The (2013) summer was magnificent. Autumn has come in all its carotene splendour, with morning mists giving way to azure skies and the changing evening light of the Borders. Here are just a few of the crops we've grown and the people who have helped us to sow, tend and harvest them and, not least, to enjoy them.
Australian WWOOFers Chris and Lauren helped us to make a head start in March by sifting and moving tons of compost, building new compost pens and preparing for planting. Andrew erected a wooden framework to carry an upper tier of strawberries in the polytunnel and the greenhouse (an idea he’d picked up from Colette and Joe McMahon in Bohatch, Co Clare).
Some of the ground was treated with well-aged ‘natural liquid fertiliser’ (last summer’s collection from the wet chamber of the compost toilet; thanks again to all who contributed).
By April we were incubating 80 goose eggs, putting up a new wooden shelter and coming to the end of the winter vegetables in our soups and stews.
We bought a wee caravan, which has been much-occupied evr since we installed it on the 'green lane' above the polytunnel and the orchard.
The goslings hatched on 8th May and had progressed from the greenhouse to the polytunnel by the time the first ever Sourdough Exchangers arrived on 14th May. A dozen young people worked on the land and made bread together. Occasionally one of them would gather a few handfuls of chickweed and feed it to the goslings. Most 'ticing.
One of the first jobs for Exchangers and WWOOFers was to replace the tiny beeches, which were not thriving, with a hedge of bee-loving organic heathers from Bee Happy Plants and, beside those, a sweep of Aronia bushes, transplanted from the field. There was more good news for bees on Monday 29th May when the European Parliament voted to ban the use of neonicotinoids. Jubilation from us, from the many campaigners who made their voices heard and from everyone who believes that agri-chemicals have no place in, or on, a living, vital soil.
May and June brought WWOOFERS Joel (we hope you have some paid work in renewable energy by now), Charlotte and Astrid (we are still enjoying the Charlotte potatoes you planted), Danny and Madlie (who patiently completed so many hours of unglamorous stone-picking).
The second tier of strawberries worked a treat. With so many salads and vegetables, berries, cereals and pulses, supplemented by eggs, dairy and the occasional piece of meat from Whitmuir Farm, it began to look like the much-vaunted New Nordic diet. It was simply Scottish. We discovered that whole, lightly-cooked beetroot thinnings were excellent on top of a barley risotto.
We spent a good part of July and August working with WWOOFers on the land and feeding six, eight or more people with good appetites, so enormous beetroot and squash just looked supper-sized. Francisco, Laura and Johannes put in many hours of physical work, making hay, mulching, planting out etc. At last the strips of trees are clearly visible and the alleys between them ready to be grazed, in rapid rotation, by the geese.
Moving the flock requires a lot of shifting of fences and protecting of trees. As well as their dry food from Hi Peak and the odd loaf of bread, they have some mineral rock, which does the land even more good when it has passed through a goose. They will also, if they get a chance, eat as many cabbages as they can get their beaks on. 40 in one escapade is their record, but we don't talk about that.
We left it too late to introduce them to the pond, so they don't quite know that they are water fowl and even a kayak toting cabbage wasn't temptation enough to get them in. They don't know how to count either, so will all pile into one of their three houses at night.
The cereals buckwheat, rye, wheat varieties, barley etc. have done well and produced enough to bake loaves or at least to bulk up in coming years. A pair of pheasants took up residence and produced three poults, adding to the demands made on the grain by mice and birds.
During September we had a tour of the farm and of Scotland The Bread, for friends and collaborators, followed by the second Sourdough Exchange, this time with an emphasis on Passing It On. The berries and the beans are very nearly finished.