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Archive for October, 2010

Fallow period

When I look at this blog, it reminds me of how little we have done on the allotment this year. I think after years of graft with fairly small yields, we needed a break.  The strawberries in particular were so disappointing that I was on the verge of giving up altogether.  Mostly it was just losing the habit of going there all the time.

We have been lucky enough to have a lot going on this year.  I lost the end of my finger in December, we moved house in February, and then we seemed to spend every weekend or holiday going up North to see our distant families.  We had two wonderful family holidays in the Isle of Wight and Scotland, then Fern started school this Autumn.  Only now are we catching our breath back!

Nature was still kind to us.  We got some fantastic crops with very little input, like the potatoes.

Later this year we are hoping to get a greenhouse for the first time, and I think this will give us renewed enthusiasm for growing.  I think having had a fallow period will do us (and maybe the soil?) good.  I am just about to pay this year’s allotment invoice, and this was definitely a moment to reflect on the next stage of our allotment progress.

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Despite trying my best to grow strawberries and raspberries year after year, we have never really had much success (see picture below for this year’s harvest!)

We have a relatively huge space dedicated to them, and have painstakingly planted, weeded, watered and checked the crop.  We got a handful this year, but it was all very disappointing.

Things came to a crisis point when we recently ran out of the 2008 supply of homemade jam.  As we used the last drop, with no sign of our own glut, something had to be done.  So we went to Garson’s pick your own farm, in Esher, Surrey.  What a find!  There are as many as 40 crops you can pick throughout the year, depending on season.  They have popular crops such as strawberries in succession, so you can pick them more or less any time from spring to autumn.

I can’t quite put my finger on why our home-made jam is so special and so essential in my kitchen.

It could be that the jam is made with fresh and ripe fruit, usually on the same day as picking?

It could be the dash of balsamic vinegar that Nigella recommended?

It could be the gooey lumpiness which it has, rather than the pert jelliness of shop bought jam?

Whatever it is, it makes it well worth the hours of picking, preparing, cooking and putting into jars.  I am so looking forward to that first batch of scones with cream and jam.

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