Saturday 29 August 2009

More follow ups

late toms

The later maturing tomatoes. It's been a pretty good summer here but these three varieties are only just beginning to crop properly. The Purple Ukraine plum tomato (I'm an idiot and ate the best coloured ones for breakfast!) is only o.k. for flavour although the fruit is well shaped and the colour intriguing. It has stood up well to outside growing, I'm just not sure its quality is amazing enough for the wait.

The Scotland Yellow has been frustratingly disappointing. Last time I grew it, it was in a greenhouse and it did very well, lovely sweet fruit and strong, neglect resistant growth. It has grown strongly this time too and set huge trusses of fruit but few have ripened even now and the skin is hard and blemished. Excellent for a crop of green tomatoes perhaps. Of the four sorts I ended up with this year, this seems to be least resistant to blight but that might just be because of the very lush foliage which doesn't allow the centre of the plant to dry.

The Salt Spring Sunrise has done well again, eating one today I realised it has a much better flavour than anything else on the plot this year. Originally saved for its apparent blight resistance it doesn't seem any better or worse than the other plants but it's still an excellent bush tomato and I'll be saving seed from it for next year.

elephant garlic roundels

As predicted, planting the elephant garlic so late has meant the plants haven't divided into cloves but merely formed huge solid bulbs. This is actually quite sought after in some gourmet circles but I shall preserve the bulbs for planting early next year and wait for the more traditional form. There are also a few offset bulbils which can be potted up to increase the stock.

whangaparaoa crown

The first fruits of the Whangaparaoa Crown. I've removed these a little bit earlier than normal because I want to reduce the strain on the vines and allow some of the smaller fruit to mature too; we've had almost no rain for several weeks now and although the pumpkin patch is large the plants are beginning to be affected by this. They look good don't they? My plan for creating a landrace of these isn't particularly scientific, I shall just save seed from the best looking fruit and allow nature and time to do the selection for me. Eventually, the local strain will be adapted to the conditions of Normandy and at that point I shall start calling it Prince of Normandy or something equally naff, unless I'm dead before then, obviously.

Kitten diary tomorrow I hope. I should have weighed them today but forgot.

Saturday 22 August 2009

French Bean Giant Purple

Giant Purple
1. big flower, 2. flower, 3. beans, 4. teepee

This is a bean that came to me from the Heritage Seed library this year. All the beans had a slow start but this one has really picked itself up and gone for it in the last couple of weeks.

Just six plants are covering that whole huge (3m high) teepee and are throwing out side shoots which threaten to take over the supports of the neighbouring plants. The flowers and foliage are pretty and the set is good; lovely smooth flat purple pods which are stringless at this stage and good to eat. The seed is brown and flat, not large so probably of little use as a dried bean if you have alternatives although they could certainly be eaten if times were hard.

***Update*** The pods did get quite hard and stringy as they aged, perhaps due to the very dry conditions but the mature shelling beans were brilliant.

If all goes to plan I'll be offering seeds of this variety in this year's seed swap. It's not the bean I've loved and lost, but it's a valid contender for the vacated position.

Friday 21 August 2009

Really silly gadget

This is just very on the pond to leave food pellets for the fish.

Monday 17 August 2009

Life goes on

The first sweet corn. Well, not quite the first, we had a couple of baby cobs in our tempura the other night but this is the first to be eaten from the cob and it was delicious. The variety was Double Standard from Realseeds and although the plants had a poor start I think we're going to have a few good meals from them. I also made a later planting of Golden Bantam which are growing strongly but the weather needs to stay good so that they will actually seed.

Like garden bloggers all over the northern hemisphere I'm going to moan and wail about late blight. In fact we've been tremendously lucky, the cold winter, dry weather and a certain amount of spraying with bouillie bordelaise, the infamous Bordeaux mixture of copper and lime which is barely permissible in organic gardening has kept symptoms at bay until now. The potato plants are all but finished anyway so on those I'll simply remove the foliage and harvest over the next few weeks. The tomatoes are still growing though, in fact, they'd started to make new growth in the last couple of weeks and were sporting a lot of flowers. All that has had to come off, they would probably not have ripened the fruit before the end of the summer anyway, and I've given them one last spray. Some of the varieties have yet to ripen a single fruit and I do so want to know how they taste.

The Latah is in full harvest now, so it's not a matter of tomato write off as in other years but it's still going to be a close run thing for the Purple Ukraine, Salt Spring Sunrise and the Scotland Yellow.

This silly bird, a European Kestrel, followed a swallow home and got trapped inside the swallow room. We've had several young kestrels practising their hunting over the farm in the last week but I didn't think they would be so silly as to go into a building. They are extremely beautiful and to be so close to a wild raptor was wonderful.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Holiday over

the sunset of the holiday

Well, that's it. The long summer break with Paul has been and gone and now it's just me and the cats for a few weeks more.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Summer Photo Call

Paul has been taking a lot of magnificent pictures around the farm.


This is a female broad bodied chaser, one of the many dragonflies that live around here.


The kestrel perches on the very top of the pear tree, and this is about as close as we ever get to her. She and at least two buzzards hunt across our fields. We've also seen a sparrow hawk a few times.

wall brown

A Wall Brown butterfly, once plentiful, now much rarer.

swallowtail caterpillar

The gaudy caterpillar of the Swallowtail butterfly, living on my carrot plants. We are so pleased to see these, mainly because we saw no adults to lay the eggs and because we've never had Swallowtails here before that we knew about. Continental Swallowtails aren't as fussy about their food as the British subspecies and will happily feed on carrot or parsley in the garden.

sooty copper

The Sooty Copper is quite a rarity, entirely new to us so we were pleased to make the identification. They are pretty little butterflies.

Jupiter and four moons

I think this last photo is amazing although Paul would point out that it's only pretty good, real telescopes doing a much better job. We were outside looking for shooting stars during the Perseid showers last night and Paul took a picture of a very bright planet just rising. We weren't even quite sure what it was at that point, but the moons (and a quick check on a sky map) identified it as Jupiter with the four most prominent moons, the ones first seen by Galileo, clearly visible. This is strangely thrilling, bringing astronomy home in a way I've rarely experienced it.

There are lots more really fantastic pictures on Paul's flickr stream so do take a look. Please remember that copyright is still reserved under a Creative Commons licence and if you'd like to use any of his pictures please let him know. Thanks.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Kitten Diary #9

Just a few pics of Raven chasing a piece of grass...

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Thursday 6 August 2009

Eat your Lupins

This worked for Radix so I'm going to give it a try here!

I've become entranced at the thought of growing some 'edible' lupin seeds. But for some reason I can't find many suppliers of seed for cultivation, which is surprising really since they are becoming recognised as a potentially valuable new/old crop.

Can anyone direct me to commercial sources for obtaining seeds of Lupinus albus, Lupinus angustifolius, Lupinus hirsutus or Lupinus mutabilis, ideally already selected for low toxicity and high yields? Or even send me some samples? I know Chiltern Seeds are offering some but there's no indication of the provenance and I was hoping to jump straight into the sort best suited for consumption.

By the way, just in case anyone reading is wondering about the edibility of their garden lupins, please don't try them. They will make you feel quite sick.

Monday 3 August 2009

This and that

Not really sure what to write about tonight.

first tomatoes

It could be that I picked the first of the tomatoes on the 1st August. Sooner and better than last year but not that much earlier given the much better weather conditions. These are Latah, bought from Realseeds, taste quite nice but not exceptional. I'm looking forward to the Purple Ukraine and the Scotland Yellow which both have lots of green fruit that's nearly ripe.

young whangaparoa crown

The Whangaparoa Crown are making lots of babies, this is the biggest one. Looks like it might be a successful year for them.


I pulled the onions. Despite the downy mildew they're not too bad, enough for a few months at least. We're also digging the spuds and feeling extremely pleased with them. Big tubers, little or no blight or disease.


Finally spotted a Tortoiseshell butterfly, yumming up the flowers of the catmint. More butterfly pictures in my flickr set here which shows some that are new for this year and examples from previous years.

resting kittens

Kittens, exhausted after a long run. They are having a wonderful summer and are thoroughly charming, if murderous, little friends.

Looking forward to visitors next month, incentive to get a load of stuff done! Can't be bad.