It’s all of the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in China that makes it so unsettling. They don’t definitively know where it came from (snakes? bats? fish?), they don’t know how it will develop, antibiotics don’t touch it, carriers are contagious before they present any symptoms…..and the Chinese authorities are clearly in a tizzy about it. Cities are in lockdown, the Lunar New Year celebrations were scaled right back, travel is being restricted, and they are building a new 1000 bed hospital…..in a week! Over here is would take a week to change a lightbulb! I’m being facetious of course, but it’s hard to imagine such a response anywhere else. Granted, it will be made from pre-fabricated buildings, but nonetheless it is still quite a feat. The picture above shows the fleet of diggers working on the site, so many are there that you would think they would be getting in the way of each other. As with any outbreak like this, it’s the elderly and those with existing health conditions that are most at risk. We will watch with interest to see how the epidemic (if that’s what it is) unfolds in the days and weeks ahead; in the short-term here in the UK I suspect that seasonal flu poses a greater threat. It’s amazing that potentially deadly viruses are things of such beauty.

That crisp winter weather of last weekend soon gave way to grotty grey winter weather as the week progressed, but it wasn’t cold. Even on the gloomy days the lengthening daylight hours were quite apparent, to the extent that on Monday afternoon I was still up a ladder pruning a apple tree at 4.45, mind you that was the last of the bright days, so on Tuesday I had to retreat half an hour earlier. The mountain of prunings is growing daily; that’s the worst of the job, dealing with the material that has been removed from the trees. There is a big tractor mounted wood chipper on the farm which I’m hoping to have the use of; that will seriously simplify things. The deer love pruning time; the day after leaving a pile of lopped branches in the orchard there is very clear evidence that the herd has been through to feast on the bark overnight, peeling it off with their front teeth, it must be like finding a stash of sweeties to them.

In the propagating greenhouse the onions are up, and in the main greenhouse nice neat rows of radish seedlings have emerged. in the adjoining growing space lines of rocket are evident, but no sign yet of the peas. I used seed that I have had for 2 or 3 years, so I am wondering whether it is viable or not, the next week or so will tell. It’s February at the end of the week, and that’s when I am going to begin sowing the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. I have shown great self-control in holding off until now, but I am confident that it was the right thing to do.

I’m sorry about the lack of leeks last week, but the ground down the bottom where they are growing is so waterlogged that I was just puddling the clay when I tried digging some, so I retreated. There will be leeks this week, because I am getting some from Home Farm at Nacton, which has the luxury of free draining sandy soil close to the river Orwell, so harvesting for them is somewhat more straightforward.

There will be broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, beetroot, carrots, swede, parsnips, red cabbage, garlic, ginger, spuds, onions, red onions, and mushrooms this week. Blood oranges (though not very bloody), Seville oranges, lemons and kiwi fruit complete the fresh produce offering. There is rocket pesto, apple juice and honey.

You expect to see aconites and snowdrops now, but what did surprise me on Friday when I was delivering to a customer in Ixworth, was to see daffodils flowering in their garden! I know there are early types, but January? It would be good to have a spell of proper winter weather to arrest some of the premature development in the natural world, otherwise there could be tears before bedtime. I did some severe pollarding of the willow tree in my garden at home today, and the boughs that I reduced were covered in furry pussy willow catkins, which ordinarily I wouldn’t expect to see for weeks yet. Crazy man.

Anyway, it’s nearly bedtime, so I had better finish now. Have a good week.

Phil

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