Sunday, 25 February 2018

From the Inside...

..it looks like a lovely day with blue sky and sunshine.. but then a weather app tells you it 'feels like -7°'. No thanks, so I'm not expecting a plot visit today. Instead, here's a post that I started last week. I had tasty carrot and coriander soup for lunches - I haven't had a smooth soup in a while because my stick blender broke. Now I have got the one back from my mum - I gave it to her a couple of Christmases ago, but she didn't get on with it.
It's a Russell Hobbs blender, it's certainly a bit more aggressive than the James Martin one I've been using for years. I hope I'll get used to it. Otherwise, perhaps I'll need to return to chunky soups...which are delicious but some soups really do need blitzing. Not necessarily this one though... look how tasty that looks, mmm.
I was looking through my blog to see what soups I've made since having an allotment, I know there have been a couple of horrible ones but mostly they've been tasty and an easy way of using up extra veg:
  1. Carrot and Fennel - delicious
  2. Tomato - only made once, rather wasteful unless you really need to use up a lot of toms
  3. Thai Pumpkin - how adventurous of me, I even used coconut milk in it
  4. Parsnip and Leek - I think I need to make that again before the parsnips rot away
  5. Smokey Carrot - made with oak-smoked olive oil and smoked paprika
  6. Leek and Chestnut - this year I discovered what an amazing addition chestnuts are
  7. Vegetables with chestnuts - carrot, parsnip, swede, chestnuts and leeks
  8. Vegetable - Chunky carrot, leek and parsnip
  9. Parsnip and Pea - using frozen peas
  10. Curried Pumpkin - pumpkin is best if roasted first so it's more time-consuming
  11. Courgette and Fennel - peak courgette season!
  12. Potato and Celery - The one year we managed to actually grow celery
  13. Potato and Mangetout - FAIL! It was grey and disgusting!
  14. Roast Festival Squash - the squash didn't taste as good as it looked
  15. Celeriac and Fennel - so delicious. This soup is why I first started growing bulb fennel
  16. Swede (and Leek) - nasty! Nearly all thrown away..
  17. Carrot and Parsnip - I think this may be due next week too
  18. Pumpkin and Carrot - we'll be growing big pumpkins again in 2018
  19. Lettuce - well, it used up a lot of lettuces as they were going to seed
  20. Leek and Butterbean - nice and creamy
  21. Curried vegetable - curry powder cheers up a plain recipe
I also picked a couple of small swedes and had mashed carrot and swede with my frittata dinner last weekend. Jamie picked those sprouts from a plot which has been recently vacated - a perk of being on the committee? Well, they'd only go to waste otherwise. We generally say that anything left on an empty plot is free for use by other plotholders.
We both managed to do quite a lot of digging last weekend. Plot 7 is looking pretty good but we'll probably need to resort to weed-killer for some other parts of our plots. Jamie had laid bags on black plastic on the section shown above as that's where our sprouts are going this year - well away from the mole on Plot 3 we hope! We still need to do some proper planning of what we're planting where.
Linkin Park provide the title song...

Saturday, 17 February 2018

I Feel the Earth Move

Look at this sleepy little bee - not dead, just over-done the crocus nectar I think!
We had a good afternoon digging and chatting on the plot. The sun shone for a while and it was pleasantly warm. I'm still digging the area that I started last weekend. As you can see my weed bucket is mostly hedge roots, which makes for slow progress.
Jamie planted our shallots and they're covered with netting - just to protect them from birds/mice while they take root and secure themselves.
Everyone left the site as it began to get chilly as the sun was sinking. It's always lovely to see the 'usual suspects' back for the new term. A few long-standing plotholders have had to resign their plots, but we have some very keen newcomers and others will likely join us as the weather cheers up.

So, why the title? We had an earthquake! We didn't actually feel it, but we were talking and all stared at the sky because we heard a strange rumbling. We only realised there had been an earthquake when we got home but some people in the local area apparently felt it.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

These Days

We spent more than four hours on the plot this afternoon - the sun was shining for much of the time and it was great to see blue skies. The bitter wind brought some clouds and even a little sleet - but at least it wasn't raining!
Another leek soup is cooking at the moment - leek and butterbean today. I thought I'd made the partnership up, but when I looked online I found this recipe on the British Leek website, so clearly it's a thing. I'm hoping the lack of a bayleaf or onion won't make too much difference.
Jamie's finished clearing and digging the patch where our shallots will be planted (hopefully) next weekend. We've bought Longor from Thompson & Morgan. We haven't grown shallots for a few years and haven't grown this kind of long bulbed one before. Here are some other seeds that we've bought.
The Lilla spring onion looks interesting. If we don't pick them as salad onions they can be left to bulb up and have a nice red/white inside. All the others we've sown before and they are our preferred varieties.
Here's the bit of plot I was clearing and digging - before and after.
I didn't quite finish before my back couldn't handle any more, but I was pleased that there weren't too many tree roots. I think the fancy red sweetcorn is going in that section, but we need to do a bit of planning.
At least there are few areas without weeds now, but there's a load more with weeds :-( A few more dry weekends would be appreciated! So the title song by Rudimental is because these days it's very hard to feel like doing anything outside, but these (dry) days have to be taken advantage of!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Weve Only Just Begun

Mmm, this week's soup is a good one, unlike last week. Swede with carrots, parsnips, leek, a bit of garlic and a hint of chilli from the oil I that I cooked the leeks in - lovely. This won't be going down the sink, which is why I couldn't resist a small bowl of it before dinner last night - well, it's a starter, isn't it?
On Saturday we only had a quick visit to pull some - you guessed it - leeks and carrots, to add to a cottage pie and it was a completely rainy day so we couldn't do much on the plot if we had wanted to.
We didn't want to, because we went to the Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage to buy our seed potatoes.
From the huge choice we were very restrained and only bought these:
  4 x Orla
  2 x Nicola
  3 x Pentland Javelin (because Jazzy were only available in bagfuls)
  1 x Foremost
  4 x Catriona (because there weren't any Kestrels left)
I find it hard not to buy masses of potatoes, especially when they're 16p per tuber, but on Sunday we threw away so many of last year's that were rotting away in the ground so it's only sensible. Here's Jamie digging through last year's potato plot, where we want to plant the shallots quite soon.
It was a very cold day yesterday, especially when the wind blew, but we did see a little bit of sunshine and were actually properly working so it wasn't too dreadful.
I cleared up the purple sprouting broccoli cage - all the plants have fallen sideways so I've staked them up. There were three tiny florets which I snipped off as (apparently) that should really help the plants to produce more.
While Jamie was clearing and digging I hand-weeded this patch, where our onions were last year. It was a bit painful but worth it. I added some coffee grounds that we've been collecting, as we're putting the potatoes here this year - they should appreciate the added bit of acidity.
After last week's slightly disappointing bird count we were inundated with robins this weekend. And this little chap was very friendly, bribed with mealworms.
He was particularly keen because we were doing some digging and providing him with fresh worms for a change.

We left yesterday as the temperature was falling and the clouds clearing for a frosty night ahead..
And here's our haul of veg. Look at that colossal parsnip! Unfortunately I put the fork through it, but there's still plenty for my soup and more than half left over - Jamie's going to add that to bubble and squeak.
So the song title for this post was a tricky one, but I chose this Carpenters song as it's pretty and we have only just begun really - at least we now have some clear earth.
 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Three Bells

Another dull day, but this time no rain so it was slightly less awful. The temperature was reasonably mild too, but a little sunshine would have made a world of difference. I put a filter on this photo of the ash tree - to make it a bit more interesting.
Today I was counting birds for the the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I thought they were going to be a no-show, but although numbers were low there were quite a few different species (even the robin wasn't keen on posing though).
For an hour from 3:15 we counted:
 2 x Robin (annoying as we've seen 5 together (fighting) recently)
 1 x Great tit
 3 x Long-tailed tit (we've seen 6 or 7 of these together before)
 1 x Pheasant
 1 x Wren
 1 x Blue Tit
 1 x Blackbird
So, not great but not too bad either. I didn't count the two swans which flew over; I heard the lovely noise their wings make but couldn't get to my camera in time. On the walk to the site we spotted this little squirrel in the churchyard - I know some people don't like grey squirrels, but I do.
We spent the rest of the time doing more tidying and filled the fourth dalek compost bin mostly with old stalks of sweetcorn - chopped and mashed up a bit to break down easier/quicker. Jamie packed a load of stones in around the compost bins - perhaps it will help keep the rodents out. By the time we were ready to leave it was getting dark, so we had one more cuppa and picked our veg (leeks and the giant swede) and walked home.
The church (St Lawrence) was all lit up and the bells were ringing so it earns a photo for looking so pretty.
I think it is a Swede - Best of All (from Kings Seeds)
I was fully expecting the swede to have brown heart (caused by boron deficiency) as a couple of our roots have had traces of it, but it was perfect all the way through and weighed over 1kg! It's currently being made into swede & leek soup with the addition of smoked paprika as on first tasting it was a little bland - now I understand why 'swede soup' always includes lots of other veggies!
Jamie's using the other leeks tonight in a sausage and leek dish and is making leek and potato cakes tomorrow. Still plenty more to go though...
So, today's song is... not very related to this post, but there are bells in it and it explains why I did what I did to the tree photo (the singers are The Browns). Also I love this song, though the male singer is a little bit creepy :-)