Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday 1 September 2010
THERE'S A SPIKED fence around my old junior school, whether this is to keep the pupils in or keep the public out is a moot point, however the result is that the mower can no longer get in between the new fence and the old stone wall and there's a narrow strip of weeds and brambles. I stretch across and pick one of the blackberries.
At the weekend my mum gave us some Victoria plums from the tree that grows against the south-facing brick wall at the top of her garden. It's not a massive crop this year, she tells us, but what plums there are are perfect. We speedily convert 4 pounds of them into jam and there's nothing to cut away in the way of insect or bird damage or bruising. For once we get the texture just right. A jam maker once told me that the test he uses is to let the jam drip from the spoon. At first, as I stir the jam pan, it trickles like fruit juice but after boiling for about half a hour I could see that it was dripping like a thin syrup. Barbara did one test of a spot of jam on a cold saucer from the fridge and, sure enough, after going back in the fridge for a few minutes, the surface crinkled very slightly when she gently pushed her finger against it.
We're already through the first jar. It's that good.
I wrote about the blight or wilt that had affected our tomatoes this summer. I'd decided to take them out and get some winter salad crops planted in the greenhouse instead but, not surprisingly with everything we've had on this year, I didn't get around to it. Some of the fruits turned bad but many of them ripened. The foliage of the plants looked terrible but many of the tomatoes are completely unblemished and they taste delicious. I'm sure you never get that kind of taste with the shop-bought varieties.
Our autumn fruiting raspberries are also apparently thriving on neglect and, buried beneath them in my photograph, there are a couple of miniature cucumbers. These half-size cucumbers have been such a success that we'll grow them again next year. Again, I didn't get very far with training them up supports but the plant seems perfectly happy scrambling around at the shady end of the L-shaped bed in the greenhouse.
There are still house martins about. The other day there was a large group of them - about twenty - wheeling around the gable ends of the houses across the road as if they were taking one last look at their nest sites before leaving for Africa.