Smallholding Ups and Downs

Today was a pretty good day, and seemed significant. The bees were all active, I broke the back of this season’s tree planting, I saw the first signs of willow catkins starting to break, and I put the first seeds of 2011 into the propagator. However, it seems that every silver lining has a cloud, and there were some aspects of the day that were a bit worrying.

Tree Planting

This morning I planted fifty Cherry Plums, in the new Forest Garden, the second half of a hundred, that arrived Tuesday. They were also the last of the big ‘lumps’ of trees to plant, with only some Small leaved lime, and Wild Pear, to plant. Oh, and some more willow, to fill in the gaps, but all of these are small(ish) quantities, and will allow me to get some other work done during the day. The only trouble is that it is so wet here at the moment, that many of the planting holes were filling up with water. It was like planting them into buckets of cold water, which isn’t ideal. Luckily this isn’t the first time that this has happened, so no real reason to panic. Not perfect, but should be OK.

I noticed that a few of the willows had catkins that were starting to break open. Last year I got really excited, and then waited for weeks before the catkins actually started to produce nectar and pollen. This year it isn’t the S. Daphnoides that is starting first, but goat willow S. Caprea, and one of my new willows, S. Aegyptiaca.

I also need to plant out many of the trees that I grew from seed last year. Most are in pots/modules at the moment, but I want them to make plenty of growth this year, so that I can plant them out in the Autumn. I also need the space.


A friend of mine mentioned a few days ago that there was a Little Egret locally, in the area where I keep bees. I saw it flying today, below me in the valley. Lovely.


All bar one of the hives that I have/manage were active today. It’s much too early to be sure that they will make it through the Winter, but it’s a good sign. The inactive hive was my Warre. It was always likely that it wouldn’t make it, but I am an optimist (Four other Warre hives were all active). The other worry was that my colony of Golden Italian bees had at least one live drone at the entrance. In the past, this has been a sign that the queen had died, and that the hive had laying workers. I will have to check once the weather has warmed up enough, but I’ll be surprised if there is a laying queen in there. Normally I don’t open the hives, but this sort of thing is one of those occasions that I put the natural beekeeping to one side, and have a look, and possibly intervene.

Vegetable Growing

I put the first seeds of 2011 into the propagator this evening. That, along with the really mild weather, really made it feel like Spring, despite it being mid- January. I put in three varieties of pepper, two chilli, and one sweet. My Planting by the Moon book says that it’s a fruit day today, so peppers it was. At the weekend I’ll be sowing onion seed, and looking ahead to another year of food in abundance. I have some broad beans growing in modules, and will plant them out when they get to about 4 inches tall. We lose a lot to mice/voles, so growing them in modules helps, although the boles got to them in the greenhouse, so they are sitting on a window ledge in the porch at the moment.

Out in the garden, the garlic and Autumn Onions are starting to show. I’m not sure that I get any benefit from Autumn planting of onions, but tend to put them in at the same time as the garlic. We still have parsnips and Jeruslaem artichokes in the beds, and potatoes, garlic, beans, and beetroot stored. Some late sown spinach, lettuce, and Chinese cabbage have just about resisted the vole attacks, and are starting to put on some growth. They need potting on soon.

All in all a good day, but with a  couple of small reminders that things don’t always run smoothly.


Take Care



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