It's been a very busy time for us, as always. And I know it's been an age since my last post! The weather has been difficult as usual, with even more rain and snow into this month, causing the new season kale to come in a bit later. The dryer and warmer weather this weekend should make a difference and give the plants a chance to really get growing.
We've had more direct enquiries from consumers about purchasing our various kales and just to let you know we currently supply wholesale in bulk rather than direct to the public, but do keep in touch if you want to find out more about our favourite green leafy veg.
Yes, I know it's been absolutely ages since my last post. No excuse I know, apart from recent changes on the farm and some crazy weather patterns that have left me extremely busy with the day job.
We are now concentrating on our specialist greens including kales, having decided to finish growing sprouts. A big change for the farm as we have been growing this traditional Christmas veg since my grandfather's time, however we must move with the times.
So now we are focusing on the kales and various other specialist greens including chards and asiatic greens such as mizuna and mibuna.
The weather has basically been crazy this year. A dry early part to the year, then rain - as we all know - throughout the spring and summer. This caused the young plants not to root properly so effectively the plants did not grow. It's sad seeing a whole field of yellowing young plants that will not survive. Then here in the North West of England we've had more heavy rain this autumn leading to sodden ground, again!
October 28, 2010
Enough rain, thankyou
Yes, from saying in past months that we didn't have enough, now I'm saying we've had too much. Tricky business the weather. Heavy rain in early Autumn has caused our winter kale plants to suffer. Growth has been stunted in all the crops so we have resorted to adding some extra fertiliser to help. In fact, one of our crops of red kale has not made the growth needed to survive the winter. Kale needs to have adequate leaf development to ensure it can survive when the light levels drop towards the winter months and one area of our red kale has not achieved this.
Still, the good news is our cavalo nero is going strong as is our autumn green kale. We will be starting with our new season Red Russian kale in just a few weeks time too.
On the sales side, things are going well - so far. (Farmer's never like to be too positive because something can knock you for six - usually the weather!) There's a new interest in bunched green kale. It does look really good on the shelves of the supermarket in this form. We are also trialing some mixed 200g bags of chopped red and green kale with some lovely crisp, chopped savoy cabbage. Very handy if you are in a rush and want a ready prepared veg for dinner. This has given us the idea to see if we can produce a variegated version of kale that would look good in a mixed kale pack. We have started trailing, using our traditional growing methods, so will know more next year.
August 20, 2010
Phew! Finally, I have some time to update the blog. It's been a very busy summer. We've had the rain we needed and the kale's are growing well. I'm currently trialing different types of kale's and using my very scientific process of tasting the kale plant leaves to work out which plants provide the sweetest flavour!
I'm also collecting the seed for our own variety kale's and planting our specialist spring kale and cavalo nero for next year.
Elsewhere on the farm our greens are growing well, with some coming ready now and the rest ready for the autumn market.
Tomorrow I'm off to the Lancashire Markets Event in Preston, Lancashire. It's an opportunity for the local public to meet growers and buy produce direct from us. So if you're in the area please come on down.
June 20, 2010
Vuvuzela's in Lancashire?
Yes, we are enjoying our own version of the Football World Cup vuvuzela's here in Lancashire. Our red clover sward is doing well and attracting loads of bumble bees which is creating the constant buzzing sound similar to the sound of vuvuzela's. It also means we can cut down on the use of fertilisers on future crops because the clover naturally adds nutrients to the soil.
It's still dry but cool so the crops aren't suffering. We are harvesting our own varieties of green and red kale which we bred to plug the gap in the traditional kale growing season. Our cavalo nero plants are coming on nicely too and as usual, due to their sweetness, attracting the attention of the pigeons.
We are also choosing our home-grown plants for next year's kale crop. We select 30 plants with the best look, taste and disease resistance. We plant them 200m from the nearest other crops and let them go to seed (flower). We then collect the seed from the plants in August. This year we've spotted a taller kale with a deeper colour in the crop so we plan to choose that kale to improve our kale (and save our backs!) next year.
May 28, 2010
Where is all the rain?
It has been a very busy time on the farm so I haven't had much time to keep the blog up to date. So, what are we up to at the moment? Well, the kale is a bit slow growing because we've had a few dry weeks and some scorching hot days, though thankfully it has cooled down a bit. We do need some rain to help the young kale get going. The mature kale we are harvesting at 5.30am because of the heat to ensure it's fresh for the store.
Our new season cavalo nero is coming along nicely though we are having to leave our overwinter crop because it was so badly damaged by the freak hail storms back in March!
We have some lovely red kale too though not sure we will be growing as much in the future because strangely it didn't sell that well last year. Any suggestions as to why? It is really sweet and tasty and if gently sauted retains it's great red colour for the dinner plate.
Elsewhere on the farm we are frantically planting sprouts for the autumn/winter season because they really need to be in the ground by the end of May to give them time to grow and be ready. They are going into very dry ground so we are hoping for some rain for them too.
Our early parsley grown under the fleece is looking good but also needs some rain. The parsley sown direct still hasn't germinated after 20 days. It needs some cool, wet weather - here's hoping for a damp cool Bank Holiday!
February 7, 2010
Dealing with now and next season
Despite all the cold weather our kale is still good, especially our red and green kale. In fact, UK kale is particularly popular in Europe at the moment. Kale is a traditional dish for the Dutch in the winter - often served with mashed potato and sausage - and because of the cold weather this year, they are short of supply. I heard recently that one company supplied 280 tons of chopped kale in half kilo bags in one week!
Elsewhere on the farm the cold weather has had more impact. We don't have any spring greens - there's a shortage in the UK too - though our sprouts are still going strong.
We are also busy preparing for the new season. This involves working out how much supply we are likely to need, not always the easiest of tasks given demand can change during the season. We then arrange for sowing in greenhouses to ensure enough young plants are ready for the spring planting.
It's often thought there is a quieter time during the winter in farming but it depends on the crops you grow. For us, it continues to be busy throughout the year, just with varying intensity!
January 22, 2010
The kale is still standing
With all the severe frost and snow earlier in the month we were very concerned how our kale would get on. Kale is hardy, but the weather was very cold compared to the norm we experience here in South West Lancashire. We would normally expect our kale to do ok but couldn't guarantee with the weather we had. We lost one variety of sprouts due to the frost. On this occasion we were right about our kale. It stood the frost well and has continued to be nice and sweet.
So, the good news is we are busy harvesting our green and red kale with our cavalo nero and red russian coming to the end of supply for now.
January 8, 2010
Severe frost and snow
January has started with some severely cold weather as those of us in the UK are all too aware. It is a challenging time on the farm, with harvesting proving very difficult. After a -9C frost last night and fields currently under 4-5 inches of snow all our kale is frozen. Kale is a hardy plant and can stand the cold but it takes some careful handling to ensure the plants are not damaged by such severe frost.
We are attempting to harvest kale in the afternoon when the sunlight gets on the plants and the temperature rises a little. If we are careful we can cut the kale, bring it back to the farm slightly frozen and gently defrost it in our cooler units. We are also doing this with our sprouts, though we can only cut them by the stalks. If we stripped the sprouts in the field they would not survive the handling back to the farm, going rotten before getting to the consumer.
However, with the frost comes the sweetness. Our kale is sweeter than ever. Something the pigeons have spotted! With little other feed available, kale is proving very appealing so we are spending quite a bit of time chasing pigeons. It all adds to the rich variety that is living the life of a vegetable farmer!Some frosty red russian and green kale
DECEMBER 18, 2009
Phew! It is very busy...
We are in the run up to Christmas and it is very busy here on the farm. We grow 270 acres of sprouts as well as kale so we are currently harvesting and packing tons of sprouts for the Christmas market. (You may have seen us in the November/December issue of Morrisons supermarket magazine talking about our sprouts.)
The weather has turned cold and frosty this week, so we are cutting green, red, red russian and cavalo nero kale when we can. It can only be cut when it has defrosted so we have to be careful when we harvest or the crop will not stay fresh for the store. This proves a challenge when we have big orders that need to be met. Though it's tricky for harvesting, frost does add flavour to the kale so it has one benefit!
The weathermen say snow is forecast for us towards the end of the weekend, early next week. Great for Christmas but when running a business a bit of a challenge. We don't usually get much as we are near the coast but the Polar Arctic airstream expected may mean we get it for a change. We are crossing our fingers it won't be too bad...
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
NOVEMBER 29, 2009
Another update at last!
I planned to keep the blog up to date, but as you can see, day to day farming activities have taken over and it is over a year since I logged on! Apologies!
Well, this autumn has been an interesting time here on the farm. We have had dry weather and then more recently lots and lots of rain, though thankfully not as much as our neighbouring County Cumbria which suffered the torrential downpours. In fact, it didn’t actually fall on us on the day they had the heaviest rain, though we could see the very dark rain clouds north of us out to sea heading for the mountains.
We have still had quite a lot of rain and the land is sodden. Thankfully, kale is a hardy winter plant and it stands rain and frost well so we are now harvesting our winter kale as normal.
The flavour of our kales is becoming sweeter as the temperature drops. We are expecting some frost over the next few days so this should help add more flavour to the crop too.
MAY 26, 2008
New season Kale
Here are some pictures of us growing Molyneux Kale crops ready for next season. The white ‘fleece’ on the ground is for growing the young kale plants protected from the weather. It will be mid June before we have our new season crop. We also have our own variety of green kale that comes in during the off season for UK Kale – if you purchase it in the shops it usually comes from Spain at this time – however we grow our own variety and so have UK kale available reducing the food miles.
MAY 20, 2008
Elsewhere on the farm
It has been sunny and hot recently and we are busy planting all over the farm. Not only are we growing the new season Kale – Red Russian plus siberian, black and standard red and green kale - but we are busy planting this years crop of sprouts, savoy cabbage, sweet heart cabbage, parsley plus purple sprouting broccoli and for this year red sprouts, which we are growing for Booths supermarket. We do have a red theme here on Molyneux Farms!
MAY 14, 2008
Kale is wonderfully nutritious for the soil. The pictures show us
rotovating in the old Kale crop that has ‘bolted’ or flowered to
prepare the land for the next crop potatoes.
By rotovating in the Kale like this, we need less artificial
fertilisers and less chemicals for the potatoes because the kale
reduces the occurrence of the potato cyst eel worm (a big problem in
potatoes). Kale also improves the quality of the potatoes skin so
there are less lumpy or ‘scabby’ bits on the outside of the potato
making it more pleasant to eat too.
We use as little artificial fertilisers as possible and are always
looking for new ways to reduce it even further. This year we are
trying out compost from recycled green waste from gardens. Not only
does it reduce our need for artificial fertiliser but it reduces plant
diseases so fewer fungicides are needed. It also increases our soils
humus content, which means that we are putting carbon dioxide into the
soil and taking it out of the atmosphere – in scientific terms ‘carbon
sequestration’. Giving us some real benefits to the environment and to
maintaining the quality of our land.
MAY 12, 2008
Hi, I thought a blog might be a quick and easy way to let you all
know what is going on at Molyneux Farms and the work it takes to put
your Kale on the dinner table. I hope to keep it going through the
seasons and throw in some more pictures too.