Autumn and Winter 2018

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.

 

Tomatoes

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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.

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Honey

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.

Grapes

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.

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From this …….

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Finally, as winter came on, the crab apple tree provided a spectacular display and food for the birds until spring.

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A look back from a hot November

The allotment has been hard work this autumn. The combination of warmth and wet has really benefitted the weeds and the slugs. Other problems have included the dreaded Onion fly which caused my lovingly grown leeks to ‘melt’ . I managed to save the white tips and have stir -fried these and frozen for later use.

Leeks damaged by onion fly larvae

An onion fly larva about 8mm long

Mid October gave me a chance to plant my garlic,  sprouts and asian walking onions ( grown from seeds) into the allotment. It took until mid November for me to find the time to plant the onion sets ( by which time some had started to sprout). Does ‘chitting’ onions help or hinder the final crop?

Halloween brough the best crop of pumpkins and squash I have ever had , most are in store and being slowly used for soup. I like to roast them in segments with olive oil and dry chilli flakes  then scrape out the flesh into some softened onions, add stock or water and this year I am adding the borlotti and french beans that have been podded and boiled until tender.  Really hearty and tasty.

One of the many great pumpkins

Another wonderful squash - Turban squash

The beans – about 5kg were harvested from the last of the bean pods

Borlotti and french beans- for beefing up the soup

The largest pumpkin was selected by my son for Halloween creative carving  many visiting ghouls and witches were impressed!

Home grown Halloween pumpkin

While all this spooky work was going on my new sprout plants were devastated by slugs  and so we will have to have cabbage for Christmas.

Buckingham Nurseries have kindly replaced the Medlar tree which died last year so I have planted this out, carefully following the instructions and hope that it can establish itself as well as the quince tree has done.   Otter Farm has sent through my Szechuan pepper  tree. I am looking forward to seeing it seed over the next few years.

For reference here are the plans for the allotment in 2011 20a sits next to 20b to make a nice rectangular patch with a path down the middle.

Plot 20 A plan 2011

Plot 20B plan 2011

Now on with the weeding……

More from the allotment

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I have been very quiet over the last few months as it seems to have been one long harvest, runner beans by the sack load, courgettes by the tonne, so much salad, potatoes and onions that I now have two onion bags and four sacks of potatoes in the garage. I managed four aubergines, two large and one small butternut squash. A pumpkin, borlotti beans, cabbages, kale and purple sprouting have all done well.

The carrots were small but tasty especially when roasted in rape seed oil. The red chard has gown by the bucket load.
The artichokes have started to produce small buds which are delicious boiled for5 minutes, trimmed cut in half and covered in melted butter
The tomatoes have not really ripened but surprisingly seem to be turning red in the kitchen nearly two months after picking.

Still to come leeks, black kale and calebrese all doing well and I hope will overwinter
As an experiment I have planted out red and white onions and garlic- all went in at the end of September. In October I have under cover some winter lettuce, broad beans, beetroot and potatoes (to see if we can get any for Christmas.
Weeding has started in a flurry before the ground gets too hard or wet or both. I am leaving the runner beans up, there are still new beans forming, I hope the older ones have beans in the pods and I will be able to harvest these for the winter.
My herbs are flourishing, the Thyme below is flowering well as is the marjoram. Others need some cutting back.