It was great fun to have a friend visit for an entire week and I think it was interesting for her to see the new hens and the progress on the allotment. However most of our time was spent exploring the island so I have to admit that I fell behind with my 'chores'. I did manage to make soap everyday and to inspect the bees but gardening and serious blogging were difficult to squeeze in. Relaxing and having fun can be so time consuming...yes, life is hard :)
One of the things my friend was looking forward to was seeing the hens and eating some of their eggs. I wasn't sure it was going to happen since we'd had the girls for three weeks and they hadn't laid a single one. However all it took was KR threatening them with being put in the pot for one to appear the very next morning - those stern German threats certainly carry some weight. Since then we've only had two more and all of them have come from Miracel. I suppose that Carmen won't be laying anytime soon since she's moulting but Geraldine doesn't have an excuse. I think I may need to put her on the phone with KR sometime soon.
On her last day here our guest made herself an omelet using two of Miracel's eggs but had to admit that it was a bit difficult for her to eat. The thought that these eggs had come out of that feisty cream-coloured hen in the garden made the experience almost distasteful. After this experience she says now understands why her biology students are reluctant to eat the butter they make in class and I don't doubt that she'll be discussing this issue in one of her lessons. Our ideas on food have evolved into something apart from the natural process; though we know that meat and dairy come from animals, supermarkets and packaging act as psychological barriers from the reality of food production.
We were quite blessed with the weather during the visit and sunny days meant that we could get up to the allotment a couple of times. No serious work was done but KR helped me to dig up my garlic, which really had to come out of the ground. All the wet and cold had seeped into the soil and had started to rot the outer layers of some of the bulbs. The greens had died back too, even though some of the bulbs didn't look fully formed. I'm a bit disappointed with their overall growth this year and am worrying a bit about how I'm going to preserve the smaller bulbs. However I'm determined to master garlic growing and hope to put in even more of it this autumn. One thing I think they really will benefit from will be having better drainage so I think the best place to try to place them will be in one of the raised beds.
Though KR isn't all that fond of bees I still squeezed in a quick inspection to make sure they were doing okay. I actually found the Queen in the first hive but was worried to see no newly laid eggs or larva - I'm planning on keeping an eye on that one. The second one is thriving and I was even able to put in some extra frames for them to continue building on. I was also pleased to see that the bees from the swarm had successfully integrated into the hive. You can tell the difference between the two groups of bees by their colour: my original bees are nearly completely black but the new ones have a couple of wide golden stripes at the top of their abdomen. This yellowness is due to our native black bees breeding with the Italian bees imported to the island decades ago.
I've mentioned the raised beds we have at home but I don't believe I've ever put up a photo of them. The idea with these beds is to increase our growing space and to use a sunny bit of the garden which would otherwise have been laid to grass. The wood used to build the beds is mainly from reclaimed pallets and I painted the exterior to help preserve the wood for another year. Though I know that most people don't paint their raised beds and instead let them rot down, we've decided to replace this initial wood completely due to a scary fact we've found out about pallet wood. To preserve and fumigate the wood, pallets are sprayed with Formaldehyde, Methyl Bromide and other harsh chemicals. So mind this bit of information when you consider making interior furniture and crafts à la Pinterest or even burning this type of wood in your open fireplaces.
In the photo you can see that the furthest two beds are mainly empty, having been dug over and filled with compost and manure earlier this year. They'll be filled again with farmyard manure in the autumn, which will create rich fertile soil in time for spring. The front two are currently being used to grow tomatoes, courgettes, lovage and a few rows of lettuce, which are embarrassingly going to seed. This is what happens when you plan on trying to eat a salad everyday and then cold, wet weather convinces you to make soups, stews and comfort food. Thankfully KR is a big fan of salads so some of this has been used up now.
In addition to the tomatoes I have planted outside (which I'm praying will survive the blight season) I also have eight plants growing in my conservatory. They're of the exact same varieties and you can clearly see how a bit of pampering can create larger and more delicate leaves and much taller plants. The fruits indoors have just begun to ripen and they're so sweet that it's difficult to save them for meals when they can so sneakily be popped in your mouth. I also had a few rows of basil planted out in the raised beds earlier on but they were looking so bedraggled that I dug them back out and have them in pots in the conservatory too. I really wish Santa would bring me a polytunnel this Christmas!
With true summer days forecast for us in August I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time outdoors and at the allotment. I don't know about you but I've had enough rain for this year and wouldn't mind if a bit of a heatwave headed this way. In addition to getting out in the sun I'm also planning on attending an exciting class beginning tonight and running over the weekend: 'An Introduction to Permaculture'. In the last year I've heard so much about this holistic method of growing and living that I'm really keen to find out more. The course runs from this evening and goes through both Saturday and Sunday so I'll be sure to have a recap of it for you by Monday. The class incorporates lecture time, two films, meals and two outings to view a Forest Garden and the Kerrowkneale Allotments. I can feel inspiration heading this way!
Have a lovely weekend and see you next week :)
PS - I've posted a few 'tourist' snaps from the last week below...enjoy!