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NEWSLETTER – 15th MAY 2018

 

Hello, and welcome to the May newsletter.  Well, here we are, firmly entrenched in the hungry gap!  Due to the late spring, it will probably go on longer this year than usual.  Most of my early crops were three weeks late going in, due to the Easter deluge.  However, we are having better weather now, at last, and things are growing away.

 

The only crops coming from outside now are the leeks and overwintered spinach/chard.  The leeks will probably only last another couple of weeks before going to seed.  The spinach will hopefully last longer than that - until the new season crop is ready with luck.

 

So, I am leaning heavily on the tunnel crops at the moment.  The radish are going strong, as are the lettuce.  My first outside batch of lettuce was planted in the tunnel as it was too wet outside, so I am hoping there won’t be a gap.  There are some nice pointed cabbage ready, but the broad beans are late this year.  They were ready by now last year.  The courgettes are also coming along and should be ready by the end of the month. The tomatoes and cucumbers have also been planted, and there will be some kohl rabi in a couple of weeks when the swedes have finished.

 

My main job at the moment is seeding all the summer crops – the squash, runner beans and all the brassicas – as well as trying to keep the lettuce going.  Then there’s muck to spread and ploughing to be done before the plantathon in June, and the weedathon in July!

 

In between, I still have the odd maintenance job to do, such as servicing the tractors, mending the potato boxes and strengthening one of the tunnels before the winter, so never a dull moment!

 

As mentioned last time, I have discontinued the bulk sacks of produce for the summer, as usual, as they will not keep very well, but we still have apple juice available as a spring/summer thirst quencher!

NEWSLETTER – 10th APRIL 2018

 

Hello, and welcome to the April newsletter. After the Easter weekend’s deluge, the ground is now dry enough for me to start getting some veg in.  I’ve been ploughing today, but normally the first batches are planted by now.  It is all running about a fortnight later than usual.  This combined with the snow finishing off some crops that may have gone on a bit longer, means that the hungry gap could be longer than usual this year.

 

So, this week I am hoping to plant the maincrop potatoes, onion sets, spinach, chard, beetroot, early lettuce, kohl rabi and anything else that gets in my way!  If I get a rainy day, then I can plant the climbing beans and possibly the courgettes in the tunnels.  Then I have some grass to reseed.  Busy times!

 

Now, a word about plastic/polythene!  It has rightly become a hot topic lately, mainly thanks to Blue Planet for awakening the masses.  Unfortunately, I am not aware of any other way to keep a potentially damp lettuce fresh than putting it in a polythene bag.  Also, what I can’t do is re-use these bags, so please don’t give them back to me.  The risk of contamination is too great.  The best thing is for you to get a second use out of them yourselves, I’m afraid.  I would be quite happy to put squash segments loose in the box rather than in a poly bag, but I imagine I would get complaints about them getting too dirty to eat.  I’ll look in to getting paper bags for these for next season, though.

 

The pak choi is in the boxes for the last week this year.  We find that it is better lightly cooked at this end of the season.  There is some spinach in the tunnels to follow on, hopefully. I have stopped offering bulk supplies of crops now until the autumn, apart from the apple juice.  This is due to the fact that the veg won’t keep for too long now that spring is here.  The remaining apples have all been juiced, apart from the ones that will go in your boxes this week and next, and the juice I am selling now has all been juiced in the new juicing room on the farm, meaning that it has food miles of about a hundred yards before it leaves the farm, like our veg!


NEWSLETTER – 13th MARCH 2018

 

Hello, and welcome to the March newsletter.  Well, I hope you all enjoyed the snow!  Luckily it hasn’t really done much damage as there are no young plants outside yet, and most of the overwintered ones can either withstand it (eg leeks) or are almost over (eg sprouts) anyway. 

 

Luckily the tunnels survived too, thanks to the strengthening work I did when they were flattened by the 2009 snowfall.  In fact, I managed to re-clad another one last week, in time to get it planted out later this week with lettuce, radish and kohl rabi.

 

I’m sure you have worked out what to do with the pak choi by now – steam, stir fry or cheese sandwich are the best options, but I’m sure there are plenty of ideas on the internet for the more adventurous chefs among you!

 

The apples in last week’s box were Sturmer Pippin.  They might not be everyone’s cup of tea as they are a bit tart, but I quite like them, so unless you all howl in protest, I might put some more in over the next couple of weeks!  The rest of the apples in the cold store are gradually being juiced, now that the juicing room is finished.

 

The main job on the farm at the moment is lambing, which is about 1/3 complete.  I am hoping to let some of them out soon, as the weather seems to be milder now, and they always prefer to be outside on grass.  Once that is out of the way, I have a lot of ground working to do for the early plantings, which means I will get to have a bit of a rest sat in the tractor for a bit!  Looking forward to it!

NEWSLETTER – 13th FEBRUARY 2018

 

Hello, and welcome to the February newsletter.  Well, finally the wind has abated long enough for me to re-clad my propagating tunnel.  I have now sown all the early batches of new season vegetables – just about on time too!  My other main job now is hedge trimming, now the fields have dried out a bit.  Need to get it out of the way before lambing!

 

In the boxes this week is a mix of red and green mizuna.  The red ones are a bit hot on their own, so I thought you might like to dilute them with some green!  In a few weeks, these will finish and we will be on to Pak Choi.  This is also a salad vegetable, and you treat it the same way as mizuna, but it has a more “celery-like taste”.  You can eat the stalks as well as the leaves too – in fact I eat some as I am harvesting them if I’m a bit peckish!

 

With the weather improving, my thoughts turn towards working ground for the new season.  That means old crops have to be cleared, and therefore there is a bit of a selection of cabbage in this week’s boxes – the clearings of the January King, other green cabbages and some red ones.  Hope you don’t mind two or three small ones instead of one large one!  There are some nice Tundra on the way soon, and hopefully some caulis!

 

I’m afraid I don’t have a definite date for the pork yet, but it is most likely to be Tuesday February 27th, but in the afternoon, separate from the box delivery.  If you are interested please let me know, and I can contact you when I have a date confirmed.  It is not organic, but is outdoor reared, free range and fed on GM-free feed from a known family source!  I sell them in “quarter pigs”, which is around 10kg to 12kg of meat, comprising of leg joints, shoulder joints, belly pork and pork chops, all for £6/kg. 


NEWSLETTER – 16th JANUARY 2018

 

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January newsletter.  Christmas is already a distant memory as we work our way through the dark, damp days of winter.  We had a fairly wet December, and at last the irrigation reservoir is filling up, making it a lot easier to water the tunnels (not necessary outside!).  I have to clad one of these soon.  You need a really still day to do this, which we ain’t had many of lately!

 

Anyway, I expect you have all had a mizuna by now.  We have grown green ones and red ones again this year, although not so many of the latter.  It is Japanese mustard, but has a mild flavour (although the red ones are hotter) and can be used like a lettuce in a salad or cheese sandwich and can also be stir fried.  The squash is Crown Prince.  It can be roasted or baked, or made into soup.  I like to roast a strip of it to have with a jacket potato.  My wife is more adventurous and dices it, roasts it and adds it to rice or pasta dishes.

 

We still have some apples left – eaters and cookers.  We will be juicing again soon, just to make sure we don’t run out before next autumn.  It has sold really quickly over Christmas!  Unfortunately, the most expensive ingredient of the apple juice is the bottle, so please don’t put it in your recycling!  If you could just swill it out and return it to me I’d be very grateful, thank you! 

 

The sheep are now about to come inside ready for lambing (except for the ram-dodgers which will stay out, with hay!).  They don’t lamb until the end of February, but are better off inside, so I can keep an eye out for any complications as they near their due date.  Also on the livestock front, I will have some pork for sale soon (end Feb ish), but more on that in the next newsletter!

NEWSLETTER – 5th DECEMBER 2017

 

Hello and welcome to the December newsletter.  Firstly, here are the Christmas delivery dates:  Deliveries will be as normal on Tuesday 5th and Tuesday 12th, but there will be no box on Tuesday 19th.  It will be on THURSDAY 21st instead to ensure that the green items in the box remain fresher for your Christmas meal.  There will then be no delivery on Tuesday 26th, but we will return as normal on Tuesday January 2nd 2017. 

 

If you are a fortnightly customer and you wish to change your week, or if any customer wishes to change the size or frequency of their box to ensure they have enough veg to feed all those visiting relatives, then please let me know in good time (Saturday night for the following Tuesday, and Saturday night for the Thursday week too, please, as it will be a very busy week!).   An order can never be in too early, especially over the Christmas period!

 

Yes, there will be sprouts and parsnips in the 21st December box and extra sacks of most of the items will be available throughout the month.  The squashes in this week’s boxes are Sweet Dumpling if they’re striped, or Red Kuri if they’re orange!  You treat them all the same – roast, or bake and stuff them with cheese, or make them into soup, or find a more sophisticated recipe on the internet!  After these, they will be Crown Prince (blue coloured).  As these are much larger than the previous ones, they will be cut into segments.  These segments will easily keep for a week if you put them in the fridge

 

By Christmas, the Chinese cabbage will have finished and will be replaced by mizuna from the polytunnels.  This is a feathery leaved salad otherwise known as Japanese mustard, and has a peppery taste similar to rocket.  It can be used in a salad, a cheese sandwich or a stir fry.


NEWSLETTER – 14th NOVEMBER 2017

 

Hello and welcome to the November newsletter.  Less than 6 weeks till Christmas! Where has this year gone?

 

Well, at last I have finished picking the apples.  I think it is the largest yield yet – about 8 tons all picked by hand, then loaded into the trailer, then unloaded out of the trailer into the cold store, then taken out of the cold store to pack, then loaded into the car for delivery – you can see why I don’t have a gym membership! 

 

I have also harvested all the squash.  There are four varieties, but you treat them all the same.  At the moment, there are Red Kuri (the orange ones), Sweet Dumpling (the white stripy ones) and Butternut which you will know.  After Christmas, it will be Crown Prince – large blueish ones cut into segments.  The best thing to do with squash is to roast it in strips like a parsnip, bake it, or make it into soup.  There are lots of recipes on t’internet (I recommend www.vegbox-recipes.co.uk) for more adventurous people

 

Now is the last call for anyone who wants half a lamb before Christmas.  I am doing some for the end of the month, then that will be it until the hoggets in the spring.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg @ £8.50/kg, and size-wise should just about fit in a carrier bag, or on one shelf in the freezer.  They are supplied fresh, rather than frozen, and are cut into the usual joints i.e. legs, shoulders, breast (de-boned and rolled, or minced if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.  Please let me know asap!

NEWSLETTER – 10th OCTOBER 2017

 

Hello and welcome to the October newsletter.  The mornings are now definitely autumnal, but some of these turn into quite pleasant days.  Having just finished the potato harvest, my main job now is apple picking.  I have just picked 2 tonnes of Bramleys, whereas I normally only pick about ¾ T, and all the eaters are performing well too.  In the boxes, the salads are now being replaced by more autumnal crops, such as sweet corn and Romanescu cauliflowers.  Soon there will be leeks, kale and Chinese cabbage.  The latter can be steamed or stir fried, but I tend to eat them raw in a salad as a lettuce replacement.  Bulk carrots are now available, as are Bramley apples.

 

Coming soon, there will be some marrows in the boxes.  These are huge, so I cut them in half.  They are a bit bland on their own, so the best thing to do with them is to stuff them with something delicious!  There is a simple recipe on www.bbcgoodfood.com for Stuffed Marrow Bake (just type it into their search bar), if you are interested.  Later in the month, there will be some red kuri squash and some slices of pumpkin.  The latter will be in a poly bag and is best made into soup.

 

This weekend, the rams are going in with the ewes.  They are chomping at the bit and can’t wait!  I still have some lambs left if you would like a half for your freezer, but please let me know by Friday 13th Oct if you would like some in October. They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg @ £8.50/kg, and size-wise should just about fit in a carrier bag, or on one shelf in the freezer.  They are supplied fresh, rather than frozen, and are cut into the usual joints i.e. legs, shoulders, breast (de-boned and rolled, or minced if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.


NEWSLETTER – 12th SEPTEMBER 2017


Hello, and welcome to the September newsletter. In spite of a hot dry Bank Holiday weekend (bizarre, I know!), I think we are definitely slipping into autumn now.  One of the problems with the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is the prevalence of fungal diseases such as potato blight.  Our potatoes are an immune variety, but the tomatoes (in the potato family) have been wiped out just as they were starting to get into the swing of things.  This is a shame as they are very popular in the boxes.  I’m going to have to check whether it is possible to get a blight free variety for next year.

 

So, with the salads in decline, other crops will be coming to the fore now.  We have a good crop of sweet corn if there’s enough sun to ripen it, and the squashes are coming along nicely now.  The leeks, having been weeded, are now growing well.  We even have some late lettuce to plug the gap until the Chinese cabbage are ready.  There will also be some curly green, and next week there will be Rainbow Chard, which I’m sure you all know – just treat it the same as the spinach.

 

Now that things are bulking up a bit, we can offer potatoes and onions in bulk sacks in case you wish to have some extra.  Apples and apple juice are also available, but I’d rather leave it until next month for the carrots.  It’s also been a much better year for the lambs.  The first ones have already gone, but I have plenty left if you would like some.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg @ £8.50/kg, and size-wise should just about fit in a carrier bag, or on one shelf in the freezer.  They are supplied fresh, rather than frozen, and are cut into the usual joints i.e. legs, shoulders, breast (de-boned and rolled, or minced if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.  Please let me know if you are interested.

NEWSLETTER – 15th AUGUST 2017

Hello, and welcome to the August newsletter.  So here we are, back from holiday, suitably refreshed!  We were lucky – we had the last week of sun.  Since then, it’s been looking rather autumnal.  Hopefully there is still a bit of summer left before the long, cold lonely winter!

The main crop that could do with some sun is the tomatoes.  We have some lovely plants, complete with a lot of green tomatoes, which are not looking like ripening any time soon!  Normally we are awash with them in August!  The cucumbers and courgettes are coping as they don’t need to ripen!  The climbing beans had a field day while we were away, but they are slowing down now, soon to be replaced by the runner beans.

As mentioned before, the lettuce are a bit patchy this year.  There aren’t enough for everyone to have one again this week, and probably next week too.  There are more in the pipeline for later in the season, hopefully.

In the veg boxes, we are now on new season outdoor onions.  They are still a bit green as they are being harvested on the day of packing, but soon I will harvest them all and dry them properly! The potatoes in the tunnel are going strong, and are good quality this year.    Coming soon will be some home grown grapes.  They are not seedless, but you can always juice them.  I have now picked the first quarter ton of Discovery apples.  They’re a bit earlier than usual due to the decent weather we had earlier in the summer.  If anyone would like some as an extra to their box, then they are £3 for a 3lb (1.36kg) bag.  I may be putting some in the boxes too.

In a few weeks, I will be selling the first of the new season lambs.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg @ £8.50/kg, and size-wise should just about fit in a carrier bag, or on one shelf in the freezer.  They are supplied fresh, rather than frozen, and are cut into the usual joints i.e. legs, shoulders, breast (de-boned and rolled, or minced if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.  Please let me know if you are interested.

NEWSLETTER – 4th JULY 2017

Hello, and welcome to the July newsletter.  The most important news is that there will be NO BOXES on Tuesday 25th July as we are on holiday.  I’m writing this newsletter a bit earlier in the month to give you ample time to order a larger box on the 18th if you wish, to tide you over.  Also, if you are a fortnightly customer due a delivery on the 25th July, I’ll assume that you will want your next box on 1st August, but you are welcome to slip an extra one in on the 18th July if you wish – just let me know, please!

OK, moving on – we had a spell of really hot weather a couple of weeks ago.  If I can be a typical grumpy farmer, it was a bit too hot really!  The compost I have to use for my plant raising is bark based and therefore has limited water retention, so it was very difficult to keep the transplants wet.  The increased watering also leaches out the minimal nutrients that are in it, thereby making it even more difficult for the plants to survive.  Most of them did, however, and are now planted in the field under fleece (pigeon & rook protection).  These have received plenty of water via irrigation, and a decent amount of rain last week, so are now growing away nicely after a difficult start, as are the weeds.  My next job is to tackle these with a hoe before they get too big!

This week sees the long awaited introduction of new potatoes to the boxes, along with the last of the old crop.  Both are variety CAROLUS, a blight free variety which I have been growing for several years.  These earlies are grown in the tunnels, so it is a hot job digging them, which has to be done by hand.  The quality seems pretty good so far, though.

You will all be familiar with the cucumbers and courgettes, which are producing nicely now, but may be less familiar with the beans.  These are climbing French beans and only need topping and tailing.  You don’t need to go round them like you would a runner bean.  There are lettuce this week, but possibly not for the 11th, and maybe not on the 18th either – depends how quickly the next batch comes along, annoying as it is


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Stoneage Farm, Cothelstone, Taunton 01823 432488 keith@stoneage-organics.co.uk