Saturday, 29 October 2011


I'm still harvesting the Egremont Russet. It's one of my favourite apples, and as they're hanging on the tree well, I don't have to try to find somewhere to store them. A lot have split. The rain after the dry summer made them swell up, and as the skins had already 'set', the result was inevitable.

Much of the soil is now damp, but there are still patches where it's bone dry. It's amazing how much rain it can take to wet it properly. The stream's running at last, but I'm not sure how long that'll last if it stops raining for a few days. I've seen buzzards over the site twice in the last week. They've been appearing for the last few years; I think they're more of a winter visitor, but I'm still not sure.

I lifted the Skagit Magic this last week. May was far too late to plant true potato seed; I've got more coming, and I'll probably start it in January. I did get tubers off some plants; I've probably selected for earlies since it only flowered last month. They're very small, up to an inch. I've no experience of overwintering microtubers (which is almost what they are), but I'm going to try. We didn't have any blight this year, so I don't know whether any of them are resistant to British strains. I'll probably find out next year.

Meanwhile, I've sent off one seed swap parcel, and I've got to do another over the weekend. The beans are still drying, but it's that time of year already!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Crossed beans

It's been a while since I posted here, dues to my not having been well. I've been harvesting seed, doing a bit of digging, and not much else. The broad beans are hybridised; half the Red Epicure seed was green. It must have crossed with Aquadulce Claudia. I've been thinking of trying to breed my own variety, and I'm going to do it. I'll cross the existing mix with Crimson Flowered, maybe one or two other varieties, and aim at something red-flowered, red-seeded, hardy, and tenderer than AQ. It should be possible, with patience.

One of my Couve Tronchudas was running to seed, with unusual white flowers for a cabbage. I've pulled all the flowering stems off as I don't have as many as I'd like, and I don't want it dying on me before it's had a chance to fertilise my other plants next year!

Meanwhile I'm feeding the bees up. Two colonies have enough honey for the winter, two don't. I've marked both the new queens; one of them gave me a right shock. A couple of weeks ago, I marked her using a crown of thorns cage, which is based on a ring of nails which you push down into the comb to hold the queen against it. She curled up and started twitching. She seemed OK a couple of minutes later, and is still there, still laying happily. I've heard of queens playing dead before, but I've never seen it, and it's frighteningly realistic!