If we ever want to live on our own food all year through we have to learn how to preserve what we have an abundance of in the summer. There are plenty of ways to do this, stick it in the freezer would be the obvious one, but we want to avoid a mains hook up on our house in the future, so we need something a little less energy hungry.

I started with two easy ways: Making Alcohol & Jarring.

I had quite a few tomatoes that were beginning to turn, and which were a a little blighted, so I cooked them all up and jarred them. It’s easy to do, a bit of outlay on jars the first time, unless you managed to collect your old jam jars (which I did but now don’t know what happened to them), but it pays in the end. So just make the sauce the way you like it and then completely fill jars that have been in the oven at 150c for 15mins or so. This is easier said than done, and it was a a good thing I didn’t video it, I may have had a few choice words for the jars as I burnt my fingers. But all worked out well in the end, although we’ll have to see what the contents is like in a few months.

Next is something I’m very interested in learning about. One of my little pleasures is a beer or drop of wine in the evenings after a hard days work. Ensuring I can make my own is very important for my survival. We have a few old elderberry trees about so I thought I would give some elderberry wine a try as my first attempt. This is my method so far:

  1. Pick 3lb of elderberries, make sure they are nice and black.
  2. Boil up 8 pints of water.
  3. Mix some wine yeast with a bit of warm water and leave for 25mins whilst doing the other bits.
  4. Meanwhile pick of the berries into a bucket and mash up with your hands.
  5. Pour half the boiling water into the mashed up berries. Allow to cool.
  6. Pour other half into another container with 3lb of sugar.
  7. Pour berry mixture into the sugar water container through cloth.
  8. Add teaspoon of citric acid and the yeast.
  9. Pour into demijohn and seal with bung & airlock.

My only real problem was that I didn’t have a big enough bung for the demijohn and didn’t have an airlock. Solved the 1st problem temporarily with some electric tape wrapped around the smaller bung (suggested to me by the guy down the hardware shop in the village). Next day got an airlock and bigger bung, it is now bubbling away nicely. I also wasn’t quite sure how much yeast to put in. My packet said enough for between 10-35 Litres. I had 5L, so put half the packet in, we’ll see.

I have to research the next steps but I know I have to wait for the fermentation to stop first, I also know I wont be able to taste it and find out what I did wrong for 8 months or so. My next project is cider, I don’t think you have to wait as long to drink this.

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I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what we harvest, when we harvest it and how much of it we get. I struggled a bit to find the best way to display it, this is what I ended up with. All numbers are weights in Kilos.

Some highlights are 29kg of cucumbers, which is a large increase from our last attempt in Cornwall of 130g, and tomatoes, so far at 14.8kg with some more still to harvest in the tunnel and outside. I’m also interested to see what our potato total will be, due to dig them all up next week. We have 21kg from our 1st row, with another 10 rows to harvest.

From June to end of August  we have harvested 117kg of veg from a cultivated area of 330 m2.

 

Harvest 2013_2

 

I’ll add an updated graph each month as I get the info, and start summarising the different veg to try and clearly show how much we sowed and how much we harvested (any suggestions on how to do this welcomed!).

 

I had a few days at the land last week, just enough time to work through a few little jobs on the allotment. We had a good bit of rain Wednesday, which was much needed and saved me what would have been a considerable amount of time watering.

First a little experiment: When I planted the sweetcorn I decided to compare a method of preparing the beds that I’d read about in John Seymour. He’s quite enthusiastic about a method called ‘Bastard Trenching’ (honestly). It involves digging a series of deep beds (about 12inch deep). The procedure is as follows:

  • Dig a trench across your bed &  put the soil to one side.
  • Fork the bottom so that it is loose then add a load of manure into the bottom of the hole.
  • Dig the next trench to the right of the 1st one. You put the soil from this trench into the first hole; topsoil in the bottom, then the rest, thus filling the first with the soil from the second (I suppose this is where the bastard bit comes from).
  • Continue for however many rows you want.
  • Fill the last row with the soil from the first.

Also refereed to as the ‘Deep Bed Method’ it is apparently a good way to grow heavier yielding crops in a smaller space. The theory is that the roots more easily penetrate the loose, deep soil and thus go down rather than out. You then sow stuff closer together, which has the added advantage of creating dense foliage that connects when the plant is mature creating a canopy over the soil. This helps to keep the moisture on the ground in dry climates. I have definitely benefited from this with our broadbeans. They are very close, with no gaps between foliage. When the other beds are dry this bed is still moist.

I decided to run a little test with the sweetcorn. Half in the deep bed and half on a normally dug section. The results so far are below. The deep bed section definitely looks healthier.

Sweetcorn experiment. The left section was Bastard trenched (deep dug) with manure, the right just dug over.

Sweetcorn experiment: The left section was sown using the ‘deep bed method’ & the right section was sown in to a regular bed.

Below are the pictures from some of the other potterings I did over the few days:

Ctonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all of otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Stonka; Pronounced Stonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all off otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Ctonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Stonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Tied up outside Tomatoes.

Tied up outside Tomatoes. These are the ones that suffered early on. Looking OK now.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes in Poly-tunnel.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

First Tomato

First Tomato

Re-potted strawberries from shoots.

Re-potted strawberries from shoots. Using pots means once the shoot is established you can cut the cord and plant where you like.

Planted out asparagus.

Planted out asparagus. Dug 12 inch deep trench with manure in bottom.

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Tied them up ready for training.

Took down broken Mk 1.0 Poly-tunnel & tied up grape vines  ready for training.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

Not sure what this is, I can't remember sowing it.

Not sure what this is, I can’t remember sowing it.

Can't remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Can’t remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).
First small harvest of peas and broad beans.

First small harvest of peas and broad beans. Very tasty! Should have a load by the end of the week.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now. Makes for a nice Polish breakfast.

Panoramic of the allotment mid June.

We’ve been having trouble with our new, old car, so haven’t been able to get to the land much over the last couple of weeks. This coupled with very dry and hot weather meant that I was a little worried I might find the allotment looking a little withered and sorry for itself. We haven’t had any rain for 4 weeks now and the temperature has been around 30C for a while with no foercast of rain despite a few villagers predicted some soon. We’ve missed the band of storms which have spread through the south of Poland, which I’m glad about, I drove through one on the way to Warsaw and experianced hail stones big enough to make me think my windscreen was going to brake. The wind in these parts had also caused a lot of the crops to collapse, hopefully they will recover. We need rain, but I’d rather not a storm like this if possible.

Anyway the plants are doing ok and we had our first decent harvest of small cucumbers (Ogorki) and yellow courgettes. The ogorgki plants are producing loads, I think we should have plenty for eating fresh during the summer and for pickling.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing lots of planting. The average last frost date for us is 28th May, with this out of the way we had to get on with it and get everything in the ground. We had a mixture of stuff we started off indoors to plant out, and seed to sow straight to the ground. I’ll be putting on a little inventory of what we have later, alongside a rough costing of the allotment work and harvests.

On our last allotment everything was done in a bit of a rush during our spare time before or after work. As such I didn’t take any special care with planting techniques. Now we have a bit more time I’ve been doing my research and have been trying to follow the instructions I’ve found. Most things seem to be common sense, but I found some good tips on planting cabbages, Brussels, and Leeks.  Planting out leeks that have been started off indoors has always mystified me, and I still don’t really know what I’m doing, it seems a bit odd making a big hole and just dropping the young leeks into it, but I’ve seen this done at my old allotment and read about it, so I’ve given it a go. They are still alive after a week, so maybe they will be ok. A short video below of what I did, any tips welcome for next time.

I’ve been putting off building a bigger polytunnel for a while, as I didn’t really have a clue how to go about it. But after a few weeks the tomatoes have outgrown their 5Ltr waterbottle houses, and I found some old bits from our caravan awning that looked right for the job.

It’s in my rustic style, a little wonky, but it has survived some strong wind. We’ve missed the latest band of heavy storms but I think it will get a proper test very soon.

This week I did a lot of planting and pottering around in the allotment. Everything is growing very fast now, I know from my old allotment how much things change through the year. I thought it would be interesting to have a look around the allotment now in early spring so there is something to compare it all in the Autumn.

Pumpkins.

Looking S.W.

Peas & Beans

Peas and Beans

Video Of Allotment:

 

Also did a bit around the house with Tadeusz (Marta’s Dad)