Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘growing vegetables’

Polytunnel Plans 2017

I spent today tidying up the polytunnel ready for a new growing season. I can get to all my different sized pots and seed trays now.

In the background you can see my Tree Cabbages. I’m gradually adding perennial vegetables to the polytunnel. As well as the tree cabbages we also have some nine star perennial broccoli which we haven’t  tried yet.

Of course the fruit trees are still in place as is the raspberry bed, grape vine and willow patch.

I’ve got some spring onions and carrots in the raised bed already and the elephant garlic that I planted in November is just starting to appear.

I grew a lot of cabbage last year but with the tree cabbages doing so well I’m not doing any this year. I have now got all my seeds for the year.

The first seeds to get planted will be the sweet peppers. They need to in by the end of January to have any chance of a long enough & warm enough growing season. I’ve got a heated propagator so hopefully that will help getting them off to a good start. I’m going to try lots of different varieties and see which does the best.

The tomatoes were very sucessful last year so I’m going to try some different varieties including more heritage plants & some that have an early harvest. I’ve also got some small cherry tomato seeds which I’m planning to grow in our front porch,with basil, to take advantage of the south facing aspect and also so that it’s easy to grab some when cooking in the kitchen.

I’ll be doing another trough of cut & come again salad leaves. I much prefer freshly picked salad leaves rather than the bagged up stuff from the supermarket. Growing them in the trough means I can move then aroubd easily and have them near the kitchen or campfire cooking area for super fresh salads.

Another staple for us is spring onions which are particularly good in the straw bale garden. I did some sucesssional planting last year and we’re still harvesting now.

I haven’t grown carrots for a few years but as well as the early ones I’ve already got in I’ll be doing regular sowings throughout the growing season together with some shallots which I’m growing from seed rather than sets.

We’re still enjoying the basket of fire chillies that I grew and dehydrated in 2015  but I”m going to grow some jalapeños this year, hopefully to have fresh as well as to dehydrate and store.

Building on my sucessful with melons in 2016 I’m going to try growing a watermelon as well as the galia type that I’ve already grown.

In 2016 the polytunnel did turn into a bit of a squash forest towards the end of the summer. To try & avoid that I’m going to grow Butterbush butternut squash which has a more compact habit. I’m also going to grow spaghetti squash again because they were so delicious.

My new challenge for 2017 is going to be sweet potatoes. I’ve got slips suitable for growing in the UK ordered for June. Having enough heat seems to be one of the keys to success so I’ll start them off in my heated propagator and then use cloches.

Fingers crossed for sunshine, just the right amount of rain & a lack of pests.

Hooters Hall 2016: our five year anniversary

Another year at Hooters Hall has ended and we’ve been here five years now. We’ve done a lot in those five years but there’s still a lot to do. In 2016 we were able to spend more time growing our own produce and our experiment with straw bale gardening was very sucessful. The fruit trees, particularly the apricots were very productive and my squash forest gave us 75 winter squash which should see us all the way through the winter.

The straw bales we used are still intact and I think they will do a second growing season. I’ve still got some red cabbage and spring onions growing in them. Looking back on our harvest for 2016 and making plans for 2017 I’m going to be growing more elephant garlic, spring onions, sweet peppers and melons. I think I’ll skip the Kohl rabi for 2017 it grew really well but there’s only so much you can eat. The same with turnips. I had early success with baby turnips, got a bit carried away and we had a bit of a turnip glut. Fortunately the pigs helped us out with that. I’m also going have a year off growing peas and beans. They are nice but there’s only so much room in the polytunnel and I want to try some different growing challenges.

One of the best growing experiences of 2016 was harvesting fresh, homegrown melons and raspberries from the polytunnel for my breakfast. The tomatoes did really well this year too and although we had a bit of a glut it wasn’t overwhelming because we made good use of our dehydrator which means we’re still enjoying our tomato harvest now. At the end of the season we had a lot of green tomatoes and they made a really nice chutney.

Here are some pictures of our 2016 harvest

 

When we first moved to Hooters Hall five years ago I thought I might like to take up knitting but I remember telling a friend I didn’t think I would get into spinning my own yarn or any other fibre crafts. How wrong I was. I’ve got two spinning wheels and several weaving looms now and we’ve turned one of the rooms in the piggery into a fibre processing room. My super chunky handspun yarn is proving very popular in USA as well as UK and hopefully there will be a lot more fibre craft to come in 2017. Here’s some pictures for the yarn lovers.

The fibre we process at Hooters Hall is our own Jacob wool and mohair from our Angora goats. The sheep did really well in 2016. All but one of our ewes had twins and they are all thriving. We had a much earlier lambing than previous years because we kept our ram in with the flock from Summer through the autumn. February lambing did work quite well the lambs got to enjoy the best of the Spring /Summer grass and have grown really well with lovely fleeces. We moved each ewe inside when she lambed and kept ewes and the lambs inside for a few days before returning them to the flock We have had predator attacks over the past 5 years and learnt through experience it’s better to keep the lambs inside for the first few days. Unfortunately Amber our Angora doe didn’t fall pregnant this year but fingers crossed for 2017. We did add another goat breed to our herd with the arrival of Jen the Bagot goat. She’s doing really well and is now quite happy to eat out of my hand and even sits on my lap.

Here’s some pictures of some of the other residents of Hooters Hall in 2016 including Big cockerel one of our first batch of home hatched chickens.

If you follow Hooters Hall on Instagram or facebook you’ll have seen some of my natural dye experiments throughout 2016. I’ve tried some rust dyeing using rusty objects found on the farm as well as some eco printing using foraged plant material and dyeing with botanical dyes that I’ve grown in my dye garden. In Spring and Summer we sell freshly harvested hedgerow dyes in the Hooters Hall farm shop. I’ve already posted pictures of the results of willow dyeing and in 2017 I’ll be showing what the other hedgerow dyes can do. Here’s s selection of my natural dye and eco print experiments on cotton.

In the five years that we’ve been at Hooters Hall we’ve really got into outdoor cooking. In the Summer, weather permitting, we’ll generally cook on the campfire enjoying our own Gloucestershire Old Spot pork with herbs and vegetables from the garden and polytunnel. We’ve shared a few recipes on our facebook page and there’ll be more to come in 2017. We’re going to be exploring the world of herbal syrups and I’m sure there will be more sausage and pork recipes.

Before we moved to Hooters Hall we lived in South London. I loved living in London but you can’t beat Fenland for big skies and beautiful sunsets. Also the dark winter days are more bearable when you can watch the sun rise while doing the morning feed. Here are some of the best big skies of the Fens from 2016.

We spent our New year’s bank holiday doing a bit of polytunnel maintenance so now I’m itching to get growing again and it’s definitely time to start browsing the seed catalogues. We might be lambing again in a few weeks as well so keep an eye on our facebook and instagram for cute lamb pictures.

Hooters Hall Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HootersHall/

Hooters Hall Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hootershall/

Surprise Ramsons, Onions & Sheep

Having successfully tried out the electric polywire to allow the sheep to graze in front of our polytunnel we decided to expand the area of temporary grazing all around the polytunnel and caravan. So first job this weekend was to extend the boundary wire. Fortunately we managed to get this done before the rain started. We’re getting very close to lambing now so it’s handy that we can see the sheep from the bedroom window when they are in the temporary grazing area.

Here’s a picture of one of the older ewes looking very wide, maybe twins or even triplets on the way

Here’s the rest of the flock enjoying the new grazing and a view of the sheep from inside the polytunnel

The weather this weekend has been pretty miserable with lots of rain so I decided to get on with tidying the polytunnel up and planting some new crops. First off I planted the chocolate habanero chillies in seed trays. They’ll stay in the propagator at 24-27 °C until they germinate. After a bit of reorganisation of the polytunnel I then got a bed of red onions planted. I perhaps got carried away when I bought my onion sets as you can see from the picture but at least I’ve got enough to do successional sowing in a couple of beds.

As part of my general spring cleaning of the polytunnel I decided to empty out some pots that I’d left outside the piggery for the last year. I had originally planted ramsons, wild garlic in them but they didn’t really grow last year so I thought the ramson bulbs had rotted or been taken by mice. So, it was a nice surprise to find that despite the pots being full of weeds the wild garlic had resurrected itself. I carefully removed the bulbs from the overgrown weed covered pots and replanted them in the polytunnel. Even with only one or two leaves per bulb they smelt amazing.

Here’s a picture of a replanted ramson

We’ve now got a bed of cooking garlic, a bed of red onion ( with more to be planted) and a bed of wild garlic as well as the culinary herbs that we planted last year and the chocolate habanero chillies that I’ve just planted. If we have a successful harvest we’ll be trying out all of these crops as flavourings in our sausages and burgers which you can buy from the online Hooters Hall Farm Shop ( click on the tab at the top of this page)