As usual I am playing catchup as I am writing this is the spring of 2019. One of the pitfalls of having a smallholding and a full time job is that things like blog posts suffer from neglect.
The season was dominated plentiful crops and by one sad occasion, the weakest of our rescue hens unfortunatley died, she had a year of extra life, we like to think that she enjoyed the freedom and the ability to roam freely. She managed to grow back most of her feather but was always the weakest of the three.
With the really hot summer, we were overrun with tomatoes. Much juice and passata was made (thanks to my wonderful Italian passata mill). We also used them in salads and in home made pizza cooked in the Aga- wonderful.
The bees did really well considering only one hive was fully developed, we took over 40lbs (18kgs) of honey, it was really tasty and has been very popular wiht friends and family.
Our grapes also did well and I had enough to make 10 litres of red wine. I left the grapes on the vine for as long as I could to develop sugars, they were finally picked in mid November.
From this …….
To this – just before pressing
Apples and Pears
All the apple trees and pear trees fruited well, the warm April really helped. One of the pear trees produces small hard fruits which I am making into perry.
The apples also did well, they sold in the roadside booth so fast that I did not have time to make cider this year. Probably just as well as I still have last years to drink.
Meawhile the surrounding fields of barley were cut, the harvester is so close to our hedge that you think it may be in the garden.
Finally, as winter came on, the crab apple tree provided a spectacular display and food for the birds until spring.
Jacob sheep with frosty backs tuck into some fresh hay
Writing this in what has been one of the hottest summers in Suffolk for some time, it is hard to remember what a miserable winter we had. There was rain then snow in December, then it warmed up and did not seem to stop raining until we hit another cold snap in February, then rain again and a final deluge of snow.
All this a played havoc with my bees. I went into the winter with two reasonably strong hives and diligently fed them throughout the winter. Unfortunately, sometime between the two spring cold weeks, one of the hives died. From the look of it, they must have gone out foraging and on their return failed to find the food stores. All very sad.
In October 2017 we finally got some chickens. Thanks to the British Hens Welfare Trust, we picked up three rather bald former cage birds.
I was really impressed by how well the BHWT organised the event with minimal upset for birds or their new owners.
The new hens needed some help finding their way into the coop and up the gangplank but soon picked up the idea. By November they were running about as though they owned the place, laying regularly and feathered with bright combs. The snow did not seem to faze them too much and they all seemed to get on well through the winter.
Rescue hens settling into a free ranging life
Winter veg, Leeks, Jerusalem Artichokes and Oca
Thankfully we are not near to any flood plains or bursting rivers. I really feel for those who have been inundated. Way back in 1968 my parents house was flooded with sewerage ridden river water. It took a long time to sort out and was very unpleasant for us and our neighbours. The allotment is on the side of a hill so relatively safe from the water. Even so the ground is very wet and I am trying to avoid walking on it as the structure will be ruined. We are still picking chard, lambs lettuce, cabbages and digging up Jerusalem artichokes and lovely turnips. I have found that peeling, par-boiling and roasting the artichokes seems to reduce the ‘windy’ effect of these wonderful tubers. Although it might just mean we are all getting used to them. In addition the Oca did well due to the long autumn with little frost and we still have some leeks growing.
I put onions sets and garlic corms into the ground in November and they seem to be shooting. I am a bit surprised that they have not rotted away. This month (February) I need to prune the raspberries as they are supposed to be autumn fruiting and do a general tidying up but I will have to wait until the gales and wet weather has abated a bit. I managed to re-wood chip the path but that has really been all since before Christmas.