This week the shelves of the shop have some gaps on them, but there are one or two treats to be had. I am pulling beetroot this week, and will be bunching it. I am also going to start digging ‘Maris Bard’ new potatoes. They are not at the stage where I will be maximising the yield from the plants, but we should be enjoying them now when they are at their best. Sadly there will be no broad beans to go with them after the Jackdaws pillaged them so efficiently; such a disappointment. There are a few kohlrabi left, pointed cabbage, courgettes, carrots, half dry new season onions, cherry tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, and cucumbers. These are still limited in number, but there are more than last week, so I hope that everyone that would like one will get one. Lettuces are a bit of a hotch potch this week, I have the tail end of various types to cut, so it will be a pot luck situation in terms of what type you will receive. Italian Kiwi fruit seems to be fizzling out, with the quality beginning to suffer, so I am steering clear of them. There will be oranges and lemons, and I am taking a punt on some English strawberries; it’s not June without strawberries. They are not cheap, but organically growing soft fruit is challenging to produce, which is reflected in the price.
There was a welcome drop of rain last week, but down here it really didn’t amount to much, though any is gratefully received. It was frustrating to be viewing Springwatch last week and to see the amount of precipitation that some areas received; if it’s going to rain it might as well do it properly. Having said that, what a joy this weekend weather has been. It has been lovely just to sit outside under a parasol with a bottle of something warm and flat, surrounded by birdsong, the buzzing of hundreds of bees, and to watch the butterflies flitting about. At the moment there seem to be a very large number of small Tortoiseshells about, very often in two’s and three’s, whirling and looping around in an aerial dance. This morning I saw a Comma at Moyns Park, which was a nice sight. In this little part of East Anglia there appears to be a very healthy population of flying insects this early summer, long may it continue, though I am very conscious of the fact that we are now entering Horsefly time! I haven’t been visited by one yet, but I dare say that by this time next week I will be rubbing ointment on to angry red bites.
I went for a recce to Wyken yesterday, to see how the farmers market was working, with a view to returning with my stall if I was satisfied that all was well. I was pleased to see how well spread out the stalls were, and how respectful everyone was in maintaining a safe physical distance from one another. So I have decided to make a grand return next Saturday, accompanied by a great fanfare and a 21 gun salute. I haven’t decided whether I will be there every week in the short term, I will see how it goes. It will be good to be back trading insults with John the fishmonger from a safe distance. It means that customers that collected orders from the market back in the good old days will be free to pick up where they left off – at least for next Saturday.
After calling in at Wyken to hear the latest gossip and intrigue, I called in to my lovely friends Betty and David on my way back. David has a fabulous collection of citrus trees that he has grown from seed collected whilst on his extensive travels over a period of decades. I have long admired his collection, and so I was honoured and delighted when he offered me 3 of his prize possessions – 2 lemons and an orange. They are fairly substantial, so it was quite a job to get them in the back of the van. They will happily live outside all summer, but from September they will take pride of place in the greenhouse. The lemon trees have some blossom on them, so with a fair wind I might be picking some ripe fruit next year. What a generous gift.
This morning as I was planting lettuces I was serenaded by a Blackcap who was perched in the top of a Hawthorn. It was a lovely song, and went on for a long time, but nothing compared to the Skylark that has been directly above me for absolutely ages as I write this in the garden. It is flying so high, yet the song carries so clearly. We have been craning our necks watching it, hoping to see it parachute down to earth, but it’s not cooperating, and has decided to thwart us and continue to sing at high altitude until we stop watching. As lovely as both of those experiences were, they are trumped by one that I had at lunchtime last Tuesday. I was sitting in my van having lunch when my eyes were drawn to the beech tree just to my left. There on the trunk of the tree were 3 Nuthatches, an adult and 2 young, which were being instructed on how to track down bugs. The three of them performed all sorts of acrobatics amongst the boughs, until eventually they flitted off to a different tree across to my right. I haven’t seen them since, but on reading up on them I learned that they tend to stay within a defined territory, so I am hoping for a repeat performance.
I made an inspection of the beehives this afternoon and was pleased to find some full boxes of honeycombs, so I will be extracting honey in a couple of days. Oh how I love that film of stickiness on every surface following a honey extraction. It’s always interesting to see how that golden liquid will taste; every batch is different in hue and flavour, I’m sure that it will be delicious. I’m not a great lover of honey, it’s too sweet for my palate, but I can tell a good vintage from a less good one – let’s hope this is a grand cru.
Right, the sun is dropping below the tree line down the hill, so I think that I will retire inside before it gets chilly. Enjoy the sunshine, dust off your non essential shopping bags, rinse your face mask, and have a good week.