Thursday, 10 September 2020

Harvest festival

My dad used to refer to ladies' corsets as harvest festivals.  "All is safely gathered in".   It's not yet really festival time, but I know, more or less, what to expect from the veg patch for the rest of the year.

The butternut squashes are ripening nicely, there will be quite a few of them, certainly enough to last the Winter.   We prefer getting a large number of smaller ones rather than the inverse, since smaller ones will do for two people, and there's no need to store any left-over bits.

The cardboard around the gooseberry bushes looks ugly, but it's keeping the annual weeds down very well.   I'll have to see how it does in Spring, but I plan to cover it with fresh compost with added fertiliser to improve the appearance and yield.

Not many beans are left on the plants now, just a few pods to claim when I dismantle the frame.   I'm happy with the harvest, there's enough for a good few cassoulets and I have beans for planting next year too.   The onions drying out are Walla Walla, a very sweet variety.   I understand that it's not worth growing main crop onions because they are plentiful and cheap in the season, so I grow this variety, and red ones.

Next year I plan to try out the "three sisters" crop combination: sweet corn, squash and climbing beans, all in the same area.  They are supposed to grow well together.  We shall see.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

The Fig Tree

Some time ago I looked at buying a fig tree, but at 50 euros I thought they were a bit dear.   So I got some cuttings from a fellow flute player and tried to grow the trees from them.   I discovered that they don't always root, and when they do, they might not survive the Winter.

For this tree, I took a cutting in the Springtime and rooted it, kept it indoors in a pot over the first Winter, then planted it out the following Spring.   I put it in what should be a sheltered position against a wall,   and covered it carefully for its first Winter outdoors, and it survived.

The figs are delicious, best eaten when fat and squishy, straight off the tree.


(I ate the ripe one at the back just after I took this photo)

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Beans, beans, good for the heart

The bean plants have pretty much stopped growing, and the pods are drying on the plants.   The borlotto beans (beige with red flecks) have been very good, a row of about 3 metres giving enough for several cassoulets.   The smaller white beans were less prolific, and I like the flavour of the borlottos, so I'll just be growing borlottos next year. 

It was a mistake to plant sweet peas in amongst the beans - I thought they might usefully share the climbing supports, but they just interfered with each other.  I have harvested some sweet pea seeds for next year, but I'm not sure yet where I'll plant them.

The fennel that I planted has just run to seed.   No harvest at all.   I'll have plenty of seed for next year again, therefore, but I might just be selecting for a variety that bolts.  I'll try planting them later to see what happens.   It was also a mistake to plant strawberries around the bases of the gooseberry bushes.  It's much harder to hoe around them, and you really have to weed by hand.  And you risk hoeing or pulling up the strawberries by mistake.  I think that for strawberries, planting through a tarpaulin is the way to go.   In the mean time I have put cardboard around the gooseberries to keep the weeds down.   We buy a remarkable amount of bulky things for the gîte and they often come in cardboard packing.  Seems a useful thing to do with it.  It will let water (and nutrients) through, and, hopefully stop at least the annual weeds.   You're apparently supposed to cover it with compost.  I might try that; it looks pretty ugly right now.

Carrots are doing fine, and the parsnips will make a good harvest.   Scorzonera looks to be OK too.  The butternut squash are also doing very nicely, threatening to invade everything around them.  The tomatoes are adequate - they didn't like the hot and dry weather, so the harvest is small.  I have enough for us, but not enough to give any away.  And I don't like the flavour of the cherry tomato variety I tried this year.  I'll be back to Sweet 100 next year.   I am trying winter radish for the first time; it's one of the crops you can plant mid-year.

The potato crop was good, even allowing for the ones with hollow heart.   There are two heavy sacks in the shed.  Next year I will grow only Miss Blush, and perhaps a baking variety.   I'll see if I can keep the smaller ones as seed potatoes over winter.   The bed that had the spuds in is now empty, and the next crop according to the rotational plan will be beans.   I'm going to overwinter broad beans.   I did a small experiment this year with reasonable success so I'll plant up the whole bed this Autumn.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Preserving fruit

 Sloe gin, cherry brandy, plum wine, plums in cognac.  There seems to be a theme here.....

Saturday, 22 August 2020


Can anyone give me an idea of what this problem is with potatoes?  They look fine on the outside, and feel firm, but the middle is black and dry like fungus.    This was a first early variety that I left in the ground too long.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Hot and dry

We've had periods of hot weather before, and we've had periods of dry.   But nothing like the two together that we have had recently.   I have been trying to keep things watered within the constraints that apply, but even some of the bigger trees are struggling.

We have had a total of about 9mm rain over the last couple of weeks, in two batches, and some more today but today's is more like drizzle, at least at the moment.

The winter-flowering honeysuckle  has lost some foliage, as has the large tree behind it.   I'm hoping they will both recover.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020


I don't know where I got the original pointer to the book, but I am reading the biography of the Cambridge genius Frank Ramsey.   Early on in the book, certain differences in philosophers' reasonings were summarised as a difference of opinion as to whether the following phrase was, on the one hand meaningless, or on the other hand simply false:

"The king of France is bald"

 So.  Is it nonsense, or is it false?   Does your answer change when considering the following, and if so, with what justification?

"The Jabberwock has claws that catch" 

Thank you for your consideration.

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