Of course we wanted to live in a country which had a proper summer but I didn’t expect to live in Death Valley. Oh, stop complaining I can hear you say as the rain hammers against your window, but I can assure you being outside when the temperatures go over 40C really isn’t pleasant. May, June and July were hot too, with no rain to speak of, and the average maximum temperature for this month has been 35C, the highest being 44C. Today it’s 40C. It’s eerily quiet when it’s that hot. The village dogs are all asleep, the tractors, strimmers and chainsaws are put away and the birds are hidden deep in the bushes. The gentle breeze feels like a hot hair drier and, bizarrely, there’s a sense of claustrophobia as the heat engulfs you. We appreciate every day the thick walls of the house, no need for air conditioning, just a cooling glass of grape juice and to collapse, arms akimbo, on the sofa.
This has, of course, affected the veg patch. The heat has just been too much for so many things. Nothing from the cauliflowers, broccoli or buttercup squash. A poor show (after a good start) from the first batch of beans, aubergines, tomatoes and butternut squash. But mustn’t grumble! We have had loads of cucumbers, enough courgettes, sweetcorn from the second batch just as nice as the first lot, melons, runner beans and, for star prize, the peppers have been amazing. Red, green or yellow, Spanish padròn or chillies – they’ve all been fab. Three cheers for the peppers! (Richard has made three lots of delicious harissa.)
Meanwhile the leeks will be okay for the autumn and, fingers crossed, the sprouts too so not the end of the world. My biggest disappointment though is the tomatoes and aubergines, I really would’ve thought they would cope with the heat. I have managed to make a few batches of ratatouille and tomato passata for the months to come but not the amount as from previous years. I have a sneaky feeling that the lack of mulch hasn’t helped. I resisted doing that this year because of the vole problem, they like nothing more than sneaking around the plants unseen (and then eating the roots) but once I’d realised they’d gone I didn’t add any. Live and learn.
On a more positive note the figs are going to be great again, we’ve already had many honey-flavoured fruit. We’ve also picked loads of blackberries and grapes, I think Richard is planning on making some country wine. Soon we’ll be opening the elderberry wine from last year that has been silently waiting under the stone stairs. The sloes have also been picked to make our favourite winter tipple.
Meanwhile I’m off to perfect my rain dance, it really isn’t good enough yet…