Spooky Tomatoes

IMG_20141030_140452 IMG_20141031_155757IMG_20141031_150042I know that tomatoes aren’t normally associated with Hallowe’en; but then it was the warmest 31st October on record today, so the perfect time to clear out these summer fruits. And the tunnel really became eerier and eerier as it became emptier; I could almost see the ghosts of my summer self wizzing up and down the rows, picking and side-shooting; and taste the spirits of tomato past. Especially when it began to get dark (before 5pm!!) and the tunnel was truly empty, and so quiet. Eek.

I took over most of the green tomatoes (well, unripe tomatoes; Indigo Rose tomatoes are purpley-green when unripe, rather than purpley-pink) to the shop in punnets, and in trays to the café, for the lovely kitchen crew to turn into amazing chutney. Over at the Farm Shop I could hear the phone ringing constantly, as desperate people tried to get hold of pumpkins, which sold out yesterday. I offered the last of the super warty small pumpkins this morning, which was snapped up gleefully; and then more desperate people also bought Crown Prince squashes as grey pumpkins (much tastier though, I hope they remember to hollow out most of the flesh first); plus I even sold my very last pumpkin, which was still half-green. It feels good to have sold them all.

IMG_20141031_172341My other half had meanwhile been carving the badger-molested pumpkin which I had brought home as ours, and I came back to this sick-making work of art. Should do the trick when it comes to warding off evil spirits anyway…

Arnie The Wonder Frog

IMG_20141017_170703Whilst preparing the Vole Tunnel last week for more salads, I noticed that there was a critter hopping around the lettuces. Excitedly I thought this might be Norman the toad, who makes occasional appearances around the tunnels; but in fact it was a frog with only one arm. This meant that when it (he?) hopped, he tended to do back flips when startled, and/or go round in a wide arc rather than in a straight line (a good tactic for avoiding predators?!). I thought for a terrible minute that I’d maimed him while rotovating earlier that morning; but the socket where the left arm was had completely healed, so it couldn’t have just happened. I wondered if he had been born that way, or suffered a trauma as a tadpole. Or been attacked by a predator; or otherwise had an accident (or perhaps my strimmer/lawnmower/rotovator had been to blame earlier in the year). Don’t suppose I’ll ever know for sure; but he seems a pretty happy frog, and looks otherwise very healthy. I’ve called him Arnie (like Armie, plus he obviously is determined enough to be a Terminator, and Came Back). I saw him on Friday in the next door tunnel, hopping away in his arc, so he seems to be able to get about well – and hopefully he is feasting on the slugs in the tunnels now. I hope he gets on with Norman…

Preparing The Ground

IMG_20141023_131632OK this will be the winter where I get LOTS of projects done. Hopefully. With any luck. Well, some, anyway…

The two main projects that are most pressing are the two new polytunnels I bought second-hand from Oxford at the end of the summer; now Richard and Keith have kindly moved the fence for me (sorry horses, your field is shrinking once again), I need to get the ground ready, then put the frames up. I thought about rotovating the prospective tunnel areas a few times, which is what we did to kill off the turf last time; but with all this wet weather, I’m not sure that’s going to be practical any time soon. So I’ve spread some manure and a little green waste compost over the areas, and covered with Mypex, to try and at least weaken the grass growing there. Then I can build the frames around the ground cover, and hopefully reaveal the cover when ready to show ready-to-rotovate ground. If I had more time and didn’t need to get these tunnels into production asap, I would like to try Charles Dowding’s method of cardboard, lots of compost, and plastic to cover it for 6 months or more. Maybe if the turf is still looking resilient in a few weeks, I’ll give up trying to get something growing there in the winter, and try no-dig until spring.

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More Awards

BGFA2013-60Look who’s been shortlisted for Best Local Grower in the 2014 Bath Good Food Awards! (At the bottom of the page.) Clue: it’s me. *Prepares speech; and disappointed face at the same time*. It’s great to see more producer catergories in these annual awards – a reminder that while the chefs and local shops do a sterling job, if it wasn’t for farmers, growers and other producers, they would have nothing to work with. Also great to see that Hartley Farm has been shortlisted for best local farm shop, and best local meat (which they won last year, see picture).

Apple Sunday 19th October Bath Market

unnamedI’m looking forward to Apple Day at the Bath Market, Green Park Market, this week: I’m only there with a veg stall (and my books!) for the morning, but the buzzing market will be going on from 9.30am-4pm, and there will be a great feast in the middle too. I love these markets anyway, and the chance to chat to people (and have a quick browse myself!); at the mo I’m working out what to take with me. Pumpkins, chillies and butternut squashes I think, to help combat the miserable weather; plus some kale bags, celery, fennel, loose radishes (they are great used raw or cooked like swede or kohl rabi), and some spicy salad bags too I reckon, full of new season mustards, mizuna and claytonia. Can’t wait!

Green Manure Update

IMG_20141015_101338Yes ok you’re right; this blog post is partly an excuse to be inside during this filthy weather (it’s ‘filthy’ if you’re out in it getting wet & cold, and ‘lovely rain’ if you’re inside, looking out and appreciating its benefits). The cucumbers haven’t quite finished yet, so I can’t clear the rest of that tunnel out and get it ready for salads (Friday?); ditto tomatoes; so paperwork and blogging it is. Anyway, the green manure seedlings have enjoyed the wet weather; and it’s quite funny spotting the areas where I either spilt seed, or turned the crank handle of the broadcaster too slowly, letting more seed out over a smaller area. These thickly sown patches will be great though, and crowd out the weeds with gorgeous clovers and phacelia. Oh, drat it. I now have ‘Cecilia’ stuck in my head again (usually the Suggs version, rather than original Simon & Garfunkel or new Vamps/Shawn Mendes version); this always happens when talking about phacelia. I have similar problems with Mizuna Mata: “it means no worries… ” (apologies for spreading the ear worms.)

Award Winner?

gardening-for-profit-front-coverI have just heard that my humble little Gardening For Profit book has been nominated for a reference book award next month, which is very exciting. The only snag is that a shortlist of all the nominees won’t be announced before the award ceremony in November (so no one will know the winners or even the shortlist before they buy tickets and go); and a ticket to the award afternoon in London will cost me over £170. Now, I’d love to go, meet other authors, get involved in networking, celebrate the book’s achievements, and support the awards too; but as a veg grower, I always tend to view prices in terms of how many salad bags I’d need to produce and sell in order to pay for things. That’s a lot of salad bags. And I’d have to get to London too. So my options are a) try and raise the money some other way, but that seems unlikely, or b) write a cross blog post about the price and implied elitism of such award and events. If I’m feeling cynical, it rather feels like only the big-shot authors who are published by big-shot publishers would be able to go to these things. But maybe that’s just pre-emptive sour grapes. I suppose I could always organise a cheaper awards ceremony myself, open to everyone, where a shortlist is published before the awards and/or just a token payment is asked of around £20 to cover bare (cheap) costs – ie not in a London hotel, but somewhere like a horticulture college – and with prize-givers who would be happy to get involved and not charge high fees. Hmm; there’s an idea…