Monday 29 February 2016

Harvest Monday and a walk from Cromer

I didn't do very well with photos of harvests or food this week so it's a bit sparse. Besides the meals below, we've had lots more corn salad still from the plot and sprouted seeds and cress from the windowsill.
Tonight Jan made us a pasta dish using a tub of roasted tomatoes from the freezer. It was so nice we ate two portions each (so no leftovers for lunch tomorrow unfortunately!). I'm feeling a tad full, I must say.
And this is a terrible photo from yesterday - I made a stew in the slow cooker for an easy meal when we got back in from a walk, which included some squash from the freezer and slow-cooked beans and curry spices.
The tomato seedlings I sowed last Wednesday started germinating the following Tuesday. No sign of the peppers yet, which I still have covered with clear plastic to help keep the moisture in.
I've set up some reflective bits around the tray to provide better light coverage which should discourage too much stretching of the seedlings towards the window (which can cause the plants to be leggy and weak)
I might sow a few more things on my day off this week, as it's meant to be rainy, so not plot visit I expect.
A walk from Cromer via National Trust Felbrigg Estate
But the weather was lovely yesterday so we decided to go for a walk, catching the train from Norwich to Cromer (on the north Norfolk coast). I did feel a bit guilty about not going to the allotment but I'm sure I'll catch up with stuff down the plot soon. In fact I popped there in my lunch break today and did a bit of weeding, and was kept company by two lovely robins plus some sparrows and blackbirds bathing in an upturned lid I keep down the end of the plot just for that purpose.
Back to yesterday....There's a circular walk from Cromer that heads inland, following the Weavers' Way trail. Neither of us had been on this bit before so it was really great to see some new countryside. There's Jan in the distance :)
Really pretty, with several buzzards flying around. They have a distinctive 'kew' or mew call that gives you the heads-up they're nearby.
Felbrigg church
Felbrigg Hall. We've both only been here once before (with Jan's folks) and the weather was stormy so we didn't get to see the grounds that time. It's very interesting inside though and they have a lovely walled garden with veg plots that some local people are allowed to use as allotments. There wasn't time to have a look yesterday but we saw the grounds instead.
We did however find time for a spot of geocaching!
This one was hidden in a tree stump. There were some really clever caches
The sun made this amazing shadow from a huge beech tree
Another shot of the hall, looking beautiful in the sun

From Felbrigg, the walk leaves the Weavers' Way and loops back round to Cromer, first following a track uphill called Lions' Mouth, cutting through some really nice woodland. It would be interesting to find out how it got the name.

Returning to Norwich on the train after a very nice day, I was very pleased to have prepared the slow cooked meal beforehand which was waiting for us when we got home, hurray.

Thanks for reading. I'm linking up with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres


Monday 22 February 2016

Harvest Monday and Norwich riverside walk (in the rain)

On Wednesday (my day off) I fitted in a couple of hours on the plot, working on redoing the old raised beds. I'm nearly there on one set and will hopefully start on the next ones soon. Unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish this weekend so I didn't get down again - rainy on Saturday and REALLY windy on Sunday (so I hunkered down and read 'This book will save your life' by A.M. Homes - a very good fiction book if you're after a good read.)
On Wednesday I also sowed my tomato and pepper seeds, ooh.
Because they like a warm temperature to germinate there's a few things you can do easily to help them on their way, including....Bringing some compost into the house a few days before using to get it to room temperature, moistening the compost with room temperature water rather than straight from the tap. I also cover my tray of seeds with bubble wrap.
I tried to be organised by first filling all the modules with compost (using a teaspoon so as not to be too messy in the lounge), then compressed the compost down a bit using a spare set of modules to push on them. Next I could just go through all the seed packets one by one sowing what I wanted without having to stop-start with filling with compost.
Here they are after popping all the seeds in but before sprinkling a thin layer of compost on top. I prefer to sow them in modules rather than a tray so they don't need pricking out (and instead just pinch-out the weaker seedlings). I use cut-up margarine tubs as labels.
It's better to water from below to avoid spoiling the compost structure, so I fill the tray with room temp water, leave it for 10-15 minutes for the compost to absorb the water and next, instead of tipping out the water (and accidentally tipping over your seed modules, which I've done before, ahem) I move the modules into a fresh tray, then put near the window, wrapped in bubble-wrap. It doesn't look very pretty but does the job! Grow little seeds, grow.
Harvests this week have included more cress and bean sprouts on the windowsill, lots of corn salad and some rough greens (chard and kale) from the plot. We used the greens for a quick meal, steamed with poached eggs on sourdough toast, yummy.
I also made some lovely roast potatoes, parsnip and beetroot with Rosemary, (the last of the parsnips, ah). But I will be sowing this year's parsnips soon, inbetween the rows of autumn broad beans (which are looking rather sorry for themselves after the windy weather).
A quick report on my latest batches of apple cider vinegar, simply made from water, apple cores / peel and a bit of honey. The one on the left is two weeks old and on the right is just-made. Quite a colour difference.
A good ferment on the older one, (which I've since removed all the peel/cores from and which will take a few more weeks to mature. It still tastes nice, just not vinegary). I had to keep an eye on it in the first few days as actual mould was appearing on top and needed removing.

Norwich Riverside Walk

And finally, it was raining on Saturday but we had to pop into the city centre to pick up some groceries. We both felt like we needed to stretch our legs a bit so went the long way in, via the riverside walk....(Photos by Jan)

Pull's Ferry, a medieval gatehouse (now the girl guides' HQ) where a side channel from the river used to lead up to the cathedral for deliveries. The channel has since been filled in and is called Ferry Lane, lined with lovely flint buildings
Norwich (Anglican) Cathedral, viewed from Pull's Ferry. (We have a Roman Catholic cathedral too). Peregrines nest on a platform on the spire, put in by the Hawk and Owl Trust.
Egyptian geese breed in a nearby tree. They're lovely looking birds but apparently are a bit of an invasive species.
Medieval 'Cow Tower', on a big meander in the river. There wasn't a wall needed in this part of the city as the river formed the barrier, but the tower meant that the area could be overseen easily. We've got more medieval heritage than you can shake a stick at in Norwich!

I could go on rambling but will stop there for now.

This week I'll be checking exactly when to plant out my onion sets and when did I sow my parsnips last year? (I didn't write down either in my notebook so will have to look through blog posts, it will be a nice reminder anyway).


Thanks for reading....linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.



Monday 15 February 2016

Harvest Monday & a trip to Great Yarmouth

It was Shrove Tuesday (or pancake day) this week so it would be rude not to partake of a few eh! We use a recipe from this old book that my mum gave me ages ago. It's the same as one she used when I was a kid but I think she picked it up at a jumble sale more recently.
The recipe is very easy, 1/4 lb self raising flour, 1 egg, pinch of salt. Sieve the flour, make a well in the middle, drop in the egg, gradually stir in the milk and whisk well. (Makes about 8 pancakes). I'm afraid we did not flip them though, I wouldn't want to risk wasting delicious pancake!
For the filling I used onion, garlic, butter beans, toms and kale and a sprinkle of grated cheddar. The only homegrown element was the onion, which was the last of my stored onions, so a little bit sad, though mid Feb isn't bad to have lasted that long. The butter beans were dried ones I'd cooked in the slow cooker (about half the price of tinned).
Yesterday we were heading out all day so I thought I'd be organised and do a meal in the slow cooker. I had to be even more organised than usual because the squash needed defrosting first. If I'd used it from frozen it would've taken absolutely ages in the slow cooker. Anyway it had a nice colour.
With chickpeas and toms. I also added some fried onion, garlic and spices and a bit of boiled water. It cooked on low for about 8 hours.
Nice to come home to after a chilly day out.
Tonight Jan made us falafels using more chick peas (I did a big batch on Saturday night in the slow cooker and have frozen some in jars - will have to see how they turn out). We've got some self-sown parsley in the lean-to that grew up after my summer plants died off (the parsley seeds were in my homemade compost) which went in the falafels.
And I picked a bit more for some yogurt dip too. The potatoes are the rest of the ones I dug up last week, with a homemade coleslaw. These meals always look like we're really healthy but they don't show the chocolate we (ok, *I*) eat afterwards! Only organic fair trade choccie though of course.
A trip to Great Yarmouth
A temporary exhibition at the Time and Tide Museum in Yarmouth is ending soon, so we decided to catch the bus over to the coast to see it. A lot of people only think of Yarmouth as a tacky seaside resort but there's loads more to it than that. For a start it has some amazing medieval town wall sections still!
The museum is based in an old mackerel (silver darlings) smokehouse, which is an interesting building in itself. Here's a recreation of an old Yarmouth 'row' - there were nearly 150 of these narrow streets within the land surrounded by the old medieval walls - space was tight so they packed the buildings right next to each other. Many of the old rows have been lost over the years but I love looking out for them as you wander round the back- streets.
The exhibition we went to see is called Beastly Machines - an artist has created mechanical beasts that are interactive. This whale was really big!
This frog pedalled the bike. I like the tadpole wheel
The dog's eyes flashed and if you wagged his tail he honked / barked, he hee
These gnus in a canoe slid towards each other
There were other exhibits like this elephant skull - it's thought the air holes in the skulls made people believe they were cyclops' remains.
Fake unicorn...or is it?? (Yes! zebra skull and narwhal tusk)
Back outside, the historic quayside is always nice to walk along
On the beach we were blasted by sand thanks to the strong winds, so instead of a walk along the front we headed inland. A very short walk out of town and you're soon alongside Breydon Water, a huge estuary with mudflats. The bird hide protected us a tiny bit from the chilling wind but it was so cold we didn't hang around too long. But still, we saw teal, widgeon, little egret, shelduck, avocets, godwits, oystercatchers and redshank (plus some other birds we didn't know).
The sun even briefly made an appearance.

Normally we would've gone for a longer walk along the side of Breydon Water but the weather was turning the time we got back to Norwich we were treated to cold sleet in our faces on the walk home. But we did see the Norwich starling murmeration briefly and came back to a warming slow cooked meal.


Ok, thanks for making it through to the end! Linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

PS I'm going to sow my tomatoes indoors this week .... Exciting.


Monday 8 February 2016

Harvest Monday - some late potatoes and a peek on the allotment

Phewee, it's howling with wind and rain out there but we've got it lightly over in the east compared with the south west of Britain being battered by Storm Imogen. So I'm sitting with a rug round my shoulders thinking how lucky we are to be safe indoors.
Yesterday (Sunday) was looking like a bright day so I headed down the plot for a few turned out rather blustery but I was pleased to be outside.
Now, this might just look like a patch of weeds but I knew there were some Anya potatoes under there. I'd left them because the chard had self seeded on top. But as it's been so mild I figured they probably would start sprouting in the ground and decided to have a root around.
It also meant the spot got weeded at the same time and I managed to avoid disturbing the chard which should produce some more leaves
Not too bad, I think this was just from 4 seed potatoes. They did have a few shoots but I broke them off as I was uncovering them.
I roasted some of them later, yummy
On the plot I also spied the purple sprouting broccoli has started sprouting, yippee. This was from a two year old plant that I cut back to the main stem last spring and simply left in the ground. So not much effort involved there, bonus.
It went nicely with the roast potatoes - the leaves are tasty too (The pale leaves are from a bought organic cabbage from the veg stall on Norwich market)
Earlier in the week Jan made this baked egg dish with a chilli from the lean to and onion etc
Back on the plot, this is one of my 'u' or 'n' shaped beds which I'm converting into 3 individual rectangular ones. It was 3 pallets wide all the way round, with a gap left in the middle for accessing the inside of the 'u' (Autumn broad beans in the background, probably blown away by the wind now)
You might think those are all weeds but most of the plants are actually the self-sown corn salad, growing away nicely, more free food!
You can see the U shape a bit better on the other bed that I've yet to start on. They've been quite successful, especially as they helped me to even out a slope across the plot, but the wood is now rotting and the couch grass gets in from the edges too. You can also see the large PSB plant in the top right of the bed. And the prolific blackberry hedge along the right too.
From the other side. Doesn't look much at the moment! I'll end up with 6 beds eventually
Back at home, some Rosemary I'd snipped off and put in a jar for easy access has unexpectedly produced roots
I don't need any more Rosemary plants so maybe I'll pot these on and give them away. But it shows how easily they can be propagated
And my second batch of cress on the windowsill has done well. Next time I'll use a shallower container to make it easier to snip off the cress. And also fold down the edges of the piece of kitchen roll before sowing the seeds so that doesn't get in the way either.

And finally, some dwarf curly kale I picked from the plot earlier in the week. This is again from a two year old plant that I pruned back last spring which produced more leaves again. No effort involved, hurrah (except the tiny baby snails seem to like it)

Oh, a bit off-topic but I was very pleased with myself on Saturday as I managed to replace the washer on a dripping tap - the tap valve was really stiff but with a mixture of leverage, rubber glove for a bit of grip and a spot of lubricant it eventually gave way...just call me plumber Lou.


Okay, that's enough from me for the week, thanks for reading. Linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres