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Monday, 8 July 2013

Lovely Lavender

Although not strictly in the vegetable garden I'd like to share with you my enthusiasm for lavender, who's purple blooms remind me of sleepy cottage gardens.  As a child I made little scented parcels for my sock draw from the lavender bush in my parents garden.  I made them with my Great Auntie Phyllis,  a lovely lady who taught me how to care for plants when I was little and who's enthusiasm for gardening was infectious.  I like to think she left me a little of her plant 'mojo'! Anyway, if you have a plant, or someone friendly who will let you have some of the flower buds you can have a go with cooking with it, which is even better than scented smalls :)  Try this ice-cream:

Sophie Dahl’s Earl Grey and lavender ice-cream

Muslin bag and string, for a bouquet garni
1 tbsp fresh chopped lavender leaves
4 tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves
8 egg yolks
125g of caster/superfine sugar
500ml of double/heavy cream
500ml of milk

1. First make your bouquet garni by tying the lavender and Earl Grey tea leaves into the muslin bag. Make sure the string is tightly knotted. Put to one side.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy and keep to one side.
3. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, milk and bouquet garni of lavender and tea leaves up until boiling point, and then remove from the stove.
4. Temper the egg and sugar mixture by slowly adding the infused cream to bring the egg up to the same temperature, whisking all the time. Strain the mixture and then allow it to cool.
5. Churn in your ice-cream maker as per the instructions. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, freeze the mixture in a plastic container for two hours. Remove from the freezer, pour into a blender and whiz for a minute or two. Pour back into the container. Freeze for another two hours, then serve.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Busy busy!

It's been a lovely sunny week or two in the garden, this has helped lots as we were pretty behind due to a late start with the warm weather here in the UK.  A soggy, cool spring meant that some crops needed to be put out later than usual, but everything catches up so fast!  

For my birthday at the end of April I was bought some lovely new strawberry plants and a planter by Nath's sister and her hubby.  As you can see above they are going well, should have some nice fat strawberries off those.  I also have a few older plants in a fabric planter and a few that sneaked into the top bed of the veggie plot, I am going to leave those there, I mean as far as 'weeds' go you couldn't hope for a nicer one than the strawberry!

Another thing currently growing like there is no tomorrow is the rhubarb, this is one of 2 plants that is bordering of triffid in proportions again this year!  In a way it's a shame I have such success with rhubarb as I'm not vastly keen on the flavour.  Although...this year I have at last attempted some home brewing!  So first on my list was rhubarb wine!  I can't drink it at the moment as I am now 6 months pregnant but it'll be nicely matured by the time I can.  There are many recipes out there, but I went with this one from blogger Lovely Greens:


Makes 6 bottles of wine

2.3 kg [5 lb] Rhubarb
1.4 kg [3 lb] Sugar
285 ml [1/2 UK Pint / 1-1/4 cups US] Black tea, cooled (make it quite strong)
2.8 Litres Water [5 UK pints / 6 US Pints]
2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1x 5g Sachet of White wine Yeast
Well sterilised bucket, bowl and utensils
For AFTER fermenation: 1 Campden Tablet

For the method please see the Lovely Greens Blog.  

As far as other plants go I have that I need to plant up, these are all the young hot weather plants; melon, squash, courgette and pumpkin.  I shall plant these this week I think.

My potatoes are just coming up, apparently I will get a better yield later if I fertilise them with chicken pellets (says my John's Allotment newsletter).  Given that my compost is pretty much made up of chicken poo and straw I think I shall be emptying a couple of buckets of compost on that patch.  This year I have planted Jerusalem artichokes and they are also coming up now. My runner beans have also gone in the ground now, this is my first year for runners, the slugs already managed to nibble the growing tips off 2 of them, but I am sure they will recover.

Friday, 26 April 2013

I love Spring

Spring is such an exciting time, warm breezes full of promise, the smell of damp compost in pots on the windowsills, palm-fulls of little seeds. It's a real time of expectation. This year it's especially important to me since I've found out I'm having a baby in the early Autumn! Enough about me though, on to the gardening!

This year I've bought some v exciting sounding seeds from The Real Seed Catalogue and here are my Russian tomatoes (above)! Named Urbikany they are an early tall bush variety. Last year due to the damp we suffered badly with blight, and these toms are apparently faster to mature in our 'glorious' English climate, so they may avoid blight which often strikes later in the growing season.

Other plants sown at the moment are an Italian green knobbly pumpkin, a spherical courgette, a weirdly shaped squash, a cooler climate melon and some butter bean type runner beans. Also I have seeds for sweet violet and a lovely bush sunflower.  This weeks job is get those potatoes in!

More excitement came this week from the first egg from our Crested chicken, Rosie. The Crested are (I think) the same as a Columbine, they are part Cotswold Legbar which is an old free ranging breed with cool pompom head feathers which lays blue/green eggs.  The hybrids are being developed to produce a smaller hen that will lay plentiful blue/green eggs.  I think the ratio is 80% blue/green to pastel. Look it's blue/green, This pleases me greatly as I really really wanted a blue egg layer!

Another brill thing that's happened lately is that Nath's dad gave us some money to buy a space for more chickens, so we purchased an Eglu Cube in pink.  It's very spacious and the hens seem to love it although the oldest ex battery chciken is having a problem getting back up the ladder in the evenings, bless her.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

New Chickens

This rather gorgeous little point of lay hen is a Crested from Heidi's Happy Hens.  We were determined to restock the chooks since we'd suffered a few unavoidable losses (from soil eating, of all things) and were down to Nessa, the ex battery hen and Isabel the White Star. For ages and ages I had wanted some form of Cotswold Legbar hybrid, partly because of the beautiful feathers and punk haircut, and partly because they have an 80% chance to lay a blue/green egg.  So now we have Rosie!  She hasn't starter to lay yet, I think it's a tad too nippy still and she's still maturing.  I am hopeful though!  The other chicken is a Copper Black and her name is Mabel.  She's beautiful too, and should in time lay darker brown eggs.

Here they are in the cat carrier (best way to transport a couple of chickens!).  The cat carrier is also ideal for freaking out people at the vets who peek in hoping to see a lovely cat *evil grin*

Here are all 4 chickens in the Omlet Eglu (with run extension).  They need the bottom of the run levelling and re-filling, as you can see they have performed some major excavation work!  Also please note, white chickens do not stay white for long!

"Whatchoo lookin at?"

Monday, 4 March 2013

Spring! Better luck this year

So, this blog really had bit a bit sad and lonely for the last year.  After last year's perils of torrential rain and flooding over much of the UK for most of the summer the ground was saturated, the slugs were everywhere. Literally no man standing after planting out your seedlings and leaving them overnight, and as for direct planting, pah!  They even ate all the developing pumpkins off a bought pumpkins plant.  I had even gone to the trouble of applying the trusty Nemaslug! I was not impressed.  But all is not lost, with every new Spring comes fresh opportunity and a new wave of hopefulness that this year there will be a bit of sun....even in England.

Turn the page and we find ourselves in March.  I have high hopes for March, even though a cold snap is promised near the middle of the month.  Undeterred I have made the majority of my seed purchases and made a hefty start to the weeding.  So what am I planning to grow this year?  So far the list is something like Leeks, Tomatoes, Jerusalem Artichokes, Courgette, Runner Beans, Peas, Potatoes, Kale and Chard.  I might end up putting a few patches of extras in though, my seed box overfloweth!  Again I am hoping to combine vegetables with pretty herbs and flowers in my perpetual thirst for an Alice Fowler style vegetable garden (seems I have made it harder for myself with long wide beds).  There are still some plants in from last year; strawberries and chives.  I've also planted this years Garlic (late!) as well as 3 of the biggest cloves of last years Elephant Garlic.

I must also mention that a very sad thing happened at the end of November 2012, Lenny, my oldest Greyhound died.  I am still pretty gutted about not seeing his furry, loving face any more, but consoling myself with the thought that he had lots of love from us, and a good long life full of seaside trips and castles and gardens since he was 8 (when I adopted him from kennels).  I have had him cremated and am keeping his ashes for now, when the others go I will mix their ashes and find a place to scatter them together.
A Greyhound should be free to run with the wind, as they did in life.  R.I P. my lovely little Lenny ♥

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year, things to look forward to

Happy New Year readers!  I hope you all had a really good Christmas and New Years break.  One of my New Years resolutions is to keep up to date with my blog.  It was a hard year one way or another and the weather was also against me this year (I'm not taking it personally, even the TV gardeners seem to have had trouble).  2012 year was the wettest year on record in the UK.  My garden agrees, crops were poor, many many, many, things were eaten by slugs and snails, despite vigorous application of Nemaslug.  Bah and indeed humbug.

Never mind, this year I am confident all will be better, and the garden is having a tone of fertiliser on it so hopefully will do better this year!