Growing squashes for Autumn

Knucklehead pumpkin growing in September

Knucklehead pumpkin

This year I was given a selection of squashes to grow by Marshalls Seeds, and whilst I’m still trying to find a way to use up all the courgettes, the other cucurbits are also romping away. The happiest of all is my Knucklehead Pumpkin plant, which has now grown to about 7 or 8 metres long and is producing two large fruits. Well, that’s two fruits that I can see as the vine has scrambled its way across the scrubby area by the compost bins. There could be more lurking.

The knucklehead pumpkin is yet to start going orange or knobbly… but I’m hoping that by mid to late October we’ll have a lovely pumpkin to harvest for pies, soup and all sorts of autumnal foodie treats.

Munchkin pumpkins

Munchkin pumpkins growing up the arch

And on the arch – my biggest, bestest bargain of this year – nestling amongst the flowering Spanish Flag, my munchkin pumpkins from Sarah Raven are also starting to fruit. Although it’s fairly late in the year for the vines to be producing flowers, I’m hopeful that they’ve got a lot of growing left in them and we’ll have more than just a small handful of the impossibly cute and pretty mini pumpkins for harvesting this year. I’ve counted about ten flowers and buds so it’s a game of wait and see… not sure the persistent damp conditions and lack of warm autumn sunshine will help my cause though…

Funnily enough, the sunniest side of the arch has been swamped by the Spanish Flag climbing vines, so the munchkin pumpkin plants have struggled to compete. On the less sunny side that faces to the east, the munchkin pumpkins are thriving. Something to bear in mind next year as I’ll most definitely be going for a Spanish Flag-munchkin pumpkin combo again. It’s been my little crowning glory this year.

Arch with scrambling Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata) and climbing Munchkin pumpkins

Arch with scrambling Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata) and Munchkin pumpkins

Successful Autumn harvests

On a personal level, 2015 has been difficult, sad and very challenging. One thing that’s kept me going, kept me grounded and kept me sane is my veg plot. And this year, after putting no-dig into action, I’ve had one of my most successful growing years ever. One of the greatest successes of the veg plots has been the arch.

Munchkim pumpkins and Spanish Flag (mina lobata)

Climbing munchkin pumpkins and Spanish Flag (mina lobata)

I’ve been growing Spanish flag (mina lobata) up and after a very slow start, they’ve been romping away with wild abandon. I’ve also weaved in the munchkin pumpkins, hoping to have a little crop later in the year. The munchkins are also a bit on the late side and have yet to flower, but I have hope that they’ll get there eventually. If not, then we’ll just have some pretty squash leaves adorning the arch too!

Spanish flag scrambling

The raspberries have been producing fruit for picking on a daily basis for the last fortnight at least, and we’ve got more than enough in the freezer ready for some jam. This year I’m going to try seedless jam so it’s a case of getting a few bits and pieces before the jam pan comes out again.

Polka raspberries

The peas came out and straight away, in went some salad leaves and leeks so I have a ready supply for some serious soup making later in the autumn. There’s nothing like snuggling down with a steaming bowl of leek and potato soup and a chunk of crusty bread on a cold but sunny Saturday lunchtime.

Knucklehead pumpkin

I’ve been digging up monster sized Picasso potatoes, but they’re not the only super-sized produce we’ve been growing at The Smallest Smallholding. The knucklehead pumpkin has grown about six metres long and is looking to produce some hefty fruit for the Autumn, with leaves about twice the size of my head. Meanwhile, the yellow courgettes have been popping out fruit for harvesting, but Rich isn’t eating them fast enough. Courgette cake may well be on the menu.

Yellow courgettes

Coming or going? Who knows…

Rain, sunshine, hot, cold, summer, autumn… I think Mother Nature doesn’t know if she’s coming or going at the moment. I know the feeling.

Smallest Smallholding

So much is right here, but will it be time to move on?

We’ve been wondering for a while if we need to pack our bags and move on. The problem is that there are so many things right with where we live – in the house itself, the smallest smallholding and the town – but then again, there are quite a few things a bit wrong that are starting to grate on me more and more.

Pros – we’re well connected to motorways and railways lines straight into London, so getting somewhere in the UK (or out of it) is pretty easy by average standards. We’ve got beautiful countryside on our doorstep. We’ve got a Waitrose up the road (because it’s always good to have an alternative to Tesco), dentists, doctors, hair salons, restaurants, vets, dry cleaners, gift shops, plumbers, DIY store and a big badass shopping centre all within relative spitting distance. The schools are generally OK here and the high school is one of the best in the county and region. The land we have with our crumbling down house is unprecedented in this area. We’re really quite spoiled.


I feel hemmed in. We’re forced to listen to our neighbours’ teenage son swearing and shouting EVERY DAMNED NIGHT as he plays Call of Duty or whatever MMORPG it is that gets him so flippin’ angry and sweary. Then there’s the screaming children. The relentless screaming children and their apparently oblivious or absent parents. The retired dudes with their infatuation with power tools. The railway line. The hum of traffic. The constant and expanding building that’s making the countryside feel like that litter bit further away.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find a better option, on our budget. Rich doesn’t want to go further north (where you get more for your moolah) because his family is based down south. And that’s really fair enough. I’d love to get closer to the sea as we’re about as far away from the sea in the UK as you can get, and I’d like to have a little bit more space to myself. I’m quite an insular person with a very active imagination, so being a little bit more remote would be OK.
So what’s stopping us from moving? Well… nothing. But there are a few obstacles:

1) Cats. We have lots of them. Four to be exact. And they need their own space. So being anywhere near a slightly busy road, on an estate with piddly gardens or in a tiny one-bedroom cottage (which is pretty much our budget in the nicest areas that we’d like to move thanks to rising house prices) isn’t an option.

2) We really HAVE been spoiled and I don’t want to regret leaving this place and the land. I could live in a two-bed house on the smaller side if it meant having plenty of outdoor space to ourselves. But in East Anglia, the South East or South West, I’m not sure that’s an option. Unless we live in the back of beyond with crap Internet (needed for remote working for both of us) and no services.

3) I want to stay in a commutable distance of work (Cambridge). I currently travel an hour once a week for the office and to have face-time with my wonderful colleagues (they really are a fantastic bunch) so adding on a little extra wouldn’t be so bad. But it does limit our options as far as finding somewhere a bit rural, a bit nice, and commutable.

4) Money. Savings. Rising house prices. Ridiculous deposits.

5) I’m going off the idea of older properties, simply because we’ve had constant work to keep this 1919 cottage from falling down. The idea of a new-build is getting more and more appealing but we’ll never EVER be able to do that outside of an estate-setting (what is with estates these days?!) or with enough land. And building our own is just not an option, given the amount of savings we’d have to accumulate.

6) We can’t live too close to working arable farmland because a) pesticides and b) harvesting and cats. We know people that have lots cats to combine harvesters 🙁

7) Everywhere I’d like to live is just Too. Damned. Expensive.


How can we make it work? I spend so much time at home that it HAS to be right.