Full of eastern promise

Ever year we manage to produce some crops over the winter. We extend the pepper season  by bringing some of the plants indoors (and hopefully keep them going over the winter to fruit again next summer); we grow kale and purple sprouting broccoli; we plant leeks (unless, like last year, a family disaster intervenes); and we grow oca, which is harvested as the days grow shorter and into the early winter. This year, however, I have decided to try to make more effort, so I have also sowed winter lettuce and miners lettuce (Claytonia) seeds to give us fresh salad leaves over the winter, plus we have salsify and root parsley coming along nicely.

A new book and some seeds

However, my big experiment this year is with oriental vegetables. I have recently bought a copy of Joy Larkcom’s Oriental Vegetables: the complete guide for the gardening cook. It’s my perfect book really, not only does it have information about cultivation, it’s also got history of the different vegetables plus recipes. As usual, I decided to buy my seeds from The Real Seed Catalogue, but in this case felt somewhat overwhelmed by the choice, so I plumped for their Oriental Explorer pack. I’m experimenting with different ways of growing these plants, both outdoors and in the greenhouse, and hope to report back as I reap the harvest (or not).

Blue pipe and net cloche

On Saturday (a glorious sunny day here in west Wales) I cleared the bed that had contained the potatoes and broad beans and planted six different oriental vegetables: Komatsuna Japanese Greens; Mispoona¬† oriental greens for salad or cooking; Tai Sai White Stem Leaf Pak Choi; Sobi Chinese salad cabbage; Yukina oriental leaf greens; and Hot Mustard Greens. I imagine that all of these would make tasty treats for chickens, so the bed is protected with a net cloche. This structure has hoops made from blue water pipe… a classic material in permaculture gardens, as it’s cheap, readily available and remarkably versatile. As well as keeping rampaging chickens out, the cloche should increase the temperature inside a little (it’s a degree or two warmer in our fruit cage in the winter, believe it or not). Of course, we can always convert this into a more traditional cloche by covering it with polythene, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.

My next task is to sow some seeds in trays in the greenhouse, so that we will have some completely protected crops too… oh and to settle down and read all of Joy Larkcom’s book (along with the dozens of others that surround me in my office).

Jurassic chicken

Throughout the film Jurassic Park there are allusions to the fact that dinosaurs are more like birds than reptiles. I think that we have one of their descendents in the garden. Yesterday Aliss was found excavating the root parsley, having somehow got in to the vegetable enclosure. She was removed, the netting examined for gaps, and any sources of weakness dealt with.

Juvenile delinquent chicken

Ten minutes later she was back in there. Additional barriers were added at the points we thought she might be entering.

Five minutes later she was back in there, having flapped over the barriers.

Netting was placed over the top of the target area.

Ten minutes later, she was in there again. Busily excavating.

The netting was rearranged – corners were tucked in, gaps were blocked, canes were used to secure edges of mesh. We watched what she would do.

She began by examining the place she had entered previously – stretching up, trying to poke her head through the mesh. She then moved on round the enclosure. There is a scene in Jurassic Park where Muldoon, the game warden, explains that the raptors

never attack the same place twice. They were testing the fence for weaknesses, systematically. They remember.

And so did Aliss… working her way round the perimeter of the entire area – testing for weaknesses. It took her quite a while, but eventually she returned to her starting point, having been unable to gain access anywhere. And at this point she gave up and went away to investigate another part of the garden.

We should be careful of when we give names. Black Aliss is living up to hers, just as Esmeralda has turned out to be top chicken. I wonder if Perdy will start singing opera next!

-oOOo-

And a slight aside – today is the first day we have had four eggs, one from each chicken. A couple of weeks ago there was a day when we had four eggs, one each from two chickens and two from one chicken, but that’s another story…

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