Good Morning, what can I say, what I would like to say is, it is another fine day here in paradise! In truth, it’s raining again, the thing about the rain when you work outside is it affects everything you do, and normally throughout the Autumn and Winter you expect it but not in the middle of Summer, well not every single day anyway. It is difficult to convey how constantly getting a  soaking lowers your morale, in the Winter you would come in and be able to get dry and dry your coat on the radiator, in the Summer you can’t do that and so everything remains damp 😩 We had a good workload planned for Saturday, digging out the duck pond and sinking a rigid pond liner in, we had been given it last year and thought this would be a good time to do it. It all started off well, the sun was shinning early in the morning so we set about strimming the long grass and tidying the area up, then we started to dig out the ground, a shower sprang up and rain stopped play, the sun came back out so we started again, after about half and hour, another shower, eventually we got the liner in the ground, then torrential downpour and I mean torrential, we went outside to see the newly put in pond liner floating around in a pond of its own! Is someone trying to tell us something, that is a question I often ask myself 😩

The rain affects you in so many smaller ways too, picture this, you go out to do the feed routine in the morning, its raining, you get to the last chicken run in the paddock, by this time rain is dripping off of every available surface including your hands, you reach down to turn off the electric fence (still not quite having woken up) you grab hold of the wrong switch, WHACK, now you are fully awake! A touch of the electric pulse with dry hands is bad enough but with wet hands, you bloody feel it, yes you can get up off the floor and stop laughing now 😉

On a better note, last night we had the return of my favourite meal, one that is entirely home grown, home reared pork with new potatoes and freshly pulled carrots, followed by strawberries, yum yum. I love it when everything on my plate is as a result of our persistence and hard work it makes it all worthwhile. I must confess that I had cream and balsamic vinegar with my strawberries and I did not make either of those but they enhanced the taste greatly, I don’t know why the balsamic vinegar works but it does and if you have never tried it give it a go, just a splash mind, don’t drown the cream.

The strawberry yield has not been as great as it promised to be earlier in the year, the constant damp has caused botrytis which is basically mould, partly the fault of the weather and partly my fault because the plants are too close together, this is something we are working on to rectify next year. The fruits need to be up off the ground, even the traditional method of putting straw underneath would not have helped this year because it would just hold the water. I have decided to order some everbearers and have them hanging in the polytunnel, these plants will give a longer harvest but I am not sure if it is at the cost of taste, but I will only find out by trying. The outdoor plants will be planted in narrow channels with wood either side, the theory is that the fruit bearing stems will be lifted 4 inches from the ground and hopefully not get spoiled so easily. If I get to them in time I can pick a good bowl full and I tend to pick them when they are blush especially in this weather, they still taste as good and they don’t rot too quickly. Once you pick a strawberry it stops ripening unlike a raspberry which will carry on ripening in the bowl. The raspberries have just started to ripen, an altogether easier fruit to manage as the fruits are at the top of the 3ft high stems, there is an abundance of fruit on them and the jam making will probably consist of more raspberry than strawberry this year. The gooseberries, blackcurrant and blueberry bushes are all full of fruit waiting for that elusive sunshine to ripen them off, they should all be fine provided we actually get some sun. In the fruit cage I also have a kiwi fruit which I planted last year, it wont fruit this year but is putting on some good growth and I am really looking forward to tasting those, I have also have an apricot tree, it has been in for a couple of years and had blossom on it but to date has not produced a single fruit, even though I hand pollinated it this year to give it a better chance. Hand pollination is just a case of using a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from one blossom to another, it is only a small tree so not too time consuming, disappointing that it still didn’t deliver.

The home reared pork that I talked about earlier were the piggies that we kept over at a friends farm, we went over to see them last weekend before they went on their final journey, they were returned in the week all bagged up into joints and chops, it sounds harsh but if you are a meat eater that is the reality of it and we live closer to the reality than most people. Along with the meat we also had a bag of ‘bones’ mostly consisting of pig heads (yuk) they were cut in half and I decided to give the outside dogs half each, they are used to eating raw meat as we fed them on a totally raw meat and bones diet for a few years. They spent the first day dragging them around and guarding them with their lives, they then went on to bury them in the yard and finally eat them, they eat everything except the teeth so nothing is wasted. I have considered using the other heads to make something like brawn or bath chaps, I feel I ought to give it a go but am not sure if I am brave enough to have it boiling in the pan in the kitchen, I will keep you posted on that one!

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