Monday, 19 March 2018

Harvest Monday and starling murmuration

It's been a funny old week of sun, rain, snow, wind. I managed to get a couple of allotment sessions in, and finished weeding the beds where my onion sets (variety Sturon) will be planted and broad beans (Eleanora Express) will be sown. I also made a nice harvest of leeks, Nero kale, corn salad and chard, but somehow only managed to photograph the leeks.

The leeks have such a good flavour, not too overpowering. I use the dark green part of the stem as well as the white bit, so although they're not huge you get a decent amount of edible material from each leek. Interestingly there's not any rust on the plants, which usually makes an appearance at my plot. Maybe as the soil is (hopefully) more healthy now, it makes the plants more healthy and more likely to fight off problems. These leeks were planted out where I'd had broad beans earlier in the season, and I left the bean roots in the soil when clearing the plants away, that could've helped too, feeding the leeks as the roots broke down.

The kale and leeks went into a few dishes including a noodle soup one-pot (I love saving on washing up).

Jan was out for a meal one night so I made a quick tea for just me of softened leek and kale with fried egg on toast,  drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar, mmm. (Also just using the one pan, hooray). It was so good, I made it again for the two of us the following night!

Jan made us potato pizza one night - the base is boiled potato with flour and butter. It sounds odd but is really good. You may recall she made us one a few weeks ago too. A nice thing about pizzas is the variety of toppings which can be incorporated (last time included sliced beetroot). This time round, the homegrown elements were chard from the allotment and a tub of roasted tomato / pepper / garlic / onion mix from the freezer. I think it was the last one which is a shame, but it was put to good use.

Last night we had a curry, using up the last of the leeks, kale and chard, plus a bag of chopped French beans from the freezer. There's only one or two bags of these left now but they've been really handy over winter, so I'll try and increase the amount grown and stored this year. I've got a couple of different varieties to try as well, including a yellow waxy one. We had two mini naans leftover, so I made another curry tonight. The fridge was a bit bare of veggies so I used the third last acorn squash and a couple of bought carrots (plus am still eking out the last of the stored onions).

In the lean-to here at home I have some coriander still growing from a sowing last August, so used a bit of that for some greenery. The coriander looked very droopy after the first lot of cold weather recently but recovered well, which really surprised me.

And of course I couldn't not have sandwich photo, so here we are with self-sown corn salad from the allotment. I've also defrosted a tub of broad bean hummus from last summer, so have been enjoying that with home-sprouted shoots. In the lean-to I've cut back some of the winter purslane plants completely - they had lovely big leaves but had started developing a sort of mould where unfortunately aphids have been munching on them. So hopefully I removed a load of the aphids along with the leaves. I need the ladybirds to wake up and starting eating the aphids instead. Sadly, since the snow storms a couple of weeks ago we haven't seen the wren which had been visiting our garden and lean-to (and eating aphids I think).

But the last three evenings (at least) Norwich has had some lovely avian visitors....starlings. I haven't seen a big starling murmuration in Norwich for a couple of years, but the very cold weather must have brought them all together. Late on Saturday afternoon I happened to spot a huge murmuration from our was over the area near County Hall of the south eastern edge of Norwich where there are woods with big ivy-clad trees. It was soo cold and windy we decided to just enjoy the stunning aerobatics from inside, but last night we headed over to that area to see them. There was only a smallish murmuration, so we figured maybe as the weather was calmer they'd not formed such a huge flock. It was still enjoyable to watch  but then as we walked back towards home Jan spotted the mega murmuration - it was further west than before, huh! We had some good views of them swirling around until they suddenly swooped down to roost, mainly into thick ivy growing up through trees alongside the Lakenham Way (disused railway which is now a foot- and cycle path). We took a walk along the path - the starlings were so loud, clicking and clacking to each other, and moving between trees. It was like walking through a tunnel of starlings - pretty amazing.

So tonight we took another walk (well, 5.30pm-ish seems about the right time), and found them again. It was in a very similar area to last night but a tiny bit south west, where there happened to be a handy place with open views to enjoy them. The photos as usual don't really do the experience justice, not capturing the vastness of the spectacle, and so I didn't take many. Interestingly, the starlings don't seem to call to each other during the murmuration, the only sound is the subtle whoosh when they fly close over head, or a sort of clatter when landing in the trees. But as soon as they're in the trees the chatter starts, catching up on today's news no doubt.

I'm not sure what the weather's meant to be like tomorrow but I may have to go on another starling hunt!

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


  1. You are coming up with such wonderful meals - your stores & the bits that are still growing in the cold weather have definitely served you well over the winter.

  2. Your potato pizza sounds yummy. I use potatoes (and potato flour) in bread but I've never tried it in a pizza crust. We sometimes have starlings visit us in winter, and it's amazing how they navigate in such a big flock!

  3. I had to look up "murmuration" because I had never heard that term before and found an interesting article on the NPR website. It has a video and a link to yet another article about how the birds stick together as a group by each individual bird focusing attention on 7 of its neighbors. Fascinating.

    Beautiful leeks. I gave up growing them because rust inevitably infected them and pretty much ruined them.

    I'm with you on the one-pot dishes - easy to prepare, easy to eat, and easy to clean up.

  4. Our leeks are also rust free this year, goodness knows how but glad as it gives lots of green to use. That leek and kale stir fry with an egg used to be a real favourite of ours but haven't made it for ages, so back on the menu I is ... thank you!! Your starlings are doing a grand job, and what beautiful photos

  5. We keep trying to spot a murmuration but never seem to be in the right place at the right time.

  6. Your leeks seem to have held up well through the winter. It's great that you're still getting things from the garden. The only things that survived winter for us were spinach and corn salad, although the Red Russian kale did come back after being killed off above-ground.