Wednesday, 17 October 2012

More raised beds....but no soil!

I think everyone has had a really tough year growing this year, what an awfull year it has been for cropping. Despite all this we did manage to get a decent amount of home grown food this year and the money we saved paid for our raised beds and other bits and pieces that we needed. As it was our first year growing here we wanted to see how things went before creating more growing areas and trying other growing ideas out, so now we know that even in a tough year we can manage it.

Just looking back at some of the problems this year I remember picking off 100-200 slugs each night and that was just from several 10 foot raised beds. In the end beer traps, picking, squashing, torching and Nemotodes ( )seems to get them under control long enough for plants to actually do something. After the slug it was the turn of the birds and then the small mammals got involved and then not having sun and then endless rain.....oh yeah and the very cool temperature and of course the gale force winds!

Like many growers this year we lost many of our young seedlings and we literally had to re-sow more than 50% of our crops. Was very glad of the polytunnel but even in there it was tough, so cool and humid, many kilos of green Tomatoes....but this time we did manage to ripen them in boxes with apples and Bananas.

Anyway after all this it was a success and we are now working on several more raised beds, we should be able to grow more than double the food  in this space and if we improve the existing soil depth we could get to 3 times the food.

Our biggest problem is of course not having soil,,,quite limiting really when trying to grow things. The new beds are going to take many layers of 'Stuff' to make it possible, here's what's going in...

1) Wood ash
2) Chicken muck
3) Leaf mould
4) Nettles
5) Comfrey
6) Straw
7) Ditch dirt
8) Straw again
9) More Ditch dirt
10) Fresh leaves

Just need to throw anything we can at the new beds to create some kind of soil...last years we collected something like 30 trailers of leaves from along the track and I think we will need to do more than that this year as we don't have any muck. Have cleared out 150 feet of ditch and theres one more ditch that might give us another trailer s worth of rotted stuff...

Been looking at the excellent ' How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You can imagine' (John Jeavons) it really does look like the best system for us here and we are combining this with what we have been doing for several years with a 'no-dig' system....I really like not digging :)

Sherry and Cherry Brandy Liqueur

Yes it's that time of year again.....have tried out a sherry kit to make 30 bottles of 18% stuff. Had to try a kit as I missed my chance some months ago to make some from scratch. Well I can say that even with the sherry just finished its tasting pretty sherry-ish and it does pack a punch....I think we may have gone beyond what could be called 'testing' now. It should now improve if left for 4 or 5 weeks & we definately look forward to testing it again :)

The kit we used was made by 'Butlers' and cost about £25. Not bad for 30 bottles! I hope next year though to make some from scratch which would probably cost £5, will it be as good?

After making a whole bunch of cherry brandy liqueur for our wedding celebration we knew that this was wonderfull stuff! Mainly we realised that it was wonderfull because we hardly got a chance to drink got swigged, swaggled and guzzled so quickly!
Of course we have had the tricky task of sampling this before its fully matured and its tasting mighty fine. Next up is some beer from scratch,  but that really needs a day when half of the house can be taken over...

Hens, straw and more birds?

With so much rain the hens area wasn't looking too chipper. Luckily along came an offer of 6 bales of straw in exchange for some home brew and jam. One bale of straw has covered their whole area, it went a long way as they were heavily compressed bales for building with (They came from someone building a round house).

Just gone past the 500 mark with eggs from new birds! Regular orders for the 4 boxes we sell each week. We still need another 1000 eggs to break even on the new fencing and feeder, when I first did my trainspotting-egg-sums, I thought 1500 eggs sounded rediculous!

After only 5 month we are at 500 and something eggs and the fencing and feeder should last way beyond 10 years. If all goes well I think we will get another four hens next spring, the hens would be warmer in the winter and that would give us an extra 1000 eggs or more to sell each year, fantastic :)