Monday, 20 November 2017

Days Out and Night Time Photography

The last few days have been cold and dry and at times we've had some nice sunny spells.
We had a couple of trips out as the weather wasn't too bad. We paid a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Potteric Carr near Doncaster on Friday afternoon. As usual when we make a visit the birds stay well out of camera range. On this particular occasion I didn't have any photos of wildlife but the late autumn colours provided some good photographic opportunities.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Potteric Carr
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Potteric Carr
On Saturday we headed to the Great Central Railway where they were holding their "Last Hurray of the Season" gala. This is their last main gala of the year before the Santa Trains begin to run as we head towards December. At least when we felt cold we could hop on a train and have a ride to warm up.
Rothley Station - Great Central Railway
Of course the light fades very early as we're approaching the end of November and trains were still running as darkness fell. We decided to see if we could capture any night time shots as the light began to fade.
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
As darkness fell we were waiting for some action to take place so were using our cameras in video mode. The above photos are still images clipped from the video. Whilst it wasn't completely dark the lights on the station were starting to take effect and I don't think the photos have come out too badly. By the time the locomotive in question decided to move darkness had fallen completely and it was tricky pointing the camera in the right direction. That was something I hadn't thought about when taking night time photographs. 
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
Hardly surprising that there's very little to see. When I took the video I was pointing the camera into blackness with very little idea of what would be in shot!

Friday, 17 November 2017

I Might Have Been A Bit Hasty

The forecast was correct and a dull Friday morning turned in a bright sunny afternoon as a band of drizzly rain passed through with the cooler sunnier weather following on behind.

Back in September I was busy lifting our potatoes and at the time I posted about our badly damaged Winston potato crop. If you want to check back you can read my post here. I wasn't too happy about the amount of slug damage to our crop and more or less decided I wouldn't be growing Winston again.
Worst of Potato Winston - September 2017
I did post at the time I was sorting out any undamaged or slightly damaged potatoes and storing them as a bag of Winston "seconds". I didn't think these damaged potatoes would keep very well and over the last few weeks we have been using up these "seconds". I've found that many of the potatoes which have a hole in them have very little damage once they are prepared for cooking.
This is typical of the damage to our second class Winston potatoes and below is the potato prepared for cooking with the wasted potato removed.
I've left the waste to the right of the photo and as you can see it doesn't amount to half a chip's worth. I'm now thinking that to rule out Winston as a crop for next year might have been a bit hasty. We'll have to see how our other varieties keep through winter before making our choices in January next year. 

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I posted some photos clipped from a video I took at Clumber Park this week. The full video is posted below.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Tale of Two Hostas

After a couple of colder days the weather turned milder for  Tuesday and Wednesday although it's forecast to turn colder again by the end of the week. 
This year we tried some Slug Gone wool pellets to try and control the slugs. As these pellets are expensive we decided to try to protect some of our potted hostas situated around the garden pond rather than attempt to protect too many plants. It's been a bit hit and miss so I'm not sure whether that's down to the protection offered by the wool pellets or something entirely different. 

Here's hosta number one pictured a few days ago.
As you can see the leaves are now starting to turn yellow as the plant dies back for winter when it will loose all its foliage. However the most important point is that the leaves are completely free of any slug damage. Hostas in previous years have been devastated by slug attack in similar positions around the pond.   

Now let's have a look at hosta number two.
Not such a pretty sight with lots of slug damage. So I'm not sure exactly why the first plant is undamaged. The two hostas are different varieties. Maybe the slugs aren't partial to hosta number one. The two plants aren't situated that far apart.
The other issue which comes to mind is, do the slugs find an alternative way of getting to the second hosta that avoids the sheep's wool pellets. Can they get onto the hosta leaves by sliming their way over the fern planted next to it but then they'd have to find a way off the hosta leaves.

I'm not entirely convinced how successful the use of these pellets around the hostas has been through summer. I did try to use some around plants in our cold frames at home. Tender young plants in the cold frame often fall prey to slugs who have been known to completely clear trays of lettuce or cabbage seedlings. I think the use of these pellets around the edges of the cold frame was helpful but I still had to go round checking underneath seed trays for slugs lurking in the seed tray crevices. I usually found one or two.

I think I'll give the pellets another go next year. I've tried lots of other methods and have still to find one that's effective. I'll have to give some careful thought to where the pellets are used to give maximum slug protection.  

To finish off below is a video tour of our allotment plots in the middle of November.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Frosted

The last couple of days have been on the cold side. We haven't had any night time frosts but the daytime temperatures have struggled to reach 8.0°C or 46.0°F. Not that this is unusual, it's what we should expect in the middle of November.

We managed a visit to the plot on Sunday afternoon. It was our first visit to the allotment since the temperature had fallen just below freezing for the first time this autumn. We were wondering if our dahlias had survived the chill.
As soon as we arrived we headed over to the perennial bed to check out our dahlias. There wasn't much doubt that they had been caught by the frost. Their leaves had turned black, a sure sign of frost damage. The next time we visit the plot our main job will be to lift the tubers and move them into storage for winter. The good news was that our chrysanthemums had survived the frost.
After inspecting the dahlias I concentrated on getting our compost bays sorted out. I'd started on our previous visit and managed to sort out one of the bays ready for composting our non weedy material. I managed to empty two other bays and get them ready to be filled up over the coming year or so.
We have five compost bays altogether. Three of these are now empty, one is full of weedy material and the remaining one is full of non weedy material. I'm hoping these two can be left for a year to turn into some useful compost and in the meantime the three other bays can be refilled.

Next job lifting, cleaning and drying our dahlia tubers for winter storage.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Leaves Are Hanging On - Just

The last week hasn’t been too bad as we’ve had no gale force winds, only some light rain and a couple of nice sunny days. We have had a couple of cold mornings and our first frost of autumn.
Temperature & Rainfall Details 04-10 November 2017
Wednesday was probably the best day. After the early morning frost cleared it left us with a lovely sunny winter’s day even if it was a bit on the cool side. I much prefer cold sunny days to the dull drab days we often get through autumn and winter.

We took Tivvy for a walk in Rothwell Park. 
Tivvy checking I wasn't lagging too far behind
From a distance, the trees still looked to have some autumn colours but close up they appeared to have lost most of their leaves. Another gale or some heavy rain will probably finish them off.
In the garden our little acer tree still has most of its leaves and is looking at its best.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Watercress Survives Its First Frost

Tuesday was the classic day where the forecast is for a band of rain to sweep through with colder weather following on behind it. Yesterday's temperature and rainfall chart shows the details.
Temperature and Rainfall Records for 07 November 2017
The day's rainfall didn't amount to much with just 2.0mm or 0.08in.

Our watercress growing in the pond has survived the first frost of autumn providing us with some greenery for lunchtime sandwiches on Tuesday.
It wasn't a very sharp frost so there will be more severe tests to come as winter progresses.

Monday, 6 November 2017

First Below Zero

Monday morning saw the temperature fall below 0°C (32°F) for the first time this autumn as thermometer recorded -0.3°C or 31.5°F.
Temperature Record for 06 November 2017
It's not unusual for this to happen in the first week of November. Over the last seven years this is now the fourth occasion that the temperature has fallen below zero in the first week of November. 
Frost on our home greenhouse
Sunday was a lovely sunny although cold day but we made the most of the fine weather with a trip to the allotment. Sue did a bit more tidying up and I emptied one of our compost heaps.


Sue picked some chrysanthemums for cut flowers at home. I wonder if they managed to survive Monday morning's frosty weather?




Saturday, 4 November 2017

Dangerous Compost

November's weather has started off a bit none descript. Friday wasn’t a particularly nice day but given that it’s November I shouldn’t complain. It was a dull, calm but mild day so we decided on an afternoon trip to the allotment.

I’m sure you are aware if you follow my blog, that I’m trying to refurbish one of our beds. It’s involved cutting down an elder tree and I spent some time chopping up branches and twigs so that they take up far less space. Whilst I was busy doing this Sue was tidying up our chard plants, cutting down the old sweet corn plants and adding the waste to one of our compost heaps.
Now I think you’ll have to agree that this particular compost heap is full and there isn’t any more space for composting material. I know that in an ideal world we should chop up all the material and mix the different materials together. We’ve no mechanical means of doing this and chopping it all by hand would take forever. So we settle for adding the material without chopping and accept that it will take longer to turn into compost.

However, when I saw how full this compost bin was, I decided action was required. I was a little bored of chopping up elder tree branches and I thought it would be a good idea to investigate the compost, that had been left to rot down for a couple of years,  in one of our heaps.
As it turned out the material had broken down into some excellent compost. I had time to dig out a couple of barrow fulls before it was time to leave, as the light was starting to fade.

The main problem is that the area around our compost heaps is infested with bindweed. The only saving grace is that the long white roots are easily spotted as the compost is dug out. You can just about make out some of the long white roots in the photo above. I have to be very careful not to miss any of the roots as the compost is transferred to bindweed free beds.
Before leaving I covered the material with some weed control fabric to keep the worst of any rain off the excellent compost.
 I’m making it a priority to empty this compost heap before I continue any other jobs. The compost is too good to waste. Once I’ve emptied out the compost we can start refilling the bin.

Friday, 3 November 2017

October 2017 was Mild, Dry and Windy

October was a mild month as I recorded an average temperature of 12.7°C the mildest I’ve managed in eight years. It’s not quite as mild as 2001 at 13.5°C which I think was the mildest in the last 100 years. 

It was also a very windy October as you can see from the graphic I’ve included. I’ve only shown the relevant months as the full size chart is a bit unwieldy.
We had three named storms through October starting with Amelia at the beginning of the month followed by ex-hurricane Ophelia and finally storm Brian. We had some very windy weather in between the storms as well. 

Strangely we didn’t have a great deal of rain with these storms and October was pretty dry with only around half the average rainfall for the month. we didn't have any very wet days at all, with most of the month's rainfall between 19th and 22nd of the month.
You may have noticed that I’ve changed my blog header picture and I haven’t cheated and gone back to a summer flowering plant but kept it seasonal with a photo of a Michaelmas daisy flowering merrily away in one of our borders. It’s enjoyed the mild October weather as some years it doesn’t manage to flower at all.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Eight Blog Anniversary

My blog celebrates its eighth birthday at the end of October. My first post was on the 27 October 2009 about setting up my weather station. It wasn’t until the 30th of the month that I decided to include what was going on in the allotment. If you’re interested you can find this post here.

Whilst the weather station has gone on to be replaced by a better model we’ve still got our allotments. Most of the beds in the first photo are mostly unchanged with crops being rotated on an annual basis. I think the bed in the centre of the picture is now our main strawberry bed.
Plot 30 - Date: October 2009
Plot 30 - Date: October 2017
The second photo shows the other side of our plots when these were still work in progress. The bed being dug over in the 2009 photo now contains our three pear trees. The beds in the background are part of plot 41 and these were being dug over for the first time. Our quince tree and blackcurrant bushes now grow in the bed that is partly dug over.
Plot 42 - Date: October 2009
Plot 42 - Date: October 2017
As you can see there has been far more changes to the plots at this side of the allotments. Back in 2009 we had only just started developing these two plots.

Since 2010 I’ve kept a record of our harvests so just out of interest I thought I’d see how much fruit we’ve had from our three pear trees and quince that were planted around the same time.
Quince and Pear Tree Harvests 2009 - 2017
Our quince tree regularly produces a decent crop whereas that can’t be said of the pear trees. I think the main problem with them is one of pollination. They don’t normally flower at the same time which probably leads to poor pollination. I can’t really explain why our Invincible tree produced such a heavy crop this year. The crop was so large that the weight broke some of the branches.