We really are hardy souls at Windmill, but last week, the weather and the wind chill actually reduced the amount of useful work we could do so much, that we cancelled some of the things we had planned. Back at the allotment though, things continued to happen, and the snow was useful because it means we can tell who was there!
|Who's been visiting us?
|Cat, fox and pigeons have all left their mark.
Something else left its mark, but the photos don't really show it so we haven't included them. Mice or voles are clearly enjoying our indoor peas! Normally sowing lots will help get over this, but presumably the little beasties are staying in the warmth (well, relative warmth!) of the polytunnel and using the peas as a handy snack box. There are little dimples in the soil, where each pea has been carefully dug up. The only evidence is where the seed leaves have been nipped off and left on the bare earth.
|Andrew starts operation "mouse out".
So it's time to get a bit creative. The newly sprouting peas are the main attraction, so we are starting again, but not planting in the soil. Peas don't like to be disturbed when transplanting, so we either plant them directly where we want them, plant them in gutters (so they can be slid into a shallow trench outside when it's warmer), or plant them in something that will rot itself, so the container + plant go into the ground together. Egg boxes can work well for this, as can toilet-roll tubes and paper pots. We went for the egg-box method.
|Peas ready for the last layer of compost.
When the peas sprout, it's pretty simple to pull the box apart and plant the two halves straight into the ground. If you want the peas further apart, you can rip up the individual egg compartments. Of course, if we put the peas on the ground the wee beasties won't mind if they are in egg boxes, and will tuck in as usual, so more thought is needed. We went for a high-rise option, as we have a nice metal pot stand and we are betting that they won't easily climb it.
|Peas on the pot-stand
The egg boxes fit on the stand quite well, and it is quite a handy place to put labels. It's also normally useful to raise pots in cold weather, as it removes them from the coldest air at ground level, which will be helpful as more frosts are forecast. However, we decided to improve the chances further by wrapping the whole thing up in fleece. We'll see if it works! Worst case scenario is that the mice just shin up the fleece...
|A final layer of fleece to reduce effects of frost
We did venture outside for a short while, as our fedge needed a little work. A fedge is a fence made of living willow, created by hammering willow poles into the ground. Even quite large willow will root, so it's a quick way of making a hedge. The willow tends to grow straight up in the air, making long poles which then need to be woven sideways to thicken up the hedge. It's obviously best to do this before the leaves emerge so you don't knock them off, though the cold weather has been on our side this year.
|Pete starts weaving the new growth in the fedge.
Andrew and Pete were pretty well wrapped up, but even they had to put on extra layers to brave the wind-chill, and then come back for a warming hot drink. Still, they managed to weave in the whole hedge - not bad when you can hardly feel your fingers...
|Extra layers and gloves make the task a bit less Baltic.
Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit warmer!