Autumn is here, and winter isn’t far behind.

Autumn View.

Autumn View.

The last couple of weeks we’ve been researching how to store our potatoes, carrots, beetroot and parsnips over winter. In Poland this is a little more tricky than it sounds as the winter temperature can average -10, and some gloomy weather people over here are predicting lows of -30 this winter. Our storage solutions have to stop things rotting as well as freezing.

It seems potatoes can be stored in all sorts of elaborate ways, most revolving around digging holes and burying a heap of potatoes and then covering with straw.  We settled for just digging them up, bagging them into 5kg sacks and then covering in the cellar. It should stay above freezing down there.

Carrots are a bit more tricky. Most people said to layer them in some sort of container, separating the layers with sand. Apparently you have to make sure the carrots don’t touch. I tried this with my first batch of carrots and found it quite tedious arranging them in an old basket. The next batch I’m just going to layer on top of Styrofoam with sand. We’ll have to see what works best.

We also had our first hard frost a couple of weeks ago, which killed off all the courgette and pumpkin plants. We took in all the pumpkins which turned out to be a nice little batch. They are now organised in a very autumnal fashion around the house. Hopefully we will also get to eat them!

Some other things we’ve been up to:

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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.

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.

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)

 

The weather has improved with + temperatures during the day and a nice bit of sun. Still –3 odd at night but ok for staying in the campervan.

Spent two nights at the land to make a start on the plasterboarding work. I was a bit worried about staying up there on my own as its a bit eerie at night, lots of empty buildings and strange noises. I kept awake on high alert all night by the constant barking of dogs and what I think must have been the screaming of goats, which sounded like someone screaming for their life. This aside I managed to man-up and get on with work.

The Job:

To plasterboard and insulate the walls and ceiling in the first barn room. Eventually to make another room and toilet in the barn, but first things first.

Lukeplan-Edit_edited-small

I was concentrating on the room at the bottom of the picture.

I got started about 18:00, after dropping off our load of platerboards and tools from Warsaw, and then picking up all of our wood. I managed to work a few things out and get a couple of bits of batten up before the call of my chicken soup warming on the fire and couple of beers was too much and I called it a night.

First Night

Oki finally settled down.

1st Night.

As I mentioned I didn’t sleep that well but did get some rest in between the goat screams and dogs howling. I woke up just before 6am to see the sunrise and have a look around the land for wildlife. There is still ice on the pond and the ground was frozen solid. The sun rose at 100 degrees east, it was good to see which parts of the land get the first bits of light this time of year. Will help with the location of the Polytunel.

Sunrise 1st Morning.

The second day things went quite slowly. I worked from 8 til 20:30 but only managed to finish the wall I started the first night and get the batten up and the panel behind the fire in place before I finished.

First Day.

End of 1st Day.

A long day. The dog was unsettled again with all the howling, he looks a bit like a wolf but he doesn’t seem that wild, I think he was more scared than me. We’ll need a bigger dog for security I think. In the end, after he stomped around the room a bit and kept staring at me, he found a piece of insulation to sleep on. Is it a cat or a dog?

End of 1st Day.

Slept well. Woke at the same time and walked around the land again. Saw a group of 5 Roe dear, I got really close by lurking around the bushes. There were a couple of young ones playing, running around in circles, kind of like Oki when he’s being crazy. Also saw a hare. We don’t have many rabbits but there are a few of these about.

2nd Day. Sunrise over the buildings and middle pond.

A breakfast of porridge to start the day, following the recipe of a real live Scottsman from Cornwall; salt, butter, milk and brown sugar! Fuel for the day.

Breakfast station Second Day.

Back to work. I was up against the clock as I wanted to leave just after dark. Managed to just finish the second wall. Doesn’t sound very good but they were finicky. The rest will be a bit quicker and I should have some help Saturday to do the ceiling and make a start on the studwork in the other room.

End of 2nd Day.

Job done, all bit it a little rustic in style.

End of 2nd Day.

So it is getting a little warmer, the snow is starting to melt and it feels like spring is definitely on the way. The official Polish sign of things changing for the warmer is the first sightings of Storks, there has only been one of these, which can be considered an outlier, so there is still some way to go, nevertheless I can’t hold back any longer.

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I have been putting off sowing the first batch of seeds. From my first year of the allotment I learned a valuable lesson. On that occasion I sowed early batches in Jan (this was in England), I ended up with a lot of tomatoes ready to be planted out, and other things, way before the weather would allow it. I ended up with 50 odd tomatoes plants squeezed into a very small greenhouse that I had made. Looking after them was very time consuming, taking them out of the house every morning and putting them in at night, to avoid the frosts, took 15mins a go at least, not to mention they all ended up a bit stressed out; the batch I planted early April ended up giving fruit the same time as the ones I sowed in Jan.

https://cityandthemountains.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/tomato-dreaming/

https://cityandthemountains.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/tomatoes-re-potted/

So not to make the same mistake twice I have sowed into some trays that I think will keep the tomatoes in good shape for about 8 wks (based on my previous experiments). This gives me until early may. The average last spring frost date here is 26th May, which means I will have to have my poly-tunnel ready and I will have to come up with something clever to keep it over a few degrees in there overnight. I read in John Seymour (guide to self-sufficiency) that you can put a compost heap in the greenhouse, if it has plenty of hoarse manure and other goodies high in nitrogen it will produce enough heat to keeps things snug over night. We’ll see…

I sowed:

Tomatoes (36): 12 each of three varieties.
Aubergines (24)
Globe artichokes (12): Don’t know much about these other than they are perennial. Not sure how long it takes from seed to plate. When I have some details I’ll get back to you.
Red and White onions (seeds) (56 of each).

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I thought it might be nice to give you a bit of a look around the land. The map below shows my route. The video is a bit shaky but at least the music is good!

Video Route

Video Route