Friday, 18 April 2014

Hungry Gap? (Blondie and Broody Buff)

The last knockings, 2013 spud store
Photographed here the very last of our stored Sarpo Mira spuds. They have done brilliantly and way above my expectations. Not only were they almost entirely blight resistant, but they yielded well - good total weights and some fine big tubers amongst them. Having read our grow-in-Ireland books (Klaus Laitenburger) I was also expecting some poor storage performance; it is normally too damp and cold to get spuds (and onions etc) properly 'ripe' and dry for storing. We did get a few tubers go to mush in the bags but as long as you tip them all out a couple of times through the winter to remove damp looking or obviously mushy ones, the rest seem to make it through. Because these are unwashed going in to bags, the bad ones are easy to find in the store as the mud round them never quite dries out, so you just pick put the obviously darker, 'damp' ones. So, here we are on Good Friday and have not quite run out of spuds.

Still a few parsnips in the ground
Not quite so stunning with the onions and garlic but I am equally impressed and delighted because the onions were the veg specifically mentioned by KL as being difficult to ripen. In the UK, everyone knows, you fork them out of the ground when they are ready, and leave them on the soil to dry out with their roots exposed. The hot sun bakes them ripe and you tie them into ropes and hang them in the shed. Here in the West of Ireland, generally, they would just get rained on and start to rot away. Indeed, when we were first here and bought locally grown onions they always seemed very juicy and sappy, as if they had not really been dried out properly for storage.

Leeks still going strong
Well, we got lucky, I guess, in our first season being 2013 with its hot dry spell just as my onions and garlic came ready, so we lifted them and spread them out in a single layer across chicken wire frames in the car port, rain free and ventilated above and below. They dried well and we tied them into ropes which we then hung still in the carport for most of August. All this fuss worked and we have been eating clean, ripe, firm onions and garlic right round to early April. At that point they had started to go soft and to show green shoots, so Liz brought them in to the kitchen, peeled and shredded them all for the freezer, where they lived on for a while till turned into a Greek style rabbit 'stifado' casserole (incidentally, also using up the last rabbit).

Globe artichokes going great guns.
We are presumably in what the old style small-holders would have called their 'Hungry Gap', with the last year's stores running out and the new not yet happening. We may be able to cut a few asparagus shoots (about half a dozen if we are lucky!) in a week but that is not going to give us the calories we need to keep gardening. Luckily we still have plenty of parsnips in the ground (all be it now starting to re-grow greenery and push out those tiny fibrous white roots from the sides of the big tap root) and leeks and, of course, freezers full of different beans. But we had to buy a 1 kg net of onions this week - that was a bit of a shock; first time since last summer.

Meanwhile we have had our Buff Orpington hen go broody on us. We love the way that she spreads out when she sits on eggs; she is almost spherical when standing up but collapses to look like a cushion. She gives the impression she'd be able to cover a dozen or more eggs, but we have just left her on the 7 eggs which were to hand when she got the urge. They will, if successful, be a motley old mixture from our 2 roosters (Sussex Ponte and Buff Orp) mating with any one of our hens (SP, this Buff, the 'mini-buffs, our Jersey Giant, the Hubbards and just possibly our Marans). We'll let her go with these for her first try, but really we are interested in slowly moving the flock over to pure-bred Buff Orps and allowing the Sussex Ponte to fade away by 'natural wastage'. She went broody on the 17th, so all being well her 21 days 'cooking' will be up on the 8th May. Wish her luck.

Blondie - the new Guinea hen.
Finally, we have a new recruit, having taken in a waif and stray, a friend of Liz from Knitting Club had a hen Guinea fowl which was widowed by the cock bird being hit by a car. Guinea hens are very plaintive and strident in their distress and mourning and this poor thing was apparently 'mooping' around rather over-dramatically, perching on an old lady's window sills and shouting her distress in through the windows. Rather than try to find the hen a new mate they decided to off load her and there we were. She is a nice little thing (OK - she IS noisy, calling her buck-wheat, buck-wheat shouts all day long) and very pale in colour compared to our previous Guineas, so we have called her Blondie.

Happy Easter
Today she just gets to settle in, in a rabbit run where she can see and hear the place but no-one can beat her up. Tomorrow at some stage we will release her into the Kitchen Garden (more space but still separated by chicken wire from the gang) and on Sunday, all being well, we hope to unleash her on the place. So far Min and Henry have found her and seen her but not gone anywhere close. When a cat walked by her and made her shout in alarm, Henry shouted back and moved towards her rabbit run, but we've not seen any close buddying up through the wire. More on this story as it develops.

Have a great Easter and Happy Birthday to Mrs Silverwood who is trying to enjoy having her kitchen taken over by 'helpful' kids and husband as they do their best to spoil her rotten.

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

We done an 'OK' job in the end in fairness, the mussels went down well at least anyway.