an ABV of 12.5%.


Stealthy Spring Surprise

Almost imperceptibly, but inexorably, Nature has been working its magic and hey presto we have had our first asparagus of the year, and our first globe artichokes.

I certainly wasn't expecting the artichokes.  The asparagus has been showing for a few weeks now, hesitantly, and then explosively, but the artichokes have been working away in secret, planning a well disguised artichoke strike.

This year we have seen wet Winter transformed into Summer all of a sudden: hawthorn, horse chestnut and elder in flower at the same time for example along with magnolia and fruit trees, without pause or transition for Spring.

Now of course I need to get cracking and plant potatoes, onions (red onions already in place) and shallots before it's too late, and prepare the ground for beetroot, carrots, salads, spinach etc.

Our little plot is generally in fairly good shape, and the cover I kept over the Winter months has protected the soil from the almost incessant rain, which would otherwise have washed much of the nutrients away. The soil here is silt, so not too rich in organic matter to start with. This green cover has now been dug in, to the accompaniment of regular visits by a couple of Robins, and a little manure added as a mulch, so we are ready for lift off.

Shed with patched up roof felt and beanpoles

The shed roof has been mended and is now more solid than it was and a new section of felt is keeping the rain out. The bean poles have also emerged ready to support the runner beans which are already chomping at the bit, having been sown inside a couple of weeks ago. I now just need to take all its contents out and give it a good clean, as well as sorting out the seeds for sowing and finding out what I am missing (can't remember if I have any cabbage seeds left for example).



On a different note repairs have been made to the hasp and staple which a human intruder broke to gain access to the shed. I have no idea what they were looking for, as nothing was taken, but it is the second time this has happened.

To all you burglars out there, you will find only garden tools and other garden materials in allotment sheds, perhaps a few bags of potatoes or a few squashes, not much else.  So please don't bother breaking in, unless you want to borrow the fork and spade and do a bit of work on my plot.

I end my short garden report here and wish you all good gardening, if you have one, and good everything else if you don't.