Win some, lose some; taking in the outcome.

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Moneymakers ripening on the vines
then suddenly it was now;

the evenings noticeably shorter and the days slightly cooler, weeks and months have slipped by in the blink of an eye, and summer is most definitely in autumnal transition. July lived up to its promise and in doing so conferred on us four weeks of reasonably warm sun-filled days, a small seasonal mercy given the experiences of the late spring and early summer. June was typically hit-and-miss, and of course April and May, well, least said there the better…
But summer definitely arrived with July; however, it seems to have checked-out immediately on Augusts’ arrival. We’ve been returned to the all too familiar dull and wet routine this last week and the short range weather forecast indicates much the same for the coming week, but at least the temperature is holding up.
Summer came but now is most definitely going, and yet it seems as though some of the monsters summer show has only just begun. The sunflowers have only shown their faces in the last two to three weeks, and only now (as we enter the second week of August) have the gladioli made a full entrance. The disastrously dull and damp spring not only hampered the annual seed sowing schedule through April and May, it also had a detrimental time delay on many of the other garden stalwarts. We’ve had very little in the way of a crop from the gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes, and the apple and plum trees have not fared much better, a combination -we thinks- of last summer’s and autumn’s severe drought followed by this spring’s constant grey and stormy washout. We did have some nice rhubarb while it lasted though; we also had kale, rocket and chard a plenty, some fine beetroot and potatoes which we are still harvesting and consuming as we need and by way of compensation perhaps we have had a good harvest of onions, shallots and garlic.

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Centurion onions left out to cure…

  So, win some, lose some…plenty of alliums, and no strawberries.
The effects of the delayed spring are visible still though, even in the polytunnel. By this time last year we had been harvesting our tomatoes for over a month, whereas this year most of the set trusses are yet to ripen; there is plenty of fruit and Mrs Dirtdigger has made some fabulous tomato, basil and onion soup already with the first flush, it’s just that most of the tomato crop is still green at present. We have had some fabulous courgettes, we’ve had Rosa Bianca aubergines, and we are having a veritable cucumber glut fest, so we’ve opted to make some summer pickle with the excess. The pumpkin vines have set fruit and hopefully these will bulk up over the next eight weeks or so. The parsnips have struggled a little, but in the last fortnight they have begun to crown out and leaf-up a little more vigorously perhaps indicating that there is some subterranean development as well.

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some of the daily harvest from the monster’s bounty…

We made and jarred some jam, but nowhere near the volume we made in previous years, and we’ll have to wait a while longer as the ingredients for some of the monster’s other staples are still only ripening, but, there’s time yet.
Each gardening year is as different as different can be from those that have gone before. There are so many variables to consider when undertaking any gardening project it is surprising at times that anything at all is ever successful, and yet we continue to do it, day in, day out, and week after month, year after year. As any recorded sowing diary should show, you can sow the same varieties of seed on the very same day each year, and you can expend the same effort in care and attention to planting on and planting out and maintaining a thorough watering and feeding regime, and end up with results so different from previous years’ as to have you think you must have lost a whole month somewhere between April and July. And thus has been this year’s curve.
It’s been dull and damp and warm and wet, maybe not when we wanted it to be, and at times certainly not when we needed it to be, but that is what we had to work with so we got to work while attempting to ignore the pop-up pond that appeared on the monster’s measure throughout the spring, and which has made an unexpected if not wholly unsurprising return this past weekend.

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Cucumber, time for summer pickles…

So win some, lose some, and we certainly lost some this year, but Mrs Dirtdigger’s pollinators patch has been buzzing, and we’ve had hares and pheasants and frogs and buzzards and bees, and what we failed to get on the one hand nature gifted us with the other. We have not had the success hoped for with some things this year, but the harvest is in full swing so we’ll see how things fare. We’ll not change too much mind you for some variables are beyond our control: we’ll continue to tread softly; we watch our track, pay attention to the footprint, and we here at monsterinthecorner will continue to play our part in negating damage to the wider planetary variables, conscious of the degree of long-term damage our species has had on the fundamental variables on which we all ultimately depend for our continued existence.

Bringing It All Back Home…

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Tinkerbell & Giggler…Jack O’s 2018

As an exercise we had been keeping track of all we had harvested as we harvested this year.  So, as we head into mid November and luckily are still using some of our own fresh tomatoes and lettuce this late in the season, we thought we’d share our running tally for the year thus far…

It makes for an interesting read: it not only helps you appreciate what can be accomplished and achieved from a small patch of earth once you have a plan and a little time to commit to it, it also deepens appreciation for all involved in the growing of fresh food produce on a large scale for an ever increasing population’s insatiable appetite…

It is always fun, but it is never easy.

Tomatoes over 80 lbs
Blackcurrants 20lbs
Gooseberries 15lbs
Blackberries 14lbs
Cucumbers and courgettes, a glut of both while they lasted
Rhubarb, although it struggled with the excessive heat and drought, we still have a little frozen stock for the coming months.
Broadbeans 20lbs
Californian Wonder Bell Peppers 20
Cayenne and Fireflame Peppers 30
French Mangetout Beans 10 lbs
Potatoes >30lb
Beetroot >20 lbs
Red Gourmet Shallots >10 lbs
Red Baron Onions >20lbs
Stuttgarter Onions >40lbs
Garlic 20 bulbs
Pumpkins 8 medium Jack O Lantern pumpkins,
All lettuce, radishes, green leaf salad and kale throughout the summer,
Parsnips and Swedes only beginning to mature and harvest now, but a crop of both in the ground to see us through till Christmas,
All our herb requirements throughout the year; basil, dill, parsley, tarragon, sage, rosemary with pots now dried and stored…

And with over 70 jars of Jams, Chutneys, Salsas and Sauces stored away…

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Setting the Samhain scene…Halloween 2018
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Autumn Harvest Table Spread…compliments of Mrs. Dirtdigger aka @janpaulkelly instagram

Food For Thought!

Excursus IV

We here on monsterinthecorner have been ploughing our own unique furrow the last eight years or so. In that time we have transformed a couple of neglected patches of public parkland and disused former pasture into a pair of award winning allotment gardens.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far; we rose to the challenge we set ourselves and this year is one of, if not the best from a harvest and return point of view.

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We began our allotmenteering experience and the processes of food sowing and growing purely as a hobby of sorts, but quite quickly did we come to realize just how important the provenance of quality and organic food is become, and over the last decade or so this has gained quite a lot of media traction not only on the national but also on the global stage, and dare we say –without any desire to scare monger in any way whatsoever -that food security is destined to be one of the major concern for all societies in years to come.

And just as we acknowledge the monster’s own creative bent in wishing all like-minded gardeners to celebrate the process of gardening every year on International Green-fingers Day, and just as we look forward each year to the gardening world’s own big showy celebrations in Chelsea, and Bloom and Malvern etc. we think it timely and appropriate to acknowledge the day that is 16th October: World Food Day.

Laudable, commendable, and meritorious as the plan and objectives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization may be in hoping to eliminate world hunger in 12 years,,,twelve years?,,,it is wholly indicative of just how far removed the understanding of geo-politic necessity  truly is from the man struggling in the street or the child in a ghettoised war zone. But that is a subject for expansion and discussion at another time and on another forum. We do however agree with what it says on the tin so-to-speak: Our Actions Are Our Future. There is little arguing with that.
However we do ask that if you read here,  be mindful of all those people truly hungry today, and there are tens of millions of such people: tens of millions of human beings with nothing whatsoever to eat or drink; tens of millions of people without access to the very basics of human respect and dignity; millions of children without access to even the most meagre subsistence. There are millions, and sadly quite a lot of post-modern computer literate-social-media-savvy- people cannot adequately conceptualize MILLIONS….
Our little green nation now exports 84% of all the food it produces; millions and millions of tons worth billions and billions of Euro. Our national food industry is our biggest industry by a country mile, and a timely reminder would be that we not forget that just over 150 years ago millions starved to death on this little green island and millions more emigrated because of the failure of one, singular, subsistence crop whence about the same percentages of other produce was being shipped abroad.  But, that too, is a discussion on another time, for another time.
We here on monsterinthecorner have been lucky with our produce this year, and the harder and longer we dig and rake and water and sow, well then, the luckier we get.    We share our gluts and spread our surpluses across family and friends. We know where our food comes from, and we’ve learned to appreciate the effort it takes to get it here.

There is and always has been great hunger on this spinning cosmic rock, and I doubt any one single organisation at any one point in time of our unfolding human experience will ever eliminate the scourge of human starvation, but those fortunate enough to have enough, on them falls the duty to share…Unfortunately want and ignorance are as widespread today as they were along the banks of the Nile 3000 years ago, as they were on our own emerald isle 150 years, or in Russia, or Persia, or the plains of Ethiopia as they were 70, 50, and 30 years ago, or Sudan, or indeed as they are in Yemen today or Gaza tomorrow.

WFD2018_Poster_H_ENWaste not want not,,,a morsel for thought. the link below will bring you to the relevant site.

http://www.fao.org/world-food-day

Gardener and Expectation…

Gardener Expectations

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Sunny Side up: pumpkins ripening under cover

As with the seasons, the garden is not required to be in harmony with the gardener’s expectations of it. Gardening and allotmenteering is a process of learning to work with what you have, and this year -more than any other in recent years – both the garden and the seasons have challenged even the most experienced gardener and Plantsman; but what a year it has been to date.
An old adage says that if you always expect the worst, then everything else will be a bonus, and whether or not you agree with the couched principle of this succinct aphorism, the experiential irony is not lost.
Skeptical commentary aside however, the year to date has presented us with both the best and worst of gardening times, and there is still one full quarter portion to run.

As usual, the arrival of the New Year heralded a new chapter in the gardener’s almanac and diary, but it was not too long before the great gardening expectation was consigned to a much longer than expected stay in winter’s stasis chamber, whence it seemed winter showed no shadow of parting at all. Yet depart it did, and in what seems little more than the blink of an eye the sheaves and sisters are being brought in…

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Jams and Chutneys and Sauces and Relish August 2018

And we too have been busy with the bringing-in…

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Moneymaker Tomatoes & the last of this year’s Rhubarb
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Parsnips and Peppers and dew drenched Florence Fennel
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Parsnips, Beans,Blackberries and Squashes