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Glorious October certainly! We continue to be busy outside with the hundred and one jobs this dry weather has allowed us to get on top of…dung spreading, ditching, fencing, hedge trimming, cutting and carrying wood from our wood stacks to our winter store and, of course, never ending topping (yes, we are still able to get onto the land with a tractor!).
The ewes have been tupped and are now grazing peacefully, happy in the autumn sunshine and revelling in the unexpected bonus of being dry underfoot.
Cows and calves are contentedly munching away in the River Meadows, whilst the bull and his cohort are doing a first-rate job around our smaller meadows at the home farm. Our autumn flush of grass has been excellent – more sustaining and nutritious than the rank crop our waterlogged fields produced during the wet summer months.
Polytunnel beds are gradually being mulched down with our organic dung and covered over for winter – though a handsome supply of chilli, aubergine, tomato, squash and carrot are still providing us with tasty suppers. Outside in the kitchen garden leeks, kale, red cabbage, spinach, broccoli spears and roots are giving us delicious seasonal variety.
Though apples haven’t produced that well this year the quince tree is heavy with golden, fragrant fruit which I’ll pickled, make into jelly and quince cheese. The pear tree in the orchard is also bowed over with small, bullet hard fruit for which I’ll have to invent some different preserves.
It’s a good autumn; land, man, beast and wildlife flourish. Next weekend, on the 25th, we have two farm walks, so though the weather is due to break tomorrow I hope we won’t return to horrendous torrential drenching!
The biome, the biome, the biome…look at it, just look at it. Isn’t it pure pristine perfection?
No, I’m not blowing my own trumpet, rather sounding it for my wrecked other. After days and weeks, actually now I think about it, months, of exhausting back breaking work the polytunnel is finally ready for planting.
Beds made, paths laid. Tonnes, yes tonnes and tonnes of sodden top-soil, chock-a-block with roots and debris, have been deep dug, mixed with gravel, sand and lime. Rotavated with our tiny ‘Mantis’ to create a fine tilth and raked free of stones.
The central atrium will be paved and there we can recline in the dappled shade of the trailing vine, sipping Pimms from tall frosted glasses, all chinking ice, strawberry, crushed mint and apple heaven. Ahhh, summer will happen at Locks Park this year…
Back to reality. The biome, we know, will never look this immaculate again. In a couple of week weeds will run riot. But today the first onions were planted into its newness. Potatoes wait, chitting in trays and pots of all sizes are suddenly crammed onto every window sill. This year, whatever the weather throws at us, we will produce our vegetables. Organic veg box anyone?
The polytunnel construction is complete! Robert and Olly have spent an enormous amount of time, energy and patience on its erection; they’ve developed intricate diagrammatical code-deciphering expertise and brushed-up their plumb-line building and construction skills; not forgetting a considerable input of man-muscle-power. They’ve suffered aching backs, swollen chapped hands, cracked lips, frostbitten noses, fingers and toes and overcome the difficulties of working knee-deep in cloying clay mud. They’ve sweated and frozen, fretted and celebrated.
Not, it must be said, the ideal time of year to erect such a monster; nevertheless Robert was determined that we would get back to growing vegetables after the last two washout seasons (you’re now guaranteed a bone dry, blistering 2009!).
With polythene stretched as tight as a drum, sliding doors constructed to near perfection, the weighted, ratcheted side-ventilation panels working with the smoothness of oiled silk and crop-bars visibly waiting to receive an abundance of lush, verdant growth – the result is quite superb and very professional.
After all, this is not just a polytunnel, this is an R & O polytunnel!