Monday 28 March 2016

Harvest Monday - some actual harvests! And potting on the toms

You may remember that I have a purple sprouting broccoli plant on my allotment. It was one that I left growing from the previous year, to see what would happen. Well, it produced a whole load of new healthy leaves and even started sprouting again this spring, hurrah, (which I made the first picking from a few weeks ago). But....I took my eye off it and some hungry pigeons pretty much stripped the whole plant, sigh. But....I covered it with some odd bits of chickenwire to keep the birds off and it's put on some new growth again, hurrah!
So this week I snipped off the best bits, it was worth giving the plant a second (or third) chance
They were so sweet and tasty, boiled quickly in a tiny bit of water. Hopefully there'll be more to come too. (Though it's in the space I need to put my red onions soon)
Yesterday (Easter Sunday) we decided to do a roast in the evening. The potatoes are from storage at home and the beets are those I got from my friend last week. The parsnip actually came from my plot! I thought I'd lifted them all. The leaves die off over winter making them hard to see but I spotted some new growth peeking out of the soil, which gave it away. They start to get woody if you leave them to grow for much longer but this one was fine.
In case the beets were a bit tough I cut them up smallish to make sure they got soft when roasted in a bit of oil (and covered the dish with foil during the cooking to keep in the moisture). But the star of the show was the humble onion.....I'd found a few more small ones this week in a tray in the shed at the allotment - they'd got hidden underneath some bits and pieces and I'd forgotten about them. Anyway....roasted with the beets and some Rosemary from the front yard, these were so sweet and melted in the mouth....delish. (Sorry about the pic, the dish was very hot to hold!)
And today I picked some parsley from the lean to at home. This is the parsley, that germinated by itself in the homemade compost my toms had grown in last summer (as I'd put a seeded parsley plant in my compost bin a couple of years ago). It's come on really well the last few weeks with the longer hours of daylight.
Whilst Storm Katie was raging today (so much rain and wind!) I made a stew in the slow cooker....first, on the hob, softening an onion and some garlic in butter with the last two leeks from my friend's plot. Then added a tin of tomatoes, chopped carrot, a bit of cayenne pepper and some water plus some butter beans I'd previously cooked in the slow cooker. Once I got the temperature up I added it to the slow cooker for a few hours. Then about half an hour before eating, added in a defrosted bag of rocket pesto and some chopped parsley. Yes, it was good, so good, mmm.
This week I've potted on my toms, they were getting a bit lanky
We have old, worn laminate floor downstairs so I can get away with making a mess in the's easy to clean up after.
I use peat-free compost, putting a bit in the bottom of each pot, then use an old pencil to push-out the tom plants from the plug cells, drop the healthiest toms gently into each pot and then fill the pots carefully with compost around them, using an old spoon. Toms can grow roots from their stems, so potting them on like this encourages new roots and stronger plants.
I didn't make too much mess...honest! There were a few straggly toms that I didn't pot-on, you have to be ruthless sometimes....I don't have the space to grow-on too many more plants than I'll need, though I have got a few spares, which will go to a neighbour if I don't need them
They're now in the lean to, protected from the coldest weather with some bubble wrap (Including some tucked against the glass window). It can get very warm in there during the day if it's sunny, but cold at night.
Although they'd be warmer inside the house, they'll be better off for light in the lean to. It's a bit of a compromise but worked ok last year.
Also in the lean to, my early potatoes (variety Colleen) have chitted nicely. I was going to plant them out this weekend but the storm scuppered that. Maybe this week instead.

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

(We haven't been out for a walk this week but fingers crossed, are heading out tomorrow)


Monday 21 March 2016

Harvest Monday - a frozen surprise

This week on the allotment I've sown my broad beans (Eleanora express), done a bit of weeding and pruned back some of the brambles. The broad beans are in one of my reconfigured raised beds - I put in 4 rows, first roughly marking out the lines for each row using the end of a cane (otherwise my rows would be very wonky) then made holes for each bean with a dibber (wooden handle of a broken fork) then went along dropping a seed in each hole, before covering the holes loosely with soil. I didn't water the seeds in as the soil was quite moist and we've been getting lots of rain anyway. Hope they grow ok!
My autumn sown beans are looking very sorry for themselves though. Lots have been squashed by foxes, nibbled by something or battered by the wind (or all three). But I did notice that the ones which had flopped over have started to put on new growth at the base. So I decided to leave them in and see what happens. Later on this week I'll hopefully sow my parsnips in between the rows of beans, and plant out my seed potatoes.
Back at home my tomato seedlings really need potting on so I'll do that this week too. They've just started to get a bit leggy.
We needed a new tub of fruit from the freezer (we have the fruit on our breakfast and I've also been taking some to work in a jar for an afternoon snack). I'd had my eye on a big tub at the bottom of the drawer for a while and this week hoiked it out. I hadn't written on the lid what was in the tub, and even when I lifted off the lid couldn't really tell what it was...mystery mush. So, when it had defrosted I dipped a spoon in to have a! Yep, it was puréed strawberry and so good. How could I have forgotten I made this! Weird.
On a more vegetably note, I was checking on my friend's plot this week. He has MS and needs a wheelchair to get around now but incredibly still has an impeccable allotment plot. He moves around the plot on his bum so doesn't tend to go up much in the winter when everything is damp. Anyway, I was on the look- out for the leeks he said might still be knocking around....
And yes, he had amazing leeks too, so I dug a few up for us both. I've removed the outer leaves here but there was hardly any rust and no sign of leek-moth caterpillar damage. As he said when I dropped them round, things always do much better when you just leave them to do their own thing!
Just like these beetroot he said I could have too. Darn, why can't I grow beet like this! We roasted a few yesterday and will probably make a borscht some other time.
But one thing did pick from my own plot....some corn salad. Which I can't really take any credit for as it sows around by itself....who needs gardeners eh.

A walk from Diss on the Angles Way
On Saturday we headed to the market town of Diss on the train. It's down on the Norfolk / Suffolk border but is quite quick and only takes 17 minutes to get there. It's a pretty town (once you're away from the train station which is on the edge of an industrial estate and a housing estate of bungalows), especially in the centre with some lovely old buildings and a large lake called The Mere...I didn't take many photos as the weather was a bit dull.

We still enjoyed the day and had a lovely walk across to Scole on the Angles Way, picking up some geocaches as we went, before taking a looping route back to Diss on some footpaths and country lanes.
The Angles Way crosses a small river and passes through an area called Frenze, which included this disused church (St Andrew's) dating from the 13th old!
As with many churches in Norfolk it's open to visitors so we had to pop in for a look. There were so many lovely features, like these carved monkeys
The font dated from the 14th century I think
This door led into a small room. People could use the knocker to be given refuge
Out on the other side of Scole, the Angles Way passes another church (St Mary's)...this time only part of the tower remains. It's just in the corner of an arable field so is surprising to come across.

Where will we go this week? I haven't really thought about it yet but I expect there'll be some more geocaches involved. Or maybe I'll be too busy on the allotment (or it might be raining)....we'll see.


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


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