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The weather has been fabulous and has provided a boost to us and all of the the wonderful wild things living up here. We decided the best way to get the garden in shape for the season was a family day of weeding, digging and planting. We reshaped the whole vegetable garden two years ago when we moved the poly tunnel and it is really coming together now. With all the changes we have made we are hoping to have a bumper crop of food this year. There have been many mistakes but we have learned from them which is all part of the process. If you have been following our blog you will know that wind is a big issue but we now have more wind breaks around the whole garden then we ever have before so that is also a battle we hope we have at least half won!
Hannah and Gavin came along nice and early on Saturday morning to give us a hand getting some of the big jobs in the garden done so we could start planting things. We started off by weeding and digging over a small mounded bed which we then planted out with our first batch of potatoes. Then we moved the layers of old carpet that we had covering two of the 3 long mounded beds and piled in all on the centre bed which we won’t use this year. Hannah and I planted the edge bed with some of the seedlings from the propagator and with a selection of seeds. James and Gavin stood around chatting a posing for photos.
After all of our hard work we had a lovely lunch of pasta with garlic and fresh greens from the garden. Of course there is tons more work to do but overall it is starting to come together.
We have had success getting seedlings started in our propagator and we are preparing beds for planting out. The weather is really warming up and we are still getting some strong winds but our new addition to the wind fencing in the form of pallets is working well. Several of the beds are made with old corrugated tin that we have half filled with compost so that the high sides give extra protection as the young plants are finding their roots. We haven’t had much success with beans yet because of the wind and slugs but we have a few ideas in mind to tackle these issues so hopefully we will get a healthy harvest this year. A new addition to the veg patch is the asparagus bed which we are all very excited about however it can take as many as 2-3 years to produce so we will have to be patient. For now though here is hoping for another hot summer.
We were back at it yesterday, planting trees on the edges of the upper meadow to help create wind defences for the vegetable garden and for the meadow depending on which way the wind is blowing. James had left an area at the edge with slightly longer grass after the big cut of the meadows at the end of last year. He knew that this was roughly the area we wanted to add trees to so yesterday we started by placing bamboo sticks in the ground where we wanted the trees to go making sure we retained a curved path wide enough for the quad. We have planted mainly the native and abundant Silver Birch but also some Oak and Rowan. This will not only create a wind defence but also help hide the working areas of the garage, barn and vegetable patch from the deck viewpoint area.
Great patience is required when planting for wind defence but you can’t ask for better results and if you are following this blog you will know we are always adding to our defence in different ways and it is amazing to see the results, a real work in progress!
We are so excited to have pigs! A healthy bore and a sow to help churn up the ground where the bracken grows shoulder high in the summer. The hope is that the rhizomes of the bracken will be destroyed or disturbed enough that we can begin to repurpose the area for other projects. Once they have worked their magic on the first location we will move the fence and start again with the hopes of making a real impact on several areas which have been lost to the fast spreading bracken. Besides helping us to tackle a job that has up until now taken up a huge part of our time the pigs are also a joy to be around. Mangalitsa pigs are known for their sheep like furry coats and their dog like personalities. They will eventually provide us with our first home reared meat, discussions have already begun on curing and cooking. For now we will enjoy each others company and look forward to seeing what difference they make to the bracken patch.
The fabulous weather is back and we decided that it was a good day to tackle some of the changes we wanted to make down on Jimmy’s walk. We currently have Nona, our very first live in volunteer helping out around the property so the three of us headed down with a variety of tools loaded into the wheelbarrows to see how much we could accomplish in a day. Nona and James both started with strimming on both sides of the path while I cut back some unwanted plants around the pond. Once they had revealed a large area I went in and hand pulled the longer grass around some of the smaller plants and flowers that we have been adding to the area recently. They then began placing some new plants around and digging them in while I trimmed back growth around the bases of trees. It was so satisfying to see the results and in the process we came up with some new ideas of plants that might do well in the area. It just so happened to be a perfect day for a BBQ so I ran off to the shop for some supplies and we enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends after a hard days work.
We were very lucky to have recently had a lovely couple get in touch with us about a 60 year old glass house that they wanted to find a new home for. It was built in the 60’s as part of a market garden and has served them well over the years but all of the wood framework had started to rot and it was becoming a bit dangerous to work in. We came to have a look and were blown away by the size, our imaginations were busy with ideas of what we could grow inside. James decided we could make use of it and so we set a date to come back and disassemble it.
The weather was great and we got stuck in early with the help of Derek and Jane and had all of the glass out before lunch. Once the glass was out we could then begin to see how the structure had been built. Each section was made of a wooden frame that held 4 sheets of glass that was fixed to the metal frame underneath. We did think that the overall design needed to be adjusted some to prevent the wood from rotting as easily next time. Then there was the pile of glass which fell and smashed so it may be that we will rebuild the frame up against a wall or solid structure to save on having to replace all that glass. Whatever we do it will be great to see parts of this old beauty brought back to life.
All in all the breakdown took two days, we were blessed with great weather and great company for the takedown. It is now all neatly stored here at Rudah Mor while we figure out where it can go and what we need to do to rebuild it.
Busy in the lean-to getting lots of small plants potted up and more seeds planted. The polly tunnel beds and getting filled in, we have 6 rows of carrots in the first bed as you walk in. It is the only bed in the polly tunnel that is double the height and it is filled with lovely rock free compost so hopefully we will get some lovely long carrots. We planted classic orange and a rainbow mix with garlic at each end and in the middle. The chard and parsnips are also in at the opposite end and we have put more garlic at the other ends to help deter pests. We have some little plants which we put in the soil to grow them up for putting outdoor and most of them are looking ready for transplant just waiting for it to get a little warmer.
We are constantly working on developing our wind defences and so James has taken loads of cuttings from the enormous red dogwood in the arboretum and pushed them into the ground along the side of the veg garden. This will be the first layer of defence for that side as it grows up and the plan is to eventually have a second layer of defence, a gooseberry hedge, all the way around to help keep out the deer.
James also added a long winding row of the red dogwood through and area on Jimmy’s walk. It is a little difficult to see (photo below right) but it should add a lovely bit of colour into that area.
Also been prepping some of the beds outside the polly tunnel in preparations for the beans being ready to go out. Things are still a bit messy but soon it will all start coming together and looking good with green growth.
Rhododendron ponticum is everywhere on Rudha More and in some cases it is good as it creates a wind block and when we do remove it thought must go into how we can add new wind defences. There are spots all along the woodland walk where we are doing this, some small and some large. We have been advised that if you keep cutting back the same spot after 3-4 times it should start to die off so it is important to go back to areas we have started on and make sure we continue the cut backs. A popular spot on the walk which looks toward Duncraig Castle and has been recently named Proposal Point was where I was working the other day. It wasn’t a big job, it only filled on wheel barrow but it is one of those little jobs that need to be fit in regularly to keep the culling process working. So here are some before and after photos and the nice thing about clearing this spot is that as you enter the woodland walk from the upper meadow you get a nice peak toward the castle which would be otherwise blocked by the ponticum.
Our first ever tree planting party was a success! Not long after the first arrivals got stuck in with the planting we had a quick hail shower and then the clouds cleared and more people showed up. We weren’t sure if people would just want to plant a few and be done with it but everyone just kept planting! We took a break after a while to have some delicious homemade soups from Elspeth and Jane and it was followed by teas, coffees and the biggest cakes you have ever seen!! We were very lucky to have Sean and Ingrid, professional tree planters, helping us to instruct everyone what to do. More and more people arrived and there were about 35 at one point all scattered around getting the little trees safely in the ground with stakes and tubes to protect them. It was great to see all ages from 3 to 94 out planting! That’s right even 94 year old granny came out and put two trees in the ground. We were sorry to run out of trees as everyone was having so much fun but it didn’t take us long to the get the BBQ going and the party started. Then The House Elves (as they have occasionally been known as) showed up to play some live music for us which had some interludes from DJ Euan Bruce. What a wonderful day and a big thanks to everyone involved including the Woodland Trust who provided us with the trees.
We recently received a confirmation that we will be donated 420 trees, a selection of native trees including Oak, Rowan, Grey Willow and Birch, from the Woodland Trust to plant here at Rudha Mor. We have decided the only way that we will get all of the trees in the ground quickly enough is to have a tree planting party. The plan is refreshments and music to keep everyone going through the day followed by a BBQ at the end of the day. Before all the fun can start we need to get the area of land cleared and ready for planting. The plan is to clear the area on the lower side of the path the runs between the upper and lower meadow as you head toward Jimmy’s walk. It is a mad mix of bracken, brambles, dead and fallen trees, some good living trees and an amazing Fuchsia bush which has grown to an enormous size while hidden in this mess. It will be really exciting to reveal it and see it come into bloom this year. We are also planning to put a path into this area which will lead you in a loop around the newly revealed area.