Friday, 30 January 2015

Snow Showers

Snow showers were the order of the day for Thursday. We had far more in the morning than afternoon and although the temperature never got much above freezing the snow that did fall melted away almost as it fell.
This was how it looked during one of the showers in the afternoon. As soon as it stopped the snow began to melt.
There’s been much talk about how cold it will feel this week due to the wind chill factor as the wind is expected to come from the north. You can see from yesterday’s temperatures how much lower the temperature is when it’s adjusted to take into account wind chill (the purple line). It also shows how frequent those snow showers were especially through the morning. By the end of the day the rainfall/snowfall amounted to 6.6mm which would convert to a total depth of around 66mm (nearly 3”) of snow.

A start to the gardening season seems a little way off especially as this weather is set to continue into next week.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Bit of Everything

We had a little bit of everything on Wednesday.
The morning started of with gales and a little bit of sunshine. It was mild too with the temperature around 9°C then the came the rain and the temperature fell sharply from that 9°C down to around 4°C. The wind continued to blow through the daytime into the early evening when it abated and was replaced by a mixture of rain and snow showers.

Thursday morning has continued with a few wintry showers. The temperature seems reluctant to lift form its current 1°C. So far the snow isn't settling.
Snow coverage 09:00 Thursday 29 January 2015
Might be I've spoken a bit too soon about how the snow is not settling as it’s now snowing heavily (09:30 Thursday morning). The forecast is for snow showers all day so hopefully that will be the case.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Gales Again!

Tuesday was dull, cloudy and mild. Wednesday has started off with gale force winds again. We've just had a gust of 31mph which blew over some of the bird feeders.

Oddly there isn't a Met Office warning of gales as we've had warnings when it’s been less windy. It’s wet and windy with the rain heading down from the north.
This is where the rain is at 09:20 with much cooler temperatures following behind the band of rain. This cold spell of weather looks like it will last into next week. 

We do have a warning for snow later on today and into tomorrow. 

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

An Archive Plan

After looking at a few more archive photos I thought it would be a good idea to identify on an aerial image from Google Earth where the photos were taken and their direction. I've used Google Earth for the imagery which is dated 2003.
I've added the plot number as appropriate and arrows 1 to 3 relating to the first two comparison photos, second two comparison photos and so on which featured in the last post.

A more recent Google Earth image looks like this.

From the Allotment Archives

Monday didn't feel as mild as the temperature suggested. With the possibility of snow forecast for the latter half of the week, we decided on an afternoon visit to RSPB Fairburn Ings. It was cloudy but the gusty wind made it feel much colder.
It was about 10 years ago when we made the move from film to digital photography. Before the switch it was more or less a case of buying a few rolls of film with 24 or 36 pictures on them and taking photos or slides of our holidays. If we had a couple of shots left when we returned home we’d finish them off around the garden or very rarely the allotment. The films went away to be developed and the results were awaited with some anticipation.

The advent of digital photography eventually changed how we viewed taking pictures. At first digital photography was treated as when using film except that the photos could be viewed straight away rather than in a few days time after developing.  It was a while before digital pictures began being taken almost instead of keeping a diary. 

It seems that around the beginning of January 2005 we started taking more pictures of the allotments as our digital camera era began in earnest. I thought it might be interesting to compare the plots today and how they appeared 10 years ago. On our site 10 years ago the allotment boom hadn't got under way.
Mid January 2005 looking from plot 42 towards plot 41

25 January 2015 looking from plot 42 towards plot 41
The first two photos are looking from the end of our plot number 42 looking up the allotment site. As you can see it a wasteland of weeds and bramble. We eventually took on plot 41 which has the tumbled down green shed on it in the first photo taken in 2005. Although all the plots aren’t taken on our site it looks far more productive in the photo taken a few days ago.
Mid January 2005 looking from plot 42 towards plot 29
25 January 2015 looking from plot 42 towards plot 29
This is a view looking down the path separating plot 42 and 43. The trees in these photos are rather confusing. The two large conifer trees in the 2005 photo have recently been cut down. The conifer in the 2015 picture has grown over the last 10 years. Ten years ago we were shedless and greenhouseless. 
Mid January 2005 looking from plot 42 towards main gates
25 January 2015 looking from plot 42 towards main gates
Finally two photos looking down the site towards the main gate. In 2005 this was a wasteland. On this side of the allotment site we had taken on plot 42 and all the other plots were overgrown. 

Eventually the allotment boom came and almost all of the plots on the site became cultivated. We've still a few plots to be taken on by someone who’s looking for a challenge to clear an overgrown and derelict plot.

More from the archives soon.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Monday, 26 January 2015

Good Carrot, Bad Carrot

Sunday wasn't a bad day for late January. As promised we didn't really get any sunshine but the rain held off and the temperature was around 8°C in the afternoon so we headed for the plot.

Our carrots have done well again this year after a bit of a poor start when some young seedlings were devoured by slugs. The eaten rows were resown and the carrots more or less left to do their own thing under a tent of environmesh as protection against carrot fly.
These four rows of carrots have gone on to provide us, so far, with 29.6kg of carrots including the ones we lifted on Sunday. Our first carrots were lifted on 27 August 2014 and we've been lifting carrots regularly since then. In October they received a covering of straw as winter protection and their environmesh tent was removed.
These are the Autumn King carrots we lifted on Sunday still in good condition even after the sort of mini cold spell we've just had. They've been left in the ground covered with straw and have survived the -3.3°C freezing they got on 31 December 2014. These are the good carrots.

I thought it only fair to post some pictures of our bad carrots. Expecting to leave carrots in the ground over winter without any losses due to pest or the weather is expecting a bit too much. So here’s a bad carrot.
It’s not good is it. The carrot itself is pretty gigantic, but that’s caused it to split at the root end allowing all sorts of pests to take advantage. It’s not a pretty sight looking at the shoulder of the carrot or what’s left of it!
I'm guessing slugs have started off the damage and then maybe mice have found the inside of the carrot tempting during the cold weather. Who knows? It’s not fit for eating and has been discarded and added to the compost heap. I noticed that a few carrots in a row all look like this so there might be a few more heading the same way.

The worse thing about damaged carrots is that they have a habit of turning into a gooey orange mess by the time spring comes around and aren’t too pleasant to clear away to the compost heap. I’ll try to remember to take a photo.

We also took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend which involves counting the birds spotted in our garden over a one hour period during the weekend. Our results are shown in the table below.
That’s not a bad result for us although we regularly have more sparrows and goldfinches. Our results along with thousands of other have been sent off to the RSPB for analysis.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Suet Pellet Rations Secured

Saturday was a lovely sunny day but there was a cold breeze making it feel cold.

Mrs Blackbird and friends made an appearance on Saturday morning for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
She took the opportunity to do a little bit of modelling work too in between helping herself to some suet filled coconut. I like how our house and the blue sky are reflected in her eye.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Cold Snap Comes to an End

Thursday and Friday continued our current cold snap although as forecast things did start to turn a little milder on Friday afternoon. 
Temperature & Rainfall Saturday 17 January 2015 to Friday 23 January 2015
Around the country various places have recorded some very low temperatures during the cold snap. For us that hasn't been the case. It’s been cold by day with temperatures hovering around 0°C through the day but there hasn't been much of a drop during the night. Wednesday was our coldest day with an average daily temperature 1.1°C. On Wednesday our highest temperature was 1.5°C and lowest 0.7°C. Our lowest temperature of the cold spell was on Friday morning when the temperature fell to -1.6°C at 08:05. 

Our coldest temperature of winter was -3.3°C on 31 December 2014 but with a high temperature of 9.1°C the same day the daily average temperature turned out to be 3.7°C.

One of our female blackbirds has become very trusting when I replenish the bird table each morning. Most mornings she will come and perch in our magnolia tree and watch from a safe distance while the suet treats are added to the bird table. As soon as I move away she makes her move to be the first to the bird table. On Friday morning she had a new trick.
I usually try to keep a watch for when I’m spreading the food. She doesn't take kindly to any sudden movements but providing actions are carried out in a sort of slow motion she’s happy to stay her ground. On Friday morning she arrived in the magnolia tree but then decided she might as well have some seed and fat out of the coconut whilst I took my time adding stuff to the bird table. She was no more than a couple of feet away. I only had our little Lumix DMC FS45 camera tucked in my pocket. I carefully took out the camera, thinking that as soon as I pointed this at her she would be away. She’s got far more about her than that and she calmly put her head down and carried on eating.

We've a couple of female blackbirds who look very similar so I can’t be absolutely certain that it’s the same bird each day. They’d better turn up for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over the weekend or they might find their suet pellets rationed.  

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Snowy Day

It snowed lightly virtually from first light through to the early evening but even though the temperature never got above 1°C through the daytime the snow didn't build up to any great depth.

The birds had their food supplies replenished in the morning a short while after it had started snowing.
Our flock of resident blackbirds did a good begging job from their perches in our magnolia tree as their supply of buggy nibbles ran out. We had half a dozen blackbirds perched in the tree just far enough apart so that they tolerated one another. Now and again the spacing got a bit too close and a quick squabble broke out until a suitable spacing distance was re-established. They had their supplies replenished a couple of times through the day. I'm not expecting them to appear all together on Saturday or Sunday when we take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. 
Above is how it looked around 15:30 as the birds got a final topping up of buggy nibbles and after it had been snowing since 09:00. The snow was wet and melting despite the fact the thermometer was stuck around the 1°C mark.

The weather is forecast to be a bit milder over the weekend so the remnants of the snow shouldn't hang about for too long.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Weather Station Problems and More from Old Moor

Tuesday was another cold day although we had a little more sunshine than on Monday. Even though the temperature didn't fall below freezing it became our coldest day of winter with an average temperature of 1.3°C.

My weather station has now been operating since the middle of 2009. It doesn't seem to need much maintenance touch wood. So I was a little bit surprised Tuesday morning when a message appeared on my console stating that the battery power to station 1 was running low.
I couldn't remember whether the station was totally solar powered with a backup rechargeable battery. Trust something to go wrong when the temperature outside is only just above freezing. How long could I leave it without doing anything? We'd had some pretty dull days so maybe the recharging hadn't been going too well.

A bit of Internet research confirmed that my weather station operated on solar power when possible with a normal battery as backup in hours of darkness. It was a case off to the shops for a new battery.
Ladders out it was just a case of swapping over old for new. A pity the failing battery is located in the little white housing well out of easy reach. I had a few concerns about the condition of the old battery after being five years installed outside.
Once the cover was released I was pleasantly surprised as the insides looked like new. The new battery installed and the front cover replaced after reconnecting the solar power cable it was a question of checking that data was transferring back to the station console and computer. Despite the interruption in power supply everything appeared satisfactory. The job turned out easier than I had anticipated.
Old battery after 5 years (solar power cable unattached)
New battery installed and solar power cable re-attached
I mentioned that on our visit to RSPB Old Moor I'd managed a couple of photographic firsts. I posted some pictures of a wren on Monday so today I'm adding a photo of a yellowhammer. It was almost out of reach of my camera lens but the photo didn't turn out to be too bad.
Although we've seen woodpeckers before at Old Moor I thought I'd post these of a male and female great spotted woodpecker. 
Male Great Spotted Woodpecker
Identified by red patch at the back of his head
Female Great Spotted Woodpecker
The male went off to do a spot of proper woodpeckering in a tree close by. I managed to get a bit of video of him doing his stuff looking for food. The video is included below.

To finish off with a note about Wednesday morning which has started off with wet snow falling. The forecast is for snow showers all day dying out this evening and with a predicted high temperature of 2°C.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Cold Visit to Old Moor

Monday replaced Sunday as the coldest day of winter so far with an average daily temperature of 1.4°C. It wasn't particularly cold overnight it just remained cold all day with little variation in the temperature.
The forecast for Monday had been for a cold but sunny day and we’d decided on a visit to RSPB Old Moor. As it turned out it wasn't sunny, anything but, it was a cold grey day but we decided to visit anyhow. The plan was to have lunch at Old Moor and a walk around the reserve if the weather wasn't too bad in the afternoon.
As you can see despite the fact that the weather didn't improve we decided on a walk. The smaller lakes remained covered by thin ice into the afternoon. The ducks, geese and waders seemed to have found better places to be on a cold, dull, Monday afternoon but the garden hide and tree sparrow farm had plenty of action to make up for the lack of birds elsewhere.

At home we often see a wren flitting about in the garden but I haven’t managed to get a decent photo as it moves along the fence and into the shrubs almost like a mouse might move but impossible to follow with a camera let alone get it in focus as it occasionally rests for a few milliseconds.
At Old Moor this little wren kept still long enough for me to get the camera trained and focused. There were another couple of firsts too but I've still to finish sorting out my photos.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Getting Colder

Sunday morning’s sunshine didn't last all that long and by mid morning it had turned cloudy. Sunday’s average temperature for the day turned out to be the lowest for January at only 1.6°C. Our coldest average for winter was on 28 December 2014 with 1.5°C.
Although this cold spell has plenty of newspaper and TV coverage it hasn't yet been as cold as the spell at the end of December when the temperature fell to -3.3°C on the 31 December 2014. 

Whilst we haven’t had an enormous amount of rainfall this month it’s worth a mention that we've only managed two dry days on the 5th and 6th of the month.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

It’s January

The forecast cold spell arrived on Saturday. It wasn't a particularly nice day, a mixture of sunny spells and sleety rainy showers throughout the day. The temperature managed a high of 4.4°C but didn't fall below freezing all day.
By early evening wet surfaces had turned to ice and untreated paths and roads were converted into sheets of ice.

Sunday morning is lovely and sunny with the temperature hovering around the 0°C mark.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Onion Dilemma

Friday saw a definite change in the weather as the mild windy weather was replaced with much colder conditions with a few rain, hail, sleety snow showers. The day’s high temperature was 5.8°C in the early hours of the morning. It fell through the day and was 3.7°C at lunchtime.

You’ll have noticed if you follow Sue’s blog that our seeds arrived from Kings Seeds this week.
We didn't have the box full all to ourselves as some of the orders were for other plot-holders on our site. The arrivals included our onion and shallot sets. I'm not sure what the best way of looking after these sets is over the next few cold winter months. Last year some of the sets were planted up into cells in the middle of February and they grew well last year but last February was very mild. There are some very cold nights forecast for next week so I'm a little undecided what to do.
They’re taking it easy in the summerhouse for now. It doesn't get too warm by day and if it threatens to be extremely cold next week I might move them into the garage or even into the house to protect them from any very keen frosts.
I’ll need to keep a close check on the sets to make sure they’re not deteriorating in their net bags but I'm leaving them in their own little bags so that each variety can be identified at planting time.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Pumpkin Madness

Wednesday and Thursday were once again very windy. Both days were mild with highs of 9.1°C and 10.4°C respectively. January 2015 has taken over the unwanted record of windiest month since 2011 when I started keeping records of wind speeds.
Thankfully the forecasts for the next week suggest that we've seen the back of the gales and that colder weather with daytime high temperatures only just above freezing are heading our way over the weekend and into next week.

I finally got round to making a pumpkin pie using one of our Crown Prince squashes. Pumpkin pie somehow has a much nicer ring to it than squash pie which doesn't sound very appetising to me.
This was the chosen squash. It was washed and cut up ready for cooking when I started thinking about all those precious squash seeds I was about to discard to the compost heap. Our squash seeds for this year have arrived, six seeds from Kings Seeds cost £1.30. It appears a bit expensive when you look at all those seeds a single fruit provides. Those six seeds normally provide us with enough squashes to see us through winter or alternatively 10 squashes at 13.0p each. 
The seeds above aren’t all the seeds from the squash only the easiest to select. Now I have to confess that I'm not a seed saving sort of a gardener. I do it now and again but it’s not often but I couldn't overlook this opportunity to save a handful of seeds. As Crown Prince is an F1 seed variety, common garden parlance would suggest it won’t come true from saved seed but I suppose unless I experiment I won’t know for sure. I'm jumping the gun a little bit as the first task will be to get some seeds to germinate.

As for the rest of the squash the cooked flesh produced enough cooked pumpkin for two pies.
One container full has gone into the freezer. The pumpkin pie itself tastes good but wasn't a “looker”. For some reason a ring around where the filling and the pastry met burnt slightly. I'm not sure why as this hasn't happened before. Still I remembered to add some sugar this time. You can’t have everything. I’d be no good in a Bake Off tent!