Approaching the Solstice

As we approach the solstice the weather has turned hot and we are getting days in the mid thirties oC. Everything becomes desiccated very quickly if we don’t water morning and night. As the longest day will soon be here, it’s time to lift the onions and the early potatoes.

We plant most of the onions around the shortest day at the winter solstice and harvest near the summer solstice. So that is now. We aren’t very good gardeners, as we try to do too much, so there isn’t always time to do things ‘properly’, but we manage our time as best we can and everything that needs to get done usually does. We don’t plan things out meticulously and then follow through on the plan with Germanic precision. Rather we kind of lurch from crisis to crisis, doing what really needs to be done NOW and can’t wait any longer. I remember that I planted two packets of brown onion seed in late June,  but only a smattering of seeds germinated. I don’t know why. So I planted another packet in late July, when I realised that I wasn’t going to get any more strike from that first germination. The second attempt was also very patchy. As it takes a few weeks to realise that things haven’t worked out as you planned, there isn’t always time left to get the next planting done and germinated in time. So it was very late, at the beginning of August. The last day before I left for Japan, that I sprinkled two more packs of onion seed, a different brand this time, and then flew out for a month or so. When I returned, the unattended seeds had all struck, but were a bit crowded. I was so busy catching up with everything else on my return, I left them to get on with it. They are now ready to lift, but rather small, as they didn’t get enough cold weather to grow out well. I’m calling them salad onions now, small but juicy and sweet. I’m not too sure how they will keep.

The garden girl has been lifting the early potatoes, Nicola and Maris Piper. We don’t get huge crops, using only compost and some chicken manure to fertilise them. But the soil is soft and fibrous, and rich with worms. It looks and smells great, so I’m happy with that. We get about 8 potatoes for every one that we plant, maybe 1 kg per spud. I’m told that commercially, they get 8 to 10 kgs per plant? I’m not too concerned. We do everything organically with a view to growing just enough to support ourselves. This isn’t a business. It’s real life, a life where we aim to be as sustainable as possible. We get more than enough spuds to keep us going all year, more then we need actually. So the ones that get a bit shrivelled and start to get long sprouts on them after storage for a long time, just simply get replanted, back into the garden. They become the winter crop, down in the frost free area of  the Pantry Field.

All the young berries have finished now, as have the raspberries, there are just a few boysenberries left under netting. We picked over 20 kilos of berries this year. We ate a lot of them, but most of them were sterilised and went into vacuum sealed jars for use later in the year.

We have a good crop of cabbages coming along, so we are developing recipes for using cabbage. Finely sliced and cooked in okonomiyaki, shredded in a salad with mint and vinegar dressing, or served with shiso, rocket, mizuma and roasted nor paper strips and dressed with a sesame oil, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sake and soy.

Annabelle Sloujettè called in and introduced us to a commercial brand of pre-fried Chinese noodles in a plastic pack. Not the sort of thing that we would normally think of buying. She made a cabbage salad with these crunchy noodles and a lovely tangy home made dressing. We were very impressed. It was really delicious. She stayed over and we talked late into the night. In the morning we had coffee with her before she left.

She likes a big coffee to start the day.