A Leek in the Bleakness

leeksBlurgh; so this chilly damp weather is what we’ve come to expect in December over the last decade or so: not crisp enough to be bracing, mostly overcast and pretty wet and cold, with no sign of exciting snow to lift the spirits (and make a good enough excuse to stay indoors or go out and play on a snow-day). However, our leek patch has done really well this year, and rewards those chilled-extremity efforts; so far we’ve harvested around 800kg+ of the lovelies since September, from 2 of the 3 varieties planted in blocks, and have another 60kg+ left of good-size Tadorna’s to pick (smalls are left to grow on for spring), with good-sized Hilari/Pandora/Lancia leeks pretty much picked out. Then the last block is all Hannibal leeks, of which I’d say we have around 400kg waiting for us in the New Year (wholesale orders available – please get in touch!). The leek patch (especially the almost-empty first 2 blocks) might look pretty bleak in the mud, with piles of leek leafy leftovers left to rot down (great for next year’s beetroot & salad crops though); but the wildlife love it – a mixture of leek forest for cover and stealth, plus turned-up mud for hunting grubs and worms, and leafy and rooty veg waste islands to eat and hide in. We found a neat half-rabbit half-burried in the mud on Monday, presumably by a wily fox to keep fresh in the muddy larder for a Christmas Day treat?

20161209_123941Once you get in the groove, picking and stripping leeks is a pretty good job; especially if you can liven it up with some festive music on your phone or mp3 player this time of year: we’ve been enjoying the internet radio station Xmas in Frisko for some hilarious alternative Christmas music, and you can get a  good rhythm good of chopping and slicing while signing ‘Walking Round in Women’s Underwear’ to the tune of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’. Probably best if I don’t actually sing the words out loud though as the lane running past the hedge is often full of walkers…

Start of Winter

20161103_111316 20161103_104320 20161103_111249Cor, so -5.7C in the polytunnel last night suggests that my prediction of this winter being harsher is coming true already! The start of November saw some lovely sunny days, with the yarrow flowering (and latest generation of ladybird larvae devouring the late aphids), and nasturtiums still producing tons of flowers and leaves – right until the first prooer frost a fortnight ago. The warmer spell last week kept things going too; although the terrible rain from Storm Angus and then another heavy rain system the following couple of days flooded the fields and tunnels a bit. Fortunately the soil drains pretty well when given a chance, so the frost last night (and again tonight) could have been a lot worse.

20161116_14114620161121_135136We’ve just about picked out the turnips and beetroot (the frosts may have claimed the last few in the fields), and we also managed to dig up a surprising numnber of white and red artichokes, considering they have just been left to their own devices from any remaining roots last year. The last of the carrots have gone now too, and we’ve made a dent in the parsnips; although they can stay in the ground until we want to pick a sack’s worth or two – we’ll wait for more sunny frost-free days for that!

A Baker’s Life

dsc_0581 dsc_0237While driving back to the farm the other day in the driving rain, grumpily getting ready to don my waterproofs and face another morning’s picking in the wet, muddy and cold fields, I passed Angie serenely cycling past on her way to deliver bread to Neston Park Farm. Angie & Nathan are my lovely baker neighbours at The Oven, the wholesale bakery at Hartley Farm, baking the most delicious sourdough loaves, sticks, ciabattas and flatbreads, using organic flour, and often with my herbs and some veg involved on the flatbreads too. They deliver to local cafés, restaurants, shops and do Bath Farmers’ Market on a Saturday too – all by bicycle.

dsc_0461Fdsc_0028or those who live in the area, you’ll know that Bath and Winsley are somewhat hilly, and it’s therefore even more amazing that six days a week without fail these guys get up in the middle of the night and bake their loaves, before delivering them by bike in the morning, no matter what the weather or how steep the hills. These breads are therefore the most eco-friendly loaves I know of.

dsc_0779dsc_0010So whenever people tell me what good work I’m doing when I trudge around covered in mud, rainwater streaming from my hair into my eyes, smelling strongly of leeks and covered in various leafy debris, I think of guys at The Oven; and that if they can cycle around in the wind and rain in the dark, I can probably manage to pick a few more kilos of kale in the day.