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Just around the corner…

Just around the corner…

It may be the longest day of the year but it’s also the shortest summer. We have gone from spring to autumn. It’s grey, wet and a bit miz. We are wearing jumpers. The idea that ‘the nights are drawing in’ seems a tad depressing. There have been some bright days but the barbie is covered up again. Unsurprisingly, we have been watching the footie: all those games in the sunshine! With cooling water breaks! Anyway, the resident meteorologist assures me, yet again, that summer is around the corner…

So let’s go outside and see what’s there. The strawberry pot, planted up in February, is doing well. We just have to move it out of Jussi’s way before she gobbles this lot up. The raspberries have come and gone (the blackbirds won) as have the gooseberries (having been turned into 2 clafoutis, 2 large bottled jars for winter pud and 4 pots of jam).

The plums, at least the yellow ones, are going to give us a bumper harvest. And the two linden trees were amazing with their flowers this year. Picking those for herbal teas was a sense sensation: the sweet, honey-like smell was quite overpowering, and the bees overhead buzzed incessantly. I managed to get, between downpours, a good few baskets for drying.

We have a pomegranate tree, or rather bush. It looks stunning now with its bright scarlet red flowers; we only get one or two fruit, they just drop off before maturing, but it looks lovely.

In the veg patch the runner beans are doing well, we have 6 plants and manage to get plenty for a meal every day. The aubergines, melons and peppers have shot up in the wet weather so hoping for a good year for those. The courgettes are also delivering the goods now: courgette fritters, stuffed courgette, courgette pasta… when they work they are fabulous. The salad toms, the ones that escaped the blight, have fruit although those are still green. We really need some heat and sunshine to get them going.

Meanwhile the rewilding of the garden has taken a different turn. It did look lovely last year but it’s a tad scruffier now with loads of grasses and brambles coming though.

It’s all great for the wildlife though. We mentioned in the last post that the hunting ban meant seeing more animals, and we continue to see deer on many of the dog walks. Richard came across a dead one unfortunately but he took the head and he now has a rather impressive skull to add to his collection. It belongs (belonged?) to a roe deer. The moth is a passenger moth apparently.

Meanwhile we can hear baby barn owls, always very pleasing, late at night. We were also excited that, after 10 years, we had an apricot harvest. Well, we got three! The joy of small things.

Away with May

Away with May

I mentioned in the previous post that most of the beds would have been filled with little plants by now, but this year I was waiting. The reason for that was because we had decided to take a two week break in May for the first time, rather than in September. I didn’t want the (wonderful!) people looking after the house, dogs and hens to also have responsibility for the veg patch. So the plan was to put in as much as possible before leaving, and then to buy little plugs as soon as we got back. Well, the rain put an end to that. I did put in some plants: courgettes, gherkins and some buttercup squash. But it was far too cold and wet to risk anything else. Already planted were the broad beans, peas (we were just starting to eat those) plus runner beans and broccoli (calabrese) and we were just finishing the asparagus.


Coming back we discovered it’d rained like mad in our absence, so much for May bringing sunnier weather. The garden looked like a jungle: the weeds had grown and flourished; the bushes, trees and flowering plants had also burst forth in a frenzy of leaves and blossom. It looked rather charming in an unkempt, shabby chic kind of way. So we spent the next two days doing exactly what we did before leaving. Richard donned overalls, earmuffs and glasses and got started with the strimming, and I raked and mulched.

The hens weren’t too sure about their new botanical garden, they’ve started jumping out again despite being caught by Betty and so we’ve had to add reinforcements to their fencing and gate.


Then the horrid weather returned, what a rotten spring. We discovered the honesty plants by the pond were completely covered with caterpillars, the great white butterflies had been busy. There were dozens of long stripey green creatures all over the leaves and stems. These were pulled off and thrown to the frogs in the pond, lucky frogs.


Meanwhile, down in the veg patch, there were mixed results. The rain meant that the broad beans and peas continued growing and despite a tangled mass of pods and stems we’ve managed to have quite a few meals from them. There are even broad beans in the freezer. Next year I shall sow fewer of those, more of the peas, and stake them all up. Really pleased too that none of the plants suffered from any pests or diseases, and not a single maggot in any of the pods!


The broccoli too has grown amazingly and hurrah! no problems with either the ants or the moths’ larvae from last year, just ten huge plants. Just as well as I’d molly coddled them all spring. They’d been planted with plastic rings around each stalk (to keep the moths from laying eggs at the base of each plant) and a handful of oyster shells to keep the slugs off. They’d also been planted in a bed I’d started mulching with compost from last year and which, when I put them in, was also covered with newspaper and more grass cuttings. Whether it’s luck or all these things have paid off I don’t know but they are the healthiest plants I have grown.


The strawberries are doing well too. Some of them have been eaten, I think by the voles, but there are plenty for all of us. The runner beans are climbing and have little yellow flowers on but otherwise the rest could do with a good dose of sunshine, the courgettes in particular still look rather pathetic.

Today was spent pulling up the garlic and red onions. I think we got about 80% of the onions, and perhaps just a third of the garlic. A real shame as we’ve never lost anything before but those winter rains really didn’t help. Those that have survived look good, so that’s something. They have been replaced with tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and chillies. In today loads of squash too, buttercup and butternut, plus some melons. Must just remember to sow some brussel sprouts.

Tomorrow though is summer, it has never been more welcomed.

Bits and bobs

Bits and bobs


All our visitors have now come and gone, along with the sun. It was on with waterproof hat, coat, trousers and boots for the dogs’ morning walk and a muttering of “it’s good for the garden”. Apparently it’s a mast year in the UK which means that the forest trees are producing a lot more fruits and nuts than usual. Well, I don’t know if it’s the same here but I have noticed an abundance of acorns and berries. The wild boar are here again snuffling for roots and fallen nuts, they’ll be happy.


The olives are plump and plentiful too, a far cry for the pathetic crop last year. Somehow it’s got a lot greener quicker this autumn and (foolishly, I know) I found myself looking for signs of the first orchids only to remember it’s autumn not spring! The mild weather has added to the springlike quality I suppose, and the sheep and goats are back in the meadows.

Meanwhile there’s been (and still are) a hundred and one things to keep us busy here (and my father, too!) Jobs include mending, mulching, harvesting, drying, preserving, pruning and transplanting. Not to mention weeding. One task was preparing the fields and coops for new chooks. We feel more farmlike now with two more sets. Our original three hens (four until the mongoose saga) laid very few eggs over the summer as usual (they really hate the heat) but are now very slow to get back on track. We’ve had them three years now and so decided it was time to get reinforcements. Four new weeny cheepy bundles of fluff and feathers have arrived (and yes you three you have a right to look nervous!) along with 12 ‘roasties’ who are plumping up nicely already, thank you.


Sadly the slugs are in abundance too. Never have I seen so many at night (it’s impossible not to stand on them) and the little beggers are still around during the day. Monty Don writes “In one experiment 27,500 slugs were taken from one small garden without a noticeable difference to slug activity. Densities of 200 slugs per square metre are moderate”.  The lettuces are now protected by plastic bottles (although some weren’t rescued in time) but I see they have headed towards the later planting of leeks… Twelve strawberry plants were taken from runners in the summer and planted in new beds. They looked great but now look very sorry for themselves. I thought it was just the transplanting but fear now they have verticillium  wilt which means I now have to dig them all up 🙁


One success story has been the kale. A bed was put aside for them outside the watering system just to see “how they got on”. They did look rather sorry for themselves in the summer swelter so were given a watering can or two. But yes, now the rain is here they have picked up and huge leaves have grown seemingly overnight and they are flourishing. Good news for the chickens and perhaps some caldo verde for us for lunch.


The fine weather is set to return. No more barbecues methinks but walks in the autumn woods and puddles is something to look forward to. Fingers crossed.