April Showers

Despite a week of changeable weather, some progress has been made on various fronts. The peas are out from under their cloches and climbing their peasticks nicely, the barley is out from under the fleece and looks like it’s trying to catch up with the commercial crop in the nearby field. Today I sowed the root parsley, parsnips, swedes and the rest of the Manchester Table carrots – I still have some Touchon carrots for successional planting. The radish are shooting away nicely and I should be harvesting the first some time next week, the way they’re going at the moment, and I sowed another couple of rows of beetroot as well. When the sun’s shining there’s some real warmth in it and the plants are responding – but we’re also still liable to the occasional frost and the potatoes got nipped slightly the other night. The lower growth will catch up in due course but the top leaves have wilted.

In the potting shed, the early parsnips are nearly ready to plant out and the beans are sprouting madly – every time I look, there’s another two-inch shoot popped up! They come up curled and uncurl very rapidly once they’re free of the soil, seeming to leap into life.

I’ve been trying to work out a routine on sprouting grain for the bunnies and it’s starting to settle, though I seem to be averaging 12 days to decent length greenery rather than the 8 days most of the sources I’ve read seem to get. Curiously, the bucks adore their barley sprouts while the does can take them or leave them. They’re all getting plenty of fresh mixed weeds from the garden every day as well as their daily kibble ration and ad-lib dried grass so they’re not exactly forced to eat anything they don’t like!

We’re currently extending the hen run to give them more foraging space – there’s a big old fir tree at the end of the garden and we can’t grow anything under its canopy, but the dry fallen leaves make a great scratching place for chickens and our last batch of hens used to roost up the tree as well as live under it. At the moment we’re just re-fencing it, since some of the existing fence posts have rotted away after nearly thirteen years in the ground, then we’ll open up a pop-hole to give the hens access and watch the glee on their little faces as they start scratching around for fresh insects. It’s not as if they’re short of space at the moment but the different terrain and the novelty will be good for them.

Once they have that extra space, we’ll be thinking about putting a clutch of fertile eggs under the next hen to go broody – one of the Black Rocks is broody at the moment but we’re not ready yet so she’s getting shut into an old dog-crate with her food and water and put outside in the run to make her uncomfortable so she loses the urge to nest and gets back to laying again. It’s good to know they still have the proper brooding instinct, though – and next time, we’ll set half a dozen or so eggs from a table breed to hatch.



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