Tuesday 14 October 2014

Autumn Tidying

Red Kuri Squash and yellow courgette
Our amazing run of rainless, blue sky, sunny days is still managing to hang in there, though the forecast tells me that a front may nip through and interrupt this happy situation tomorrow. Let's hope only briefly. The clear skies at night though, have given us the first few frosts and crunchy grass in the morning and so, inevitably, have done for the foliage and stems of the most tender crop plants - our bountiful red kuri squash and yellow courgettes, the borlotti (runner) beans and the French and 'Gaucho' drying beans. Surprisingly, however, not the nasturtiums yet; I expect these to turn into a soggy black, stringy mess at the first whisper of frost but they are untouched so far.

'Autumn Bliss' raspberries still giving us some good two-person
dessert sized pickings
Nothing for it on these collapsed plants but to pull up and cut out the stems and foliage and to collect up any 'fruit' for storage in sheds and the polytunnel. The latter was for the drying beans both of which varieties I am not 100% convinced by despite the claims of the heritage-variety seed company we bought the seed from. They (Brown Envelope Seeds) tell me that these beans are all proven in County Cork, so should 'work' here but I think our season is just not long enough.

That lovely pink-pig scarf gift. 
Both the 'Borlotti' runners and the 'Gaucho' French-style did the growing, flowering and podding up well enough but despite our Indian Summer they have not really completed the end stage, the ripening and drying. These beans are meant to move all the moisture and goodness from the pod-skin to the bean seed, leaving the beans big and hard enclosed in a papery thin, rustling, desiccated pod by about September. You pull the pods and easily rub out the seeds  so that you can store them and further dry them as an over-winter dry ingredient in stews and so on. These pods are still fleshy, thick skinned and moist, though I can feel full bean seeds inside, so they are in the poly-tunnel on a wire frame to see will they finish the drying process away from the bines.

Pig Party. A splash of the black stuff in their wheat and
milled barley. 
The pigs came up to their 6 month Birthday on the 10th October, so we decided that they should be allowed to celebrate and finally try out some Guinness. For their lunch I replaced their usual pig-nuts (which I thought might turn to mush when the Guinness touched them) with a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and milled barley with a generous glug of the black stuff stirred into it. They were mightily impressed.

Very interested in the empty tin!
Not only did they scarf down this new food, but also they kept trying to get at the empty can just outside their fence where I'd put it down while I took some pictures. I also swear they were looking at me a bit 'old fashioned' at their supper time when the exciting new flavours were replaced back with boring old pig nuts and apples. With Autumn in the pig-keeper's world comes the annual Ministry census. We get a sheep census too, but we've only ever had a zero count to record and we've had to avoid the option where zero might mean you are no longer a sheep keeper and you would like them to close your herd account.

Pig Census form.
It was nice this time, then, to be able to record a '2' - yes we do actually HAVE pigs and we intend to keep on having them. We are not sure how this will translate next year, but probably with a try at pure-bred Berkshires, the black pigs. The supplier of this year's Tamworths (freerangepigsireland.com, which 'resolves' to a website called PiggyWiggy's) impressed us with their set-up and the quality of stock so we may go back there for more. Last year they had Berkshires on sale too, though I can find no mention of Berkshires now on the website. Ah well. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.


Anne Wilson said...

Those raspberries look good, the wild birds have got most of ours.

Matt Care said...

Yes. I am not sure how we managed that. We have had plenty of visits from blackbirds who seem to steal the top-most fruit, presumably while perched on top of the canes, and a few from naughty Buff-Orp chickens nicking the ground level stuff, but no-one is stealing the middle fruit.