It’s been a strange start to the summer. April and May were lovely (if you didn’t worry about the lack of rainfall) and saw us eating outside most evenings. Now, with the first of the summer months, the wind is cool, the clouds grey and it’s been showery – nothing substantial though and the grass yellows every day.
It’s a good time for the veg patch. The courgettes, surprise surprise, won the race for which veg we would be eating first from this year’s sowing, followed by the colourful chard. We’re either eating the produce or knowing we’ll be eating it very soon.
The extra four beds (there are now 13 of various sizes) have made a difference, both in terms of having more veg but also in the extra time looking after it all. We won’t be adding any more for the time being, what with the soft fruit and fruit trees as well there’s a lot to do if nothing is to be wasted. So at the mo we are eating our potatoes (the bed replaced with 44 leeks), onions, garlic, two kinds of French beans (the dwarf purple ones are recommended – always aphid free and prolific), broad beans, calabrese, cauliflower, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, chard, a few parsnips and turnips here and there, lettuce, raspberries and rhubarb. We’ve had one cucumber too.
The peas haven’t done very well, as last year; I really must remember to sow those and the broad beans in the autumn. We have also started to eat the tomatoes – hurrah! We’re growing more of these this year, and different varieties too.
The organic cherries are the first up – not surprising. What is surprising though is that these are not the ones in the polytunnel. The sunny spring has meant the ones outdoors have done very well and grown better than those under plastic. (It’s the aubergines and peppers which are appreciating the polytunnel more, both are flowering.) One of the new kinds we’re trying this year is the Roma kind – San Marzano. I’m really hoping to be able to freeze these for sauces throughout the year.
My parents came last month and as always we try to make the most of my father’s woodworking skills. Last year he made a wooden support for the grapes in the courtyard and these are now doing very well so we hope to have a better harvest this year. As Richard said this time he was put to work making a new chicken run – I hope he didn’t think he was here on holiday! They bought with them a buddleia and this is now flowering, and it has attracted a very interesting butterfly (or is it something else?). Update: it’s a Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth Hemaris fuciformis apparently. How nice!
So waiting in the wings are the sweetcorn, winter squash and melon, fennel, aubergine and peppers, perhaps some peas plus all the wonderful plums.
Finally, away from the fruit’n’veg, we have bought 8 new chickens. Like last time they are about a month old, there are 4 white and 4 brown ones. To put us in the right frame of mind we differentiate them from the ‘egg chickens’ by calling them the ‘roast chickens’ – no room for sentimentality! Today they ventured out of their hut and into the run. We bought them, as the previous ones, from the market in Ansião. The man said the white ones would be ready in 3 – 4 weeks and the brown ones a couple more weeks after that! I suspect we’ll let these live a little longer, and get a little fatter. We also need to pluck up enough courage for D Day!