Starting Over

This is our first January on the plot. There isn’t much growing activity this time of year, so we have used this time to try and prepare the plot for the upcoming growing season. This has been a lot harder than it should have been, due to the excessive rainfall over the last few months. It has turned parts of the allotment into a bog. Some of the plots may as well be a pond. Naturally, more rain followed after we started turning the ground over so we will now leave that task until some time in February.

There have been no hard frosts this winter, in fact, it has been quite a mild winter. Meaning that none of the little critters have been killed off. White fly have been our main nemesis; they have decimated our over wintering cabbage and ate the pumpkin seeds that I had left in the shed. Luckily, I still have three pumpkins left so I’ll have plenty more seeds for next year.

With it being so mild, spring bulbs are starting to sprout much earlier than usual. I’ve even seen rhubarb poking out of the ground without the need to be forced! You can force your rhubarb crowns over winter to get an early spring crop.

With all of the items we would like to make over the coming years, a vice has made a nice addition to the workbench.

A cold frame is one of the first items on the list, we are being given some old greenhouse panels which will be perfect for it. We don’t have room on our plot for a full size greenhouse unfortunately.

There are signs of life everywhere, spring is knocking at our door.

Oh apple tree, we wassail thee

Wassailing of the apple trees dates back to our forefathers of Anglo-Saxon times. It was originally celebrated on 17th January, although this changed to 6th January with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.

The word “Wassail” comes from the Old English “wæs (þuhæl“, roughly translating to “be in good health”, something we still raise a glass to in this day and age. We toast and give thanks during the darkest period of the year, where the wheel has finally turned and we welcome back the sun.

The orchard spirits are to be awoken from their winter slumber by a racket and a song. Upon being disturbed the evil spirits of the orchard shall dispel, with the [good] spirits of the trees remaining. A helping of cider is poured at the roots of the trees as an offering to the spirits of the trees, this would ensure a bountiful harvest for the coming year.

Pieces of toast are then dipped in cider and hung from the crooked branches of the largest tree in the orchard, this is to encourage the little red breasted robins to visit the orchards and provide their protection. Robins have long been seen as the guardians of apple orchards.

Oh apple tree
We wassail thee
And hoping thou will be
Hat fulls, cap fulls
Three bushel bag fulls
A little heap under the stairs