Denise: Even before the gooseberry harvest was over, we’d started picking and podding peas for the freezer (and feasting on the sweetest as we worked!), and broad beans too. For about four weeks now we’ve been picking peas steadily, piling them up in big seed trays for Jonathan to pod in the evening whilst watching TV, me knitting. But the legumes are now all gathered in, with 20kg or so of peas and about half that of beans in the freezer – enough to keep us supplied with both right through to next summer. (In fact today I’m using the last of last year’s peas in a pea and mint soup). Friday was the last day of the longest run of dry weather we’ve had since – well, probably last September! : just four-five days, but enough to dry out the onions, and for us to pull them and get them under cover before Saturday’s rain. It’s not been a good year for onion: not sunny and warm enough (after all culinary onions did come from the Mediteranean to Britain with the Romans!), so not many are large enough to store well, but the largest are in the greenhouses to dry further. And the rest? Well, Jonathan’s been busy this weekend making a large batch of pickled onions! The winter weather here is very very mild, so carrots and parsnips stay in the ground, still growing – just – until we need them, even as late as March, but potatoes have to be lifted and stored in bins, safe from wet, slugs and rodents. So next to harvest – our last great gathering of Autumn Bounty in the Big Garden, will be the spuds.
Jonathan: Whatever might be said of the poor weather this year, and the poor yield from garden and croft (and for that matter tourism), it’s been a good year for wild flowers, and native orchids in particular. There’s been thousands and thousands of them scattered across the croft, and they’ve remained in flower for an exceptionally long time, due to the mild temperatures and the ground never drying out. They’ve even been appearing in our gardens – never seen them there before. This magnificent specimen of Northern Marsh Orchid was found today in the garden at Eight Askernish. The flower head (ignoring the stem below) is about five inches long!
Jonathan: Quarterly meter reading for solar PV due. Fully expecting the figures to objectify the awfulness of the weather over the past three months, and specifically the prevalent blanket cloud and fog that has deprived us – and in particular the land (and thus our crops and livestock) – of sunshine. A few minutes of looking up online previous meter readings and tapping buttons on the calculator and then there we have it. Eh? Surely that can’t be right! More clicking and tapping and tutting and … same answer. Try again, different calculation method … Same result. Really? Surely not? This year (3 months to end June): 14.9 kWh per day, average. Last year? 14.6kWh per day. How can that be? Well, even dense cloud doesn’t entirely block solar radiation, it’s a question of degree. Even so, it’s difficult to believe. This time last year the grass was growing like Topsy, this year we’re still having to supplement the grass with bought-in feed, and here in the Big Garden the vegetables are scarcely developing at all (carrots are almost invisible seedlings – we should already be pulling thinnings! – and a visitor mistook our onions for spring onions!) and it’s really beginning to look like we’ll face significant hardship until next summer. As to the solar PV, I don’t trust the numbers: perhaps that earthing fault we found last year was more significant than we’d thought.