Saturday, 28 February 2015

Digging’s Off

It wasn't a bad day so we decided to have an afternoon down on the plot. I'd noticed a couple of clumps of snowdrops on my last visit. They seemed a little bit wasted on the plot as we don't visit that often at this time of year. We decided to dig them up and bring them back home to plant them in various spots in the garden. (You’ll find more on our snowdrops move here.)

I thought I might do a bit more preparation work on our new strawberry bed before the weekend rain arrives. The first job was to pull up last season’s beetroot, which had spent the winter under a straw blanket. 
Most of the beetroot looked to have survived the winter but I’m a little unsure about its eating qualities. Rather than add these roots to the compost heap immediately I've re-covered them with straw alongside our straw covered carrots. We might test out a few of these roots but I think I’m just delaying their inevitable move to the compost heap. We shall see.
Most of the straw was removed to the carrot bed to re-cover the beetroot. Some weeds had started to grow in the compost left on the top of the weed control fabric. I’d left the compost from last autumn with the intention of incorporating it into the new strawberry bed as it’s dug over. Once the fabric was removed the bed didn't look too bad especially after I had done a bit of tidying up of the edges.
The far half of this bed had been dug over last autumn so my intention was to dig over the other half. My plan was to get this done before we had any heavy rain and then a few weeks before planting our strawberries I could run the cultivator over the bed and incorporate some fertiliser at the same time. The bed could then be covered with weed control fabric and our new strawberry plants planted as we saw fit. The far end of the bed looked quite dry as was the compost which had been left in a pile on the weed control fabric.

I only had to turn over a couple of fork of soil in order to realise that the ground was far too wet to dig. It wasn't that it couldn't be turned over but it wouldn't break down into a decent tilth and I know from past experience that digging our soil in this conditions makes for more difficult work and delay later in the year to break down the soil. Much better to leave it until its condition improves.

I was a little surprised how wet the ground was. After our dry February I expected it to be in much better condition. It’s so easy to overlook that over the three winter months we've had 141.4mm (5.57”) of rain whilst the estimated amount of evaporation loss over the same three months is only 35mm (1.38”). I’ll just have be patient and give the ground a bit more time to dry out.

Friday, 27 February 2015

New Bean Poles and Pea Sticks

Thursday started of mild and damp with some rain through the morning. As the rain stopped the temperature fell and a rather chilly wind developed.

We used to have a corkscrew hazel (Corylus Contorta) growing in the garden but it never impressed us as although it produced some twisted stems for winter every summer it leaves were infested with whitefly and they became as contorted as the stems. It began to grow as many straight stems as twisted ones and as a result many years ago it was moved down to the plot. It now helps to produce our bean poles and pea sticks.
It was time to coppice it once again. The photo above shows our hazel trees last September. The smaller one on the right was coppiced at the beginning of 2013 and the one on the left is the one that I have just coppiced.
Most of the stems were far too thick for my garden loppers and needed sawing through. There’s a little bit of tidying up to do around the base of the tree and then it can be left for a few years to reproduce some more bean poles.

Having given the tree a chop there’s still plenty of work left to do to produce some decent bean poles.
These are the coppiced branches which now need trimming up. The sturdy sections of stems need cutting into length of about 2.5m or about 8 feet. It’s more about judging by eye how sturdy the stem will be rather than been too concerned about its final length. All the twiggy bits cut off the ends can be used as pea sticks. 

Growing crops up naturally produced hazel poles looks much more attractive than using bamboo canes from the garden centre but there’s a lot more work involved growing and then trimming up the stems to make into suitable poles.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Digging Into the Archives

Last week I posted a photo taken of the Emley Moor Telecommunication tower. It’s pretty tall, over 380m or a 1260’, and can easily be seen from the M1 motorway as you pass through West Yorkshire. If we've been “down south” once we get the first sighting of the mast we know we are almost back home.
If you look carefully at the above photo you can make out Emley Moor mast. It’s about 8 miles away. It was a little bit murky when I took the picture so the mast is a little difficult to make out. The bridge on the right carries the M1 motorway.

It was cold up on Emley Moor as we drove past the tower last week but it did set me thinking that I once took some some photos -when I was nowt but a lad - of its predecessor. These photos were taken in 1969 using old 35mm colour slides, which have since been scanned, and were taken a few days after its predecessor collapsed.
Above is one of my archive pictures taken back in March 1969. On that day, 19 March 1969, the weather on the Moors was cold, wet and windy resulting in ice forming on the mast and its supports. The structure collapsed at 17:00 that evening. At the time it was thought that the weight of ice caused the mast and its supports to collapse. 
Some of the support cables cut through the local church roof but very fortunately no one was injured during the mast’s demise.
As a result of the collapse millions of TV viewers in Yorkshire and other parts of northern England lost their television pictures. Within a few days temporary arrangements had been made to erect smaller temporary masts to continue transmitting TV and radio signals.
It was later concluded that it wasn't the weight of ice which brought the structure down but a form of oscillation which occurred at a low but steady wind speed that resulted in a failure of the structure. Other similar masts at Belmont and Winter Hill had modifications made to them to prevent them from also suffering this type of collapse.    
Construction of the new reinforced concrete tower was started in 1969 and the first transmissions from the tower commenced on 21 June 1971.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Millimetring to a Driest February

Although we had plenty of sunshine it wasn't a particularly nice day as we had a strong, cold blustery wind blowing in wintry showers now and again.

The showers didn't add much to our monthly rainfall total which now stands at 9.2mm (0.36”). My record low February rainfall for the last six years was in 2012 when we had 13.4mm (0.53”) so we might be breaking that record by the end of the month.

Out of interest I've added a couple of new tables to my All Time Records page listing the top ten driest and wettest months over the last six years.
Odd isn't it that summer months do well in the wettest league table and very poorly in the driest.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Monday was a lovely sunny day it was just a pity about the strong to gale force wind that was blowing making it feel much colder than the temperature of 8.1°C (46.6°F) suggested.

By mid afternoon in the greenhouse the temperature was up to a very pleasant 18°C (64°F) and I decided to make the most of the conditions and get our shallots planted up into modules.
Our varieties this year are Red Sun and Golden Gourmet which performed well last year so we’re sticking with them again this year. Last year our shallots remained in their modules until the beginning of April when they were planted out into the plot. This year I’m a few weeks later planting them into modules but none of the shallots had started to sprout so I don’t think any harm has been done because of the delay.

Our bare rooted strawberry plants potted up a couple of weeks ago now are starting to produce some nice new leaves.
It’s important now to keep an eye on plants in the greenhouse to ensure that they have the correct amount of water. When it’s cold outside it’s easy to forget that any sunshine can warm up the greenhouse quickly drying out compost. Of course it’s equally important not to over water as on dull cold days as the greenhouse isn't any warmer than outside and plants don’t want to sit in cold waterlogged conditions.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tempting Fate

Not too bad a weekend especially as the heavy rain forecast for Sunday never arrived. We did have some rain but nothing very much. So with less than a week left of February there is a possibility that this February could turn out to be the driest of the last six years. If that’s not tempting fate then I don’t know what is.
We do have some rain forecast in the last week of February so by the end of the week it might not be holding on to its record.

Yesterday we had a wren in the garden which we were both trying to photograph. Unfortunately all my photos were of a little blurred brown bird and they were all consigned to the recycle bin. I had some excellent photos of leaves and twigs as my camera focused on anything but the subject I wanted. 
I didn't have any problems photographing this male blackbird finishing off the last of the fat from the coconut they've managed to unhook from its branch in the magnolia tree. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015


Friday was cloudy all day. It was one of those days where the wind has a bitter sting to it taking the edge off the temperature.
We made a return trip to Armitages Garden Centre at Shelley. It was a bit bleak as we passed by the Emley Moor television Mast but the display in the garden centre was cheerful even if it was a touch on the cold side deciding which bulbs we were going to add to our front border. 
We now have a tiny clump of snowdrops in our front border.

Friday, 20 February 2015

How Much Rain?

Thursday was cloudy with dribs and drabs of rain on and off throughout the day.
The weather forecast in the evening suggested we’d had a decent amount of rain through the day on Thursday but my weather station didn't particularly record that much in Ossett. The day’s amount was a mere 2.0mm (0.08”) bringing the monthly total up to 5.6mm (0.22”).

There’s more rain in the forecast for Sunday evening so I might check my rain gauge to make sure one of our resident wood pigeons hasn't been depositing anything nasty in there causing a blockage.
It’s become a favourite look out post for our wood pigeons.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

More of the Same Please

Wednesday had dawn till dusk sunshine along with the mildest temperature of the month at 11.9°C (53.4°F). With only a gentle breeze it felt very spring like.
These flowers thought so too. 

It’s a pity too that this weather isn't forecast to last as wet and windy weather moves in from the Atlantic.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Squash Watch

Tuesday became our mildest day of the month. Just, by 0.2°C (0.4°F). The temperature reached 9.3°C (48.7°F) in the middle of the afternoon but it still leaves our warmest temperature of the year at 14.2°C (57.6°F) which we recorded at the rather strange time of 01:25 on 10 January 2015. At last though the gloom of the last week lifted and we had some very welcome sunshine for much of the day.

I had a quick check around the greenhouse to make sure our new strawberry plants were okay and didn't need any water. I thought it might be a good idea to check in the summerhouse to see if our Crown Prince squashes were surviving okay. In general they were looking in good condition.
I did notice on this squash in particular that there are signs that parts of the squash are starting to turn a little bit mouldy. Around the neck is where the mould is starting to take hold and the flesh around the old stalk is becoming a little bit soft.
It’s a sign that this squash needs to be used quickly before the damage becomes too serious. I might cook the squash and freeze the flesh into suitable portions for making pumpkin pies.

However our squashes have definitely stored better in the summerhouse than the greenhouse which we've always used for storage until this winter. Of course it might just be down to this winter’s weather but we’ll certainly be storing next summer’s squashes in the summerhouse if we are lucky enough to have a good harvest.

In the past by February our Crown Prince squashes have sometimes looked like this.  
Oddly enough the mould hasn't started around its neck but it has taken over everywhere else. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Camera Problems

It’s getting difficult to relate whether one drab day is worse than another at the moment. After a sprinkling of over-night and early morning rain, Monday was yet another dull and dreary day.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d had some camera problems over the weekend whilst out filming The Tin Bath. This problem first came to light on Saturday. We’d made the short trip out to video and photograph 34067 Tangmere with The Valentines White Rose Express at Colton Junction near York which was the trains destination. You won’t be surprised to hear that the weather was cloudy with intermittent light rain. We arrived in decent time and sat out a couple of short spells of rain in the car. With a few minutes to spare before the train arrived it was time to venture out of the car to prepare for the train’s arrival. I’d decided this was going to be my first real test of 4k video which my Panasonic DMC FZ 1000 is capable of capturing. The view through the eyepiece and screen was very dark. Too dark to see anything much at all. 
No time to mess about with settings as The Valentines White Rose Express was due any moment. At the time I sort of decided the problems must be due to the high video demands made in taking 4k video combined with a very dull day. I made a decision to shoot the video in 4k quality and see what the outcome would be. The above picture is a screen grab from the video showing just how dark and unusable the video turned out.

Once back home as soon as the video was downloaded it was obviously too dark to use and even my video editing package couldn't do anything to improve the image quality. I set the camera back on a its highest HD video setting and checked through the viewfinder. The screen images looked reasonably bright and usable and I thought the problem had been sorted out.

On Sunday it was off to the Vale of Edale for hopefully a better day’s videoing but as it turned out I hadn't actually solved the problem of the dark screen. As soon as I checked through the viewfinder I could see the problem had returned or more likely never been resolved.
Sue was getting ready to capture a few still images and the corresponding view from her camera looked like this.
As you can see from the comparison my image was very dark again and obviously the camera was in need of some attention. Standing in the gateway to a field on a misty dull morning isn't the ideal place to be messing about with the menu settings on a camera. Fortunately I’d taken along our Sony Camera and this was used for the video of the train in the Vale of Edale.

Sue suggested that resetting the camera to its original factory setting might sort out the problems. This sort of issue had cropped up a couple of times with her Panasonic camera and a factory reset had done the trick.  So over lunch I checked out the camera settings and performed a factory reset.
And what do you know, the problem was sorted out and the bright imagery returned. I didn't try any 4k video of the train crossing the viaduct at Denby Dale but given the conditions the video taken using my Panasonic camera turned out well enough in the afternoon.
I’m guessing that the light was even worse for the filming at the viaduct as the sun was a least trying to make an appearance in the Vale of Edale. So perhaps we've found a bit of a problem with Panasonic cameras in that they may need a reset to factory settings now and again. Providing you can remember where to find the reset it’s only a minor problem as it only takes a few seconds to perform the required operation. Hopefully I won’t be missing any more video opportunities.

Will I be trying any more 4k video? I’d tried some short clips of a few seconds and these seemed to work well enough but I found out at the weekend that trying to deal with a five minute clip of 4k video puts real demands on my computer which I don’t think has the memory to process such vast amounts of data. So for the time being at least I’ll be sticking to full HD quality video.

Finally for the record here’s the video. The footage in the Vale of Edale was shot using my Sony DSC HX300 and Denby Dale using my Panasonic DMC FZ 1000.

Monday, 16 February 2015

In Search of The Tin Bath

There wasn't any let up in the dull and dreary weather over the weekend. 

It didn't stop us setting out on Sunday morning to photograph The Tin Bath a steam hauled charter train from Preston to Sheffield and then returning to Manchester. The train follows the old Midland Railway route into the Peak District through the Vale of Edale and this was where we intended to try out luck at a few photos.

It was dull and misty at home as we set out but the forecast looked a bit more promising  in the west. 
We’d decided that if it became too foggy we would turn around and head back home. It got rather murky in places but not too bad. As we headed up onto higher ground and over Strines Moor there were still remnants of snow to be seen.
Once over Strines Moor we were soon at Ladybower Reservoir a well known destination in the Peak District and there were suddenly a few signs that the weather might just be picking up a bit.
It didn't really last long before the rather dull and misty weather took over once again as we headed into the Vale of Edale. I’d decided to head for Edale itself to see if there were any good looking spots at the station for photography but as we approached Edale Sue saw a spot which looked promising and we decided to try our luck.  
As luck would have it the sun tried to break through the mist at just the wrong time making it a challenge to get a good photograph. I like the photo above though with the train almost disappearing from view as it heads along the valley between Edale and Hope. The situation wasn't helped by a camera problem but that demands a post of its own.

After a lunch of Thai green curry followed by orange pannacotta slice, we headed for Denby Dale to photograph The Tin Bath crossing the 21 span stone arch viaduct. The weather did its best to spoil our efforts. In the misty gloom any smoke from the two steam engines hauling the train merged into the dull grey sky line.
The view of the viaduct is spoil by the new modern industrial premises which I suspect aren’t going to last as long as the viaduct which was constructed in 1884 and is now a listed structure.

In case you were wondering why this train is called The Tin Bath, it’s after the TV series Last of the Summer Wine and the scene where Compo, Clegg and Foggy rolled down a Yorkshire hillside in a tin bath. In its travels through Yorkshire the train passes close by the Holmfirth area where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Another Cold Dull Dreary Day

After that little hint of spring early on in the week the weather over the last couple of days has been a reminder that it’s still winter. It only just about managed to get light yesterday as we had our dullest day of the month. It was a tad less cold but I’m not sure I agree when the forecasters have used the term mild to describe the weather. Temperatures at best have been about average for the month.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Dull, Cold and Dreary - Time for the Archives

Not much to say about Thursday’s weather as the title of my post says it all.

I thought another delve into the archive was required comparing our plots today with how they looked 10 years ago this month. These few shots show that some parts of the plot haven’t changed too much with time.
Aerial view of plots circa 2005 showing location of photos
February 2005 looking down path between plot 29 & 30 (Direction of arrow 1 on plan)
February 2015 looking down path between plot 29 & 30 (Direction of arrow 1 on plan)
Our plum trees have grown over the last 10 years but everything else is much the same apart from the 2 large conifers which were only cut down last year. Most of the plots in this view have remained with the same plot holders over the last 10 years.
February 2005 looking across plot 30 (Direction of arrow 2 on plan)
February 2015 looking across plot 30 (Direction of arrow 2 on plan) 
Again not too much of a change over the years although plot 31 has been cleared on the right of the photo. Plot 30 is one of our main productive areas. This plot contains the composting area for all our plots and six beds each 10.0m long by 2.0m (33’ by 6.0’) wide surrounded by grass paths. It’s often filled with over wintering crops, such as the leeks in the above photo, and as a result isn't the most photogenic area of our plots.

Although we practice crop rotation with all the beds, one bed  on this plot is badly affected by club root and it’s our intention to convert this into our new strawberry bed once it can be prepared over the next few weeks.

It’s part of a tried and tested system hence the reason for little change over the years.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

February Reboot

After a few lovely February days Wednesday saw a return to more typical weather for the time of year. It was cloudy all day and the temperature didn't make it to much more than 4°C (39°F).
Monday 09 February - Wednesday 11 February 2015 (Wind Chill shown in Purple)
There wasn't any wind so there wasn't a wind chill factor but it still felt cold outside. 

So far we've had virtually no rain this month with only 0.6mm (0.02”) which is the lowest over the last five years by this time of the month. 
However the forecast is for some rain on Friday and the early part of next week so by this time next week things might be very different.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

More Tempting Weather

After a lovely sunny day on Monday we were promised more of the same on Tuesday. It didn't quite work out that way. After some sunshine first thing it soon clouded over and the sun disappeared until early afternoon.
In the morning our final selection of strawberry plants for our new bed were delivered from Marshalls seeds. The little bit of afternoon sunshine gave me the chance to get them potted up. All our new strawberry plants are now potted up in the greenhouse where they will be able to grow on a little whilst their new home is prepared down on the plot.
These are our plants from Marshalls potted on and ready to grow on before planting in the plot. Our list of new strawberry varieties is as follows:

Cambridge Favourite, Cupid, Elsanta, Fenella, Malwina, Marshmallo, Royal Sovereign, and Vibrant.

As it was so pleasant in the greenhouse I decided to finish off setting our seed potatoes to chit. Then Sue gave me a bit of help to get the first of our onion sets into modules. We like to get some of our onion sets off to the best possible start and they won't be ruined by any frosty weather. We're now limited by space in the greenhouse so until I get some more tidying up done our shallots will have to wait a while.
Once they've started to shoot our onions will be moved into the cold frame to grow on in cooler conditions before they’re finally planted out in the plot.