Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just another day at the 'office'

I have been spending a lot of time gardening at home this week – and just a total of an hour a day up the allotment, seeing to the chickens, tugging a weed or two, but mainly harvesting.

The afternoons have been spent processing the harvest, by freezing, and also by cooking.

Yesterday, for instance, I spent the entire afternoon making batches of stew, casserole or curry packs.

I cooked mixtures of squash and courgettes, with herbs and garlic. I did a huge tray bake of green tomatoes with chilli flakes, and another of onions. These I roasted, and when just cooked, allowed them to cool, then mixed them up into batches – about 7lbs cooked weight in total. These will be an instant base for all the above mentioned dishes and more so. I 'throw'in all sorts of things to basic mixture.

It was the first time that I had tried cooking green tomatoes. I came about because whilst looking at the tomato plants, I noticed some of the large tomatoes had just started to develop a ring around the top of them. This is caused by drought conditions followed by lots of rain (overwatering), they suck up so much water in one go that they are prone to split. Knowing by now my waste not want not attitude to life, I thought I would cook them before they split. And to my utter amazement they taste sweet and very very nice.

I vacuum packed all the mixtures which are now frozen, waiting to be brought back to life on a cold winter's day.

I also spent a very pleasant couple of hours out in the garden in the shade, plaiting some of my onions. It was just perfect. Not a sound except Dilly, Freckles and Pumpkin, chattering away to each other and exploring their new ‘empire’.

They are such neat little chickens scratching about. My big hens make big holes in the beds throwing all the mulch onto the grass, but these three little ones just seem to tickle it.

They have been waddling about eating the lawn. They were having beaks full and eating it at such a rate that you would think that they had been starved.

They so make me laugh the way they waddle about flat footed everywhere – Dilly found her first worm and I have never seen her move so fast. By the time I had grabbed my camera and taken off the lense cover the worm had gone – like a piece of spaghetti.

Today they are getting more adventurous and really exploring. They have been walking around the edge of all the flower beds pecking at the various flower and shrub leaves, like walking around a buffet, and taking a nibble of everything to see which they like best.

As you may have guessed, I am organic in the garden too and never use any chemicals - here Dilly and Pumpkin are sampling some of the daisy plants in the lawn. They are not weeds to me - I just love their pretty little flower heads.

Dilly was actually sampling the yellow centre of one.

I keep a wire grid up at the open back door to stop them coming in, and we just step over it.

They are intently watching something going in and out the gaps in the pavers outside the back door - ants perhaps or other insects. We had a lot of rain in the night so there should be some nice goodies about today.

They seem to have got the message that the conservatory is out of bounds although Dilly still sits there on the step, watching our every move, making a loud noise to get our attention - but soon stops when I 'shush' her.

From being dead set against me having chickens, so much so that he begrudgingly said that he couldn’t stop me from doing anything that I wanted, and that so long as he didn’t have to feed them, or have anything to do with them, and that they wouldn’t prevent us from going away if we wanted to………blah blah blah – they all seem to have won Pat over – much to my surprise.

He now takes a keen interest in how many eggs they all lay, helps move the eglu up the allotment, and today he replaced the water feeders and filled up fresh ones, and actually likes throwing in apple and pear cores, and stands there telling me how they rush in etc etc. (As if I didn't know bless him)

He no longer is wary of them, and has even put them away once or twice whilst I have been doing other things up the lottie.

When I let the bantams free range, he didn’t make a single protest (even though one of the conditions was that they were not allowed to run around the garden).

Now that they do, it is he that gives me a running commentary on what they are doing, where they are, and says things like, ‘We are honoured, all three are out – even stuck up Freckles!’

(Who is not actually stuck up but has just been permanently broody all summer!) She seems to be getting at the tail end of it now though. (Unintentional pun)

Up the allotment early this morning we picked lots of runner and French beans, I sowed a row of lettuce seeds as it had just rained and the sun was due to come out, so fingers crossed they will germinate in a few days.

I have been making chocolate cakes – my sons and daughter in law’s favourite – to use up some of the egg mountain, and will be making up veggie boxes for them both for the weekend – to include eggs, chocolate orange marmalade cake, and chocolate big sponge muffin sized cakes topped with melted dark chocolate.

Still dripping with melted chocolate - so they look rather funny shapes - but it is the light on the wet surface!

This chocolate orange cake is my absolute favourite - and it is just as yummy cooked with bananas replacing the orange content. It just melts in your mouth and warmed up and eaten on its own or a little cream, or eaten cold with ice cream or a slice with a cup of tea - is heavenly.

If you could just smell it............

We are cutting down for a few weeks on what we eat, so if I cook with all the tempting things in my store cupboard and give them away, there won't be anything left to eat that we shouldn't.

Luckily my family do not have to worry such things, (yet).

Pat saw me, and said, ‘You do know how to torture yourself don’t you’. He laughed when I told him to run some hot water in the sink quick – and watched as I dashed from saucepan, mixing bowl, spatula spoon, putting each one in the water asap as I used them so’s not to be tempted to lick any of them.

I didn’t even lick my fingers!


  1. those are serious looking chocolate cakes AL, yummy! :-)

  2. Definitely wicked - hate to think how many calories a slice but they both had a whole bar of chocolate each in them and shared another bar for the toppings.

    They are safely sealed in a vacuumed pack bag so that I will not be tempted.

  3. love the bantams photos. i had to look up courgetts. we call them squash. i guess the bantams are having a good time eating grass and bugs. wish i could turn mine out.

  4. Thanks Patsy - they look so lovely in the garden scratching around

  5. I'm amazed that Pat looks so slim in your photo's!! Mrs Gambo would kill to get to those Choccy cakes.

    This may be cheeky and niaive but how long did you roast your green tomatoes for? Your idea sounds great and I would love to have a go.

  6. Photos are looking superb now Al - You've Mastered the camera in the end it seems! - Really nice, bright, saturated images...(and I was in the photography business for 13 years.)

  7. Karen8:07 pm

    I noticed that you started this Blog a year ago in August 2005. How far you have come. Any reflections ? or just too busy coping with it all ? You seem to have gathered a good few faithful bloggers along the way. Any advice for next years plot yet ?

    I looked at my tomatoes too last night and they have both split and fallen over despite being staked. too heavy.

  8. The only good thing I can think about your kids growing up and leaving home is that you get to clean up the bowl and spoon. You did good to resist that temptation!

  9. I can't believe you didn't lick the spoon! I can never resist, and fight over it with my daughter.

  10. Fun to see the girls out on their field trips and sometimes on their house trips! I really think they'll like what the dig up in the garden rather than in the the tile, though.

  11. After seeing Karen's note, I checked. Happy blog birthday - Aug. 21! Stop by & Petunia's Garden to see what she has for you.


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