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Posts Tagged ‘vegetable garden’

Blackthorn Hedgerow

Blackthorn Hedgerow

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if anyone else has noticed, but the Blackthorn flowers seem particularly splendid this year. The blossoms appeared early but they’ve been in full flower for a good few weeks now, lining the hedgerows in white while the other trees are just coming into bud. The Blackthorn is, of course, the plant that gives us sloes (and last year’s sloe gin has been particularly fine, incidentally).  There’s a lot of folklore attached to it: it’s wood is hard and dense and traditionally used for shillelaghs and cudgels.  My tracking stick is made out of Blackthorn, and a good sturdy stick it is too. Now, the flowering of the Blackthorn means that we should be in the ‘Blackthorn Winter’, the cold snap that traditionally accompanies the flowering.  And today it’s certainly felt like it.

Scarlett in the Vegetable Garden

Helping in the Vegetable Garden

I’ve been in the vegetable garden for most of the day, planting peas and beans. Scarlett helped – I dug the holes and she put in the seeds.  And we’ve been shifting loads of manure.  We are on sandy soil here on the Greensand Ridge of Bedfordshire.  It’s easy to dig, free draining and warms up quickly in the spring, but nutrients tend to wash out quickly so the vegetable beds need all the help they can get.  Luckily we have a friend with a horse, and the stables have an inexhaustible supply of manure.  It’s a bit of a shame to be using my executive motor to carry dustbins filled with poo, but it’s worth it for the garden.  And I do clean it afterwards, of course.
Steaming manure on the vegetable garden

Steaming manure on the vegetable garden

The weather today has certainly been changeable.  The day started with a frost and a thick coating of ice on the car, but has been mostly sunny and bright, apart from sporadic squalls of hail and cold rain that have sent us scurrying for shelter.  And the wind has been bitingly cold.  Looking out of the window it’s been a lovely spring day, but at times I was secretly glad to be next to the warmth of a steaming dungheap.  The Blackthorn Winter indeed…

Mucky Girl in the Vegetable Garden

Luckily this was before the manure was put on, but I'm sure Mummy won't be impressed when she gets home from work...

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OK – I haven’t posted any wildlife-related activity for a couple of weeks, but the truth is that I’ve been very

The vegetable garden earlier in the year

The vegetable garden earlier in the year

busy. Partly I’ve been busy at work, both at work itself and with some extra-curricular stuff too. I’m working towards some professional qualifications and they are taking up a fair bit of my time.

I’ve also been busy in the garden. My poor vegetable garden had been a little bit neglected during the wet weather, with the result that the weeds were reaching impressive proportions. It is perfectly possible to weed the garden in the rain, of course, it’s just that I don’t like doing it. A bit of TLC was called for here, and I’m glad to say that the vegetable beds are looking quite civilised again.

More importantly, the time had come to harvest some of the fruit and veg. Now, we in the modern world have become very insulated to the cycles of nature. We can go to the supermarket at any time of year and buy what we want. It may have been flown in from the far corners of the world, but it’s there.

I’ve been growing my own fruit and vegetables for a few years now and this has given me a different perspective. Two weeks ago I had nothing to eat. Last week I had six pounds of blackcurrants and redcurrants and a whole sack of broad beans. The trick is to make the best use of them.

Of course, I could have eaten them, but there’s a limit to how many broad beans and currants even I can eat. Another answer would be to put them in the freezer, but this seems like cheating somehow. I have a long-term interest in traditional farming practices, and a freezer wouldn’t have been an option for most people even 50 years ago. There has to be a better way.

Hence I have re-discovered jam. Jam, in my opinion, is the best way of preserving this glut of fruit. Hence I’ve spent a good few evenings slaving over a hot stove, and I now have enough jam to keep me going for the rest of the year. The blackcurrant jam in particular is very tasty, and it should prevent me from getting scurvy over the winter months!

Now, I don’t actually need the jam to survive – I go to the supermarket like everyone else – but I get pleasure from growing the berries myself and finding a traditional, low-tech way to use them. The same goes for the large jar of dried cherries and the basket of broad beans I’ve got drying in the greenhouse. Sustainable living at its best!

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