Since deciding to have a break from blogging several weeks ago, I’ve been surprised in some ways at how little I’ve missed it. In part I think this is because we have been so very busy; summer was a bit tardy in arriving here so we have been (and still are) shamelessly indulging in all the pleasures and easy living that sunshine and wraparound warmth bring from dawn to dusk.
We have watched the sun rise over the Galician sea and wandered along wild-waved beaches amongst the oyster catchers and surf dudes.
We have trailed up steep river gorges and scaled soaring peaks; if nothing else, living in Asturias is certainly curing me of vertigo!
We have explored wild heady spaces and fascinating cultural places. We have enjoyed fantastic excursions and wonderful meals with guests staying here – a holiday for us, too! We have cooked outdoor breakfasts and brewed coffee up mountains and by the sea; we have luxuriated in relaxed supper evenings with local friends.
We have run hard, too, training in the cool of morning and competing in the heat of the day and winning two more trophies for the collection. Mine was simply for turning up – note my podium loneliness, all the sensible grannies had stayed at home (that was one tough race) . . .
. . . but Roger’s was a hard won victory. After a year out through injury, Mr Speedy is back on form!
Yes, too busy to blog . . . but at a certain level I have to admit I have missed the fun and buzz of writing and all the crafting and shaping and wordsmithery it requires. More importantly, I have realised this week (whilst looking back to see when we were eating the autumn flush of figs last year) that not blogging means I have lost a really useful resource – the diary that it was always designed to be in the first place. I don’t have the patience to keep a garden notebook but a quick flick through earlier posts can be a very handy guide when it comes to plans for seedtime and harvest next year. So, what to do? Well, for the time being there is nothing for it but a quick occasional garden update so at least I will have a reference for this time next year. As this will mean more photos than words it will force my hand very soon, anyway; I am fast running out of free space on this site and will be faced with a decision of what to do next. Delete the whole blog? Draw a line under it and leave it for posterity? Upgrade and continue with something bigger and better and advert-free? Who knows . . . but in the meantime, back to business.
The equinox looms but we would be hard-pressed to find many signs of autumn’s imminent arrival: no falling leaves, no fungi, no misty mornings, no woodsmoke. There is, of course, a subtle shift in light levels and everywhere is swathed in silvered spiderings whilst the warmth of afternoon and evening sunshine releases the fragrant perfume of golden Japanese quince so typical of the season.
The garden has that languid end-of-summer feel about it, all straggly and strung out and overblown, and yet still it heaves with colour and scent and harvest. We’ve done better this year in terms of keeping a succession of crops going; last year, we had no lettuce after July, this year we have harvested them without a break and the next lot are looking happy nestled between the basil and leeks in the shade of a peach tree.
Collecting vegetables for dinner is child’s play, every trug a sumptuous artist’s palette of sun-warmed colours and flavours.
Our September salads are as pretty as a picture; here red oak-leaved lettuce, cucumber, peppers (green romano and yellow banana), Florence fennel, spring onions, basil and chives all gathered from outside and decorated with borage, nasturtium, coriander and chive flowers. Summer is definitely still in the air and on the plate.
This time last year I was clearing the ground ready for our new polytunnel; now what a treat it is to wander in there daily to harvest aubergines, several varieties of peppers and the mother lode of cayenne and jalapeno chillies, red as rosehips and hot as hell.
I’ve cleared the other side of the tunnel and forked in a barrow of muck ready for cooler customers, the salads, oriental leaves, spring onions, chard, kohl rabi, chard and ‘Douce Provence’ peas to see us through to spring.
We’ve been harvesting onions, too. These are a mix of ‘Ailsa Craig’ and ‘Bedfordshire Champion’ and what a sad start the seedlings had in spring, going into the ground as tiny green threads on a wing and a prayer. Have faith, gardener, let nature do its thing . . . we have just lifted our best onion harvest in years!
At a rough count, 150 flavoursome beauts, some of which weigh the best part of a kilo and will do several meals. Stringing them in the shade of the horreo and the company of a lovely assistant was a pleasant afternoon’s activity; hauling them up the steps to hang on the horreo balcony was a decent cardio workout! Mmm, I can smell those comforting soups, stews and roasts already . . .
On which subject, now for another of our winter staples: squash. Looking back at last year’s post, I said I was going to have to rein in my squash-growing enthusiasm this year; well, that didn’t happen, then. We have had a couple of small ‘Hunter’ (or were they ‘Harrier’?) butternuts already but the main harvest is yet to happen. Needless to say, the usual mayhem has ensued. Even in the more -um- controlled patch, our favourite ‘Crown Prince’ has climbed into the lane and across the field, leaving plump fruits dangling in mad places as it goes.
That’s nothing compared to the happenings in what I fondly call ‘Anja’s Patch,’ named after my Finnish friend, the Queen of Squash who encourages me in this madness by sending packages of unusual seeds that I just have to plant. To be fair, the most vigorous beastie there is actually homegrown, a self-set plant that emerged from the compost heap, crossed a terrace full of beans, travelled down the orchard (narrowly missing the young lemon tree) and is currently halfway up a walnut tree. Without a wider-than-wide-angled lens, it’s impossible to capture the scale of this chaos; the bit in the photo is literally the tail-end which is currently driving the strimming maestro crazy (as if cutting the grass on that slippery slope isn’t hard enough).
On the upside, it does appear to be a cross between last year’s ‘Guatemalan Blue’ and ‘Crown Prince’ so should make excellent eating.
Prize for the most prolific fruiter goes to the Russian ‘Pink Fairy’; it should also win the award for the biggest misnomer in the garden – trust me, there is nothing tiny, delicate and Tinkerbelesque about those giants. In fact, like ‘Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater’, I’m seriously considering turning a couple of them into overflow accommodation.
Should I mention the torpedo-sized ‘Olive’ draped menacingly over the sweetcorn terrace? Casual observers have suggested that if fired from a trebuchet it would easily take out a castle wall.
As the foliage slowly starts to die back so other characters appear, including the gracefully pearlescent ‘Lumina’ and the weirdly warty ‘Zapalo Plomo’. Ah, it’s such good fun. Kiitos, Anja!
Goodness knows what the final count will be but of one thing I’m certain: wrestling that lot up onto the sunbathing balcony of the horreo when the time comes will make eight strings of onions seem like a stroll in the park.
So I failed on fewer squash but I have fared better with my other resolution, to introduce more colour into the garden this year. No pun intended, but creating a viable flower garden on a vertiginous mountainside has been a very steep learning curve for me. No flat places, no wide patches, no deep soil: forget those classical drift and flow cottage garden perennial-heavy borders, they just aren’t feasible.
This is a very different approach and I’m learning to love it; there is something so joyful and liberating about cramming bits and bobs into every available space with no colour themes or combinations in mind. It’s like the pebble Annie painted for us when she stayed here in July; there are no rules – simply choose whatever colours you like at the time and apply them in carefree, confident, happy strokes. Job done.
The result is a scattered kaleidoscope of brights and pastels, of bold streaks and gentle spatters, a carnival of colour and shape jostling for room and attention. It’s not a show that would win any prizes but the very naughtiness of it makes my heart sing.
I love the way this exuberance spills over into the veg patch, too; how could I improve on the Jerusalem artichokes’ very own splash of sunshine?
So here we are at summer’s end and what the autumn brings only time will tell. Of one thing, though, I can be sure: next September when I’m scratching my head over a gardening itch, I will at least have a diary to refer to! 🙂