The weather continues unusually hot and dry for us. One of our burns has dried up, and the other is down to a trickle. Luckily there still seems enough to fill the pipe to the polytunnel, since the sunshine makes it very hot in there, even with the doors open. The olive tree blossom has opened, and it looks like the toad has found his way into the pond which is good. I had noticed mosquito larvae in there and some strange jelly creatures with whip tails which look really disgusting, but I assume are some other sort of fly larvae. I was thinking I might have to import some fish to keep the vermin down, but maybe Mr Toad will sort them out for me. It should be cooler for him in there and more comfortable. I did make the sides sloping, so he should be able to get in and out reasonably well. I’m thinking of maybe getting a small solar powered pump to keep the water from getting stagnant.
I have mainly been working down in the tree field in the tea garden and the orchard area. I have transplanted into the newly cleared and seeded tea garden extension some rather pot bound specimens of skirret, and salsify as well as some straggly alpine strawberries, a couple of mashua and a couple of yacon plants. They will at least do better in the soil than in their pots for another year! I also had some tiny callaloo plants which came from the heritage seed library. This is a West Indian vegetable which is a selection of amaranth, grown for its succulent leaves rather than its seed. They appear to be quite colourful, but so far don’t seem to be putting on much growth. Since it has been very dry they may do better with a bit of watering in. I did give them all a little when planted, but we have had no rain in a fortnight again, so the surface of the soil is very dry. Underneath it isn’t so bad, although the surface springs have all dried up.
I still have a little more of the original tea garden to clear around the gooseberry bush (which seems to be bearing a good few berries despite still being very misshapen and small). The buttercups taken out have been used to mulch around the lowermost blackcurrent bush. I’m hoping that it has been dry enough to kill the dug up buttercup plants and that they will kill the buttercups underneath, or at least knock them back a bit. I have decided that I need to extend the path so that it flows through to join the trackway in a natural flow. Previously I had terraced the slope, so the path had to turn 90 degrees at the step. The side has now had to be built up with some supporting stones so that the path will have a smooth gradient. It still needs finishing off, but I think it will work much better.
Since it was too hot for doing much digging on Friday, I had a gentle day with the dogs mulching in the orchard area where I have been moving the soil (I had a strange virus attack on Thursday which left me feeling like I should take it easy, but feel fine now). The earth moving is not quite finished yet, but the top terrace is just about there, so I thought I’d try and mulch it to keep the surface clear and stop some of the dock seeds germinating. Hopefully it will then be ready to plant up next spring. It is amazing how much cardboard you need for what isn’t a huge area. I do like to have a fair overlap between the sheets, but I’ll need to get a few more deliveries in the shop to do the rest of the orchard! I still have a few sheets in my plastic shed, which may finish off the top terrace with luck.
On the left hand side of the trackway my new “honeyberries”, or “earlyberries” as Lubera called them, Lonicera caerulea have turned colour, and I think are getting as ripe as they are likely to be. Not over enamoured of the flavour so far – not as sweet as I’d hoped, bearing in mind the superb weather. It may be that I was hoping for too much. They are supposed to taste like blueberries when ripe, but maybe like blackcurrants they are more a berry for cooking with. I am quite happy that I got any fruit, considering this is their first year with me, and the bees loved the flowers. I have been very happy with all the plants I got from Lubera – nice quality, reasonable priced (and less than £5 delivery cost even to Skye) and some exiting selections. I’m thinking of getting a second kiwi, or kiwiberry for my polytunnel and they have several to choose from….
I always get quite excited about the orchids coming into flower at this time of year. Year on year we get more flowering, due to them not being eaten by sheep anymore. I have loads more butterfly orchids on the orchid hill, and several more popping up above the cut through drain to the pond. The most dense for blooms is the steep slope just above the pond, presumably this had not been ploughed so much. One would have thought that there would be more coming out on the hump just below the barn, but so far I have only spotted a couple of butterfly orchids near our southern boundary, on the narrow path that winds around the hump. Maybe the grazing pressure has been higher there due to being closer to the barn? I would have thought the soils were not that dissimilar. I spotted a new species of orchid as well this year – what I am fairly certain is a Heath fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia borealis) since it is the first I have found to really have a noticable sweet scent during the day. I shall have to check for more of these, since I may just have missed them.