Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Not many weeks of these left

The tomato season only has a short time left to run.

Almost looking forward to the first frosts that will put paid to all the plants, and thus end the tyranny of picking these jewel like nuggets of sweetness every week.

Harvesting them takes up a goodly chunk of Wednesdays throughout the Summer, it's fiddly work.
Certain it's appreciated...but at the same time I won't miss it for the next nine months or so.

OK just occasionally...

Perhaps molluscs can be our friends.
A (scarily hoomungus) cheque in respect of the Yoga room I rent, has been returned due to 'unusual tampering' by snails.

It would appear it happens often enough for Royal Mail to have a standard letter of 'gastropod apology'..

And who knew they put slug pellets in post boxes?

I suppose the next logical move would be to start using unsolicited correspondence as bait?

So it can then become known as "snail mail?"

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Sunrise over the polytunnel

Red sky should foretell poor weather, but mid morning finds a very pleasant 27' C.
In the tunnel that is...Just the thing for cracking on with a bit more planting...Pak Choi , Coriander, Wild (tame nowadays) Rocket, and Rainbow Chard going in.
Will grow away fast if this Indian Summer sticks for a few more days...

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Invisible Woman

The water company guys turned up in their vans today. To dig a hole and fix, for the umpteenth time the very fragile mains water pipe that runs inside the boundary of Hoppins Field.
Thankfully we have a borehole for our supplies so their burst pipes are a digging nuisance rather than a disaster here..

Anyway, it reminded me of an incident from a few years before we came to live here on site.
I'd come to the field to work in the morning, as usual, from where we used to live four miles away. The pipe fixing chaps turned up mid morning with a mini digger on a trailer towed behind a transit van and got on with their stuff.
Much later on in the day I went to say hello, shortly before one of them attempted a not- really- very-tricky trailer reversing manouvre.
I promise you, I didn't do any arm waving or 'helpful' "left hand down a bits" I made a point of not even watching. I know that none of that helps much..... Suffice to say, the backing up was botched.

I surmised from their general demeanour that they were not the sorts to take well to my 'doing it for them'.
 Egos outwardly burly, yet at the same time as fragile as the pipe...I truly do understand...honestly.
So I suggested that they instead, drive around, the then quite muddy track that circled the barn. 
"Take it a bit easy mind 'cos we all know how transits are off road."

Perhaps in light of this well meant advice, injudicious speeds had to be reached. 
You guessed it, they got badly stuck...ooops....So despite the fact that by now I needed to get home sharpish, I got the tractor out, towed them back to 'dry land', waved goodbye, and drove off home (in my car)

Probably not half an hour later the O.H. Who had been working locally in someone elses garden, called by to see how things were going.
He inquired of the gentlemen labourers as to whether they had espied his "missus" (ha!) during the day, as I was normally to be found working hereabouts...

"Er..No, we haven't seen anyone"

 It turns out that the fable that tells of 'Middle Aged Women becoming invisible' is actually true... Even whilst they are operating farm machinery?
...Spooky, but could it be turned to our advantage?
I have a cunning plan girls....Me....My tractor....A towing hook...And the cashpoint in the local town....No one will see a thing...

Actually there is a not quite so invisible (perhaps cos not middle aged) woman in this picture....come to show off her new land-rover...thrills and glamour....

Sunday, 27 September 2015

"Tired old Trope"

This one certainly needs putting to bed.....

"Organic farming is all about working in harmony with nature, right?"

Ermm. up to a point..Yes we try to take care of 'micro life' by feeding and not disturbing - overly much - the myriad organisms that should inhabit a healthy soil.
But nature doesn't do cultivations... Unless you count storm uprooted trees, and the rummaging about of wild boars, and other diggers.

However there are certainly times when nature helps herself to the fruits of our labours  

Here, I think, a field mouse, (maybe several?) has feasted upon the second cropping corn.

It would have to be a really teensy electric fence to keep them out.
I honestly don't mind sharing some sustenance, after all we get the soil, sun and showers for free.

 It's when our furry fiends have to take a bite from each and every beetroot for example; thus rendering them unsaleable; that I feel just a tad uncharitable towards the local wildlife.

And subsequently am compelled to go a rodent hunting with 'Trailer Trash Kitty'.

We make quite a fearsome team :-o


Old English precursor to the apple.
Mespilus germanica
Autumn fruiting, but traditionally left on the tree until after the first frosts, for the purposes of 'bletting'. A perhaps more palatable word for becoming semi - rotten; by which time they have an allegedly custard - like consistency.
I don't think our in house custard creator has much to worry about competition wise.
Further linguistic curiosities....The French name for this fruit - Cul-de-chein  translates as 'Dogs bottom'.. Oh I say!

You can sort of see from the calyx end of the fruit how that might have come about?

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sunset over the duck house

Taken from the compost heap...

Autumn Approaches

Or, if as many quite reasonably do, you take the Equinox as a marker of season change, it is already upon us.

Surveying the readiness of the Winter Storage Squash crop this morning. I came across this sign left over from our 'Open Day' in July, seems like a long time ago now...You could see space between individual plants then.

Over the summer their growth could be described as 'rampant'. I've lost track a bit but I think at least 9 different varieties were sown then planted out, about 600 plants in total.

Grown through holes burnt with a hot tin can; into a sheet of weed suppressing  ground cover fabric; this crop pretty much looks after itself once the transplants are established.
Now to organise a work 'party' to bring them all in...There will be tea, and cake, and then perhaps a bonfire and some other forms of liquid refreshment...Coming to help?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Well why wouldn't you want to join?

Even if these people weren't already doing excellent work; supporting smaller producers in this country and by association further afield; it would be very hard to resist being part of an organisation with a pitchfork on its' logo... 

As well as organising  farm visits; and keeping us up to date with campaigns and practical action being taken to encourage small scale sustainable farmers; they also know how to organise a damn fine 'Hoe Down'.... An expression that can be used literally in this case.

Some very talented musicians 'mongst their ranks, and plenty sturdy farm boys and girls more than able to 'sweep you off your feet.'

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Maincrop Carrots Looking Good

It's a shame that this 'low tech' blog hosting site only gives the visuals...The scent of freshly dug carrots is verging upon an olfactory assault.
50 kg lifted the morn'

The only downside of growing F1 hybrid varieties (in no way related to GM btw) is that the consistency and uniformity of the roots ensuing, leave precious little scope for the use of googlie eyes in the comedy gallery :-(

No matter, I'm sure we will unearth a few gnarly ones for our amusement before the winter is out. You really do have to make your own fun in the country :-)

Our carrots are renowned for their flavour tendeness and part due to the ideal root growing conditions on a warm South facing sandy slope. The rest of it is down to Witchcraft...or maybe just lots of love and compost...

One comment some years back that left me unusually 'stumped for a response'..

From a potential new customer trialling a veg bag...
"We really liked the vegetables, but the kids found the carrots, a bit too...carroty"

Well? What to do??
I guess they went back to some nice bland 'super'market ones.

I took it as an endorsement.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

It was only ever a matter of time...

It would appear that a packet of googlie eyes is all it takes to keep a lady gardener happy.
And to reduce her mental age by at least 40 years.
Being easily pleased... the smooth path to contentment. :-D

The few remaining stalwarts.

After a Summer of not very welcome attention from the Foxy Family. Ducky numbers are severely depleted.
So sadly not so many poached duck eggs on toast now...a gourmand delight to those in the know. Especially when nestled atop a mattress of spinach, or other steamed greenery, and topped off with so much ground pepper that you can barely see the egg beneath.

Darn it...hungry now but I believe a good mornings horticulture, and a full evenings Yoga teaching, entitles me to at least two of the rich golden beauties.

Straight after I've practised what I have to preach later...Headstands following eggs can have unfortunate results...

Meanwhile these enthusiastically helpful ladies will be tucking into all the molluscs they can rummage from 'mongst the bean stems.
Hmmn? Not quite so hungry now...

Will be looking to get a fresh cohort of young ducks in the spring. They do earn their keep just through slug and snail patrol, but the eggs make for a happily toothsome bit on the side.

My! Haven't you grown?

These were part of the 'sowing project' a few weeks back.
Looks like they've transformed into a planting project now. Mixed varieties of mainly oriental salads to grow on in the polytunnel over autumn.

'Successional' sowing, every couple of weeks, year round is what keeps our salad bags filled.
Have missed having access to this much green stuff over the last few weeks. Most grateful to have an abundance to come back to.

Better get on with it then.....

Monday, 21 September 2015

Always a bit hard getting back to work after holidays, but...

I can think of much worse tasks than chugging round on the faithful old gal, getting the herbage back under some vestige of control.
Pretty sure farm is in better shape than when we left, but then again, so are we...Maybe we should go away more often? For longer?

No not just yet, plenty of planting and sowing to be done in these last few weeks of warm soil opportunity.

And as the nights draw in I'll be whittling down the hundreds of recently taken Pyrenean Perigrination Photos, to an acceptable number and quality to be shown publicly.

That should keep me out of mischief..

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Oh and just in case you get hungry whilst I'm away...

Another fine Thursday custard, nestling 'mongst the basil...
Thanks Imogen....for everything :-D

As is traditional at moments like this...

Off on a jaunt for a couple of weeks.
Leaving the farm in (quite possibly more) competent hands.
So here's a couple of little things to keep you amused for five minutes...;-)
Will be shopping for googlie eyes on my return.

"The cousins have sent a family photo..."

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Italian Lovelies...

Cuor Di Bue,

We grow tomatoes through plastic that's black underneath, white on top. The black suppresses the weeds, the white reflects the light back up to the plants.
Drip irrigation tape in place under the plastic.
that's about as high tech as it gets around here.
These firm fleshy toms are the best sliced thickly with basil....over 4kg of which, was harvested the morn...mmmmm

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

No lightweight backpacking here...

Initially quite an exciting looking job, until it dawns just how sloowly you have to walk. 
The prodigious heat coming out the back makes for warming work all the same, hence the stylish shorts / wellies at dusk combo...

This patch of ground was given a final pre sowing cultivation about two weeks ago.

Then the fast growing opportunistic seedling weeds have germinated into the  undisturbed soil. So in theory there should be no more coming up here after this. 

The seeds of the intended crop (Coriander) were sown five days ago. so they should just be  a couple of days away from emerging themselves. It really does help to know the germination time for the crop you've sown.

Its very satisfying to see your intended crop coming up into a totally clean seed bed a day or so after you've completed this operation. Timing is key...

The 5 gas burners under the trolley hood boil the cells in the weed leaves just enough to make them wilt. (we are not trying to carbonise everything)

 The weeds die off , in order that the crop comes up unchallenged into clean ground; that's assuming  I've got the timing right...
There's a nifty trick of upending a polythene box (ice- cream container?) over a section of the sown crop, and checking under there for crop emergence; which should happen a day or two earlier under those favoured conditions.

This might strike as not the most environmentally friendly operation perhaps, it is heavy on gas usage, but perhaps better than herbicides?

More cost effective certainly, in terms of labour than hand weeding. I would estimate weeks of in-the-row- hand weeding has been saved in the main crop carrots; over the years.

There is no perfect answer if you're trying to make a realistic living at this.

Note mid 1980's rucksack  (vintage now?) for 10kg gas bottle; my first proper back pack...Pink and Green as was all the rage back then.

Oh, and confessions of further 'Eco crimes'...I imported this machine from some Stateside Evangelical types. I seem to recall there were some 'educational' pamphlets in amongst the packaging. 

The Americans seem to be better at fabricating just the required size stuff for this scale of growing; often arising from cottage manufacturers who have identified their own need an thence gone into production.

 Over here its far more often either Big Farm or small garden; not so much on offer for us medium scale growers.

 There's a manufacturing opportunity waiting for someone.

Sunny enough for a spot of hoeing

My how those leeks have grown with the last two weeks of rain.
Taking advantage here of a sunny spell, to control the weeds that have come on with equal vigour. The trick is to keep just the top quarter inch of soil moving, slice off seedling weeds whilst they're tiny, and the sun will then crisp them up...
So getting the timing right when the weather is playing nicely is key..
Can be a conflicting time for a grower who is partial to an afternoon on the beach...
Custard creator here showing off her skills diverse and various.
Second batch of corn coming on in the background, badger fence still 'hot' ; as reported by Imogen's calf, oops!

One of my Top Ten Favourite Tools.

As is so often the case, with well thought out, intermediate scale tools, this little gem is manufactured across The Pond.

All hail the Earthway Seeder. Five jobs done neatly and well (that's if I drive it straight) in no time at all.
It pulls out a furrow, the specifically sized 'seed plates' pick up from the hopper, then drop down the chute, just the required amount of seed. The drag chain refills the furrow; the wheel behind refirms the ground; the sticky out sideways adjustable marker, draws the line for the next pass.

I very much suspect that this was designed by someone who had spent many hours doing it the hard way...

Here sowing Black Spanish Radish, something a bit different for Winter Salads.
Then this evening.... "Flame Weeding!"..... Contain yourselves!!