Bean up to the Plot at last
I’ve not had a great month for gardening due to a suspected slipped disc keeping me from doing anything for most of the month, so there haven’t been any visits to the allotment until today and quite a lot of the garden is taken up with scaffolding from the free solar panels being put up (which has still not been collected after over 3 weeks) and the back problem means I’m in no shape to try playing twister to get to anything other than the empty patio.
Anyhow, after a week away to celebrate J’s big, scary birthday (in which I was able to have time to do lots of physio and swam every day, I got use of my legs and the pain wasn’t too bad) I chanced trying going up there, along with J & E - my 2 lovely helpers, who were fab. Unfortunately my heart sank as we approached & I saw that someone had broken both the window and door lock on my dilapidated (but much loved) shed. They’d only taken one small multi-tool which had sentimental value and ignored the rest (which wasn’t much as the tools are old, bent & battered and we try and re-use household items so as it’s economical and ecological) but it’s having to repair what obviously is not a treasure trove to anyone but ourselves that irks.
With the ground being soft, but not claggy it was easy to break up the ground with J weeding (thank goodness). E was brilliant at digging holes for the toilet roll tubes to go in; popping a couple of Aquadulce Broad Beans in each; and filling them in. I’ve heard that the percentage of wintering beans that germinate are low, hence the doubling up of seeds. I’m not a fan of Broad Beans (due to the overcooked, hard cased nightmares from childhood) but decided to give them a go again as they might be better home-grown, E may like them and they can go in the ground when nothing else will.
I had a bit of a cowboy saloon moment when I announced to E we had to water them in with some diluted worm wee and to hold his nose. The two young brothers who were with their Dad across from us seemed to think that was quite interesting; stopped dead in their tracks and one even wandered over to the water tap to try and catch a whiff. Amazing how smells and bodily functions can appeal to young children.
Once watered, we covered them up with fleece as our plot is in the middle of the allotments, so most likely to get frosts/snow on a regular basis. I’d show you a photo, but me being me, I forgot the camera. Maybe an upgrade to a phone with a camera is starting to make sense.
At home, the Borlotti Beans have dried nicely and now packed in jars, which double as a musical instrument for E. E also loves to watch ‘his’ chillies change colour. Each morning the Chilli Watch is checking out how far the red ripening has gotten on the chillies we cut off and brought in, so that he can report to Daddy on his return from work at night. Lord help any that decide to have a rest day when those two are on their case lol.
Two tone Chillies
I don’t think J will approve
I went to the allotment on my own yesterday as we decided it was better for E to stop at home than turn into a mud covered toddler with all the heavy downpours we’ve been having the last few days so J babysat him & B. It was a bit of a shock as the autumn winds & weight of the Beans & Sunflowers had pulled the posts and washing line support down and they were all over the floor. It meant that I had to chop them all back and take off the Bean pods with no chance of leaving any up at the plot. I left the smaller Sunflower top up there for the birds to snack on and brought the other back home. As you can see I’ve installed it in the parasol hole in between the seats on the patio, so E can watch the birds snacking from the house this winter. We’ve really been impressed with the Giant Sunflowers as all the seeds E planted have produced huge flowers and made E a very happy little boy.
- Giant Sunflower installation
I’d got a bucketful of Bolotti Beans from the plot and whilst J is out today, I’ve been trying to think where to put them all for drying in our house (as the freezer is full, so it’s the only option for preserving) as the airing cupboard is now full. I’ve ended up using the windowsills above radiators, although I’m not too sure J will be happy with all the photos and ornaments being moved. The poor man puts up with a lot for my gardening and wine-making hobbies and is very particular about where things live, so if you hear cries of “NO!!!” from over this way, you’ll know why
Bolotti Bean Takeover
Whole lot going on
17/10/2013, 8:55 am
Filed under: Bolotti Beans
The weather has definitely turned over here with the rain hitting hard today and making J & myself contemplate finishing drying the Borlotti Beans in the airing cupboard. I’ve even gone as far as buying some of those vac bags for the towels etc so we’ve got enough room for them to dry.
I have to admit that the Tomatoes were a complete waste of space this year in the greenhouse – we didn’t even get 2 that were edible. Even though we’d started them on time, the weather earlier in the year seems to have affected them and most were only just putting out tiny green tomatoes when they started to die off, so we’re thinking of having a rest next year from them. Bizarrely the Chilli plants, which have also had the same upbringing, have a second lot of fruits on them so I think we’ve got enough dried chillis for all the sausage casserole and home-made curry pastes I can make until next growing season.
Chillis not feeling the cold
At the allotment the Courgettes and Borage are bizarrely still going strong, as are the Mini Sweetcorn, which are providing a third load of corns. E’s Sunflowers are massive and starting to lose their petals so he should be able to watch the birds eating the seeds soon (that should give me a rest from having to share my gardening tools with him). I think the Rhubarb is done now after I took 5kg from them the other day and prepared & in the freezer waiting for a free demi-john or three. One of my jobs still to do there is cut the Raspberries back to the ground for the winter. The Raspberries are still putting berries out, but most are going off before they even ripen properly, so it’s better they get chopped than get diseased.
The Spinach is really going for it and I’m struggling to keep up with it in recipes (especially as E & J are not really fans of the stuff due to flavour and it’s habit of sticking to your mouth/teeth). I think at this rate it’s going to be relegated to pureed soups and pasta sauces :( Either that or I’m going to have to start veggie juicing…..
Had fun last week with the Cabbages. I picked 4 of the largest and brought them home and shredded them, only to cut open my thumb when I was cleaning the mandolin slicer :( It was not fun the next day trying to desalt and finish the pickling process, even if the gloves kept it dry it was still painful to have anything touch it – including the glove. Anyhows, I did it and now have enough pickled Red Cabbage to keep E going until Christmas.
I’ve been busy making the late glut of Courgettes into large amounts of Bread & Butter Pickle, which (if not eaten by J, whose a big fan of it) is marked to be little presents for friends & family. I accidently ordered some small jars last year when I needed kilner sized jars, so they are just right for smaller amounts of chutney or pickles, which is great for smaller households.
I’ve got to say thanks to vegetableseeds.net for the voucher for writing my blog. It’s come in really handy as I’ve ordered a flower collection for a Christmas present and some seeds for myself with it one morning and the next day my seeds arrived. Brilliant
Not yet Autumn
The last few days have been like a heat wave again over here so B, E & I have been down to the plot to keep it watered and keep picking the produce. E is now the only person who’s allowed to use the ‘spray gun’ (‘hosepipe’ to those of you that are a bit rusty in Toddler).
The one & only spraygunslinger on the plot
I had a light bulb moment the other day and explained that stems are like straws, so you have to water the floor for the plants to suck up the water, rather than each and every leaf and it worked!
The beans have been coming up lovely and at last we are starting to see the lovely Borlotti Bean stripes and E’s Sunflowers are absolutely huge, the smallest must be 10ft tall! Needless to say, E is very proud of them and we’ve had to send a photo to Cbeebies of one for their growing a Sunflower feature. Think he’ll burst with excitement if they ever show it……
The Raspberries are amazing me with how many berries you can get off so few plants. Honestly, I would recommend growing them, as a few cheap canes have kept us in berries for so long and at least a couple of pound in weight every week. Considering how expensive they are in the shops, we’ve easily made the plot worthwhile, just from them alone (can’t you tell J’s economising skills are affecting me). E’s loves being able to pick his own and, as he goes through the fussy eating stage, I’m glad to say he never says no to picking and wolfing down a handful of Raspberries or two
All about the Courgettes
This morning has been filled with Courgette preserving recipes (apart from the hour that B took to have a bath after she decided to jump in a ditch, which only ever happens when I have a busy schedule). So Chocolate Courgette Cake and Bread & Butter Pickle was the call of the day (as I’d sliced the Courgettes, Peppers and Onions last night and set them aside salting). E wanted to help, but was relegated to his Fun Pod as an observer after he couldn’t get the hang of cracking the few eggs we had into the dish for the Cake (he is still 2 years’ old after all) and only hot work was to be done on the Pickle. He still liked watching and I had my very own commentator for every process.
Pickle ‘n Cake
E was a lot more help the other day when we made our very first baked Cheesecake with the Raspberries from the allotment (yes, he really did allow a punnet-full to come home on the basis he was going to bake with them). I felt very much the sous chef as all I was needed for was to read the instructions and the digital scales, prepare the melted butter and to manoeuvre the cake in and out of the oven. I think I may have to put him forward for the next series of The Great British Bake Off at this rate if he can manage to crack his own eggs……
E’s Baked Raspberry Cheesecake
As you can tell, we are quite pleased with the results of our kitchen escapades of the last few days and E loves showing off to J the results as soon as J comes home from work. Along with the Pickled Beetroot, I’m starting to run out of space in the cupboards, so I might need to convince J that I need to take over his action shed fully when it comes to pickling the Cabbage and bottling the first lot of wine. I wonder how many Raspberry Cheesecakes that will take……
Nice time at the allotment
10/08/2013, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Beetroot
We spent a good couple of hours at the allotment today – weeding and picking produce. Shame our camera has given up the ghost, or else we could have taken piccies . The Beetroots I picked were huge (as you can see in the photo taken with our new camera ) and I was amazed E allowed any of the Mini Sweetcorn and Raspberries off the plot, but taking a picnic with us helped to slow him down to a couple of handfuls of each. Also, being distracted by the shy Common Toad we found amongst the Cabbages helped (hope he stops as he’s got loads of meals on our plot ).
Our produce from the plot (minus E’s Raspberries)
J did a fab job digging up the Garlic & Potatoes and clearing up the Turnips’ and Radishes’ patches, whilst I mainly weeded the Cabbages and Beans, after picking the Raspberries too high up for E to reach; Sweetcorn; Beans and Beetroots.
The Beans are doing well, as are E’s Sunflowers [one of which now has a full flower on it – much to the delight of E] to the extent that the washing line helping to hold up the Bamboo poles broke under their weight. Here’s hoping we get good sized Borlotti Beans then .
Busy, busy, busy
I can’t believe this month has flown by so quickly and so little work has been done at our plot. Apart from a couple of sessions weeding, most the work has been watering and picking the produce. E has no problem ‘assisting’ with the Raspberries (with progress being made as some actually made it off the plot on the last visit) & the mini Sweetcorn (which never even made it off the bed) and the glut of Courgettes and Beetroots have led to the old favourite Chocolate Courgette Cake being made and a dash to J’s work to hand out produce we couldn’t use before going away to a 4-day music festival.
Ed’s really pleased with the progress of his Sunflowers which are now over 6 foot easily and at last have the start of flowers at the top. I can’t wait to see his face when they bloom
Sunflower 2 helping to hold up the Beans
At home, the Tomatoes are starting to produce little green fruits, so hopefully we’ll be having them in Tabbouleh soon. I’ve decided to dry the Chillies out on a windowsill and they’re doing OK so far. Since removing the Chillies, the plants have started sprouting new growth, so hopefully we’ll have a second batch to dry out and grind up for use in sausage stew and homemade pizzas soon.
Most of my ‘spare time’ this month has been taken up making a dress for J’s Work’s Ball. I hadn’t really thought about it until it was pointed out at the Ball by a friend, but I think my obsession with gardening is influencing my dressmaking as well ……..
Even the dressmaking is affected!
Out & about
So today I took E strawberry picking. To say he was excited would be an understatement, as he actually went to bed at 5.20pm last night so he was ready (when he normally goes at 9ish so he sees his Daddy, with a few naps beforehand) and woke up dead on 6am asking if we could go. I’d gone with the intention of picking lots to use in both Strawberry wine & Rhubarb and Strawberry wine and trying a Strawberry cordial along with some for desserts and E’s snacks. I hadn’t counted on E’s enthusiasm for the berry. For the first time ever he tried one before we paid (which he’s told me off for on previous occasions) and when I put the baskets in the car, both had been equally heaped up – which wasn’t the case when we got home as you can see in the photo!
As my Dad pointed out, he takes after his Mam for that so I can’t complain
The cost was a lot less than the other week when E’s pester power had worked on me in the supermarket and we’d ended up with a tiny amount of strawberries that had been flown in. Along with less food miles and the ability to speak directly to the farmer and choosing them myself (or E doing so) meant I was a lot happier all round. I couldn’t believe how many Strawberries are really ripe at the moment and missed as they are away from the pathway, with the stalks coming out when picking, which saved me a job of hulling at home and made me wish I could come & collect more another day, but unfortunately there is no more room in the fridge & freezer at the moment and I haven’t got time to preserve. As it is, I think we’ll be making wines/cordials all year round from now on
Drink in a sock
Yesterday was a full day of making Rhubarb drinks – wine & cordial (and assisting E in his plan to water every plant in the garden & house).
The Rhubarb for the wine had been frozen to break it down for about a fortnight and then for the last three days had been left in water and crushed to increase the juice yield. So it was down to sterilising the equipment (again!); dissolving the malt extract and sugar; and then putting everything together in the demi-johns. I was quite surprised how much juice I extracted this year, as it made up three full demi-johns, so it’ll be interesting to do a taste comparison between the two years (I haven’t got any from 2 years ago, as it was just too nice).
As the Rhubarb for the cordial didn’t need to be frozen, E & I went up and got some more from the plot, so the rest in the freezer can be used for later batches of wine.
I’d decided to try making a cordial, so tee-total friends could try some of my attempts and after a little bit of searching on the internet found a rather nice recipe called Perch Hill Rhubarb Cordial (http://www.sarahraven.com/how-to/seasonal-recipes/perch-hill-rhubarb-cordial). Although (according to J) I seem to have every piece of kitchen equipment under the sun, I don’t own a jelly bag or holder; so on taking inspiration from my Dad’s attempt to make Marrow rum when I was a toddler; I got out a pair of stockings (unused leftovers from my previous life) and hung them up on our clotheshorse to strain the juice overnight.
It worked wonderfully (and fragranced the house with a sweet, spicy smell) so we now have some lovely bright pink cordial (some bottled, some frozen in ice-cube trays) that E has named ‘Drink-in-a-sock’. I suppose that’s one way to remember how to make it .
Turned out nice again
25/05/2013, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Beetroot
OK, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to wear my new posh ‘straw’ hat to the allotment, even if the fashion advisor said to wear it everywhere to get the most out of it. Especially when I have a ‘do’ to go to and it turns out to be made of paper, with a tag that says to avoid water on the hat at all costs. Oh well, the mud might just brush off once it’s dried and be hidden by a big flower in the meantime…..
We’ve been at the allotment for the whole of the day (and paid for it as E refused to nap there and was being very grumpy when we got back). All those plants I’ve been whittling about as they got pot-bound have been released into the wild and I have to say look better for it. I was surprised to find that the grass & weeds had taken a hold on the plot quite as quickly as they had, so it took a good couple of hours (made to feel like a lifetime, by E being desperate to plant and water) to get to a starting point in the beds. So now my four types of Beans; Beetroot; Turnips; Red Cabbages; Phacelia; Sweetcorn; Dwarf Cucumbers; Courgettes and Leeks are all snug in the ground and enjoying the nice weather we’re having at the moment. May it last, so they can (unlike last year’s initial crop).
A Determined Toddler