Sowing Swapped Seeds

This week the weather has turned more wintry, and with the evenings closing in, the weekday afternoons I have free seem very short.  By the time I’ve had a spot of lunch there is only an hour or so before it is getting too dark to work outside.  I have continued to clear the fallen trees by the river.  Of course cutting them back is only half the job.  The cut branches then need moving through to the tree field, and will want cutting to length.  I’m eyeing up some of the nice hazel branches to make something crafty with.  Maybe shrink pots, or a wizard’s staff…..  I’ve moved some stones to make rather wobbly stepping stones over the worst of the boggy area and still have a lot of cut branches to clear away.

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One exciting thing that has happened this week is some seeds that I swapped for some perennial buckwheat seeds have arrived.  These are for Akebia – a perennial vigorous climber that should have chocolate or vanilla scented maroon flowers followed by a purple fat sausage fruit which is edible (see https://lassleben.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/autumnal/ for example)  The sweet seedy pulp is eaten as a fruit, and the skin, although bitter, can be cooked as a vegetable.  These seeds came from a fruit bought at a market in Japan, see https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1321572664620803&set=gm.1739693236041770&type=3&theater&ifg=1.  Nominally it can grow outside, but given I still don’t consider I have achieved much shelter, I will hope to plant this (if I get them to germinate) in the polytunnel.  You need two different plants to get fruit.  Hopefully if I get two plants from these seeds, they will be dissimilar enough to cross fertilise.  Apparently chiltern seeds sell Akebia seeds so if the plants grow, and if they don’t fertilise, and I find out whether my seeds are Akebia quinata (five lobed leaves) or Akebia triloba (three lobed leaves) I can get some more seeds and grow some unrelated plants (Phew!, that was getting involved there).  According to PFAF, my go-to resourse for germination information, stored Akebia seed is very difficult to germinate, luckily Kim, who swapped these with me, has kept them in damp tissue since eating the fruit, so they should germinate better.  They also need light to germinate, so I have pushed them into the surface of some damp compost in a old strawberry punnet with a hinged lid.  It is currently in the polytunnel, but I may bring it in, since I think the weather will soon be getting too cold in there, and the temperature PFAF mentions is 15 degrees, which it would gain during the day, but will soon be dropping to near freezing overnight, even in the tunnel.  I have kept most of the seeds back inside to dry, since I don’t need dozens of plants (my sad hablitzia plants are a poignant reminder not to sow more than I need – although one or two are hopefully off to good homes this autumn).  I may just pop a few in a zip lock bag on a damp tissue as well, as this apparently can work.  If I don’t get some Akebia to germinate over the winter, I can try with my stored seeds in the spring, or pass them on again if not required.

akebia seeds
Akebia seeds on paper to dry

 

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Happiness and winter jobs

I hate it when the clocks change.  Suddenly the afternoons get very short so I can’t get much done on my afternoons off.  We’re not early risers (the shop doesn’t open until 11.00am. off season) so I don’t really appreciate having extra daylight at the start of the day.  We had a drop of cut logs last week, and worked very hard on Friday to get them all away in the woodshed.  We still have a very small amount of cured wood that needs cutting to length and/or splitting, but we should have enough wood so that I can have the stove ticking over most of the winter.  Happiness is a full woodshed in Autumn!

woodshed prior to last wood drop
Woodshed before latest logs added

As well as making the house more pleasant, and giving us plenty of hot water, it also means I can cook more easily rather than being restricted to kettle, microwave and toaster!  On Friday I cooked sausages, banana loaf cakes, and a huge pan of pumpkin soup.  These pumpkins were slightly bruised, but I overdid it on pumpkins in the shop, so am thinking of pumpkin chutney maybe on Sunday….

autumn colours glendale
Autums colours Skye

We had a little walk round the tree field with the dogs on Tuesday, admiring the autumn colours, seeing how well the various trees have been doing, and picking out a few of the spruce that may do for our xmas tree this year.  We also made a little list of jobs that were of higher priority – clearing summer grass from around some of the trees, a little bit of removing lower branches in places.  We had a little look at the routing for the drains for the new extension, and it looks like I may have to move one of my shrubs, I think it is a saskatoon, so I will probably do that this winter, before it grows another year.

river bank escarpment in spring
River bank escarpment in Spring

I had a fairly nice afternoon on Thursday.  I made a start on clearing back a few of the trees on the river bank.  We have an area of trees outside the deer fence that are basically self sown willow, hazel and the odd rowan.  There is an area at the south side of the pedestrian gate through the fence that is sheltered by a steep escarpment.  This is formed partly due to the rock shelves, partly due to river erosion and partly as a spring line.  There are springs along the whole length, particularly when we have had plenty of rain, but I think some are there all the time.  The springs make it rather boggy underfoot.  In the lee of the escarpment, and away from most of the muching sheep, the trees have grown moss covered and gnarled.  The hazel has naturally coppiced over the years, and has formed hollow rings, some are four feet across.  It would be fascinating to know how old they are.  Probably several centuries I should think.  It makes me want to be ten again, to build a den there!

hollow hazel stool jul 13
Hollow Hazel Stool in summer

Anyway, the reason for the clearance was that a couple of the trees between the escarpment and the river had been washed over in the floods a few weeks ago, so their rootball is perpendicular to the ground and the route through is impassable.  The idea is to cut the trees back (good slow grown firewood) and maybe settle the rootball back down, or at least clear enough out the way to gain access.  This will probably involve the chainsaw, but to get there and work safely some of the lower branches needed clearing away, and I’m going to take the opportunity of making a slightly drier path as well.

S and I have slightly different views on how to achieve this, but since I’m the one doing the work, I get to decide.  I’m intending to dig interceptary channels parallel to the spring line, and then a few main drainage channels down the bank to the river.  Hopefully this will make the ground generally a bit drier without changing the mystical character too much.  I cleared a few overhanging branches by the pond, so that you can walk along there without bending double, and did the same along the escarpment as far as the fallen trees.  There are still a few branches that need trimming back to the trunks, but the main weight is removed.  Most of the wood I cut is still to be extracted, but there’s no hurry.  It may come in for burning next winter.  It seemed wrong now to be cutting back tree growth having spent so much effort getting the trees in the tree field established!

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Raining and pouring

We had a downpour on Tuesday night which resulted in, amongst other things, our community hall being flooded.  This is for the second time in five years.  A combination of high tide and unusually high rainfall (10mm plus in 1 hour) meant that most of the flood plain of the river was being used.  A family of holiday makers who unaccountably had chosen to camp next to the graveyard (!) had to call out the emergency services at 4.30 in the  morning after the vehicle was surrounded by water and started to float.  It could have been worse, the only casualty was the vehicle.  A few residents have had water ingress through houses or barns on its way downhill.  We’re a bit higher up the valley but the river was higher that we’ve seen it in ten years.  Some trees beside the river have been damaged and some torn out.  The river was going in our pond at the top and coming out at the bottom, but we’ve got away with no major damage this time.  This sort of weather event may be more common in the future of course.  The other thing I noticed was erosion of the trackway down the hill to the orchard.  The buried watermain acts as an interceptary drain and the low point at which it overflows is about at the trackway.  It’s not been so bad since I repaired the burn bed, but in heavy rain it obviously still does divert a bit.  Something to bear in mind when S. does refinish the trackway.  Since the orchard is on a slope, and I’ve raised up the level for the trees, I don’t think it will be an issue for them.

DSCN2483
Grass caught on fence shows the flood level