a long back end

Winter seldom comes to Devon much before Christmas; this mild and protracted descent into winter is known as a “long back end” in farming circles. The fields take on a pallid, washed out colour, but with a warm and active soil; the leeks, cabbage, kale and cauliflower keep on growing unabated in the declining light. 

We are clearing the last lettuce and the tomatoes, peppers and chillies have already been ripped out of the tunnels, to be replaced by winter salads. It is still warm enough for them to have grown a little more, but in the dismal November light the quality is always disappointing from these sun lovers. Better to accept the descent into winter and move onto crops happier in less light.

We are busy planning for next year and have already sown the first cabbage under glass and planted out over-wintered garlic, onions and sown the first broad beans outside. It has been a wonderfully dry and bright autumn, allowing the potatoes to be harvested in good conditions. Some have been affected by the dreaded potato blight. Rotting blighted potatoes are enough turn the nation to rice and pasta, so the worst will be fed to the cows. Rather than reject the lot, we will wash the less affected samples to give us the best chance of picking out the bad ones before they go in the boxes. Inevitably some will get through. Do let us know if you get unlucky and we will happily replace them.

After years of filling bags of spinach and lettuce by hand we have bought a fancy machine to simultaneously make, fill and seal the bags for us. We are not turning into M&S; there is no option but plastic for these delicate leaves and we have just had enough of doing it by hand. As with the existing plastic bags, unless you are confident that your local authority can recycle them, return them with the boxes and we will sort and recycle them here at the farm. 

Guy Watson