by Max Akroyd

It’s becoming a weeekly ritual: adjusting the mini pigs’ electric fence so any possible weak points are eliminated. Much of this morning was lost to this task.

There was still time for some sowing though, and I managed to steal an hour or two in the afternoon to make more much-needed progress in this regard. With hens loose all over the place sowing shallots didn’t seem a good use of energy: the worm-like stalks of the bulbs would have been too much temptation for them. So I opened up the October box of seeds for greenhouse sowing to remind myself what was on offer.

To be honest it’s a bit of a rag tag assortment vegetable-wise. There are some coherent themes though: late sowings of salad and bunching onions; winter lettuces, mustards and lambs lettuce; cauliflowers, choy sum and portuguese kales. The last one isn’t well known but I’ve acquired five or six varieties in recent years. The best known, and best tasting, is Couve Tronchuda. I’m wondering if it’s in fact the same plant as collard greens, so I’ve got some varieties of these to sow in the spring to resolve this obscure query. I got my seeds from the nice people at Jardicentro. Anyway, whatever the botanical niceties, you can’t beat a rugged kale-type thing, cooked with butter and bacon, preferably.

I got well on with sowing the aforementioned vegetables and completed the giant sowing of sweet peas too.

I learnt a while back to sychronise certain garden things with the actions of local farmers. This is particularly useful in a new country where the map of the seasons is illegible at first. For example, when the cows appear in spring on the hill next to our field I start planting early potatoes. At the moment the agriculteurs are working day and night to get in their huge maize crops – I can hear the enormous, communally-owned machines trundling down the road as I type this. I’m thinking that this is a pretty sure sign they know the dry weather is over for this year and normal autumnal service is about to resume.

Sure enough, by late afternoon, there were spots of rain. I had a big delivery of firewood to move indoors so set to it with determination. The waving  farmers passing by in their tractors seemed to be saying “he’ll never finish shifting all that”. But I did, in a creaking and exhausted sort of way.

 And I looked up and saw… clear blue sky.