Everyone keeps saying the beautiful weather is about to end and these are the last days of summer. I refuse to look at it that way, it’s too depressing, especially combined with the remorselessly gloomy news. Summer will end, Autumn will come but there will be many fine sunny days ahead and if it is going to rain there is plenty to do in the polytunnel.
This morning I needed berries for breakfast and I remembered my guava berry bushes. Walking around the garden with friends last week I was encouraging them to taste them as the bushes were full of fruit. I have planted quite a lot of unusual fruits in the veg garden having read books recommending them by James Wong. They are all supposed to be vitamin rich and very good for you, unfortunately they don’t all taste very nice! I have three Linden Berries – very untidy, a bit prickly, not very nice taste, two honey berries – one tastes better than the other, one choke berry (ariona) quite nice tasting but woody, hence its common name, this one is supposed to be the most vitamin rich and finally three guava berries. These attractive little bushes are doing very well and are smothered in fruit which is very pleasant tasting. This week I heard someone discussing guava berries, I think on GQT & they were praising them and said they had planted three different varieties to keep a succession of fruit over a month…I didn’t even realise they had different varieties! I also discovered a small green peach outside the polytunnel. This morning it had dropped off the tree by the orchard gate and had rolled down the path. Not to be put off by its colour I sniffed it and it smelt of peach, I tried a little bite and it tasted ripe. I then found another under the tree and added it to my breakfast bowl. It has not been a good year for peaches, there were none in the fruit tree border which was really disappointing so I was pleased to find these two I then collected strawberries and raspberries and eat the lot with yoghurt and honey, lovely!
Whist collecting the guava berries I had a look at the brassica quarter and noticed that the wild bees are changing the tilth of the soil. There is now a very fine almost powdery surface to the soil. I presume this is because there are so many bee holes that each hole is surrounded by soil that has been ‘cultivated’ by the bee. It is a bit like the soil from a mole hill which has a beautiful fine crumb, this is like a miniature version. I am also wondering, do these wild ground bees deter cabbage white butterflies and therefore caterpillars, because these have not been a big issue this year.
I also notice that there are some very nice sweet peppers in the polytunnel and Meave uses three for dinner. Also, the Razzmatazz chilli is doing what was pictured in the catalogue ie. Producing different coloured chillies on the same plant – dark purple, yellow, red, very exciting!
Today was likely to be the last day of beautiful weather, so I took the opportunity to attack the chicken house. Frustratingly, our outbreak of ‘red chicken mite’ had not dispersed after my first efforts and I ordered (with help from Meave) some alternative treatments online. One spray for Pecky and a cleaning solution to use in her house. In the morning I cleaned out the house and removed her pellets and water (cleaning them) and segregated Pecky in her run. I then thoroughly drenched the main trouble spots mainly the nesting areas and generally sprayed the house. It then had to dry before being thoroughly washed out. We then had to spray a disgruntled Pecky.
Whilst waiting for the chicken house to dry. I got dad up and we phoned Barney, the brilliant man who is going to move the Mayflower, we wanted to see if he could pop round, preferably when Patrick was there and check that everything is ‘shipshape’ for the move. He very kindly offered to pop down imminently. Our main question was which track would he like to use to access the house, the church drive or the London Gate entrance. We thought he might prefer the London Gate entrance because there would be more space to bring the boat in off the road. We needed to show him the track to see if we needed to strim back any side bushes, he decided that this would be the best route and that we didn’t need to clear it any further. He was happy with preparations so far and said he would message Aideen on Friday when Mayflower is lifted out of the water, with a picture of her bottom to help us to prepare supports to hold her secure when she is put in position on Saturday.
After Barney leaves, I thoroughly clean out the chicken house and pray that this will deal with the situation. Patrick walks past and tells me we’ve been offered another two chickens. Interestingly, people keep offering us chickens and I am not prepared to take them on at the moment, I hadn’t even expected to have Pecky, but I felt sorry for her. I firmly believe that you have to think very seriously before taking on any animals, there is a lot to consider with their upkeep, it is not all collecting eggs and making clucking noises through the fence. The reality of the situation is dealing with chicken mites and cleaning up poo! It is the same when people say to us… “You must be self-sufficient”…and I explain it is almost impossible to be self-sufficient, even with everything that we grow, reuse and recycle, rain water harvesting, solar panels and composting, we only go a limited way towards self-sustaining our family.
However, any efforts, however small are better than nothing. I certainly believe in avoiding waste wherever possible, in food but also objects. Therefore it was good to see James using up the remaining half of the final butternut squash (which was very large) in the meal he prepared last night which was a very tasty creamy cheese-bake with gnocchi. I was also very touched to see Diane and Meave, heaving a massive very old wooden tool chest up to Diane’s room. Patrick collects old tools and the contents of the chest can now be displayed in his newly created meeting room and apparently, the old chest will now be repurposed as a ‘memory’ chest. The books that inevitably had been piled on the chest that had previously been in the living room, will now be housed on a very old set of shelves that was being used in the polytunnel for at least the last 10 years and was previously passed on to us by Mary more than 20 years ago! The foot is a bit rotten, but it can still hold up my books. We do try to avoid unnecessary disposal of things and it is good to see the younger generation continuing the tradition!