Bedding down for winter

With temperatures reaching the 20’s it still feels very much like summer here in Jersey. However, this weekend, I have taken a holiday off my real job to get some work done in my dream job to ready it for the winter. Have I shown you around my little wilderness yet? No? How remiss of me! Come and take a look………

I have a little field in the east of the island that I have been working for 13 years. Where I grew up in Scotland I had the run of a one thousand acre country park complete with a hunting lodge, castle ruins, farm, river, 80 foot gorge, ancient oaks, Iron Age fort and no end of birds, mammals, flora and fauna. When I came to Jersey and had my son I found that I missed that connection with the land, and I didn’t want him growing up without appreciation for nature. Taking on the field allowed me to grow some of the food we needed, allowed us both to be outside and physically active, and it gave us both a sense of the seasons and the rhythm of nature.

20130929-223505.jpg And, although my son is more likely to be found spearfishing around the islands than spending his spare time on land, here I still potter and plant and grow the seasons away. I have a tumble down shed, a greenhouse with the majority of its glass, a rickety old bench and tons of enthusiasm!

20130929-224439.jpg This year has been a bumper year, although it has been a struggle to keep everything watered in the heat. I pump water from a holding tank under a nearby garage and this year, for the first time in 13 years, it ran dry. Weeks ago. Since then I have been collecting water from the fountain on Grouville Hill and lugging it to the field to water the remaining fruit and veg; we still have pounds and pounds of tomatoes, leeks, parsnips, peppers, chillies, celery, butternut squash, curly kale, courgettes and lettuce.

On Friday I decided to take a look at the compost I’ve been cultivating since the beginning of the year. Some weeds from the field, small amounts of grass cuttings, lots of tea bags and coffee grinds (thank you work!), eggshells, the odd bit of seaweed and cow manure, and all the fruit and veg peelings from home. The end result was a very rich crumbly compost to be proud of.

20130930-035745.jpg Full of lovely worms to aerate the soil.

20130930-040048.jpg I weeded and dug over some of the areas I’m finished with for this year, then spread out the compost and dug that in to enrich the soil for next year.

20130930-040536.jpg Next stop was to head to the beach. At Le Hurel slip, Grouville, with far reaching views of a misty Gorey Castle I went to collect some vraic. Vraic. A great Jersey word for seaweed (pronounced ‘rack’). I use vraic on the field because it’s an organic, abundant and free fertiliser – and you just can’t get the Jersey Royal potatoes to taste right unless you have vraic in the soil!

20130930-041656.jpg I love vraiking, it’s such a fun task. I covered the dug beds with a thick layer of vraic. This acts as a barrier to weeds, keeps the soil underneath warmer through the winter, and as the sun and rain do their work the vraic will break down and release its minerals into to soil. How lovely the silky fresh vraic looks against the vibrant parsnip leaves.

20130930-042159.jpg Two trips later and this bed was finished and put to rest for the winter. One down, two to go.


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  1. This is the third time I have tried to tweet you. The field looks great, much better than my garden. We had a visit from Bryan and Marion yesterday he has just planted some winter onion sets and gets an early crop next year. You should try them in Jersey if can get them – no watering!
    Lots of love dad. XXXXX