Friday, June 09, 2006

We’re having a heatwave…………………………..

Have you missed me? Did you notice my absence? Nothing major – just a couple of health hiccups.

For those of you visiting from overseas, we have been and still are having a heatwave. Really hot and dry – and me being a typical English Rose, wilts a bit in the hot weather, and despite wearing factor 50 and covering myself up from top to bottom and wearing a hat – the sun still makes me go red and wilting.

But I have managed to work late in the evening and therefore have not been blogging!

I have spent 10 hours up the allotment this week so far – we are off to water the plants in a minute when the football has finished!

So what have I been up………..

The boring stuff has been mowing all my paths and the big bit of lawn where my shed is and where we park and where the climbing bean frame is. I had to have the mower on the highest setting and gradually lower it, so it involved going over the area several times.

I also rotorvated in what was the broccoli netted ‘tent’ last year, and under gardener barrowed down 8 lots which I dug in. I needed to do so to help retain any rainfall if and when we get some. I also planted up my tomato plants in there.

For each one I dug a big hole, and filled it with rotted manure which was nice and damp, and added the tomato plant and a support. I bought 30 canes which I thought would be enough – only to find that I needed to buy another 30! I filled the netted area with 60 and had some left over so planted more outside the cage – I have 70+ tomatoes plants – all of which I have grown from seed in a cold frame. I am very proud of those, as everyone I know has greenhouses to grow theirs in and started ages before me.

I have some that I am going to grow at home under the lean-to in pots with the bottoms cut off and sat on a tray of gravel – (permaculture fashion) so that the roots get the water from the tray and I feed them when they need it into the pots.

Of course my chickens get my top priority and they have been out every day in the meadow, mainly lying on their sides and dozing in the sunshine or scratching about in the flower beds.

They are still churning out three eggs a day, but Adelaide has been laying funny patterned rippled ones – but they are huge and taste great.

Dilly and Freckles are still broody but they come out more during the day, especially if they hear Pumpkin clucking with delight as I give her some unexpected goodies – as they did just now when I took her some lettuce and some corn mix for the evening meal.

Here is a ‘normal’ sort of day for me – today.

No golf, so I collared the boss to help me in the kitchen. We had a delivery late last night of pork and chicken from Paula’s rare breed farm - see link on the right

So last night I mixed spices into the pork ready to make sausages. I have bought a new machine so it was a trial run – and it really did turn out to be a trial as the instructions were brief and basic! They only mentioned the meat grinding side that the machine does and never mentioned the sausage stuffing side of things!

We were working from 10 – 12pm, and someone near and dear to me was not amused! In the end, after making three sorts of sausages, and packing up the chicken mince into bags and freezing it, we called it a ‘day’ and put the rest of the mixtures in the fridge over night.

I posted on a sausage making forum for help – and they all rallied to my plea. So following an early morning read of their suggestions, all of which I took on board and implemented, it took us just 30 minutes to make around 2kg. Apple and Pork, a spicy sausage with a mixture of dried chillies and peppers which I bought the from same site on line and were a success last time – called Fire Cracker, and I also did some traditional ones and a batch of dried mixed herbs and garlic.

If the weather had been cooler I would have been more adventurous and made lots more with fresh herbs and spices etc. but it takes quite a time and you have to get the sausages made and frozen within 24 hours!

The other half took a ride into town to get some things he needed and some petrol for our mowers and rotorvators, and I whizzed up to let the chickens out for an hour or so whilst I moved their run and put another 4 pints of fresh water in their water containers. The don’t drink that much each day, but I like them to have plenty of fresh and clean water just in case I can’t get up there for any reason. They also have a full hopper of layers mash for the same reason.

I was reward with four eggs today – that has happened about once a week lately for some reason perhaps that might account for Adelaide’s rippled looking eggs, if she has been doing overtime.

Whilst they were ‘doing their thing’ and dozing and scratching etc., I took a look around and noticed that the gooseberries were ready for picking. This is only the third season with the allotment, and I am particularly pleased with the soft fruits this year. Last year I only had a few gooseberries – about 4lb in total from the 6 bushes. But I was pleased with that for their size. I pruned them in the autumn and cut out any branches that were facing in the centre to make the bushes nice an open in the middle to try and prevent any diseases they are prone too. I also mulched them with horse manure last year to keep the weeds down and dug it in in the autumn, and I have been well rewarded for all my effort.

I started on the first bush – gently lifted up a prickly stem – and underneath it was full of berries. This pattern was repeated on every stem – they fruit on old wood – and I spent almost an hour picking fruit of just one bush! (a) because it was so prickly and fiddly to do, and my fingers are sore from the pricking of the thorns and (b) because there were so many gooseberries on the plant. I had to stop and get back home to make lunch and when I weighed them there were 6lb 2oz from just the one bush!

I also grabbed a couple of lettuces – a red Lollo Rosso with crinkly curly red leaves’ a green tight Webbs lettuce and a handful of lovely peppery wild rocket and when you mix them all together in a salad with oregano and tarragon – herbs from my garden – it really gets the taste buds going.

We had fresh salmon with a pesto topping, and alas not home grown cherry tomatoes yet, but nice and sweet all the same, with red and orange peppers, cucumber, beetroot, and gherkins.

I spent a lot of time this afternoon topping and tailing the gooseberries – it took ages, but spouse was watching sport on the television and I am not a fan of watching much TV as you will have guessed. I have now washed the berries and vacuum packed them in 1lb bags, so that I can get them out of the freezer and use them in all sorts of recipes as and when I wish. A lot of them will be destined for all sorts of combination jams and chutneys, and I have some on the go for a gooseberry pie with puff pastry I think. What I shall do with the other five bushes full, I do not know yet. We have to do some serious re-arranging in the freezers to make room!

Well I am just off to water the tomatoes, pumpkins, courgettes, and beans – the rest of the allotment has to fend for itself!

Back soon – but I do have relatives staying over the weekend so you may have to wait until Monday.


  1. glad to know you have been busy and not sick. i see your gooseberrys are ripe and you lettuce looks like it doing good.

  2. Thanks patsy - just got in from watering the tomato and pumpkin plants - and am whacked out!

    It is looking like a desert - all dry and hard up the allotments, but in a week's time we are due some rain and just you watch how it all grows then!


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