Friday, December 30, 2005

Chocolate Banana Cake Recipe

I bought a little cook book when I toured New Zealand a few years ago. It was one produced by wives in the area - mainly farmers wives as it was a farming area. It really is so easy to do.

150grms plain chocolate
150grms dark brown sugar
- I use whatever I have, muscavado, demerara, light brown
150grms block margarine or butter - NOT soft marge
175grms plain flour
4tbs (heaped) cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs

3 mashed bananas - big ones if you can get them

Melt the chocolate, sugar, and butter over a very low heat, keep stirring to mix it all together - leave to cool

Sieve all the dry ingredients together, then mix in everything else.

I cook mine in a 2lb loaf tin lined with a paper case, but you can use a cake tin etc which should be greased.

Cook for about an hour at 150c. I like to cook mine so that it is just a little bit soft when you test it with a skewer, as it cools it is really moist.

It rises well and freezes wonderfully. I like it as cake or sliced as a pudding with ice cream, cream, yoghurt or custard.

I have cooked this substiting the juice and zest from an orange and it was lovely too.

Give it a go - you'll love it.

The snow was swept off and the ground cleared of snow at 7.30am today! I took these at 11.25am

5pm Update

We still have deep snow - we had some light sleet, which was supposed to be rain to get rid of all the snow - but it didn't. From when I took the photo above, there is at least another two inches of snow. I have left it on the top for extra insulation over night.

The extra windbreak I hammered in the chicken pen, did the trick and stopped the snow going into the run, and the green material windbreak on the pen fence meant that there was a snow drift up against it, which provided a bit more shelter from the blizzard.

I took the chickens out the nectarines that I got yesterday, I chopped them all up with some pear and apples and they ate the lot! Oh and some cooked sea bass skin from lunch - that went down a treat too. They also ate the whole packet of salad leaves - so it was nice that they haven't lost their appetite and were able to run around under cover.

KoKKo laid a egg today, so that means we have had three - I am still stunned together with others who hear that they are laying in this weather and in the shorter daylight hours.

I have made the most of it and done lots of cooking - a lot of which is going into the freezer in portion packs, just in case we get a famine of eggs at some point and also to spare our waists!

Pat managed to get to his bowls match but it was a bit hairy going! I was relieved when he arrived home safely a few minutes ago. The roads are slushy, and the forecast rain has not arrived, so if the temperature drops it will be very dodgy indeed. It is a struggle to get along our lane as it is! We really do need a 4x4 in winter conditions in these parts - there is so much bag press against them so, and in the summer with all the pretty twisty narrow lanes, etc., people must find it hard to imagine the driving conditions in the winter and the drifts that build up across the roads where there are no hedges along the fields.

If you do not have to travel it does look pretty though.

The raised beds are two railway sleepers high and I cleared it all yesterday

11.30am and the snow is still falling fast.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The visitors snowman

The girls next door but one's snowman

One more to add tomorrow

Sunrise on a snowy day




Garden scenes at 8am this morning


An intruders foot prints - a cat!



Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A walk up to the allotment in the snow

I decided to walk up to the allotment as the sun came out and it looked beautiful and sparkley outside.

It was really slippery outside so I had my big walking boots on, and I was glad of them.

I walked through the alley and just marvelled at how pretty everywhere looked with the addition of a covering of snow.

I stopped to take a photo or two on the way and I thought the boys might like to see a row of Herbies. One of the garages in the village specialises in VW's and I love looking at all the old beetles and camper vans in all the shades of the rainbow.

As I slithered up the hill (a little one) a young lady was being dragged along by a puppy. I asked if the puppy like the snow, and she said that it should do as it was a husky cross breed. It looked like a fluffy welsh border collie with the same markings. The puppy jumped all over me, and she loved chewing on my gloves, and being made a fuss of, she was so sweet. It is so nice living in a village and being able to just say 'Hello' and have a little chat. When I lived in a town you dare not even look someone in the eye!

Not a soul was about and it was great fun to make footprints on virgin snow. For a change I went through the pedestrian side gate, rather than having to open the big swing gate to the farm. There was one set of foot prints - a man's big boots and a set of dog prints with small padded feet. So I took a guess that it was Tim and one of his dogs, the skittish spaniel. There were tractor tracks further up, so I knew one of the farms hands was out and about seeing to the pigs, and I heard their squeals.

Apart from that it was quiet. I loved walking up the track and making silly footprints. (I know, but wouldn't you like to act silly now and again when noone is about). I took some photos enroute, and will post them next - I have to download them from my camera, then resize them.

I walked up to the top to have a look at all the chickens in their various housings, but not one came out into their runs - but I don't blame them as mine didn't want to venture out into the snow either.

Standing and looking around me along the track, the allotments were transformed. All the weeds were hidden, and bits of junk covered in snow were transformed into pieces of art!

It was bitterly cold and I only meant to walk up there and straight back - but you know me better than that.

I walked up and down examining every inch of my lottie. No sign of rabbit prints in the snow - only pheasants. I thought I would find some rabbit prints - but not one, nor mice or rats or pigeons!

It was my intention of pulling up a purple sprouting broccoli plant from out of the cage, for my chickens. But it was bitterly cold, and I couldn't lift the frozen scaffold plank off the frozne ground, so I settled for pulling off some Sorrell leaves for them - I was prepared as I took a black sack with me!

I was just on my way out when old Geoff appeared with a hacksaw - he was off to get a stem of brussels sprouts! We hadn't seen each other since before Christmas, so it was nice to exchange greetings and to tell him of Luke's arrival, as he had been asking after Haruko last time I saw him.

On the way home there were more cheery greetings from other brave souls out and about.

Once back I saw to the chickens - the photos are posted below, and my neighbour and young son had made a snowman!

Scenes from my allotment today before the real snow set in!

Broad beans are surviving at the moment!


Cold horse manure bin - I must remember to cover that up!

Collapsed pig muck bin which I fixed whilst up there.

My footfalls

My fancy bit of plumbing to collect rain water off the shed

A view across top end of my allotment

Junk or art?

A few of the tractor boys toys!

A tatty old shed turns into a rustic gingerbread house

Views out across the fields from bottom of lottie

Gorgeous 'big' skys remind me of Australia - obviously without the snow!

Kits ploughed allotment

I am not putting one foot on that white stuff. Now who's being a chicken!!

What a wimp KoKKo - from ruling the roost to being a big girls blouse!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Too busy baking to write at the moment - might grab a minute later

Eggs - Total to date: 93 - Day 42 and Day 291 of Lukes growing! No sign of him making an appearance yet!

KoKKo 31(86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 31 (76grms) 12.12 2005 Personal best
Ginger 31 (78grms) 14.12.2005 Personal best

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cabbage lollies, peanut butter biscuits and choc chip cookies.

Eggs - Total to date: 90 - Day 40

KoKKo 30(86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 30 (76grms) 12.12 2005 Personal best
Ginger 30 (78grms) 14.12.2005 Personal best B

I am chasing around doing all the things a wife and mum has to do at Christmas, but it is great! No complaints this end.

Just one egg so far today when I cleaned them out and remade their bed half an hour ago. I think these chilly mornings and dark days are messing up their body clocks.

I had another bright idea today - this one is a success. I got three savoy cabbages last week from the village shop in the 'animal' box. I don't like to leave them on the floor of the open pen, although it is nice and clean with the wood chips, I do not want them leaving bits around which might encourage vermin, or any smells, so I have been putting it in a cage - which they peck at, but don't seem as keen at doing so, as they were when I hung up the big plants.

So this is what I invented....

Cabbage lolly pop

They love it - they can have a tug of war and it bends and wobbles - keeps them amused

They can all get around it so no one gets their neck pecked and has to wait their turn

They pull off dainty little bits and the leaf ribs stay on the cabbage so no big lumps for me to pick up!

They seem to really enjoy it and are clucking away to each other.

Think I will patent this one!

Have you noticed any difference in their condition. I was looking at them and the sun was shining on their feathers, and realised that they now have a lovely coat of feathers - all different shades too. They have filled out a bit and look really healthy and fluffy. When I look at the first photos their feathers were dull, and not so shiny, and uneven probably because they were still growing them. Now they look glossy and shine in the sun, and no more bald bits around their necks - lovely.

Another egg this afternoon - just off to give them their 1/3rd tin of sweetcorn. I love watching them go crazy for that, and they peck at it so fast to see if they can get more than the others it is a continunal rat tat tat - really rapid!

I have got a loaf of bread just doing it's first proving, and whilst that is happening I am off to make peanut butter biscuits as some chocolate chip cookies - thanks to a recipe from Kate off I will add it to my links when I have finished my cooking tonight.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Good Morning - You'll think I'm mad when you read what I have been doing today.

Eggs - Total to date: 88 - Day 39

KoKKo 29(86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 30 (76grms) 12.12 2005 Personal best
Ginger 29 (78grms) 14.12.2005 Personal best B

It is almost like a winter wonderland outside. The ground is frozen rock solid, and there is a dusting of snow every where and it looks very pretty.

The girls had somehow managed to squeeze out the door from their eglu this morning, I closed it with the handle but didn't lock it, my hands were so cold. Their run is totally fox proof, so it didn't really matter.

They were chattering with excitement to see me arriving with their warm water and warm breakfast - or was it chattering beaks with the cold. I do not think the latter. In a covered run, in a sheltered position, and wearing duvets, they looked as warm as toast and certainly warmer than me!

They didn't seem in any hurry to go out into the snow covered pen this morning and I don't blame them. And there were two lovely large warm eggs in the nest for me -so who needs gloves!

I am off to make some pastry for my mince pies. Pat got me a large orange from the village shop (for grated zest for the pastry) and was a bit shocked that it was 60p. We have been self sufficient with my home grown and now frozen veggies and summer fruits etc with only buying fresh apples and pears and bananas to supplement them, so he was out of touch with the prices of out of season fruit. Still it is Christmas! I am going to freeze them uncooked for a change - to help save our waistline, as they are always a temptation - due to all the brandy that I put in the mincemeat!

Pat has just surfaced so I am off for breakfast. Have a good day, and maybe catch up with you later - still waiting for THE CALL.

Lunch update

Whilst waiting for the garlic and herby roast chicken legs, roast tatties and the steamer to finish - I am grabbing a few minutes to update this.

I decided on impulse to go up the lottie and plant those peas I bought on Friday, especially as Pat came home with a reminder from Sheila, via her daughter Tracey who works in the village shop! They have had theirs in for three weeks - which I knew as they were planting them when I took the Jostaberry bush down for Sheila which I had grown from a cutting.

So, with snow on the frozen ground, I have probably broken every rule in the book by doing so. Dressed like Micheline man with so many layers on, and a big black puffa jacket on that Pat found in the bottom of the wardrobe, off I went walking like a Sumo wrestler. (Joke Haruko, I mean those sumo wrestler outfits that you get on It's a Knockout type programmes).

No one was daft enough to be up there, but the good thing about frozen ground is that I could get my little car up the track without slipping!

It was 28f today and the wind chill factor up the lottie was minus lots I wouldn't wonder. It is amazing how warm you get working hard though isn't it - just the feet and hands suffer a bit even clad in layers of socks and gloves.

I got out my little ladies spade and the hoe, put on my kneeling pads and took a dibber to plant the seeds. Ground like concrete. I would have needed a pick axe! The the light bulb appeared out of the corner of my eye and I had an idea.

In a previous posting you will read that after the grandchildren had a go at clearing the raised bed that held the tomatoes, I had to dig it over as it was a tad bit trampled, and I put some of the cardboard box that the Eglu came in on top to keep the weeds down. Sooooooooo I took off all the snow covered lumps of wood that were holding it down, and prised it off the soil and underneath it wasn't frozen. There were frozen bits of compost stuck to the underside of the carboard but the bed was fine. So I planted them in two blocks in that bed and then covered them up with the cardboard. If we do get a bad winter that might protect them a bit, but I will have to read up about the winter sowing of peas. I figured that I could always take the carboard off later, and if we get lots of rain it will rot anyway.

Once that was done I didn't feel like going home as the sun had come out and I had warmed up. So I thought it would be a good time to dig a trench or two where the climbing beans would go.

Last year I tried an experiment and grew some without digging a winter trench and filling it with household waste, and just top dressed them with well rotted manure, and I sowed a later crop that I had dug a trench for - albeit a bit late, in the Spring.

The trenched crop did brilliantly and I didn't need to water them, and the yield was magnificent. The others failed the first time, due to lack of rain, late frost, whatever, but the second sowing worked, and although the Cherokee Trail of Tears produced a late and abundant crop, the other climbing beans were a disappointing failure.

(Back from lunch)

So with the aformentioned memory in mind, I set too with my spade. It was hard breaking through the soil and it was frozen a spit deep, but once I got going, I got the knack of slicing down slim slices - like slicing a cake, and it came out in neat pieces. These I stacked up either side of the trench which is two spits deep and two lady spades wide. It was still hard work and took me ages to do. In the end I only managed one trench 22feet long. I had a couple of sacks of chicken guano and household waste and some dead flowers all mixed with shredded paper and some newspaper from the chickens dropping tray. All of which I used to line the trench, so I was very proud of myself for doing that and felt great - aching, but great.

Whilst doing all those chores and particlarly when digging out the trench I had a robin for company. First he sat of the corrugated iron fence panel in the front of the pig muck compost bin. It had come a bit adrift from one of the stakes and as he alighted and sat there it moved in the breeze and he looked like he was balancing on a piece of wood bobbing about on the current of a stream. He waited until I had dug out quite a strip before coming to explore for bugs or worms.

I had a few stems from the remains of the broccoli plants that I had tied up for the chickens so walked right down the bottom of my plot to the big compost bin next to the field where I put the hard to rot down waste and the perrenial weeds. It is amazing how quickly it does drop down in a few month. When you mound it up as high as I do, you think that there will never be room for next years - but there is. It does help that is is enormous!

The robin joined me and flitted around wherever I walked which made me smile.

It all looks pretty and neat down that end. I paced out the meadow area that was this years project that is edged with flower borders with cuttings in them. The actual meadow is approx 14 yards by 8 yards, and it looks green and lush, and just perfect for the chickens. I stood for a while debating whether it is feasible to put fencing above the the two sides of corrugated panels that are there already, and the chicken wire fencing that lines the other two sides. There are 3 'gates' of iron panels too, so I would have to do something flexible and easily removable for those. I just thought it would be such a nice area for them to free range whilst I am working up there, but I need to ensure that can not escape my plot obviously!

Walking back up the plot I noticed the changes that this last lot of hard frost and snow has made. There is now dead foliage appearing on the flowers stems which I can cut down and compost. The rows of broad beans looked a bit bowed under the snow and frost, but I am sure they will recover (fingers crossed). The remaining parsnips were well frozen into the soil, but I have a few in compost at home. The sorrel and perpetual spinach and chard seem not to have been affected in the slightest.

The fenced off areas seemed to be a bit more sheltered than up the top end where I was digging, so perhaps I should have tackled the trenches there first!

Off to eat a choc ice before it melts - back later

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Seed exchange - flying lessons - troubles with photos - now sorted

Eggs - Total to date: 82 - Day 36

KoKKo 28(86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 27 (76grms) 12.12 2005 Personal best
Ginger 27 (78grms) 14.12.2005 Personal best

It is only just 11am I have crammed a day’s work into that time already, so I am pausing to take a minute to chat to you.

Have you looked at the forums relating to gardening, poultry keeping, etc ? There are some really interesting ones and the topics are great. Not at all the same, and so many good ideas – it can become quite addictive reading them.

Passion flower 15th December just coming into flower!

I have found out that seeds last a lot longer than it says on the packet if you keep them properly – someone was having success with 10 year old seeds.

Another use for my plastic milk bottles which I already use for seedlings pots, crop protection, chicken food holders, water holders, storage for all sorts of things, carriers for flowers and foliage to keep them in tip top condition before I use them, weights to anchor plastic and fleece cloches – and more!

Another chap on a forum used them in a different way for plant pots whereby you use the biggest milk bottles, cut a flap in the bottom end leaving it attached, using the capped end as the bottom where you plant your plant. Then by pushing a piece of wood through the handles to join them all up (a pallet plank is the right size for the big 6 pint containers) you can carry them about, make rows of them into a raised bed etc. Brilliant idea. There are only 2 of us so we only get the 4 pint containers so I will limit myself to my uses for now.

I have applied to join the River Cottage seed exchange which WiZer left a comment about, but I may have missed the boat this year, but there is always next.

The chickens are still giving me great pleasure. They are getting a bit too canny now and it is hard to get a photo of them performing their tricks and escapades. As soon as they hear the back door close they run from wherever they are to march up and down by the pen gate to see what I am up too, and start shouting out to get my attention.

It was breezy this morning and Adelaide was practicing her flying technique. She ran from one end of the pen to the other flapping her wings and doing little jumps – practising landing procedures I think. Then she had a spell of doing vertical take offs – not quite up to Harrier Jump Jet standards yet, but she is getting there.

By clipping one wing I expected her to be a bit lopsided, but she didn’t seem to be! They don’t seem to have any inclination to try and escape the pen at present, they have lots of room to run around and lots of things to keep themselves amused.

I visited the friend from whom I got the chickens this morning (from her husband) and took my computer to show her the photos, as she can’t get out and about. She loved them, and laughed good naturedly at how I treat them as pets. She was very surprised to hear that they were laying this time of year, so I am very lucky that they are. She thinks that it might be down to their varied diet and attention! Whatever it is, I am grateful that they are – it is egg and wedges day today, and we have some really large beauties to eat – yummy.

I tried the triplets with bread and marmite on my return. They took a peck each of it from my hand, but when I put it down for them they took one peck and left it, then followed me about getting in the way of my raking the woodchips, and getting the eggs out of the egg port.

Not knowing why they didn’t wolf it up like other chickens according to the Omlet forum, I wondered if they did not like my home made granary bread, or if it was because I did not butter it first or maybe it was on too thick or just maybe it was because it was not the brand name Marmite! I left them to it, and decided to go back in 10 minutes and it they hadn’t eaten it I would throw it away, so as not to encourage wild birds into their pen it was only one thick slice. I needn’t have worried – in less than 5 minutes the whole lot was gone!

Clematis that flowered in the summer doing a repeat performance 15th December 2005

I noticed that in the raised bed outside the patio window, a clematis bud has opened and is about to flower. There was also a passion flower lower down doing the same, and in Maxine’s flower bed there is a rose called Mothers Day, that has been flowering its little heart again all month despite the freezing weather conditions, so I took few photos to show you.

Maxine's Mothers Day - Still flowering its little heart out.

Photo downloading is still out of action - maybe they are updating or something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I haven't forgotten you - just so very busy - Christmas stuff and all that.

Eggs - Total to date: 79 - Day 35 at 7.25am today.

KoKKo 27(86grms) 29.11.2005 New personal best
Adelaide 26 (76grms) 12.12 2005 New personal best
Ginger 26 (78grms) 14.12.2005 New personal best laid today

I doubt that KoKKo could ever beat her personal best. The eggs are averaging 69grams to mid 70's and once a week I get a biggy from them.

Have you looked at any of the gardening forums. There are suggestions for seed swapping on a couple of them.

Grow Your Own's grapevine forum is starting up a designated site, but for now some of us are doing it unoffically.

If any of you want to swap seeds, just leave a comment. I have some packets of Sarah Raven flower seeds, and some other brands. I have some veggie seeds both on order and saved if you fancy swopping.

I expect that at least one person that reads this blog will set one up on his own website too.

Not much going on at the allotment, and I have probably brainwashed you enough with the chickens' daily antics, so am scaling down a bit in the run up to Christmas.

I will be posting the daily egg tally and updating it throughout the day. I will try and write a bit here and there, but like all you - or maybe it is just me - I am multitasking so many tasks that I am seriously going to have to prioritise.

By this time of the month I would usually have all my Christmas cards written and sent, the Christmas wreaths and flower arrangments that I make as presents done, any little hampers and other presents either made, or bought would be wrapped and labelled. Thank goodness I cooked all the mincemeat, puddings, and a cake a while back. But there is still so much to do - Pat's presents to buy, and cards to deliver around the village. And I haven't got my overseas ones made or sent yet!

And Luke is now overdue, so am on tenderhooks and am not straying far from the phone, waiting for the summons to whizz up to Newcastle. The house sitter is on standby, even though it will be just for one or two nights! And I am making up the daily feeds, and treats, and water with citricidal in for when we dash off.

Probably a bit OTT, but if someone is doing me a favour I like to make it as simple as possible.

I am off now to see how much of my 'to do' list I can tick off today. Then normal service here can be resumed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Early morning egg total - more musings later

Eggs - Total to date: 76 - Day 34 at 6.35am today.
KoKKo 26(86grms)
Adelaide 25(76grms) New personal best
Ginger 25 (76grms)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Seeds, empty bed, and a lovely neighbour

Eggs - Total to date: 74 - Day 33

KoKKo 25(86grms)
Adelaide 25(76grms) New personal best
Ginger 24 (76grms)

Once Pat has gone to golf, the plan is to take a walk up the allotment today. I so miss working up there. In the summer it got to be a daily routine, and you get used to being out in the fresh air, and with so much too do. (You can remind me of these words when I am bemoaning that fact in the summer!)

Of course having the daily routine of looking after the chickens is good, because I end up spending quite a bit of time working in the garden, but there is only so much you can do in the winter months isn’t there.

I want to have a look to see how my broad beans are doing up the lottie – I hope that they have not been decimated by the pheasants or pigeons or the weather. Having been told that the aforementioned do not eat them when they have grown, but go for the seeds, they should be alright, but it is nice to check. I completely forgot to look at them last time I was up there. It was bitterly cold and we were in a bit of a rush – as usual.

The farmers have been out in the fields ploughing lately, so maybe those other plots up the lottie have been ploughed too. Maybe Mike my new lottie neighbour will have brought his fencing and put it up. There is usually something to see that is different.

I went into the garage yesterday afternoon to get some seeds from my car that have been there all summer tucked behind the back seat, together with lots of other useful things. I thought it time that I sorted everything out, and wanted to see what vegetable seeds I had left before I ordered any more. Having started to order some ‘special offers’ it is very easy to get carried away and end up with duplicates or far more of any one variety than you need. This was my biggest failing last year.

The first year I had only tamed half the allotment so did not get too carried away with seeds. Last year, when I cultivated the whole lot – I did! Having ordered seeds over the winter, I put them 'somewhere safe' where I would remember, then promptly forgot about them. Then when I was out and about on my travels I would see packets of seeds on special offer that took my fancy and would buy them, leaving me with several varieties of runner beans, carrots, lettuce – well all sorts really.

I got carried away looking at the heritage sites, and organic sites, and I gave a list to Haruko to choose some for my Christmas present, and she bought me the lot bless her – which was wonderful - a year's worth of free food, and I have two packets left to use this year.

The spring weather this year was disastrous with the late frosts killing off a lot of plants, the torrential rain rotting seeds and seedlings alike, so I was in fact, grateful for the duplications.

I did however, make the classic beginners mistake of sowing too much of everything. Having not realised that seeds do last longer than it says on the packet, and that you really do not need to sow 150 fine broccoli seeds – all of which germinated. Ditto the other brassicas. Finding myself swamped with so many young plants that I had spent ages prinking out, then putting into pots, and finally at planting stage not having the space for them all – even with a 330 foot plot – I gave most of them away. Which was nice for me and the recipients, but I did waste a lot of time, energy and money doing so.

This year I hope to find a balance, and grow even more sorts of vegetables as well as flowers, but in fewer quanities of each sort.

With this in mind my seed hunt ended up with my clearing out most of the garage again, as well as my car and I have typed up a list of seeds that I have, their ‘use by’ dates, sowing dates, and put them in alphabetical order. I then added the seeds that I have ordered to the list, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I may have some tucked away in a box in my pig shed up the lottie, so that is my main mission today.

Then I can update my list, sit down, and actually make sensible choices of which seeds I need to order.

I found three packets of organic parsnip seeds, and they have a use by date of 2007, and as they are still sealed in their packets I was wondering if I can use them next year. It is tattooed on my brain that you have to use parsnip seeds the year that you bought them as they are hard to germinate. If that is so, then I wonder why the organic seed company that these came from have given them a life span of 3 years after they were harvested. I shall be trusting the company that packaged them and use them next year. We love parsnips and eat a lot, and I put in three rows this year and we do not have an enormous amount left.

Timing seems to be of the essence with me. Something that I must concentrate on. I got so carried away that I planted too much too soon, so that is something else for me to be strict about. I guess I was swept up in the excitement of having all this space and wanted to fill it up quickly. Planning - by choosing different varieties of the same vegetables so that you have an early and a late crop is something that I only did with the potatoes and salads, so that is another thing that I have to concentrate on.

You can never get bored with growing your own food can you? I have learnt so much in my two year’s learning curve, mainly of what not to do, and it feels like bits of a jigsaw puzzle are falling into place each time I do. I never was much good at puzzles, losing bits, and trying to do the skies and other boring bits drove me to distraction, a bit like my gardening really, but when you finally find pieces that work right and click into place it is very rewarding isn’t it?


My trip to the allotment was cut short as I remembered an appointment I had in town at 12.30pm so I scooted up there before Pat went to golf and he was gone when I came back.

As usual it was very cold and the first thing I noticed was KC's old plot. The one that someone reserved long before they moved, and hadn't been touched. There were some brassicas there that I rather fancied for my chickens if the owner did not want them, but I had not see hide nor hair of the owner and the site remained untouched, neither had Geoff.

But it must have been over this weekend that someone had paid a visit and dug over the patch were the brassicas were. Woe was me. But then I saw them all piled up in their compost bin! I didn't think that they would mind me helping myself to three out of the huge pile that was dumped in their, and I will own up to doing so when I get to see the new tenant. I will even replace it with some of my rubbish if he wishes, I get lots. No one was up there that I could ask to pass the message on if they saw him. So I got three brussels stems, minus the brussels of course, but with lots of dog eared top leaves. The were the plants that got chewed to ribbons by the caterpillars in the summer, so it just goes to show that apart from looking ragged you can still get a crop off them if you leave them in.

Mike had a pile of paving slabs on his plot ready for a shed base, and the remaing plots hadn't yet been ploughed.

I have to say that I am rather proud of how neat mine looks with the grass paths and beds - even in winter it looks interesting.

I needn't have been concerned about my winter beans, apart from a nibble here and there from probably a slug, they look very healthy and strong - so far! I thought I had better put that in just in case.

I still have enough parsnips to see us through the winter, and the plot is relatively weed free. The areas we have dug over certainly are, and the rest if covered. The caterpillar cafe where the purple sprouting broccoli are, is a bit lop sided where the wind had blow over the middle support a tad bit, but it won't fall down as I had tied up both ends securely to metal poles - a bit like tethering a tent. I am so looking forward to my first meal of those spears. The plants are getting so tall and so purple, they look great. All that hard work picking off caterpillars by the hundred during the summer has paid off. Or did I really have to do so. Friends of mine left theirs to be eaten and they have recovered. Maybe I will try a comparison next year and see if there is any difference in the yield.

I didn't discover a single packet of vegetable seeds in my pig shed, so maybe they were all in the car. That is good news in a way, as I do not have as many and I had thought.

The cuttings I took look healthy and the un-named, unknown shrub cuttings which I think is a Fatshedera look brilliant, and have even come into flower which gave me the clue to what they are. They have the flower of ivy and the shiny leaf texture is like that of Fatsia Japonica. I do so hope that is what they are as they are great in flower arrangements.

When I got back from my appointment in town, my neighbour was just arriving with a bag of peeling for the chickens. She offered to look after them whilst we are away for a day or two in Newcastle when the baby finally arrives. I told her that they would be fine for 48 hours in their locked run, just so long as their water was changed if it froze. She said that she wanted to look after them as well as I do, to let them out into their pen, lock them up at night, and even clean them out! Isn't that kind. When I showed her the egg port door and opened it, right on cue was a lovely large warm egg so I gave that to her.

They won't need cleaning out whilst I am away, nor feeding as I can leave enough food for them, as chickens only eat what they need and their crops limit them to that amount. But my neighbour give them their daily treats, that will be nice, and of course be repaid with eggs!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fffffreezing fffffog

There is freezing fog here. The frost is so thick, icy, and slippery. The worst weather since I have had the chickens - 31 days. They will not let me put vaseline on their combs at the minute, so they will have to take their chances!

Staying in the warm till the temperatures rises a bit to write some Christmas cards - me that is not the chooks. Back later.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Allotment photos on 7th December 2005

Apart from the cockerels being in fine voice down the far end, and a few squawking pheasants (that reminds me I didn’t check my broad beans – oh blow) running about to avoid the pheasant shoots going on most days, nothing stirred.

You can see by the bright skies that it was bitterly cold and frosty - and slippery up the track.

Thought you might like to see a few of the other allotments for a change. It all looks rather neat in winter now that the frost has killed off the weeds.

This is Kit's my left hand side neighbour. See the deep tractor wheel trenches. Last time I went up there they were full to the brim with water, which has now drained leaving just a frozen bit at the bottom

This is Mike and Pat's - new neighbours on the right hand side. Virgin soil and nice new fence posts waiting for the chicken wire.

This was K & C's, half an allotment, now moved and someone else jumped in to take it over a couple of months before they gave it up. This was the best one - or half of one on the site. Haven't seen a soul on it since. I wish I knew who has taken it over though, as I would love to scrounge the caterpillar eaten greens for my chickens! I might ask Geoff when or if I see him to put a word in for me. Then again, he might want them for his son's chickens up the top end.

This is C and husbands' quarter of a plot.

A view of Geoff's which is next to Kit's

Some views of mine next.
There is still food in the raised beds and more in the open beds further down - didn't venture too far as it was icy and slippery and freezing and Pat was off to golf!

Sorrel and spinach which I tie up in bunches for the chickens so that they can keep amused and fit, jumping up high to get it!

The skeletal bushes in the fruit cage. I have high hopes of my first red and white currant crop this year.

Addie's been with some more muck which was quietly steaming. The white flecks are the hemp mixed in - hippy horses? This bin is 20ft long and I built it all by myself.

Caterpillar cafe was my next stop for broccoli plants for the chooks. I pulled up a few - sacrilege I know but there are lots more as you can see!

Getting tall aren't they? Wish they would hurry up and sprout purple bits, I can't wait!