At this time of year things are a lot quieter on the farm, with just leeks and kale still left to harvest in the field. Shorter and simpler days are a wonderful thing after the manic busy-ness of the summer and autumn, and it’s a good time to reflect on the year that’s passed and the season ahead.
Looking back, 2013 will definitely be remembered for having a proper summer. Days and days of strong sunshine, and what a difference the sun made to our crops! We achieved some good yields in a few crops, for the first time really – 6.5 tonnes per hectare on broccoli, for example, and 15 tonnes per hectare on perpetual spinach. Satisfying stuff… The late spring was an early upset to our cropping plan, and the lack of rain all year was a challenge, but all in all 2013 was a decent year of production.
Looking ahead, we just hope the weather stays good for us. We’re busy planning next season’s crops, looking to grow more broccoli, squash and beetroot and trying to improve our methods of production in celery and true spinach. We’ve doubled our garlic area – all of which has germinated and is looking well – and we’re eagerly anticipating our first harvest of asparagus in spring.
Financial stability remains the focus, as ever, but the evidence from the last couple of years makes planning difficult. In 2012 (the year of rain) we grew just under 6 tonnes of vegetables across our rotation, but with a similar cropping plan in 2013 we produced 18.5 tonnes. Some of that difference is down to machinery improvements, but most of it is weather-related. How do we plan for such wild fluctuations in our income levels, while the business expenses remain relatively unchanged? Was 2012 a freak year? Let’s hope so.
Meanwhile the weather here remains remarkably mild – seems like mild autumns and early winters are becoming a theme. It’s great for harvesting, as cutting leeks out of frozen ground gets quite tiring! There’s some pretty extreme weather out there, though, what with floods around the UK and the ‘arctic blast’ in Canada and the US – feel lucky with where we are in the North West, even if the skies are a bit grey!
To brighten these dark days we have a few nice projects up our sleeve for the rest of winter, including planting more trees and building a pizza oven. Even it’s another wet summer, we’ll at least have pizza…!