Jonathan: Sunday brought the first gale since as long ago as May, and now there’s a lot of brown and shredded leaves on the trees. But the garden has been looking increasingly tired for some weeks now, and bare too, as we’ve cleared first the peas and then the broad beans (both the best crops since we came here). This week’s been a mixture of sunshine and showers – much as we might get at any time of year, but the easy-going weather, never too warm or too cold – just nice, the quality of the light, the scent of the soil are all heralds of Autumn. Even the roads are settling back into the natural quiet and calm we’re familiar with and love.
Denise: J has intermittently been working on making cold frames for growing strawberries, lettuces and other ‘short’ and more tender crops. The walls are made of his favourite building materials – 6in x 1in treated softwood joined with lengths of 2in x 2in. The tops are sheets of clear acrylic set in simple wooden frames. Nothing fancy it is true, but certainly functional! It’s difficult finding a balance between making something strong enough to take the battering from wind and rain, but on the other hand easy to use and cheap to make. The main problem with cold frames here is with the lids – the traditional way of hinging at the back and propping up at the front is just completely impracticable – far too windy!. Anyway, after years of struggling with this problem, J seems to have come up with a compromise so lets see how it works. Anyway, two cold frames are now finished, and I’ve planted these up with lettuces for now. Later they’ll be replaced with strawberry plants, as the fruit is always useful in making jams for sale (eg Gooseberry and Strawberry Preserve). There’s one more cold frame for J to build, making up a line of three replacing a ‘hedge’ of Rosa Rugosa, the roots of which were spreading into growing plots. So that’s a nuisance turned into a source of profit.
Jonathan: The skies cleared this morning after four or five days of dreich. Today a blustry south-westerly brought fresh mild air in off the sea – and the result is a sparkling light that burns the skin! Unfortunately I’ve had to spend this morning (and this evening – it’s getting on for midnight!) indoors catching up on engineering work I’ve been neglecting. But this afternoon D and I were outside harvesting and podding peas and broad beans, and D made the first lift of onions. Tilly was my close companion as I podded the peas and beans: she gobbles up any peas that fall to the floor (not so keen on beans), and if there’s none she chews up the empty pods. Strange dog: she also likes gooseberries (she’s been seen picking them off the bushes) and will gladly accept an offered segment of orange!) We’ve never had much success storing onions – the winter air here is far too humid for onions to keep well, so whilst we freeze some, and sell some, mostly they’re used in cooking through the late summer and into autumn. Despite the damage done by the dreadful weather right through May, the harvest for legumes and onions looks to be good: the freezers are already getting full, and there’s lots more to come: we’ll have to transfer some to the big freezer at the croft store.