Spare raspberries go to a good home

More on localised food production, but this time it’s the social and economic benefits that I’m concerned about…

Last year I bought some Summer-fruiting raspberries (Glen Ample) which I planted down the allotment. Bought 10 but realistically there’s only space for 7 in the plot, so I expected that a couple would not take and I’d be fine. But they all rooted successfully and have been growing well for a year, and I have 3 spare. Offered them to friends and then spent a couple of pleasurable hours yesterday morning transplanting the canes from the plot to their house. On the way out of the allotment, I also took 3 quick blackcurrant cuttings for them.

3 raspberries

3 raspberries

The rasps are on a nice South-West facing fence and I think they’ll do very well, and the blackcurrants will take a year to get established and then moved to their final position. Give it a couple of years and there should be a good crop of rasps and blackcurrants to complement their existing apple tree. Which reminds me: I got a cuppa and a bag of apples to take home — a nice gesture.

I’ve got a hunch that a mature fruit-producing garden, or any kind of productive garden, will add value to a house. Not found any research to back this up (I’ve not looked) but I did see some research from Portland, Oregon which indicates house prices rise when there are trees in the garden or on street. More research needed for the UK situation, I think.

It’s been some time…

Got back from Glasgow somewhat earlier than expected, so headed down to the allotment for a quick hour to see how it’s faring. Came away feeling very positive

  • the 3 transplanted rhubarb crowns are coming up — I’ll not pull any stalks from them this year to let the plants get established
  • the established blackcurrants are starting to bud
  • the blackcurrants me & D transplanted back in November seem to have got through the Winter
  • the blackcurrant I transplanted in 2008 has wee side shoots! I am very excited that it’s starting to make a globe shape

Did a bit of weeding, set up some cloches, chatted to a neighbour.

In Transition & notes about bees

The Community Channel has just shown In Transition 1.0 — a film about transition initiatives, climate change and resource depletion. It’s pretty good, and I’ve seen it before: in October I saw it with my Dad at the Filmhouse. By happy coincidence it’s his 65th birthday today, so I hope he’s enjoying his quiet family meal ;-)

A couple of days ago, the Community Channel showed The last beekeeper. This is a film about the plight of the industrialised honeybee and Colony Collapse Disorder in the US. It focusses on three beekeeping family businesses and is a poignant look at one season in their lives.

World of Wonder: Production company for the last beekeeper

Interview with Jeremy Simmons — director of the last beekeeper

You can’t fit everything into 70 minutes so the film glosses over the science. This can be read in A world without bees by Alison Benjamin and Brian MacCullum. It’s a US-centric view of the plight of bees.

POSTnotes 348: insect pollination gives the UK-centric view. I’m concerned to learn that “Blackcurrant and its pollinators have diverged by 28 days since the 1970s”.

Scotland’s honeybee health strategy

Solstice state of the allotment report

As we pass the Winter Solstice, I’m taking stock of what produce I have left from this growing season: one and a half jars of jam; 500g frozen blackcurrants; a kilo of frozen rhubarb; some frozen beans; and 3 small heads of garlic. That’s a crap shopping basket for Can’t cook won’t cook (cheers, Stephen)

Not much is going on down the allotment at the moment:

allotment in approximately 2 centimetres of snow

and the no-dig herb bed is looking sparse:

Herb bed with oregano, hyssop and sage looking worse for wear

Some success from last year: a layered blackcurrant that’s now growing strongly and will be transplanted next Autumn.

Blackcurrant, layered in Autumn 2008 and now growing strongly

Many of the other allotment holders have leeks and cabbage growing through to the New Year, and Winter onions and broad beans for early Summer. But rather than moan about what could have been, I should count my blessings: I still have an allotment, so many thanks to my neighbours and friends for helping out over the year. The daughter has also had a good time, and I’ve found out what peas look like when they’re growing.

Jethro Tull’s Solstice Bells seems an appropriate song for the season

Weather and propagating blackcurrants

What weather we’re having!

Saturday was very warm and sunny. I had decided, on Thursday, to go to the Saturday class of tai chi and I was giving myself a hard time because I wasn’t out at the allotment. Nevertheless, the class was great and I inadvertantly did 90 minutes more tai chi that I had anticipated. Have recapped the fourth section of the square form.

Sunday: what can I say? Torrential rain. The daughter came back from her grandparents, and they all got soaked just getting from the car to our door.

Today: cool and sunny. A friend came over to help out on the plot, and we dug over a bed and propagated some blackcurrants. Quite simple, really, and this means we’ll have 12 blackcurrant bushes in a couple of years if they all take. Last year I propagated 4 and only 1 survived. Let’s see how it goes this year.

Last of the broad beans

Two quick visits to the plot today. I took the daughter on the first one, and she was fantastic. Second one I got bitten to death by the midges…

Picked the last 250 grammes of broad beans (that weight is when they’re podded but not yet shelled). The daughter picked some blackcurrants and redcurrants and I’ve bought some strawberries, so it’s Summer pudding tomorrow. That’ll be after a main course of egg fried rice with spring onions, peas, broad beans, mushrooms and carrots. The onions, peas and beans are from the plot.

I also have a glut of turnips, but suspect they’d not work well in the stir fry :) They’ll go with a massive haggis that she who knits bought from costco.

Managed to blanch 175 grammes of the beans for freezing, but worried about the amount of energy that it’s taken to prepare them. Next year I’ll sow beans every two weeks for eating fresh and have a patch from which I can pick and freeze a significant quantity.

Recieved two courgette plants from a neighbour.

Sage and hyssop seem to have settled in OK: the sage is standing proud; the hyssop has started to flower.

Wildlife count: 1 teeny-tiny frog, 1 grasshopper, plenty of spiders, way too many midges.

Currently have 1 empty bed, 3 empty half-beds, and 2 empty 1/3 beds. I’ve also got spaces where I have to build 2 new beds.

Oh yeah … and Go Bradley!.

Summer bounty

Hectic, hectic month on the plot. Tidied up, built a raised bed, planted seeds that I’ve germinated in my new greenhouse, moved stuff around on the plot… and over the last few days I’ve been harvesting and preserving produce. I’ve made cordials, frozen beans, preserved some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, eaten loads of vegetables, and the biggest success has been today’s strawberry ice.

strawberry granita, with a helper

strawberry granita, with a helper

The girl is helping out so much. She loves it, and she’s getting the hang of the plot. Yesterday a pal joined her and she delighted in showing him around. I was so proud when they were watering the peas, she moved along the row whilst the pal was static.

kids looking intently at a bug

kids looking intently at a bug

And here’s her lovely grin

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

By the way, we love her frog t-shirt. And this is a frog in our garden — a benefit of letting the grass grow long.

a frog in our garden

a frog in our garden

As usual when there’s a situation where nature is running its course , I’m reminded of a Summer haiku by Issa:

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually

It’s not too late for elderflowers

The peak of the elderflower season’s gone but there are still a few newly-opened infloresences around, on lower branches or in sheltered spots. This year I vowed to make elderflower cordial and today is the day…

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

The first step in The River Cottage Cookbook recipe is to steep 20-30 heads of flowers + zest of 2 lemons in just-boiled water for 4 hours or overnight. The recipe also calls for zest of an orange, but I didn’t have one.

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

Strain the liquid. For each 500ml of liquid add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice. Here, I had 1100 ml liquid and used 775g add sugar and 125mllemon juice. Bring the mix to a gentle simmer, skim, leave to cool, strain again and bottle.

It’s gently cooling at the moment, and I’ll bottle it up before bed. Apparently she who knits’ mother is impressed that I’m making cordial.

Other produce today includes a few small turnips, two beetroot, a box of mixed lettuce and enough fruit (strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants) to make two summer puddings. Tomorrow, when the daughter is asleep for her afternoon nap, I’ll break them out for me and she who knits.

lettuce and summer fruit

lettuce and summer fruit

Good news, bad news, grubby hands

Last week was very windy, and I was worried about the peas and beans. I also put up some netting over the strawberries and redcurrant, so I was a bit worried that the net would act as a sail and get blown away.

Success: The sun’s out this week and everything’s looking much better. Nothing got blown over and the stakes I put in for the broad beans have kept them upright; elderflowers ready (not that I did anything to manage the elder tree); strawberries warm and tasty; garlic progressing nicely. OMG blackcurrants! A lot of these are coming through…

Less good: the overwintered vegetables haven’t come through. Out of 60 onions I planted, only one has survived (although I did munch on a couple of shoots in February). A slightly better rate for the broad beans but still quite poor (3 out of 21 survived).

Which reminds me: transplanting has been a great success. I moved one onion, three broad beans and the redcurrant and all of them have taken to their new homes. Forgot to move the rhubarb this year, so that’s something for the Autumn.

The last piece of bad news is that the French beans didn’t work, and only a couple of fragile sprouts came through. The under-planted lettuces are going great so I don’t think the soil is deficient. Perhaps just wrong conditions for germinating, so this morning’s activity with the daughter was getting some more beans into modules. It’s a little late in the year, but we’ll see how it goes…

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

calabrese, fennel, French beans

calabrese, fennel, French beans

the daughter's grubby hands

the daughter's grubby hands

The rocket starts

Nice family trip to the plot today — a low impact way to spend the bank holiday Monday.

The rhubarb’s still going strong and now the rocket and spinach are ready for harvesting. It’s nerve-wracking, really, ensuring that the food’s not wasted. And I can see the blackcurrants swelling but still green, the garlic strong, the beans in flower; more picking and preserving needed throughout the Summer.

Today’s work: weeding, weeding, weeding; planted a row of peas with the girl; planted 25 French beans around the tepee.

Planting peas with gusto

Planting peas with gusto

Today’s haul: 1.8 kg of rhubarb that’s gone straight into the freezer in 300 gramme bags; 125 grammes of spinach that’s maturing in a dahl sag for tomorrow night’s tea; 250 grammes of rocket that she who knits made into a jar of pesto.

Picking rocket with the girl

Picking rocket with the girl

Rocket pesto - we put it through the hand blender next

Rocket pesto - we put it through the hand blender next