Monday, 29 August 2011

Harvest galore

Cutting of the last lot of hay
Have I missed something? There is, or rather, was an inflatable Father Christmas in Ogre, just outside of Riga (Ian spotted it on a webcam he checks on to see what the weather is doing just West of us) and I'm dreaming of a White Christmas was on the radio. - whatever next? It makes the year seem all the shorter and it is speeding away fast enough as it is. It definitely feels very autumnal now and harvesting of winter storage vegetables is in full swing around us. You can here the gentle plink plink of the vegetables into the buckets and see the gradual reappearance of bare earth as the plants are dug up. (Just to confuse me even more, this evening in the local supermarket it was possible to buy Easter sweets - how bizarre is that!)

A gift from a neighbour. Now I am going
to find out how to ferment cucumbers as
I already have jars in the fridge. I might
pickle some too.
Never have the forecasts been so important as they have this year- although Ian might argue with that as forecasts were very important to him when he was cycling into work, 13 miles in the rain is not fun. Our lives though seem to be almost run by forecasts at the moment. Our hay cutting was fitted in to catch a spell of good weather, so we could take advantage of getting some good hay baled up in preparation for alpacas next year. Up till this year it didn't matter if the hay got wet, apart from the fact it got heavy, as we were only using it for compost. Most of our land is poor quality meadow as there is far too much ground elder and wild raspberries amongst it, which means it is just not worth the cost of baling it up, the hay on the ski hill, however, is much better quality and it would seem a shame to just continue to compost it. The problem is though that to improve the rest of the meadowland we need to cut it to reduce the invasive weeds and favour the grasses. We don't agree with using chemicals on it and we don't want to dig it up and reseed it, as that would mean losing all the wild flowers that are there  - okay it won't produce as much hay as it would if they weren't there but then we wouldn't have orchids. That means we are left with cutting poor quality hay and composting it, which is fine for our veg and it works a treat in the greenhouse to reduce the amount of watering needed. 

The third load of six trays of drying
tomatoes. They are great in soups
and stews over the winter or just popped
into a pasta dish.
A couple of days of fine weather meant we got the rest of the grass cut apart from a small area because guess what? If you follow this blog you may have already guessed, there was a distressed corncrake looking for its home where Ian had just cut, those birds are just not smart. He was sat in the tractor for a long time waiting for it to move, in fact long enough to think about getting his phone out which has a camera and find the camera setting, but of course not long enough to actually take a photo. He said the poor little thing kept looking at the grass waiting to be cut and the bit that had just been cut as if it was trying to work out who had demolished its home while it was gone. We need to put up a notice that tells them when they are supposed to have moved out, haven't they got a holiday home to go to? One that's nice and warm?

Been a busy day as this is a bowl of plums microwaving
to make microwave jam.
We have also been busily scanning forecasts to see what night time temperatures are going to be like over the weeks ahead, as our buckwheat is starting to go over, but a frost will kill it. We are trying to give the seed as much time to set as possible before harvesting and yet avoid the frosts. Ideally 60-70% of the seed should have set, much more than that and you lose seed anyway as it shatters when cut, but less than that means not a good harvest. Vegetables on a small family scale are much less exhausting as you just need a dry day to harvest, although a couple of days for digging up root crops like potatoes and carrots is better and you certainly don't want to be gardening in a mud bath.

Our storage tomatoes that should last a while and under
the cover and in the strange arrangement at the top are
beans undergoing a salting process. We shall see what they
turn out like but at least it is possible to put a lot of beans in
a small space
I have talked before about how we are learning about the land we manage, we are not rushing into decisions, but trying to work with what is there. Relocating plants and trees we want to keep, but are perhaps not in a good place and taming dominant weeds like the ground elder through regular cutting to give the grass a chance to fight back. We are learning the names of plants and what they do, learning to identify birds by sight and sometimes by call and learning the names of the trees and learning to distinguish them by bark alone at times. Learning to name nature, learning the contribution it can make, alters how you do things, less ready to uproot it and if it is uprooted it is done with thought. I can therefore relate to Aldo Leopold's words when he says 
"Once you learn to read the land, I have no fear what you will do to it, or with it, and I know many pleasant things it will do to you."
These are different tomato seeds all been given the treatment
to separate out the good from the bad seeds and to ensure
we keep the productive ones next year
It makes me wonder if that is how God intended Adam to work the garden of Eden, to learn about the animals and plants in the garden and the place they had. Of learning to tame some and encourage others, to find a place for each plant that was both pleasing to the eye and worked with it for what it could do and was useful for. I am tending more and more to think of the place where we work as a garden and less and less "the land." Ian had cut a path through some trees and it looked so nice and left an area that just seemed to shout to be planted with something useful and so we are thinking of relocating a wild rose and some mint to that place. Might even put some bulbs in too and as I write I am wondering if maybe we could manage to put a seat in nearby. Not sure how often we could sit on it due to the biting insects but there are times it is perfectly possible. 

It doesn't look big in this picture but that is a ginormous
bowl with dill seed in it. All ready for adding to various jars
of things and for seed for next year.
Ian hasn't just been cutting our grass, he cut some for our neighbour too. They have finally got access to some buildings they are going to turn back into a working factory producing wood for fuel. The factory has not been in use for 15 years and so is quite neglected and nature has been doing its best to try and reclaim the place. I am so pleased for this young couple with big dreams and such a desire to make a difference to their local community through providing employment and we are proud to call them friends. It is hard work though and dealings in business is not often straightforward in Latvia but they are pushing through and I pray that God will bless what they are doing and bless them for their hearts that desire to do good. Ian used his two wheeled tractor to neaten up the property and make it easier for them to sort out a car park that will take the lorries carrying the wood to and from it to help out. They let us have a flail that was lying around the place. A flail is used for separating seed from plants - not quite sure how to use it but I guess we are going to find out. 

I have been following the news about Hurricane Irene, strange isn't it how there is so much news about it hitting America when there was so little news when it has already hit the Caribbean at a far higher force just not the same force of news. I guess the higher population affected has something to do with it and the fact that hurricanes don't often get that far up. I think the BBC coverage though has shown a drop in their standards, this quote was a classic
"You can see why the mayor made the New York subway system shut down, because the subway system is right below the ground level in New York."
A visitor to our land, a bird of prey of some sort but not
sure which as we didn't get a good look at it. We did
get a good look at the eagle that was flying around when
we arrived but typically it flew off before we got the camera
Now pray do tell me, where else would you expect to find the New York subway system? Talking of New York it will soon be the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Guardian website was asking what is your story from the event? What do you remember? I suppose it is a bit like the shooting of President Kennedy which was such a startling event that people remember what they were doing at the time, I don't remember that incident but then again I hadn't been born then. I do remember hearing about the 9/11 attacks for the first time though. We had just got back home after Ian had been signed off work with chronic fatigue and our kids were home-schooled and so were busy working in their bedrooms and our middle child came rushing downstairs saying an airplane had just crashed into a skyscraper in New York. At first I wondered if he had misheard and not understood, maybe it was just a radio play or something and I sent him back upstairs to get back on with his work. A few minutes later he came back down stairs and said another plane had flown into the other tower. We didn't have a tv and I can't remember how we started on checking the details, probably the internet, but it was amazingly awful to follow. 

Our neighbour helping us rake hay. This method is better
than a tractor as it is kinder to the ground and is still
quite fast and definitely a lot faster than by hand.
On a completely different note I am finding out the joys of heading towards menopause. I have to admit I thought this was something that happened to women in their 50s and so, as I am in my late 40s, I thought I might be starting early. I know there is lots of info on the internet these days but there is not much about what it is actually like to go through it. How do people cope with some of the symptoms? That sort of information is a bit scarcer, unless of course it is a scare story. I haven't got friends around me who I can ask either as I am not in regular contact with those who have just gone through it and not exactly the sort of thing to ask when renewing a contact. Fortunately I am in contact through a forum of some lovely ladies who have been through it and were willing to share some of their stories, bless 'em. Reading about symptoms is all very well and I kind of know what to expect, but there is nothing like hearing stories from real people. So if I appear a little flustered or complaining of the unusually warm winter when it is -20C outside, you will know why.


  1. An amazing harvest! And apart from feeling like it was the middle of summer at times, that was the only symptom I had - there are a lot of scare stories about!

  2. PS On second thoughts - saying it felt like the middle of summer was the wrong thing to say condidering our summer atm!

  3. I hope our harvest does not extend to lots of green tomatoes though, although we are developing a taste for them in cooking and green tomato chutney is rather nice if you keep it long enough.

    There are a lot of scare stories indeed and that kind of worried me as the whole womanly business has not exactly dealt kindly with me over the years, not too extreme but bad enough to make things difficult at times. So the thought of something worse than being a bit warm at times is a bit scary really.


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