Tuesday 28 June 2016

Harvest Monday - crouching Lou, hidden strawberries.

Well here we go, more strawberries. I've picked about 12kg so far, plus about the same for my friend Andrew who can't get down to his plot at the moment. So if I'm not on a slug-hunt I'm picking strawberries. But I did find a cute toad a few times in the same spot, tucked away under the dried grass I use as mulch on one of my strawb patches (however, yesterday there was a massive slug in its spot instead, ugh).
One batch went a bit wrong....oops. I only left it alone on the hob for a minute honest! Just enough time for it to bubble up and over.
For a different batch I decided to add a bit of rhubarb from the back garden. As rhubarb's rather tart, I mixed in some marrow jam that Jan's mum gave us a while back. The jam has an unusual flavour, it's kind of sweet/savoury so I'm not sure what spices went in...maybe mixed spice? I'll have to ask. Anyway, I puréed it up before freezing. It'll go well topping the breakfast muesli later in the year. There are two big tubs of strawbs over on the counter that need to be processed too but I didn't get chance tonight.
Other harvests have included a couple of batches of baby chard (from the self-sown plants)
And a couple of batches of early potatoes. They're very buttery, yum. (Variety Colleen I think, without checking). We had some tonight drizzled with olive oil. Of course, when I was lifting the potatoes from the ground I managed to spear the best ones with my fork...(Not these below though, phew). And I found an absolutely massive toad, the biggest I've ever seen, luckily I didn't spear him/her. The tops of my earlies are starting to die off now. Once I've lifted them I'll plant-out the leeks in the space. Oddly, the slugs seem to only be going for the maincrop potato tops but maybe that's thanks to the toad keeping busy amongst the earlies. I have at least three toads, as there's a more orangy coloured one around too.
I decided to pick the last few of my autumn-sown broad beans because the slugs were just attacking them and damaging the pods. My spring broad beans are coming along ok (as long as I keep dealing with the slugs and snails regularly) apart from blackfly have discovered them and rust has started appearing too. I've nipped off the tops of the worst affected blackfly plants but there's not much to do about the rust. I've never had it before but apparently it's caused by the damp, which isn't usually a problem on our dry sandy soil. This year however, it's very wet with all the rain.
Jan made the beans into a stew with some of the potatoes.
Back at home the tomatoes are doing well in the lean-to. Here's stripey tigerella. It's quite difficult to move round in the lean-to now, suddenly there's a jungle. Hopefully I'll get lots of fruits as well as leaves. There's lots of flowers anyway.
In the back garden most of the lettuces have been demolished by snails. Ironically I'd been quite vigilant checking for damage on the allotment but not in the back garden...but I found some hidey places today, with some rather large snails.
I have some more salad seedlings on the go and made a start at potting them on tonight. But I'd left it a bit long and they've all gone spindly and intertwined, making it really difficult to carefully tease them apart. Hopefully some will survive anyway, I've got more to do tomorrow.
Bishop's Garden - open afternoon
Yesterday we visited the Bishop's House Garden, next to the cathedral. It's usually private but they open it a few times a year for different charities. In all my years in Norwich (21!) I'd never been before, so it was about time.
It was lovely, quite large and gave a different perspective on that part of the city.
Old gatehouse
Wildflower meadow with labyrinth snaking through
Amazing pear tree in the middle
There were lots of different areas including a veg patch (well, not really a patch!)
Double row of tomatoes in the greenhouse. The taller ones at the back actually had a few fruits ripening.
Gigantic fruit cage
Big compost area too
A few traditional borders
Main lawn
Bee orchids in a cordoned-off patch of uncut lawn


So that was a nice afternoon, a pleasant distraction from the mess that this country is in. Sad times but we'll see, nothing seems to be set at the moment and anything could happen. I wasn't going to mention the EU referendum but there it crept in at the end. It'll be even more important now to grow our own, in a sustainable way, and to encourage others as well....looking after our environment, healthy food and contact with nature as well as saving a bit of money where possible.


Ok, thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres, just sneaking in before it becomes Tuesday.


Monday 20 June 2016

Harvest Monday - strawberries

Wow, I'm just back from the allotment (after a not-so-wow slug hunt), but as I was leaving the site I had an amazing view of the strawberry moon in one direction (full moon on the summer Equinox) and a pinky sunset in the other....fantastic.
Talking of strawberries, they've been the main focus of my harvests this week. But before that, here's my proper first potatoes of the year (apart from the tiddlers last week). These were from two plants, so not a huge harvest but very tasty. We had them as a side dish drizzled with olive oil, much nicer than my photo looks.
And on to the strawberries..
Yup, there's been rather a lot. This is just a few of them.
We've been munching through quite a lot as snacks but as there've been so many I've lightly cooked down a couple of batches to freeze.
We've also had strawberries and cheese on toast, a dish we discovered last year on the BBC recipe site. It's very easy, just melt a knob of butter so it's bubbly, add the strawberries to soften them and add 4 teaspoons of honey and some flaked almonds.
The recipe uses ricotta cheese but we had soft goats cheese, on a walnut sourdough toast, yum.

I kind of feel a bit 'done' with strawberries already, is that too soon?! But I'll carry on picking them (no doubt sampling a few as I go, as usual) and freezing the majority of them I think. We don't eat much jam and I'm not a fan of all that sugar, so freezing them still lets us enjoy strawberries when the season's over. Plus I need to keep picking them regularly because with all this rain we've been having, the strawberries soon go mouldy on the plants, and the slugs are enjoying them too.


Other harvests have included more baby chard, lettuce from the back garden and some herbs (mainly mint, basil, coriander and sage, when I remember to pick them that is). Hopefully this week I'm going to plant out my brassicas, I still haven't done that yet. And try a few more potatoes. Oh I spotted a few more broad beans on my autumn sown plants, which I might pick or leave to get big and save the seed to use this autumn. I haven't done that before so it might be interesting to try.


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


Monday 13 June 2016

Harvest Monday and a walk around the Cathedral Quarter

Well, I'm just back in from the allotment, dealing with slugs until it was too dark to see. We've had a few days of rain (very welcome as the soil had become dry as a bone) but it's brought the slugs out again, so I've been out most evenings with my little pair of scissors (yuk). I don't think there would be much left of my veggies if the slugs were left to their own devices.
Anyway, on to more pleasant things again....I'm carrying on with pinching-out my basils in the lean-to (to encourage bushing out of the plants). Here's a few purple basil leaves, with some lettuce from the back garden.
I've picked my second lot of broad beans from the autumn sowing, which went into a cauliflower and bean curry-thing. That's about it from the autumn beans but the spring-sown ones (Eleanora express) have just started producing teeny pods.
I've also picked a few lots of baby chard from the plants self-seeded in my onion bed. Now we've had lots of rain, I think I'll try and transplant some of them to a spot with a bit of space. They should survive the move better now the soil's moist.
I get hayfever and although it's not been as bad the last couple of years, it's still quite rough at times. I'd read that drinking nettle tea is meant to help (anti-histamine properties I think) but hadn't got round to trying it out before this week (you're meant to drink it everyday, starting before your hayfever kicks in). But it's worth a whirl anyway, so I've been snipping off young tips, giving them a quick rinse to get rid of bugs, and then steeping for a few minutes.
It doesn't taste too bad actually!
Last week I picked the first strawberry from the plot. Well, now they're really coming fast, with more every day. This was the second picking...
Third picking
Fourth...and I could've picked a big haul tonight if the light hadn't got too bad to see (I decided it was better to get the most slugs that I could, and try and head down to pick strawbs tomorrow, in between the rain)
Back at home, the first tomatoes are forming, ooh, won't be too long now
I still have a load of brassicas to plant out
Plus some recently sown squashes (to replace some of the ones destroyed by slugs) and some gherkins that really need to get planted out. I'd hoped to do that this afternoon but it rained the whole time
Last week was quite a contrast...it was actually too sunny and hot to go on the plot during the day, so I had a few evenings there instead. One afternoon I had a stroll around the cathedral quarter of the city, it's just so pretty (and much quieter than on a weekend). In my art course last week (one morning a week for 12 weeks), we sat outside and drew the courtyard, which was good fun. I'm too embarrassed to actually draw in public so thought I'd get a few pics for inspiration instead.
Pull's Ferry
Elm Hill
Off Elm Hill
Anglican Cathedral (we have a Roman Catholic one too)
As I was out and about, I went to meet Jan after work and we had a walk through Rosary Cemetery, up on the hill
Lots of lovely sweet chestnut trees.

And despite all the pollen flying around I managed to avoid setting my hayfever off too badly, hurray.


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


Monday 6 June 2016

Harvest Monday - summer!

What's that? Summer has arrived (for a while at least). Following on from some very chilly autumnally weather we've had a lovely couple of days, and look......a strawberry
There would've been another one too but a beastie had enjoyed it first. This one was yummy anyway (Jan and I had half each). Hopefully the first of many.
I've lifted all my garlic, bad rust had developed and some of the plants started to rot in the ground. So it won't store, but we'll try and eat it up before any more of it rots. I might sow some carrots in the space where it was, as the garlicky-ness might put off carrot fly? In other years I've planted out squash after lifting garlic, which seemed to work ok too.
Brace yourselves.....this was my potato harvest today. My early potatoes are in flower so I thought I'd rootle around in the soil to see if I could find any reasonable ones to harvest. I think you can see how that went.
I also picked some baby chard leaves. The plants self-seeded in amongst my onions, so hopefully they won't affect the onion growth too much. Posh bags of salad leaves quite often include baby chard so it's nice to get some for free here.
My autumn-sown broad beans have started fattening up. The plants themselves look awful (having been battered by winds and squashed by cats or foxes over winter, then more-recently eaten by slugs) but they've hung-in there and produced some decent beans
I've probably picked about two thirds of them so far
Whilst I was podding the beans, Jan made us this tasty soup with a fresh garlic, the potatoes and then the beans and chard plus a bit of coriander and mint that I'm growing at home. Lovely, with a spoonful of goat yogurt.
Yesterday Jan really wanted a BBQ, so after all the effort of getting it going just to cook a few veggie sausages, I had a think of what else we could put on. Turns out that you can BBQ rhubarb, and there were some stalks that needed pulling from my pot in the back garden. After drizzlling with oil and about 10 minutes on the BBQ they softened up nicely. We ate them with balsamic vinegar and honey (it actually worked!).
And we've finally been enjoying salad leaves from the back garden...here's 'freckles'
I've planted out the lettuce on two sides, and have been checking for slugs most nights. Plus I'm trying out the bran trick, you can just see a white barrier of it around the lettuce patch in the piccie below (the bran's only been in place two days though, so will have to see how effective it is)
I've also finished off the rustic 'gate' made from buddliea prunings...the diagonal stem gives it stability (otherwise it's a bit wobbly). I'm quite pleased with it actually, I might make one for the other side too if I've got enough sticks.
In naturey news, I keep seeing this lovely toad on the allotment (pic by jan). At the moment it seems to spend most days under a pile of rosemary prunings. I'd like to tidy them away but feel a bit guilty whilst the toad's there. I saw a really big frog today too, hope it gets munching on those slugs.
On Saturday we got the bus over to the east coast for a walk. It was a bit misty to begin with but cleared up later....Here's a few of the famous Horsey seals. Well, their bums anyway.
And a beautiful blue sky by the time we headed inland a bit. We were lucky to see swallowtail butterflies and painted ladies (plus the usual marsh harriers, skylarks, stonechats etc , we're a bit spoilt for wildlife round here).

That's me for the week, thanks for reading and hope you've been enjoying nice weather, nature, and some harvests too.


I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres


Oh, I forgot to include this basil, picked when pinching-out some basil seedlings (to encourage bushy plants), which we had with a pasta dish