I love November

I know it’s not everyone’s favorite time of year as each day seems shorter than the last and each one colder and more grey. But it’s so quiet and calm. Working in the garden at this time of year is a solitary pleasure as all the neighbours seem to have moved indoors and taken their barbeques and radios with them. Even the traffic noise is dulled by the foggy air. But the sound of church bells seems to carry – I can hear the Boomer from Rugby School chapel and the lovely peals from the fourteenth century St Marks, although I imagine the bells are from a few hundred years later? I can also hear the cracked and flat doink of the bell from the happy clappy St Matthew’s – but I try to ignore that one. This time of year seems to me like the calm before the storm, the quiet preparation for December’s busy-ness. It’s not as busy now as it was when the children were small and we had all the nativity plays, carol concerts and school fayres to organise and attend. But I still get that feeling in November. It’s also the month when my first baby was born and the whole atmosphere reminds me of the happy times as I waited for his arrival. It’s also a time of year for snuggling down indoors, reflecting on last year’s triumphs and failures – and planning for next year.

Vegetables

This is a great time to reflect on what we did on the vege plot in 2009 and what we’ll do differently in 2010. The summer was a hectic time for me and Keith and the garden was, it must be admitted, neglected. The weeds grew and grew.

Weedy vegetable bed

More weeds than peas!

We harvested potatoes, onions, beans, peas and not much else – oh, there’s still spinach coming. The brassicas are still waiting to be cut but everything else has gone over now. Still I did earn quite a good income from the business and pass my RHS Advanced exams –  does that count as a harvest? Next year we have resolved to spend much more time on the vegetable patch. I have decided on some ground rules limiting how much time I commit to the business, and we are resolved to avoid any major new projects like organising wildlife ponds or erecting greenhouses. We have also decided to increase the area available for vegetables by removing some of the high maintenance grass paths and edging the beds. This will cut down on the mowing needed and mean the edges are clearly defined, making weeding easier. We started this on one of the four beds, thinking we’d just experiment with it and see how it goes – but we are so pleased with how it looks that we have started on bed number two.

Big bed with no grass paths

Doesn't it look lovely?

Next year, I want to improve my preserving skills  – we have lots of root vegetables in store right now and that’s something to be continued next year. Keith bought me a dehydrator for my birthday back in June and that’s been great for drying apples and herbs – must do more next year. I also want to get better at picking and freezing our produce at its best. We plan to grow lots of staples in 2010 – Rooster potatoes, onions, carrots, swede and parsnips, salad,tomatoes, chillies, more culinary herbs and lots of beans and peas. Oh and shallots for pickling too. So, lots of ambition there.

Other news from the garden

Since my last post we have also had to deal with a dead hawthorn tree that blew down – there was so much ivy on it we didn’t realise the tree underneath had actually died. We simply moved into the gap beneath the hedgerow it came from as dead trees are a wonderful habitat for all kinds of invertebrate life – it was alive with insects!

The new wildlife pond is looking lovely and glassy in the subdued November light – I’m sure I’ll write more about that next year as it develops.

In the greenhouse I have some perennials I grew from seed that need potting on, and lots of chillies still ripening. The orchard has lost almost all the leaves and pruning must start soon – another topic for a longer post.

Poultry news – we hatched 3 chicks back in August and they are now 13 weeks old. The time to kill and eat them is approaching and we’re both a little apprehensive! But the success or failure of that project will help us decide where to take the poultry project next as we want to build a better run for them, but the size of it depends on whether we decide to continue raising poultry for meat or just keep them for their eggs. Other poultry news is that we lost one of the Warren hybrids this month as she became very ill with a compacted crop. So now we have just one brown Warren, 2 white sussex hybrid hens, plus a cockerel of the same type – he is called Hugh and is the only chook with a name. Then there’s Wellie, the broody bantam borrowed from Sorrel, and her three edible adopted chicks.

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