On 31 May the weather changed from single figures (9 degC – that’s below 50 in old money) to something like the height of summer (mid-20s, also known as mid-70s). Also, the rain – practically a constant throughout May, stopped, without a by-your-leave.
The allotment, as a result, went completely berserk.
The Globe Artichokes (pale green frondy foliage in the centre of the picture) generally come up in November, sit-out the winter in a sort of low-profile state and then carry on growing from about April. This year they sat tight till 31 May. The chard (foreground) had looked to all intents and purposes dead until about the same date. Now we can’t eat it fast enough.
Broad beans have burst into bloom (that’s enough B’s) overnight. Again, I thought the rain would beat them down into a mush before they had a chance to grow.
Note the bindweed making an appearance in the lower left: we have to start digging that up as soon as it shows – sadly I don’t think we’ll ever be able to get rid of the matrix of white tubular roots that undergird our plot – we just have to plant things that can outgrow it!
Rhubarb is artistically translucent in the sunshine.
One thing that did manage to flourish in the rain was our little apple tree (‘Sunset’) – here it is from a couple of weeks ago.
The currants must have flowered, too, at some point – but perhaps just for the one sunny day of last month, and I blinked an missed it. At any rate, the bees seem to have done their stuff.
Talking of bees, ‘No-Mow May’ has finally become a thing, and people are beginning to leave roadside verges and other such places alone, so mid-spring flowers can bloom and bees don’t have to suffer a ‘hungry gap’ between the early bulbs and the summer flowers.
Walking there from our house – so no battling with Bank Holiday traffic!
Early morning mist on the expanse of field as we get there first thing to help put up the stalls and gazebos
Being one of the few ‘veterans’ who knows how to put up an old-style gazebo! Getting all the numbered poles in order, and raising the edifice in such a way that its legs don’t drop off at the crucial moment is a Black Art.
Bacon butties and coffee for helping
The queue at the Social Hall door: people carrying everything from giant beetroots (complete with leaves) to bottles of wine, floral displays and model castles. I have to get there with our wine and fruit before the doors ‘close for judging’ at ten – it’s almost apocalyptic.
Fulford Community Orchard stall – I generally put my name down on the rota for the whole day. The produce we sell there – jams, chutneys, cake and cards with arty pictures of the trees in all seasons – helps pay for tree maintenance and insurance. Barry brings his apple-press and we hand out juice to the kids, who always want to know how the almost steampunk-looking device works.
The other stalls! We take turns away from our own stall to amble around. I’ve bought some amazing (and very cheap) things over the years: big planters, winter pyjamas, an entire set of bed-linen – deep purple with a design of cursive letters (for £1), lego Vikings, numerous books and even a book-case. One year someone came selling nothing but root ginger. We bought enough to keep us in stir-fries for months.
The actual ‘show’ part: seeing everyone else’s beautifully-crafted work, seeing if Dee or Azzie have won in the Jam (‘Have you got your jam ready? Let Midsomer Murders commence!’) and finding out what I’ve won for my wine. It always wins something because so few folk enter wine. It’s a bit of a cheat, really, but it’s nice to say ‘my prize-winning wine’…
The ‘auction’ – well it’s a bit more like a free-for-all. Everyone has the chance to buy any exhibits that haven’t been ‘reserved’ in advance. I’m afraid I reserve our wine, but not the fruit or veg.
The takings! For our stall these help keep the Orchard going for another year. For the show as a whole, they keep the whole thing on the road – the show pays for itself.
Taking down the gazebos – it means it’s all over for another year. Worse still if it’s raining and they’re all sodden wet.
Weather lottery! We’ve sweltered in 30 degree heat (and none of us was used to it), and braved freezing squalls. Some August Bank Holidays it’s blowing enough for a poorly-anchored tent to get airborne. More than one year we’ve been in pouring rain – not too terrible by itself, but grievous if it’s also windy and you’re having to wrestle putting up the gazebo ‘sides’ before everything gets wet. But then, at least it’s something to boast about afterwards.
The field is silent this year, and I’m at home. The Social Hall is locked and empty – I checked, moved by that strange way you think that if you return to a place where you once lived, then you’ll also go back in time to the years you lived there. Or just in case someone had decided to go ahead with a few informal stalls anyway. I have no idea how long a tradition the show is, but I like to think it’s one of those things that ‘Hitler couldn’t stop’ back in the day. We even had a Spitfire flyover last year, for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. But this year, Plague has done what War has never managed. It makes sense to hold off at the moment, but it’s too sad. To cap it all, Barry – our apple expert and Custodian of the Press – passed away in March. Of a heart attack – not Covid. He always was a one-off. We have a bottle of his home-made cider waiting in the kitchen. This evening we’ll drink to his memory, and to the Return of Fulford Show.
Late summer – that is, from about now – has a scent all its own. I’ve no idea why, but it always makes me think of Scotland. The heatwave is over; everything has its energy and is no longer thirsty. There’s petrichor – the smell of rain on dry earth – but even that isn’t the whole of it. There’s pine, grass; a spot of night. Where we live, the first day of August brings the first proper night that isn’t just Astronomical Twilight.
And the Plot, bless it, begins to Produce.
Last year I bought beans in a Hungarian market. Like an idiot I put them in the fridge rather than do the correct thing and hang them up to dry. They went manky but I couldn’t bear to sling them so I planted them anyway (this is what’s known, in our house, as the Sporting Chance School of Gardening). And some came good! Here they are, in all their puce-speckled glory. They’ve been joined by some half-a-dozen more now, which are all being kept to sow for a proper crop next year.
And now, meet our first potato:
Yes that’s a life-size hand, and quite a large one (mine).
Here’s the first celeriac we’ve ever sucessfully grown:
And finally, here’s one of the 20 or so Kale plants which, when in their tiny pots, I thought had all been eaten by slugs, but planted the little sticks out anyway:
Our plot is surrounded by brambles. They’re a nuisance to keep in check but this year they’ve given us nearly three kilos of blackberries. Just the right quantity for a batch of dark red wine…