Sunday, 1 July 2012

Talking Japanese ( a blog post about my fantastic Winter onions).

Gosh what a week.  Well it's now official June was the wettest on record.  Think it's time to take off the old welly bobs and socks and see if our feet are webbed.  Unless you are a duck or an umbrella seller that is! There's not a lot to be cheerful on the allotment/smallholding front.

The weeds have decided to take over and my strimmer is being kept very busy trying to beat the encroaching grass and vegetation.  We seem to have great crop of nettles this year.  They are supposed to attract birds and insects, so they should be very happy on my vegetable plot.

It's not all doom and gloom though.  My early potatoes are the size of maincrop spuds and my Japanese (Winter)  onions could win a prize at an horticultural show.

If I say so myself.  I can grow spudatoes, Leeks and onions.  Give them lots of farmyard manure, wood ash and keep them weed free and Mother Nature will do the rest.  I plant the Jap sets in September and they grow right through Winter.  They really are an excellent onion and quite strong.  

My 'Japs' displaying themselves between the Redina lettuces.  Sorry about the weeds!

Me in my anorak (instead of being an Anorak) holding the Alliums.  Sorry once again for the weeds, long grass and delicious food for my ducks!   I have just gave myself a verbal warning to weed my veg plot.  Next time it's a written one.  One good thing about owning a smallholding is that you can be a very untidy gardener.

See you next week.  Hopefully I will be telling you about my silage getting cut.


  1. Handsome looking onions for this time of year, never heard of Japanese winter onions, but they look good. Good idea to grow them through winter, no weeds, trust the Japs to come up with that idea. Just wondering what the climate is like in Japan?

    Still raining here as well, if it's the same there, I doubt you'll be getting much silage done. Pleased to note it's been the wettest June on record, I can't remember one as wet. I think we've already got webbed feet, including raggy cat.

    Nettles, I don't have meny, but found one lurking in some undergrowth, it's higher than me. Or was. But everything seems to be growing well this wet year, at least everything I wish would slow down. It's rawort we seem to have, dunno where it's coming from, I never let it flower, and neigbours gardens don't seem to suffer as many of them.

    Rain looks set in for the day, sick of it, looking for a cheap week or two in somewhere drier and sunnier. Trouble is, about 6 million other people are having the same idea and the holiday companies are catering for this demand by putting prices up.

    Raggy cat came in 0530 looking a bit damp, fast asleep on my chair, been turfed off my computer chair and cushion.

  2. Think they have very harsh winters in Japan. The onion sets are planted in September and we harvest them from June onwards. They grow through the snow, rain and frost.

    I also plant spring cabbages in September. They are usually planted in the soil where the new potatoes have been. So there's still lots of FYM left to feed them. Onions love potash which they obtain from the wood aash from our range. I never use the ash if its mixed with coal. There are a lot of impurities in coal that could poison the ground.

    The veg plots never had any man made chemcals on it: no weed killers or artificial fertilizers. Eleven years later and the veg don't seem to be lacking in anything. I some times collect seaweed and spread it over next years potato ground.

    It's wet here this morning. Got lots of strimmer work to do today. Nettles are a great indicator of nitrogen. There's an old saying:

    "Where nettles grow, anything will grow."

    There's a patch of them in one of the fields. My grandfather used to have a 'garden' (West Cork expression for a veg plot) there. He's been dead over forty years. But his nettles still wait for him to return. Haven't got the heart to spray them.

    Nettles are great for a free liquid fertilizer. Just gather some and place then in an old pillow case. Then put them in a barrel of water (preferably rainwater, if you can get any, ha, ha,) and hold them down with a stone. Leave for a week or so and hey presto you have got your plant food.

    Have you never made nettle beer or wine Cumbrian?

    I have read that they used to make ropes and army uniforms with nettles.

    The ragwort seed is probably from years ago:

    "One years weed is seven years seed."
    pull it myself. Seem to be winning the battle. I always walk the fields before the hay or silage is cut. Rush seeds are supposed to live for up to sixty years. So there isn't much hope of removing them.

    Wouldn't mind a sun holiday myself. Would love to go away during the gale season (Nov to March) but that's when the cattle come in for the winter.

    Alan the cat's not turned up this morning. Hope he's alright. Raggy cat must have been working hard all night?


  3. Seems like a good way to get some big home-grown onions early, and they look quite a good size, do they keep as well as the usual varieties?

    I've heard the other way of saying "If it won't grow nettles, it won't grow anything". Don't think we'll ever eliminate weeds, I reckon the seeds live for ever.
    Once made a nettle beer, it's that many years ago I was still at school (the home-brewing bug bites early) and it actually turned out drinkable (at least to schoolboys) if a bit cloudy; but then the Belgian "white" or "wheat" beers are like that, so maybe that's how it is.
    Never tried nettle wine though, might be a good one. The last bottle I opened was 2-year runner bean and it's very nice,.
    Latest batch of ale seems to have fermented out, need to get it in the keg and gassed up tomorrow.

    Today's been a catch-up day, re-installed washer / dryer been earning its house-room, living room like a Cinese laundry airing things off. Just about winning now I think, I was running out of things to wear.

    Yeah, be nice to disappear somewhere warm about November and return in March, but we can't do that either, Mrs won't leave raggy cat more than 2 weeks. And I doubt we could get the door open after any longer, for all the mountain of un-solicited junk behind the door, all of which must be examined in case there's a tax return cheque lurking in there. (Yes, this happened once)
    So we're both stuck here in the gale season. Must admit I used to like the dry frosty mornings with blue skies and no breeze we used to get, they seem a bit rarer in recent years, it always seems damp. Or is that just nostalgia?

    Ordered my new Einhell with accessories, I sent a query last night and the firm replied in sensible manner this morning. I was told when I phoned delivery by tomorrow, but the order confirmation said in 2 days, so we'll see. I'll be happy either way, it's coming from Norwich, quite a drag from here. Full report to follow.

    Hope Alan the cat turns up OK, I'm sure he will. Raggy cat still sleeping, dunno about working hard, I haven't had a mouse or anything for weeks now, I must be feeding it too well. Hedonistic little sod.

  4. We never have them long enough to keep. I think you're supposed to eat them straight away. We freeze a lot of our main onion crop. Just peel them, chop them up (try not to cry too much) and place them in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer. They are great in the winter for stews...

    I could have a rant about household appliances. It's the 21st century and nobody can invent a washing machine of vacuum cleaner that doesn't make a noise. I bet our grandmothers would think we lived in the space age with all our labour saving appliances. My grandmother used to have to fetch and carry 12 buckets of water a day.

    Always said that I would love to have Christmas dinner somewhere warm. It's never happened though.

    Yes your Einhell strimmer sounds like that show in the 70's live from Norwich: The Sale of The Century! Look forward to hearing all about the report.

    Alan turned up an hour late. He's slept all day. Sounds like Raggy cat is very happy and content.


  5. Never tried freezing onions, or any veg really, just have 2 small (under-counter) freezers and they tend to be full of meats and fish, the more expensive stuff I buy on offer. Onions I'll buy a bag occasionally, they seem to last OK in the dark cupboard.

    I think "household appliances" could fill a topic on their own, there's an idea for a future heading.

    Christmas dinner I like to have somewhere warm, last year Fuertaventura, they don't make any special effort, only a token artificial fir tree in the hotel reception, not even turkey or anything remotely seasonal to eat.
    Year before France, self-catering, so made a chicken dinner. They do celebrate but not with turkey, it's oranges and oysters, see them buying big boxes of both items the week before. The supersheds are equally manic as UK.
    Also spent one Christmas in Benidorm, they go overboard same as UK, but then most of the guests are from UK anyway.
    And Xmas and New Year the Millenium in Malta, we got fireworks and champagne (well fizzy wine) at midnight with lots of party poppers. Then went next door to the English-owned bar to do it all again, he celebrated at UK midnight, 0100 in Malta. Also offered to visit a bar owned by a Canadian who intended to celebrate at the Canadian time, I didn't bother.
    Dunno where this year, Benidorm's booked solid (or any suitable wheelchair-friendly hotels are) and Mrs doesn't think Fuertaventura does enough to make it feel like Christmas. Maybe France again, but it means I get to wash up.

    Don't blame you for wanting to get away, on a good All-Inclusive deal it probably works out cheaper than staying here, and no decorations to fight with putting up / taking down.

    "What I love / hate about Christmas" might be a possible seasonal topic for December?

    Strimmer might be here today, and Mrs won a bundle of cross-stitch kits on ebay which might also be here today, and her back's a bit better so we may even get a run out for an hour or two along the coast and maybe even call in at Maryport for a pint of Guinness / glass of lager in a club with no step at the door.

    Raggy cat in at the usual 0600, slept for a couple or three hours, demanded milk and biccies then asked to be let out, so off it's gone.

    P.S. - P.O. man just delivered a box of cross-stitch kits.that's cheered Mrs up a bit.

  6. Yeah we freeze any vegetables that we get a glut of.

    Yes the "household appliances" would make a great topic for the future. Or what will the house/smallholding of the future be? I let you think about that. Think my ideal house would be an hotel with real ale. Robot waiting staff and your very own flying machine..., no I haven't been at the sauce again.

    Christmas in Australia would be good. However I wouldn't like to travel so far on a plane for twenty two hours or more. I really do not like Christmas these days. Yes it would make a very good seasonal topc - thanks! I was reading of a Christmas break in Winchester. You visit the Dickensian market and go to the carol service and sing my favourite:

    "In the bleak midwinter".

    Think I have watched Scrooge too many times.

    Yes I am looking forward to hearing about your petrol strimmer. You said you had a chain saw before so you shouldn't have any problems.

    Shetland pony arrived yesterday. He's staying in today keeping dry. Seems to like carrots, hay and pony nuts. Yet more expense. He's a real character.

    Thanks Cumbrian!!

  7. Hotel with real ale and robots, time machine? - can I have a pint of what you've been drinking? You forgot about the chippy next door.
    It's too big a subject to cram in here, another good topic "future smallholding / housing".

    Australia I'd like to see, my mothers brother and family went as "Ten pound poms" during the mass exodus of the sixties, and funny enough a school friend of mine went about the same time. Often wish we'd gone, they've all been back home to visit, but I've never been able to afford the time or the money to go there. But when you're a teenager nobody takes any notice of you.
    Now we could probably afford it, neither of us want to sit on a plane for the required 20-odd hours. Last time I visited Bangkok, 13 hours from Heathrow, the young couple next to me were carrying on to Australia, they were half-way there, the Quantas flight landed to fuel up as well as drop off people.
    I had 3 cousins went, two now dead as far as I know, one electrocuted in his job as "live" wireman on the mains, and the other an alcoholic. Dunno where the third one is, Queensland last time I heard, on a ranch or whatever thay have in Queensland.
    So I doubt if I'll ever see it.

    Strimmer arrived and duly assembled in only 2 hours, a minimum of swearing and no bloodshed. Feels very heavy and business-like, the hardest job was trying to get the webbing harness thing adjusted correctly, and the cow-horn handles. Just need some juice now, it started raining as I finished assembling it. Came with all necessary tools and even a plug spanner. Helmet and gloves came in a seperate box "Professional forestry helmet" with ear-muffs and visor, probably similar to yours, clip-on welders-type shield with see-through mesh.
    Little graduated idiot-proof mixing bottle, 40:1 mix, just big enough to fill the small tank.
    2 heads, cord and brush-cutter, easy enough to fit and change, I fitted the cord to start with, we'll see how it goes.
    Pull-cord start, I'm pleased; as you seem to be, I'm suspicious of "easy electronic" things, they tend in my experience to be not very easy and rely on batteries which always expire at the most inconvenient possible time.
    General overview - seems to look and feel the part, hope it performs as well.
    Tomorrow I'll go and no doubt get a nasty surprise when I find out how much 2-stroke oil costs; but at 40:1 I suppose it's gonna last a long time.

    Looking forward to pics of the new arrival. I think they all like carrots, hay and pony nuts; apples as well; as you say, more expense. Can you get a little cart for him to pull, or is he just ornamental?

    Rain's on and off, keeps dull and muggy. Feels like it could do with a storm to clear the air.
    Raggy cat in front of fire sleeping.

  8. Thanks for that Cumbrian. Think I would like to live on a Victorian smallholding complete with the Internet. Yes I did forget about the chippy next door, with real ale or home brew at the very least.

    Australia does sound really good. Especially if you could celebrate Christmas day eating your Christmas dinner on Bondi beach. Anywhere's got to be better than the rain..

    The 40:1 mix should be really easy. Just really shake your mix and you will be laughing. Glad you got the"Pull Cord" type.

    I will post new pics of Bracken (new pony) on the next blog. He's just ornamental and will help to keep the grass down. There's also a goat arriving soon to eat the brambles. It will be a pall for the pony when they share the hay in winter.

    Terrible rain today. Went for a walk up the hill and got saturated. Supposed to be wet all week. Starting to run out of pasture. May have to give them some of the silage land to feed.


  9. Hello Dave. This comment is just to let you know that I have given you a 'Liebster Award' on my blog as one of my five favourite blogs. However, as a frequent reader, I am sure you don't need telling!

  10. Yes, I think a Victorian small mixed farm, they must have lived well in the days of high farming. I really beleive the present obsession with huge farms, monoculture and agri-business (to coin a phrase fron John Seymour) are not particularly good ideas.
    Free-range eggs, plump naturally-fed chickens, fresh milk and home-made butter & cheese, home-reared and home-killed meat, home-grown vevetables, home-baked bread and cakes, occasional wild game; must have been a satisfying and tasty diet.
    And they'd have their home-brewed ale or cider.
    The only thing I'd miss, like you, is the internet; probably wouldn't have much time for it in spring and summer, but plenty time in the long nights after all the harvests were in.

    Like the idea of a goat, you got a milker?
    A friend in Fuertaventura keeps goats for milk, makes a cheese every day, about 1 kg. weight, there's one in my cupboard now from April, just maturing, I like it strong. This year he has 4 little ones, 3 female to keep for more milk, and a male he'll sell to be brought on to butching weight.

    Got the latest brew in the keg, and 6 x 1-pint bottles; the brew is 23 lts and the keg only 18, so take off a couple for sediment, it means a few bottles as a test / sample. It looked a bit murky, but one of the bottles is clear plastic so I can see how it clears; the keg might take longer but I'm not in a hurry, it usually takes about 3 weeks to perfection anyway.

    Raining again, doesn't look like I'm going to get to play with my new grass-strimming toy today, no more than you're going to be leading silage? You're not the only one, the weather's been the same here, there's not much activity in the fields.

    The cool and damp affects the Mrs back, she suffers from spondylitis, basicly arthritis of the spine, a particularly painful condition, but sometimes a drier warmer climate makes it feel bettr; it's been very bad this year because of the incessant rain. Looking for a quick get-away, so if I disappear I might have found a cheap holiday somewhere warm.

    Raggy cat in at the usual time, had its usual milk and biccies, now sleeping in the usual place. A creature of habit.

  11. Thanks very much Ben. I always check your blog post first thing every morning! It's just like reading your favourite newspaper columnist every day. Thanks.

  12. Yeah John Seymour, our self sufficiency hero. I have said it before. If I get two Heaven, the first two people I want to meet (except my relatives obviously) will be John Seymour and George Best. You should get yourself Paul Peacock's book: The Good Life. It's really is excellent!

    I love John Seymour's thoughts on selling things:

    "We never sell anything that we produce here..., I know people who sell lettuces at a farthing when lettuces are selling in the shops-days old and stale and weary-at ten pence. We wish to be included out of that world, please...."

    Absolutely brilliant.

    Think self supporting communities are the future for the smallholder. Time for a rethink about towns and the big city. Britain and Ireland could and should lead the world with real ale, organic veg and locally sourced meat. Lets sing the allotments and smallholders praise.

    We keep goats to eat the brambles. They are also said to keep the TB away if you let them live with the cattle.

    Sorry to hear about your wife's arthritis. Know somebddy whos sister lives in Bahrain. They have never heard of Athritis or aches and pains.
    Hope you find a nice sun holiday. Please report back with all the details.

    Bracken the pony is having his first day eating the pasture, He seems very content.



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