Monday, 14 March 2016

Harvest Monday - overnight pickle, an allotment update and a trip to RSPB Strumpshaw

I didn't do much during the first part of the week as I was still feeling unwell with a virus, but Jan got busy making an overnight pickle. The beetroot came from our back garden - I'd sown some under the runnerbean wigwam as a bit of an experiment....they turned out quite small but still not bad being in a spot that wouldn't have been used for anything else.
The pickle also had an orange rind, celeriac, apple, spices and cider vinegar (which Jan bought, as I didn't want our homemade vinegar to be used....the recipe needs the vinegar to be boiled, which would kill off all the friendly bacteria )
You then just stick it in the fridge overnight and it's ready (And looks pretty)
I spent some time on the allotment yesterday...the weather was absolutely lovely and sunny. I still have a handful of small leeks, so brought a few home
I softened them in goats butter with onion and garlic, then added tinned tomatoes, some chard and chickpeas (plus a bit of extra water), which we had with quinoa. The butter really did make a difference, and it was yummy for lunch today.
We have lots of potatoes in storage still, so tonight Jan made a veggie shepherdess pie topped with mash and a sprinkle of cheese. The filling had more chickpeas....we'd cooked up a load in the slow cooker which needed using up! We'll need to be using up more potatoes soon too as they'll start to sprout...and Jan said she let out a little yelp when she felt inside the sack of potatoes only to discover a soggy one, yuk! The rest are ok though, hehe.
Down on the allotment yesterday it was lovely with birds singing all around. The mild winter has meant the garlic I planted in autumn is pretty big already. I'll have to cover it at some point to protect from leek moth caterpillars. I'll also need to weed it a bit but the weeds have little blue flowers on that I'll leave for a while for the insects to enjoy.
This is from a few weeks ago when I was in the middle of redoing my two old 'U' shaped beds
And the same area yesterday, tahdah!
In the middle bed I've put out some onion sets (covered to protect from birds and cats) and the bed on the left will have spring sown broad beans. The bed on the right will be squashes but it still has corn salad in for now. The beds are holding their shape quite nicely at the moment because the soil is damp but the sides might fall away bit when it dries out.
Back at home in the lean-to I spotted this thing.... cute Minxie enjoying the sun too. On the bench next to her is one of the tomato plants which germinated in late summer that I thought I'd leave to see what happened. Well, it looks pretty sickly now so I'll probably just compost it as my new tomatoes are much healthier.
A train trip to Buckenham and Strumpshaw
After a bit of a rubbish week feeling unwell with a virus most of the time, we decided to get a bit of nature therapy on Saturday. A mere 13 minutes away from Norwich by train is Buckenham Station, a request stop on the way through to Lowestoft. Trains only call there on weekends and on Saturday there's only one service which stops...the 10.05, so we had to make sure we got that one. The conductor was really pleased as he said he'd never dropped anyone off there in 11 years! The driver of the two-carriage train also waved us goodbye as he pulled away, ah.
The main reason to explore this remote area is RSPB Buckenham marshes, an extensive network of marshes and ditches next to the River Yare. The sound of all the waders, ducks and warblers calling was amazing....lapwings 'peewitting', widgeon 'weeooing', Cetti's warbler's ultra-loud singing and the lovely skylarks trilling their hearts out...beautiful. I don't have a good enough camera to get pictures of the birds but you get the idea
The rooks were cawing so loudly from this copse...almost deafening....interspersed with the high-pitched barking of Chinese water deer, who we also glimpsed through our binoculars
The River Yare...not many boats around on Saturday, nice and tranquil
After a walk along the track around the marshes we headed back past the station up the lane to Buckenham church. It has an unusual octagonal* tower and we knew there was a geocache nearby too.
*corrected, I made a deliberate mistake calling it a hexagonal tower previously, ahem
A Norman door apparently. A lot of churches in Norfolk are open and you can pop in for a look around, so we peeked inside and made a donation to the church's upkeep. The acoustics were incredible so we had a bit of a sing too, hehe.
One of the nearby geocaches, in a tree stump
I wonder how many people pass it without knowing its there
This was a nice one, attached to an ornamental metal ant, hidden in a hedge!
We passed a pillbox too
I spied an owl box in the churchyard
There weren't any owl pellets on the ground under it though so it might not be used at the moment
We then walked along a quiet lane to reach RSPB Strumpshaw marshes, which has a proper visitor hut (and toilets, yippee). Marsh harriers were gliding around and a three-bird kingfisher chase took place at one point. Since I got rid of my car a few years ago we haven't visited this reserve, (apart from one short trip with a friend), so it was really nice to spend some quality time there.
And if there was only one train a day, how did we get home? Well, a mile or two in the other direction is the village of Brundall, which has regular trains to and from Norwich, so it didn't take long to get home (and we picked up another new geocache find on the way too). The train was full of people heading for a night out in Norwich, whereas we were getting set to put our feet up!

Thanks for reading this week, a bit of a long post. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy acres




  1. Interesting that we both featured beetroot recipe. We have never visited that RSPB reserve. It sounds worth a visit one day.

    1. Hi sue, yep definitely worth a visit to strumpshaw if you're over this way anytime. It's got lots of paths to explore. It hasn't got one of those big visitor centres, but has loos and a visitor hut, several hides around the reserve too.

  2. Nothing like a little nature therapy to get one up and going! And I can't think of anything much more yucky than a potato gone bad - I cringed just thinking about it. Your garlic is considerably further along than mine. When is it usually ready for digging?

    1. Haha, yeh I hate bad potatoes Dave, ew. Sometimes when harvesting them, the seed potato hasn't been used up completely and is a soggy mess, yuk.
      Umm I think I normally lift my garlic in July? I'll check and let you know if it's not then.

  3. I would much rather have your "Nature Walk" than the night out! Your raised bed re-organisation looks much better, btw.

    1. Thanks Mark, yep me too, definitely prefer a nice walk than a night out!
      Thank you, the new beds will be easier to use (narrower so I can reach the middle better) and there'll also be more growing space than with the U beds. Though the U beds were good whilst the wood lasted and helped solve the problem of a slope both across and down the plot. The new beds might dry out quicker as they've got more exposed edge, which could be a problem but as long as I get something out of them I'll be happy!

  4. You have made such great progress on your beds! I'm hoping to get some beds ready for planting soon as well - just waiting until it warms up a wee bit. And I'm with you and Mark - by early evening, I look much more forward to settling in than going out.

    1. Thanks Margaret, I've done a bit more on the others beds now too. It's nice to see things coming together. I need to finish them off for the rest of the onions plus Potatoes to go in soon too, ooh the year's getting going.

  5. Soggy potatoes bad. Goat butter good. Nice new arrangement for the garden beds!

    1. Haha, thanks Susie. One day I'll have my own goat and make butter :D