The good: it’s been raining. In fact we have had rain every day in March except 13th. This means the grass is green, the well is full and there are puddles galore for Jussi on her walks. The saplings we put in are beginning to show the very first signs of life.
The seed sowing has been slightly delayed this year until it’s a tad warmer, but those on the kitchen windowsill are coming through. Each of the sweetcorn has just germinated, I can taste those already. The purple sprouting broccoli is out and being eaten (by us!) and the lettuce, radishes, rocket (and some nettles) are thriving in the demipoly:
The bad: it’s been raining. In fact we have had rain every day in March except 13th. This means the hens and roasties, and even the ducks, spend more time sheltering despite so much lush grass to eat. The broad beans are up and flowering but the flowers look rather soggy and there doesn’t seem to have been many insects about, I’m waiting for the first pod to appear. The peas are bedraggled. The raised beds in the veg patch, it seems not that long ago, were looking great but the weeds love this weather and are slowly taking over:
The beautiful: but we have had some sunny intervals, enough for the spring flowers to appear:
And the blackthorn at the end of the garden has put on a marvellous snowy, showy spectacle:
We have left it too late to clean out the bird boxes as the blue tits are already making themselves at home. And on the morning walks nothing is nicer than hearing the Song Thrush echo down the valley. They have normally gone by now, being winter visitors, but it seems they have decided to stay this year. How nice:
It’s been a surprisingly busy month, this October. Where to start? Well, with mostly sunny days we’ve been able to do lots of gardening, walking and harvesting. So into the veg patch first and, hurrah, things are definitely looking up. The cauliflowers and broccoli which I’d said had failed have in fact done very well. After cutting off the rather pathetic broccoli heads there have been loads of side shoots which will keep coming over the weeks ahead. And the cauliflower has, after months and months, decided it will grow after all.
So at the moment we have those two crops, plus squash, sprouts and the last of the runner beans. We will start on the leeks now and we’re looking forward to trying the jerusalem artichokes, a first for us in the veg patch. Slightly worried about their side effects and their nickname fartichokes… The horseradish which I’d said had gone rotten has also completely come back to life so that’ll be dug up soon too.
Meanwhile the chooks have kept us busy. We moved the hens from one patch to another, where we have a spare coop, as they’d scratched up all the grass. They are still giving us 3 or so eggs a day. And we bought some more ‘roasties’. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any more ducklings. The man in the market didn’t have any and as far as I could understand he wasn’t going to get any more because there wasn’t the demand. Hoping I’m wrong about that but if not will have to look elsewhere, the duck we had for Christmas last year was great. Instead of ducklings we got 6 white chicks which I’m not a big fan of, they grow much fatter more quickly than the brown ones (we got 8 of those) but become quite pathetic as they put on weight and struggle to walk. They seem to be enjoying the green grass in the meantime.
We are lucky to have a quince tree in the garden, for some reason there are no others in the village. It was a good harvest for them and we have made loads of quince jelly, quince cordial, quince crumble (made with star anise this has become Richard’s fave dessert) and frozen some batches as well. The chillies too have been made into jam, oil or just dried.
The springlike weather has also been great for the wild flowers. We discovered this tiny little orchid on a walk and then were delighted to find it growing near the house. The common name is autumn lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) so that’ll have to go on our orchids page. We also have autumn crocuses in the garden too.
The hedgerows have been fooled by the temperatures. The blackthorn, where we get our sloes from, is in flower and in the veg patch the autumn raspberries are half a metre tall when they should be dormant.
However, the big task of the month has been the olive harvest so it’s been lovely having the springlike sunshine for that. The garden seems to be full of robins who sing while we work. The dogs too always join us and are happy to supervise, although after a while slink off to the sofa or in search of walnuts.
Last year’s spring deluge meant we had no olives at all in 2014 but this year’s bumper harvest meant it was fairly easy to get enough for the year ahead. After a few days we’d collected 188kg of olives and we got 15 litres of oil for that (the going rate is 8 litres per 100kg). We could have got a lot more. Our neighbour spends weeks collecting his olives, he loves it, but we are rather lazy! He has built this amazing structure which sits on the shovel part of his tractor so that he can be raised up and reach the topmost parts of the trees, it’s a frightening sight as he’s well into his 70s! (While driving to the olive oil factory we lost count of the number of people in their olive trees brandishing loppers or saws.)
He very generously lends us his cleaning machine every year. It separates the leaves and twigs from the olives and despite making a racket does the job quickly and efficiently:
So that was October, I haven’t even mentioned all the strimming Richard’s had to do (and will need to do again soon), the baking, breadmaking etc etc. What have you done this month?
Crunchy underfoot, alive with insects and pollen, the land is slowly but surely turning a lovely shade of straw. Pale and interesting, hot and dry. It seems almost novel to us after last year’s green and pleasant land, but with no rain and scorching temperatures it’s a different story this summer. Most of the wild flowers have disappeared but hardy souls linger on including this yellow thistle, called a Spanish oyster it seems, and the fragrant, golden sweet yarrow that borders all the country lanes around us.
Many of the meadows have been cut, leaving unruly hay bales, reminiscent of autumns from yesteryear in the UK. Only the other day an old boy and his donkey cart tottered by. Meanwhile, the veg patch is also sporting the colour of straw. The first of the plums is always the yellow ones, not such a bumper harvest this year alas but we have put them to good use.
The courgettes as always put on a golden display, such a nice way to be greeted in the morning. Peaches and plums have been bottled.
My sister gave me some seeds for climbing yellow courgettes, these are doing well, as are the round lemon flavoured cucumbers. We’ve also been eating one of Richard’s favourite crops, the oh so delicious sweetcorn. It’s always a success and this year I have planted a second crop which should be ready in late August or September.
The final word goes to our faithful labrador, who is blending in nicely with the colour scheme:
From giant to lesser to the unnamed, the wild flowers are slowly but surely appearing. Each year I say we should have a photo collection of all the flowers in and around our garden, I started something last summer but am determined to try harder this year. After months of flowerlessness (?!) it’s great to see some colour at last. We’ve already mentioned the chamomile but here are some more plants that have recently appeared.
Two get a special mention: the giant orchid and linaria amethystea. The former you can’t miss, it’s big and brash and is the first of the orchids. The latter is a wee thing that you can easily miss, tiny compared to the daisies, but have a closer look; it’s just beautiful. It doesn’t seem to have a common name so I’m calling it the galega toadflax. And we’re really pleased that we have found this great site for Portuguese flowers. It tells you what you can see in each region, and there’s loads of photos and information about the individual plants.
There’s been a competition between the blossom in the garden as well. In the end the blackthorn won and now the spiky bushes are covered white, it almost looks snowlike. Second was our new almond tree but the ornamental cherry and apricot have a few flowers on now too. We made some sloe gin from the blackthorn last year (which slips down a treat in front of the roaring fire) so we’re hoping for a bumper crop this time.
And talking of booze and blossom I have now, at long last, bottled the elderflower wine that has been sitting silently in the pantry – since lastMay! I was pleased that it had cleared and has the most delicate of colours (Richard: pale pee), and in fact it didn’t taste too bad – it actually tasted of wine! (Which is more than can be said for the quince effort). Really looking forward to sipping that when the warmer weather eventually gets here.
Continuing our flower theme I have added a load of photos taken on a recent walk. I had wanted to take a snap of every flower we came across but it proved too time-consuming a task so these are most but by no means all. Richard wanted me to label each one – ha to that! They can be found on this page wild flowers, but here’s a woodcock orchid to give you a taster…
I can’t believe that spring is almost here but there are signs everywhere. Many of our fruit trees have buds that are about to burst and already there are wild flowers in the fields. It all looks so green, and yellow…
Our daffodils are refusing to look down and acknowledge the flowering weeds.
The lichen looks like an underwater coral scene, including a Gregorian fan of sorts. Just missing the clown fish…
Our willow is a most wonderful gold colour. I’ve made my first basket (although I did have some déjà vu about primary school…), here with today’s eggs; they’re laying four a day now. And we have bought some dogwood, red and yellow.
Finally, if yellow is the theme then we must also include the princess, here with her car face on.