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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The rain came...with mixed blessings.

Four days of rain we had, and very welcome it was too. It was cool for a couple of those days and we actually had to get the 4 tog duvet out on two nights, though it didn't stay in place, it wasn't as cool as we thought and it has now been sent back to the spare room.

So it started slowly and dampened the ground before setting in to heavier periods of very warm rain. you could almost hear the parched garden sigh, the poultry, dogs and cats took on a new lease of life, and we sat and watched it. Of course we soon got fed up and told it to stop as there was enough moisture in the soil, but it took it's time doing so. A couple of days after stopping the temperatures rose and we are up to around thirty again, but the nights are longer so we see a little more cool in the early morning.

I have to say here that again we have been lucky. Just the other side of the mountains, and nearer the coast, people have once again lost their lives in floods. My heart goes out to all those affected, so terribly sad.

So how has it affected things here? Well....everything in the garden has put a spurt on for one thing. From flowers to fruit to veg, there is a resumption of growth and bloom. Unfortunately the few butternuts we have are suffering from the sudden drenching and have started to split. This has been offset by new growth (yes, in just a few days) and flowers. Once they start to grow the fruits are very quick to put on size so there is a slim chance that we may get some more. smaller fruits. Also flowering and looking healthier are the courgettes, but we have had enough for this year so the animals are the ones who will benefit if they produce any more. The tomatoes are looking really sad, with the fruits also splitting from so much rain, but they are showing a small flush of flowers so there may be some autumn fruits to come. There are still enough to keep us in fresh and sauced for now. The sweet potatoes are also putting on new growth, throwing out glossy leaves. I am told they are good to eat, but we have other stuff so I will leave them for now. The chard is also enjoying the damp...had a lovely chard and goat's cheese tart today.
Our largest squash...split the whole length

Rhubarb come alive...should be able to get through the winter now

Courgette flower...a few more of these and we have a new use for goat's cheese

Squash flower

Fresh bronze growth on the sweet potatoes

Oh dear....split tomatoes
We are suddenly getting masses of raspberries, the rain came just in time to save them

And the beans...well, twice I have been ready to pull them out, but all three varieties of climbing bean have come back to life, masses of flowers forming and given good conditions we might just get some more pods, same with the peppers, they had all but stopped producing but have masses of flower buds.
Climbing French bean...cobra

Runner bean white lady

Runner bean achievement

Masses of buds on the peppers

As I have mentioned before, I have been wanting to get some seeds in and was running out of time. But as soon as Dave could work the ground he rotovated, taking out the strawberry plants and incorporating compost from the heap, laying weed suppressant fabric and re-planting the plants, to be followed by more from the market when they become available. So, despite the neigbours' disapproval we have sown carrots, beets and peas. (And yes, I know carrots don't like freshly manured beds but we are going for taste not beauty) In a trough we have started lettuce seeds which will over winter, radish, parsley. I hope the weather plays ball and we can show our neighbours that you can grow something besides cabbage and leeks at this time of the year.
Rotovated....

....fed.....

....and covered. The lonely plant, we are told, is a black grape so we will allow that to grow next year.

What are past helping are the caulis, romanesco, broccoli and kale which are from spring sowings. They can all go into the animal pen and will keep them happy for a few weeks. We did have some sprouting broccoli today with lunch (at least, I think it was broccoli) but it was strongly flavoured and tough. The more recently planted plants are looking OK now they have had rain and have had to be fenced against Tilly, who is inclined to stop off for a munch as Dave tries to get both goats through the garden to the gate for a walk!
I think I will call these greens...no idea what they are supposed to be, but taste full of goodness! And some rather small peppers

Oh dear oh dear, poor caulis....

....and romanesco. Happy animals.
Strawberry popcorn, given a cob by a friend to try. The cobs we have harvested a three times the size of the original and look a lot healthier than my 'regular' sweetcorn did

In the flower garden scabious and veronica have both started on another round of flowers, as have the zinnias and dahlias. The bees will be happy, the sunflowers have finished so opefully these will help. The nicotiana were cut back before the rains and are also producing a new flush. We have picked the cornel fruits and it's looking good for next year...the flowers are already forming ready for spring and plenty of them.
Pretty shield bug (?) on the faded echinops

Scabious come to life

As has Veronica. This has been flowering since spring

Another shield bug on a seed head

Cornels for the neighbour's rakia

Out and about, where there were many storks in the fields, on nests and fishing in the river (it seems to have been a good year) they have thinned out dramatically as the young are now old enough to make their way to the winter haunts in Africa. We are seeing a lot of buzzards hunting in the fields, as well as hare and jackal, but the ploughs will soon be out to bury the stubble and sow over wintering crops so they will all be more difficult to pick out against the brown earth. Many trees are looking sick, with crispy brown leaves, but it's surprising how much better most of them look after a wash.
Jackal

Of course, with damp, humid weather comes a new batch of flies...and biting ones at that. Being one of those who are intolerant of their venom I am now covered in red lumps once again as I get back into the garden. Out on the roads it seems the young swallows are following the tarmac catching flies, but they are not yet road savvy and there seem to be many pathetic little corpses littering the roads, often accompanied by another live swallow. So sad.

Back home the poultry are looking a lot less stressed, though our beautiful boy Sevi is looking a bit rough. This may be due to a bad moult which might have sapped his strength. I am hoping he will pick up now he is feeling cooler. He is eating and drinking so fingers crossed. The youngest chicks are really growing now, hopefully they are too big to be of interest to the English neighbours' cats, two of their four have had to be chased off. Our new boy seems to have a new healthy respect for all things fowl and keeps out of the way. Ducky is still being a pain and we have advertised for a new home for him but have had to put a price on him....we haven't raised him to be a free meal for anyone! We are still getting one or two eggs a day from the ducks despite all the hassle, and the hen's production is picking up. One poor soul laid a huge double yolker (98g as opposed to the usual 65g ish) That must have hurt! The three amigos are still running riot and at least one of them is croaking. I think there might be three boys, I hope I am wrong!
Ouch!

Been a bit busy in the kitchen. Made more honey cake and gave a small, two person size to the neighbours to try. We were all at the cafe yesterday and she was telling her friends about the lovely honey cake....she had shared it between five people! I should have realised, most stuff is shared with or given to the daughter's family. I have also done some pickled carrots with what were left in the ground splitting, in honey mustard flavour. We tried some and they are really nice, very moreish, but the mustard hasn't had time to develop the flavour yet and I found them a bit sharp. Dave said they were sweet! We had some added to some braised cabbage and they were very nice, still crunchy despite me leaving them in the waterbath for an hour too long when bottling them,

New for me...I started up a sourdough starter. I am keen to try sourdough and at least I won't have to worry about running out of yeast

Honey cake, the neighbour's cake on the left, and we had one the same size with Bird's custard (not enough eggs)



Very nearly the last of the gnarly carrots

Eight jars of honey mustard pickled carrots

I have also used some honey to sweeten the latest round of cordial. The grapes which hang over the path and which have ripened first were clouting us on the head because the weight was dragging the vine and wire down. So I decided the neighbour could spare them and brought a crate in for juice. Some had whitecurrants added, some blackcurrants (trying to make space in the freezer) and just enough honey to sweeten the juice. A short while in the waterbath to help with preservation and we have enough juice to last till next year...though I still have some blackcurrants, I am keeping them until some of the other juices are used, blackcurrant being everyone's favourite and it goes so fast. I have a bottle for the neighbours, but they will have to be warned it is not as sweet as the last lot...I think nicer, lighter, but they have such a sweet tooth....but no doubt the family will appreciate it.

Hanging grapes

A whole crateful from just the small stretch over the path

With blackcurrants to the left, whitecurrants to the right

Very refreshing, just add iced water...

We have been practicing with goat's cheese. It's amazing what you can do with basic soft cheese. We hade the tart mentioned earlier, which was just chard, a couple of eggs and garlic and pepper cheese, lovely. Then we had slmon ravioli wit ricotta, a casserole of our veggies and chive butter....plain with chutney....halloumi, love that fried...our first mozzarella, lovely on garlic bread with cauli cheese....
Tasty tart

Salmon and ricotta, who knew pasta was so easy? One salmon fillet is plenty for two

Casserole of our own veg

Mmmmmmm....

Our first mozzarella, needs a bit of tweaking but not a bad attempt
Goes well on garlic bread

Now....must find a use for kilos of gooseberries......and quinces....and hopefully medlars.....and walnuts.....ooo-er, thought I was winding down for the year

Finally, a couple of pictures of our local hoopoe, taken on the lane. Lovely birds.


13 comments:

  1. I like that hoopoe bird, it is new to me, and your dog looks so silly in that first photo. Your garden is very productive; how come your neighbors object to some of what you planted? The food you are cooking looks delicious.

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    1. Hoopoes are quite common here, but you hear them more than see them as they are quite small.

      Bonnie gets in some really awkward positions in an effort to keep cool, she feels the heat more as she gets older.

      It's not that they object, it's just that everything here in the villages
      is planted and harvested at certain dates. With modern hybrid quick maturing varieties it is possible to get a quick crop in if the weather is kind (and not like last year with snow in October!) But the old varieties, with little variation, is what they know and that means planting/sowing on the proper dates!

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  2. Nature is so wonderful but can be so cruel. I'm glad you're not affected by the floods. Your food looks amazing.

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    1. Thank you. I feel we have almost reached the goals we were aiming for....just meat for Dave we haven't come to terms wit. We feel great satisfaction every day when we sit down to a home produced meal.

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  3. Your garden responds quicker to rain than mine! We've had a week of it and it has been wonderful and I've been watching the brown lawn greening up with delight. The flowering plants don't look any different though other than relieved!! Maybe cos I've been watering, but could only give them the bare minimum to keep them from keeling over. I'm surprised though that you can grow any new crops after late August. I've tried over the years but learned that due I guess to falling light levels, plants just refuse to get beyond seedling stage, no matter how warm any sunny it is. A shame really. Well it's usually harvest time here so no time to deal with new plants. My plums have split but I must check on the rasps, thanks for reminding me. I had given up cos I hadn't been able to water them after a stone marten ate the seep hose!

    Love the hoopoe - very envious. The bugs are shield bugs - I don't recognise the first one but the 2nd may be a Hairy Shield bug - they all look different depending on their various instars (larvae between moults) and the adults themselves.

    Your food looks wonderful as usual - well done! And getting rid of Ducky, sob sob - hope he finds a happy new home!

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    1. Mandy, you will be happy to know that Ducky has been offered a home with his two favourite girls (ahem....he doesn't know the breeding season has finished) by a lady in the next village with geese, chickens and mastiffs...and who is looking for pigs I see. Things should be so much queiter after tomorrow!

      Modern thinking on the late crops is that they grow quicker given the right conditions, but we are a bit late as there was no point trying for seedlings earlier. They recommend that brassicas are started in the house where it's cooler If we get the same weather as last year in October it might not work, but a normal year it will. Seeds are very cheap, worth a try for fresh veg

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    2. It's interesting about the veg. I could still grow radishes now and also coriander is another that I'll try to sow as late as possible, as if I get it right, it needs to get to a certain size to get through the winter, but not to bolt in warm weather before winter arrives! Everything that is already sown around July/early August will still keep growing, but I've tried lettuce late and even though you'd think the conditions were perfect, even better than say April cos the nights are warmer, they just don't want to get bigger than mini plants. I don't know what I'm doing wrong or if it's just how it is round here and with my soil/weather conditions.

      Great news about Ducky! Give him a kiss goodbye from me. You know he has a fan club. :-)

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    3. Don't give up on your lettuce if they won't grow before winter Mandy. Here they plant masses, use as young leaves through Autumn and leave them to grow ready for spring. It amazes me that cabbage can't cope with the -20 temperatures but lettuce push through their wrecked autumn leaves and soon start growing strongly once the days lengthen.

      As I write at just before 7am Ducky is waking the neighbours by chasing the girls and making them cry! The woman who wants him says she can't come today and wants to come tomorrow when we will be out, so things are on hold....been here before which is why the ad is still up.

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  4. Well as I'm back in BG in a couple of weeks I'd better bring some wet weather gear just in case. I'm just traveling with hand luggage so I'll be the one at Manchester airport looking like Captain Birdseye in waters proofs and a "sow wester".

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    1. No need Katt! Temperature today back up to 40c, very hot and no sign of rain for a while...mid thirties next week. You might need the wet weather gear for Manchester though the 'heat wave' is set to last just a few days out there, if it happens at all.

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    2. No need Katt! Temperature today back up to 40c, very hot and no sign of rain for a while...mid thirties next week. You might need the wet weather gear for Manchester though the 'heat wave' is set to last just a few days out there, if it happens at all.

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  5. I am so jealous of your ability to preserve so much of your produce, and the amount of produce you grow yourselves. Every time I read about your garden efforts and your cooking I get really annoyed with myself... not your fault, you always inspire me to try harder - we have weather issues to cope with that makes the garden very hard going... its 40C here at least for most of two months in the summer and its been three months since we had any rain at all so we are trying to garden in near desert conditions - but then in winter we can sometimes get washed away with the amount of rain. Its interesting that the Bulgarians seem to have a tradition of bottling (like th eFrench) here in Extremadura they just seem to dry everything and then cover it with oil. Given the climate I guess that could be the way to go... but I would be sorry to never have bottled fruit again.

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    1. I have to say I have never wanted to live in Spain or any hot country which is one reason why be thought Bulgaria would be a good choice. (though we do love Greece and it would have been first choice if we could have, by the sea though )This year has proved us correct as we have also had periods of 40C and apart from the few days last month, no rain all summer. It is very uncomfortable I have to say, the hottest year for a century in most areas of Bulgaria. We are so glad we put air conditioning in the bedroom this year! But we do have our well for water, which doesn't stop things cooking on the plants but has helped earlier in the season

      Yes, bottling is the way of life here. The people here in the villages are mostly elderly and very poor, everyone else has gone since the fall of communism, too much like hard work living off the land. Ironically what we would pay a huge premium for in the UK (detached rural house with enough land and buildings to live off) is practically given away here. So bottling is the cheapest way of preserving food. Where we would freeze most veg, or use clamps in winter, here it was impractical due to intermittant electricity even if they could afford a freezer (some now have old ice cream freezers) and clamps are impossible to get at when covered in feet of snow or frozen solid when temperatures hit -20 regularly. Most houses have a cellar but they are too warm at this time of the year for storing veg, as we have found with our potatoes which look OK but are tasting sweet as the starch turns to sugar. But generally bottling is pretty easy with bottles and new lids readily available in the markets. Most cooking and waterbathing is done on a wood fire outside but we don't have anywhere to put one safely. Bottled whole tomatoes are better than any you get in a tin....but most of the locals make sauce. I prefer to make the sauce when I need it but do have a dozen or so ready for doing beans. They don't seem to dry much, but I do some fruit, onions, garlic and semi dried tomatoes. Now is the end of the season when anything left in the garden is lightly pickled in huge, mixed jars as the custom here is to eat veg or salad before the main meal or if drinking. Cabbages are put into huge drums and fermented. Later on meat will be bottled and cured when it's slaughter time.

      But yes, if the temperatures were like this for the whole summer every year I would have thought twice about retiring (?) here. A few days here and there is fine, but this summer I have found hard

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