The garden really is taking up a lot of my thinking right now, or rather the produce we are bringing in from the garden and preserving. All the work of this year has led up to this and I am determined to make use of as much as I physically can!
We’re still getting lovely salad from the garden (the romaine’s are coming to the end now though) and my seed onions are giving us lots of fresh spring onions. As I thin them out we get spring onions and they get more space to grow, perfect! The bulb onions I planted are doing well too, they haven’t gone over yet so I’m hoping they will grow a bit more before they are finished.
I made rhubarb jam last week from our own lovely stalks, and it has gone down so well I’m planning on doing more. I have delicious local strawberries in the freezer so I thought I’d do a strawberry and rhubarb jam, perfectly marrying the tart and the sweet. Personally I prefer jams with a bit of sharpness, raspberry is one of my favourites, but that tiny fruit is very expensive so until we are growing our own I think I’ll stick with home grown rhubarb. Delicious and free!
Other greens are doing well, our chard is growing beautifully. We also have carrots coming through, pushing their cover crop of radish out of the way. We still have some months for them to evolve fully so I’m resisting pulling them just yet. I’ve done a bit of thinning but again, my policy is to wait until there is something that can be harvested rather than just pulling out shoots. I’m sure this is a gardening sin but it works for me!
We also have pumpkin plants spreading out all over. I planted them in as transplants in early July and I’m really hoping we’ll get some lovely pumpkins by Halloween. There are plenty of flowers on the plants but no sign of fruits so far. I know from experience that there will seem to be nothing for ages and then suddenly you find fruits everywhere, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be the same. I can think of nothing more brilliant than our own orange pumpkins in the fall! Again I have to remind myself that we still have a good way to go for things to develop and ripen, with the wonky weather we’ve been having there have been days when it felt like autumn is already upon us.
I’m so pleased with the way the new beds have performed this year, it’s transformed our gardening experience. Having individual spaces seems to make the tending so much easier; weeding out one bed at a time feels very doable, rather than feeling like you have to tackle a whole field at a time. I’ve been very proud of the work we’ve all done in the garden this year, Stephen and I have enjoyed many peaceful hours weeding side by side, but the boys have helped too. Huwyl in particular is growing into a great little farmer, his skills are developing along with his discipline and focus. He’s been quite the boon to have around this year. Neirin loves just being with us, bouncing around all over the place. He’s also become a little obsessed with home grown and home made foods, which of course I love!
Though we haven’t felt like we’ve really made the most of our polytunnel, we do have a fabulous crop of beans in there right now. Beans are something that never quite worked out for us in the past, so to have them bursting out all over the place feels like a triumph! We’ve enjoyed some beautiful beans in our meals recently and I’m planning on freezing some this weekend so that we can enjoy them through the winter. We’re also going to leave some to grow to full maturity and harvest them as drying beans to add to soups and chilli’s through the winter months.
But of course the real story in the garden right now is the tomatoes. We’ve hit that point where so many are ripening at once, we are bringing in boxes and baskets and buckets of them. We’ve harvested roughly 23 kilo’s in the last couple of days and I’m sure there will be more coming in over the weekend. To be honest I’m not sure that we could ever grow enough tomatoes, we would use them all. We use them year round and I’ve never quite managed to grow and preserve a year’s supply. Last year we got to February on our own tomatoes (from the summer onward) so we’ll see how many I can put by this year.
Knowing that we grew these plants from seed, raised them, tended them, fed them, weeded around them and are now harvesting them, gives me immense satisfaction. It was a family affair as the seeds were a gift from my Dad, a connection from across the water that’s stayed with us all season. I know that we could just go to the store and buy them, that the hours and energy we put into them might not make purely economic sense. but it goes far beyond that for us. Apart from the superior flavour and nutrition (there is no doubt they are better) we’ve gained so many other things from tending our own crops.
This year, more than any other I’d say, we’ve really worked as a team. The boys have helped in the garden this year, from sowing seeds, potting on, planting out and harvesting. They are seeing, literally, the fruits of their own labours. When they eat the sauce I make from these fruits they have a vested interest in it’s production, I think that is a wonderful thing for them to know.
It’s also so been great for the grown ups! Apart from the obvious exercise and health that comes from gardening (it’s not called the green gym for nothing!) we’ve also had many hours of peace and companionship. When else can you just browse and chat, moving quietly but without boredom or lethargy? Working alongside Stephen has been my greatest joy this summer, knowing that we are truly a team, bonded together in work and harvest.
While this summer has been about work (and a lot of it) it really has also been about family. We’ve taken trips together, had fun days out and done things on our summer ‘to do’ list. But when I review my memory album of this summer, many of the highlights revolve around these moments in the garden. Simply working as a team, each of us doing what we can to contribute to the well being of the whole. Pulling weeds, planting plants, digging, feeding, watering. All so basic, so fundamental and so terribly important. All of us doing our own work but all interconnected, side by side, with our hands in the earth.