I watched them grow, and most mornings for at least a month, I tried eating them green. One evening when the apricots had developed a faint yellowy hue, there were four of us circling beneath the tree looking for something edible. Then I went to Huelva on a work trip and when I returned just four days later I found most of the apricots had ripened, fallen and rotted. I dragged a tub of them across the field to the donkeys, and collected 20 kilos more to cook. I didn’t cook them so the next night I took them in a wheelbarrow to the donkeys as well. The donkeys looked appreciative and unharmed, which was a relief. I’d been concerned that the fermenting fruit might have blown them up, or got them drunk, or turned them into helium balloons and I’d have had to roll them over and lance them, like Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd, but they seemed about the same shape and keen for more. They must have eaten more than 150 kilos of rotting fruit.
Eventually, with bad grace, I made chutney. It was meant to be a Martha Stewart recipe. I love Martha who used to appear on US TV showing people how to fold napkins and, by all accounts, got on well with her wing mates in the county jail where she later did time for tax fraud. As I don’t have a kitchen I had to start, unlike Martha, by dragging fallen branches across the farm to an outside hearth and getting a good fire going. The smoke disturbed the wasps, two of which got inside my shirt and stung me. It was 38 degrees. What with the stings, the heat, the smoke, and the laborious process of boiling the jars to sterilise them, I did everything fast and wrong. But I have 8 large jars of something which should keep for a year after which I’ll probably throw it out and re-use the jars . . . perhaps for apricot chutney. Living off the land!