Monday 29 August 2011

Syrup & Shed

Elderberry Syrup

I made a batch this weekend, after harvesting the berries from trees on scraps of council land round near we live. Very satisfying - no effort went into growing these at all!

The recipe is really easy too - You need elderberries, sugar, cloves, water

Remove the berries from the sprigs (you can use a fork to speed things up but I always end up pinging the berries round the room by accident), wash them (freeze them at this point if you don't have time to make the syrup straight away), put in a pan and just cover with water. Simmer for about 30 mins until the berries are soft. Strain out the pips and skin and measure how much liquid you have ( Save on washing-up by straining straight into a big jug, or even better, a pan with measures up the side). Put the liquid back in a pan and then add the sugar and cloves - you need 1 lb sugar for every 1 pint liquid and 10 cloves for every 1 pint of liquid. Slowly melt the sugar, then leave the liquid to cool ( I leave it overnight but cover with a tea towel). Remove the cloves.

Lastly, pour into sterilised screw-top bottles (I then keep these in the fridge, just in case), or you can also freeze it. It's great with hot or cold water and is meant to be good for preventing/getting rid of colds. Good for hot toddies too, with a little bit of whisky.

The shed

Here's our lovely shed. Small but beautiful. It's now a bit darker in colour as the other weekend I treated it with Ronseal eco woodpreserver. Haven't made much progress with sorting out shelving etc yet but there was a skip out the front of our house recently, from which I scavenged some shelf brackets. A project for the autumn I think.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Stormy Wednesday

Well, I was expecting to go to the plot tonight and slug(!) several wateringcanfuls (I think I made that word up) of water around the neediest crops but an unexpected storm came along. Ok, so it was due now (10pm) but arrived at about 6.30 instead. The blackberry picking will have to wait for another night.

I harvested the first winter squash yesterday, as it was looking a bit tempting for light-fingered 'visitors' to the site. I would have preferred to leave it for a while longer on the plant but hope it'll ripen more in the lean-to at home instead. Two of the squashes are planted through black plastic so despite the storm I'll probably give them some water tomorrow as the rain doesn't really get to them.

The shed is now in place and looking great! I'll post a pic soon. I bought some Ronseal Eco shed and fence preservative (water-based instead of solvent-based) on Friday and gave it a couple of coats over the weekend. A couple of fit friends from work helped move the shed last Weds. The ingenious suggestion from one of them made things a lot easier. After lifting the 'shell' off the floor and base, we levered the floor and base out of the ground (it was set in the ground on metal legs) and flipped them over to take out the screws and remove the legs. Some of the screws were stuck fast so the guys just broke the screw heads off. So then we could move the base and floor. That was the easy part.

Moving the shell (sides and roof) was a lot harder than I was expecting, I think because the weight is in the roof making the structure a bit unwieldy. First attempts at moving it involved sort of sliding it along planks which kind of worked but was difficult. Then came Ed's suggestion - lifting one side of the shed on to a wheelbarrow (with a plank across it to support the full side of the shed), which I wheeled backwards whilst the guys lifted the other side. It worked! And altogether the whole thing only took about an hour. Phew!

Now I'm trying to work out the best way to store things/put up shelves. It's quite a small shed (just under 6x4ft) with a lean-to type roof so will be quickly filled!

This week my best harvest has been crystal-lemon cucumbers that I'm growing in the glass lean-to at home. I've been having one a day, taking it into work as a refreshing snack. Yum. The skin's tough, so I peel the whole thing with a trusty penknife. There's another 3 fruits ready, so snacks for this week are sorted! Interestingly, the crystal lemon plant in the back garden has pretty much died without even growing much at all, so just goes to show the difference a bit of protection and extra heat makes.