26 agosto 2008

A fantastic harvest

A fantastic harvest of tiny pumpkins! We picked them early this year to foil the porcupine, who last year ate half the crop; but even so, this year’s harvest has exceeded expectations – there are at least fifty. This tiny squash is called Jack Be Little and the big green one is Sunburst (I think). They’re autumn squash and should keep now at least until Christmas.

Now that the end of summer is approaching we’re harvesting a lot of other stuff from the veg patch as well and preparing it for storage over the winter. Kilos and kilos of tomatoes are going into making sugo, which we freeze in yoghurt pots and will give us tomato sauce for the whole year. Loads of green beans this year so I’m freezing them for the first time. We make batches of basil pesto and freeze it in meal-sized portions. Normally around this time we’d also have a glut of courgettes and patty pans, but this year the plants aren’t happy and we’ve barely got enough courgettes to eat, let alone worry what to do with. The red onions I planted so late have survived but are not very large yet; if the weather continues so hot I guess they’ll ripen ok, but otherwise maybe we’ll have to harvest them very small. I also wanted to try pickling cucumbers this year but again there are are only just enough cucumbers to eat on an ongoing basis, no extras.

But — melons! – yes, for the first time I have melons to be proud of! We ate the first one today and it was sweet and delicious. There are four more on the way. Every year we grow melons and this is the first year they’ve grown to a decent size and ripened. No idea why, but it’s very pleasing.

17 agosto 2008

We got back late

We got back late from the boy’s birthday party last night, around 9.00pm, when it was nearly dark. I went straight to feed the horse and close the ducks in. The ducks had put themselves to bed in their pen and I closed the door without looking at them very closely – just a group of ducks. It was a bright full moon and the horse was in the same agitated state she’d been in earlier in the afternoon, pacing round her field and snorting manically in the direction of the woods. She wouldn’t come up to the gate so I just left her bucket and put some hay down for her and left her to it.

This morning I got up very early and went down to do the feeding. The ducks were in their house but they tumbled out into their pen when they heard me and I chucked some feed in for them. Let the dogs out of the barn and went down to feed horse. She hadn’t come up to eat her feed or hay overnight, which is very unusual, perhaps unprecedented, so she must have spent the whole night fretting and pacing, poor girlie. I went into the field and she came halfway up to meet me – all covered in dried sweat and still all jumpy though not as bad as yesterday. I stayed around to keep her company, hoping she’d calm down. It was about 7.00 at this point and a cool, autumn-like morning; the sun came up from behind the hills and started to warm me up, and the horse finally gathered the courage to go and eat her hay, although she snorted in horror at the sight of the wheelbarrow, which I’d left by the gate. She definitely still thought there was some scary monster in the woods. And perhaps there was.

I spent a while tidying up the field and then went up to let the ducks out of their pen. Noticed that there was no egg in the duckhouse, but as Big Duck has been laying erratically recently (eggs in the herb bed) I didn’t think much of it. Then I noticed that there were only four ducks – the young ones. Big Duck sometimes shoots out first and whizzes up to the dogs’ area, so I went and checked up there, but she wasn’t in sight. I began to feel very uneasy. My parents had come out to join me by now, and we walked along the track below the house – and discovered a large quantity of giveaway white feathers scattered over the path. A fox must have got her yesterday evening, most likely while we were out – I didn’t count the ducks when I closed them in, just assumed they were all there.

So we have lost Big Duck, and it’s a sad day. It’s the boy’s birthday and we haven’t told him yet as he’ll be upset and it’s not news you want to hear on your birthday. We’re all upset: she was our duck with character (although “personality”, as my mother described it, might be taking it a bit far) and we had a lot of fun watching her hang out with the dogs, take a bath in their drinking bowl, and waddle along after them when they went off to bark at something.

Maybe the horse really did sense something scary in the woods. Ducks come and ducks go, but we will miss Big Duck.