Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Straight out of the oven and onto here - how's that for hot news?

What do you do with a glut of eggs?

Well to start with you can use half a dozen making a couple of cakes.

Mexican Mocha Cake - with nutmeg, mixed spices, and strong coffee - and if you split it in two and make a coffee cream filling. Yummy!

Or how about the cake on the right - Chocolate Orange Cake - with 150 grms of plain 80% cocoa solids, juice of an orange, and some orange oil.

Each one is baked in a 1kg loaf tin so they are HUGE and they freeze brilliantly.

You can have them as a slice of cake. Warm as a pudding with icecream or fresh cream or marscapone or creme fraiche.

How about a slice topped with fresh straberries and cream.

Once cool I will slice them up and freeze them in two slices per pack. - Just in case you turn up for tea.

You should smell my kitchen - and as Mr AL is out bowling - guess who got to lick the bowls. Hmmmmmmmmm (Much better than his sort LOL)

I think I deserve a rest now.

Soap, strawberries and beans

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Firstly here are the blocks of soap photos that you requested.

These bars of soap I made in a metal container lined with cling film. I made the top look like Cadbury Flake type bars. I am making soaps for a themed basket.

The soap is called Oatmeal and Lemon Scrub Bar. Its a 'wake you up bar with a scrubby texture and a fresh perfume' Medium soft with medium bubbles.

The above is the big block which was moulded in a ice-cream tub.

And here are the finished bars of soap ready to be wrapped up in a towel and stored for six weeks to cure.

This is the second batch I have made - the first was the St Clements soap which has now cured and I have just started using it.

Now a change of subject - Up the allotment

My total time spent up the allotment this season to date is 134¾ hours and under gardener has spent 39 hours (not all of his was working though!)

Today looked promising – rain and sunshine, so I put on lots of layers for all weathers – which was just as well as I got rained on, sunshine and a freezing wind. It proved to be a good day weather wise for working. So work I did.

The Norfolk Lasses had produced another four eggs!!! So I have a glut of eggs again!

They spent over four hours in the meadow today and they are doing a good job of weeding my flower borders. It is very tempting to let them out on the veggie patch – if only I could train them to eat the weeds and slugs and not touch the veggies!

From the left, KoKKo, Ginger and Adelaide tucking into some green grapes that I took them.

I didn’t know where to start today. I had decided to weed the carrot and parsnip rows of seedlings – but only the carrots have germinated and that is in the past few days. The ground was so sodden and soft that I decided I would do more harm than good so stayed off that area.

Weeding the edging was then the order of the day then. So I started along the strawberry bed – but got sidetracked. I looked at my four rows of what should be strawberries and there were more weeds than plants. And there were not a lot of weeds either! So once I finished edging that part I decided to weed between the strawberry plants – then decided that was silly, it was quicker to just dig up the survivors and plant them elsewhere – then to dig over the whole area when I am up to doing it.

So I went and got the wheel barrow and all the tools I needed and dug them up – then I had to decide where to put them. The plot was like a quagmire so I dare not tread on the earth – I only trod on the straberry patch to get the strawberry plants out because I am going to dig it over and then put grass seed down to extend the narrow pathway next to that bed and the gooseberries.

The only place they could go, was in the last raised bed next to the fruit cage. I hadn’t done anything to it this year as it still had some sorrel and spinach which I was giving to the chooks but it had now all gone to seed. The bed was also full of weeds and raspberry canes that had either self seeded in it or the runners had gone under the wooden pallet fence, under three feet of black plastic that I used as a path way and up inside the raised bed.

Under gardener had been promising to weed it for me and dig up the big docks that have appeared in the pathways – but he hasn’t done it yet. There was nothing else for it but to do it myself.

The raised bed had fallen to bits anyway – well the wooden sides had. So I just pulled them aside and got stuck in. It literally took a couple of hours to clear it, digging everything out so that I got the roots too.

Then I barrowed over 4 barrows full of pig and horse manure mix – very well rotted – and I dug that in. Then I planted the strawberry plants, and the last job was to build the raised bed sides. Again it was done Heath Robinson fashion with odd bits of wood I had to hand (the other bits had rotted). But I did it in the end. I wished that I had taken before and after photos – I only thought of it when I had almost finished the weeding.

But I am very proud of that I have done – and I am hoping that now I have saved the strawberry plants lives, they will reward me with some fruit this year.

After that it was time to go home – I can tell the time by when I need to take more painkillers he he. So I just had to lock the girls safely into their run and enclosure.

Then as I was walking back I got side tracked again. This time by the broad beans. I did an inspection for black fly – of which there were none, but I pinched the tops out as a precaution. I looked at the down trodden broad bean stalks and noticed that they had pods on them. In my mind, broad bean plants are plants with attitude. They survive the most inhospitable conditions, have the prettiest of cream and dark purple flowers, and their pods stick up to the sky instead on hanging down towards terra firma. I can’t think of anything else that does that. Not peas or dwarf beans, or tomatoes.

Anyway, before I digress yet again, I decided to taste one of the small ones raw. I have never eaten one raw, and usually I am not too keen on broad beans but only grow them for the under gardener as he loves them.

I got a real surprise as they tasted wonderful. So I picked a couple of pounds of them, and we had some for lunch. (The ones in the photo above are the raw ones).

I have vacuum packed some for later.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Links at the bottom right hand side - Gremlins on my site

Since the system was last backed up, for some reason all my links and archives now appear right at the bottom right hand side - so you need to scroll down.

I do not have a clue why that has happened. Hopefully when they next do the archiving in June they will pop back up the top!

Today was a no go area for doing anything outside.

We have been battered with lots of torrential rain and hailstone storms, with about 10 minutes’ intervals of sunshine.

Still I had acupuncture this morning, so was not in a fit state to do much work outside anyway.

Instead I have been busying myself making a batch of soap.

This is what it looked like once I had melted the oils and added the lye

– looks like a nice toffee mixture doesn’t it.

Once it had reached trace, I added oat bran, cocoa powder, lemon oil and Clary Sage essential oils.

I now have to leave it for 24-48 hours before I can turn it out and cut it up, then leave it a further four to six weeks before it is cured and ready to be used.

I am already researching what will be my next batch of soap. It will be nice to have a selection for use at home and as presents.

I no longer use shower gel, but pure soap instead, and I am seriously considering making my own shampoo – but it will be in a soap block, but one that is bubbly. I have tried some from a famous soap shop and it was so hard you couldn’t work up a lather, which made it difficult to know how much to use each time.

Lunch was fairly basic today, with chunky cod steaks, which I topped with a crunchy topping, made out of a crust of my wholemeal seedy loaf crushed into breadcrumbs, and mixed with a pesto paste made with virgin olive oil, and basil leaves, then baked in the oven for 20 minutes which was just about the length of time that it took the thawed out potato, carrot, and pumpkin mash to cook and get a nice crunchy top too.

My next task is to make some biscuits – we have run out. I did ask the boss man if he could get some ginger biscuits whilst he was in the village shop – but he refused – he likes mine better. So off I go again to make some.

I made the cookies with the recipe I used before, but omitted the chocolate and added jumbo oats and some ginger. The recipe is so very simple and adaptable - next time I am going to add walnuts and dates.

The bad weather has not let up all day, so I really hope that we get a dry day tomorrow, things to do!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Great Bank Holiday Monday

Monday, 29 May 2006

The weather was dry today so we took the opportunity to go up the allotment to do a few jobs.

Under gardener volunteered to dig out the dreaded dock weeds that had sprung up around the fruit bushes by the fence – they really are hard to get out, even though we have had so much rain – as the roots are massive and you have to make sure that you do not leave a single bit or they just grow again.

He also decided to weed whilst he was there – and accidentally, when digging an edge to the grass path, went off line by about two feet and dug up the path I was creating. So we will have to jump up and down on it and re-sow with grass seed – no big deal.

The grass is germinating and a fringe of green is showing on the path that I sowed. It’s great when it finally grows, and I know that in a couple of months time I will have a lovely lawned pathway.

There are more flag irises in flower, and the rain really did perk things up. With the wind we have had though it has already dried out on top to make a hard crust.

I spent most of the time mowing the lawns – they really had got long, so I had to do them three times on different settings as the old mower kept stalling.

Mike and Pat were up there a short time, doing a bit of weeding and putting in some runner beans they got at a car boot sale.

As husband was digging where the fruit bushes were, I got him to dig up some autumn fruiting raspberry bushes for them. I only need three really, I have too much of most things – I just put them in to fill the space, so I can be more selective now that I have got the plot under control. They were very grateful for them and the others are growing rapidly. They should get fruit in the Autumn ones this year as I planted them last year, so they had put on a lot of growth, and when I pruned them early in the year, they each had several stems.

Adelaide, KoKKo and Ginger has laid four eggs between them again today, they have done that a few times lately. They really enjoy free-ranging over a big area, and just love digging in the flower borders. When I mowed the meadow, I thought that the girls would run or panic, but they did not bat an eyelid, in fact the reverse. They were really reluctant to move out of my way and spent the whole time right in front of the cutters pecking at the insects that the mowed grass must have been disturbing. I kept trying to shoo them, but they did not flinch at all. I had to resort the fencing them in one area whilst I cut the grass in the other area. They do make me laugh so. They are real characters.

I have just had to rush outside and shut the Bantams in as the skies went black and the rain fell down, and we had sheets of lightening.

Dilly and Freckles are still sitting tight on the nest, so I will leave them to it. The window cleaner hasn’t left me any pheasant eggs – but he does not live locally, so it is not a surprise.

Talking of pheasants and eggs; yesterday the pheasant up the allotments finally got off her nest and took eight little pheasants off into the woods. What a happy ending.

Yesterday I didn’t spend much time up the allotment as I gardened at home, so I did not notice that slugs had got to my netted raised seed beds and feasted on my mini cauliflower plants. It has only happened yesterday or the day before. So I am trying out an experiment. Someone mentioned that they heard on the radio that using rhubarb leaves was a good deterrent for slugs.

As I had cut some yesterday, I have used them around the dwarf bean plant and what’s left of the cauliflowers seedlings.

With the rhubarb stalks I decided to try another experiment with the oranges that were in the animal box.

So last night I chopped up the rhubarb, and shredded and equal weight of oranges, and added granulated sugar – (again the total combined weight of the fruit.) All of which were mixed together and left overnight.

This afternoon I added the juice of two lemons, gently brought it to boiling point and left it boiling until setting point.

We have just had some on home made wholemeal seeded bread and it really tastes nice. So much so that I might make another batch tomorrow – if I have enough oranges!

The rain had done wonders for the shallots

And Onions

And potatoes

At the bottom on the left is the trampled and chewed cardoon

As you can imagine, I am feeling rather tired now, so am spending what is left of the day relaxing.

I hope that you all had a good weekend too.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday - a day of rest?

Well it was meant to be. A relaxing morning, then cooking a full roast lunch with all the trimmings, and a 'couch potato' afternoon.

But guess what happened - the sun came out, so I spent 2 hours working in the front garden, 'tweaking' it here and there, doing a bit of weeding, pruning - and the time just flew by.

Under gardener mowed the lawns for me, and went in to watch the cricket and other sports.

I managed to persuade him to take me up the lottie to dump all the grass cuttings and the two huges sacks of my garden debris before lunch. So we had a nice big pile to go into the big compost bins that I remade - and Addie can put all the horse manure on top, so we will have the perfect compost bins of layers of vegetation and manure. Really perfect stuff for next year!

I bought some layers mash for the chickens. They had been eating organic pellets, but they really did not like them, so I reverted to the layers mash GM free etc. but not Soil Association approved, but they do not contain any chemicals. The bantams had some this morning and dived on them and ate as though they hadn't eaten for weeks.

When I took some up for the three girls they stuffed themselves silly too! They are still laying three eggs a day, and they are getting even bigger! They also liked the melon, peaches, and apples I left them too - it is so nice to leave them looking so happy.

The plants didn't look like they had been chewed any more and there were half a dozen irises ou. I didn't take my camera as it was a quick visit.

All the tomato plants that I planted yesterday looked settled in and perky - we must have a lot of wind last night as the milk containers that I had put on them had been blown off. Not all of them but about four. I didn't secure them with a small cane as I thought the netting might have provided some protection from the wind.

The land was far to wet still to work on it - so it was no hardship to come home and cook lunch.

You will recall the there are new people on the three allotments next to mine - yippee - should be less weeds going to seed hopefully. Mike and his wife have been working on theirs since St Michaelmas Day, when they put some marker posts in and had the land ploughed. This year they have sowed some potatoes, onions, and planted apple trees at the top end, which they are going to grow as cordons. The raspberry canes that I gave them are really looking healthy - and they have a rhubarb plant too, which is also planted there.

They have now got their shed erected, but there was a bit of a mix up with the border lines, so he has now moved his posts over, and started to put up nice new chicken wire.

The next plot is shared by two brothers and their wives - retired I think. They, and the next plot, had their land ploughed, cultivated and rotorvated but one of the tractor lads and it look wonderful. But the did not do anything to them, and left the brambles at the bottom end by the track, and these have now taken off.

But last week the 'brothers' turned up, but didn't reply when we called out a cheery 'hello'. They spent quite a bit of time talking and looking but not doing anything for first time.

On the second visit, they arrived about an hour after us, and sat and looked and chatted, stopped for a tea break, and started banging sticks in, in great earnest, attacked bits of string. Then they had another tea break, and a smoke. This went on for a couple of hours and then they went off for lunch.

They have planted some potatoes, and they have had a wonderful brand new shed installed - very posh. Today, one of the 'brothers' and his wife were there setting up canes for climbing beans - they are selling plants in the village shop which looke really healthy.

They were putting them up the same way that I did - but I had to secretly smile to myself which was a bit naughty of me. The put the canes in first and crosed them over, then they wound the string around each cane about two feet from the ground. They were attempting to put some plastic fencing around them as I left.

The thing is, their rows are being planted from east to west, and we get lots of winds, so I am truly hoping that they frame will be strong enough.

On the plot next to them is the chap who sent his soil away for testing and is going to plant his plot on a principle that he read about on the www whereby you plant a clover then plant through it.

He has only been up there once, and the only sign of that are the tall bamboos that he has planted in a big square block at the front end next to the track. I guess the theory is that the bamboo with grow and block out the light and smother the weeds - I hope that they are no the invasive sort for his sake. I am really interested in how this plot is going to develope. It will be brilliant if there is a method whereby you don't have to spend hours on end digging out dock weeds with roots that reach down up to three feet, thistles that have roots that run under the ground for yards and pop up all over - and the deadly bindweed!

After lunch, the clouds blew away, so I took the opportunity to pressure wash the bantams house inside and out, and their perches. Dilly and Freckles were not amused, but soon cheered up when they saw the layers mash, and some chopped up fat from the pork. Then afterwards some melon. I thought that I would get the pressure washer out before they issue hose pipe bans. I don't use a hose pipe for watering the garden - ever - my plants have to survive without extra help from me, I can't be doing with spending hours watering, life's too short, and if the grass goes a bit pale or a bit yellow in the height of the summer, then I don't mind, it just means that we mow it less, and it soon goes green again after the next shower of rain.

After washing and drying and redoing the bantams house and run, I decided to pressure wash the patio under the pergola. It had got a bit green over winter, so I spent another hours cleaning the slabs and they look like new now. My next job will be to pressure wash all the paths - depending on how I feel. But if the sun is shining tomorrow I will be up the allotment weeding.

Hope you are all having a great Bank Holiday.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Who would spend two hours in torrential rain up an allotment?

Saturday, 27 May 2006

I think that I must be ‘nutty’ or eccentric. The reason being that I felt really poorly when I got up – silly shingles pain got worse – Doh. We had the most horrendous rain (it only stopped at 5pm), but I decided that I would go up the allotment.

I had to pop in to the village shop to get a bag of ericaceous compost for my little blueberry plant, and wanted to give T a big bag of compost to take home to her mum in ‘payment’ for the six Money Maker and Gardeners Delight tomato plants that appeared on my doorstep yesterday.

Whilst there – there was another animal box, with oranges, tangerines, grapes, a leek, a bag of stalks (off the cauliflowers) a few ripe apples and a few peaches.

The leek, stalk, and some fruit that was really past it went straight on the compost up the allotment, and the peaches, and some grapes, the KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger got when I put them back in their run, after two and a half hours.

Under gardener came with me, expecting the rain to stop – but it didn’t. Still it didn’t stop me. We dug out one compost bin of well rotted horse manure. (Well muscles dug, as he said I shouldn’t, but I removed and weeds that had grown through it from the next allotment – bindweed – the roots were like spaghetti deep in the manure).

He trundled it down to the netted area that now has four rows of peas starting to grow in it, and tipped it out for me and I dug it in – in rows.

I then planted out eighteen of my tomato plants leaving lots of space in between so that I can easily hoe between them. I slipped over each one a plastic milk bottle carton, and we banged in stakes behind each one.

The reason, (in case it is not obvious) that I plant everything in rows, North to South, is so that the plants get the optimum of sunshine on them from East to West. I the rows were the other way around they would be shading each other.

I also planted out more white, black, and ball shaped courgette plants, and some ridge and bush cucumbers. I have about 30+ tomato plants hardening off at home to go in later.

By this time we had spent over two hours up there and were soaked through even with ‘waterproof’ jackets on.

The chickens had had a whale of a time scratching about in the borders of the meadow and feasting on the worms. When I went to put them in their run (well I don’t actually have to put them in, I just call them and they come running) Adelaide and Ginger were drenched, their feathers really dark brown, with the white under layer of feathers showing which made them look striped.

At first I thought KoKKo might have escaped, but when I looked in the nest box, she was just standing up having laid and egg. She was perfectly dry which made the other two look really scraggy, but it is amazing how quickly they dry out – especially as they have a long dry run.

I threw in some peaches and apples for them and left them happily pecking away at them.

The track was flooded and slippery, so left under gardener to lock the shed and manoeuvre the car down the track, whilst I went on ahead opening the gates.

The rain was pouring down all the time so I could not possibly take photos today but here are some I took yesterday.

The top 18 inches or so of this Achillea eaten by a deer! If it grows again, the flowers are a wonderful golden yellow and flat like plates and dry so easily to use in arrangements all through the winter too.

Some surviving broad bean plants that did not get trampled and flattened, with nice fresh pods on them. I think that I will pick them small and eat the pods too.

This was a gorgeous red perennial opium poppy - one of several eaten!

This was one of them before someone had it for a meal!

My first yellow flag just opening - I hope that the rain does not ruin it. I have some purple ones too just about ready to open.

Luckily the browsers, peckers, and nibblers do not like gooseberries.

But the rabbits do like Rudbeckias - you can see how it has stood up its hind legs to eat as high up as it can - but hopefully as this grows into a giant it will still flower.

Lollo Rosso, loose leaf and Webbs Wonderful lettuce, some ready to start picking.

I will thin out the rows of Rocket, re-plant some in the netted area with the peas and tomatoes, and pull some up for eating now.

My second yellow flag iris with the promise of more buds to open.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Indoor pastimes today - baking

I didn’t get to do all the things that I had planned, but have achieved quite a lot today.

My Mr Muscles helped me move the chicken run over so the girls now have lush grass again – three days is all it takes to eat a run full!

Some photos of the damage done to the ‘top end’ as they call it here of my plot.

Well there would have been some photos here if it would load them - which it won't so you will have to wait until tomorrow - sorry.

I have made four more jars of Rhubarb and Ginger jam, and as one jar wasn’t quite full I had some and it tastes as good as the last – which was delish. This time I used freshly picked rhubarb but as the stems were quite green, but tender, I decided to get some out of the freezer. So I used half fresh and half frozen but followed the recipe otherwise. The frozen rhubarb had 100grms (4oz) of very dark sugar added at the time the raw stems were frozen, so I used that as well and kept my fingers crossed that it would set.

In fact it was the quickest jam that I have ever made, and it came to setting point in 10 – 15 minutes. It is a darker colour because of the dark sugar, which also gives it a slightly different taste – but it is great. So my preserved present box is filling up nicely. I will be running out of jam jars this year I should think as we haven’t even got to the summer berries season yet, which is when I make most of my jams. They look they are going to give me a bumper crop too.

As the rain totally wiped out any work outside, I have had a baking day. My kitchen smells wonderfully of not only the jam, but bread, and cakes. I made two x 2lb loaf tin sized cakes. Pear, apple and my dried grapes sponge cake, and banana and dried grapes cake. I had not used my dried fruit before in a cake and was a bit wary, as I did not dry them out to the really hard dried stage, but they were wrinkled. I need not have worried though as there were so juicy and the cakes were so yellow from KoKKo, Adelaide and Gingers’ eggs. The cakes I will slice up and seal two slices to bag and freeze some – otherwise we will just ‘pig out’ on them. It is handy having them in the freezer like that as they can be taken out and they thaw very quickly. Great if you get unexpected visitors, or fancy some cake, or they can be used as a quick pudding.

I still have quite a few eggs left so I am waiting for a flash of inspiration – which I daresay will occur when I am supposed to be sleeping!

I had a lovely surprise on my door mat outside this morning. A box of tomato plants sent from my friend and delivered by her daughter. A couple of them are in flower, but as they are not as tall as they are supposed to get, I might take the flowers off.

If the weather is kind tomorrow I will definitely be planting them out up the allotment.

We took a ride out in the pouring rain to get some layers mash for the chickens – with the Bank Holiday this weekend I was not sure that their food would last. They have been eating pellets which were given to me when I adopted the bantams. The bantams are not keen on them at all. Ginger, Adelaide and KoKKo will eat anything, but they did not seem all that enthusiastic about them, so I decided to go back to layers mash.

On the way back we popped into the village shop to thank my friend for delivering the tomato plants and to stock up on fresh fruit – roll on summer. Whilst there, I got an animal box of ripe pears, a couple of ripe peaches, a cauliflower (which will get composted together with the three parsnips) and there was a bag of cabbage leaves and two apples!

The bantams soon polished off one of the ripe pears and the three big girls will be positively jumping up and down with glee when they see the peaches too. Fresh fruit salad will make a nice change from their winter diet.

Off to package up the cakes and then to put my feet up just before the bowler returns home tonight!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day Off - But I would rather have not had!

Patsy from from the USA guessed right - they are sweet potato slips - which are popular over there.

So I have to make a mound of loose soil with lots of humus - sounds like you treat them like pumpkins - so I am going to give them a go - but not plant them out until the beginning of June when all danger of frost is over and the soil will be warmer.

In the meantime they will be planted in pots and nurtured.

Unfortunately I had to pay a visit to the doc today as a 'medical emergency'. Our village doctors and surgery are brilliant - not just my opinion - we are really very lucky.

Anyway - it has meant that I have not been able to do much today, but am feeling a lot better now, so normal service will resume tomorrow.

I have plans to make more rhubarb and ginger jam - with some rhubarb from the freezer and some from the allotment - as an experiment to see if using frozen rhubarb will work just as well.

Ginger, KoKKo and Adelaide's run will need to be moved, they have been on the same site for three days now, and I like to move it every other day. They are laying well - and so I have been giving eggs away, but I hope to have a big baking session. I haven't made any cakes for a while, and some biscuits would be nice too. Lets hope I get to do them over the weekend.

I have spotted a weed here and there in the front garden - how they managed to squeeze in amongst all the plants is a mystery and also because of all the mulch and manure I used. Perhaps that's the reason - the horses eat weeds and maybe some of the weed seeds would have survived to grow in my garden?

One thing that I forgot to mention the other day was about the banties.

You know that Dilly has been broody for so long now, and I have tried different methods to encourage her to stay off the nest. But I am a big softie. Now Freckles is broody too, so two grumpy old women that attack me is a bit much. I have to lift them out of the nest box, where they sit grumbling at each other, in order to ensure that they eat and drink and exercise etc or else they would not leave the nest.

I had read about dunking their bottoms into cold water to cool them down - I did it once to Dilly and it didn't make any difference. Patsy suggested to use ice cubes.

When Freckles decided to go broody, I thought that I would try the ice cube approach - but with a different method. I used one of those big plastic cold blocks that you freeze and add to you cool bag to keep food cold or frozen food frozen.

I wrapped it in a plastic carrier bag, and put it into their nest box. I thought that the broody bantams would get in the nest box and get off it when they found that it was either totally uncomfortable because it was a hard slab rather than the nice nesting material - or because it was cold.

Imagine my surprise when I looked inside and saw that Freckles had made herself comfortable on the ice block, and not only that - she spent the whole night on it!

So it just shows you, that with a feather duvet for a coat, you can spend the whole night on an ice block! I don't think that I will ever worry about them in the winter again!

So - yet another idea bites the dust! What is next on the list?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Drenched and battered by the downpour but still smiling

Literally still dripping wet - the tissue like leaves of this miniature azalea managed to stay in tact much to my surprise.

A bit bright - but just what you need after all that rain

I don't have a clue where this came from or how it got here. It looks like a member of the wall flower family but a perrennial summer one. You don't get spring ones that colour!

More colour in my front hedge - it really 'socks it' to you.

Just walking in the rain - getting soaking wet

It was worth getting wet to show you these soaking wet 'beards' of clematis seed heads - they were sparkling like crystal spikey balls - it could not be captured to its best in the photos but you can imagine them I am sure

One of many little blue clematis flowers out in the rain

Blues in the front hedge.

Just how many shades of blue can you get in one plant - great for flower arranging

The rain finally stopped so I rushed out to take a few photos

A huge dripping wet pink blanket of montana drapes over a fence, old barrels, up and along the hedge - you would not believe the perfume that came from it. I have never smelt it so intense - it must have been that the rain had just stopped - well almost!

Part of the front hedge with ornamental cherries - dripping with pink clematis montana

A palest blue 'Grannies Bonnet' Aqualegia - not arrived all by itself and seeded under the hedge.

A blue aqualegia in a crack in the driveway - a gorgeous gift from the birds.

As it is hammering it down I might as well talk to you!

I have just looked at my spreadsheet diary; and see that I have already spent 123¾ hours up my allotment this season. – I am impressed with myself LOL!

Oh my – it has gone dark in my little room where I have my computer and I have just turned to look out the window and can see why – the most heaviest rainfall you can imagine. The sky is black.

My dearest husband is out on the golf course – it was sunny when he left. My poor son has driven up north to a race track day – left a 4am this morning. Oh my goodness, I do feel so sorry for them. Particularly my son who has had such a long drive, spent so much time getting his bikes ready for today. What a rotten shame.

Still this is an allotment page so best not digress.

Can anybody tell me what these are?

Actually I do know – but wouldn’t have had a clue if I hadn’t been told.

I received these in the post from Jesse – thank you so much Jesse – she has a web page and forum also and the link is on the right. I know that some of you are now members, but if you haven’t visited – you are missing out.

I will give you the answer tomorrow – but any suggestions?

A friend of mine (who I do a bit of bartering with and has the wonderful garden/plot/polytunnel/greenhouse, in a village near me – there are photos in the archives .

She has saved some Moneymaker and Plum and Gardeners Delight tomatoes for me. I have grown Alicante and Yellow pear, but not those my friend has. She grows hers in her poly tunnel but mine are grown outdoors. I will put the ones she has grow in pots in my lean to though! I have cut the bottoms off some large pots in readiness!

The Jostaberry that I gave here flowered before mine did – in her tunnel and has fruits but some of them have dropped off. I don’t know if any of mine up the allotment have.

When I went up there yesterday to see to the chickens, I was shocked at the damage to the plants – looked like a tornado had ripped through. I didn’t take my camera as I didn’t dream anything would be amiss.

The beautiful statuesque Cardoon has been broken and trampled. I did wonder if a deer had go in again, it can easily jump the fences that end. It is hard to describe, so I will take some photos – but not even for you will I venture up there now in this thundery storm.

The broad beans that had survived so much over winter and early spring look like this last act of nature was too much for them. They too are flattened and some are broken – but I am still hopeful for the seedling beans that are close to the ground and not suffered.

Amazingly the peas, are still upright in the netted ‘tent’ perhaps the wind just blew through it and the pig wire they are on – I did space the quite apart. The other veg – whilst looking rather pale – courgettes, gherkins, cucumbers, runner beans, are hanging on in there, and the Cherokee climbing beans and other courgettes protected by the milk bottles are fine too. There was no point in putting the cloches back to – to get whipped, bent or blown away to do damage so some other plants.

The onions and shallots are shooting up so they obviously don’t mind the weather at the moment. I hand weeded between the 8 rows of onions – I just had too. The thistles, socks, and allsorts (grown from seeds, thanks to two years of all the uncultivated surrounding allotments growing those and docks and every known weed to man, which blew over my plot from both sides like white clouds and times!) had started to grow, despite my hoeing the rows last week. I pulled them up whilst I could with finger and thumb as once they get a few inches tall they grow rapidly to flower, and have to be dug out as the roots go down really deep.

It is a mindless and tedious task, but my mind is rarely on the weeding but off somewhere else more interesting.

I have four or so rows of carrot and hopefully parsnip seedlings to hand weed too. That that will be a task as they will have to be pulled out with great care and finger and thumb so that I do not disturb any precious seedlings that should be there!

I have hoed in between the rows, so they are neat and tidy – but have to wait patiently for the vegetable seedlings to germinate. The rows look lush and green – but on closer inspection they are the weeds – with tiny carrot seedlings in amongst them!

Sherlock Holmes – Watson – where are you when I need you - to identify the rogues from the good guys! You could at least loan me your magnifying glass as I shall need that!

I had let the girls out into the meadow, and they were so quiet – not even clucking. On closer inspection it was because they were having a whale of a time in the border flower beds and had dug themselves out some nice deep dust baths and had their eyes closed in the bliss of sunbathing and bathing.

I wish I had taken my camera – but only went up there as an afterthought to get a bit of sunshine really and collect the eggs etc.

No chance of that today!

There had been some – not a lot – of work done on the two plots next to my new neighbour up the allotments. Their plots had been ploughed, and also cultivated and rotorvated, but have a healthy covering of weeds growing – and the end nearest the track had not been cleared of all the brambles or big weeds that the tractor couldn’t cope with. They were left – not a post, or a shed cleared out – nothing.

But in the couple of days that I did not go – due to weather and appointments – some posts have appeared. Some rhubarb and potatoes planted amongst the weeds on one plot, and a solitary wheel barrow upside down on a pile of sacks has arrived.

On the next plot, there too are posts planted amongst the weeds, and some tall single bamboo plants have been stuck in – in a block almost across the entire width.

Hmm, I hope they are not the rampant sort! They are about 6-8 feet tall!

We met this chap looking at it last year and went to say a friendly ‘Hello’ I am very interested as to how this plot progresses as he had had the soil tested – I think he said that he sent it to USA and told me of the easy way that he was going to cultivate everything. No weeding involved – and the crops all thrive. Watch this space! I know I will – all our problems may be solved.

This is what result of my food drying.

Those two trays of red, yellow and green peppers now dried to this bag full - just about to be vacuum packed

Four packed trays of white seedless grapes end up and 7ozs of lovely raisins

Monday, May 22, 2006

A morning in the garden

Monday, 22 May 2006

I spent the morning in the garden weeding – whilst the golfer was out doing what golfers do!

I was lovely being on my hands and knees and seeing what little plants had come through. And sitting on the raised beds weeding is so easy – and not many weeds but plants in the wrong places which had to be dug up.

Here are some photos of the area that I was working in.

A large proportion of my plants int my garden have a 'story' of memory attached to them.

Here are Alfies Alliums - little and large - dark and light.

Six years ago when my husband had a spell in hospital, in the next bed was a real character called Alf - or Alfie as I called him. We became friends with him after he left hospital. He had had a very colourful life and I loved hearing all his 'tales'.

He used to have a plant stall, and when he was in hospital recovering from a heart attack he was well enough to manage to sell me some alliums - and they are a wonderful reminder of him.

He used to be a heavy drinker and smoker and not eat healthy food, so he had to completely change his lifestyle which was pretty hard - but he did it. He used to always have a matchstick in his mouth to replace the roll ups he used to smoke.

In his garden he had an old gypsy caravan - it was wonderful. We used to visit him when he was back home and I bought lots of plants and shrubs off him. Sadly he passed a couple of years later - as it transpired he had terminal illness. So I am really glad that when I look around the garden, I have nice memories of him and the stories he used to tell.

This corner always makes me think of Neopolitan ice cream for some reason - the combinations of the white snow is summer and the pretty pink flowers and the frothy sea of forget me nots!

In early spring the flowers mainly seem to be blue and yellow and now in the early summer the pinks and purples come into flower.

My first summer clematis opened today in the sunshine. I do have Montanas out in flower too in the front garden - both the pink and white varieties.

My first delphinium this year to bloom - in the raised bed. It was supposed to be 'Black Night' but as you can see it is clearly blue!

I managed to do a few hours in the garden and it was a real treat. I had a horrendous weed to dig out of 'Maxine's Garden'. I think it must have come from the bird seed. It was so bad that I think I will have to completely do her bed again. It had fibrous roots that got under and among all the plants and went down deep. I got under to coping stoned on the back of the wall behind her garden and they are now loose. There is still more of it in the flower bed behind. It looked like a tall dainty plant with leaves that looked a bit like a native geranium leaf, and the flowers were tiny dainty yellow ones. I must try and look it up to see what it is!

I have a number of gravel paths so spent ages hoeing and pulling the weeds out of those too.

After lunch and a rest, I re-potted 35 tomatoe plants - Alicante and Yellow Pear. I also potted up some Asters too - which should make a nice display.

This evening I dried four trays of seedless white grapes and two trays of red, yellow and green peppers - and they smell lovely.

Everything I have dried so far has been a great success and it is so nice to be able to have dried peppers, onions, mushrooms etc to had to use in cooking. I am looking forward to drying lots more things over the summer.