Friday, 26 September 2014

The Pumpkin Harvest

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Autumn is well and truly here. Days are sunny and warm, but evenings are chillier. (We have lots of dry, well-seasoned logs to keep you toasty if you need them!). It's the time of year to start eating some of our lovely autumn vegetables - parsnips, sprouts, potatoes - proper comfort food. And what could be a better way to celebrate the season than a pumpkin? On Thursday Bryn, Matt and Jeni harvested 360 of them! We have a large selection of sizes including the colossal 'Atlantic Giant' which weigh about 25kg - they are whoppers!

Before we brought them all up to the farm shop, Vicky took some special visitors* into the field so they could pick their very own pumpkins. Looks like some fun was had that day!

But what to do with a pumpkin? Most people think automatically of carving them for Halloween and then throwing out the insides. But pumpkins along with their cousins the squashes are among the most versatile of our vegetables, equally at home in curries, soups, salads and even cakes! So keep that delicious orange flesh and get cooking. Ask in the farm shop for the best way to prepare your chosen squash or pumpkin and go check out our recipe suggestions on our Pinterest board below.

And once you've cooked something with the flesh, check out some of these easy templates to make your Halloween pumpkin extra specially spooky!

  Follow Whiteleys's board Squash on Pinterest.





*Pictures provided with kind permission by Richard White. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Down on the farm

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Hello there! The last couple of weeks on the farm have been very productive and there are definite signs of Autumn arriving. We've started picking the first sprouts and parsnips - sunday dinners just got a whole lot better!

We've been harvesting a lot of potatoes. Marfona and Romano are available in sacks now if you love a good spud! They are also available loose and we have other varieties too - Foremost, Maris Piper, Cara and the much loved Edzell Blues.

Several apple varieties are being picked including the delicious and sweet Worcester Pearmain and the equally lovely Egremont Russet. Both are available in the farm shop. Get them before they all go, there is nothing better than an apple picked straight from the tree.

We've also been harvesting lots of different squashes - perfect for so many dishes. But we'll be doing a separate post all about these delicious vegetables next week and great ways to cook them.

Check out our sidebar for a full list of what we are harvesting and selling in the farm shop. Vicky and her Mum, Heather will also be at Oakwood Farmers Market tomorrow morning and will have a large selection of our produce as well as many fantastic plants grown at our nursery. Including some of these beauties below. Lots of lovely colour to bring to your autumnal garden!

And finally, did you know we are on Instagram? If you aren't already on there, then click here to see what you've missed from the farm.

Thanks so much for reading and see you soon!

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Violas and pansies
Hydrangea and Perovskia
Pyracantha
Dianthus
Yew (only available at the nursery).

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Bird and the Bees

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We thought you might like to know a bit more about the bees that produce our amazing honey. We're hoping to share some of the work that goes into producing each jar but today we'll start with how the hive works. So it's over to Vicky to tell you all about 'The Bird and the Bees'!

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Plunging my hands into a nest of thousands of venomous insects was never really on my list of things to do but when my son disappeared off to university somebody had to take over the care of his colony of bees and the task fell on my shoulders. With the help of my great mentor Keith Dobson (the farmshop's original honey supplier) I have been sucked into a world involving the secret life of bees!


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There are many varieties of bees, some are solitary and others live together in a colony. The honeybees, Apis Mellifera live and work together and each bee has a specific task within the hive. Together they work to provide a strong colony which will eventually swarm to create a new colony elsewhere. The majority of the colony is female and consists of:- THE QUEEN raised to be a queen by being fed Royal Jelly as a larva and having a specially constructed cell to accommodate her larger size. With her long abdomen (the equivalent of childbearing hips) her sole purpose in the colony is to populate it. After an initial mating flight the queen will spend all her time popping out eggs, one in each cell throughout the spring and summer months with a brief respite through the winter. The queen can live for as long as three years.

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(The Queen is marked with a green dot in the above image).

THE WORKER as the name suggests is responsible for all the tasks from building, cleaning, foraging and feeding. Workers are all female and throughout their lives their tasks change. On emergence from her cell she will clean up after herself and over the next few days will spend her time cleaning out cells and polishing them for the Queen to lay an egg in. Aged 4 or 5 days she begins feeding the brood until she is 10-12 days old when she will begin to produce wax and become a construction worker. She may also leave the hive around this time and she will fly for the first time initially just around the hives entrance but gradually going further and further afield. This will also be the first time that she has been able to go to the toilet! She will continue to stay in or around the hive taking the food from the foragers and storing it in the combs. She will also have the role of undertaker removing any dead bees from the colony. When she is about 3-4 weeks old she will embark on her foraging career she will pay particular attention to the returning bees and watch them ‘dance’ instructions as to where the really good food is. It may take her several days until she has learnt the dance but from then on she will become a fully fledged forager harvesting pollen and nectar along with water. For the next two weeks she will continue to do this on a daily basis until alas she can do no more and dies around five or six weeks old. A worker can live for five to six months if she is born in the autumn as she will overwinter in the hive and with a lot less work to be done throughout the winter her life is prolonged.

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THE DRONE is the male bee. He comes from an unfertilised egg that the queen decides to lay. He is bigger than a worker but not quite as big as the queen and he does not have a sting. He has no pollen sacs or wax glands however this doesn’t really matter to him as he has no intention of working as his sole purpose in life is to fertilise a Virgin Queen. If he gets to do this it ultimately leads to his death as his crown jewels are ripped from him remaining in the queen during the mating process which I would imagine hurts somewhat. If he doesn’t get to end his life with passion then he resides within the hive living the life of Riley. He is kept fed and warm by the workers and goes out only in search of a queen then comes back for his tea. Ultimately he has to pay a price for being looked after so well as the colony will drive out all the drones in the autumn. As he cannot fend for himself he ends up either starving to death or dying from exposure.

On the subject of dying bees I am sure that you are aware that the bees are not having a great time at the moment with unexplained deaths throughout the world. You can help, if you are interested in becoming a beekeeper you can find more information at Leeds Beekeepers Association. Alternatively you can help the bees by planting bee and insect friendly plants in your garden. If you need any advice with this call into our nursery and we will be happy to help.




Thursday, 4 September 2014

This week on the farm

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Hello there! This week on the farm we celebrated a big birthday - Meg, the hardest working dog in the UK turned 10! Some days it's hard for her to get up but once she gets going there's no stopping her! She celebrated by making Vicky bring her breakfast in bed and by coming to work a little bit later than normal.

We have a very busy Saturday ahead of us with an early morning start to Horsforth Farmer's Market where we will be taking many lovely plants as well as our delicious and freshly picked veg. Then on Saturday afternoon, from 2pm, Vicky will be at Pudsey Summer Show where she'll be showing and selling some beautiful new alpines and many more beautiful plants. Oh and she's doing some crafting too! But you'll have to go visit the show to see what she's getting up to.

Bryn and the boys have been busy preparing the land for next year's strawberry crop. We'll be planting these in the next couple of weeks.

And finally, did you know that we grow chillies down on the farm? We have several different varieties, from the mild and sweet to fiery hot ones. Come get some at the farm shop.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to check the right hand side for a complete list of what we are currently harvesting.