I wrote yesterday about going to the Whickham Bulb Show, but around it we had to fit in a number of other jobs. The most important was to sort the fencing around the allotment to keep in the hens. Over autumn and winter, the hens and ducks wandered freely around much of the site, but as the spring approaches, hens and planting season don't mix well. The hens will wreck any crops they come across. The thick hawthorn hedge around our allotment is not enough to keep them in our own allotment. They will find any gap, no matter how small, and use it to break out, and then break back in as soon as they think food is available. I had spent much of the week preparing the hedge and the ground for the fencing which we put in yesterday and early this morning.
Once that was done, other jobs followed. Firstly, I had to dig up all our winter cabbages. This was a rescue mission. The cabbages were planted in the autumn and we had put wire netting around them to ensure the hens couldn't get to them. This worked whilst the hens were not confined to the allotment. Alas, it no longer works with all the hens restricted to the allotment. I regularly found some of them inside the wire netting and they had reduced the cabbages to stalks. I dug them out and put them in seed trays in the greenhouse where they will be allowed to recover before being sent up to my Dad's allotment in Marley Hill, the next village up the road.
Though the wire netting did not work for the cabbages, I have used some of it to fence off a small strip where I planted the rhubarb we were given recently. The rhubarb shoots are starting to appear above ground. The hens aren't interested in eating them but they do walk all over them and damage them. And I have to confess we've walked over them a few times as well. The netting will be in place for a few weeks to allow the shoots to grow. The bed includes horseradish - some already established plus a couple of roots I planted today. Watch out for horseradish sauce videos from me later this year.
A couple of Christmases ago, my brother Matthew bought me a solar-powered light. As of today it is installed and working, now that we have a shed on the allotment. We also put up a birdbox, a Christmas present from my brother Andrew.
And finally, we checked all 8 of our beehives. This was not a full inspection but a quick check. The roof and coverboard came off, we removed the old fondant (most of which was eaten) and new fondant was added. We had a quick look for deformed wings on the bees (a result of varroa infestation) but saw none. Two hives look weak and in the warmer spring weather in a few weeks' time, we will check them for brood. If there is none, it will mean they are queenless and we will merge them with other hives. If we fine brood, we will leave them to grow.
So that's it for the weekend. Coming up this week, assuming all goes to plan, will be chicks hatching in our incubator. Watch this space...