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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Autumn round- up – a bumper fruit year

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Blackberries on the allotment

As usual the summer has rushed by and I have not done anything much to the blog .

All in all the year turned out very well for fruit and veg but it was the fruit which did the best, my blackberries are still producing fruit well into October and so are the wonderful Autumn Treasure raspberries which have fruited from June and are still going strong. Black, white and red currents have also done well. The strawberries (both standard and ‘wild’) have been wonderful and I still have some in the freezer to make more jam.

Black currents flourishing

Blackcurrents flourishing

Wild strawberries
Wild strawberries

Talking of Jam, I have made something around 24Kg of jam and jelly. It has been a great pleasure using my French copper jam pan, which spreads the heat wonderfully and reduced the risk of burning. I make juice for jelly in a steam juicer. This save the messing about of using Jelly bag and allowing the juice to drip through over night. The steam extracts the juice and this can be added to the sugar immediately then heated to setting point. Remember to use pectin for those fruits which are low in this essential setting aid.

Summertime on the allotment

Summertime on the allotment

After the very cold spring, I did not have high hopes for the vegetables but I was surprised, the potatoes, Blue Edzell, Mayan Gold and Kestral all did well although the Mayan gold did wither a bit early on as you can see from the foreground of the photo. However the tubers of all the potatoes were fine and should last me the Winter. Slugs did quite a bit of damage just before harvest so I had to cook and mash a few kilos for the freezer. I tend to just use a potato ricer and freeze the resulting fairly dry mash. Then when I want to use it, I defrost and add butter, milk and seasoning. Of all the three varieties  Blue Edzell looks the strangest  as it is very dark purple  and Kestral had the best yield. Mayan gold did poorest but has the best taste.

The cabbages have done well  but I have had to keep them covered all summer to prevent both cabbage white caterpillars and maurading pigeons from taking all the leaves.

Peas and sweet corn

Peas, sweet corn with rainbow chard and seeding sweet cicely, beans in the background

The beans, runner and climbing french, took a long time to get going. I planted them when I thought it was warmer and protected them from the wind with fleece but they took a long time to grow and flower. The crop has been manageable and I have frozen a lot for winter – I slice with a wonderful Australian Krisk bean slicer, blanche in boiling water for 30 secs, then in to cold water, pat dry and freeze.

Rainbow chard is yielding well and should be useful for most of winter. The peas were again attacked by moth larvae but we had several good meals from those  the  moth left.

Onions and garlic all seemed to do well but since harvesting I have noticed that for some reason, the onions are rotting in storage. The garlic is holding up well and so are the shallots and both will  last through the winter . Other successes are the patty pan squash, the round courgettes and finally, I have just cut the Turban squash, one vine has yielded two large squash – I look forward to cooking them later in the winter, roasted, as soup and in a curry.

Turban squash

Turban squash