Tidying the plot.

It’s that time of year when all your tidying up needs to be done before the harsh winds of winter. Fortunately with crop rotation it tends to come in stages. We’ve already tidied up where the potatoes have been, we have a lot of long rooted weeds in that section inherited from the previous owner so we intend to redig and riddle again at the end of the season. We are slowly getting on top of it.

This week we are digging over the pumpkin patch and corn on the cob section. We have made a good start and I see it being completed in the next few days.

But what have we here? A digger on the plot next door but one!

This did make me laugh! I don’t think I have ever seen that before. They have just taken over the plot which has been left in a very poor state for several years by the previous owner. Well at least they have got rid of the shrubs and weeds, I hope they haven’t chopped up the root systems too finely!

Last of the Tom’s

It became apparent that we had blight in the greenhouse, which of course does tend to happen towards the end of the season, although it has only happened to us twice as we are very careful to use the same watering cans in the greenhouse and different ones on the plot, to try and prevent the spread of blight spores, which to be honest are everywhere. But we had a damp late summer at times so we had been expecting it.

We tried clearing out the odd affected plants, but its like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, it doesn’t really do any good.

So I stripped the plants and we had a fair few green and red toms left. During the peak of the season we were getting one KG of ripe tomatoes about six times a week for four weeks, so we’ve done quite well out them, our freezers are heaving.

Harvested the last of the cucumbers (breathes sigh of relief!) These were only fed with tomato food and contrary to popular belief they do quite well with that feed, well enough for us anyway. I wouldn’t have wanted any more fruits out of those plants.

Not so many chilli’s this year. Probably because all of the plants had blocked out most of the light. But we got a few, so I’m happy. We do make our greenhouse work hard.

And this is the greenhouse cleared out. The end of a season which is always a moment in time to reflect. Overall it has been a good summer in the greenhouse, I just wish I could have spent a little more time enjoying it all.

So to that end, I’ve cleared out the beds and there are bunches of spring onions in the fridge. And because of the risk of Covid and how we really don’t like going to the shops including supermarkets at the moment, I’ve planted some lettuce, peas, radishes and coriander.

It will be interesting to see how we do. I’m hoping for green salads at Christmas and fresh radish along with pea tops for salads and stir fries and lovely fresh coriander for curries. Well a girl can dream. What will probably happen is we have some very well fed mice!

A socially distanced photograph.

I hadn’t seen Son no.2 since the day before my Mum died three months ago. He’d had to leave as he was moving to a new job and we both felt the wrench knowing as we did how close it was to Mum’s time. He was truly supportive using What’s App even though he too was knackered. A truly sad time for both of us.

My son works in the hospitality sector and we all know that this is a high risk occupation, so with hubby’s and dad’s health, he has kept away. So with the news that the second wave was well and truly on its way we decided to go and see him to deliver a few items that we had for him, knowing that we don’t know when the next time may be.

But there were conditions. There was to be no hugging. No son to hug for me. Masked up, outside and for a short time only. We adhered to all of these and then I had a moment of inspiration and asked for them to stand in a staggered formation and to take their masks off for a moment and smile. This pic makes me more happy than you might ever imagine.

‘My men, three generations’.

Harvesting continues.

Do you remember the fierce storms we had a couple of weeks ago, which included high winds, thunder and lightening. The next morning after a particularly stormy night hubby wandered up to the plot, fearful that the greenhouse would no longer be standing, it was, but he found the pear tree had shed what appeared to be most of its fruit. He came back with a carrier bag full of skinny pears, fortunately I know that pears don’t ripen until they are picked so I kept them in a big bowl on a sunny table and sure enough they gradually ripened and we have been using them to eat or in pies or crumbles. Funnily enough, I noticed at the greengrocers a few days later a huge amount of these very same skinny pears at a ridiculously cheap price, I pointed them out to my Dad and said, ‘those are windfalls’ to which he agreed.

Slowly the apple tree

and pear tree

have been filling out. And low and behold these are the best pears we have ever grown.

I picked them all yesterday, gave half a dozen pears and four apples to my Dad who had enjoyed some of the wind fallers previously and had proclaimed them very juicy, so he was very happy to receive these fully grown versions.

and kept the rest for us, some to eat now, the rest in my fridge to eek out to my Dad and ourselves during the next few weeks, having no freezer space at the moment it’s the best I can do. We plan to make smoothies with some of the tiniest apples and I still have apple cider vinegar left over from last year so that is not such a priority this year.

End of September.

Harvesting steps up a notch at the end of September. This is the crucial time of year when the point of cutting the the crop from its life source can make or break a farmer. Obviously I don’t judge myself as a farmer, but my Uncle was and as ever I watched his movements with eagle eyes whenever we were at his farm. His was a mixed farm consisting of arable, cattle and sheep so it was a wonderful place to be as there was always something to amuse a small or bored adolescent child, I never grew tired of visiting, and in summer and autumn we took to visiting nearly every other weekend. With picnics in the summer and walks in the autumn picking blackberries, shooting pigeons and rabbits for the men. Winter it was too remote and the roads were not gritted and I suspect he was very busy in the spring. I remember him walking the fields checking the wheat every few yards, every day, sometimes twice a day in late summer, he did tell me what he was looking for, something to do with the centre of the kernel going from green to a certain colour and texture and within that he was keeping a careful eye on the weather. You really don’t want a freak thunderstorm, just as the wheat is standing tall, so much taller than todays versions, ready for harvest. Tractors are enormous compared to the ones my Uncle was using some 50 years ago, they would now do the job in a very short time, but this was then and freaky weather would adversely affect the housewives purse.

So within this I try to make sure I harvest at the right time, it is such a crucial part of the concept, but of course we grow so many varieties of fruits and vegetables and to be absolutely honest we are a master of non. Mostly it is gut instinct, my instinct is often much better than hubby’s, and with todays world we can always use google, but that really only takes you so far – sometimes you tube is better. And of course we are still weather juggling, which then throws the harvesting at the right time concept for a loop.

And we haven’t even talked about theft on allotments. Theft is a thing, a real thing, ignoring the breaking in of sheds to steal rotovators etc, theft of your cultivated for a whole season fruits and vegetables by what we assume are fellow allotmenteers happens, more often than you might imagine. Apple or pear trees can be cleared, one fellow I know had his whole strawberry crop cleared the night before he was going to pick them, a patch of pumpkins will mysteriously disappear, and even onions, probably the cheapest of all veg, will go wandering off into the night.

So, rightly so I get a little nervous just before harvest. And to say I have been a little nervous about bringing these babies home would be an understatement.

Our years work of Crown Prince, a culinary pumpkin that is absolutely delicious and have very good keeping qualities, such that they should last well into February if kept in a cool room.

The weather was turning to heavy rain for several days so we decided to crop them. I think they were cropped just at their moment of perfection, however, if it was going to stay dry, I would have given them another week. But then, we mustn’t forget the allotment thieves…

Little and large, we planted a couple of plants into raised beds, (left by the previous occupier) and if this doesn’t prove to anybody that will listen as to why I think raised beds are a bad idea, then this should should illustrate it very clearly. Pumpkin on the left, planted into soil, watered sporadically when at its hottest, the odd bit of compost was spread out so it may have got lucky, but it wasn’t watered very often by man, only by nature. Pumpkin on the right, in the raised bed. Compost was topped up this year, it was watered nearly every day that it didn’t rain. In my opinion raised beds dry out almost immediately, especially at their corners, they really are a waste of time compared to working the soil, winter digging, the addition of good well rotted manure and compost. All of the pumpkins grown in the raised beds were very small. However, thinking about it, the raised beds did do a good job of germinating the peas and growing them for a fast late summer crop, so if one carefully chose the right vegetables and puts the time into watering daily it seems it does have its place in the allotment – which is why I haven’t got rid of mine as I am still experimenting.

These have now been moved into a cool room. They need to mature for at least two weeks before eating to allow the sugars to develop in them. I’m looking forward to more than just roast pumpkin this winter. It should be an interesting culinary pumpkin winter.

At the start of September.

Apologies for my lack of words. Grief does funny things to oneself and for me it appears that I just don’t want to speak in an amusing or semi articulate way. I feel that I am just starting to turn the corner, so I’m giving myself permission to start to enjoy life again. So in the essence of that, lets have a chat about the plot.

Firstly I am very grateful for hubby who has kept up with the watering all summer, without him we wouldn’t have anywhere near the amount of crops, fortunately it has been a wetter summer than last year so his workload was lessened a little because of that.

The pumpkins Crown Prince look like they are going to do well for us. I never manage to grow the enormous pumpkins that I see at farm shops and the like, they probably give their pumpkins more muck/manure and water than I give mine, but they suit us well with the size that I do manage to take to the kitchen.

Leeks are doing well, I’m still using some in the freezer so I don’t mind that I’m not using these yet. They will stand well until March or longer depending on how cold the spring is. By that time I will have room in the freezer again which I will then pop the last of this crop into.

The brussels are doing well, no buttons as yet, but the brussel tops look very healthy and tasty.

The savoy cabbage are heartening up. We ate a drum head cabbage the other day, i’m still trying to find the label in the cabbage patch and it was delicious, so I do hope I find it.

Kale is doing well, it always does well. As you know this post is late and we are actually at the end of September, I’ve just been picking the apples and this year we have many small ones. I’ve decided to use them up as a green smoothie with some kale and whatever else I can find with a teaspoon of seed powder which is full of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to give us a mid morning boost.

We picked a cabbage for Sunday lunch. A fine looking beast. It was very tasty but I think will be even better after a frost.

The tomatoes are doing well, but we are just catching the odd signs of blight, so it looks like it is going to be a race against time this year. Such are the problems of a damp end of summer start of autumn.

Remember the peas I put in as a late summer crop, well that was worth the gamble as they have ripened in good time and were a lovely addition to the menu at this time of year.

The corn is doing well. It was delicious, we have picked it all now and sliced off the kernels and it is happily sitting in the freezer ready for stews and soups during the winter.

Apple and blackberries, I made these into an allotment crumble, a mix of apples, windfall pears from the fierce storm we had which were then taken home and ripened and the last of the blackberries for my Dad for Sunday lunch, he took the leftovers home with him and enjoyed it very much. (he also took sliced beef for sandwiches and another complete Sunday lunch!)

And more cucumbers, we can’t eat these quick enough and give them away to whoever is passing. I’ve warned hubby on pain of death not to buy three plants again. They are nice, but I think I am cucumbered out!