Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Harvesting - A Mixed Bag

9th July
Rainwater harvesting for the polytunnel
Heavy rain when I woke up, so I hastily hooked up a hosepipe to the overflowing water butts, channelling the rain into a couple of watering cans in the polytunnel. While I wait for each watering can to fill in turn I weed, harvest and thin foliage. The rain water is much appreciated by the plants.

It can get very sticky in the polytunnel so it is important to  remove foliage from ground level. To reduce humidity the courgettes got heavily trimmed and the rampant squash plants cut back.

I harvested and thinned out the kohl rabi and turnips. I've only left a few. They are very susceptible to rot once the other plants get going and temperatures warm up. Turnip fly becomes a problem too. The Purple Top Milans seem to have a harder flesh and to be more resistant to rot and fly than the Snowball and Goldenball. Next year I'll reserve the latter two for outside. Straight into the newly available space went peppers and aubergines.
Where I removed the kohl rabi plants, the sweetcorn growing in amongst them is about a foot tall. The plants growing without any competition are up to the polytunnel roof - what a difference! It's planned though. Now I've removed the kohl rabi the sweetcorn will prosper and will come ready later than the rest.
Once the rain stopped I harvested more beetroots to be processed.

Beetroots laid out ready for baking
Not going round the bend
A walk along the roadside revealed the extent of the damage to next door's field gate caused by yet another car coming off at the bend. The car must have been in quite a state as that wooden gate post has lifted a massive lump of concrete from the ground.

10th July
A lay in, a Wimbledon final and a European Cup final in which Ronaldo got floored by a Silver-Y moth
Young swallows and tree sparrows
In between all this the swallows fledged. I opened the chicken feed shed to find one fluttering against the window so I caught it and placed it back on its nest but there was only one other. They both promptly flew off the nest, one again fluttering against the window, so I caught it and released it for its first flight. A very special moment. Fortunately the hobby's daily speculative fly through the garden had already happened today.

More excitement on the wild birds front. I've planted a branch of twisted willow in the border near the bird feeding station in the hope that birds will use it as a perch coming to and from the feeders. Well, the first birds to do this were the tree sparrow family, two fledged young and their parents. Excellent.

Squishy strawberries
A much anticipated strawberry harvest was very disappointing indeed - virtually all of them had rotted before they even ripened properly. Those that had escaped this had mostly been munched by something. I'm not sure how much the straw has helped.

I checked the weather forecast before pruning the plum trees. Dry all day. Ten minutes of pruning soon changed that, precipitating a cloudburst!
I gave up.

This was also the cue to get the Ixworth chicks back inside before they caught a chill. They've been going outside for a couple of days to get them ready for a move into the stables. It means they leave their mess and smells outside too. They also get to eat grass, scratch around and peck at insects. They seem to find the outside world quite scary at the moment.

11th July
Failed Wurzels and an Injury to Mr Rotavator
I spent the morning trying to track down a spare belt for Mr Rotavator who had a rather unfortunate mishap yesterday. Hopefully he'll be back to his wonderful best soon.
In readiness for his return to good health, I got out the slasher and hacked back all the fat hen which has grown up in what was supposed to be the mangel wurzel patch. The slugs and/or rabbits did for this crop before it ever got going. Next year I'll be growing each plant in modules before planting out. This has worked brilliantly over in the main veg patch where I'm growing the mangels which will, I'm sure, help me retain the Jeff Yates Mangel Wurzel Trophy!

Poor Honey
After all the work I'd put into the strawberry beds, yesterday's failed harvest was a big let down. Today it was Sue's turn. This has been a testing year so far for the honey bees and for beekeepers. But Sue had at least managed to take off enough frames of honey to fill about 16 jars. But when she came to spin it, some wasn't yet ready to be spun and the rest surprisingly contained rape honey that had set in the combs. All Sue's hard work for just three jars of honey and if this year continues in the same vein that could be it for honey for the year.

First Broad Beans
Fortunately my harvesting today was more productive. The broad beans have survived a bit of a bashing from the weather and today I was able to gather the first few. You can tell when they are ready when the pod hang downwards. There were carrots from the polytunnel along with more mangetout and the first Swiss chard leaves of the year, which came from self-seeded plants rather than those I've planted.
Sue worked her magic in the kitchen combining these with some pork mince from the freezer. Just a little of everything always seems to make so much lovely food!

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we head into the gooseberry patch.

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