Monday 29 November 2010

Walking nine to five...

... or three actually: We were let home early.

Yesterday the signs were there...

...and this morning proved a slow start. That's the bus driver and two passengers bump starting the  stranded car...

...and that's the next bus wedged against the bus stop (where it stayed for the next four hours).

So I guess its a calming walk on the canal towparth on foot for me.

 All frozen at Harrison Park

In case you were in any  doubt, that's Scottish snow!

It seems I'm not alone

Approaching the canal basin that used to be Scottish and Newcastle on the left, and the new developement ahead and on the right. Right in the middle...

the restored lift bridge.

...and so to work

I do hope I'm not on sentry duty today...

Sunday 28 November 2010

Snow Stopped Play

Here's the view from the park this morning:

 And that's on top of the Friday night snow.  Yesterday's sunny spell was spent repairing the brassica nets :

Job done

We've had another six inches of snow since then so they probably need reparing again before the pigeons polish them off. 

Monday 22 November 2010

Winter sentries

Come winter - thank goodness for brassicas. Standing sentry are the couple of rows of Swedish Turnips/Swedes/Rutabaga/Neeps.  With St Andrews Day fast approaching and Burns Night on January 25th is it any wonder that this hardy veg features so prominently in the Scottish culinary tradition!

Here's some more winter fare. (This time I cleaned them up.)

Monday 15 November 2010

Pick up a Parsnip

Temperature -4C in Edinburgh last night. It's definitely time to start digging parsnips. Here's a view from the battlefield.   'The Student' turns out to be a bit of a brute and took more than a bit of persuasion to come out in one piece (both of them). I stopped after two a) because I had plenty for the table. b) because I was fairly exhausted (and muddy) by then. (Sorry they're not cleaned up but the water is off now to stop freeezing pipes) I hope Daphne doesn't mind me stretching here Harvest Monday theme by one day, but it's not light enough to get to the plot any weekday. 
When we went grocery shopping last weekend Mrs M asked, as we approached the vegetable section, "What have we got from the plot  at the moment" to which I replied (just a little smugly). Oh, we've got parsnips, potatoes, carrots, swedes, seakale beet, cabbages, kale, brussel sprouts... leeks, oh and jerusalem artichokes.   We bought some mushrooms and moved on. 

Thursday 11 November 2010

Red Light Spells Danger

Last year I tried taking measuring the pH of the soil on my plot. It was rather frustrating and I ended up throwing my quick and easy probe meter away as it proved unreliable when compared to the chemical kit. Even with that bit of kit following the instructions proved no mean feat.

In principle the soil sample has to be dissolved (as much as it can be) in water and then you transfer some into the two chambers and add the chemical reagent to the clear chamber, shake again and compare the colour against the reference windows. 

All fine in theory BUT on site these manoevres require some preparation, forethought, dexterity, accuracy and recording.  Given that you've only got one tester pot you have to finish one test before you start the next. Yes, give the boy a star for stating the bleeding obvious, but this simple fact outwitted me as the suspension of soil refused to settle enough to allow sufficient light through the murk  for a reading to be taken  for hours, by which time the light and my enthusiasm were fading fast.  I took the pot home and set it down on a flat surface. The next day I got my one reading. And as the instructions and all the books say - don't rely on just one reading!


This year I got it sussed. Time for sedimentation was to be allowed for. I'd do all the fiddly bits at home, and I'd keep a photographic record. Simples! (sorry)

Here goes:

a. Collect half a dozen jam jars or similar with watertight lids

b. Label each with a scheme of the plot so that the location of the sample can be marked quickly and clearly
c. Take the pots + pencil to the plot
d. Take a sample at about 4 inches depth of enough soil to fill the bottom inch of your each jar at chosen locations spread across the plot and equal in number to the number of jars you have.
e. Replace lids and ensure each label is marked.

f . Return with the jars to the comfort of your home.
g. Add tap water to each jar and shake the pots vigorously to mix the soil and water, then leave to stand somewhere flat , out of harms way.

h. Have a good night's sleep while the sediment settles.
i.  When you have the time the inclination and have cleared a space in the kitchen, carry out the test as described above, on the now clarified upper portion of each sample in turn.

Here's some of my results

Well would you believe it my pH is a lot nearer neutral than I would have credited!!! But wait perhaps this is a false reading. Perhaps my tapwater is alkaline. Well just for reassurance I took a sample from the blueberry bed (which is filled just with ericaceous (acid) compost). This came up a lovely rosy pink! So clearly the chemical indicator is doing it's job.

End result?  I don't have to get neurotic about liming anymore!

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Poison Pen Letter

The lower path 8/8/10

Reverse view of the same path 19/9/10
(just look at that path)

I may be a bit slow on the uptake but I discovered this year - when I went to buy some - that sodium chlorate has been withdrawn fom sale under an EU directive.

OK it's got its downside: It's a pretty poisonous substance. As a white crystal it doesn't look too different from sugar!  Mixed with sugar it makes a highly flamable material, lethal if packed into a drainpipe or beer keg. One can't help wondering whether this aspect, rather than the toxicity, is the reason for the eurocrats getting together and banning it.  The story put about is that run off can cause the material to travel through the soil. I don't like poisons, but they have their place - on paths.

I bought a proprietary glyposate cocktail alternative grudgingly and applied it (twice) to the cinder path alonside my plot. Result: grass that would grace a golf course. And now the growing season is over the glyphosate option is gone (only apply during growth), so what options have I got this winter. A flame thrower?

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Autumn exhaustion

Took down the supports for the climbing beans this weekend. A real sign that vegetable growing season has changed. The remaining Barlotti's will have to be dried off indoors at home. It's a depressing time, especially when I see how much work is needed to get the plot in shape before the winter 'break'. 

To cheer myself up I packeted up some of the beans I've already dried.

There's Canadian Wonder

Magic Purple Podded Climbing Bean "Malagrowther"

as well as Barlotti

Well that's what 99% of them looked like. When I podded these two (which looked the same as the rest on the outside) the beans were purple. I've saved them in a separate envelope clearly labelled.  I wonder what the next generation will look like?