Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The store cupboard is groaning.

Second flush of roses/
The last week has been a busy one.
The Victoria plums have all ripened
The first five pounds.

and I have bottled six large jars,
Chutney making.
the remainder have been made into Old Dower House chutney,
in total seventeen jars, most will be for ourselves but a couple are for friends.
Sun Gold, now coming along nicely.
Tomatoes are coming fast now, what had started off as a potentially bad crop has turned into a good one, they were very slow to get started and slow for the first fruits, they are making up for it now, I might even have enough to bottle. We only grow the Sun Gold, I have been tempted to try other varieties, but Sun Gold  are the sweetest tomato so we will stay with what we know.
Peas and runner beans continue to produce, I am once again trying to find a good way to freeze the beans, maybe I just don't like frozen veg but this time I have used the vacuum sealer bags and I have not blanched them at all, we will try one of the bags I have already done later this week and see if there is any improvement to the frozen beans.
Seed grown onions.
The last lot of onions will get harvested in the next couple of weeks, these we grew from seed, rather as an experiment, they have all grown to a good size and it's a far cheaper way to get onions rather than the sets, but we will stick with sets for the early ones that we do in the tunnel.
The Calabrese is now ready for picking, they have also done well this year, the biggest failure has been the potatoes, we grew seven different types, none have done well mainly due to slug damage, these are not the big slugs that you can easily see but the small 'Field Slugs', the damage they have done is incredible, we grew extra potatoes this year as it's nearly impossible to get a decent potato in Ireland, the Irish like flowery spuds that produce potato sludge if you boil them, the only way to cook them is to steam them, even then, they are dull and boring. We had already decided that we would have to do potatoes in the tunnel this autumn to keep us going, we would have been using whatever undamaged potato's we had but a trip to the garden centre yesterday surprised us with Charlotte seed potatoes already chitted ready for planting, Charlotte is one of the potatoes that we had grown this year, and unfortunately lost mostly to slugs.
Today was a bright warm day, we haven't had too many of them this summer, the warmth brought out masses of butterflies,
there were Red Admirals,
Peacocks and Meadow Browns, not the easiest thing to photograph but we managed to get a couple of shots.
The roses are now having a second flush,
they recovered well after suffering black spot,
not something we have had before,
cool damp weather is the perfect breeding ground for all these fungi.
The early autumn flowers are now looking good,
the Echinacea  and Bergamot are looking lovely, so are the obedient plants,
Physostegia virginiana.
Hubbard day olds.
We now have the final batch of Hubbard chicks, they have nearly doubled in size in just a week, that will be the last rearing for this year. it will all start again next March.
Before firing.
The pottery classes are going well, but once again we have three weeks off as my teacher has several shows to do over the next three weekends, after all she does have to earn a living.
After firing.

I finished my last project just in time for firing, I have another project on the go and I must think what I want to do next. It's great fun and I think I'm learning a lot from her.
Suzy hatching, he cant be comfortable.
Freddy relaxing.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sweet as the Moment.....

I wonder how many people other than gardeners remember the true taste of a fresh garden pea. Having a feast of our fresh peas yesterday, the silly tune which accompanied the advertisement for 'Birds Eye' peas kept going round in my head. I grew up before frozen peas first hit the freezer cabinets of UK shops, I remember well sitting with my Grandfather shucking peas, fresh, straight from the garden. Somewhere along the line I must have tried frozen peas, they first hit the UK shelves in 1967, and that silly advert was in the 70's, however frozen peas have never made it into my freezer. Eating the peas yesterday I now know why, frozen peas do not taste the same as a freshly picked and cooked garden peas.
The variety we have grown this year is 'Hurst Green Shaft', and they taste as I remember peas tasting. I also remember well the tinned Marrow Fat peas, ugh, and  dried peas, double ugh, complete with a bicarb. tablet which you added to the peas whilst they were soaking, I'm not sure why the bicarb. was needed, to improve colour or to make the peas more digestible, whatever the reason I hated them. So I will continue to enjoy our fresh peas and then wait until next years harvest.
The ducks and Hubbard table birds have now all been processed, the Hubbards ranged in weight from 2.3 to 3.3 kg, we made sure that all our customers received at least one of the 3.3 kg birds. We will be picking up more day olds tomorrow, as all of our customers want more this year, they have all said that they consider our birds excellent value for money, which is nice, we are certainly not cheap, but I guess compared to the price that Tesco charges for an Organic bird we are, as our birds are far bigger. One customer in particular loves the chicken livers, I'm not sure what he does with them so we let him have them all. We however hang on to the duck livers which I will make pate from. This year I will be attempting to bottle the pate  using the hot water bottling method, we hope  to store the pate without killing ourselves with food poisoning.
The runner beans are now producing masses of beans, I cant remember what variety we grew this year but many of the beans are fifteen inches long, that's around 35cm. They are a lovey bean, with a great flavour.
The late cauliflowers are now forming their curds, but for some reason the cauliflowers have not been that great this year, the calabrese is also forming heads, so it wont be long before we are eating them.
The unexpected Muscovy ducklings are all doing well, there are eleven of them, just one egg failed to hatch,
Mum is very proud of her clutch, but we still have them confined as I would not trust the geese with them.
Cosmos, such a jolly flower.
The late summer flowers are now all in bloom,
many will continue until the first frosts or autumn gales destroy them. I am very please with a couple of clematis that we have,
the blue one has been flowering for over a month with lots of buds,
the  vermilion one was planted last year and this is the first time it has bloomed,
I love the colour of it and it contrasts wonderfully with the  pale pink of the perpetual sweet pea.

More Phlox

The Phlox are putting on a wonderful show, I love all the different colours,
and the Thalictrum has been flowering for over two months now.
The Agapanthus has at last flowered, it has been very slow this year.
All the peaches have now been picked, we have had around  twelve pounds in total, the final picking was five pounds, these have been bottled, ready for winter deserts.
A few more pictures of what's in flower at the moment.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lots can change in a week.

Flowers this week have to be the Dahlias.
A week go we were struggling to find courgettes for the local agricultural show, suddenly we have a glut, but they aren't the nice small ones,
they have ideas of grandeur and tried to become marrows, some of them were just flowers a week ago, now they have taken over. Unfortunately courgettes are not the easiest things to give away, all our friends grow them and have the same problem. We could freeze them, to be forgotten until space is needed in the freezer, but the hens like them so that seems to be the better solution. We had the same problem with runner beans, just a week ago all we could find for the show was a handful, now we can eat them daily and have already given away a couple of pounds to some friends.
Summer vegetables all seem to mature at the same time, we are spoilt for choice,  what shall we have tonight? Cauliflower, runner beans, courgettes, chard, or garden peas, the list goes on. There is such a thing as too much choice.
This year we made the decision not to incubate anything other than the Quail, we have a good source for the Hubbard table birds which we buy in as day olds, we were also given a contact by  'The Friendly Farmer' for day old ducklings. The Friendly Farmer now does all our processing of table birds for us. Buying ducklings in as day olds means they are a fairly uniform size depending on sex. On Sunday we took the chickens and ducks on their final journey, they will be ready for us tomorrow, all nicely bagged and freezer ready.
 When we got home Simon had the usual evening chores to do, scratch feed for the hens and ducks,top up of water etc.,he then discovered that one of our Muscovy's had hatched a clutch of eggs, it wasn't until today when he sorted out a goose proof run for the new arrivals that he found out just how well she had done,
ten ducklings out of eleven eggs. I don't quite know what we will do with this unexpected arrival, we have all the duck meat that we need for the next year, so we will probally sell them at one of the poultry sales. They are so cute, all yellow and fluffy, we can't  get a good photo of them as mum is extremely protective. We will have to do another batch of Hubbard's this year, as apart from six birds all the others have been sold to various Organic friends, word soon goes round as we have found in the past when you have Organic birds for sale, although we are no longer registered, we are well known enough to be trusted that what we are selling is not only done to basic Organic standards, but higher than is required.
All the outside onions have now been harvested, along with the ones which we grew in the tunnel we have more than enough for the year. The outside ones were grown from sets but were first planted into individual modules,  then planted out when they had a good root system, this seems to have given them a very good start, the wild birds were unable to pull them out which is what normally happens, so the onions get replanted several times and we often lose a few by direct planting, we will certainly use this method in the future. I don't remember who's Blog I picked this tip up from, but many thanks for the tip!
We are now picking lots of peaches and eating a lot,
they taste wonderful, nothing like the dull ones sold in shops.
The early summer flowers are now giving way to  the late bloomers,
Lucifer looks lovely,
especially when planted next to Hypericum or Aconite,
I will have to check the label of this one but I think it's called Potluck.

The Bishop, I love the dark foliage.
Add caption
the Dahlias are all looking great
and the perfumed lilies are now in full bloom.
The Passion flower
and Oleander are also putting on a great show.
Kiftsgate now supported.
Simon finished building the new rose arch and Kiftsgate now has a secure support. Everything has grown so much this year, a sever hacking back is needed, the Rosa Rugosa has also gone crazy, we have suckers all over the place, these will get dug out in the Autumn and replanted into the bank at the back of the cottage.
I've used Goldfinger on this one, I will keep experimenting.
Watching Country File a couple of weeks ago gave me an idea for a new craft project, making castings of seed heads, flowers, foliage and seed heads, I'm still experimenting with different plant materials and finishes, but it could be a nice winter project.
The art of relaxation, Zara has a cat nap.
How much is that doggie in the window? Meg looking cute.