The case of the missing parsnips…

| 24th February 2012

Welcome back to Hen Corner!

This week we have started hardening off the peas in the cold frame, choosing which breeds of chickens we’d like to hatch this Spring, and chitting our potatoes to grow in a rubble sack. Here is a reminder of last years harvest and why it’s such a great way to grow spuds!

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So far we are on schedule with our planting…

We planned the schedule back in December, sorted our seeds and started sowing in propagators on the windowsill in January. So far we have all our ‘Night Shade’ plants safely established (tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and peppers). Our peas and mange tout are hardening off in the cold frame with the onions and leeks and we’ve sown 49 brassicas in a fantastic new Plug Plant Trainer (7 in a row of 7 varieties). We’ve also replenished our strawberry bed with 30 new crowns of three varieties that will harvest over a long season; earlies, middles and lates!

Now about those parsnips… I know that they are tricky to germinate and take ages to grow, but last year we had at least three rows growing nicely in one of the raised beds. I planned to leave them in the ground for a frost to sweeten them only to discover that they had disappeared altogether. Great! I thought until when sowing carrots directly into the soil last week I noticed new sprouts of foliage coming from baby ‘snips; they were hiding under the ground after all I think it was those cheeky chickens just pecking the leaves off…

Most of the hens are back in lay after a winter break for the pure breeds. It was great to discover that last year’s chicks, Bunty the Bantam (Chocolate Orpington) and Barnie the Barnevelder, also started laying their first eggs in recent weeks. Whilst Barnie’s eggs are a rich dark brown, the bantam eggs are smaller than the others and three poached on toast make a perfect lunch.

The good supply of eggs means cakes, omlettes and kedgeree all round!

Talking of chicks, we’ve decided, as we are still in our first year of bees, to leave hatching ducklings until next year. So when Butternut is broody again (could be next month) we’ll sit her on some fertile chicken eggs again, hopefully two of each of the following breeds: Polish, Araucana, Indian Game. Watch this space…

Other News:

  • We have joined Big Barn, a website that links people to local food producers
  • We are enjoying all the signs of Spring; buds on the almond tree, frogs in the pond and daffodils under the apple trees
  • We’ve got our bikes out and are cycling where possible for day-to-day life around London

Jobs for next week:

  • Sow the Cucurbitaceae (pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and courgettes)
  • Collect all the parts to construct a new bee hive ready to transfer the whole colony
  • Hard prune shrubs that have grown too big or spread too far

Have a good week yourself…

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