Monday 25 January 2016

Harvest Monday - bits n bobs & a walk up on the coast

There's not been too much happening veggie-wise this week but I have sown some cress in a tub on the window sill. The paper towel kept drying out so I've kept a lid on it, which has worked ok I think. I should've had a quick read on the web first to get some tips before giving it a go, I'm not sure if I sowed it thickly enough. Hopefully the leaves will bulk up soon anyway. Egg and cress sarnies anyone?
My only harvest from the plot this week has been corn salad, I love the dark green leaves. I've found that the plants which are growing closely together are the nicer ones to pick as they haven't been splashed by soil, so are quite clean (though they do seem more likely to have little slugs hiding away amongst the leaves). We made our own hummus again and had sprouted beans too - I've now got three different jars on the go at various stages of sprouting so we can have a more regular supply.
I brought a few more onions home from the allotment shed. They've lasted us pretty well this winter. On the plot I still have some leeks to harvest plus some chard and a bit of kale, a few beetroot and parsnips and actually some potatoes I didn't lift earlier. I wonder if they might have started shooting though, it's been so mild. I'll have a dig around sometime soon.
In the freezer I still have lots of fruit to keep us going quite a while longer. Here's a big tub we defrosted the other day. It doesn't look very exciting but tastes very nice! I think it's mainly apples, blackberries and raspberries, plus a bit of my old jam as a sweetener.
Usually we have it with muesli for breakfast but with this huge tub I've also just been snacking on it with yogurt.
And yes, I did then have another bowl straight afterwards, with some homemade spiced apple cake to top it off! We had our friends and their kids round yesterday to watch Labyrinth on DVD (none of them had seen it before.....can you believe it, a classic 80s film) and made lots of goodies to snack on....and well, there was still some cake left today, mmm.
I have to confess, that I did make two spiced apple cakes - we have new neighbours and were going to take one round for them as a welcome....but then our friends arrived and it seemed like we just needed a little bit more cake to enjoy with the I will have to make another one soon for them instead ...oops!
A trip to the coast
On my non-working day this week the sun was shining and we decided we were due a trip up to the beautiful North Norfolk coast. The train journey takes about an hour from Norwich to sheringham, and there was gorgeous sun shining the whole way. Of course, when the train pulled in at sheringham the clouds steadily appeared and lingered the rest of the day, darn. But we had a lovely walk anyway (and managed a bit of bird watching and geocaching whilst we were at it)
You're pretty much guaranteed to see lots of cute turnstones at sheringham, I love those little birds.
They're quite tame too
Heading west from sheringham on the Norfolk Coast Path is one of my favourite views in the county, even on a cloudy day
Looking back to sheringham. The gorse was all in flower too.
We were doing an inland loop, picking up Sheringham Park, owned by the National Trust, which neither us had visited before. Along the way were a couple of pillboxes from the Second World War (lots of them all along the coast here). This one had a surprise inside...
Spot the painting of a soldier peeping out
This structure is called the gazebo, (though it's not what I think of as one.) it's on top of a hill, so you climb the hill then climb the gazebo, a good test for the legs and lungs! As the day had turned dull I didn't take any photos from the top but there's a fantastic view from above the gnarly oak tree canopy.
After a wander around Sheringham Park (historic parkland cross-crossed with paths) we headed back via Upper Sheringham, a small pretty village which used to be bigger than Sheringham, until the railways linked though to Sheringham itself which then grew into a popular Victorian seaside town.
In Upper Sheringham they've still got a historic reservoir at the centre of the village, which was flowing nicely
It's just in front of the impressive church, and there's still a red phone box too

We'll have to do that walk again sometime, it seemed like it would be a nice one to do at different times of the year.


Ok, that's me for the week, linking in with Harvest Monday, hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday 18 January 2016

Harvest Monday - 24 hour beetroot pickle

Winter has finally arrived and we've had several frosts and even some snow. The snow didn't hang around but the pavements have been very slippy to walk along, I had a very interesting (slow) walk to work the other day. But before that, on my non working day (weds) I had a nice three hours on the plot in the sun, carrying on with the weeding. I'm leaving the weeds on the soil surface to protect it against all the rain we'll no doubt continue to get. When I'm ready to use the bed I can just rake them off, easy peasy. I have to say, I did spend quite a few minutes just standing, facing the sun and enjoying the warmth, and listening to the birds, lovely.
This week my seed order arrived, yippee. There's still a few more to come plus some red onion sets
A few of the potatoes had already started to shoot so I've set them out to chit in the lean-to where they're in a light frost-free place. If you leave them in the dark they develop pale gangly shoots rather than the short, dark green shoots which grow in lighter conditions. When planted out, the shoots then continue to grow up through the soil and then turn into leaves above ground. One of the potatoes was a bit manky though, so I've thrown that one away.
I brought a few things home from the plot - beetroot, parsnips and a red onion from the shed. Plus quite a bit more corn salad that I didn't photograph
Jan wanted to make a 24hour pickle recipe which she saw in the paper recently - it has apple cider vinegar, a bay leaf and beetroot (all our own), celeriac (not our own as I'm rubbish at growing it), orange rind, coriander seed.
Simmer the vinegar, spices and orange rind for a few minutes, leave to cool and then pour over the chopped veg. Leave in the fridge overnight and voila!
We've had some lovely salads this week with the pickle - the orange zest (organic of course) adds a really special quality. I've made more hummus and red cabbage coleslaw to go with it plus we've had the gorgeous green corn salad leaves. No photos though.
Jan's also been busy making a pie which included our own parsnip and some more dried chickpeas we cooked from scratch this weekend, yummy
And to finish, we had a spooky surprise in the sourdough bread, wooooh (bought from the artisan baker on Norwich Market)

That's me for the week, linking in with Harvest Monday, hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table


Monday 11 January 2016

Harvest Monday - slow cooked leeks and a spot of geocaching

So last week I lifted the first of my leeks from the plot. I sow these quite late (in pots) and then plant out after I've harvested all my early potatoes (which takes me a while). Although the leeks don't get particularly big it means they miss the leek moth caterpillars (which have munched their way through my onions and leeks in the past.) I also don't really have space to plant them out any earlier so works out quite well.
I like to use the better quality dark green bits as well as the main shank - might as well make the most of it and I think it has a good flavour. It's a bit tougher than the lighter coloured parts so either needs cutting up a bit smaller or cooking slightly longer. We made a soupy thing in the slow cooker with some chard I picked from the plot, plus leftover roasted was rather yummy
On Wednesday (my non-working day) it was actually sunny so I spent a couple of good hours on the plot....lovely. Though as soon as the sun dropped it got a bit too cold to be weeding. It was due to rain lots more over the next few days so I harvested a few goodies while I could.....some beetroot, chard, a surprisingly big parsnip, more corn salad and a couple of small red onions from the shed.
Not bad. These and the parsnip were originally sown in late spring inbetween my rows of autumn broad beans. Because of the shade from the beans, the undercrops grow slowly until the bean plants have been harvested and cut away (I leave the bean roots in the soil to break down and release nutrients) but then get away nicely.
Nice to have some greenery from the corn salad - it sows itself around everywhere so I don't need to remember to do it myself :)
We had a tasty roast yesterday, with the beetroot (though I actually decided to wrap the beetroot in a bundle of tin foil with a splash of oil)
All home grown apart from the hummus (but I did make the hummus from dried chickpeas cooked in the slow cooker - a first for me and if I've done my maths right it works out about half the price of canned beans). We liberally sprinkled home-made cider vinegar over the potatoes and parsnips too, yummy.

Yesterday was also a lovely sunny day but instead of heading to the plot we decided to go geocaching again. We're lucky to be right near the city centre but also in walking distance of the countryside, so headed down the long hill to Trowse (a village on the edge of Norwich) and through the woods round to whitlingham country park.

We've walked past these places loads of times but would never imagine the things hidden away nearby!
Ladybird cache (called a bishybarnabee in Norfolk)
In the base of a brick
A suspicious-looking branch inbetween some roots
Aha, the cache!
I spotted some 'king Alfred's cakes' fungi on the underside of a fallen tree. Not edible unfortunately!
But pretty cool - named after king Alfred's burnt cakes. And I wouldn't have noticed them if we hadn't been looking for a cache nearby. I wonder what else we'll find next time! I'm going to read-up again on wild harvests to see what to look out for in spring.

So it was a great, free day out and made us enjoy a familiar route in a different way (although I felt a tad guilty about not being at the allotment....well, it's only January eh!)

That's it from me for the week, linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted in January by Michelle at From Seed to Table


Monday 4 January 2016

Harvest Monday - squashy squash

I hope you all had a lovely festive season. We went to stay with my folks for a few days on the south coast, so didn't get any harvesting or allotmenting done during that time. We did get out for a few walks though, and found a few geocaches whilst we were out and about too.
Back in Norwich we thought we'd see what geocaches were around our way as well, and blimey there's some good ones! I didn't get any photos at the time but they included a tiny cache hidden in the end of a stick (if anyone watched the new spy drama Deutschland 83 last night, it was exactly like the spy-thingy hidden in the woods), Another was a small tube attached to the top of a high fence that we had to use a pulley system to bring within reach, plus a very clever cache disguised as a bolt, attached by a magnet to the back of a metal railing (the railing was full of real bolts too, so this was very well disguised!). I mean, wow! Amazingly we all walk past these things everywhere, they are all over the place. I expect we looked a tad suspicious poking around in trees and behind fences though but hey ho - and thank you to all the people who take time to place and look after caches - brilliant!
Anyway, back to the plot.....I popped to the allotment during the day on New Years Eve as it wasn't raining for a change. The main thing I did was to cover my broad beans with enviro-mesh. Although I'd only just sown them in autumn, because of the mild winter they've already got 4 or 5 leaves on most plants! I didn't want them to get nipped-off by pigeons or damaged by the strong winds so hopefully the mesh will protect them. That is if the local foxes don't jump all over the mesh like they sometimes do.
At the weekend I sorted through my seeds to decide what to order this year. Usually I do this in October or November so not sure why it took me until now this time. It doesn't matter anyway, as most things won't need sowing for ages. I think I sometimes I panic and worry they'll run out of what I want, particularly seed potatoes. Tomorrow night I'll place the order, that is if we haven't gone out to see the new Star Wars film :)
It reminded me that I do usually sow some things in January though, so I'd better get organised (some toms inside, peas for shoots etc). No need to rush though, I'll check what the temperatures are likely to be over the next month or so first.
Just before we were due to leave for the train to my folks I noticed that one of my butternut squashes had started to rot from the stalk. So I quickly cut off the rotten end, cubed it and put in the freezer. The remaining two squashes (including my nine-pounder) looked ok so I decided to risk leaving them (plus I didn't have the freezer space). When we got back unfortunately they'd both gone the same way.....The lean-to where I keep them leaks so there's quite a lot of moisture around with all this rain, plus the mild weather doesn't help.
Cutting off the rotten bit
Luckily still a good amount left to eat
Some has been roasted with rosemary from the front yard
Nice with more corn salad picked from the plot.
Just for a change (ho ho) I was making a pot of chickpea curry-thing and and wanted to add a bit of greenery, so snipped some parsley from the lean-to (after the toms and basil had died off, parsley germinated by itself in the compost, bonus!). I've been using cooled water from greens cooking to water them every now and then (as it has nutrients in it). You have to use the water pretty quickly as otherwise it really smells.
A few other things have germinated by themselves too - some young nettles, which Jan made into a soup today (normally only a spring meal due to needing to use young leaves)
And....some tomato plants! I took this photo a few weeks ago and they've continued to grow. If the mild winter carries on they might make it all the way through to spring. That would be exciting. I could bring them inside but I think it's too dark for them so will let them fend for themselves out in the lean- to. They're on a narrow windowsill away from the outer windows so probably in the warmest place. I've been giving them a bit of water every now and then when they've been very dry. They're a little bit vulnerable to falling off the window-sill actually, so I might move them down onto the bench in front and wrap bubble wrap round the pots. We'll see what happens eh.

That's me for the week, thanks for reading.

Linking in with Harvest Monday hosted this week by Michelle at From Seed To Table who is kindly hosting for the month :)