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Early summer harvest

The hens are on strike this week. The heat has stopped them nesting in our homemade boxes in the converted garden shed, They have taken instead to dust baths and hiding in the raspberry canes. We have tried feeding them extra corn and continually topping up their water, but they are not interested. Possibly after laying dutifully, day in and day out (only for us to take their clutch from under their protective, brooding backsides) they are feeling a little petulant. They feel that they are due a summer holiday. The fruit in which they rest, however, is feeling very productive.

As you will know, raspberries are on a two year cycle. We are enjoying a bumper crop this year. Those under the shade of the cherry and the plum trees are a little dusty and anemic. The ones that have sprouted up into a sunny spot are reaping the rewards of perfect dark pink flesh and full bodied flavour. Unfortunately for them, there have been a few fingers pulling them off for freezer and crumbles. We toss the odd one to the grumpy fowl, who take some time to figure out that they are food but thoroughly enjoy them once they do.

It is also a bumper year for black currants, which will need a lot of sugaring, and for plums from our newly recovered plum tree. With plums, is important to leave them long enough to mature. They are tricksy little blighters and will wink at you weeks before they are ready to be eaten, looking sultry in a mix of gold and deep red. Plucking them in this state produces disappointing jams and even more disappointing eating and so we will wait until summer ticks on. (Luckily, there is no chance of the chickens stealing them ahead of time, especially in their current state of lethargy.)

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