Wednesday, 27 July 2011

You can see for miles at the top of Jeffrey Hill

On Friday night, for some crazy reason, I thought it would be a good idea to start tidying out the box room which is full of clutter.  I didn't get too far - apart from taking all the boxes out of the room and making a right mess of the rest of the house!  I need to go through the boxes and it's going to take some time to do a proper job of it.

We nipped to the garden centre on Saturday morning.  I was looking for some baby winter veg plants to fill the gaps left behind after picking the potatoes.  They didn't really have anything apart from some wilted leeks, so I bought 3 pots and they reduced  them to £1 for all 3 - bargain.  Once I got home I gave them a good water and they've come back to life again, so I'll get them planted asap.

I picked some sweet peas.

The flower in the back garden are looking good.

Steve's been enjoying sleeping in the long grass we've left uncut for him.  It's his own little jungle.

It was hot and sunny on Saturday so in the afternoon we nipped to the allotment with a beer, with the intention of just having a potter and enjoying being down there.  I had a tidy around and checked everything was doing OK.  One of the cucumber plants has wilted.  The melons are growing but there aren't any fruit, yet in the greenhouse at home I've two melons coming along nicely.  Melons are a hard crop to grow - not one for the beginner. 

I remembered that I'd sown some cut flower calendula, I was wondering why they'd grown so tall in the greenhouses, then I realised they’re tall because they're meant to be cut and placed in a vase.  I picked a bunch full and they look great in a vase in the shed.

Some of the garlic tops had died off on one variety so I harvested these.  The garlic was so lovely and white once we peeled off the top layer, and it tastes amazing too!

On Saturday night Chris treated us to a meal out at the local Italian, which made a nice change.

We went to the car boot sale on Sunday again.  I got some fabric and 2 cookery books - Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, which is surprisingly pretty good and would make an ideal gift for someone new to cooking.  I also got Gino D'Acampo's the I-Diet which is great as well - I paid £1 for them both.  Chris got some books and some wood for carving.  After the car boot we stopped off at a local river and had an ice cream.  Then we had a drive to a viewpoint called Jeffrey Hill, we could see for miles, and as far as the sea.

I went to the allotment with my mum on Sunday afternoon to pick some ingredients for a Thai green curry.  We got some broad beans, garlic, chilli and peas, and she took some peaches, a lettuce and some spring onions.  On the way out we nipped into Barbara's plot which she's recently taken on since the last plot holder passed away.  She has a few DIY greenhouses, one of which houses an amazing grape vine which is absolutely full of bunches of grapes.  Someone said the vine started off as a cutting from my Dad's vine, as he was really into growing grapes, to the point were they called him the 'vine man'.  I wish I'd have seen his vines.  Barbara's done me a cutting and as soon as it takes I'm going to get it growing in one of our greenhouses.

Sometimes it drives me a bit mad at work.  I work with four other girls and one is pregnant so they go on about babies all the time.  And if it's not babies it's weddings and wedding dresses.  They also eat lots of rubbish food e.g. diet coke, msg crisps, ready meals, ready made mash.  I suggested someone baked their own fairy cakes the other day and they said they'd rather just buy them from the shop.  Ohhhhh.  I really feel like the odd one out.  I mentioned it to a friend and she said they're just muggles, but it doesn't help.  How can people not care about the food they eat, what's in it and where it comes from?  It doesn't make sense to me?  It such a contrast to the people I know at the shop, where they understand about food and green living, at least I feel like I fit in there.

Anyway, on a brighter note, I've ordered a new bike!  My employer has signed up to the cycle to work scheme which means I'll save about 40% off a bike.  I visited a few shops before I settled on the Giant Revel 3.  I just need to wait for my voucher to come through the post then I can go and pick it up!  I'm going to cycle to the allotment then come home the long way round - it'll help me get fitter if nothing else.

My mum came across this potato which has a face!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The first rule of Jigsaw Club

It was chucking it down (again) on Saturday, which is always a bummer at weekend.  So we went to a local model shop and Chris bought some model equipment from the model train set section.  He got some moulds, some little bushes, tiny people, tiny traffic cones and a bunch of other stuff.

My Mum was back from her holiday in Spain, and she brought me back a mosaic owl, a cool beaded bracelet and some saffron.  I need to find some recipes that use saffron now.

I bought the first gladioli of the year.

The wet back garden.

Because of the wet weather I decided to do some knitting and made a start on these ‘owlings’ gloves.  I’m building up to the owls jumper.

We bought the Trailer Park Boys box set so we’ve been watching those – they’re sooooooo soooooo funny. 

We also watched Lee Mack’s latest comedy stand up DVD (not as good as the first one), and the best of Victoria Wood DVD (also not that great).

I had a play with my flash and experimented taking some shots of our living room.

We nipped to the allotment on Sunday and watered in the greenhouses.  We also picked some potatoes, peaches, a garlic and some onions.  The peaches may be small but they’re absolutely delicious!

On Tuesday night I went to ‘jigsaw club’ at my friend’s house.  This is basically a chance to get together and have a catch up whilst doing a jigsaw.  We did a glow in the dark Harry Potter jigsaw which was only 500 pieces, but pretty tricky due to lots of plain black areas.  I’m enjoying the parallels between jigsaw club and my favourite film Fight Club.  So we’ve come up with the following jigsaw club rules:

- One jigsaw at a time.   
- Jigsaws will go on as long as they have to.
 - If this is your first night at jigsaw club you have to finish the jigsaw. 
But I think we should forego the no shirts, no shoes rule!

We nipped to the allotment on Wednesday night to feed the plants in the greenhouses.  I also stripped off the leaves below the first truss on all the tomato plants to help ventilation.  We picked lots more goodies - onions, spring onions, more peaches, Emilie cucumber, blueberries, beetroot, carrots and the first few tomatoes – sungold and sweet million (I left one for my Dad). 

The sweetcorn is thriving and the cobs are swelling.

I had toast, organic cheese (from the shop) and a sungold tomato for supper.

As for the tomatoes, the choc cherry is doing well, the Ildi has loads and loads of flowers, I’m expecting it to produce crops of cherry tomatoes like bunches of grapes. 

Ferline and alicante are doing well, as is sungold.  Marmande is not doing as well (not as tall).  I had to pick off some rosada in greenhouse at home as they had a black bottom, maybe due to the damp weather.

I woke up on Thursday morning and took some scraps of cheese and some seed out to the bird table.  Imagine my shock to see the bird table knocked to the floor and a large pigeon dead on the floor next to it.  The poor thing has been attacked and killed by our cat Steve.  It was only a matter of time before he caught a bird, he's always stalking them.  Chris is going to make a taller bird table to help keep the birds safe.  What a shame for the poor pigeon.

My sweetcorn growing tips (how my sweetcorn became the envy of the allotment site)

Thanks again to my Dad for passing on these great sweetcorn growing tips.

  • First of all I grow my sweetcorn in the border soil inside a greenhouse – it performs much better here than it does outside.
  • I sow 2 sweetcorn seeds into a large peat pot and place them into a greenhouse propagator (you only need a propagator earlier on in the season when the temperature's cooler)
  • Once the seedlings pop up and are about 2 inch/5cm high remove the weaker seedling
  • Once the seedlings are about 6 inches/15cm tall plant them into the border soil
  • Plant the peat pots directly into the border soil (sweetcorn doesn't like its roots disturbing)
  • Remove the top part of the peat pot (it can act as a wick and stop water getting to the plant), ensure the pot is buried under the soil
  • Plant the sweetcorn 12 inches/30cm apart in a grid pattern
  • Position the plants so the leaves are parallel to the greenhouse path - otherwise they'll take over your path when they’re bigger
  • Watch out for slugs when the plants are small (use some organic slug pellets)
  • If the plant tilts when growing straighten it out gently by supporting it with soil around its base
  • Be careful not to damage the roots when hoeing - sweetcorn doesn’t like its roots being damaged
  • Feed weekly with liquid seaweed
  • When tassles (strings) appear on the cobs tap the plants to ensure pollination takes place (dust/pollen will fall off the top of the plant onto the tassles)
  • Feed with (organic) tomato food once the cobs start to swell
  • Once the cobs swell keep them well watered
  • Pick the sweetcorn when the tassles go brown - don't leave it too late or they will go off
  • You can tell when the corn is ready by inserting your nail into one of the niblets (can't think of the right word!) and if the liquid comes out milky it's ready
  • Only pick cobs when you are ready to eat them - the sooner you eat them after picking the sweeter and fresher they'll be
  • Grow one variety - don't mix varieties as they'll cross-pollinate and you'll get strange results
  • My recommended sweetcorn variety is Lark
  • Grow some squash underneath the corn (they grow well together) and squash help to suppress weeds.  You'll need to hand pollinate squash under glass and watch out for the flowers rotting the baby fruit.  Squash plants get huge in the greenhouse so space them out well.
  • Place the cobs in boiling water and boil for 7 minutes.
  • Eat with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
  • Buy some of those corn holders to help you eat your corn.
My sweetcorn always ends up taller than me and tastes amazing, so much better than supermarket corn, it's also a very easy to maintain crop, when compared to melons or tomatoes. Happy growing! I hope you found these tips useful. Please leave me a comment if you have any of your own tips to share.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The sweetcorn is taller than me!

We had a shop board meeting on Wednesday afternoon.  Since the disagreeable director has resigned things have run much more smoothly.  This is how it should have been all along -  the current directors are all diplomatic and reasonable and no-one throws a huff if they don't get their own way.  One rotten apple can spoil the batch, or however the saying goes.

We treated my Mum to an Italian meal out on Wednesday night.  She normally cooks for us on Wednesdays so we thought it would be nice to give her a break and take her out for a change.  The food was yummy, I had garlic mushrooms stuffed with cheese and sundried tomatoes, followed by tuna and onion pizza, and chocolate fudge cake for dessert.  Mmmm.  We all seemed to enjoy it.

We visited an organic cheese dairy on behalf of the shop on Friday afternoon.  We got a bit lost on the way - it was about 15 miles away in the Forest of Bowland, right in the middle of the countryside set amongst lovely scenery.    We had a brief tour of the facilities and we got to sample their cheeses.  The organic cheddar was particularly good.  We placed an order for the shop and the stock should arrive this week.  The new fridge is really boosting sales, so hopefully the cheese will help push things along even more.

My sister and her family came to stay in the Forest of Bowland again this weekend, so I was back there again on Saturday.  They booked a week in the same cottage they stayed at back in April.  I arrived on Saturday afternoon and we went to a local farmers show.  We saw some prize winning horses and cows.  We looked at lots of stalls selling locally made food and crafts and I bought a hand made ceramic squash leaf ornament.  My nieces took part in an origami workshop and made a paper frog.  They also made some sand art in bottles.  In the evening we had a meal out at a local pub, and I had scampi and chips (the veggie selection wasn't great). 

On Sunday we went to a storytelling fair at a local school.  I watched some local women spinning wool and a lady making a rag rug.  There was a hog roast for lunch and no veggie option whatsoever (unless you count cakes and sweets)!

When we got back from the fair we went on a drive into the Trough of Bowland. Driving through the winding narrow lanes we saw pheasants, rabbits and a bird of prey flew out of a hedge - I wish I'd have taken my bird book so I could have identified the different birds.  I should have taken my binoculars too, as well as taking more photos, I wasn't on the ball.  Further on into the trough it gets quite hilly and high and the views are amazing.  We stopped off next to a stream and had a paddle.  Then we drove home past the Inn at Whitewell, which looks like a wonderful place to stay.  I must save up and treat us to a night there, if I spent a little less each week at the supermarket we coud afford to stay there for my birthday. 

Outside the cottage there was lots of wildlife too.  I saw dozens of swifts, a woodpecker, and lots of other birds I didn't recognise. 

On Monday we went for a walk near the cottage and waded up a stream in our wellies. 

I also played table tennis and darts with my nieces, and we borrowed some bikes and went on a bike ride.  It's made me want to get a bike, I used to love cycling when I was younger.

I took some goodies from the allotment with me - rhubarb, gooseberries, new potatoes, cucumbers and a few broad beans.  My sister made a rhubarb and goosebery fool.

When I got home the garden seemed to have grown loads, even though I'd only been away for a few days.  Apparently people at the allotment have been commenting on how well the sweetcorn is doing, it grows so much faster under glass than it does out in the open.

I was hoping  there might be some tomatoes ready but there's only one orange one on one of the sungold plants at the allotment.  I've been taking it easy with the tomato food, I've a feeling that over feeding can encourage magnesium deficiency (leaf yellowing), and so far (fingers crossed) I haven't got any yellow leaves.

The sweetcorn is taller than me.  The onions are swelling.  Some of the broad beans are ready.  When I got back from my break there was about 8 cucumbers on the cucino plant - I would definitely grow this variety again.  In fact, I'm tempted to say it's the only variety I'll grow.  I guess I'd better give the cucumber Emilie a chance first, they're still not big enough to crop yet.  There's flowers on most of the peppers in the greenhouse.  I'm still loving the sweet genovese basil, it tastes so fragrant and strong compared to the stuff you can buy from the supermarket.  This is the only variety I'll grow next year, the other mixed basil plants aren't anywhere near as tasty,

I wish I'd have sown more night scented flowers - there aren't any ready yet.  But the sweet peas have just flowered, so I can enjoy their scent instead.

Anyway, I've nothing planned this weekend which makes a nice change.  I can relax and do my own thing, without any social commitments!

I ordered another Joe McNally book.  I got the 'Life guide to digital photography'.  It's pretty basic stuff, but it's good to hear the basics from Joe's point of view, I've already picked up some good tips and I'm only a few pages in.

I've also been reading Joe McNally's blog, and Scott Kelby's blog, both of which are great.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thoughts of knitting

It's at this time of year I almost wish the weather was getting colder, because it gives me an excuse to knit. Knitting has sprung to mind because I've come to work in sandals and my feet are freezing! I wish I had a lovely warm pair of socks to put on. I don't like having cold feet. Patons are apparently discontinuing their eco wool chunky which is a real shame, it's such a lovely wool. My friend has sourced a yarn made from banana trees which is very soft and fluffy. I've just spotted cascade do an eco wool in loads of brill colours, but I'd need to check first to see how soft it is, I don't like scratchy wools. The Freedom eco wool was very scratchy and I wasn't too impressed with it.

I really want to make this owl jumper. I would treasure it forever and it would keep me sooooooo warm.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ice lollies in the garden

It's been another lovely sunny weekend.  On Saturday we sunbathed in the garden and listened to the radio, had ice lollies, played with the cat and generally chilled out and made the most of the nice weather.

On Sunday we went to a local car boot sale.  I bought a Ladybird book that I owned as a child, called 'The Night Sky', which inspired my interest in astronomy.

I also bought some more owls and 2 fishermen ornaments for the shed at the allotment.  

After the car boot we popped to a pub called the 'Swan with Two Necks' for some lunch and a quick bevvie.  Then we drove up Pendle Hill, stopped to look at the view, and called in at a garden centre before heading home.  It was a fun trip out. 

On Thursday night I went to the shop's annual general meeting which was held at our local library.  Quite a few members attended.  All the directors had to address the group and say their name.  Luckily this is the only time I was put on the spot as I hate talking in front of groups of people!

On Saturday night my friend had a summer garden party.  I baked some brownies to take with me.  We drank mojitos and ate some delicious African stew and pilaf which my friend had made.  She got the recipe from an ace African cookbook that I recommended to her.  We had a bonfire and music outside, and most of us borrowed a poncho to keep us warm.

I booked Monday off work.  I spent most of the day at the allotment tidying around and weeding and trying to keep on top of things.  Blackfly has attacked the broad beans - it's my fault for not nipping the tips off once the first beans appeared.  I've taken the tips off now, but it's probably a bit late as the blackflies have already made themselves at home.  Whiteflies were also on the beetroots, as well as whiteflies/greenflies on the marigolds in the greenhouse, as long as they stay on the marigolds and off the tomatoes then that's fine by me.  Maybe all this hot weather has woken them up.

I picked the first new potatoes, some beetroot, lettuce, rhubarb, spring onions and gooseberries.  I got home and made a gooseberry, rhubarb and cinnamon crumble.  I followed the recipe in the 'Garden to Kitchen Expert', which is an ace crumble topping, it's a bit flapjacky and it tasted delicious served hot with cream.  Mmmmm.  For tea we had new potatoes and fresh mint, (tinned) garden peas (the allotment ones aren't quite ready yet), roasted beetroot with thyme, and fish fingers (because there was nothing else in!). 

The greenhouse at home is becoming more like a jungle - I always try to fit too much in!

I finished the 'one ball wonder' gloves in the purple/green Patons eco wool chunky.  I wish I'd have taken my Noro leg warmers to the garden party because my ankles were freezing by the end of the night.

I ordered Scott Kelby's digital photography books v1 v2 v3 - they're great, and I'm making my way through them pretty quickly.  I also got his digital photographer's guide to Adobe Photoshop CS5.

The fridge has arrived in the shop and takings have doubled!  I bought some scrummy smelling houmous which I can't wait to try.

I've been getting into BBC Radio 4's food programme.  I listened to an interesting show about sustainable fishing, as well as one on milk.  We're trying to find a milk supplier for the shop, but we've only found a raw milk supplier so far.  I'm off to visit a local cheese dairy with the shop manager next Friday, which I'm really looking forward to.  We need to source a good egg supplier too.

I watched the film Neds, it was pretty good, a bit harsh in parts, but worth a watch.