saved by an open back end

As the worst growing year in memory (in mine, anyway) draws to a close, we are enjoying a near perfect autumn and start to the winter. The pendulum has swung and three gloriously dry months have allowed us to harvest the root crops, sow our green manures and plant the autumn-sown onions, garlic and broad beans in near perfect conditions. How often do you hear a farmer say that? By this time of year we are often wading around in mud and cursing the rain. But this year we are harvesting with barely a rut in the fields or a clod on the boots.

We have not seen the flush of growth that organic farmers normally expect in the autumn, when the soil is at its warmest and soil life consequently at its most active. Normally in these conditions, organic matter is rapidly recycled and releases nutrients for our crops, in most years promoting rapid and luxuriant autumnal growth. This year most of those nutrients were leached away by the excessive summer rains and some of our crops have looked a bit pinched and hungry. Fortunately the slower growth that we have seen has been compensated for by what has been a remarkably