Sunday 19 January 2014


One of our most successful crops in 2013 in terms of yield, productivity and the general beauty and cleanliness of the crop was the Jerusalem Artichokes. Back in February 2013 we planted just half a dozen tubers each of 2 varieties, 'Fuseau' and an old fashioned 'knobbly' type obtained from Mentor Anne, each planted as a short row in a 4 m raised bed. The tubers quickly sprouted and rapidly grew into the expected 8 foot tall 'sunflower' style windbreak which were blown around a bit by the strong winds coming across Vendor Anna's 5-Acre field so that I had to stake them.

One of the 'Mini-Buffs' gets comfy in the nest box
When the greenery was all done, I cut off the stems a foot from the ground and left the crop in the ground; it copes very well with that being, after all, an over wintering organ which seems unaffected by slugs and other pests. When we started digging we realised we were in for an impressive crop - at least 2 kg coming off each plant, and half a wheel barrow from each row. If we were going to be eating or even selling these, we'd have been on to a winner. Unfortunately we have tried the first 'fruits' in small quantities and find that both varieties have that marked effect on us for which 'Fartichokes' are famous.  We tried a variety of cooking methods from roasting to boiling and so on, but all to no avail.

Red Elf Cup fungus, prolific in our hedgerows now.
(Sarcoscypha coccinea)
This is amusing if you are still a school boy but we find it excessive and downright unpleasant to the degree where we have decided not to grow them in 2014 and to 'bin' the crop. But wait! We are currently thinking about 'doing' pigs this year and if we do then they will be kept in the Secret Garden and one thing everyone knows about pigs is that they love rooting around for tubers and underground food. So, just for the 'waste not want not' reason, we decided to dispose of the crop by planting them at random in the area where the pigs may be kept. Liz and I barrowed them round today from allotment to Secret Garden and spent a happy hour with me digging random holes with the pointy ended Irish shovel, and Liz tossing in a couple of tubers into each hole. They may grow, they may not. They are under the trees. They may produce a crop, or not, and the pigs may or may not happen and may or may not dig them up and like them, but it has got to be better than tossing them onto the compost heap.

Fiat Panda goes 'farm vehicle' again with a load of hay
I have had to 'rescue' the Guinea Fowl a couple of times over recent days when they have developed a wanderlust and wandered down beyond the main entrance gate. One of them sneaks through the hedge into the lane and then gets separation anxiety and kicks up a ruckus shouting to the mate, who is either still in the garden or has nipped through the other hedge into the 5-Acre field. They would probably sort themselves out in time and return safe. One of my friends on the poultry discussion forum is a game-keeper and says that his Guineas used to find themselves half a mile from home but always got back safely by night fall. We just worry about the lane and the farm vehicles charging about, and the 'ruckus' that would happen if 'separation anxiety' turned into bereavement does not bear thinking about! So we hear it kicking off and we sprint down to the gate and try to round up the wanderer which, needless to say, nips happily back through the hedge and does a pheasant impression, exploding into the air, clucking and flying 6 feet above the ground all the way back to the poly tunnel followed by the other bird.

Re-Coppiced Ash with 21 tree-rings.
Also AWOL tonight (all be it in full view) are the two ex-Silverwood 'pet' rabbits, Ginny and Padfoot who nipped through a gap in their fence which I inadvertently created when moving them to new grass. These ladies have done this to us before and are the devil to recapture as they are very fast these days and nip down to our Northern boundary where there is a collapsed, ancient corrugated shed (might have been an outside loo) which has sagged down a 5 foot bank. They hide under the sheeting and are safe from getting grabbed by us. They also seem to be safe from foxes and mink as they have played this game before and always seem to be there to greet us in the morning.

Tonight's supper, 3.06 kg hubbard carcass!
We catch them by either rounding them up into the Kitchen Garden where we can corner them against the chicken wire, or in Ginny's case, when she runs into the chicken house for some reason, and can be easily shut in and grabbed. That, though, will have to be tomorrow. It is dark now and there is no way we can catch them at present so they will have to take their chances with our bushy tailed, red furred chum. Good luck Ginny and Padders.


mazylou said...


Matt Care said...

The bunnies were rounded up next morning, being suckers for a bit of carrot tossed into their run. They followed it in and it was a simple matter to close the gap on them.