Saturday, 30 January 2010

Sunderland Point

The snow has gone, the weather is good and so we had a day out by the sea. We went to one of our favourite places, Sunderland Point near Lancaster. It's great for birdwatching and a good walk, you can see birds migrating to and from Iceland and Greenland at certain times of the year, but in the winter it attracts a lot of wading birds that come to eat the shellfish and worms from the sand. There are two places to park, one by the houses on the point itself (near Overton) and one on the other side, the beach near Middleton. Today I decided to park at the Middleton end and this photo shows why (click on the photo for best effect). See the big sign on the left? That's the car park. See the triangular signs (one with a gull sitting on it)? They mark the edge of the road. See the road? No you don't, do you? It was a 10+ metre tide today, very high and the road was covered.
We walked along the saltmarsh - two centuries ago the sea and sand came all the way up to the foreground of this photo and lapped at the walls behind us. Now it's saltmarsh, and normally it would be green all the way beyond where the birds are sitting in this photo, but not today. As we watched, the creek overflowed and the birds were pushed along until only the highest parts of the marsh were still above water. In summer cattle graze this area.
And here's a close-up of some of the thousands of birds here, a bit blurry because most of them were still moving around, but you can see some curlews with heads tucked under their wings having a snooze. Sunshine, a nice walk and wildlife - a great combination.

I am hoping to get back to gardening soon, I promise!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Hyacinths and Marmalade

The days are finally getting longer and today we've even seen some sun. The first set of hyacinths I planted in September are now in full flower and the scent is heavenly. Actually, I put these outside and forgot all about them until early December, when I looked at them and thought "a couple more weeks", after which they slipped my mind again until early January, when they were covered in snow. I rescued the frozen bowl and brought them in, to be rewarded by these lovely flowers. I brought the second set of hyacinths in a couple of days ago, so I should have flowers for the next month now.
One of the last indoor winter jobs - the Making of the Marmalade, an annual task for me. This batch is probably the best I've made, and I'm looking forward to eating this on my toast soon.


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Winter vegetables

Most of the snow has now disappeared so I had a look at my vegetable plot today. The leeks (at centre of photo) look rather bedraggled as they have been encased in snow and ice for a month, but they will recover now. I dug up some tiny parsnips just to clear the bed (at left of photo) - it was a bad year for them last year. Digging was hard today, the soil is very cold and a little frozen under the surface thaw.

I also managed to get at some Jerusalem Artichokes (at right), which is a lovely winter vegetable. I dug over a third of the bed, took out the biggest tubers and put back the smaller ones for next winter's crop.

I also put a cloche over the onion/shallot bed, to start the process of warming before planting, which is likely to be late this year due to the forecast cold spring. At least it will keep further snow off. I took my house onions up as well and left them in the shed now it's warmer. So, it's a start for the 2010 gardening year. Lots to do...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Ice and Icicles

Yesterday the temperature rose above freezing for the first time in a week, and the ice on the river started to break up. It was 4 inches thick in places, and huge slabs of it were stuck to the banks.
The river runs through a canyon here, with rock or stone walls on each side. Water always drips down the sides, being in the bottom of the river valley with hills on either side means there's always plenty of water. Here it has created icicles, which run for some way along the river. You can get a better view of these by clicking on the pictures.
There's no perspective in this photo, but trust me when I tell you this icicle is about 15 feet high; it has been here since before Christmas, thawing and re-freezing regularly. You can see some of it has broken off and if you look closely you can see it dripping.
These are my leeks, well you can just see about three of them, in their blanket of snow. The only tracks on the vegetable plot were of a cat which had wandered through, and the wood mouse which had ventured out of its home in my compost bin one day.
And this is the icicle which was hanging from my shed roof. Pretty good, eh?

Anyway, the thaw has set in today, particularly here in the river valley - it's still frozen higher up and we have had more sleet and snow today. The worst seems to be over, so I'm hoping to see my leeks again soon and get back to the garden.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Big Freeze Continues...

And so it goes on... I took this picture a few days ago, and the view hasn't changed any since. Thursday night was about -10C, and my milk was frozen on the doorstep, something I haven't seen in many years (we do have a local farm which delivers milk here). The daytime temperature hasn't got above freezing point since Sunday.
This was taken in the village, just before I started my ascent up the hill to the post office (for a photo of that hill, see my other blog). The structure on the right is the station for the steam railway. The tracks on the left are from a tractor taking food out to animals. In the snow you can see tracks which you wouldn't normally - each day I see new tracks made by the local fox which uses a regular route up and down the hill and through the village. Yesterday I saw the tracks of a deer. The sheep scrape little holes in the snow to reach the grass, but all the farmers are giving them hay too.
I just took this photo of the river which runs past my house. Water is still flowing on either side of the channel, and there is a light dusting of snow on the ice in the middle. Neighbours here are looking after the older members of the community: my Mum was offered a trip to the supermarket by someone with a 4x4 this morning, which was nice. A couple of older residents nearby have had so many offers of shopping their houses are stuffed full of food, they don't want to offend anyone by refusing!
Each night adds to the frost crystals of the snow, this is something I remember vividly from the similarly cold spell in the 1980s. So we are hunkering down here, in the warm and looking forward to a thaw when we can get back outside.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

January Snow

No gardening for me - just snow, ice, more snow, etc... It's been snowing all day today and is only just letting up now, after about 7 hours or so. It's pretty though, with the trees and houses all covered in the white stuff.
This was today's snowfall on top of my car at 1 pm - over 10 cm now I suppose. I've managed to get out of the village in my car once in the last 10 days, and don't expect to be able to drive out again for several days yet. So I will have to walk for my shopping and to get my parcels in the post.
Never mind, last week my seed order arrived - seeds, potatoes, onions, shallots and fertiliser (all organic). You may be able to see in the photo that some of the onion sets were sprouting. Irritating, but with the wet summer and warm autumn it may be a common problem this year. Normally I'd do an early planting of the sprouting ones, under cloches so they could get growing, but at the moment I can't get anywhere near the soil. So instead I had a brainwave and dug out some compost from the kitchen cupboard...
and using the spare cat litter tray, I improvised a planting bed for them. The unsprouted onions have gone back to bed in their dark box in the unheated hall, to await warmer weather.

As for the seeds, we have made some changes to the planting for this year. We have given up on tomatoes as they were too much work for too little produce. We have also given up on kale and sprouts for similar reasons. We have added marrows to our collection for the first time, though. The cut flowers have also been removed from our list so that we can grow more vegetables.

So now we have to wait on the weather. I was hoping to be able to start eating my leeks and jerusalem artichokes this week, but they're imprisoned in snow and ice. Fortunately we made good progress on clearing and preparing beds in autumn (having ignored the UK Met Office advice of a warm winter in favour of the more accurate AccuWeather forecast), so when the weather does eventually warm up we can get going pretty quickly. This Global Warming does play havoc with your gardening, doesn't it?