Tuesday, 31 January 2012

31 Jan 2012 - Tidy up time - Part 1

I've got a few days off, so thought I'd tackle the jobs on the to-be-put-off-if-you-can list, but one job at a time, it's not so bad.

Today's job was to clear out the dead bits between the blackberries (still not thornless) and do a bit of pruning. Sounds easy - until I got stuck in.... forgot that we don't keep the secateurs there, so I used the rake instead.  Then found out that this little area isn't quite so little - we could get about 3 or 4 more beds in here if we wanted!  Also, it's been the previous owner's dumping ground for pruned branches (trees and blackberry) which has all been grassed through.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased with what I got done - took a couple of hours, which was longer than I planned, but who's ever stuck to a timetable at an allotment?! Here's a few before and after pics, I hope you can see the effect, but it's not very clear, because I did leave the live blackberries in for fruit collecting later.


compost full
Success!  We've got a full compost, to start off - free supply of the browns and greens, just need the heat and a bit of water to sort it out.  Also found lots of stuff in the pile by the compost bin.  Not rubbish - in there was netting, wire mesh, wood stakes, piping for netting, spare tough bags for use and the shelving/frame of a mini greenhouse!  I'll get some old net curtains and make a cover for that!

Right, I'm off for a cuppa.....until tomorrow, that is.

my Christmas present from a friend - a hug for my mug!

Monday, 30 January 2012

29/30 Jan 2012 - new growth!

gooseberries, currants & blueberry

 The fruit bushes have started showing signs of new life - I was a bit worried about them being transplanted on 7 Jan, but they seem to have coped well.

My theory comes true again - if it wants to live.....it will.
 The garlic that I dug up after the previous guy left them in the ground has started sprouting - there is no technical reason for the netting, just to remind me that I'd planted something in that section of the bed.  Have got something coming up at the other end, which is curious because I'd dug that over and that's where the garlic came from.  Was quietly confident there was nothing down there....well you know what thought thought!

Here's how the fruit trees are doing, got a bit of blossom on, anyone know what we might get?  I just hope it isn't mango.  It's the only fruit I don't like! (but wouldn't that be funny - proof that I do live on a tropical island with sandy white beaches and palm trees!)

red and green brussel sprouts
The seedlings are doing well too, planted on 14 Jan - looks like I'll be able to share some sprout plants with friends if these all do well!

Below is some purple cauli, savoy cabbage, green kohl rabi, violet artichoke, nasturtium, red spring onion and cucumber

That's about it for now, thanks for reading - come back soon for a nosey because I've got 4 days to play with and will be tidying up the plot a bit every day from tomorrow.  I'll also be introducing you to a Christmas present my friend made me - you'll be jealous!

Monday, 23 January 2012

23 Jan 2012 - seedlings & sowing

leeks, squash and radish
It's playtime!  Decided that I should plant out some of my leeks, got two sorts going this year, because I've got a fab recipe for them (I'll share another day), found some white patty pan squash and purple radish - I tried resisting, but I was worn down in the shop (honest)

I have no idea how many I planted, decided it was a good idea to do while waiting for a facemask to set and I didn't have my glasses on - now that's some kind of multi-tasking (not sure what type.....)

Anyway, glasses back on, time to find out how my seedlings are doing on the windowsill, because I planted them a whole 9 days ago....

middle row 1 & 3 - red spring onion

Vales Emerald chitting away in egg carton

Not bad, not bad at all!  Even if I do say so myself ;-)

Row 1/2 purple cauliflower, Row 3/1 savoy cabbage, Row 8/2 green khol rabi

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bean and Cheese Casserole

Today we had friends come for Sunday lunch and I felt like doing something a little different to a roast (will find out if they appreciated it later!)

It's an Alison Holst recipe from a book I've had for decades, "Meals Without Meat", but the oldies are usually the goodies.  I'm a religiously one-pot cook.  Don't speak to me if there is more than one pot on the go, it's the only time I can't multi-task!

Anyway, peer pressure from the lovely Claire, I've taken pics so maybe she can convince her boys to eat what they grow (even if it is beans!)

This serves 8, and in my usual fashion, I put in what I thought was right, rather than muck around with such trivialities like halving the recipe!  It looks like lots of ingredients, but most of it's probably in the cupboard anyway.  Here's the official version (my measurements in brackets)

2 cups pinto or kidney beans (1 tin kidney beans)
3 onions (some homegrown red onions)
2 large or 2 medium cooking apples (2 bramley apples, odd shaped)
2 tablespoons oil (some in the pan)
1 teaspoon chilli powder, to taste (some curry powder cos chilli hates me)
1 teaspoon mustard powder (couple of pinches)
1 teaspoon oreganum (didn't have any, mixed herbs'll do)
1 teaspoon salt (may have forgotten this)
black pepper (yay, measurements match!)
4 tomatoes, chopped (tin of plum tomatoes, bashed when stirring)
1/4 cup white wine (leftover white wine from last night)
2 cups grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese (grated lots, it was yellow)

Here's a pic of the home grown stuff.  Will be serving the broadbeans (shelled) and spinach on the side.  Hope you noticed the cookbook holder - kettle, chopping board and peg (no, I don't want a proper one) Pure class!
Spinach and unshelled broad beans, some shelled broad beans and red onions

 The stressy part - two pots here!!!!  Cook the beans for about an hour to soften (kidney beans should boil for about 15 mins).  Chop and saute the onions and apples.

Put everything in a casserole dish and bake for 30 mins at 180 (160 if it's fan oven).  Relax, back to one pot ;-)

Stir in grated cheese and return to oven for another 10 mins. 

Serve with crusty bread and veges.  Voila!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

14 Jan 2012 - seed planting time

Well it's time to be digging out the seeds, checking the planting dates and resisting the urge to plant everything right now!

I've sorted them into two lots, plant now and plant later - easy peasy!  The windowsills will be full for a while!  For Claire's benefit, I've taken photo's of the packets in two lots - exotic & reliable.

I'll start with the fun bit first - Exotics ;-)

Khol Rabi (Luna) - the longtails got to this one before I had a chance to harvest, so it's getting a second chance.
Artichoke (Violetto di Romagna) - I've never eaten this, but neighbouring plots had success, I'm just curious.
Aubergine (Viserba) - expensive to buy but I love it, lets see if I can grow it!
Cauliflower (Purple Graffiti) - just to be a bit different
Cucumber (F1 Natsuhikari) - been trying to grow this for 2 years now, it's getting one more chance!
Japanese Spinach Te-suto (Komatsuna) - A Christmas present, other spinach did well, so I'm curious, looks like soft leaves.
Savoy Cabbage (Brussels Winter) - this grew, but only very small, I wonder if a new area might work better for this one, cos this is one of my favourites to cook with.

Here's the reliable ones:

Nasturtium (Jewel mixed) - grows well, looks good, attracts bees and butterflies - this year, I might investigate eating the flowers!
Perpetual Spinach (Leaf beet) - has a bigger dark leaf, strong stalk and more flavour, grows really well.
Perpetual Spinach (Spinach beet) - a soft smaller leaf, smaller plant, watch out for longtails nicking the whole plant tho!
Rainbow Spinach - purple, yellow, white, green, orange!  Grows really well, potluck on the colours in the packet.
Leek (Bandit F1 Hybrid) - I'm going to have a go at getting longer plants this year (using toilet rolls or pipe insulation).  Watch this space!
Brussels Sprouts (Bedford - Fillbasket) - If you don't like sprouts, you haven't tried them when they're fresh picked.
Cos Lettuce (Little Gem) - much nicer than iceberg lettuce!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

7 Jan 2012 - transplanting done

 You wouldn't believe how sunny it was today!  Made the most of it by digging up, moving and transplanting the asparagus (which my boss thought was a sentence he would never hear in his lifetime!) and the fruit bushes and rhubarbs.

First job, how to get the plants in the car................. Well, as I always say, if it doesn't fit,
force it!

At the new allotment, I introduced the plants to their "area".  At the front is the asparagus, the back is 2 rhubarb, 2 gooseberry (one green, one red), blueberry, redcurrant and boysenberry.

After some serious digging, which I wasn't expecting to have to do with covered beds, I had made room for the asparagus.  
Also a bit nerve-wracking, I had decided they looked a bit like either an Ood or the innards of a Dalek, then the windmill decided to do a wupping sound to the beat of four!!!  Nervous now, in the middle of nowhere, expecting the Master to turn up.  (If you don't watch Dr Who, ignore this comment, or start watching it!)  

These asparagus were 2 years old when we first planted them, so they are just about to start their 5th year.  We would possibly have been able to harvest some this year, but I'm not sure now.  I've replanted them using the same instructions as originally given, so they are now spaced out more than when they were dug up.
Asparagus transplanted

Then I got to planting the fruit bushes at the front of the asparagus.  Perhaps I should mention that the reason for lots of digging was because for some bizarre unknown reason, the whole bed appears to be for horseradish!  AAAARRRRGGHHHH!

At the back is the gooseberries, then the redcurrant and blueberry.  There is room for one more fruit bush and the spacing is really generous.  If they don't grow much, then I guess I could put in a 6th one next year.
Gooseberry, Redcurrant & Blueberry
The boysenberry is happy now, planted at the back - beside the beans, but planted so that it will grow behind itself, with the other brambles & blackberries.  Mike was honoured to be given one boysenberry last year....they are divine and all MINE, MINE, MINE!!!
Boysenberry (a purple berry, a bit like a tayberry, or loganberry x blackberry) - but better!
Our two rhubarb crowns (in the back tyres) joined the one already there, plus the escapee outside the tyres!  Rhubard crumble, here we come!  I made some really nice rhubarb and apple jam last time, will have to dig out the recipe again - yum.

I was surprised to see how quickly the raspberry canes had reacted to being pruned last weekend, we've got new growth already!  Also, the garlic has started coming up, but too small to photograph.  No sign of broadbeans yet, but fingers crossed I wasn't too late.  The strawberries haven't died after their move either.
4 rhubarb crowns
Raspberry canes

Friday, 6 January 2012

Too many strawberries? It's Daquiri time!

Last year, (quite luckily around my birthday) we had far too many strawberries ripen all at the same time.  There's really only so many you can scoff at once without looking like a strawberry (yup, there were THAT many!)

We were having a picnic for my birthday, so thought we'd have a go at making Frozen Strawberry Daquiri's to share with friends (well it would be rude not to!).

There was a recipe, but we had too many strawberries to be bothered counting out 35ml white rum, 2tsp white sugar and 25 ml lime juice for every 4 strawberries (and we didn't even have any strawberry liqueur)!!!!

So in true free-pour fashion, we just kept cutting up the strawberries, bashing the ice, putting in a bit of sugar, adding some rum to a decent consistency and throwing in a bit of lime juice to taste!

We made about 2 litres and still had some strawberries in the freezer to have another go later, and finally found a reason to use the decanter!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Plot layout

bracken, fruit trees, brambles, blackberries
compost bin                                 broadbeans
raspberry canes          fruit tree, strawberries

5 - strawberries
4 - garlic

The idea is to have a crop rotation going, which will be a bit hit and miss the first year, mostly because unless we dig something up, we won't know what was there before!  Fingers crossed'n'all that jazz.  The basic system will be that there won't be roots following roots or leaves following leaves, and throw in the odd bed of experimental veges every now and then!

I do know that where the broadbeans and new strawberries are was potatoes, and bed 4 had cabbages and garlic in.  I've put the garlic in the other end of the bed, mostly because it was the only uncovered bed at the time and call me cheap, but I didn't want to waste the pods!

We've got some asparagus to move from the old plot, so will have to get our butts into gear and get one bed ready for it this weekend!  As that won't be moving, might make it a permanent bed with half asparagus and the other half fruit bushes, like gooseberry, blueberry and currants.  DEFINITELY have to squeeze in my beloved boysenberry plants somewhere - maybe just to join the berries down the back to runamuck.

Not sure what to do with the tyres down the side of the plot, they're full of "stuff" so I think some inspiration will be needed there (and a bit of hard slog).

Favourite veges that will making an appearance are: Beetroot - golden & purple, Borlotti Beans, Brussel Sprouts - red and green, Cauliflower - sunset & purple, Chinese Leaves, Coriander, Curly Kale, Dwarf Beans, Garlic, Leeks, Mangetout, Parsnip, Patty Pan, Rainbow Spinach, Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Silverbeet and Turnip.

Experimental veges that we've either wanted to try, or have tried and so far failed at, are: Courgette, Cucumber, Fennel, Marrow, Pumpkins - Turks Turban and Whangaparaoa Crown, Sweetcorn and some exotic veges that I get as presents!  Other ideas are very welcome!

Monday, 2 January 2012

The "Pond"

I figured since I've mentioned the "Pond" (and yes, it was described to us with finger motions!) here's a pikkie of it.  We think that maybe it turned into a "Pond" because they nicked the soil to build up other beds and had to do something with the hole.  Unconfirmed.

2 Jan 2012 - jobs done

Mike's got his work cut out for him - lucky it's dry compost at the moment!  Plastic needs reattaching (& he scavanged some more for the door), walls need help to stay up, and he made a big hinge using leftover plastic coated wire (I knew I kept that for a reason!).
I pruned the raspberry canes so they're good to go too ;-)


I got rid of the old cabbages, turned the bed over and found some garlic!  Terrific!  It was no use for eating, but good sizes, with decent roots, so I planted 3/4 of the bed and we'll be stinking in a few months!

The netting is for no other reason than to remind me that I've planted something there!!!

2 Jan 2012 - deciding what to do

Bit chilly, but braved the icy cold winds to become an allotment martyrs.

Mike's job was to sort the compost bin, mine was was to sort out the old cabbage bed.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

27 Dec 2011 - first planting

Well, it's a bit late, but the broadbeans are in.  As we inherited lots of tyres, I planted 13 beans round each (a good number!) and will grow herbs, bulbs or flowers in the middle of the tyres later.

Forgot my string, but quietly confident that the canes won't blow away.....

D-Day - 27 Dec 2011

This is our plot before we started, the high frame at the back is the neighbours - a bit flamboyant for brussel sprouts!  But that's Richard for ya!  On the other side is Vic & Karen and they have a lily pond (reason unknown).  I fear we'll be the boring lot here!!

The other side is just at the edge of the black plastic and the trees *unknown till they fruit, are also on our plot ;-)

It's a very laid back community and we are allowed to extend to where I'm standing taking the photo, as long as we leave a path in between!