1 Year of blogging

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Groblog is one year old!

On reflection I havent written much, mainly because the growing season has been/will continue to be manic this year. Business ventures are expanding in exciting directions… more of that in future posts.

Vegplugs.co.uk

Vegplugs.co.uk is really flying. Order volumes have more than quadrupled year on year, and even though we planted over four times as much we still do not have enough plants!

Due to the dangerous combination of whopping order volumes and the wheels falling off the Royal Mail postal service, a few orders did not make our 7 day dispatch policy. Apologies to customers who had to wait a while for plants .. we are up to speed now. Sincere apolgies for the delays/any administrative mistakes. Great plugs, but the administrative staff (me!) need a kick up the a**e.

We are using APS Couriers and are really happy with their service. Soon all orders should go via APS but for the next few weeks some will still need to go with Royal Mail.

New cultivars have been a focus for 2011, with lots of trials underway. Be blogging about that soon!

A quick note on the weather.

A few of our customers/friends have noticed slowed growth over the last fortnights cold weather, particularly for aubergines and peppers.

I try to get the aubergine/pepper plugs outside 24/7 from May onwards, only covering them if there is a risk of frost, but in all honestly they grow better (well, they look better- greener- but stems are weaker) indoors and in some cases grow a little quicker than outdoor raised young plants.

For aubergines/toms/peppers/soft herbs leave them in a sunny, warm place with low levels of wind (some breeze is neccessary) for as long as possible- on Gardener’s World the other day they still had corn, cucurbits and all of the above indoors and were not going to take them outside until early to mid-June. Best not to rush these plants and let them get as big and strong as possible before facing the elements. The exception is tomatoes which are hardier than peppers/aubergines and need some degree of natural conditions (wind=stronger stems and shorter inter-leaf spacings) to stop them getting leggy.

Here is an indoor raised pepper living happily on the kitchen windowsill since germinating in february:

And here is one raised outdoors:

Ultimately it will be a stronger plant, with I would think better yields. Planted at the same time but growing ‘normally’, i.e this plant is pacing itself and knows it is too early to fruit.. flowers are just beginning and the plant will produce at least 15 flowers at the same time, whereas the pepper in the top image thinks its in St Tropez.

Growing

I’d love to be able to say my garden looks fabulous, but sadly it looks like a barnyard. What has been planted so far? Ballhead cabbages, carrots, tons of green manure and sweetcorn. So no harvests for at least another month. I cant bear to post a pic as its just embarrassing. Customers send me pics of their plugs growing fabulously all the time and they put me to shame.

Pig update

Pumpkin the large black pig is but a distant memory. A delicious, distant memory of roast pork, A4 sized sheets of crackling and fine charcuterie.

Squash … now unfortunately this explanation is going to involve a major digression … well, basically she is now the size of a small hippo, and immensly clever thanks to all the stimulation she gets spending her days trying to reach tantalising rows of plug plants.

She also has acquired expectations beyond basic food and board- Squash needs love. Squash needs love because she is used to being fussed and scratched and hand-fed Swiss white chocolate/doughnuts/marzipan daily.

Let this be a lesson to you- don’t let you’re pigs get too smart or reliant on affection. You will wind up having to schedule time to faff over a 30 stone monster every day. Immediately after said visit a shower needs to be scheduled. Immediately before said visit a barrow load of food needs to be found.

A mildly rubbish post, but I havent posted for ages and i’m feeling guilty 🙂

Better stuff to come! Xx

Pigs

February 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

This week’s Monday morning installment of visual delights.

(Not selected with Valentine’s day in mind)

Those big ears aren’t just cute you know

January 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Why do large black pigs have such big ears?

Observing my elephant eared pigs I found the ear seemingly obstructive: regularly the pigs had to turn their heads to see where they were going, and when they broke into a trot their ears batted them in the face.

Well, I didn’t spend too much time musing on the functionality of pigs ears, not in the biological sense anyway, though I did pore over Fergus Hendersons Nose to Tail Eating for culinary ideas, and I asked a few friends in the pub if they would eat black pork scratchings (a unanimous NO).

I found the answer in an article in US publication the Stockman Grass Farmer. The article detailed rare breeds and the rising demand for meat from these animals.

They have big ears to protect their eyes when digging/foraging in brambles and other coarse vegetation. So obvious!

PS Yes I did throw a snowball at my pig. Gently.

PPS I read somewhere else that if being chased, Large Black pigs are easier to escape from than a perky-eared pig as ear flop:visibility ratio is greatly impaired in the Large Black.

PPPS Where there is action, there is Huxley.

The joy of the psychic connection between owner and dog. Huxley knows I’m photographing ears and gives me her best pose and ‘feed the cuteness’ face. Yes Huxley your ears are fabulous.

Guardian.co.uk: Dispeller of pig ignorance

January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Guardian.co.uk interview with Lyall Watson, author of The Whole Hog.

Lyall Watson is in London to talk about pigs. His mission, at his publisher’s Dickensian rookery in Hatton Garden, is to persuade scientists that they’ve been neglecting the other candidate for man’s best friend.

He’s gone, as his title jokes, The Whole Hog to set down what we do know about these ungulates, which he reckons can be differentiated from their hoofed cousins, sheep, goats and antelope, by superior intelligence. “I’m hoping what the book will do for the general reader is just enlighten and for professionals just jog their imaginations a little.”

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Meet Pumpkin & Squash, a pair of Large Black Pigs

December 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Pumpkin and Squash are two very happy, slightly overweight gilts which I am proud to call my animals. They are Large Black pigs, a rare breed and the UK’s only all black pig.

Large Black pigs are good looking animals (though pigs do have a habit of maintaining rude health) with big floppy ears and wide faces. They are massive, the meat is gorgeous and they thrive on a diet of pasture/veg.

My pair have some life: fresh veg daily, plenty of space to skip (suprisingly nimble) around (feed less oats!), near hourly contact with people, Huxley to beat up when they’re bored.

These are the first pigs i’ve ever kept. I think I imagined it to be like getting a very large rabbit, with the pen being like a hutch and all.

I think the moment of realisation that I had not purchased a very large rabbit came when trying to transport new purchases in the back of a Renault Scenic.

I grew extra veg before they arrived and left it in the ground as an arrival ‘gift’. I planned a series of vocal commands and training techniques. I spent hours on my knees in the park collecting acorns as ‘treats’.

The pigs arrived, destroyed their pen door, destroyed the garden, then set up camp outside the air vent honking for constant feeding. When they found my acorn stash (in the shed) they knocked it all over the floor, and set up camp in the shed til they’d gorged the lot. Bold and inquisitive indeed.

The intelligence of pigs deserves a good few posts in itself, more of those to come; suffice to say pigs are amazingly bright, good natured, interactive animals. I cannot imagine ever getting bored of going to visit my pigs.

Pumpkin is a really nice pig. Clever, sweet, docile. Doesn’t scoff her food so fast she has to regurgitate it. Doesn’t try jump on your back every time you bend down. Doesn’t rub its ass on then poo inside electrical sockets (yes really).

Squash is a bad, bad pig. She bites, she’s just really bossy, obnoxious, noisy. She eats like the proverbial pig, jumps all over people and poos in electrical sockets. She’s not very bright either.

Proper farmers might say kill a mean pig (as it sticks in the genes, so top the whole line) and believe me I would, I want to kill Squash, but the bitch has great genetics. I need her babies.

So Squash lives.

Pumpkin’s fate is yet to be decided.

No Veg?!…Blaencamel to the rescue

December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Deepest winter (and some lenghthy pig action) havs reduced my garden to a patch of earth devoid of life.

The pigs have eaten every last root, earthworm and bug. The place is sterile. Pigs, dirty? they’ve eaten EVERYTHING. Theres nothing left to get dirty.

I had a lovely patch of sprouts (Trafalgar and Falstaff) which I planted in May, calculated so as to crop in time for Christmas, and 10 sprouting broccoli plants (Red Arrow) which were planted in June for a March crop, but my pigs razed the whole lot to the ground, so I’ve started off some lettuce, spinach, pakchoi and parsley under lights as I know I’m not going to have any crops from the garden until at least April/May.

Here are the little darlings:

Thank goodness for my local farmers market (Riverside Farmers Market) where Blaencamel Farm produce incredibly good quality veg all year round. I have lots of respect for these growers- the consistent quality and freshness of their produce is second to none. See www.blaencamelbox.com for details.

Pigs as ploughs: Put your spade away and get a pig

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I first heard about no dig gardening I thought Yes! Indeed that’s the way forward for my veg growing operations. For the last three years I’ve done it successfully, but for the past three years I’ve been making/obtaining tons of compost & manure.

Now I have pigs so there is nothing spare for the compost heap, and really without a constant influx of compost the wheels fall off my no-dig system.

These last three compost laden years have spoilt me- I wince at the thought of digging even a celery trench let alone double digging, and I’m a fit (marginally), healthy (fairly) 29 year old.

Solution! The no-dig strategy now encompasses pigs.

Anyway, pigs are the ultimate ploughs, they are like ploughs with a fertilising arm attached to the rear end. They have little pointy feet which avoid compressing the ground. I compare them to fat ladies in stilettos (no offence to fat ladies in stilettos).

They root down to their eyeballs and heave the soil aside, leaving it fluffy, aerated and devoid of weeds/last year’s crop stumps. With a little raking these are perfect soil conditions for planting vegetables.

If you are lucky enough to have a pig, or have a neighbour who will lend you one, a simple rotation system can see all of your digging done for you.

Fencing is of paramount importance as hungry/bored pigs will really enjoy digging under a fence. Believe me you don’t want to be chasing a fully grown pig about your neighbourhood.

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