Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Stepford Wife is alive and well and living in Norfolk - Well almost!

Do you ever get those days when you get up early because you can’t sleep and do not quite know what to do with yourself?

Well I had one of those today. I finally gave in to it and got up at 6am, quietly shut the bedroom door, and turned off the alarm (keeping fingers crossed that I had not disturbed the sleeping ‘lord of the minor’) – no that is not misspelt, our home would fit into a manor’s sitting room!

First stop my little ‘office’ to check my mail. I just love that expectant feeling you get when you click on your inbox and you see New Mail in red letters – it’s always a nice feeling – not as good as years ago when you heard the letter box rattle and there was a handwritten letter for you – but the next best thing I guess.

I hurriedly type in the password and click to see how many messages I have. Luckily I do not get SPAM as I have managed to automatically block them out, but if a stray cheeky one gets through it goes straight into the bin without me even looking at it. I just wish the junk mail through the post that I get each day would automatically do the same!

I had a mail from Richard of Down the Lane fame – if you haven’t yet visited his website, you are probably one of the few. Click on my link after reading my drivel – for some seriously good information. I read a couple more mails and wrote a few before writing a bit of blog.

Then I did what I said I would, and went out in the rain to the garage to get in the big trug of carrots and my witch’s cauldron. It took me almost two hours to rub the mud off, top and tail them, peel them and slice them, blanch them and bag them – after all that I got 7lb of prepared carrots which went into 20 bags. It did seem a lot of hard work for a 20 meal return. But boy do they taste good, I would probably had another bag full if I hadn’t kept nibbling them.

When I updated my allotment diary later I noticed that I had cooked and frozen a lot of carrot, parsnip, and potato mash, and of course I have been forgetting all the thinnings that we have been eating and the ones I have given away. I still have a row of Fly a Way too, if the slugs do not get there first, so I haven’t done too badly for about £3 of seeds

After breakfast I started reading more of – Grow your own vegetables by Joy Larkcom. Pat laughs at me as I read it like a novel – alternating it with my murder mystery that is my bedtime reading. I am reading it from start to finish even all the introductory pages. I was tempted to skip some of those, but for some reason I didn’t. I now have read all about composting, manuring, liming, mulching, fertilising and all that side of things – with the hope that some of it might have sunk in. How much is practical or relates to me (how to build a breeze block compost bin for example) I am not sure of, but you never know do you?

I would have liked a few colour pictures dotted here and there just to brighten it up a bit, but I guess it is designed to concentrate the mind more. I stopped at the green manure charts, and decided that Chapter 4 could wait until later.

My next task was to hollow out a big green pumpkin for my flower arranging workshop on Friday. Easier said than done. Pat carried it in for me as it was too heavy and I set about it with a big carving knife stabbing through the top trying make a circle. Trying to pull the top off was the next challenge. Ten more minutes of cutting and hacking and I got a hole, a bit lopsided but it was a start. There followed an hour of removing the seeds – putting some of them to one side to save for seed sharing and the slow process of hacking it all away a bit at a time. This took a lot of patience on my part, and I soon had a huge pile of pumpkin chippings and some big chunks which I reserved for lunch.

(The next time you see this it will have flowers in it.)

It was the first time I had grown this green variety (well not surprisingly as this is only my second year!)

The first thing I noticed is that the flesh is a lot paler than the Hokkaido orange pumpkin. I used the flesh to make a cauldron of pumpkin soup, with the addition of onions, black pepper, stock and the last couple of bags of last years frozen pumpkin. I fried off the onions in some olive oil before adding the pumpkin and stock and left it to simmer whilst I cooked lunch. Roasted legs of free range chicken with a dusting of garlic salt and dried herbs, which took the same time to cook and on the same baking tray as the pumpkin chunks, with steamed French beans and carrots of course.

The roasted pumpkin turned a deeper shade of yellow and tasted wonderful and the leftover chunks were added to the soup cauldron. It was moister than the Hokkaido variety and virtually melted in the mouth, so I shall definitely grow them again next year.

The sun came out and it was difficult for me to restrain myself from going up the lottie, all that was needed was a good excuse – and the trug full of kitchen waste was just the one I needed.

Pat hadn’t been up there for a few weeks so decided to come with me so we were able to load up his car with the grass cuttings as well which was handy.

The muddy track was really soggy and slippery with all the torrential rain we have had. It was so windy almost as bad as ‘Wilma’. There was a cacophony of sound as the sheets of corrugated iron, played their individual tunes as they rattled against wood and metal posts. The clouds were whizzing by like one of those nature films which is fast forwarded over a period of time. I love it when that happens, you can tilt your head back and stare up at the sky, rocking in the wind and it makes you dizzy.

I can not stress how windy it was, it is an open field site and there is almost always a breeze even in the height of summer. The wind had blown lots of things around, and lifted the corners of the black plastic sheeting I was using as a mulch until the frosts set in. I had weighted it down with old metal pipes, a wheel barrow, and all sorts too lumber. Those barrels I got from the fish farm the other week came in handy and soon got filled up with water and used as even more weights. I filled up 6 big plastic milk bottles with water to weigh down the fleece homemade cloche covering the January King cabbages, as the wind had ripped the fleece away from the tent pegs.

Pat ‘inspected’ the site, and commented on the remains of my bonfire and told me how I should have done it and what to do next. (He thought I had made just the little pile and not noticed that I had burnt 80 or more 6-7ft branches that I used for my rows of climbing beans.

The broad beans are really romping up now, and the Japanese onions too. I might have to rig up some sort of cloche to protect the beans if we get a hard winter. Oh well, I will know not to sow them until November next year.

I took a photo of the next three plots to record the ‘before’ photos – I will take a few of the progress and give them to my new neighbour as a surprise. Pat remarked jokingly, ‘He hasn’t done much has he? You were up here working the day you took yours over!’

I expect that he will get one of the chaps up there to just go over it with a tractor and plough it all in – just the right time of year, but a bit too soggy at the moment.

The wind was so fierce that we had a job closing the shed door; it really took my breath away. Reluctantly I had to come home, I would have loved to have stayed longer but there was nothing I could do apart from cutting some dahlias and Rudbeckia seed heads.

I have to bag up the pumpkin soup now before going to bed. I mashed it and gave it a go with my hand whizzer and it is a lovely pulp. I’ll bag it up with labels reminding me that I have to add a bit more water and milk before using as soup. Hmm I can imagine eating that in the conservatory in the winter, looking out onto the snow covered little lawn (and if I am lucky 2 chooks) – a bowl of steaming pumpkin soup, with melted cheese on top and a doorstep chunk of thick granary bread – Anyone for lunch?

Oh and the reason I was a little Stepford wife for a while today. It is physio day again tomorrow - and I have that dread you get when as a child, knowing that you are going to be grounded, rush around and cram in as much as you possibly can before you are told to sit down and behave yourself. I usually spend most of the day up the lottie, on a Tuesday each week,but am trying a different tack to see if that makes any difference.

I really must bag up that pumpkin soup.

Sweet dreams.

I have just bagged up 6lb of pumpkin soup pulp which will make about 40 servings when water and milk are added when defrosted. That was from one green pumpkin and half a dozen home grown onions - now that was achieved with very little nurturing all summer. Off to look up the name in case you are interested.

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