An unwanted resident

I have my first gardening injury from Marsanoux: a thorn that has embedded itself rather prettily in my thumb. We were out there last weekend meeting builders and generally oozing with excitement over our future home. On the Saturday we popped up to measure up random walls and photograph the vegetable gardens (yes, two) and noticed that two of the sheep had escaped the lower field. The grass on the entrance road was obviously too tempting for them, and they squeezed out of a bulge in the fence. It took a bit of cajoling to get them back with the others, and I landed on a bramble bush as I marshalled them back through the gate. 

Well, I’m sure it’s not going to be the last minor injury, but it’s definitely the last of the sheep. One of the builders who was inspecting the house on Friday to give an estimate happily bought Madame’s entire flock.  They are not destined for happy fields alas, but will go beautifully with a mint sauce and perhaps a few sprigs of rosemary and garlic. All home grown of course.

After a week away from this much less glam garden, it was time to see if the beer traps were doing their job, water the crops and get the fleeces off the potatoes. I think the risk of frost has passed.

First though it was time to catch up with one of my favourite allotmenteers I haven’t seen for months; the rather rotund and jolly Italian Oswaldo.  He was at the back of his van when I drove up and we had a happy reunion. (Stowed an azalea and a rose bush that he plucked out of the back of his mini florist shop of a van first – you can’t decline any gift, that much I have learned.) Amazingly he confessed to me that he was getting on, and didn’t envy us taking on a farm. He is over 80 after all. Gad, I thought he was only 60. All that healthy veg is preserving him delightfully.

The potato plants are up and straining at their fleecy constrictions. Off came the fleece blankets and were stuffed into a bag, prior to being properly stowed for another year.  I took the bag back to the shed and decided that I really ought to store all the fleeces in the bag and hang them up on the wall. I reached into a box to collect the spare fleece blankets and found that someone had beaten me to them. Out leaped a rather small but very surprised and energetic mouse. I should have been expecting something of the sort, but it gave me such a shock. It  thumped into me and then scrabbled into a corner of the shed.

Catching breath and trying to control the adrenaline surge, I tried to shoo it out, but it found a hole somewhere at the back and made its escape. Yep, these fleeces really need to be put out of reach.

Plenty of watering ensured (a lovely calming activity if you exclude the tedious trips back and forth from the tap) and then it was time to plant up the 25 pea seedlings into the gaps.,

It’s funny but if you imagine 25 plants of any other variety, it would seem quite a crop. But the peas are planted so closely together that your work seems rather paltry after half an hour of steady work. A good watering, oatmeal around each one, and more placing of the beer traps at the edges of the plot. I seem to recall from last year that the slugs left the peas alone: preferring to devote their attentions to underground potato tubers instead.

But I have noticed that they have made inroads into my cabbage crop: five seedlings have disappeared this week. Good thing I have a bigger supply growing on at home.

Last thing to do before heading home was to try carrots again. Last year was a complete bust: but this year I’m going to try and grow them in a wooden wine crate of soft compost, rather than in the ground. In with the compost, lots of watering and along the little rows go the seeds. I’ve placed the container up on the edge of one of the plastic wheelie bins to deter the carrot fly. But quite frankly the voracious egg laying flies didn’t get much of a feed from my crop last year. My entire yield was one. And it was the size of walnut.  The box may dry out before germination, but we shall see.