Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chickened Out!

Monday was cold with just a little sunshine in the afternoon but it didn't do a lot for the temperature.

The forecast is for the cold weather to continue, certainly for the rest of this week, with night time temperatures plummeting very low over the next few nights to maybe the coldest of the winter so far. With this in mind I’ve moved my chitting potatoes out of the greenhouse and into the garage for a little extra warmth or should that be less cold.
As daytime temperatures even in the greenhouse are reaching only 5°C there wont be much chitting going on and I’d rather be safe than sorry at keeping the tubers frost free. On long cold winter nights my greenhouse doesn’t provide much frost protection.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Muffin Trials

Sunday was so different, not a hint of sunshine and cold with a high of just 3.1°C and the daily average coming in at 1.3°C. This weather may be with us a while, through into the second week of February if the forecasts are correct.

Last week I made some apple muffins which turned out well. I thought some may be nice with a little of our frozen fruit used in them. The apple recipe only made 8 muffins and I wanted to make a dozen sufficient to fill the muffin tray. There’s thousands of muffin recipes on the web so it was a matter of deciding which one. I settled for a blueberry muffin recipe except I intended to use some redcurrants to replace the blueberries.  I added the equivalent amount of de-frosted redcurrants as a first attempt to see if the muffins would turn out OK.
The ingredients:

2 eggs, 240ml milk, 120ml vegetable oil, 200gms sugar added to a bowl and mixed together.
375gms plain flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt mixed together.

The 2 sets of ingredients are added together and given a good mixing and then I added 175 gms of de-frosted redcurrants.

The mixed contents were shared between the 12 muffin cases and cooked for 25 minutes at 200°C gas mark 6

Next time I might try with 200gms of redcurrants especially as we still have plenty in the freezer.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

RSPB Bird Count Saturday

Saturday was a cold crisp sunny day. It did cloud over in the late afternoon but otherwise it was a beautiful day for counting birds.

For once it seemed our feathered friends didn’t completely desert us for a couple of days as they usually do for the RSPB bird count weekend. These starlings found the temptation of a new fat filled coconut too much to resist.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Shallots arrive

Friday was sunshine and showers, with the showers a little too frequent to make any use of the sunshine in between them. Temperatures were around expected with a high of 6.5°C. After a dry 2011, January has got 2012 off to wet start and we've had around a third more rainfall this month than we might expect. 

It’s the time of year when onions and shallots start arriving from the suppliers. Marshalls have sent our shallots which arrived today.
Last year we started our shallots in pots in the greenhouse and it worked well. There is no way that ground on the plot will be in a fit state for planting. I’ll have to do a bit of tidying up in the greenhouse first though.

Friday, 27 January 2012

A First Sighting

Thursday was another not too bad sort of a day for winter, some sunshine during the day dried up the rain which had fallen in the early hours of the morning.

I’m taking winter as a time to sort out my 2011 video. I like to make sure that the most important clips are backed up and that any unwanted stuff is deleted from my computer. I was a little surprised when I came across some clips from RSPB Old Moor taken last April which had been left on the clipping room floor. This was the first and only time we had spotted a Reed Bunting so I didn’t want to loose this bit of video.
I’ve uploaded the best of the video to Youtube. It was taken on a visit last April so it’s good to know that in a few weeks time Spring will hopefully be arriving.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cold Weather Warning??

Wednesday saw some mild air return as temperatures once again managed double figures. We had some reasonably sunny spells so it turned out to be a pretty good day for January.

The weather forecast for next week has two very different scenarios. One is for the weather to continue much in the same pattern with mild windy and sometimes wet weather. The second scenario is just the opposite with very cold weather taking over with severe frosts at night and the possibility of snow showers. I have a link to one of the American forecasting models and this has varied between the two scenarios over the last few days.
I grabbed this screen shot on Thursday morning and it’s definitely going for the cold option at the moment. The temperatures are in °F where anything in red is indicating 28°F down to 14°F. This particular forecast is for 06:00 on the 2nd February.  This winter it’s been rather unusual to have any red on the chart and we’ve maintained blues and purples for most of winter.

The chart below is the forecast for midday on Thursday 26th  which is more typical of the forecasts for this winter with virtually the whole of the UK swathed in blues.
As I said at first there are two scenarios and it’s possible that the mild and unsettled weather will continue into February but on the other hand..............

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Apple Muffins

Tuesday was pretty wet and miserable and not a day for venturing outdoors unless absolutely necessary.  It rained on and off for most of the day with the rain coming from an unusual direction as it doesn't often fall on the web cam window.
As I didn’t want to go outside I decided to do a little baking. As Sue posted in her blog we still have some apples left that have been stored in the fridge. We’re now using the last of these apples and we have unsurprising only the smallest apples left. 
I found a recipe for apple muffins on the Internet and decided to give it a go. The only difficult bit was deciding how many tiny apples constitute two large apples.
I must have judged it about right as the muffins turned out OK. There were eight to start with but that was soon reduced to six after a couple of tasters disappeared to check the quality. I might just try a hint of cinnamon in the next batch. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Chitting Potatoes

Monday was a mixed bag of weather, some sunny spells but then some short sharp showers and a gradually falling temperature.

Having decided to put gardening on hold for a few weeks and wait for some better weather that idea went out of the window when our seed potatoes arrived from Alan Romans.
Arriving as they do at this time of year it a tricky decision deciding the best place to keep them. They could go in the garage and be kept in the dark for a few weeks where they will be safe from any frosty weather or go into the greenhouse in boxes in the light to allow them to start chitting.

Our potatoes in storage in the garage have managed to grow a few sprouts due to the mild winter so far. Bearing this in mind I’ve decided to take a bit of a risk and to put the potatoes in the greenhouse, set out in boxes, which will allow them to chit by forming tiny sprouts before planting which will be early April.
The potatoes are now set out in old supermarket boxes on the greenhouse shelving with the varieties each carefully labelled. The boxes are into their second recycling life as they were used to store last summer’s potato harvest in the garage. They’ll probably make their way down to the plot in April when the potatoes are planted and once emptied chopped up and placed in one of our compost bins for their final recycle. 
To finish off each box of potatoes has been covered with a couple of layers of fleece just for a little bit of frost protection. I think if some really severe cold weather is forecast I might have to move the boxes into the garage to give them a little extra protection from the cold. I’ll need to keep an eye on the forecast as until the end of February we can expect especially frosty nights which may damage our seed potatoes.

Our potatoes have started off our “sowing” record for 2012 which can be found here.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Measuring Windy Weather

The gale continued to blow for most of the day again on Sunday and it was into the evening before it started to calm down. Once again it was mild but not very pleasant outside.

It set me off thinking how to measure the windy weather. It’s all well and good measuring the highest gust speed that’s just one measurement and the last gale blew for the best part of 3 days. So with a little help from the “Countif” function in Excel I decided to calculate how many wind gust speeds in increasing 5mph bands my weather station recorded from January 2011 to the present.
I was surprised by the numbers but they do show how windy the last couple of months have been. I have even checked the 590 roughly manually and it seems correct.

Our strongest gust was in February 2011 with a speed of 36 mph during a particularly windy spell that month. But for pure persistent blowing power December 2011 and January 2012 hold the record.

For information my weather station saves all its weather data in 5 minute intervals so a wind gust speed is logged every 5 minutes or 288 gust speeds a day, 2016 per week, amounting to just over 8000 values per month. So all Excel has done is count up the wind gust speed in each of the 5 minute intervals.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Never Ending Gale

The one thing we've had lots of this winter is gale force winds. Saturday was typically with strong to gale force winds blowing all day. There might be glimpses of sun and a mild temperature for January but it’s just unpleasant outside in the perpetual gales.

The latest gale started around midnight on Friday and as we approach midday Sunday it’s not relented much apart from a short spell in the early hours of Sunday morning. Those bright frosty days last week without the wind were such a pleasant change from the typical windy days this winter is producing.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

What’s left in the Freezer?

Friday was back to normal for this January. The cold snap has gone and we’re back to dull, wet and windy. That just about sums up Friday and of course it was mild for with the daily high temperature making double figures once again although to be fair it didn't manage to get there until midnight.

Robin over at The Garden of Eden posted an inventory of canned produce remaining in the cupboard. I too like to keep a list of our stocks but these are in the freezer rather than canned. I wish I could keep these records a little more accurately but I always seem to find a bag of goodies that have found their way into a forgotten corner of the freezer for a couple of years. As spot on as it ever will be our list of freezer produce remaining from last year.
We've also still enough potatoes in store to last another couple of months by which time they will have started to sprout and grow in any case. We have a few onions left but these haven’t stored very well this year and much of the crop has gone mouldy in store.
Down on the plot we've got parsnips, leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and beetroot ready to harvest.

In the greenhouse I’d left some winter squash “Crown Prince” and rather luckily they seem to have survived the recent cold spell when temperatures fell to minus 4°C even in the greenhouse. I had intended to give them a little protection but just never got round to it.

Friday, 20 January 2012

What a Difference a Week Makes

Thursday produced some sunny periods, scattered showers and blustery winds with temperatures around average.
Just over a week ago it looked like January 2012 might be heading into the records as a particularly mild month. The last week of cold frosty nights has probably put an end to that possibility.

As you can see by the 13th of the month our 2012 purple line was all set to touch the record green line set in 1916 but since then the cold nights have reduced us to a near normal average temperature for the month.

I’m certainly putting any gardening activities on hold as in our un-heated greenhouse the overnight temperatures were down below minus 4°C last week. That’s survival temperatures not growing conditions. The temptation is so great though when other blogger's are getting the new season under way.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mild weather makes a comeback

The mild weather returned on Wednesday after 5 very frosty nights in a row.

It will take a day or so for the ground to thaw out completely. Our bird bath was still in the process of thawing out although all the obvious signs of frost had disappeared.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Another Brrrrry Day

Tuesday was a continuation of the cold spell with another day with an average temperature below zero. Once again we had plenty of sunshine.

The continuing cold weather had resulted in a thin ice forming over our pond. At this time of year it doesn’t get any sunshine and four nights with temperatures below minus 4°C have taken their toll.

As forecast though the weather changed overnight with the temperature starting to rise quickly late in the evening and continuing through the early hours to reach double figures by 10:00 Wednesday morning. Our first cold snap of winter has ended just as abruptly as it started. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Brrrrr Goes On

Monday was another cold day with a severe overnight frost. There were some sunny spells through the day so it did warm up just a little bit more than Sunday.

Much of our garden remains in the shade all day during the winter months giving it a frosty look all day when temperatures remain around freezing. However down our side border under the magnolia tree a hint of afternoon sunshine gives little parts of the garden a total different perspective. 

These hellebores change from an early morning frost into afternoon sunshine and look much better for the change. Unfortunately it’s not long before the frost returns

Monday, 16 January 2012

Brrrrr er!

Sunday just got colder as the temperature just managed to creep above 0°C in the early afternoon. It was a cold grey day without any sunshine and of course the ground remained white covered by frost all day. 

It certainly puts on hold any thoughts of gardening as the last few days have really seen winter start to bite.

Our spring bulbs are through the frozen ground but I don’t think they’re extra early and hopefully will come to no harm during this sudden cold snap.

These plants have been well and truly frosted over the last few days with the overnight temperature falling to minus 4.4°C below. It looks as though they will remain in their frozen state a little longer as the temperature at 09:00 Monday morning is still minus 4.4°C.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Well it had to happen didn't it - a cold snap. We’ve done well up to now but Saturday was certainly cold, easily turning out to be the coldest day of winter so far. The days average temperature was minus 1.2°C, with an early morning low of minus 4.4°C, the first time we've managed a minus average daily temperature since the famously cold December of 2010.

The sun did make an appearance for much of the day but any shady spots remained white and frozen all day.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Swapped wind for frost

Friday saw a change in the weather. The wind disappeared, replaced by colder sunnier weather. There was more rubbish to collect from the garden after the latest gale. The most testing was to remove a plastic carrier bag tangled in the branches of the crab apple tree. 
With the help of the long handled pruners I managed to un-hook and manoeuvre the bag out of the tree. We had a couple of plastic milk cartons to remove from another part of the garden and to my surprise a complete bank statement, name, address and account number all detailed should the statement fall into the wrong hands. I'm amazed how careless some people are with such information.

By late evening the temperature was already down below minus 2.0°C making it our first serious frost of the winter and our coldest day of winter.

I suspect it will be a short lived record as Saturday morning is clear and frosty with a temperature of minus 4.4°C around dawn.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Colder days on the way

The overnight gales died down quickly through Thursday morning to give us another mild day with some sunny spells. Once again we survived the gales without any damage. The wind did manage to overturn our old garden seat which I found rather amazing as it’s pretty sturdy.

Since December we’ve had an amazing spell of windy weather. My weather Station has been operating since October 2009. Up to the beginning of last December I’d recorded just one gale force wind gust above 30mph although at 36mph it remains our strongest gust.

However December and January to date have produced 6 days with wind gust speeds above 30mph. January alone has already provided 4 such days.

The forecast is for some much calmer weather stretching into next week with colder daytime temperatures and overnight frosts. A few days without gale force winds will be a pleasant change.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Mildest day but gales return

Wednesday became our mildest day of the month with an average temperature of 10.1°C. I made a trip down the plot, badly timed as it started to drizzle as soon as I arrived.

By late evening and into the early hours of Thursday morning gale force winds were back with us again.

I’d gone down to the plot to erect some posts to provide some support for our raspberry canes. I wasn’t going to let the drizzle put me off. This should have been done last spring but the ground was so hard and dry it was impossible to hammer any posts in without splitting them. After some wet winter days that’s not the case any more. Anyone following Sue’s garlic postings will know that they appear to be trying to grow in mud. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get the posts in whilst the ground is soft.
The posts went in a treat so now all that’s left to do is put up some wires and tie in this years raspberry canes.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Record January

Tuesday saw another mild and dry day with some decent sunny spells.

I know it’s early in the month and I don’t want to put the mockers on this mild weather but we seem to be heading towards one of the warmest Januarys on record. I’ve reproduced my figures in the chart below.

The top green line is the warmest on record set in 1916 and the purple line is January 2012 and is, at the minute, heading towards the record green line. Now I’ve seen rumours that through the weekend and into the beginning of next week it will be cooler with overnight frosts so this month’s average temperatures may take a bit of a nose dive. The source of my rumour also has some much colder weather for us starting around the 22nd January - possibly the coldest of the winter so far. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Strawberry cuttings

Monday continued the spell of mild weather. It was dull all day but apart from some light drizzle it remained dry for most of the day.

Sue took some strawberry cuttings from our new plants in the autumn and we wondered how they were getting on. They’ve been left in the cold frame behind the greenhouse and plants left there to over winter can get a little bit neglected. After all our recent rain I at least expected them to be waterlogged.
Surprisingly the plants don’t look too bad. There’s a few brown leaves but that’s to be expected. Most of the plants are still alive with some green leaves. I’m almost tempted to clean away the dead leaves to tidy the plants up and then let them spend the rest of the winter in the greenhouse where they will get a little more TLC than left where they are.

Sue tidied up our strawberry bed on the plot last month clearing away the last of the straw and mulch before giving the soil a gentle hoe just to break up the soil surface to stop it forming a crusty layer.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Forcing Rhubarb

Once again Sunday wasn't too bad a day remaining cloudy and mild.

As you might be aware we live just a few miles outside the famous Rhubarb Triangle in Yorkshire. It’s this time of year when the forcing of rhubarb gets into full swing but this year there’s a problem. It’s been too mild for the rhubarb roots which need a frost for successful forcing and we just haven’t had any.

The good news for them is at least they have some rhubarb roots left. After last year’s very dry summer I reckon I’ve lost most of my rhubarb. There were some signs when we visited the plot last week that one root has survived and had some healthy looking buds forming. 

There should be four very large clumps of rhubarb in this bed but so far only two are showing any signs of growth. It looks like this clump will need some weeding and feeding to bring it into full production in a few months time.

I have never actually tried forcing rhubarb as normally it’s a pretty early crop and we have some still stored in our freezer so for me it doesn’t really seem worth the effort.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Great Storm

Saturday wasn't too bad although it was cloudy for most of the day it remained dry. The wind picked up for a short while in the evening but nothing too bad and it was short lived.

I thought last week’s storm was bad but obviously Britain has suffered from far worse storms in the past. All too often we only seem to consider our weather over it’s modern well measured era rather than delving too deeply into the past. 

The Great Storm of 1703 lasted from 24th November to 2nd December with the worst of the storm hitting on the Friday night and Saturday morning of November 26/27. The winds struck at a reported 140mph in the English Channel and it’s thought winds speeds even higher than this would have been recorded further north.

Click here to read full story

There are parallels in the story of many windmills being destroyed in the storm some catching fire as their sails spun out of control in the wind.

The Eddystone lighthouse constructed 5 years earlier was totally destroyed killing its designer Henry Winstanley who visited the lighthouse to see how it would withstand the elements.

At sea the storm devastated the English Navy which lost lost 14 of its principal fighting ships and 1,500 crew. Around 40 merchant ships were reported lost.

The total loss of life was estimated at around 8,000.

Thought to be a 1 in 500 year storm it just goes to show you never can tell what the weather might throw at you.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Allotment visit

Friday was much better than the last few days with a reasonable amount of sunshine and the gale force conditions of the last few days had disappeared.

We thought we should visit the allotment to collect some fresh vegetables and discover what state the plot was in following the gales. Visiting the plot just after lunch we managed to pick a time when the sun had disappeared but with virtually no breeze it didn’t feel too cold.
We were pleased to discover that there didn't seem to be any damage at all and our greenhouse and shed had survived the gales intact. Most of our winter vegetables are still in good condition and we soon managed to gather what we thought was a pretty decent harvest for the first week of January.

As it’s the start of a new year I’ve decided to start a new page on my web site for our harvests from the plot for this year. Click here to see full details of our first harvest of 2012.

Whilst we were fortunate to have avoided any damage from the gale force winds that’s certainly not the case around Yorkshire where we live. Just a few miles away in the Pennines the winds were at their strongest and these wind turbines became rather high profile casualties of the gales. 
Click here to read full story

Friday, 6 January 2012

Battering fades at last

After being battered by gales in the early hours of Thursday morning the wind eased to strong and blustery by midday before eventually calming down in the evening. 

After our run of dry months which came to an end in December it looks like January is set to get 2012 off to a wet start.

By the end of Thursday, just 5 days into January our monthly rainfall already tots up to 32.6mm set against an average monthly total of 43.8mm.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Battered again

For most of Wednesday we had a lull from being battered by strong winds but then as forecast the strength picked up again and we were battered once again through the late evening and into the early hours of Thursday morning. The winds were stronger and more frequent than Tuesday’s gales.

The chart below (starting at Midnight on Tuesday) plots both storms and shows how last nights storm was more intense.

This time though our bird table and feeder station remained upright and we fortunately haven’t any other damage in the garden. Unfortunately this particular storm coincided with the the local council’s collection of recycled plastic. Their system doesn't work in windy weather as the light weight plastic container supplied for collecting the rubbish just blows around in the wind depositing the contents everywhere - well not quite everywhere mostly in our garden!
So this morning’s first task was to collect other people’s rubbish before council collection lorry arrived - we didn't put ours out as we knew what would happen  - why do people put cardboard packaging in a plastic recycling container?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Just like the rest of the country we were battered by gale force winds and rain on Tuesday. It’s windy almost every day at the moment but yesterday we had a couple of gusts measured at 30mph and many over  25mph which is unusual for our sheltered suburban garden. 

As you can see from the above graph we had plenty of rain mixed in with the gales. In the end we had 14.0mm of rain producing our wettest day since November 8th 2010. Looks like our spell of below average rainfall might well be over especially as January isn't generally a particularly wet month.

We were lucky that the wind didn’t do too much damage in the garden.
Bird Table and Feeding Station Blown Over
This bird table and RSPB feeding station felt the worst of the weather blowing over in the morning gales. I’m not too sure how it managed to do that as the bird table was weighed down with a small paving slab which the wind needed to dislodge before the table could blow over. One leg of the bird table rested on the base of the feeding station so I thought I had a foolproof method of preventing them from blowing over in any gales. Apparently not!

Adjustments Required
It looks like correcting the feeding station is work in progress as after an afternoon and night of more windy weather its taken on a rather jaunty angle this morning. It looks like it’s still recovering from a rather good New Years Eve party.

The plastic trays which fix to the bottom of the feeders to try to prevent some seed falling to the ground were smashed in the fall and will need to be replaced.

So in the garden we got off very lightly.

Hopefully all will be well when we next visit the plot and our shed and greenhouse will be in one piece and still where they should be on our plot.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Off to a mild start

The new year got off to a mild start with the weather continuing as the previous few weeks.

I noticed that the BBC and Met Office are recording 2011 as the second hottest ever UK year. As a gardener that surprised me somewhat as I can’t remember any crops struggling due to the heat. Our crops struggled more through lack of rain and cold temperatures throughout the main summer months than from a prolonged heatwave. Crops like sweetcorn failed to produce completely which I put down to a cold and dry summer.
Click here to read full article
Looking back over the year April was clearly the standout month with above average temperatures but that’s a little too early for most of the main vegetable crops to benefit, especially as we had a keen frost at the beginning of May which undid much of April’s good work.
Our early potatoes and outdoor grapes were frosted along with our Kiwi. The grapes and Kiwi never fully recovered from their set back so we can only hope for better luck with the weather this year.
Frosted Kiwi 4th May 2011
The other surprising thing I noticed was the value of the average annual UK temperature. The article above gives a little graph of the monthly temperatures and gives the annual average UK temperature as 9.62°C.

The average temperature recorded by my weather station for Ossett last year is 11.0°C which is positively tropical compared to the UK average quoted. I’m wondering where you have to live in the UK to experience this average temperature. Ossett is situated in the north of England so I’m thinking possibly Scotland say Edinburgh might be the place to experience something like this temperature. My weather station temperatures are usually in close agreement with other Weather Stations that display their data on the Internet via Weather Underground so I’ve no reason to believe my recordings are so far out.  

It would be interesting to find out what the average temperatures are in the areas that my readers live in. It would be great if you could pop a comment here if you know what the average annual temperature is in your area.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

Saturday brought the year to an end on a mild note with the temperature managing double figures one again. Over the last couple of years it’s been quite exceptional to manage a double figure temperature in December, indeed last December we didn't even manage one solitary hour in double figures. 
I've been doing lots of sums over Christmas and the New Year to compare the hourly temperatures for each month since I've had my weather station. Looking at this December it’s easy to see just how much milder it’s been than the previous two Decembers with far less blue in its column.