Heroes and Strawberries.

So hot and dry today (for England, that is -28 Celsius) I spent most of the middle afternoon flaked out watching two heroes playing a well-matched tennis game somewhere in South West London. Wimbledon? Yes that’s the place! We made it famous for so long as a place to buy and eat strawberries and cream: perhaps because we had no chance of winning the finals.
But this year, a Scot named Andy Murray, who has been creeping up on things for a while, deservedly beat a noble Novak Djokovic in hammer-hot temperatures. And the coverage has been seriously short of strawberries – and rightly so.
But strawberries? I won’t say we have a glut of them this year, because that means they are ripening faster than they can be eaten: but we are having to eat them faster than we have ever done before. And very tasty too, eaten
straight from the flourishing raised bed plants. Might be the weather, but we added sulphate of potash to the beds when the flowers started to appear.

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This morning I was up on the plot. The strimmer has been, let’s say “serviced” and makes a two stroke wasp-with-a-firework-up-its-tailpipe noise and flails grass, comfrey, dust and milkweed pieces about like green shrapnel. The bump-and-feed mechanism is shot, so there is a need to stop and unwind by hand every time the blue plastic line has become too short. Oh and I forgot that the business end of the machine can get hot and scorched the flesh on my arm – marginally more than the sun did!

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We harvested the onions that we put in last autumn. Pleasing results, now sunbathing on old bread crates to dry out before storage. The onion sets we put in late May have been attacked by onion fly. Fingers crossed that only the leaves are affected like they were last year. There are purists on site who the moment the leaves start to curl, burn the lot. We leave them to see what happens. Onions will recover – sometimes.
The latest row of Hurst Green Shaft peas is in, the two earlier rows, after some reluctance now seem to be thriving. The green courgettes in the raised beds were joined today by the yellow ones we planted later: the idea being (plans being what plans are) to get a succession this year.

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We are blessed with a large number of what are known here as “volunteer” potatoes; Ones that grow either from those not harvested (and I thought we had not missed a single one!) or from sports in the compost. So today, clearing ground for the next row of runner beans I pulled up enough to have our first allotment potatoes: delicious with roast beef!
There are crowds of foxgloves around too. Some have self-seeded and their tall, church like spires of flowers look elegantly summery, but are as tough as you like. They are so wonderfully marked when you look closely, it seems that every flower has different detailed markings, like flower world fingerprints. And loved by the bees.
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I sat, this evening, transfixed, watching as bulky bumble bees, like science fiction cargo drones, piloted from the part of the petals that is the perfect landing platform for them, watching their abdomens quiver as the pushed inside, then, always backwards the retreat, with a rewarding stripe of pollen across their unwitting furry backs.
There seem to be so many bumble bees about this year, but also far fewer honeybees… and last year was a poor one for them too – so wet.
Not many common wasps either around here.
The verges alongside roads are spectacularly full of wild flowers this year. Travelling out to Loughborough this weekend we travelled past sheets of ox-eye daisies, campions and red clover.

8/7/2013

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