Sunday, 18 March 2018

Black and White Town

The freezing weather returned! And we have even more snow than we had at the beginning of March.
Modified photo of icicles from the roof of our composting toilet
On Friday evening we retrieved our recently-sown marigold seeds and wrapped fleece round the shelving where our broad beans are trying to germinate. The fleece and four litre bottles of water are keeping the temperature at about 1° higher than the non-protected thermometer, but will it be enough? Perhaps we'll have to sow a third lot of beans this year...
Look at our pots...
And our chives...
And the site!
There were lots of tracks in the snow - nothing very interesting but we rather liked this meandering trail - bird or mouse?
We saved a panicking thrush from a brassica cage and then checked ours. We cleared the snow to stop it ripping the netting and, hooray, our purple sprouting broccoli is doing something at last, but it was too cold to stay and harvest anything today.
You may have noticed that my camera decided to use macro for the photo above and focused on the netting - now, if I was trying to do that you know it wouldn't work! I tried photographing some of the freshly fallen snowflakes on Friday and nearly caught them, but I need a bit more practise.

It was a very chilly walk back home. The thermometer in the greenhouse showed 3.3° but when the wind blew and whooshed snow about - BRRR! And we may be due more snow tonight - we're not used to this in Berkshire!!
The Doves provide the title track. The pure white snow and black roads made me choose this song.

Also, if you're in the area on Saturday....

Monday, 12 March 2018

History Repeating

It's the time of year... there's not that much happening on the plot and all I seem to be writing about is SOUP! So, as I'm sitting here drinking my latest spicy parsnip I used my webcam to create this fractal effect. 
I decided on parsnip as I thought they had all died/rotted away in the ground but, because the tops are growing back, I can see where they are again. And what a whopper - it's the same length as the hob on our cooker! With hardly any canker. I didn't use all the core, which may be a bit tough because of the re-growth.
I was going to flavour it using curry powder but decided to put individual spices in instead and it's very tasty.
There are still some more leeks to be pulled, but they are quite thin now.
I love the smell of them frying in the spices before I add the stock and parsnips.
Our visit to the plot yesterday was interrupted by thunder, lightning and a huge downpour of rain. The roads were flooded and the drains were popping up as we drove home.
Here's a little video looking out from the toolshed, which has a metal roof.

I did manage to get some bulbs planted into pots (Ixia and Dutch Iris) and Jamie sowed some marigold seeds (Durango Bee and Honeycomb). The broad beans had germinated but then got struck by the freezing weather so we're having to re-plant them.
So this song by The Propellerheads & Shirley Bassey fits the bill, but I think there will be a few more soup-based posts before Spring...

Friday, 2 March 2018

White Winter Hymnal

I think this year we'll have to follow the astronomical calendar, rather than the meteorological one; 1st March definitely did not feel like the first day of Spring!
We've had very fine snow falling for much of the last two days and we're not used to snow, so we still love it!
We walked through quiet, snowy Hungerford and of course arrived at the allotment site.
All the plots are looking quite similar under the white blanket! Even the empty covered plots look nice.
I hope our garlic and shallots are ok under there. I'm particularly concerned about the french garlic, but at least there's time to buy more if necessary. Our broad beans in the greenhouse are a no-show, so we'll need to re-sow them. Well, -9° is just too low for germination I expect.
The snow is meant to continue till tomorrow and then turn to icy rain - bleah, that's much worse!
So that was a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon off work. And tonight we're having a curry which will include some fragrant fresh bay leaves courtesy of Vishal at work. I'm also freezing some, as they're more flavoursome than dried leaves. I look forward to adding them to carrot soup in the next few days.
This was a meal we had the other evening with Quorn mince, carrots and leeks - basically a cottage pie topped with filo pastry rather than potato because I think it looks so nice.
So, it's still Winter and this pretty title song is provided by the Fleet Foxes.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

From the Inside... 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.