...to our own news pages over the last sort of four years, well purslane never took off as a crop, imported lettuces remain strong favourites, pruning is now a steady winter job, lambslettuce does a bit better, spinach now occupies a third of our tunnels in spring, building is repair and renewal only which is quite a job too , radish does well, strawberries a bit less due to lack of pickers, biodiesel was a total disaster, terrible repair bills due to
The first lettuces you get in Spring are the red salad bowl on the right of the picture, this is a reliable cold tolerant lettuce with little disease problems which we start sowing in February. The other lettuce you see are red batavian and little gem which we grow throughout the season in the tunnels now. We grow a red/green butterhead variety outside as well but with the poor summers we are having now this is getting like a bad habit. Maybe we should grow lettuces under cover only, but then it will be beautifull weather throughout the summer of course. Hum, maybe we should.
After what can only be described as one of those typical episodes of grand design with obnoxious kit supplier and contractors, our rural affordable house, called Talan, is build and ready for occupation. And not without us doing a lot of the work ourselves.
Pictured is Freya who has viritually managed the project by herself, hence the grey hairs, handingover the keys to Adrian who now not only works but also lives here. Can we now put our feet up? I wonder...
The roof of the world, or rather the roof of our double span polytunnel after a night of heavy snow and drifting. Just dug the gutter clean and now I will have to scoop and carry what feels like tons of snow of the plastic to the ends to prevent the tunnel from collapsing. A regular winter activity but this year there seemed to be no end of it. Plenty of snowmiles this year.
This steerage cultivator, fabricated by very local blacksmith Johannes van Midden seen on the forklift, and a few other tractor implements are being shipped to a local colleague. We do not really have the amount and the quality of land and staff to grow the range of outdoor crops we would like to offer you. Hopefully these implements will find a better home and more local produce will come on the market. We will keep on producing veg from 1/4 acre of polytunnels which seems to get a bit easier each year. Touch wood.
We are switching all our vehicles over to biodiesel. And along with buying our electricity from windfarms and heating our house with wood, it feels good to be part of creating a post-fossil fuel world. It means for me realising some ideals I already had as a youngster when these type of ideals along with recycling and growing food without artificial fertilisers and toxic sprays were dismissed as pipedreams. There is still a long way to go but I find the progress these last few years quite exhilarating. Hurrah for change!
We aim to have strawberries from end of May untill August. This works for our shop but due to quantities being very irregular we have only strawberries available at times for our other customers.
The first half of the season we have strawberries under cover, during the end of June and July we pick strawberries outside.
The costs of using the tunnels and of high number of plants we use and the picking is high and although the strawberries are not cheap it is not our best earning crop but possibly the most popular. The berries certainly are very nice, which must be due to the plants growing in the soil and getting everything they need.
Conventional berries look the job but fertilizers and fungicides are used very intensively and I would not be surprised if these berries are missing some mineral or other which makes strawberries a healthy food and of course I do not trust chemical residues at all.
But having said that I hope for nice weather for our outside crop so we can offer you some nice strawberries and I won't have to look at our fruit moulding away which is a real risk with organic berries outside.
Radishes are one of our fast growing spring crops. The first December sowing is usually ready late March and we now grow about 100 bunches a week for two months only. Radishes are followed in this tunnel by little gem lettuces on the right. Radishes are actually not all that easy to grow, carefull watering is very important to prevent slug damage, splitting and roots getting hollow. For these early crops we choose a short top radish which does not grow enormous leaves. A neat green top makes a radish more presentable.
Over the last ten years we have build ten sheds and ten polytunnels and we had one house built.
This last shed, for storing tractor and implements and the like, is a bit of a mile stone as this marks the end of our building programme as far as the business is concerned. We are now adequately equiped for packing and storage of fresh produce, for producing eggs and growing vegetables. The latter the only area of our work where we are still struggling to make a profit as the market for our type vegetables is still very small and we are still finding out what is wanted and what we can produce for an affordable price. Very tricky.
We are now looking to see what we can do to come towards the need for sustainable affordable housing for our staff.