Hop(p)ing for a good harvest

What these hops really need is about a week of lovely dry, sunny weather to allow them to ripen beautifully and turn into papery packets laden with pollen that will make the perfect home brew or hop pillow. Unfortunately, I'm not sure they're going to get it: as I write it's pouring down and the forecast is for more of the same.

Still, not too late yet to dream of an Indian Summer, so I'll invest my energies into making that a reality, although quite what power I have over the weather I'm not sure, but it really has let up a bit in the few minutes since I wrote those words, honestly....

At the end of last week I was flattened by a virus or flu or something similar (not the swine kind, apparently, due to a lack of temperature) so not much progress has been made on the allotment. David also managed to have an accident with an axe (luckily no lasting damage by the look of it) so the combination has meant a bit of a 'go slow' in terms of work.

I did manage to give the chicken house its annual major clean today, which freaked out all its inhabitants, as they couldn't understand why they weren't allowed in while everything was drying.

Poor Ginger was in a major panic and making her 'I need to lay an egg and quickly' noises so I pointed her in the direction of the compost heap. Once under the old carpet and in a dark corner on the remains of the rabbit hutch clear-out, she was happy enough to lay her egg, although she made it clear this wasn't an ideal situation.

The chillies are finally turning red (this was taken in our greenhouse rather than the garden polytunnel as those plants are currently looking a little worse for wear due to red spider mite, but it's the same variety). The green ones are tasty, but much milder, so we'll have to see what kind of kick the red ones have.

I've also cleared the pea trial bed and sown some green manure and tidied up the nectar bar.


The apple of my eye

It's been a good year for fruit and the apples are looking picture-perfect hanging on the trees. I've been resisting the temptation to tug them off (they should only be picked when they drop easily into your hand with a gentle twist apparently) but the Beauty of Bath ones which were a beautiful red started to drop on their own, so we took the hint and ate them, and they were just perfect.

I was going to take a picture of the last one of those hanging on the tree (this is a James Grieve instead above) but it's mysteriously vanished after I went away camping for a few days. Obviously the 'apple fairy' found it just too good to pass up too...

The few sunny days that seemed like summer have given way to stormy, windy ones which are battering the allotment and everything in it. Today was a battle against the elements for Peter, who was valiantly turning old newspapers into pots with our new paper potter which in retrospect probably wasn't the best job to attempt outside on a windy day.

I've wanted a paper potter for years but always thought they were a little too pricey, but then Lakeland had one in a battered box for half price, so I gave in, but I'm thinking now that I might actually buy a few more at full price as I'm so impressed with it: it's very 'green' and saves plastic and money in the long run, so worth supporting I feel.

This rudbekia is stunning and I've been really pleased with the flowers grown from seed this year, so much so that I'm thinking of devoting some of the plot next year to flowers for cutting for sale, as flying flowers halfway round the globe to make supermarket bouquets doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

The dreaded blight has stuck our potatoes, and David dug them all up this morning - luckily they don't seem to have suffered any major damage as we've got on top of it pretty quickly, but probably won't keep for as long.

I've sown spring cabbage, cauliflower and pak choi in our newspaper pots and also some mixed salads in the polytunnel. The tops are off the jerusalem artichokes to encourage bigger tubers and the peas from the trial have finally come to an end and have been dug up.

We've made a start on the strawberry bed but it's so full of runners that it's a huge task, and so tedious that it can only be tackled by two people for a short amount of time, with lots of tea and biscuits by way of bribery thrown in for good measure.

Add a little bit of ginger...

It's always a bit of a leap of faith when you start something new and I always tend to doubt that anyone will agree that it's a good idea and buy into it. The decision to set up a market stall was a bit of a last minute plan, as there's not a huge amount of produce available at the moment (we're awaiting the tomatoes along with the next wave of salads and the soft fruit has just finished) but now we finally have a lease, we felt there was no time like the present to start selling!

We had some helpers along (above) who, along with being among our best customers, ably assisted in setting up the display. We were initially a little disappointed that the bread, cakes and biscuits we made to boost what we had available were definitely selling much better than the fruit and vegetables as one of our key aims is to encourage people to eat more locally grown produce, but fortunately we had a bit of a last minute rush just as we were packing up and ended up selling more in the last few minutes than in the previous hour.

No takers for the rhubarb, but all the gooseberry jam went, so I think this will be facing the same fate, possibly with a little bit of ginger added for good measure. David's bread rolls and loaf and my banana cake proved popular, as did the potatoes, fresh herbs, shallots and courgettes.

The sun shone the whole time and it was lovely to see friends old and new pop in to say hello and see what we were up to. Our publicity was limited to just the surrounding area as we didn't have a lot of time to spread the word, but we're planning another next month so hopefully we can get more people along next time.
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