Friday, 31 July 2009

Jam in July

Almost 2 weeks of the holidays gone, and I've still so much I want to do! Just everyday things seem to be occupying me at the moment. I intended to spend most of today in the garden, but didn't make it outside much until the afternoon. However, I did pick some blackberries from the hedgerow, so coupled with the few from the garden, I made 2 pots of blackberry jam. One will definitely be travelling to Portsmouth in September when Daniel returns to uni, although by then I will probably have a few more. Yesterday I made a similar amount of raspberry jam from the berries that had gone a bit soft in the recent rains. For both I used the sugar with added pectin. It makes life so easy!
Tomorrow I intend to go to the allotment garden to get a cabbage for dinner, as I've promised my sons beef stew with dumplings! They are asking for all sorts of favourites which they cannot be bothered to make for themselves when they are away. The caterpillars have made some inroads, but rubbing off any eggs I find, picking off any caterpillars, and the old net curtains protecting the plants have, I hope, left us with some edible hearts.
Sadly we are now convinced we only have 5 cats instead of 6. Polly hasn't been seen by anyone for a couple of months. She had taken to visiting elsewhere, but always turned up for breakfast. On happier note, Smokey has produced another lovely litter of 4 kittens. All are doing fine, and she is looking well, despite it being so soon since her last lot.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cherry Disaster

This is a very despondant post, as it deals with a total crop failure. Our fan trained cherry tree flowered really well this year, and there was a large number of green cherries. These began to turn red mid June, but as they are black cherries, Sunburst, they were not due to ripen completely until mid to late July. We waited impatiently, watching the luscious bunches of cheeries deepen in colour, and a couple of weeks ago, I decided some looked ripe enough to try. Imagine my horror when I realised those delicious deep red clusters concealed a horrific secret. They were welded together and inside a horrible caterpillar had been busy munching away.
A truly disgusting discovery, and I set too, separating the bunches, squashing caterpillars, and picking off the damaged fruit. There wasn't many left, and they were still a bit tart, so we decided to leave them for another week.
Well, the wasps then moved in, during the last weeek of school, they had an end of term feast, and ate most of the remaining cherries down to the stones! I took 3 perfect ones to my Mum for her birthday, and we had 5 each. Even then, my 5 were not perfect, I had to cut bits out of them!
I am not sure on the policy for next year, I found an article that said Kent growers did not produce organic cherries because of the need to spray in spring against caterpillars, but the article did not give any details. I do try to be organic, but to be honest, as Vicky said, she would prefer to have the cherries with a little bit of poison, than no cherries at all. If I could find out what is used, and if it is available to home growers, I could do some research and make an informed decision.
As far as the wasps are concerned, I am determined they will not get the plums. There is not many, and I don't want to lose them too!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

What I picked this week

Things have been very hectic in my life recently, so I'm afraid this blog has been a bit neglected, but I thought it more important to keep the plants alive!
This week I've been picking the Meteor peas that Amanda gave me. The ones at the allotment garden aren't doing too well, but those in the garden are lovely. I've also been picking dwarf beans from the plants Peter gave me, as well as the first ones from the climbers. The ones in the greenhouse have been cropping for a while now, so the bean season is underway.
I'm not sure about the benefit of the early tomato sowing. Although I picked the first one on the 1st June, I've not had many since, and they have been small as well. However, the kohl rabi in the patio gro trays has been doing well, and we've been self sufficient in lettuce and salad leaves for a couple of months now. The garlic is safely pulled, and drying off in the garage.
I pulled the first white beetrooot today. It does look strange, but I've been impressed with the leaves. I don't like the red ones, but these are much more like spinach, so a dual crop.
The fruit has been doing well too. I've picked several bowls of raspberries, and the blackcurrants have been picked and frozen, ready to make into jam when I get time. The cherries are lovely tasting, but still red, so I'm risking leaving them fro a few more days. If we do get rain it might cause them to split though. Apparently it's the rain on the skins, that causes the problems.