Chilled Veg

IMG_20151113_151146You have to feel sorry for the pak choi really don’t you: just look at that naughty frozen hail (‘ice chunks’ would probably be a more accurate description). Once again, the BBC Weather forecast was right (no thunder though as predicted a week in advance, but they did drop that part of the forecast mid-week). Hail showers and heavy rain interspersed with sun. Thanks weather forecasters; the website is definitely one of my top growing tools – and it’s free.

So I thought I’d spend the afternoon under cover, getting the last of the big tunnels ready for salad (the still-to-be-officially-named New or Elephant tunnel): the tomatoes were finally cleared out yesterday, compost added and ground rotovated; then drip-line irrigation put back in place; and Mypex ground cover pinned on top. This afternoon was all about burning planting holes in the ground cover every few inches; and then planting the long-suffering last trays of salad leaves out. The Tat Soi pak choi was looking a bit delicate anyway, and being covered by sideways ice at 40mph probably didn’t go down well. I suspect the plants will be sulking now for a week or so, before they forgive me and start doing something (and I get round to putting proper doors on the tunnel to stop the elements coming in).

Hartley Christmas Market Saturday 28th November

12195080_10154114058489879_1500991084222845170_oCome along and stock up on veg (naturally), as well as yummy mince pies, mulled wine, naughty cheese, naughty chocolates… in fact lots of naughty things. But then buy a nice tasty and healthy mixed salad bag and it will all balance out!

BABOG Meeting @ Vallis Veg

IMG_20151029_150929 IMG_20151029_153020The sun came out just in time for the latest Bath & Bristol Organic Growers‘ Meeting, on the afternoon of Thursday 29th October. Cordelia and Chris from Vallis Veg near Frome had kindly volunteered to host, and there was a good turn out of interested people for a quick farm walk and catch up before the sun went down.

Vallis Veg currently grows on around 3 acres, on a larger site that also houses livestock (small flock of sheep, a couple of pigs currently, and laying ducks for some of the year too), as well as offering camping (complete with composting toilets), and space for forest schools and courses. Veg is grown in the ‘garden’, three small polytunnels (plus small prop tunnel), and some strips in nearby fields, mostly for their small local box scheme, but also increasingly for the Frome Food Assembly.

IMG_20151029_151021 IMG_20151029_154720It was great to swap ideas and tips on crops among the group; Cordelia and Chris are moving towards a no-tillage system, with semi-permanent raised beds mounded up in the garden, and plan to grow the field crops in a similar way. Their late-sown peas were a good gamble (both inside and out), now bearing peas. Windrows of woodchip for making compost was a talking point; mixed with urine from the compost loos, to produce a closed-system compost after three or four years. Bolting kales and slug-nibbled broccolis were also covered; but one key feature of interest was the old Ford van now embeded in the hillside, banked up on all sides with soil and with a green roof growing on top. All the cracks have been filled with cement to keep rodents and other pests out, and this is now their cool storage space.

Thanks again to Cordelia and Chris for hosting, and for the very welcome tea and cake in their warm palatial ‘shed’ house! See you all at the next meeting; any volunteers for playing host in 2016 (involving a farm walk for a couple of hours), please get in touch.

Hallowe’en Harvest

CQKVNuzW8AATuePFinally picked the last of the squash on Friday (barring the odd butternut still hiding under the remaining leafy foliage) – and now the pumpkins are curing in the Little Tunnel, and squashes are curing in the chilli tunnel. The pumpkins were pretty great this year, and I thought the squash were going to be equally good, like last year; however there are probably fewer than I was expecting, especially of the butternuts compared to last year. This is probably due to the weather, and cruel winds that have been persisting pretty much all spring, summer and autumn: squash in particular are pretty fussy about chills. The butternuts have been especially rampant in terms of growing tendrils, but relatively not much fruit set: it’s interesting to see how well they’ve thrived next to the row of artichokes that, once big enough in summer, have provided a good windbreak for them. Many other growers I’ve spoken too have found the same problems this year, and have a much lower yield compared to last year. So I can’t complain really as I’ve been more fortunate than some.

IMG_20151016_155849The pumpkins at least were really great, and I’m still finding the odd Baby Bear pumpkin hiding under withering foliage out in the field; in total there were over 40 big baskets of pumpkins, from just 2 rows of plants (approx 70ft long each), yielding a couple of hundred pumpkins (mostly small roast-em-whole-sized Baby Bears, but probably 50+ each of medium and large). While I’ve sold quite a lot of the pumpkins already, there are a hundred or so still unreserved, waiting for the big selling week next week for Hallowe’en: unlike some of the mass produced cheap ‘n’ large versions, these pumpkins are also grown for flavour as well as carving! So if you’re getting a pumpkin this year, don’t forget to use up all that tasty flesh too: my favourite recipe is sweet pumpkin pie, and I’ve also given pieces to trick or treaters when the sweets have run out, which has gone down very well…

Great Bath Feast Events: 15th-18th October Queen Square

business  beers invite CQt7LARWUAA16V3I have just reserved my tickets for 2 great events this weekend at Queen Square as part of the Great Bath Feast, and am really looking forward to a good ole nosh up! On Friday Hartley Farm are hosting a free networking event at Queen Square in the big Tipis, Business & Beer (I’m thinking on concentrating on the beer, although that may not be good news for the business…); from 5pm-9pm. Although you need to book the tickets, they are free, so hopefully I’ll see a few local businessy chums there too – if you’re around, pop along.

Then on Saturday night, we’re really REALLY looking forward to magician-chef Gary’s creations at the Hartley Farm Kitchen Feast, from 7pm: a 3-course meal plus a drink when we get there. The food is going to be a mouth-watering variety of yummy Middle Eastern mezze and grills… mmm… Tickets are £45 pp.

Then on Sunday I’m missing out on the Hartley Market since I can’t make it – but it should be a great day, and weekend all round!

Thursday Fluff

IMG_20151007_104616The last few weeks certainly have been bountiful, so I’m just taking a moment to revel in the amount of produce on offer at this time of year: all the summer crops are still producing, and the autumn/winter crops are also getting going (I’m not even looking under the parsnip net until there’s been a frost next month though). So alongside tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, spring onions and peppers, I’ve got fennel, kale, PSB, pumpkins, squash (Crown Prince, Butternut, Uchiki Kuri, Black Futsu), leeks, turnips… plus the herbs (parsley, chives, coriander, dill, garlic chives, lovage, sage…).

What’s really lovely though is the flowers: during the busy summer, they provide a brief moment of colour while you’re working, but you don’t really have time to stop & smell the roses (I don’t have any roses, so more like calendula). Now things are starting to slow down growth-wise, you can enjoy the nasturtiums that will keep flowering until the first proper frosts, scented herbs, vobrant borage, bright shungiko and of course the sunflowers, which are brightening up the field by the polytunnels. I’ve mostly grown Ruby Eclipse this year, and they are gorgeous: a real vintage-feel, with a pinky red heart turning to pale gold outer petals. Hartley Farm florists Young Blooms are using some in their beautiful bouquets at the moment, and they really complement the mixtures. Gorgeous. Still, I can’t stop and stare too long: there’s all that veg to pick…