Feast or Famine

That’s a term often heard in farming, well this year as far as the vegetables go it is definitely a famine year! In my last blog I was optimistically awaiting the arrival of plenty, that has fallen short, the cold spring followed immediately by the hot weather has meant that plants are struggling. Last year I was picking up to 40 cucumbers a day, this year I have grown two different batches of cucumber plants, planted them out and they have both failed in succession, I have two plants left that are looking sickly to say the least so we may not get any at all this year.

I garden naturally, and that is a term I chose to use as opposed to organically, a word that has been snapped up by the industry and you have to pay a hefty price to use. Because we use nature to nurture our produce success is always in the hands of the weather, we do not heat the greenhouse, we do not use automatic watering systems and we do not use artificial growth products, we get what we are given, and this year it’s not a lot. The cold spring has forced the plants to bolt, you may be surprised to learn that a vegetable plant is not growing to give you as much produce as you can eat, on the contrary it’s sole aim is to reproduce, it is only the methods we use that prolong the flowing and subsequent fruiting i.e. picking the produce daily that force it to flower again and again. Bolting is the plants way of getting its offspring to grow and set seed very fast, this is what has happened this year, the plants early on detected that they may not get much of a chance and so have bolted. The onions have done exactly this, trying to flower well before the bulb has swollen, we can cut the flower heads off and we do, but this means that the onions will not store as well as they usually do and may well start to rot around mid winter, the lettuces, parsnips and spinach are at it too. The other vegetables such as peas and beans are beginning to flower on short stems, rather than putting on tall green growth this means short stumpy plants with not much produce.

The fruit is not much better, what is there, and that is not much compared to previous years, is small, the black currants are practically non existent, the raspberries are trying but the fruits are small, only gooseberries and strawberries seemed to have been successful, they obviously enjoyed the earlier conditions.

The strawberry harvest is one that I keep for myself, they never go out for sale, that’s because I make jam from them, plenty of jars that will keep us going all year, sometimes they may be given as a present or in return for a favour but mostly they are kept in my cupboard for future use. I also use them for making ice cream, strawberry sauce, puddings etc, the best part of the year for me is using the strawberries even if it can take up a lot of time processing them.

The farmyard birds are all doing well, I had to make a note of their ages this week to make sure they are being fed correctly, the Norfolk Greys are now 16 weeks old, I ended up with four cockerels and three hens so will need to find homes for the cockerels in the near future. The hubbards are 10 weeks old and gaining weight rapidly it won’t be long before they are ready to process, they are enjoying the outdoor life at the minute in a grass pen, they took to it very readily and were quicker than all of the other birds put together when it came to learning about bedtime and going in, it only took one night of putting them inside and they cracked it. The laying flock are still being displaced from under the coop every night and encouraged up the ramp to bed and they have been here two years lol.

I did aim to make elderflower champagne this year but have missed the flowers, we have been busy doing the kitchen and there was not enough space for brewing paraphernalia as well so that will have to wait until next year now. I have picked and dried herbs ready for winter use though so that was an achievement and I have pulled the garlic and hung that to dry ready to string. I can’t believe we are already over halfway through the year and I am thinking about storing for winter where has the time gone.

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