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NEWSLETTER – 22nd JANUARY 2019

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January newsletter.  Christmas is already a distant memory, but the weather has been quite dry so it hasn’t been too great a burden to be out there working.  I hate to say it, but we really could do with a cold snap to kill off some bugs.  The whitefly have outlived the Cavolo Nero!

 

Anyway, the green bushy thing in some of the boxes is mizuna.  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.  Yum!

 

We still have some apples left – eaters and cookers.  We will be juicing again next week, 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 as I can reuse it!  If you could just swill it out and return it to me I’d be very grateful, thank you!  Buy one now, to help you get through “Dry January”!

 

Also on the livestock front, I will have some pork for sale soon (early Feb). Each year, I fatten a litter of pigs, to root out the perennial weeds and to start my ploughing.  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 £6.50/kg.  If you are interested, don’t delay as I am already taking orders!


NEWSLETTER – 4th DECEMBER 2018

Hello and welcome to the December newsletter.  Firstly, here are the Christmas delivery dates:  Deliveries will be as normal on Tuesday 11th and Tuesday 18th, but there will be no box on Tuesday 25th as it is Christmas Day!  It will be on SUNDAY 23rd instead.  There will then be no delivery on Tuesday 1st January, but we will return as normal on Tuesday 8th January 2019, suitably refreshed!

 

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 Tuesday deliveries, and THURSDAY night for the Sunday Christmas delivery, 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 23rd December box and extra sacks of most of the items will be available throughout the month (see prices below).  I’m trying not to put any sprouts in the boxes until Christmas this year though, as I don’t want to run out before Christmas!

 

In this week’s larger boxes, there are 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.  The early varieties of squash are not keeping very well.  The butternut have now all gone, and by Christmas, I expect the other early varieties will have finished too.  Then we will be on to the Crown Prince – one of the best tasting ones and also the best keeper.  It is also the largest, so it will be segmented, but these segments should keep for a week in the fridge.

NEWSLETTER – 13th NOVEMBER 2018

Hello and welcome to the November newsletter.  Our nice autumn weather has now given way to wind and rain, but before this happened, I spotted a wind free day on the weather forecast and ordered and fitted a new tunnel sheet all within 5 days!  Sometimes you can be waiting weeks for a decent day!  That tunnel has now been planted out to broad beans for an early crop in May, hopefully.

 

The squash have now all been harvested.  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. We are now using paper bags, rather than polythene, to keep cut squash segments clean in an effort to reduce polythene usage.

 

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.  We have had a good crop of cauliflowers but these are now almost finished, as are the majority of the salad crops.  There will be some leeks soon, probably next week, and the sprouts are on their way too!

 

The next newsletter will be early in December with our Christmas delivery dates.  Last time Christmas was on a Tuesday (in 2012), I delivered the Christmas box on Christmas Eve, but I’m leaning towards delivering it on the Sunday this time.  This will be confirmed in the next newsletter, but if anyone has a strong opinion on this, please let me know! 

NEWSLETTER – 16th OCTOBER 2018

Hello, and welcome to the October newsletter.  We’ve had some pretty good weather recently, up to this weekend, which has enabled me to get the potatoes harvested, and the majority of this year’s smaller yield of apples, without too much fuss!  In the boxes, the summer salads are giving way to more autumnal crops now, such as the Romanescu cauliflowers and the Chinese leaves. The latter can be steamed or stir fried, but I tend to eat them raw in a salad as a lettuce replacement.  The spinach and chard has now outgrown its mildew attack, so can go back in the boxes again for a bit.

 

The sweet corn has been going well for a while but a lot of them have been attacked by pheasants.  What the pheasant realises is that the shooting season doesn’t start until October 1st, so they can graze away with impunity until that date, and being an early season, they have got rather plump on it in September!  If there is any sweet corn in this week’s boxes, it will be the last clearings of the season, and will be put in on a “bogof basis” as they won’t all be fully ripened to the end of the cob.

 

Coming soon, I have just a few marrows for 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, with butternut and sweet dumpling to follow. This week, there are turnips in most of the boxes.  I only grow a few as they are not as popular as the swedes, which will follow in due course.  Carrots are now available in bulk sacks, and the prices are below:

NEWSLETTER – 18th SEPTEMBER 2018

Hello, and welcome to the September newsletter.  The mornings are getting a bit autumnal now, but they are turning into nice days.  Not too hot to work, and not so cold you need a jumper or coat on!  In fact, we could do with some rain really, but not for another week until we have finished harvesting the spuds!  The conditions are perfect at the moment, although it is a smaller yield due to the summer weather.  Quality is good, though.

 

It is also a smaller yield in the apple orchard, although I will still have plenty to keep the juicing going.  It’s a good year to have a reduced yield in one sense, as I am having a stable block put up at the moment, to offer DIY horse livery in one of my fields.  It all takes time!

 

In the boxes, most of the salads are in decline now, but the peppers are holding their own, and we have some resurgent lettuce, which will keep going until the Chinese leaves are ready.  There are some Romanescu cauliflowers coming along and the sweet corn is also now ready.  The spinach and chard, however, has got powdery mildew, so I have started early on the kale – Cavollo Nero the last two weeks, now some of the green variety this week.

 

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 (prices below).  Apples and apple juice are also available, but I’d rather leave it until next month for the carrots.  The first lambs 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 – 14th AUGUST 2018

Hello, and welcome to the August newsletter.  So, we’re back from holiday and busily trying to catch up the lost week.  The weeds have shot up in that time, due to the storm a couple of Sundays ago, but I think I’m on top of it now!

 

The unusually hot summer has had an interesting effect on the crops.  The tomatoes and aubergines are really enjoying it.  Anything that has had irrigation is also looking good.  It has been a struggle to get the carrots to germinate though as the irrigation has been on other crops, but I think they will catch up later.  The new season onions, which should be in next week’s boxes, haven’t even needed weeding!  The weeds didn’t germinate, and the onions were grown from sets, so had a head start anyway.

 

The Discovery apples are even earlier than last year.  If anyone would like some as an extra to their box, then they are £3 for a 3lb (1.36kg) bag.  The other varieties are not looking as if they will have a very large yield, but we will still have plenty to juice!  The leaf in this week’s box is rainbow chard.  You treat it just the same as ordinary chard and spinach, but it’s prettier!

 

The main downside of the hot weather is that we’ve had hardly any grass for the sheep.  I separated the ewes and lambs a month ago; to put the lambs on some better grazing, but it is not the field I intended them to go in.  That one was reseeded in the spring, but the young grass has burnt off and has allowed the weed to take hold.  It may have to be redone next year.  They have therefore had to go in a field following a cut of hay.  I’ve got to look at them again soon, and the more forward ones may be ready in spite of this, so if you’re interested in having some for the freezer, please let me know.

 

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 – 17th JULY 2018

Hello, and welcome to the July newsletter.  First, some breaking news!  There will be NO BOXES on Tuesday 31st July as we are on holiday!  You’re welcome to order a larger box on the 24th if you wish, to tide you over.  If you are a fortnightly customer due a delivery on the 31st July, I’ll assume that you will want your next box on 7th August, but you are welcome to slip an extra one in on the 24th July if you wish – just let me know, please!

 

So, the hot weather continues.  It’s quite novel having to irrigate crops.  Most summers, I just water them in and then it rains.  This year I’m actually having to do irrigation management!  The majority of the summer plantings are now done.  That includes all the brassicas, squash, sweet corn, and most recently the leeks.  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.  The sprouts have also been hand weeded.

 

If you have been keeping in touch on the Facebook page, you will realise that the cucumbers have had a severe attack of Red Spider Mite.  This is being countered by the introduction of Phytoseiulus Mites which eat the RSM.  Unfortunately, the RSM have got ahead of the PM in the hot weather, and so there will be very few cucumbers for a bit, while I introduce some more PM.  As usual, I’m afraid there will also be the occasional gap in lettuce supply.  One of the most difficult things I have to do in summer is match supply to demand with the salad crops.  Maybe next year I’ll get it right……..

 

Anyway, on a more positive note, the tunnel grown new potatoes are pretty good this year.  Hot work digging them, though.  Also, there are now good crops of parsley, beetroot and salad onions coming along, and the new crop spinach is just about withstanding the heat.  There are also tomatoes ripening and aubergines nearly ready in the tunnels.

NEWSLETTER – 12th JUNE 2018

 Hello, and welcome to the June newsletter.  Well, summer seems to be here, so let’s enjoy it while we can and also get all the planting done in decent weather!  My irrigation reservoir is full, and I’m going to need it this year, it would seem.

 

Anyway, things are changing now in the boxes.  All the over wintered crops in the fields have now finished.  It has been a lean time, waiting for the new crops to start producing, but I think we have turned the corner now.  We have abundant courgettes, and the cucumbers are probably about a week away from starting in any real numbers.  The pointed cabbage are among the best I’ve grown in the tunnels.  Must make sure I grow the same variety again next year!  The spinach is now “new crop” as well.

 

There have been a couple of failures, though.  The main one was the broad beans.  We had a great crop last year from the tunnels, but for some reason they just have not performed at all this year.  I’m not aware of doing anything differently, but we only got about a dozen pods in total, which we selfishly ate ourselves!  The climbing French beans are looking good, though, so fingers crossed for about the end of the month.

 

I grew some kohl rabi in the tunnels, but just as they were fit to harvest, something, presumably slugs, took some great chomps out of the tops of them.  A few of them made it to the boxes, but not many.  On the plus side, there is a nice looking crop of salad onions not far from being fit, and there are some nice lettuce this week and next, although there may be one of those annoying gaps after that.

 

Although the red radish have now finished, this week some of you will have some mooli – a large white radish, also known as Daikon and used a lot in Asian cooking.  You can just treat them as ordinary radish, though if you prefer, but they are hotter! 

 

A quick request to my apple juice customers – I’m really appreciative of you returning the empty bottles to me, but especially this time of year, do you think you could just swill them out with water first, please?  The problem is that if I don’t get to wash them immediately, furry things will start growing inside the bottles!  Thank you!

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!



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