Strawberry Haircut

My father-in-law, Colin, mentioned that he’d seen a gardener trim their strawberries before the autumn set in, so this is what wev’e done. Apparently, with Indian summers you can get an extra late crop as well!

Currants!

This is the first year that we’ve had reasonably sized currant bushes. We’ve lost one white currant bush, which we’ve had to replace, but the red currants have been fantastic! Here’s the crop we’ve taken this year – they are gorgeous!

Raspberry Shortbread

Jay’s recipe for raspberry shortbread … not in the traditional sense.
250 g plain flour
75 g sugar
175 g butter

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl. Rub in butter. Knead to form a smooth paste. Chop a handful of fresh raspberries in half. Throw into the shortbread mix, mix around with your hands. Out onto a floured board, plenty of flour, roll to 1 cm thickness – chop into squares – onto tins covered with greaseproof paper – into oven approx. 150oC (fan oven) for 30 minutes – until pale and interesting … with a lovely raspberry ripple effect throughout.
Serve warm from the oven with fresh raspberries. Delicious.

Raspberry Jam & First Early Epicure Spuds

So it seems that all the soft fruit has decided to pick this week as the week to ripen. A glut of raspberries has meant jam making was to be again, no sooner than the jam pan had cooled down from the strawberry jam yesterday. Raspberries are my personal favourite – a depth of flavour that for me beat anything else hands down (except for, maybe, a really rip and juicy plum).

We’re also trying something different, in that this time Suz also used fruit sugar instead of normal sugar – again, adding pectin separately. This’ll give the jam a higher GI than normal, so better for controlling sugar rushes (useful for the diabetic).

On another side  of the patch, the 20ft row of Epicure first earlies was dug up. They’re a rather pale, slightly nobbly potato – but delicious! The crop wasn’t huge, and I’m not sure if that’s because they’re first earlies (first time we’ve grown them), or whether the lack of rain has really affected them, which I suspect to be the reason.

Strawberries!

At last 😀 We keep hearing about how great the strawberry season is this year, but ours were still little white berries…until today! Jay is seen here clutching the first punnet of strawberries – well, what’s left of the first punnet after some ‘quality testing’ had been carried out. Then there’s the little strawberry with dumpy legs and rather natty green hat…

Sowing Update – Peas, Beans, and other Greens

With the dry weather continuing, between sporadic cloud bursts we’re needing to use water on the veg and trees to ensure nothing dies.

As part of the successional sowing system, today we put in our third and final row of ‘Norli’ snap peas, and de-weeded the future home of the sweetcorn, squash and courgettes. The peas and broad beans are coming up nicely, with flowers on the first batch of both, and the snap peas as well. The ‘Duncan’ spring cabbage is gorgeous, we’re trying to keep on top of it and giving away as well.

I mentioned in my last post about having planted another 10′ of Cylindra beetroot rather than F1 Kestrel, which store better. Well, in a moment of vagueness I managed to hoe the 10′ over, killing all the Cylindra, so I’ve sown the F1 Kestrel this time. I’m going to be more active with the chicken wire protection, as the sparrow population we’ve nicely cultivated has decided beetroot leaves are the new dish of the day, and have devoured all of Gary’s next door and begun on ours. Ah bless.

The strawberries have had straw put under the fruit, which seems to be coming on a treat with the weather, as is the rhubarb.

With my parents down for a few days from sunny Scotland, dad helped me build the second greenhouse, which is now just waiting for a day with no breeze, so it’s possible to carry the panes of glass safely. Greenhouse number 1 is chock full of sweetcorn, aubergine (Melanzana – Violetta Lunga 2), cucumbers, tomatoes, dwarf french beans and marigolds (African Crackerjack Mixed). Some of these are desperate to be planted out – especially the sweetcorn and french beans, so the next spare day will see some planting in earnest. I only hope we’ve not left it too late for some of them.

Damson Gin

Having been given some offcut Damson branches laiden with damsons in exchange for some eggs, I decided to make a little something to help combat the coming winter nights…damson gin.

Really easy this one:

  1. Wash and stone 500g of damsons.
  2. Add to a washed kilner jar or similar.
  3. Add the equivalent amount of sugar.
  4. Top up with 1 litre of gin.
  5. Shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed together.
  6. Repeat 5) every few days for three months.
  7. Decant liquid into a new bottle and drink, small amounts at a time.
  8. Use the fruit pulp in an amazing damson pie, or a very drunk trifle 🙂

Things are going so smoothly…

Almost a month with no update?! Well, the patch is pretty much looking after itself at the moment. The weeds are on top of, and the dry spell has been perfect for hoeing those left and leaving them in the sun to dry out before being turned back in to the soil. The potatoes are very green on top, but sadly not much underneath yet so they’ll have to wait a bit longer…I think that cold spell early in the year has upset the timings, as they had all chitted fine when they went in. I may not have watered them enough either, so they’ll be getting their fair share over the next few weeks.

The cucumbers we started inside and then transplanted have not done particularly well either – but those that remained in the mini greenhouse look healthy still, so next year’s purchase must be a greenhouse of sorts, or a small poly-tunnel. The same goes for the tomatoes.

The rest is fine though – we started our mangetout crop the day before yesterday, and once you start picking, a regular watering will help the crop get larger. We ate our first (2) strawberries and (10) raspberries yesterday – not exactly a feast fit for the gods, but the unripe berries are promising a glut in a couple of weeks and onwards – yay!

The strawberries were getting ready for straw underneath them. This helps retain moisture in the soil underneath, helps prevent slugs from getting to the goodness that is a strawberry, and also stops the strawberry from sitting on damp soil and within easy reach of bugs. It also makes a decent mulch to stop weeds from ppping through – so last Sunday was also a day to build a surround for the strawberries so prevent the straw from blowing away, and to attach a net to as protection against hungry birds.

This picture shows the patch in full growth – I love to see this kind of photo, it makes all the hard work by the family so worth it! The children are eating mangetout straight from the plants – scrumptious! The peas haven’t faired so well with the early sowing so I padded them out with some new sowings – the same goes for the dwarf french beans. The broad beans are all present and correct, just need a bit of growth in the pods themselves now.

The onions are doing fantastically – especially the shallots which are getting to a decent size. The spring onions and pickling onions have a way to go yet but we’ll get there. The leeks are sat in the greenhouse almost ready to go out – a job for the weekend perhaps 🙂

As mentioned, the potatoes are huge, especially the first and second earlies, though not much under ground yet so I’ll wait longer. In theory we should have too many so there may be some garden gate sales happening, unless the parents-in-law are especially hungry.

The root patch is now full – the jerusalem artichokes look healthy, as do the corgettes that were originally cloched – the first is almost ready to pick. I have one hole to fill with another corgette plant so that will go straight in now. The children have also sown their pumpkins in this patch, as well as a couple in the compost pile, which started to show themselves a couple of days ago – exciting times ahead come Halloween! There are also butternut squash in here that are doing well.

The brassica patch has asparagus that are all still present and correct, and have just finished flowering. Nothing to eat this year from them, but I didn’t expect any to be honest. The cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli and sprouts are all doing well, and I’m not sure if it’s the CDs everywhere, but we seem to be butterfly egg free at the moment, though there are plenty of cabbage whites around! Hmm…

The patch that was originally going to be a fruit patch is still dirt. I’m keeping the weeds down, and had the intention of using roundup on the entire patch. Gut feeling has changed my mind, not wanting to use it where we may end up growing food to eat, so I”ve dug as much twitch out by hand as possible, and the larger clumps I will paint roundup on to, selectively. We’re going to cover this patch with weed control fabric for a couple of years to kill off any recurring weeds, and then I think it will most likely be a place for a greenhouse, or a flower bed for sales. Undecided as yet!

That’s where we are in a nutshell 🙂

Planting Strawberries

Today was the day to set the newly arrived strawberry plants. First job was to make the wooden frame to border the plants, Smiler helped me with the sawing, and Jay helped set the straw around the plants to help check weed growth, put of slugs and snails, and help keep moisture in. Next year we’ll hopefully take the runners and have more from them.

As usual, the weeds are in full growth, as is the grass. Ian from next door is helping keep the grass down by topping it for us once the sheep have eaten it down, whilst Suz and Jay hoe – hard life!

General Update

Today was quite a busy one – the fencing is finally finished and after more advice over the weeds in the field, we’ve decided to ask a local sheep farmer to pop some sheep into the field to eat it down and tread over the grass to firm the roots up. Today the sheep weren’t too accomodating in that they ran in the opposite direction when  we tried to lure them with a bucket of grain. The fact that the bucket was empty might have had something to do with it.

On the sowing side of things, the first row of Dwarf French Beans went in – Ferrari. The strawberries also arrived this morning so a quick 30ft long trench had to be dug over and old horse manure mixed in. Four varieties were planted in total:

  • Korona
  • Honeoye
  • Hapil
  • Florence