Beams and blight

We woke this morning to rain. Excellent. After a long dry spell it’s exactly what the garden needs. It’s a gentle, soft, tickly and misty – hardly like rain at all – but slowly and surely, it’s wetting the ground nicely. With more hot, dry weather forecast, I hope it rains all day. . . and night . . . and tomorrow.

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It’s been an interesting week (actually, to be fair, most weeks here are interesting). What was that I was saying about solid beams in the kitchen? This was one surprise, hidden under two layers of rotten panelling, we could have done without.

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The good news is (1) the house is not about to fall down (2) thanks to the wonders of modern technology (aka metal rods and epoxy resin) it can be fixed (3) it didn’t stop us finishing the second ceiling bay. Phew! Two-thirds of the ceiling is now plasterboarded and although there’s a lot of fiddling and finishing to do (tape, plaster, oodles of paint), it already looks so much better.

The last third is more complicated as the timbers above need replacing; we are leaving that for the time being so we can concentrate on getting a kitchen in. Next job: floorboards. First it was necessary to remove a concrete plinth which we think had been built to support a fridge.

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Quite honestly, it had been built to survive an earthquake. There were so many reinforcement rods in it that it took the best part of two days to remove!

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Anyway, the floorboards are going down a treat and a level, non-wobbly, holeless floor feels like such a luxury. That nasty lino is disappearing, everything is lighter and brighter and the house is starting to smell fresh, clean and ‘new.’

I’ve managed to grab quite a bit of time in the garden this week which means I’ve been on top of the weeds and have been able to spend time doing other things. I’ve tidied up the daggier areas of the main veg patch so we can clear, level (well, as much as is possible here) and plant them in the autumn. I’m planning to put some asparagus and globe artichokes in there, in the hope we can curb our nomadic tendencies long enough to enjoy a harvest at last! The muck pile was covered with bracken and chopped brambles so I’ve cleared them off and dug out all the weeds growing in it. It’s lovely well-rotted stuff and will be perfect to spread around later in the year.

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With the potatoes lifted and stored and the broad beans finished, I was able to clear a good-sized area for replanting.

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This is all a learning curve: what can we plant at this time of year? It may be a tad too late for some things but there’s nothing to lose – it all has two chances. So, in went ‘Autumn King’ and ‘Cosmic Purple’ carrots, fennel, komatsuna, winter radish (‘Mooli Neptune’ and Weiner Runder Kohlschwarzer’) and yet more beans (dwarf bean ‘Delinel’ and cannellino bean) ‘Imperio Bianco.’ The komatsuna was up in three days and the rain this morning is just what the beans were waiting for.

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In trays, I’ve also planted two types of kale, both from the Real Seed Company: ‘Nero Di Tuscana’ which we’ve had huge success with in the past, and a rare heirloom variety ‘Sutherland.’ Both have germinated already.

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There is no doubt about how well squash grow here so next year, we can be more organised with the varieties we plant; it’s a bit disappointing not to have a butternut variety this time. Of the eight varieties I planted in a pre-move panic ( ‘Crown Prince’, ‘Bon Bon’, ‘Chestnut’, ‘Honey Bear’, ‘Jaspee de Vendee’, ‘Marina di Chioggia’, ‘Sonca’ and ‘Flying Saucer’) I know the last two didn’t germinate, ‘Sonca’ being the butternut . . . and of the six plants I ended up with, one isn’t bearing any fruit. In the squash jungle I can see four different types but have to admit I’m not sure which is which. Any squash experts out there willing to comment?

A yellow one that seems to rot very quickly.

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A large striped green one.

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A pale yellow egg-shaped one.

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A paler green one that is by far the most prolific, it’s even taking the bedsteads on.

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Whatever they are, we certainly won’t be short!

One of the things we learned too late was that this is a terrible area for blight. Jairo told us about the huge problems potato producers have round here and we have watched fields literally collapse overnight. Unfortunately, our tomatoes were already in the ground. Enter blight: they all collapsed. Some died but the rest have grown new tops and are having another go. Mmm, we’ll see. Our neighbours are all growing their toms in shady tucked-away places, nestled down between buildings where the rain can’t touch them and – despite the lack of sunshine on them – they are fruiting and ripening well. This is what we need to try next year (and if that fails, the shops and markets are overflowing with flavoursome tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes). It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as in the salad-fast-becoming-nothing-but-squash patch, there is a little miracle in the making. There are two tomato plants, both self-set (one in the middle of the beetroot row).

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Who knows where they came from, but they are growing and fruiting. Perhaps germinating later than the rest,they have missed the blight season or maybe they’re resistant; either way, we’re not holding our breath but maybe – just maybe – we’ll have some homegrown toms yet!

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I think perhaps I need to sow nasturtiums slightly earlier, too. Last month, there were vibrant banks of them everywhere, truly stunning. Mine, planted after we arrived in late May, are being totally trashed by these little blighters. Talk about a sacrificial plant.

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It’s good to see the honey bees in the borage, though.

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Still on the subject of animals, it was entertaining to watch a lizard scuttling about after flying ants on a hot evening; there are lizards everywhere here, but this one was a particularly unusual shade of green – and very photogenic.

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We are having regular visits from one of our neighbours who likes to come and sit in the shade and watch us work. She doesn’t say a lot but has the most unusual David Bowie eyes . . . shame she doesn’t eat caterpillars. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Beams and blight

  1. No, not blight! At least with the potatoes you can save the crop, but with tomatoes there is nothing to do but burn the lot. Maybe you’ll need a small tunnel after all. The squashes are looking great – I’m afraid I’m no help with identification. I’m growing Bon Bon for the first time this year. Good luck with finishing the kitchen. We’ve just started on the garage refurbishment. Nice-looking feline. They’re usually so timid in Spain.

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  2. Yes, a small tunnel is on the list for next year, maybe where we’ve cut back the kiwi as it’s a flattish patch. We’re also thinking of a covered tomato patch in the old chicken run but there’s the small problem of several tons of rubble in there at the moment . . .not looking forward to shifting that lot again, might be easier to buy some toms! 🙂

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