Wednesday 11 September 2013

I Think It Might Be Autumn

The weather weird-ing continues, one stormy night followed by a day of rain and showers and the daily temperature has dropped by around 12C.  The usual couple of months where the temperature slowly ramps up in spring and then descends in autumn haven’t happened this year which is a great pity as it is those months when most of the outside work gets done.  Never mind, there is always next year Smile

The harvest this year is much less than usual at my place; the cold spring along with the wet early part of summer which then over a couple of days turned to an extremely hot summer with no rain meant not many pollinators made it to my place and the plants themselves struggled to grow.  However in august things started growing so I had some fresh vegetables.

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The nectarines were rather small but tasty.  The ones in the basket above are the white fleshed type.  The yellow fleshed ones, which are generally sweeter, only had 2 fruits that made it through to somewhere near ripening and they were both eaten by the hornets before they were ready to harvest.

The peaches though did reasonably well. 

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Most of these were knocked off by the wind but I don’t leave the peaches on the tree until soft, again because of the hornets, wasps and ants.  As soon as they start to go yellow, I go through the tree and give each one a gentle twist and take off those that basically come away in my hand.  They are still hard but I found this way of ripening them somewhere on the Internet and it works better than any other method I’ve used.  The peaches are laid out on a cotton cloth and covered loosely with another one.  I check them every couple of days and remove any that are starting to go off but on the whole they soften ready for eating.

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This year it was the early flowering almond that got the best of the weather.  Usually it doesn’t produce much as normally it gets the worse weather.  I don’t have anywhere near as many almonds as last year but that will make these even more tasty. 

The wild hazel trees have struggled too.  Most of the hazelnuts above I think are empty – they don’t fall out of their cases – but I will open them just the same until I convince myself that my theory works.

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I lifted the shallots a few weeks ago and they hadn’t produced many large bulbs.  I’ve used a few but the majority will be going back in the ground for next year.

With the changing of the climate I think that saving your own seed is going to become more important to ensure that the plants you grow can flourish in your particular environment.  Lets just hope we can stop the EU legislators from banning us from saving and using our own seed so we have to fill the coffers of the mega companies.

The bees are still here too!

The swarm has probably quadrupled in size over the summer so I’m hopeful there will be enough of them to survive the winter; there needs to be a big enough group to generate enough heat to keep them warm and alive through winter.  However, I don’t think they have enough honey so I’ve not taken any for myself and have started feeding them some heavy syrup.  I will keep feeding them this syrup for a couple of weeks as I think they still have time to convert it to honey.  If however the weather looks like it is going to degrade further I’ll have to stop and change to fondant. 

Today though they were out and working and were bringing in a lot of pollen. 

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Yesterday when I checked them, I also fitted the mouseguard as part of the winter preparation.  Again the bees were very patient with me despite me faffing about and intermittently closing off the entrance while I tried to get the height of the guard right.  Note to self, fit the mouseguard before filling with bees next time!

They adapted to the mouseguard really quickly and it will serve a double purpose.  Not only should it stop any mice from entering and building a nest to overwinter in the warmth of the hive but it also makes the entrance more defendable.  That point was brought home while I was doing my hive check. 

I’d just opened up the hive when I noticed a hornet taking rather a lot of interest in the bees that were on the crown boards I’d taken off.  Thankfully it was the European hornet and not the Asiatic.  I gave it a bit of a dousing with the water spray and it moved off.  About a thirty seconds later I realised it had returned.  I’d not seen it come back but a couple of the guard bees had wrestled it to the ground and were battling to kill it.  My boot came down rather heavily as I didn’t want there to be any chance of it going back to its nest and telling the others.