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Recipes


Reflecting on the whole summer the PYO season of 2018 ended up ok and so did the farm in general.

Not the most positive comment perhaps, but the sleepless nights early on as the weather got hotter and sunnier without rain gradually gave way to a sense of relief that the year, whilst not fulfilling the crop potentials of the Spring, would in fact be alright.

The quality of the berries over all was exceptional due to high sugar content and firm berry quality thanks to the endless sun and no rain. However, this combination presented its worries.

Strawberries will ripen in heat alone and as the heat continued, day and night, so the crop raced on at a faster rate than wanted. Even first thing in the morning the berries were warm when we picked for the shop, which is not ideal as we always want perfect fruit that is perfect when you get it home to your fridge.

The big down side of the weather was two-fold. The season was shortened as the crop raced on and so we only picked strawberries for about four and half weeks instead of six to eight. The other problem was that the final trusses, which produce the berries, didn’t actually come to fruition. The baby berries stayed just that – tiny wee green things that then fizzled away.

The final nuisance was the effect on the oldest bed of Malwina strawberry plants, a variety much loved by you all for their dark colour and size as well as taste. They just rebelled full stop and the bed produced nothing. Having never experienced anything quite like it it became apparent talking to friends in Sussex and Oxfordshire who grow the same variety that they too had had the same problem. On talking to our advisor, Jeremy, about this he investigated and it has been a feature of the variety this summer for a number of other growers too.

The raspberries, on the other hand hate temperatures above 25 degrees. They become much slower as if becoming dormant and so for a while the crops didn’t move despite an enormous amount of water being fed around their feet! When they finally had to give way the flush of fruit was huge and so much was lost as it fell off the bushes and so couldn’t be picked.

By the end of the season, however, whilst the total weight of fruit sold was less than expected from the look of the crops in the Spring, we are pleased enough and I think, rather like us humans, the plants just struggled despite irrigation. Their leaves were very dry despite the water and so probably could not work properly. Having grown up on a fruit farm in Kent this is the first time that I have ever witnessed fields of strawberry plants wilting!

That said our trial plot of potted raspberries performed well as they fruited in the slightly cooler conditions of the later summer and the autumn varieties came ripe slightly earlier than normal too. Thus, we have a lot of plants ordered for next spring to grow in pots to try and make the season ‘smoother’ and so fruit supply more even through August, irrespective of the weather!

Additionally, we have an earlier variety of autumn raspberries already planted, Autumn Bliss, for next year with more to go in in the next month or so along with the normal replacement planting of strawberries. Thus, the fruit growing process roles on.

We thus moved to our late summer opening hours several weeks earlier than normal, which we appreciate is not ideal for our customers and despite advertising through all the options available to us the information still doesn’t reach everyone, but we remain eternally grateful for the good will everyone shows in their understanding.

Thus, all in all, for the PYO side of our business, we had more customers through the shop than last year, despite the reduced hours; quantities of fruit sold were better than expected given the draught and heat; and strawberry plants planted in the Spring for 2019 are looking well despite everything. There still might be some pay back from this year’s plant stress come next season but according to Jeremy everything is in good heart and so we are set fair for next year.

The September doses of rain saw the grass green up again very quickly along with everything else perking up, so all began to look quite fresh again quite quickly. The plants, during the drought, behaved quite oddly even when watered. It was as if they were so stressed they just could not make proper use of the water offered. Much like many of us I think!

The team who worked outside in the PYO fields this year did sterling work keeping plants thinned and weeds hand hoed so that we mitigated conditions as well as possible. It has paid off and the weed challenge even now that we have had rain is much less than in a normal year. There is nothing like removal to control weeds, albeit impractical for everything.

As for the team in the shop they too did sterling work, often in very trying temperatures. Thanks to their energy and cheerfulness I remained relatively good humoured and thus Andrew did too! Thank you all of you. They know who they are and yet again we received many compliments regarding the knowledge and helpfulness of all our staff, not to mention their good manners and cheerfulness.

Farming wise the wheat yielded generally much better than expected. The bushel weight was down, as we knew it would be, but the quality was good so that all in all we cannot complain. We seemed to have had machinery issues rather than weather to hold things up this year.

Mowers of all sorts (farm and domestic) played up, the combine repair pre-season turned into more of a job than originally diagnosed, but it behaved well in use. The baler on the other hand had a breakdown that was completely unexpected and thus cost the end of straw baling before the weather broke. However, the job got done eventually! The clutch on one of the tractors was grabbing. It took a couple of ‘goes’ to get it re-set – all done by computer, of course; and the hydraulics for the grab on the front of the tractor had a bit of a hissy fit, but in the scheme of things none of it has been too serious, thank goodness.

Hay making was easier than it had been for a long time. The size of the crop, like everything else was down on what it should have been, but the quality is very pleasing. Silver linings always need to be appreciated!

All that said, it was a glorious summer even though it will not prove a glorious year financially across the industry, especially in the livestock sector where winter rations have already been fed. Autumn grass will unlikely make up for what has been eaten already but the warm autumn will have given some compensation with the animals staying out longer and, in some areas, more hay and silage was made as late crops. Fingers crossed that the winter isn’t too severe and things will then come to some balance. Nature always does balance in the end!

However, in amongst the work we enjoyed three weddings, a gathering over the Bank Holiday weekend of the wider Hazell clan as Andrew’s brother, wife and eldest daughter visited the UK for the first time in 13 years and of course visits from our girls and their other halves plus our first grandchild.

Now, we are waiting for the fruit plants to become available for this autumn’s planting in amongst sorting out deliveries for our Christmas Barn which opens this year on November 24th. The trees are ordered and the barn is soon to be cleared and organized, whereupon the next ‘season’ on the farm will begin.

However, without all of our customers we would be nothing and so a huge thank you to you all. It is our privilege to meet you when you visit and in so many cases come to know you and your families a little and see the children growing up over the years.

We look forward to seeing you soon, 

With Best wishes,
Andrew, Carolyn and all who help us

 

Opening Hours

CHRISTMAS BARN 2018:

The Christmas Barn opens:
Saturday November, 24th 2018
until stock runs out
or December 22nd latest

Open DAILY (inc Mondays)
9am - 4.30pm

We reserve the right to close without notice if necessary

Please re-check this site & facebook for latest information

or call 01252 845772 for information from November 1st

2019 - FRUIT SEASON

We open again around the middle of June

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