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 :-)

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Grey Day

Not the best day for showing a new plotholder around the site, but she is very happy with her new mini plot. In fact we've had four other new arrivals over the last couple of weeks so I hope the weather cheers up soon - for them and us! At least the rain stopped for a short while so we could get the kettle boiling.
Jamie sowed our Sutton broad beans in the greenhouse and put their little cloche tops on to protect them from mice. It's nice to be sowing something, but we've got lots to do before anything can be planted out. Plenty of time though...
I spent the afternoon clearing and composting. Three compost bins are full, but it will soon shrink down and make room for more green waste to be added, though I may need to use a fourth bin given the amount we still have to clear.
Jamie did 'neeps and tatties' for our lovely Burns Night meal with a Stahly's veggie haggis on Thursday - so delicious, with our own swede as the neeps but we had to buy the tatties.
Yes, I know I'm in pyjamas - it's the only tartan I own :-D
Leeks and carrots are still our main harvests at the moment. We had a tasty cheesy pasta bake with them last night. Here's a little timelapse.
We seem to have a never-ending supply of leeks! This was a bunch that I stuck in the ground last year - I couldn't bear to waste them but couldn't be bothered to plant them properly - they look in pretty good condition, as 'Baby Leeks'.
They certainly look better than the ones we planted into pots... when I say "planted" they were basically dumped into soil and abandoned, so that may have been the reason for the poor show :-)
Here's our french garlic that we bought at Hungerford Food Festival last year. Not many plants this year, but the cloves that we planted were huge. We usually end up with far too much.
The bunches we stored in the greenhouse are starting to sprout but there's still more at home which is lasting well.
And look what we spotted on Plot 3! Our very first purple sprout - I did have to zoom in to photograph it, so broccoli won't be replacing leeks and carrots on our menus any day soon!
The very apt title is provided by Madness.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Going Back to My Roots

These are the Double Red Sweetcorn seeds from RealSeeds - this year's attempt at growing funky sweetcorn - they're proper edible sweetcorn, not just for popping, so I'm going to try to look after the plants a bit better than I did with the Glass Gem last year (though we're on holiday in August, which may cause a problem..)
We had a very wet visit to the plot this afternoon. We managed to spend 3 hours clearing the greenhouse and doing various other little jobs - starting with clearing some of the debris from last week's awful gales. Lucky our Plot3 is such a mess there was nothing to damage!
These are just a couple of our Boltardy beetroot! Even boltardy may be a bit woody at that size, so...
I chopped them up and added them to the compost bin with some other plot waste. Such a great colour.
The greenhouse looked better by the time we left - notice the carefully placed watering cans to catch some of the rainwater that leaks through the roof. We need to do a bit of taping up when the weather cheers up.
I couldn't resist buying another bag of pre-cooked chestnuts as the soup was so tasty last week. So now I'm making vegetable soup with chestnuts - with carrot, parsnip, swede and leeks. For dinner I was going to have a stew but then I saw a lovely looking recipe here so decided to have roasted vegetables (and chestnuts) instead.
Today's song is provided by Odyssey.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

One Way or Another...

I'm determined to eat all our leeks!
I've just made leek and chestnut soup. I still had the chestnuts that I bought in Tenerife - they're big on chestnuts - they even hold a chestnut festival in November; there are chestnut trees on the lower slopes of the mountains, but it turns out the ones I bought originated in China 😂 Oh well, they taste delicious!
I haven't used chestnuts in soup before but I've just tasted it and it's delish, quite sweet - I like sweet. I can't actually taste a chestnut flavour but it's certainly a different flavour from plain leek and carrot soup.
I used 100g of chestnuts, 100g of leeks and 75g sliced carrot, as a couple of recipes I found online suggested. But I didn't add the wine that they did - just 800ml of vegetable stock. Actually, I would have happily just tucked into when it looked like this, but I need it for lunches!
This evening our meal is leek and mushroom puff pastry tarts. I've fried the veg before putting into the ready-made pastry and topped with cheese.
It'll look better than this when it's cooked. There you go...
And tomorrow Jamie's making cauliflower and leek cheese. So that's three more ways with leeks, there will be a few more.... we have about 40 more leeks growing...
Thanks to Blondie for the title.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Setting Sun

We were actually on the plot for over 3 hours this afternoon. OK, so not quite all of it working, but most of it... We had a welcome break with fellow plothoholder, Ivan, drinking his quince wine (Japanese quince, Japonica) and warming ourselves over the barbecue embers as the sun was sinking below the treeline.
It was a cold day but quite pleasant in the Winter sun and we had a plan - to move the compost bins from Plot 7 to Plot 3 and we achieved it. It was very tiring; lifting, wheelbarrowing and mixing - we each covered about 6km including the walk to and from the site.
We uncovered this lot while we were moving the bins... That ruined their hibernation but I'm sure some thrushes will be happy to find them where we flung them over the hedge! I'm pleased to say we didn't find any mice or rats.
Composting is so satisfying. All three bins had enough fully composted to fill a whole other bin which we'll use in our bean trench a bit later in the year.
The remaining unrotted compost we mixed up with some manure and more plot waste. We have plenty more to add, including some giant beets and more sweetcorn stalks. It's so great to create lovely organic compost from waste.
So now Plot7 has an empty spot... hmmm, what to fill it with this year...?
Well, we have had some seeds delivered, but these are mostly for our squash grotto, which needs a lot more work.
Title song provided by the excellent Chemical Brothers

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Lady Eleanor

Well, Storm Eleanor actually - and it sure was windy! The roads in the week were strewn with branches and debris; fences had blown down and trees were at unexpected angles.We walked to the allotment today and were pleased to see our greenhouse still standing and no structural damage.
We picked a bit of veg, our first leeks of the season.
Leeks are included in our cheesy baked potato meal with our 2016 runner bean chutney tonight, tomorrow evening's leeky bake and I'm in the process of making leek and carrot soup - if you hadn't guessed from the little video! I'm intending to leave it watery, e.g. un-blitzed.
The leeks with less white on them were grown in the raised bed and the lovely white ones were planted directly into the ground. There's a mix of sizes across the 3 locations where we planted them out.
So, tomorrow we definitely intend to do some work on the plots, the first time since November, although Ivan has promised to bring some wine to the site, so we'd better walk!
Lindisfarne provide the title.

Monday, 1 January 2018

This is the New Year

Welcome to 2018! This will mark our 9th year of growing our own and my 10 year transplant anniversary. Time really does fly when you're having fun, or is it when you're getting older? Well, there's no avoiding getting older, so we may as well have fun while we're at it!
We celebrated the arrival of the new year by having a lovely meal of Stahly's veggie haggis (the best) with home-grown vegetables, which we picked from a very wet plot yesterday. At midnight we opened the windows (even though it was a bit chilly) and heard the town hall clock chiming and then watched the fireworks. I do love fireworks.
As usual I picked too much for our evening meal, so I intend to make parsnip soup later - the same recipe as I used on 1st January 2017 as it happens! The parsnips are huge - each over 30cm long.We were pleased that the sprouts were so good. They look in a sorry state on the plant but were really tasty. The swede are great (I still haven't found the variety, but they were planted late, in July), although the one we ate had a small 'hollow heart', possibly due to the weather..? It was delicious mashed up with the carrot.
This year I'm recording our plot efforts with the MyHarvest diary. It's a University of Sheffield research project investigating the sustainability of allotment gardening, so I thought it would be interesting to join in. Also, it should help me remember to note the weather each visit, which I always intend to do, but often forget.
So, here we go again...
I can't help thinking of blogposts when I hear new songs that I like now. This was a new one to me and is by A Great Big World... enjoy and here's to a happy, healthy, productive 2018