Life on The Weald -
and other distractions - October 2023
The month began reasonably warm. On the first day of the month the temperature reached 19C, dropping to only 15C at night. We managed a good harvest of cucumbers and beetroot as well a a plentiful supply of Cavolo Nero.There was limited time on the plot though - my grandson Felix was still with us but we also had a visit from my daughter, Zoë, and granddaughter, Kitty.
|1 October with Felix, Zoë and Kitty
The following day, I harvested one of the Tromboncinos but I'm afraid it broke as I picked it
|2 October - tromboncino
|2 October - "it came apart in my hands"
When I got it home, I tried a temporary reconstruction, just for the photograph! It was about 1 metre long (as the crow flies!) but would have been much longer if only it had grown straight. And there are perhaps larger ones to come.
We made a start on it; we roasted slices with peppers, tomatoes and herbs and a hint of paprika.
|2 October - tromboncino bake
In the wormery, the worms were doing their job and producing lots of compost and nitrogen-rich liquid fertiliser. For years, I have been calling this liquid "worm tea" but am now told that is wrong. Apparently worm tea is made by infusing worm casts - ie the digested material produced by worms and then filtering off the liquid. What drains from a wormery is "leachate", the liquid run-off from the decomposing vegetable matter that has not been digested by the worms. Some commentators suggest that use of leachate is not safe as it may contain pathogens and phytotoxic substances i.e. substances that are harmful to the growth of plants. We only put vegetable matter in our wormery (and occasional fish bones), never meat/animal products so the risk of pathogens is very low (and human pathogens such as E.coli or Salmonella are not harmful to plants and are present in the soil and on our hands anyway. We also dilute our leachate with water (around 1-10 ratio) and apply it to the soil, not the foliage, and only use it for well established plants. We also add it to compost bins/heaps as a nitrogen rich compost accelerator. In addition to nitrogen it is a good source of carbon, potassium and phosphorus. Having read numerous articles we do not think it is harmful if used in the way that we do and will continue to use it as a liquid fertiliser, believing that it contributes to healthy and vigorous growth, especially on our brassicas.
If I saw any evidence of harm, such as chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves) that would be a signal to stop using it.
|3 October - a semi-composted tray
|3 October - a fully composted tray
We began to spread some of the worm compost on the area where the potatoes had grown and where we had put down a layer of cardboard.
|3 October - muck spreading
We had planned a few days away, firstly to visit Sylvi's nephew, Ross, in North Wales for his 40th birthday. and then a bit of site-seeing. As the remaining Marmande tomatoes had just begun to ripen, I thought I would pick them and bring them indoors to finish ripening and avoid the risk of the snails/slugs getting them whilst we were away.
|5 October - Marmande tomatoes
We had hired a campervan for our journey, which proved to be eventful - although not in a good way! We collected the van from Horsham but soon after leaving the M25 as we were heading up the M40, approaching Beaconsfield, the clutch pedal jammed. We managed to get off the motorway on to the slip road and phoned for assistance to the hire company.
The Highways Agency arrived soon after but advised that we could not sit in the vehicle but had to move away as far as possible on the grassy bank.
|arrival of the highway patrol
Initially, the weather was fine but soon clouded over and the temperature dropped. Fortunately the Highways Agency had given us some foil blankets.
It was just as well that we had the blankets because it was 6 hours before the recovery vehicle came to pick us up and take us back to the depot in Horsham.
|6 hours sitting by the roadside
We stopped overnight north of Oxford, continuing our journey in the morning arriving in Denbigh around lunchtime. We took Ross for a stroll on the empty beach at Prestatyn. It was a bit breezy but sunny with clear blue skies.
|6 October - Barkby beach - Prestatyn
We could have been in Hove looking out to the Rampion wind farm but this was the North Hoyle Windfarm in Liverpool Bay, 7.5 km (4.7 miles) from the shore and unlike Hove, the beach had sand.
After a visit to Rhyll and a wander round Denbigh - and no campervan - we found a delightful pub to stay, the Hawk and Buckle Inn. A good selection of real ale and craft beers; good pub grub, friendly staff and clientele and a good night's sleep in a comfortable room with a great view.
The following day we spent wandering around the county town of Mold and then on to Chester for lunch and a bit of site-seeing.
|7 October - Chester
|7 October - Cormorants on the Dee
|7 October - Chester Cathedral
The following day we headed to Manchester for a stroll round Coronation Street!
|8 October - a stop off at The Rovers
|8 October - popping in to The Kabin
|A stroll down the ginnel
|Has The Rovers got a new landlady?
|Couldn't resist a stop at Roy's Rolls
After the delights of Manchester we headed south, spending some time in Shakespeare's Stratford on our way home....
|9 October - Stratford-upon-Avon
....and a pleasant afternoon on the Avon
|Messing about on the river
|Disturbing the ducks
|9 October -The Toll House and Clopton Bridge
Safely home after a few days away in a glorious Indian Summer; and in our absence, the tomatoes had ripened.
The allotment is getting a bit overgrown and the trees and shrubs need to be cut back if the haulageways are to be passable but we may have to wait some time as our council, like so many others, is strapped for cash and allotment maintenance does not appear to be a high priority.
I took the opportunity to do a bit more muckspreading and build up another raised bed with a layer of cardboard covered with worm compost and soil, ready to plant some broad beans
At home we harvested a lot of chillies from the plants we had brought indoors.
Although I had partially cleared an area near the pond, it was still full of roots of bindweed and couch grass so I spent some time on hands and knees picking out the offending roots before replanting the gooseberry bush which had been engulfed by the weeds.
But whilst I was on my hands and knees and Sylvi was doing battle with the brambles our grandson, with a slight financial inducement, had agreed to collect farmyard manure from the shop yard for us - he managed 3 barrow loads in 6 half full deliveries and we piled this in a heap on the cardboard which we had laid with some worm compost on top where the 2023 potatoes had grown.
I harvested the largest of the Butternut Squash.....
We also lifted the last of the Charlotte 2nd early potatoes
It wasnt only the Zimbabwe black chillies that were thriving having been brought indoors - The Cheyenne and Habaneros were doing well too.
It was also time to start eating some of the many squashes that we had picked. We made a start with the smallest of the Crown Prince.
|Crown Prince squash
We had also picked oner of our Drumhead red cabbages. The slugs and snails had made a meal of the outer leaves but the inside was firm and clean.
It was very chilly in the morning and I sowed some Aquadulce broad beans in modules at home. These would serve as a back-up, a contingency reserve, in case any of the directly sown ones failed. I was waiting for a clear day to sow some directly on the allotment.
I shredded some of the red cabbage, sprinkled some sea salt over it, leaving it overnight ready to make some pickled red cabbage the following day.
It was 12C in the morning but with a very fresh breeze which made it feel much cooler. Overnight, the red cabbage had changed colour with a more bluish appearance and a lot of purplish/blue water had drained off. It was now ready to be rinsed, drained and pickled, which was the task of the day indoors in the kitchen, rather than spending a cold day on the plot.
|brined red cabbage
I had also brined some of our home grown shallots the night before and proceeded to make spicy pickled shallots.
Today was unexpectably warm in the morning and at 3pm in the sunshine it was a very warm 17C. The Jerusalem artichokes were in flower....
|Jerusalem artichoke in flower
Some had grown to almost 3 metres in height!
In the warm sunshine, I took the opportunity to sow a few broad beans and then covered the area with horticultural fleece. I had sown them in a bed where beet spinach was still growing and which would hopefully continue to produce during the winter.
The weather changed suddenly with really strong winds and heavy rain across the country, especially in Scotland and the north of England which experienced severe flooding. We had strong winds and heavy rain in East Sussex but escaped the worst, whereas just a few miles away in West Sussex my nephew was not so lucky as streets in Pagham were flooded.
I paid a visit to one of the community plots for their open day and enlisted the services of Viv, my neighbour, who runs the Organic Gardening group in transporting some plants back to our respective plots including ginger rosemary and jostaberry plants. The jostaberry is a cross bewteen a blackcurrant and a gooseberry and thornless.
|22 October - with Viv and wheelbarrow
Whilst Sylvi repaired the damage to the old greenhouse and continued the fight against brambles, I sowed some more broad beans and then covered them with fleece.
With a few more days of sunshine, I continued to remove couch grass and bindweed from around the gooseberries.
|24 October - clearing bindweed
The old shed was falling down and the replacement shed which we had acquired was lying on the ground in pieces. It will be a long time (if ever) before we get to replace the shed so I just moved all the panels of the replacement shed and leaned them against the old one - creating a shed within a shed! I realise that this will be only a temporary solution.
|Two sheds into one
I laid cardboard on some more of the raised beds and began to cover the cardboard with manure that Jerome had transported for us. I also added some compost from the wormeries. These will be our onion beds in the spring.
Whilst most of the Crown Prince squash looked OK and ready for picking we discovered that one had been attacked by fungus or pests. We decided to pick it, hoping that the flesh would be OK, but keep an eye on it in storage.
|A Crown Prince squash looking healthy
|A Crown Prince showing signs of disease
Some of the tromboncinos were still green whilst others had ripened.
|A green summer tromboncino
|A ripe, hard winter tromboncino
We also harvested some butternut squashes and the remaining Crown Prince.
|A collection of our squashes
We have a lot of Sage growing so decided to make a butternut Squash and sage risotto.
|Butternut risotto with Sage
Although I was very pleased with my squash harvest, I couldn't compete with my son, Toby, who had even greater success in Northumberland.
|Toby's 2022 squash harvest, Rothbury
At home we had a good harvest of chillies from the plants we had brought indoors, including Cheyenne, Zimbabwe black, Scotch bonnet and Habanero. And the plants are flowering again!
I went to the allotment to buy some garlic and some more broad beans but as soon as I parked, the rain came down and I sat in the car for about 15 minutes until a lull and made a quick dash to the shop. Today was definitely a day to stay indoors - and there was more heavy rain, rain, rain...
sheltering in the car park
There was a break from the rain on 30th with some periods of sunshine which allowed for a bit of tidying up.
|30 October looking north
|30 October ripening tromboncinos
|30 October looking west
|30 October looking east
But the break in the weather was shortlived; there was more heavy rain that evening and a warning that Storm Ciarán was on its way.
After the heavy overnight rain, Tuesday was a bright sunny morning and a warm 15C. The ground was very wet but I decided to plant the garlic. I planted it a little deeper than usual so that the tips were only just level with the ground. If you leave the tips showing and don't cover it, the birds take delight in pulling up the cloves that have been planted. To be doubly sure, however, I covered the planted area with fleece,
I also managed to pick a healthy crop of Cavolo nero before the sky clouded over and rain looked imminent. We have been picking Cavolo nero regularly throughout the month.
As usual, our near neighbours, 5 doors up, had gone to town with the Halloween decorations
|Ready for Halloween at No.60
They looked even more impressive after sunset
But then, the heavens opened and torrential rain kept the trick or treaters indoors that night.