Wednesday 30 August 2023



Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week the blackberries would ripen.

[from Seamus Heaney, Blackberry-Picking)

I checked the blackberry bushes today, grown  cordon-style on posts and wires.  They are a cultivated, thornless variety so my hands are not "peppered with thorn pricks" as Heaney reminisces and as was the same for us growing up, and later when the children were young. They are beginning to crop well.

Monday 28 August 2023

Happy to see the billowing wheat fields

The combines have been busy and the wheat and barley fields have nearly been harvested in the fields around here. We have had brief rain showers in the last two days but before that a long dry spell. I think in other parts of the country conditions have been more difficult with more  frequent localised rain affecting the harvesting.  

The war in Ukraine is affecting global production and distribution of grain. And China's grain and rice production has been badly affected by the weather. In some parts there have been wild fires and in others, especially the grain growing regions further north, there have been unprecedented floods. We all know why.

I am reading the novel The Good Earth by American writer Pearl Buck (first published in 1931) where weather-induced famine is a central part of the plot. Pearl Buck spent much of her early life in China (her parents were missionaries) and she writes with great knowledge and insight. She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938 but she is not a writer we hear about much these days.

Here is a traditional Chinese tune played on the Erhu - a two stringed instrument. The Erhu is the most expressive of instruments but this piece is played in an upbeat tempo to convey the delight of the sight of ripening wheat fields.


Thursday 24 August 2023

Sweet corn days of Summer

 The sweet corn crop is ripening so most days we pick and consume some. Deliciously sweet, as those who have grown their own will know. Passing visitors will take some away with them too. As a last resort any surplus will be frozen. Leaving them unpicked for too long is to be avoided as they soon lose their flavour.

In the kitchen various jams, relishes an chutneys have been bubbling away and for us it is also passata-making time as the outdoor tomatoes ripen.  

We are having a massive crop of plums this year and soon we will be dehydrating quantities of these along with apple slices. The apples seem to be ripening early this year.

This morning we collected up a pleasing crop of onions this year. We wanted to get them in as, after a period of dry weather, it is forecast for rain this afternoon. Janet plaited them for hanging up to dry in the workshop. Six plaits plus a few loose for more immediate use.

We have also been saying gradual goodbyes to the piglets as they find new homes. Two more departing to Essex later today.

We have been continuing to get assistance from kith and kin as my activity levels remain restricted. Two weeks after a retinal detachment and emergency surgery I had a second detachment in the same eye followed by more surgery. Then Monday of this week there was concern that a third operation might be necessary. Thankfully this was not the case. I had had a bleed at the back of the eye and a duty eye specialist I had seen at the weekend possibly mistook the resulting blood clot as the retina coming away again.

My vision is still impaired in the affected eye and I have to be careful not to over-exert myself for the time being but matters do now look like they are moving in the right direction at last. No heavy jobs, but I can manage picking sweetcorn.

Tuesday 1 August 2023

News from the greenhouse

The greenhouse is one of the most productive areas per square footage. We have a decent sized one of 16' x 8' which I try to use to the maximum all year round. We have the usual tomatoes and cucumbers which provide seemingly torrential harvests at this time of the year, as well as peppers and chillies. Two crops to highlight this year are aubergines and melons.  After last year's success at growing aubergines in the greenhouse border rather than growing them on in pots I have repeated the same this year with impressive results: lots of large, deep purple aubergines.

I have not grown melons for a couple of years and they have not always been a success. This year I seem to have done something right with several maturing fruits. Most are currently about 7"- 8" in length. The earliest should be ready to pick in a week or two.