Back in the 70s, my brothers sported hair to their shoulders, monster collars and cuffs, a natty line in Plasticraft cufflinks and on a least one occasion, very dodgy cravats. All of these elements are long gone and I strongly suspect, never to return. Whilst my brothers’ coiffures have improved by reverting to a closer cut, I can’t say the same for the current, common approach to hedgerow maintenance in our locale.
The cross-compliance regulations mean that, with very few exceptions, the hedgerows cannot be cut between the beginning of March and the end of August. Trouble is, come September, this is what often happens around here:
The hedges are flayed and scalped back drastically. Whilst it is a far cry from the wholesale grubbing out of hedgerows that took place in 60s and 70s I do feel that it cannot be that hard to put in place a more sympathetic management plan. Flaying back so drastically most certainly removes much of the winter food for our wildlife.
This is a SELECTION of what we have in our, uncut, hedges now:
I very much doubt there was much food left in the scalped hedge.
This is what happens when you don’t keep on top of pinching out your cordon tomatoes.
The resultant hack back meant that I was left with a moderate quantity of green tomatoes. Of course, the obvious choice of recipe for the tomatoes is chutney, but I’m with Nigel Slater – who wants vats of one sort of pickle? So I hunted around for a recipe that didn’t require kilos of tomatoes and plumped for Riverford’s version.
I do like making chutney because the process is less intense than jam; the ingredients are cooked gently for an hour or two rather than a volcanic boil so I can wander off, do something else, have a cup of tea etc.
The pickle needs to mature for a few months – so, should be ready for the Boxing Day cold cuts!
Reading this week: The Running Hare by John Lewis Stempel
The State of Nature report 2016 will be published on the 14th of this month. I suspect the study will confirm the ongoing decline of the UK’s wildlife. So no time like the present to try and increase the biodiversity of our patch. Whilst it would be impossible to turn the new orchard from organic rye-grass grazing back to lowland meadow in one hit, we have made a start.
We’ve been given a large bag of seed from the scything of a nearby managed meadow. The lovely OH worked really hard to create a strip along the edge of the orchard. First, he cut the grass hard, raking off the cuttings and then ran the rotavator on a high setting over the strip to create bare patches. We scattered our donated seed and then trod over the area. For good measure, I also added some cuttings for our own wildflower verge.
Next spring we’ll create another strip.
Perhaps in a decade the whole orchard will be a meadow!
If you are a dedicated GYO then it pays to have some decent vegetarian recipes up your sleeve. We raided the polytunnel for chillies and tomatoes; the veg. plot supplied garlic and onion. I did look at our aubergines but decided they needed to bulk up a tad so I picked one up with the groceries.
As our chillies range the scoville scale from mild to inferno, I substituted some Poblano for bell peppers added Joe’s Long for a bit of pep and the lovely OH made harrissa paste, adding in Super Chilli.
Once the vegetables had roasted for 45 minutes I added the harissa along with more of our tomatoes, (instead of canned) and returned to the oven whilst I baked couscous. Finally all the ingredients were stirred together and served with a sprinkle of coriander.
Listening to this week: Plants: From Roots to Riches omnibus editions on Radio iPlayer.
I’d love to live close enough to the sea to fish, though far enough away to escape the effects of salt-laden winds and holiday crowds. If we did, we would most certainly set crab pots. I love brown crab, (Cancer pagurus), far far more than lobster, though I’m also partial to brown shrimps…. and scallops. Mussels too.
The lovely OH goes fishing up in Scotland around this time – usually, he is lucky enough to catch enough fish for the freezer for the coming year.
Hopefully, he will also bring home a brown crab….
I know it’s autumn because I’ve filled the log basket; the morning air had a definite nip to it.
Today we did a classic autumn forage and went out into the lanes to pick blackberries which are at their best in late August and September. Our own cultivated varieties, planted back in February, won’t bear much fruit for a while. Out in the lanes, we found that the berries hadn’t ripened up on the hills, though as we made our way back, the lovely OH spotted a fine crop. Gathered blackberries don’t keep, (see Seamus Healey’s poem for a description of spoilt berries!), so I use them the same day in a dish, or preserve, though they do freeze well.
I’ve also been collecting up the fallen apples in the new orchard as I hope this reduces the likelihood of a serious brown rot attack the following year. Brown rot is a disease that affects the fruit of apples, pears, and stone fruit and is caused by the fungus, Monilinia fructigena.
The windfalls are also used up as the unspoiled bits of apple go into the crumble and this year I’m also keeping the peelings and cores for making apple cider vinegar. These scraps will be fine in the freezer until I’ve accumulated enough to three-quarter fill my recycled quart pickle jar.
Just the one Peregrine peach left on the tree. At some point, there may have been more but I haven’t been out in the old orchard for a while.
So to celebrate our entire 2016 crop we kept it simple….
marrying the sweetness of the white peach and a few of our Victoria plums with salty Parma ham and feta. Freshly ground coffee completes a very special breakfast.
Reading this week: Beechcombings – The narratives of trees by Richard Mabey