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NEWSLETTER – 14th SEPTEMBER 2021

Hello, and welcome to the September newsletter.  Summer is fading now, but it is still a pleasant working temperature.  Let’s enjoy it while it lasts because once it starts raining again, it probably won’t stop!

So, the first news this month is that from the 5th October box onwards, the prices will be £8 for the small box, £11 for the medium box and £13.50 for the large box.  I hope you don’t mind - I haven’t raised the prices since 2014!  Please don’t forget to change your standing orders if you pay by BACS!

On the farm, we have started harvesting the maincrop potatoes.  The yield is down a bit on previous years, so I would rather wait until the next newsletter to offer them in bulk, when the harvesting’s finished and I know how many I’ve got!  Likewise, the onions as they are still in the ground!  Apples and juice are still available, though!

In the boxes, the summer salads are still producing well, but will decrease over the next few weeks.  This is probably the last week for the tomatoes, but outside, the wet summer has really helped the runner beans.  It is probably the best crop of them I have grown.  This week sees the first Romanesco cauliflowers, and there are plenty there for at least a couple more weeks.  There should be some normal ones too soon.  The sweet corn should also be ready soon, if the pheasants leave it alone.  I’ve cunningly let the weed grow around the plants to confuse them!  Ok, I admit it – I didn’t weed them very well!

The first organic lambs of the season are being delivered this week, but I still have some left if anyone else would like some.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg, or maybe slightly larger at the beginning of the season, @ £9/kg. Size-wise, this 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 (minced, or de-boned and rolled if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.  Please let me know if you are interested.

NEWSLETTER – 17th AUGUST 2021

Hello, and welcome to the August newsletter.  So, here we are, back from holiday, supposedly refreshed!  The weather is a bit of a mixed bag now, but far more comfortable for working in than it was before we went away.

So, all the hot weather has made the tomatoes ripen quickly.  It’s a bumper crop this year, and the cues and courgettes are still going nicely, with the odd aubergine also available.  The peppers are also now ready but the gap in supply of lettuce that I have been promising all season is now actually really going to happen!  There are some more coming on, but they won’t be ready until about the beginning of September.  The maincrop spinach and rainbow chard is now ready, the latter being in this week’s boxes.

From next week, the potatoes will be from the outdoor maincrop, but are still being hand dug.  I’m hoping to machine lift them towards the end of the month, then I can put more in the boxes, and offer them in bulk sacks too.  The onions will soon be new season too.  They will be sold “green” (undried) as they will be harvested week by week.

I have now started picking apples (400kg of Discovery yesterday!), so if you would like some as an extra to your box, please let me know.

The first organic lambs of the season are now almost ready.  I will be selling the first ones very soon.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg, or maybe slightly larger at the beginning of the season, @ £9/kg. Size-wise, this 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 (minced, or de-boned and rolled if you prefer) and chops.  They are bagged and labelled, ready for the freezer.  Please let me know if you are interested.

NEWSLETTER – 6th JULY 2021

Hello, and welcome to the July newsletter.  I am writing this having finished leek planting this morning just before it rained.  When it stopped, I got the irrigation set up for them just in time for it to start thundering.  Good timing all round, but whether I’ll actually set it going, only time will tell!  The majority of the other summer plantings are now also done.  That includes all the brassicas, squash and sweet corn.  I have now started mechanical weed control on them, which consists of removing the fleece, hoeing between the plants in the row, rotovating in between the rows, and putting the fleece back for another 3 weeks or so.  Hopefully it means I won’t then have to weed them!

So, the first item on the agenda is to tell you that there will be NO BOXES ON THE 27th JULY as we are on holiday!  When we return, the next box will be on TUESDAY 3th AUGUST, so a gap of one week only!  If you are a fortnightly customer having a box today (6th), and then the 20th, you will be unaffected!  Could I have your orders for the 3th August delivery by Thursday 22nd July please, so I can prepare the order sheets before I go?  That way, I can hit the ground running when I get back!  Thank you.

Now on to veg matters!  The old potatoes have now all gone, except for a few in our kitchen, and we are on to the new crop from the polytunnels.  Same variety – CAROLUS – but they all have to be dug by hand, which is unpleasant on a hot day.  Worth it, though!  New season veg is now starting to come through with courgettes and cucumbers in the tunnels.  Soon there will be aubergines and tomatoes to add to this. 

Outside, there are some nice lettuces ready now and next week, but then there will be the gap I mentioned in a previous newsletter, while the next batch grows.  There are beetroot and salad onions on the way, but, like the leaf, it’s all a bit behind due to the poor weather we had in May.  A good thunderstorm would work wonders……

NEWSLETTER – 8th JUNE 2021

Hello, and welcome to the June newsletter.  Well, at last it has stopped raining!  April and May seem to have swapped places for this year meaning that all the early crops have had a bit of a growth check, especially the early beetroot and spinach/chard.  Hopefully there are enough other crops in the tunnels to keep things going.

These include more radish, after a couple of weeks off.  In a couple of weeks, we will be moving on to mooli, a white radish otherwise known as daikon.  These are hotter than the red ones, so be warned!  The broad beans have cropped well, but are now almost gone.  Hopefully their place will be taken by the courgettes which I am watering regularly to try and push on!  Also, there will be cucumbers soon.

Outside, the cauliflower continuity programme is now coming to a close, and the overwintered cabbage have been replaced with pointed ones from the tunnels.  The week after the last squash was sold, I am about to plant this year’s crop, along with runner beans and sweet corn.  Then it’s brassicas all the way!

On the subject of continuity programmes, my regular reader will remember that each year I have to report a gap in the lettuce supply!  I guess I am destined never to put a lettuce in every box every week during the summer!  This year, I have increased the size of each batch by 65%, but still I am occasionally getting a duff batch due to excessively hot weather during germination, or whatever else they can find to go wrong!  The lettuce planted just before the wet period were invaded by slugs, and the survivors are just sat there growing very slowly, so there will probably be a bit of a shortage in a month’s time, when the early ones are gone.

Next week will probably be the last full week of old potatoes.  I expect the week after will have a mix of new and old before going entirely onto the new season tunnel crop the week after that.  These all have to be dug by hand, which is not the most pleasant job in a polytunnel if it’s a hot day.  The variety will be the same though – CAROLUS.  The red potatoes which I grew last year split a lot in the tunnels, so they are being grown outside this year, and we’ll get onto them about August.

NEWSLETTER – 11th MAY 2021

Hello, and welcome to the May newsletter.  I have now just about caught up from my backlog of work caused by the home-schooling.  Now I have a new problem – three major traffic closures in Taunton.  I have to go through the Rowbarton closure three times, then I can’t get from the Nerrols area out to Monkton Heathfield without going back over the viaduct, down to Creech Castle and all around the new Bathpool estate.  Having done all that, there are ridiculous delays getting from South Road over to Trull Road.  I feel like I am in a game of chess and am about to be check-mated!

Anyway, once the boxes finally get to you, you will notice that most of the veg is now coming from the tunnels, with good crops of radish, lettuce and salad onions already under way, and broad beans just needing to bulk up a bit before being ready in a couple of weeks.  The tunnel spinach seems to be lasting well this year.  Maybe the roof blowing off the tunnel has slowed it down from bolting a bit!  Early June should see some courgettes and cucumbers ready too, if it stops hailing and warms up a bit!

From the field, the cauliflower continuity programme is working well, with the second variety nearly finished and the third one just beginning to head up.  The purple and white sprouting has almost finished and there are only a couple of weeks left with the leeks.  The new plantings are now well established.  Just as well really, as the wind has destroyed a brand new roll of fleece that I covered them with.  Some of it is decorating a nearby tree!

The stored squash are almost finished now, and please keep the potatoes cool and dark to stop them sprouting and going soft.  After today, I am stopping doing them in bulk sacks until the autumn, as usual.  They just won’t keep well enough.  The new crop in the tunnels has already been ridged!

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 giving all the machinery a good grease-up!

NEWSLETTER – 13th APRIL 2021

Hello, and welcome to the April newsletter.  Things are quite hectic here at the moment.  When the schools went back, I was about a month behind due to the home schooling.  I now reckon I’m about a fortnight behind and aim to catch up by the middle of May – hopefully this won’t be de-railed by a third wave!

Spring has been rather slow to start this year.  We have had the odd glimpse of some decent weather but the icy blast returns each time from the north.  It may be a good thing that I am behind, otherwise I might be planting things out too early for the weather, even though the calendar says it is time.  You can’t rush nature!

Although the cucumber plants aren’t going to be leaving the heated bench any time soon, I have planted the outside crops of potatoes, carrots and onions, along with spinach/chard, lettuce, parsley, kohl rabi and salad onions under fleece.  Needed irrigating in too!

This week, you will all have a Lolla Rossa lettuce from the tunnels.  There are also radish and salad onions ready, and in a few weeks, there will be broad beans, currently in flower, and spring cabbage.  There are still some overwintered cabbage and cauliflowers outside, though, and plenty of leeks and squash.

My potatoes are stored in ambient temperatures for most of the winter, but now spring is alleged to be here, I have put them in the cold store to slow down their sprouting.  If you get one with sprouts, you can just pull them off and eat the spud, but it may be an idea for you to keep them in the fridge when you get them to stop this happening.  Certainly, they need somewhere cool, dark and dry.

NEWSLETTER – 16th MARCH 2021

Hello, and welcome to the March newsletter.  Now that the schools are back, I’ll be delivering slightly later on Tuesdays as I have to do the school run first.  Don’t worry, your box is on its way!

So, cauliflowers all round for the third week in a row!  So far, the continuity programme is working!  The next variety isn’t ready yet, which is the plan!  Don’t want all three varieties coming in the same week!  The kale has now finished, however.  I need the ground for potato planting at the end of the month, but I have picked everything that is edible now.  Normally, there would be some red kale to follow the green, but the pigeons have really made a mess of it, so I’m not sure if there is going to be any.  Maybe I could grow some in a tunnel next year, as I’m normally short of leaf this time of the year.  The “sprouts” in some of the larger boxes are actually sprout tops.  The main crop has finished, but I thought it would be an extra bit of green as we are short of kale.  Hope you like them!

I have some lettuce coming along in the tunnels.  This week there is a little gem.  Later, there will be some Lolla Rossa (frizzy red ones!), but I’ll probably leave those for when the pak choi run out.  These have done well this year, and there is still enough left to last at least a couple of weeks.  There are some radish germinating now, but it will be a month before they are ready to eat.

So, on the rest of the farm, lambing has started.  Not as many this year, but it still takes the same amount of time checking on them at all hours!  Then, when it dries up, I have some ground working to do to prepare for the early plantings at the end of the month.  In my spare time, there are rabbit fences to mend, electric fences to move, a tunnel to clad and a myriad of other maintenance jobs.  The list is only getting longer with all this wind!

NEWSLETTER – 16th FEBRUARY 2021

Hello, and welcome to the February newsletter.  Well, it’s been a bit cold lately, even for us hardy farmer-types!  I’ve welcomed the excuse of being able to slope off inside to do the home schooling in the last couple of weeks!  As I’m not doing the school run, I have been able to leave a bit earlier on Tuesday mornings, but this didn’t help a couple of weeks ago when I had a radiator hose burst.  The annoying thing was that the car was already booked in with the garage for the next day! 

So, the green thing in this week’s boxes is pak choi.  This is a trumpet shaped plant with green leaves and white stalks.  They are nice in a stir fry, salad or a cheese sandwich, just like the mizuna, and you can eat the stalks too.  We still have some green kale but this is nearing the end.  There may be a week of Red Russian kale soon if the pigeons leave it alone, and hopefully the spinach will start re-growing soon to continue having some leaf in the boxes.  Also coming soon, there should be some cauliflowers.  I have grown three varieties this year to try and keep them going longer.  Good theory, but let’s hope they don’t all come at once like cauliflowers normally do!

In the prop tunnel, the early sowings are now germinating.  This includes climbing beans, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, parsley, lettuce, kohl rabi, leeks and salad onions.  The seed potatoes have been chitting by the boiler for a couple of weeks and will be planted out soon.  Then it won’t be long until lambing, then it will be spring, so plenty to look forward to!

With the pubs being shut due to Covid, and likely to stay that way for a while yet, I am going to have to switch back to three 250ml bottles for each 750ml bottle of apple juice, as I did last summer.  This will be for a few weeks, and then we’ll be back on big bottles again.

NEWSLETTER – 19th JANUARY 2021

Hello, Happy New Year and welcome to the January newsletter.  I hope you all had a good Christmas, limited though we were.  Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the newsletter, just a reminder that I can accept your payments by BACS if you prefer not to handle cash during the pandemic.  I’m not going to put the bank details in a newsletter, but if you email me, I can let you have them.  You wouldn’t even have to open the door to me then, so it’s win-win!  I know I can be a bit scary that time of the morning!

So, on to veg matters!  The red potatoes, variety ALOUETTE will be coming to an end soon.  They have been very well received, so I will be growing them again this year, alongside the white variety, which is CAROLUS.  Both are blight resistant varieties, vital for us!

Now on to fruit matters!  The apples, both eaters and Bramleys, have now finished as far as bags are concerned.  All the outgrades have been juiced as well now.  A word about the labels - As you know, they are very difficult to remove from the bottles, so for a while I have been putting a new label on top of the old one each time a bottle goes out.  Some bottles have at least half a dozen labels on them now, and are starting to look tatty.  This is not a good advert for me, or the juice.  Therefore, I am going to keep those bottles for our own use, and revert to putting address labels on the bottles with the required information on.  These should be easier to remove!  If you are giving a bottle as a present, or going to a posh dinner party (fat chance at the moment!) and would like a bottle with a proper label, just let me know!

Over the next few weeks, there will be some mizuna from the tunnels.  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.  When they have finished, we will be moving on to Pak Choi, which is green and trumpet shaped.  You treat it the same, and can eat the stalks too! 

NEWSLETTER – 8th DECEMBER 2020

Hello and welcome to the December newsletter.  The most important bit of news is that we will be doing boxes without a break, on Tuesdays as usual, as if Christmas isn’t happening, which for many of us is probably an accurate assumption.  There are a number of reasons for this.  For a start, with many of you not going away, I think the demand will be greater than in years when we’ve had a week off.  Also, we’re not going anywhere either, so I have worked out that I can do the boxes AND have more time off with the family than I usually manage anyway, so it makes sense.  With an unquarantined schoolgirl and a key worker vegman in the family, we’re not in high demand for inclusion in anyone’s Christmas bubble, so the decision has made itself! 

All I will ask, please, is that orders for the 29th December box are in at the same time as orders for the 22nd December box, i.e. Saturday 19th December.  I’d like to be able to watch The Sound Of Music in one go, without having to chase people up in every advert break!  Of course, an order can never be in too early, so if you know what you are going to need, just let me know now and it’s job done!

Yes, there will be sprouts and parsnips in the 22nd December box and extra sacks of most of the items will be available throughout the month (see prices below).  I have included carrots in the list for the first time this season.  Unfortunately they are very expensive as they are bought in this year, and very dirty, like the ones in the veg boxes.  They taste alright, though!

Over the next few weeks, there will be some mizuna from the tunnels.  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 – 10th NOVEMBER 2020

Hello, and welcome to the November newsletter.  We are now firmly entrenched in autumn, but even though we had a couple of frosts last week, the weather is still pretty warm.  Could do with a colder spell really to kill off all the whitefly, and the wasp nest on the house!

I hope you all enjoyed the slice of pumpkin in last week’s box.  We made pumpkin lasagne out of ours, which was delicious!  Hopefully we can adapt the recipe for the marrow slice in this week’s box.  Like pumpkins, marrows can be a bit bland on their own, so another thing you can 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. 

This week, having finished apple picking, I will be harvesting the rest of the squash.  There are four varieties, but you treat them all the same way.  There are Red Kuri (the orange ones), Sweet Dumpling (the white stripy ones), Butternut, which you will know, and Crown Prince, the large blueish ones, cut into segments. As last year, we are now using paper bags, rather than polythene, to keep cut squash segments clean in an effort to reduce polythene usage.

As you may know, my carrots haven’t turned out well this year, so I am buying some in from an organic wholesaler.  This week (and probably next week too), for a change, we have some rainbow carrots.  Elsewhere in the boxes, it is the first week for my swedes and we are now getting going on the leeks.  The tunnel salads have now completely finished, and they have been replanted with lots of things for the New Year, which isn’t that far away now.  Next newsletter I will confirm my Christmas delivery dates, but I rather expect I will stick to Tuesdays throughout, but not deliver on the 29th December, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in these Covid times! 

NEWSLETTER – 13th OCTOBER 2020

Hello, and welcome to the October newsletter.  Firstly, I’d just like to say that if you are wondering why I am delivering a bit later these days, it’s because I have to do the school run before I leave.  Don’t worry, your box is on its way!

So, for as long as I can remember now, although it has only been about two weeks, I have been getting the bulk of the apples picked.  Bramleys are now available, alongside the current variety of eating apple, and apple juice (prices below).  Now that the lettuce are nearing the end, I am putting Chinese cabbage in the boxes. These can be steamed or stir fried, but are also nice as a lettuce substitute in a salad or cheese sandwich.  The “bunch” in your box is rocket, and will probably go very well with the Chinese leaves.

In Halloween week, there may be some miniature pumpkins in the boxes, although I haven’t actually walked the crop properly to see how many there are!  Also soon, there will be a slice of pumpkin, in a paper bag, and probably some marrows too.  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.  The pumpkin is probably best made into soup, unless you feel like making some pumpkin bread!

I am going to be doing some more lamb soon – intended delivery date the first week of November.  They are supplied in “half lambs”, which is about 7 to 8kg @ £9/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. 


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