LAMB & PORK
APPLES & JUICE
NEWSLETTER – 10th OCTOBER 2023
Hello, and welcome to the October newsletter. After a wobble a couple of weeks ago, the weather is quite nice at the moment. Ideal temperature for apple picking, which is my main job at the moment. As well as progressing through all the varieties of eater, I have also picked the Bramleys. They are in all the boxes this week as a taster but I normally won’t be putting them in during the autumn.
So, the first news this month is that from the 7th November box onwards, the prices will be £9 for the small box, £12 for the medium box and £14.50 for the large box - that’s an extra 50p/box. Please don’t forget to change your standing orders if you pay by BACS! The usual inflationary rise, I’m afraid.
Now, onto veg matters (and of course it does!). The potatoes have now been harvested and the red skinned variety is ALOUETTE. I have noticed that a few of them have blight internally by seeing a slight dark soft spot on the outside. When cut open, these are often rotten in the middle. I am trying to chuck these out when I am packing but I am sure the odd one will get through. Might be an idea to always cut them in half before cooking to be on the safe side. Please let me know how you get on so I can replace any that can’t be used. They are now available in bulk but it may be an idea not to buy too big a bag!
From this week onward, if you get two sweet corn cobs in your box, then it is a bogof: two small ones for the price of one! I always think that this is such a nice crop that it is a shame not to use all of it, so if a cob is not completely formed, or has been damaged on the end, then two for one! Similarly the Romanescu cauliflowers – the large ones have mostly gone now, but two small ones are just as good!
Soon we will be starting the pumpkins, marrows and squash. The first two of these are a bit bland on their own so treat them as a blank canvas to which you can add your own flavour. There are a number of marrow recipes on t’internet but our favourite is Stuffed Marrow Bake on the BBC Good Food website. In Hallowe’en week, there will be some miniature pumpkins in the boxes, if there’s enough to go round. These are more flavoursome and are nice cut into strips and roasted in a tray with some olive oil. Or there’s always the soup option!
Coming soon will be the Chinese cabbage. These can be steamed or stir fried, but are also nice as a lettuce substitute in a salad or cheese sandwich. There will possibly be a bunch of rocket which will go very well with them. Hopefully the swedes will be ready soon, and maybe some turnips too, and the leeks. Hardly seems cold enough though!
NEWSLETTER – 11th SEPTEMBER 2023
Hello, and welcome to the September newsletter. Well, I hope you enjoyed the recent hot weather more than I did! I’m a spring and autumn person really, and I was just breathing a sigh of relief that summer (such as it was) was over when it hit! Anyway, normality has now resumed and at least it has dried the ground out so I can lift the potatoes this week.
Produce wise, the cucumbers and courgettes are still chugging along, but the tomatoes are now in decline. The peppers and aubergines are now near the end too, hastened by the fact that there is a wasp nest in that tunnel and I don’t fancy going in there! To replace these crops, we now have some Romanescu cauliflowers - in the larger boxes this week, and all of the boxes for the next few weeks. The French beans have slowed right down but the runner beans are now in full flow. There should also be a solid run of lettuce now until the Chinese leaves are ready.
Currently the only bought in crop is carrots, which return all round from this week. I’m hoping mine will be ready soon, then it will be a totally home-produced box for a while. Also, on the horizon – sweet corn! Last year’s crop got frazzled in the heatwave, but this year’s looks good. It’s just a case of keeping the pheasants off and getting the timing right for when to start harvesting it. Chard and spinach is in short supply at the moment but I have cavolo nero and curlygreen ready so will probably rotate them all.
Once the spuds are harvested then it’s back to apple picking again. The early varieties yielded nearly two tons, but there’s a long way to go yet! The Worcesters have all gone but I still have some Discovery left, then I’ll be picking Pearl, Queen Cox and Fiesta by the end of the month, when the Bramleys will be ready. All this apple picking means that the juicing season is just around the corner. I still have some of last year’s juice left, with a good date on it, but it won’t be long before the new season’s pressings are ready.
NEWSLETTER – 15th AUGUST 2023
Hello, and welcome to the August newsletter. So, here we are, back from holiday! It’s a distant memory already, but was enjoyable while it lasted, even though the weather could have been better.
What is great is that the hungry gap is over. We’ve got so much produce coming out of the tunnels that I have been leaving the expensive bought-in carrots and onions out of the small boxes, and some of the larger ones. At this time of year, I don’t consider carrots essential, but I do appreciate that onions can be used alongside a lot of the produce currently being included in the boxes, so will prioritise them ahead of the carrots when I want to include one of the two. In any case, after this week I will be starting on my own better-quality onions! These will be undried and I will start with the ones that have gone to seed as they don’t keep.
I hope you are enjoying the French beans. They’re very prolific this year. I think you can freeze them if you are struggling to get through all of them. This week sees the first (and possibly only) fennel of the season if there’s enough to go round. The only batch that has germinated is from last year’s seed. This year’s hasn’t come up!
This week, for most of you, sees the first gap in lettuce supply this season. It’s annoying, but there’s plenty of things to put in instead like some leaf! It’s been a bad year for the spinach but it is growing better now. Also ready is some Cavolo Nero (black kale) – a foodie favourite! The lettuce will be back again in a couple of weeks.I have started picking this year’s Discovery apples, so if anyone would like a 3lb (1.36kg) bag as an extra to their box, please let me know. I’m holding off with bulk potatoes until the maincrop ones are ready and the skins have set. Might give them another go with the irrigation before then, seeing the lake still has plenty of water in it. Might as well use it!
NEWSLETTER – 4th JULY 2023
Hello, and welcome to the July newsletter. The first item on the agenda is to tell you that there will be NO BOXES ON THE 25th JULY as we are on holiday! When we return, the next box will be on TUESDAY 1st AUGUST - so a gap of one week only! If you are a fortnightly customer having a box today (4th), and then the 18th, you will be unaffected.
In the last newsletter, I mentioned that this was my 30th year of doing veg boxes. Thinking a bit more about it, I reckon this is about my 30th anniversary box! I’m not sure of the exact date we started (under our previous guise of Oake Organics, before we expanded into Stoneage Farm), but it was early July 1993. I know a lot of you have been having boxes for at least 20 of those years, some even longer, so I thank you for that!
You will be pleased to know that I have now dug enough new potatoes from the tunnels to put in all the boxes from this week. The old ones are being greedily chomped up by the sheep! They are variety CAROLUS, same as the old ones.
I hope you don’t mind the extra cucumbers in the boxes recently. They are only small, but I am short of a few things at the moment and it makes more sense to have an extra homegrown cue or two than to buy in a garlic or something else expensive from the wholesaler. The courgettes are also going well now after a slow start. Unfortunately, I am still short of leaf crops, but they are growing better now after that recent rain. At least I am having a better year with the lettuce, and there are a few cabbages about too to provide leaf of a different sort
Other recent new crops include the mooli (white radish) and the occasional French bean, which are starting slowly in the tunnels. Also from the tunnels are some tomatoes for the first time this week.
Elsewhere on the farm, the main planting season is over and my main jobs are to keep the weeds under control and, of course, irrigating! The lake is holding up well this year, though.
NEWSLETTER – 6th JUNE 2023
Hello, and welcome to the June newsletter. Well, finally we have some decent weather! I’ve managed to get all my ground working done and am just about to start the plantathon that is my entertainment for June! It would help if it rained occasionally, overnight at the beginning of each week if that can be arranged, as the ground is now quite hard!
So, nearly all the overwintered crops have gone now. There is still one variety of cauliflower left, along with the spinach. Everything else is coming from the tunnels for a bit. The early season crops are coming along outside, and will benefit from some irrigation over the weekend. That’ll make it rain! The new season leaf (spinach and chard) are not as forward as I would like, and I don’t know how many more weeks I can squeeze out of the stalky old crop! I really hope I don’t have to put out boxes with no leaf, but if I do, I will try to put something green like a cabbage in to make up for it. This is my 30th year of doing veg boxes, and all that I have learnt about timings to get a continuity of produce seems to have gone out the window with these strange weather patterns we have been having, particularly in the last couple of years.
The tunnel crops now include cucumbers all round and courgettes in the larger boxes to start with until numbers bulk up a bit. The broad beans have been a blast, and there are plentiful salad onions. There should be some more radish/mooli soon. This is the time of year when I am buying in carrots and onions from an organic wholesaler. They are very expensive this year, particularly the carrots, which is why I am not putting that many in each week – to try and maintain the value of the box. When supplies of my own produce firm up in a few weeks, I might alternate carrots and onions in the small boxes.
With the potatoes getting a bit wrinkly in the cold store, I feel it is probably the right time to stop offering them as bulk until the autumn. Please remember to keep them cool and dark – even refrigerated – to stop them shooting. The tunnel crop is coming along nicely, though, and I will probably include it alongside the old ones in a week or two. What I don’t want to do is run out of the tunnel earlies before the maincrop is ready outside, so I have to get my timing right!
NEWSLETTER – 9th MAY 2023
Hello, and welcome to the May newsletter. Spring appears to be here in a rather hesitant way. It’s almost as if it is embarrassed to show itself and would rather run off, hide and let winter continue. On the dry days, I have got quite a bit of work done on the farm. I posted some photos of this on the Facebook site. The rain and warmth is ideal for the reseeds. My main job now is seeding all the summer plantings – runner beans, squash and brassicas before getting the muck spread and ploughed in. It is always a season of optimism before the reality of summer kicks in!
We are definitely in the hungry gap period now – when the over-wintered crops are largely finished but the new season ones aren’t quite ready yet. I use my tunnels to try and reduce this where possible, but the late spring is slowing down progress! Normally we would have been cutting lettuce from these in April, but I think there will finally be some next week! I have a lot planted outside which, slugs permitting, should follow on afterwards.
Everybody should have had a cauliflower by now, and the second batch is at its peak, so plenty for all at the moment. The leeks should hold out for another couple of weeks or so before being too woody. Coming soon from the tunnels is a crop of broad beans, late as they had to be reseeded, but looking promising. Also, the courgettes should be ready early in June.
The potatoes this year seem to be going wrinkly a bit earlier than usual. I have a theory that this could be caused by them containing less moisture at harvesting time due to the drought. I have got far more than I need, though, so can be pretty strict on grading out the wrinkliest when packing. They are still edible even if they are wrinkly but I know how annoying it is when the peeler snags on a wrinkle! Maybe leek and potato soup is the answer! Please remember to keep them cool and dark – even refrigerated – to stop them shooting.
NEWSLETTER – 11th APRIL 2023
Hello, and welcome to the April newsletter. Spring appears to be here now, but everything on the farm had been put back ten days by the recent deluge. I have now caught up by planting the outside crops of potatoes and onions, along with spinach/chard, lettuce, parsley, kohl rabi and salad onions. As usual, they are under fleece to keep them warm at night and to keep off any pigeons, pheasants etc that may undo all my hard work.
After this week, the pak choi will have finished. There will be radish ready soon from the tunnels, and in a while, there will be some broad beans. These had to be reseeded, but there should be enough for a couple of weeks with a bit of luck. There will be a few spring cabbage this year, but there are still quite a lot of Tundra outside first. Also, the next batch of caulis is looking imminent now!
This week, the red/purple leaf is Red Russian kale. Treat it the same as the other leaf crops. The green kale has now finished, but soon there will be some spinach from the tunnel, followed by the regrowth from last year’s outdoor crop, before this year’s crop is ready hopefully in June.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. The variety is now CAROLUS, the red ones having finished.
NEWSLETTER – 14th MARCH 2023
Hello, and welcome to the March newsletter. So spring is just around the corner apparently. I thought we were there a couple of weeks ago but we had that cold wind and a quick blast of snow instead. Won’t be too soon when it does arrive!
By the end of the month, we will have changed variety on the potatoes. When the red skinned Alouette have finished, we will be on to the white CAROLUS. Most of them are now in the cold store to help slow down their sprouting. I’ve had the best crop of carrots for years and should have enough to go well into April. I think if they are harvested as I need them, they will go woody by April, so I am harvesting ahead and storing them in the cold store. To aid their keeping, I am not washing them as they come in, storing them dirty. If they are a bit dirty when they get to you, then this is the reason.
I think I over-estimated the amount of cauliflowers we have got in the last newsletter! Some of you had one of the first variety last week, but there are not many left. I will try to share them out if possible, and there are two varieties to go. The pak choi are still going well and are providing a bit of leaf in the boxes now that the green kale has slowed down. Some of the kale will have to make way for the potatoes to go in at the end of the month. The squash is also nearing the end. I put a lasagne recipe on the Facebook page the other day in case you were looking for a new idea of what to do with it. So, on the rest of the farm, the sheep are lambing at the moment. The bulk of them will have finished by the end of the month by which time I will be doing the early veg plantings. Hope it warms up by then! The early potatoes have been planted in the tunnels, along with some early lettuce and the first batch of radish. What we need now is some sunshine! We still have some apples left, and there is plenty of apple juice still available
NEWSLETTER – 14th FEBRUARY 2023
Hello, and welcome to the February newsletter. After rather a cold start to the year, it has now warmed up and it is quite dry. I’ve whizzed around doing the hedge trimming and am now juicing the last of the apples, keeping back enough nice ones to sell in bags. Any apples in the boxes are Bramleys at the moment.
So, the new green thing in this week’s boxes is pak choi. Hopefully it will be in all the boxes for several weeks. It 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 (the feathery leaved one), and you can eat the stalks too. We still have some green kale and mizuna but they are nearing the end. 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 again this year to try and keep them going longer.
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 about a week and will be planted out at the end of the month. Then it won’t be long until lambing, then it will be spring, so plenty to look forward to! The squash are still Crown Prince. These are the best keeping variety but are not keeping so well this year. They are rather large, so will be sold in smaller segments in a paper bag to keep the cut surface clean, and we have got enough for a month or so.
NEWSLETTER – 17th JANUARY 2023
Hello, Happy New Year and welcome to the January newsletter. I hope you all had a great Christmas and thank you to everyone who left presents out for me when I delivered the Christmas boxes!
The mild weather has really helped the purple sprouting this week and most of the boxes will have some. If you don’t have some, there’s a good chance you will next time as I try and share things around as well as I can. The squash is now Crown Prince. The Cavollo Nero will keep going for a while and there’s plenty of green kale too at the moment.
I will soon be juicing the last of the apples. I am keeping back some nice Kidds, which will last for a few weeks and then there will be some Braeburns (if they’re sweet enough, otherwise they’ll get juiced) and some Sturmer Pippins. There will still be some Bramleys for a while. If you get apples in your boxes, they are Bramleys.
So, on the farm at the moment, the sheep are housed so I can keep an eye on them as they approach lambing. They should soon be scanned so I can direct the feed at the ones that need it most – anything thin, or going to have twins/triplets. I am also working my way through all those irritating maintenance jobs that seem to accumulate from being put off when I am busy during the summer! Then soon, I will be sowing seeds for the coming season’s crops and it will start all over again! 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, or maybe sooner, 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 – 6th DECEMBER 2022
Hello and welcome to the December newsletter. Firstly, the Christmas delivery dates! The Christmas week box will be delivered on Thursday 22nd rather than the Tuesday to keep the green items fresher for the big day. Then there will not be a box between Christmas and New Year, re-commencing on Tuesday 3rd January 2023 as normal. It would be a great help please if you could let me know as soon as you know your ordering intentions so I can plan ahead and maximise my time off! An order can never be in too early! Thank you!
I will assume that any fortnightly customers having a box on the 13th December will want their next box on 3rd January, but you are welcome to slip an extra one in on the 22nd – just let me know, please!
This week (6th Dec) I’ll be tidying up some loose ends with the squash, so you might get a marrow slice, a bit of butternut or a stripy sweet dumpling. As we move towards Christmas, we will move on to the red kuri before finishing the squash season with Crown Prince – the grey/blue ones.There WILL be sprouts and parsnips in the 22nd December boxes! There should be enough sprouts for me to offer them in 2kg nets for the 22nd December delivery only, as usual. The parsnips will be bought in, I’m afraid, because the trial dig of my own ones revealed that they were carrot sized, although the green looks healthy!
NEWSLETTER – 8th NOVEMBER 2022
Hello, and welcome to the November newsletter. Well, it is a lot more autumnal now, although still mild. At least I have finished the apple picking – all apart from 3 trees when I ran out of crates and room in the cold store!
I have now harvested all of the squash too, and there are photos on my Facebook page telling you which variety is which. This week there is a slice of big pumpkin again in the paper bag. These are best turned into soup, although we have had a lovely pumpkin lasagne in the past. Pumpkins (and marrows) generally need more seasoning than the more flavoursome squashes.
The Romanescu caulis are pretty much finished now apart from some regrowth shoots that can be used in the same way as the broccoli. I’m hoping to have a lot more of the latter this year having doubled up the plantings. Fresh this week are some Chinese cabbage. These can be steamed or stir fried, but are also nice as a lettuce substitute in a salad or cheese sandwich. In due course, there may be a bunch of rocket which will go very well with the Chinese leaves.
On the root front, some boxes will have turnips this week. They have whiter flesh than the creamier swedes. There are also some beetroot left and soon I must do a trial excavation of the parsnips to see if they are going to be ok for Christmas, and I might be able to put a few sprouts in the boxes soon as well.
I expect that in the week leading up to Christmas I will deliver on the Thursday rather than the Tuesday to make sure the greener items keep fresh for the big day. Then there won’t be a delivery between Christmas and New Year, commencing delivery again on Tuesday 3rd January. I’ll confirm this in the next newsletter though.
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