Archive for August, 2009

The Met office has sheepishly apologised for predicting a ‘barbecue summer’ that has been resoundingly rained off.  I have to say I don’t understand why they feel personally responsible for the maverick weather we get in this country – but all the same it’s quite enjoyable watching them eat humble pie when they get it wrong.

I am not sure whether to moan about this summer’s weather or not.   It has been warm enough to ripen tomatoes, peppers and chilis outside in August, whereas I can remember previous years where even in Autumn I have been desperately holding out for some sun to ripen crops.  In addition, the watering duties have been negligible compared to the usual fretting every other day.  Crops have swelled beautifully, although weeds and lawns have needed more maintenance. The humidity has made blight more likely, which has been devastating for those affected.

But for me one of the mixed blessings of gardening is that each year brings its successes and failures.  One plant’s meat is another plant’s poison, and I quite like having gluts of different crops each year (and of course courgettes every year), and I accept the outright failures.

This week’s surprise bonus was the sunflowers, which have done really well.   They can be seen here towering over the roof of the wendy house.

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The beans and courgettes have gone over while we were away, but the outdoor tomatoes, chillis and peppers have been an unexpected bonus.  I can’t claim any credit for this, but hats off to Jamie for a fantastic year.

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Unfortunately haven’t been to the Warren yet since coming back from hols, because of a heavy cold.  It is bad enough to worry it might be Swine Flu, but not bad enough so that I feel like I am going to die, which as I remember is a giveaway sign of actual flu.  So another false alarm probably.

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Well, we just got back from our road trip to France in a VW campervan.  Not recommended for the faint hearted, with two small children, but what an experience!  We travelled down through the Champagne region staying in Troyes, then on to Burgundy and back through Nancy, Brussels and Bruges.   It was so amazing to see the regional differences, all united by a common language.  From a medieval timber city, through dusty French villages and grand gothic cathedrals to the tidy topiarised landscape of Belgium, there were a lot of contrasts.

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One of the most interesting parts of the journey was travelling through the Champagne region.  Before the introduction of the ‘method champenoise’ the local wines were apparently not renowned for quality at all.  It seems that over the years a huge mystique has been created around the wine in Champagne, which is more to do with the skill of the wine makers, blenders and marketeers than any inherent quality of the climate or soil.  Within the region, you can buy for 95p a bottle of sparkling wine that tastes very similar to anything coming out of the grand Champagne houses.

You have to admire them for it, but as we have a similar soil and climate here on the chalk hills of Surrey, I felt a tinge of envy at their ingenuity, mixed with the extremely tantilising prospect of making our own sparkling white.  Denbies vineyard near Dorking have based their enterprise on the similarity of the soil and climate to the Champagne region.  We have already started planting vines at the Warren, so watch this space….

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The plants in the photo above aren’t actually our vines, but the ones at Fanny’s Farm Shop in Merstham.   Having said that, with many local producers like these starting to emerge in this area, who knows, one day Surrey vintages could be just as famous as Champagne?

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