Early spring: a farm in hibernation

The calendar says it’s spring, the clocks have changed, and even the nights are drawing out. But looking at the farm you’d be forgiven for thinking that winter is still firmly with us.

Raspberry canes in the snow

Being a farmer in the UK has its special challenges but this decade has had a particularly bizarre collection of spring weather: the ‘summer in spring’ of 2011 with its earliest season on record; the soggathon of 2012 when we couldn’t even get on the fields without wallowing in glorious mud; and now this – the fruit is due to start in two months and there’s been snow on the ground! Adaptability is the key to life – and farming, it seems.

Raspberries

We’ve ‘topped’ the raspberry canes: thinning out the canes now makes the fruit more accessible in the summer and easier to pick. We started topping the canes in the autumn by bending the top growth over the top wire; in February, we followed that by cutting off the excess growth just before the new growth set in.

Strawberry plants under fleeceStrawberries

We’ve put Cropfleece over the Elsanta strawberry plants, which encourages them to crop a little earlier than normal. Conversely, we’ve covered other varieties of strawberry plants with a deep layer of straw to delay the crop. This straw has proved a magnet for pigeons and our two resident pheasants, all of whom have had a great time pecking about in the straw. Although lovely to watch, we now have to walk the crop with pitchforks to cover the plants with straw again.

Broad beans

During a brief spell of mild weather at the end of February, the ground dried out beautifully and we were able to sow the early broad beans. (Normally we would have sown them in November but it was too wet then.) However, it has been so cold again since we planted them that the beans have not been brave enough to poke their little noses through the ground.

Gooseberries

We have nearly finished pruning the red dessert gooseberries. On the occasional sunny day the ladybirds creep out from nooks and crannies in the gooseberry bushes.

Frozen summer fruit

There’s plenty of freshly frozen fruit in the farm shop, for you to bring a little summer to your wintery kitchen. The gooseberry cake recipe is proving popular with everyone who tries it – both delicious and simple to make.

We’ve also tested a new recipe for raspberry sauce – perfect for using up frozen raspberries, and a great accompaniment for anything from yoghurt to a fudgy chocolate cake. A great distraction from wintery spring days!

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