Sunday, 16 December 2007
Monday, 10 December 2007
The second coin is lead, 12mm, with a rather similar portrait of Obodas. The reverse is Nike (the Greek equivalent of Victory on Roman coins), with wings outstretched, holding out a wreath. Lead coins are well known from the region, but this is the latest one I've come across. Nobody knows why they were struck.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Saturday, 10 November 2007
I've planted seed of four more Trillium species; erectum, parviflorum, sessile and chloropetalum, but there hasn't been much going on cultivation-wise.
I gave a talk about the allotments to the Sutton Coldfield Horticultural Society the other night, which was a new experience. All very enjoyable though, and the fee paid for the slides I had to have made; I've currently got no way of projecting digital photos, and I gave up on film cameras some time ago, so I had to have old-fashioned slides made up specially. I've got them now though, if I ever get asked to do it again.
Thursday, 1 November 2007
Psychologically (I used to work in mental health) it's very well done; you see all the narcissism, the insecurity, the poor relationship skills that the mafiosi have. I wonder how true to life it is? Itr's certainly more believable. But then,, the producers had so many more hours of film to work with.
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Thursday, 25 October 2007
I moved the broodbox aside, and replaced it with one of the small colonies I'd put in a nucleus box. this went into a full-sized box. Then I just shook all the bees from the original colony off the frames, and fet the frames back in till I had a box full. The bees found their way back into the new colony, but the queen, hopefully, didn't. I'll check everything's OK in the next few days. That just leaves one more to do, and that'll give me two golonies headed by my own queens, and two by the bought queens. I'll see what comes through the winter, then raise more queens next year.
Saturday, 13 October 2007
It's a miserable drizzly day, but I've at least got my walking onions in. I've planted everything, and from a single row of mini-bulbs last year, I now have a complete bed, partly mini-bulbs and partly full-sized ones. Next year I'll get to taste them.
Monday, 8 October 2007
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
We've had some welcome rain, and the weather is now decidedly autumnal. I'm just carrying on with the digging, with the aim of having more beds in cultivation next year. I'm not putting much in the ground at the moment, as the space will be needed for the crops my family really appreciates; sweet corn, tomatoes, and other tender veg.
Monday, 24 September 2007
None of the three hives I gave cells to are showing any sign of brood, which is a worry. One is nasty-tempered and probably queenless, while the others, both splits from those hives I bought, are good-tempered and quiet on the comb. I can only assume that those at least are queenright.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
I've been pulling out the remains of some of the Great Mullein; it's a weed I tolerate for its dramatic, if too narrow, spikes of bloom. This year, for once, it wasn't devastated by mullein moth, and flourished correspondingly. I only want it down one side of the garden though, as it's too massive to be throwing up six-foot spires among dwarf plants. It's a biennial, and easily removed wherever it's unwelcome. Borage, which is grown commercially for starflower oil, is doing rather too well as always. It gets covered in bees, and I don't mind it as long as it's not smothering my crops. It's an annual, and once again, it's easily pulled out where it's not wanted. I just wish the veg. would do as well!
I'm slowly catching up with the hedge trimming. It's a horrible job, especially when I'm doing the tops of the hedges with a lumsy great thing that's not quite powerful enough, and keeps sticking. Once it's done though, i should be able to keep on top of it now.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
I've raised another batch of queen cells, and moved both the queens I got last spring into rather makeshift nuc boxes. Hopefully they'll come though the winter at the head of small colonies, to provide a reserve for next year. Three queenless colonies have been given cells. It's late in the season, but as long as the queens mate satisfactorily, and I feed them, they should be OK.
I don't normally feed bees, as a well-adapted strain should be able to store enough to get through any winter comfortably. I do it when there's a specific reason, and yesterday I gave them a gallon of syrup each, with 1/4 gallon for each of the two nucs.
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
One hive which I'd left queenless has produced what appears to be a good laying queen; I need to see the workers she produces to assess her better, and she's not really much good till she's survived the winter! She started laying very fast, which is a good sign; no problems getting that one mated. Apart from that, things went wrong. I put cells into a hive with a laying queen, hoping the bees would replace her with a new one; it usually works, but this time it didn't. I split a second hive, and gave both halves queen cells. The original queen moved back into the original hive, leaving a weak, queenless split, which I've now united with another hive. That left me with a decidedly nasty-tempered hive to deal with for the second time. I'm not happy, but I've got that queen out this time. The original hive is currently raising a second batch of queens. For the first time ever, I've got no honey at all, but I should have more hives going next year, at least.
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Friday, 3 August 2007
The walking onions produced single bulbs and small clumps, but they were grown from small bulbils. I think I'll do better planting the bulbs, along with the bigger bulbils. They're strange things, the bulbs are like shallots, and clusters of nulbils form at the tops of the stems, where you'd expect a flower. Come to that, garlic flowers I took off ended up trying to produce little clusters of bulbils.
I split the big beehive last week, and yesterday I took out some of the resulting queen cells (from the queenless half) and put them into the two bought-in hives. I split one of them, and gave cells to both halves. I had meant to split both, but didn't have enough cells. Previously, I've done this with swarm cells, which are nicely built, hang free, and are strong enough to handle comfortably. These were emergency cells, converted from worker cells when the bees picked the young larva to become a queen. The walls were thin, and they were difficult to cut out and difficult to handle without squashing them. Hopefully they'll hatch; each hive has two, to provide a backup.
Monday, 23 July 2007
I've split the big beehive, in order to raise queens. There are masses of drones, so I should get good mating. They got in a real mood with me yesterday; that's the second bad stinging I've had this summer. As far as the garden goes, this year's crops are pretty much a washout. It's so bad it's depressing, and on top of that I've overdone it doing the GCSE marking. I finished on Friday, just as I got to the point where I could no longer concentrate, and I was getting daily attacks of migraine, which are still happening.
Yesterday was our 12th wedding anniversary. We had people saying we shouldn't be together, and people trying to sabotage the wedding. The then minister from church wrote asking me not to go ahead as a Christian shouldn't marry a Muslim, and I had one hysterical fundamentalist ring me tup to say I was going to hell. But we're still together, and where are they?
Sunday, 15 July 2007
The main thing now is to make sure I'm ready in good time for next year, since in this new job I don't have much time off at Easter, and no summer half term, so that's a vital coupls of weeks lost. Meanwhile, I'm still bogged down with GCSE marking; they've roped me in to do the Roman Catholic paper as well as my normal one. It's an irritant, not merely because its a horribly boring job which needs 100% concentration, but because the denominational answer is taken to be the correct one, and that's bound to annoy me. I do get the odd gem though. One kid answered 'What does catholic mean?' with 'It's posher and more elegant than the Church of England and snobs go there'. Obviously, whoever it was doesn't like their (Catholic) school.
Saturday, 7 July 2007
My native hive is still the best-tempered of the three despite its greater strength. One of the new ones is OK, but the other is getting nastier by the week. Yesterday I had a really good stinging from them, with bee after bee going up my arm, and bees all over my sleeve, stinging it like mad. I got two stings from bees inside my veil, when mostly ones that get in there think about nothing but escape. Not nice at all, I don't want bees like that. I've always avoided the 'space suit' type of bee gear; it ought to be unnecessary with only a few hives. The way to go is to avoid the nasty bees.
The crazy thing is that back in the 1920's, Brother Adam, the most influential UK beekeeper of his time, concluded that the native British bee was, firstly, extinct, and secondly, nasty-tempered. My experience, and that of others who keep them, is that they are far from extinct, and reliably good tempered. Unlike the unpredictable hybrids a lot of bigger beekeepers seem to go for.
Saturday, 23 June 2007
I got a couple more colonies of bees a couple of weeks ago; they're hybrid Italians, docile, prolific, and, from what the guy told me, probably swarmier than my existing strain. I need the bees, but I don't particularly want the genetics. So I've been keepng these colonies small by swapping frames of capped brood out into my original colony on a weekly basis. This is now getting to the point where it needs a second broodbox if this is to continue. The theory is that this keeps the new colonies small enough not to produce drones, while the original one produces loads. It can then be split, and it will produce new queens. There should be enough drones by late summer to ensure decent mating, and with so many bees available, there should be some honey despite the split. I just hope it works! The big danger is swarming, but if it looks like doing so, I'll just split it then and there.
Meanwhile, I'm a month behind with my planting out. Fortunately, it's still June, and with term coming to an end,. it should be easier to get to the plot.
Saturday, 19 May 2007
I've been too tired to do a lot on the allotment, but I've managed to get the purple-podded peas and some of the sweet peas planted out. I've replanted purple-possed pea and ne plus ultra, since the latter was almost wiped out by mice, and put in a late lot of crimson-flowered broad bean, in pots. I need to get some more planting done over the weeken, if the weather gives me a chance.
The bees weren't expanding beyond 2 1/2 frames of brood, and I was getting worried, but they had a couple of half-drawn plastic frames just outside the broodnest, and I was wondering whether they just didn't want to use them. So I moved one good frame in on one side, within the broodnest, and a frame of nasty drone cells just outside it, on the other. After a week, I found yesterday that the former was well and truly laid up, with 3 1/2 frames of brood present, and the latter was well on the way to being chewed away; the bees didn't like it at all, and it had great holes in it. So I moved some more good frames in. I'm a lot happier about that colony now.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
I've been going like mad the last few days, potting up seedlings. I've done the tomatoes, and almost all the corn, but i still have the squashes to do. It's not a job I enjoy, but it has to be done. At least I've got more space this year, with the extra mini-greenhouse.
The bees are still on 2 1/2 frames of brood, but with noticeably more bees in the hive than last week.
Monday, 23 April 2007
Sunday, 22 April 2007
I stayed late the other night hoping to see some bats; several were out in the gloaming, flying low up and down the lane, probably pipistrelles, as that's far and away the commonest. There was a kestrel out hunting a bit earlier, Venus was very bright, and I could see the dark circle of the moon in the arms of the new crescent, glimmering in the earthlight.
The bees are steadily building up, with two and a half frames of brood, and most of the frame in the centre full of it. They'll be popping shortly.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
I took these over the weekend; I was so tired after 35 teaching hours during the week, doing extra revision classes, that a long session I planned on the allotment turned into a couple of hours' aimless pottering. I even got there and realised that I'd completely forgotten to change into old clothes!
The Arum creticum is a mingy little thing, but it's the first time it's flowered in several years. As you can see, the Trilliums have been drooping in the heat; this is a habit of theirs as they really want all-day shade which I can't give them. They perk up overninght, and hopefully with the forecast cooler temperatures on the way, they should be better shortly. The garlic pic shows an early variety on the left, and elephant garlic on the right. The Broad Beans are coming up nicely, but I don't have many seeds in the ground yet; I tend to be pretty cautious about planting. I've started taking trays of seedlings down to the mini-greenhouses, much to Namissa's relief, and more's going to be planted this week.
I've got an easy week during the mocks; no normal lessons, and as I've got an odd student coming in for extra tuition, I've escaped doing any invigilation. So, at last, there's time to start catching up on myself.
Sunday, 8 April 2007
The bees are still on a frame and a half of brood, and I spotted the first drone of the year, with a dozen or so capped drone cells scattered about. This is really early, and I heard yesterday of someone's hive swarming. This is exceptional for April 7th. I re-marked the queen, as the original mark had rubbed off. I've sent off a cheque for two nucs (nuclei - small colonies), which should go a long way towards replenishing my stock of bees. I've asked for ones with last year's queens, so I should have them shortly, and hopefully, I should still be on the way to a decent honey harvest.
Back to work tomorrow (yes, I know it'as supposed to be Bank Holiday) and I've got a week of seven hour teaching days, doing Easter revision classes. I'm not looking forward to it.
Saturday, 7 April 2007
These crown imperials are looking cheerful at the moment, and I wish I could say the same for my more conventional orangey-red ones. these are sulking though, year after year. I find them pretty fussy; if planted in one spot, they do well; a few yards away, they do badly. The other clump do seem to get a little stronger from one year to the next though, so maybe time will sort it out.
I've really let myself in for it this Easter; I signed up for extra revision classes, thinking I'd just get a few, and I've been overwhelmed by the rush. i've been teaching every morning this last week, with the odd afternoon as well, but at least that gave me a little time for the allotment. This coming week, I've got seven hours' teaching a day, all the way through. It won't leave any time or energy for anything.
Meanwhile, of course, I'm getting behind again. I had hoped to use the holiday to dig over some of the ground I've left for the last couple of years, but there's been no chance for that. I won't need the ground for a couple of months though, so there's time yet. All the onions are in, and I'll be planting early potatoes (Rocket) later today, a bit tardily. I've bought a second mini greenhouse, which is going to be needed badly, and I've been planting seeds in pots; there are trays of sweet peas, and a couple of heritage pea varieties; Ne Plus Ultra and Purple-Podded. I haven't planted anything outside yet though apart from broad beans, which are just coming through.
I had a little old bean seed, which had shrivelled, turned blackish, and looked mouldy. I didn't extect it to do anything, but out of curiosity, I planted it alongside the new. To my surprise, it's coming up strongly.
Sunday, 1 April 2007
I've acquired this over the last week; it's been sitting by the comittee hut for a couple of years, and nobody knew what to do with it. it's going to take a bit of work, but there's nothing to stop it being turned into a decent garden bench.
I checked the bees yesterday; they now have a frame and a half of brood, lots of pollen coming in, and they seem to be OK. I've found a local source of nucs, and I'm very tempted to get a couple. I can't really afford it, but the extra bees would make a real difference right now. Apart from that, i've been putting seeds into the mini greenhouse, and I've added a second. There's still a chill in the air in the morning, but it'll soon pass.
Back to work on Monday, teaching extra revision classes. It's destroyed my Easter break, but I need the money unfortunately.
Sunday, 25 March 2007
Right now I'm about to plant 'Double Standard' corn from Real Seeds; I haven't tried it before so it's a bit of an unknown quantity. They haven't done it before, and the variety they usually do all got eaten by mice when I tried it last year.
Monday, 19 March 2007
Between work and redecorating it's a struggle just to do that much right now!
Sunday, 4 March 2007
I planted the broad beans, a bit late, and I'm doing my seed ordering this weekend, again a bit late. Most of the veg come from the Real Seed Catalogue at http://www.vidaverde.co.uk/ , who do proper varieties, not F1's, and offer plenty of good quality seed ina packet. I also put in small orders from Marshalls at http://www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk/, where I found a couple of heirloom peas, Purple-Podded and Ne Plus Ultra, Plants of Distinction at http://www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk/ , who have loads of interesting vegetable and flower varieties, and Chiltern Seeds at http://www.edirectory.co.uk/chilternseeds/ , who again have a really interesting selection. I've ordered Couve Tronchuda, an interesting heirloom cabbage, and a couple of other things.
Monday, 26 February 2007
It was a wet weekend, but I managed a bit of digging between showers. Now that's sorted, I'm going through my seed collection, sorting out what needs to go in over the next few weeks. I had hoped to plant my broad beans this weekend, but no chance due to the weather and the amount of digging I still had to do.
Sunday, 11 February 2007
Saturday, 10 February 2007
Tuesday, 6 February 2007
Sunday, 28 January 2007
Kumbi, who was 11 at the time, was briefly in the fighting just after the coup on May 25th 1997, which was orchestrated by someone living just round the corner from us in Ladywood. She was rescued by the US navy after the Red Cross organised a ceasefire to get civilians out, and the first we heard about it was when she was in teh air bound for Stanstead. Fortunately, after endless delays, we'd managed to get clearance to bring the two of them about a week before. She arrived badly traumatised, and is still affected by it all. Mina was five at the time, too young to understand what was happening, and never saw any fighting. But she was taken upcountry, the phone lines were down, and it took six weeks before we knew she was safe. Then it was another six weeks before we could get her taken over the border to Guinea, and flown out.
I managed to track down a link to a short filmclip about a girl who spent a weekend with us a few years ago. When she was 13, the rebels killed all her family and cut her hands off. She struck lucky, and was on her way to be adopted by a couple in Canada when we met her. She had brand new artificial hands, which looked quite convincing, but were totally useless, so they just got taken off and left behind the door with her shoes as soon as she came in the house. It's the clip at the bottom of the page.
The film makes inevitable minor errors, but the portrayal of the bloody madness in rebel-held areas is pretty accurate, as is the obsession with diamonds. The war was nothing but an excuse for all parties to take advantage and mine like crazy. Definitely worth watching.
Sunday, 21 January 2007
Saturday, 13 January 2007
Sunday, 7 January 2007
The two pics of the plot were taken on a bleak winter's day. I haven't managed to get much done over Christmas as I've had a nasty fluey bug, and between that and the weather, I just didn't feel like it. I did manage to get a bit of digging done on the better days though. There's not too much now as every year I get more ground cleared of weeds and mulched. Once I get to that point, I don't need to dig it again, just keep mulching. I've dug over the old Jerusalem artichoke bed, and after the drought I hardly found anything in it at all. I was really surprised. I no longer need it as a screen now the hedge has grown, so I'll just plant a few and use the space for rhubarb.
Since then, I've been working on a weedy flowerbed, and I had to lift the most enormous Crinum bulbs. The pic, which was intended to be the last, has come out first, with a fork for scale. I'll get the hang of this site eventually, I suppose. When I put them in five years ago they were just large bulbs. They flowered for the first time last year, and I was very reluctant to lift them as they don't like disturbance. There was ground elder growing through them though, and it just had to go. So I ended up trenching under them, breaking enormous fleshy roots that went right down into the subsoil. They'll get over it, in time.