We’ve planted five varieties of potato this year –
- Jazzy (first early)
- Arran Pilot (first early)
- Pink fir apple – maincrop but we dig them early for the best potato salad ever
- Red Duke of York – again a later potato and fabulous roaster, but also good early
- Sarpo Mira – which, being highly blight resistant, we leave in the ground.
The reason we try to get the vulnerable varieties out of the ground early is because the allotment site is plagued with blight. The problem with doing it this way is that we can be overwhelmed with new potatoes early in the season – but then, better overwhelmed than stuck with tasteless supermarket potatoes. But this season – need I say – has been very odd, with a dry early period followed by some pretty cold weather and now almost continuous rain for a couple of weeks. The rain has come just in time for the early potatoes which looked set to be a tiny crop, but they’ve plumped up nicely this week. The photo shows Jazzy at the back, and a few Arran Pilots next to the beetroot. It’s only when you see them together that the whiteness of the Pilots shows up. We’ve never grown them before but they’re the ones my grandfather and my parents always grew, and I remember what a wonderful flavour they had from my childhood, so I can’t wait to get them into a pan.
As for the rest of the vegetables, the weather is causing a mixed bag of results right across the site. Only the overwintered broad beans have survived the aphid onslaught, but at least the ladybirds peaked at exactly the right time and we’re seeing six plus larvae on a single plant. It’s the larvae, not the hatched ladybirds with the prodigious appetite for blackfly.
Tender plants have all suffered stress in the cool wet conditions, and the onion crop has been hit hard everywhere, but the cabbages have enjoyed every moment of the weather and made steady growth. So I suppose that’s the whole challenge of allotmenteering – no season is ever the same as the last one and with global heating playing the wild card, we just have to duck and dive and ride the weather.
However that was only a part of the day because this morning I took the first car-load of books down to the Oxfam shop. This is turning into a bittersweet time as I declutter my study to make space for new projects. Today’s books weren’t just old novels, some of them had been very important at the time for all sorts of reasons, and I could almost remember where and why each one was bought. When I came home I made a start on the serious collection of music books, which seemed more unsettling and painful than ever. I’ve been flunking this moment for four years – I knew I should have sorted through them when we moved here, but we ended up only letting the painless ones go. These latest ones represent a huge investment of time and money during the period I was deeply involved in music, and I had to summon up every ounce of resolve to pass them on to new owners. Music kept me sane for a very long time, especially during the most stressful periods. Anyway that’s enough, and I’m saying to myself that I was really using them as a comfort blanket – something I could define myself by during the period of introspection and loss of role after I retired.
By lunchtime we’d cooked soup for supper and then went for a second look at the Bath Society of Artists show. Julia Trickey – who taught me – has sold a magnificent painting of leaves found in the Bath Botanical Garden. Among the leaves was a Harts Tongue fern, and when I looked carefully there was even dry brush detail in the sporangia. Epic stuff. In the photo below the horizontal pile of books in the foreground has been resting on the lightbox for months now and that’s why I’m clearing up.