Monday, 31 March 2008

To prove spring is sprung.

Veg starting to grow.


Exciting isn't it.

It was up to 39 degrees C in the greenhouse today. We like that.

I picked cabbages, leeks and rosemary today, which will go very nicely with the lamb shanks, I'm just about to prepare. One cabbage was bolting yesterday, todays heat has caused the majority to bolt, one day I will be experienced enough not to let this sort of thing happen. I was given some lovely Pink Fir Apple potatoes and have brought home lots of lovely bolted cabbages for the chickens, they will love them.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Today, has been a much better day.

I know I whinge quite often, but the last few weeks in this cold weather I've felt like my muscles are made of stiff cardboard and I feel as though I should creak when ever I move. Last night I was up to maximum dosage of paracetamol/ibuprofen combo yet again and had a very bad night and this morning I had to repeat the dose. Oh bum, another day like that, but miraculously the pain seemed to gently disappear.

I wandered up to the plot to inspect the mouse traps and peas. The mice are winning. I had a bizarre conversation with hubby late last night. He was telling me that the mice were out witting him, he has been baiting them with dried cat food, all cat food eaten not a mouse to be seen. I suggested baiting the traps with small slices of a mars bar that need to be stuck to the plate on the traps so that the mice could not run away so easily with the bait. He then told me in quite a joyful manner, that the mice 'really like the cat food'. In slightly concerned tones I had to say, "Hubby we are not trying to build the mouse community up, we are trying to diminish it!" He laughed, his reply, "well at least they are not eating your peas!" I love that mans humour.

I planted another four trays of peas, (placed at the highest point in the greenhouse 'fingers crossed') another tray of marigolds to fight the white fly invasion that covered our brassicas last year, pricked out three trays of lettuces, including the speedy seeds, which are doing very well. I then said hello to a newbie plot neighbour and gave her a tray of lettuces. Lovely lady, I thought she did very well at her first meeting with me considering I was as bald as a coot at the time. I've come to the decision that I cannot possibly work in a wig up at the plot and that everyone sooner or later will get used to the idea. I may need a super strength sun cream though :)

And then, it must have been the warmth of the sun shining, the fresh air and exercise, happy little tunes dancing around in my head, I had a spade in my hand and was digging. I dug four rows, four full, the width of the plot rows, then started to clear my strawberry bed. They've not done so well, I may have to replace the majority of the plants. Son no.1 came up and joined me for half an hour and dug another section over for me. It was good, all good.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Recycling.

Well, its nearly the moment when recycling will be thrust upon us in Warwickshire.

Yesterday, I tried to get another grey bin, currently I use two big household bins for one weeks worth of rubbish. I will now have to get used to recycling as I am not entitled to another grey bin, which is to last two weeks. You have to have 6 or more members in your household before you qualify. I tried to bring the dogs into my argument, but the council does not view them as family members. Well, what else are they, when you feed them, look after them and clear up after them. I then tried the chickens argument, (although we compost their waste, but I was getting desperate) She didn't have chickens on her list and had to ask me what they ate!

The main argument is, that if you have extra waste, you are expected to take it down to the tip yourself. Mmm, first I don't drive and secondly,,,,,, a bit defeating the opject isn't it, using all that extra fossil fuel, wear and tear on the car etc.

And after all of this conversation, I forgot to ask for my extra red bin. Your only entitled to two, currently we fill one with just newspapers, so how we are expected to get a fortnights worth of wine bottles, plastic bottles, tins, cans, paper, cardboard etc etc, into one, I have no idea. You can however, put any extra recycling into open, (not tied up) carrier bags next to your red bin. Oh that is going to be a joyous experience on a windy day. Yippee half of our rubbish has just flown down the street. In Bournemouth their recycling bin are the same size as our grey bins, very sensible it was, not silly little red bins.

I wonder if the council will be contributing to peoples water bills for those on a meter. As you have to rinse out every can/bottle before putting out for recycling.

So I've bit the bullet, and had to order a recycling bin for inside the home.. can you imagine the dogs looking through the red bin on an hourly basis, to see what they could pinch. (a child would certainly have left the lid off)

So,

1 home recycling triple bin,(had to be a large family one for obvious reasons) check.
1 heavy duty food floor can crusher, (so we can try to squeeze everything into red box) check.
1 plastic bottle & can crusher,(for same reason as above) check.
1 set of 7 recycling bin stickers, (so I don't have to strangle a child before I've had my 2nd cup of the day for putting stuff in wrong bins) check.

Total cost... £133.70

Thats an awful lot of wool. :(

This problem has got to me in such a way, that in the middle of the night, whilst half asleep I was devising a little movable plastic arrow that I could stick onto the bins to move from grey rubbish to green rubbish so the children (and I) would know which bin to put food waste in that week.

I could rant on about how I very rarely buy plasic bottles, (its the kids) I've only bought bottled water in dire circumstances, what is wrong with a flask. Why are we still using metal to store food? surely most things could be stored in the cardboard bio degradable packs. That manufacturers seem to use more and more packaging. There are three layers of packaging before I can get to a gluten free muffin, three layers!

This might not be a politically correct post, in my defence to all those that love recycling, I do quite alot in other ways, grow most of my own fruit and veg during the summer including keeping hens for their eggs. I have a make do and mend mentality, which is why its so painful to spend that sort of money on bins..

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Mice.. and peas.

As much as I love mice, we at one time had a handful of mice as pets, the boys used to play with them and used to pretend they were pirates climbing the rigging of their pirate ship. It was a sight to be seen and for some reason they (as in mice and boys) loved it.

But mice and peas do not go. Well not when you want to grow peas.

Mice have decimated my peas that were sown in the greenhouse. :(

As cruel as this is, mouse traps will need to be set. I feel very sad about this, but humane mouse traps could be worse. Firstly, because mice with a certain amount of scrabbling have been known to get out of them, so the job is not done and secondly, we only go up to the greenhouse every two or three days. The temperature can rise quite rapidly to over 30 degrees C, so a mouse could die a slow and painful death of thirst.

There is always a quandary when dealing with this sort of situation. Mostly of course, your own ends whatever they are become higher in the scheme of things than your opponents. But, I still feel sad.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

My son.. Knits.. I'm so Proud.

At the crack of dawn this morning I realised that work on the plot was impossible due to heavy rain overnight, so decided that I would rather like to go to the Sewing for Pleasure/Hobbycrafts exhibition at the NEC. Mmmm.. who to take, a bleary eyed boy who had been watching the Grand Prix in Australia for several hours in the middle of the night came to my attention... It was only later, in the car, that I warned him he might be the only, or one of few, males in his age range... Fortunately he took this new information in good humour...

He was a little apprehensive as we walked in, realising whilst we were waiting in the queue for tickets that he was the only male for miles around.. he actually pointed out another male person to me, I think just to underline exactly how bad things were for him. What can a mother do, I just smiled my happy little smile and carried on, as you do..

Ten minutes into the Sewing for Pleasure exhibition, I noticed son no. 1, just out the corner of my eye, I'm still not sure if I was meant to see this, Whack himself with the palm of his hand really hard to the temple of his brow. "What are you doing", I exclaimed. "I just want to know if this is a weird nightmare, or reality". I found him a chocolate stall soon after..

Soon after, we found Anna from Web of Wool, whilst I was restocking my stash and wandering around her stand, I noticed, her latest book. Wow, I love it. Fab Feet & Cosy Toes by Anna Tillman. I've been waiting for this for a while, after listening to the girls in our knitting group giggle over it, its wonderful.

Son no.1 and Anna got into conversation, mainly about train sets!! But then Anna said to him that he could learn to knit at the 'Shaun the Sheep' stall.

Later we find the Shaun the Sheep stall, by this time son no.1 has sniffed the wool fumes and is heady under their influence. Without undue influence from me, he agrees to learn to knit. I could not believe it, and with the addition of a very pretty young girl who wishes to teach him to knit, he sinks into the rabbit hole of knitting...

I am so Proud.

He cast on, learns to knit, then pearl, there maybe a few button holes along the way, and then this evening I taught him to cast off.

Before piccies, there was behavior that literally blew my mind!

Lunch, He stopped eating and said, "Oh I can knit now" and did so.

Decides he would like to knit a pair of Williams (as in F1) socks and has already spied the right colour at Web of Wool and goes back for them to get a sock kit.

Later, waiting for Dad, "Oh I can knit now" and did so.

Get home, asks me how to join wool, (as his is broken) I do so, then asks me how to cast off,

Why? so he can cast on again..

then knits again for a couple of row.. he is tired now so I've told him to end on a high.

First knitting.

Casting off

Monday, 10 March 2008

Speedy Seeds

After completing the Emergency Chocolate Run to Solihull, you knew it would keep calling to me and I am weak. At least I had a partner in crime as after showing hubby the link to the box of chocolates I would like (which I hasten to say, I did not get), he took very little persuasion to drive to Solihull. We really like the Praline Puddles and the 50% milk chocolate. (and we even have a secret stash hidden away from the children.. Ssssshhhh.)

We decide that a quick trip to the plot was called for, just to make sure we were ship shape before the big storm. The winter had caused cracks to form in the plastic glazing part of the greenhouse, so hubby taped over them with masking tape, I listen to my fellow allotment holders and many times I have heard that if you have a hole and the wind gets into it, it can tear a greenhouse apart. Whilst he was doing this, he nearly killed me. Fortunately I was about a foot away when a large sheet of glass on the roof cracked in half and half fell into the greenhouse. Note to self, don't work in the greenhouse whilst hubby is 'mending' it.

My peas are germinating, this causes me to go giddy with excitement. I had three rows last year and to be honest, it was simply not enough. This year I have seed for spring, summer and late peas, I aim to stretch out my pea growing season for as long as possible. As I was planting seeds into pots I came across a note written in my hand on a foil packet of seeds, there was no other information, I had simply called them Speedy Seeds, it made me giggle. I think its some kind of lettuce, I've planted them anyway.

On Sunday we went to a carboot sale at the NAC, I managed to buy a sugar thermometer, bringing my little adventure into homemade turkish delight one step forward. Later we fed the ducks at the Abbey Fields and then went for a walk around the back of Kenilworth Castle, unfortunately our normal walk was much too muddy, so we decided to do the Millennium walk. I wouldn't walk it in the summer as it tends to get full of fair weather walkers, but in the winter, especially whilst its raining (which it was) its a nice quiet little walk thats still dry underfoot when other walks are not usable.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I've decided what I want for Easter.

This

I would quite happily accept These instead. Apart from being a smaller box, which is probably more sensible, they have the advantage of being gluten free. So I could actually say they were mine and not Have to share them.

I blame various people, Carie for showing us her lovely Christmas chocolates, Mary for the way she dribbled and then said, how good hotelchocolat was whilst still salivating, when I asked Carie about her lovely Christmas chocolates, And then when I had just about put these chocolates to the back of my mind, making a firm well a firmish vow that I wouldn't bother with chocolates this year for Easter, etc, etc.

Well, I was just reading a blog, as you do, and I really shouldn't be, which was talking about home made Turkish Delight.. I thought, "oh thats interesting" so I googled "Turkish Delight" to see what came up (I often have to fine tune my googling, its always a bit hit and miss to start with) and guess what??? The first one, the very first one, was hotel chocolate... that was it, I fell down the rabbit hole and have been drooling about chocolates for the last half an hour, which is a very sad thing to do.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Cauliflower Soup

Its nice and bright but very cold today. Soup weather. I bought a couple of lovely cauliflowers at the weekend with the intention of making cauliflower soup. I find this quite a comforting soup, hubby enjoys this soup too, but preferably with a goodly amount of stilton mixed into his.

This is a good wintery basic soup. You can add cream or milk, or just keep to the chicken stock, a grating of nutmeg goes very well with cauliflower, or just pepper. You can fry onions until their crispy and top it with those or some wild mushrooms would be equally delicious, or maybe crispy bacon. Of course you can add stilton, a classic dish or another cheese that you may prefer. I've made it with pan fried scallops carefully placed on top which was delicious. You can make the thickness almost to a puree or make it a thinner soup more suitable to put in a flask.

Today the ingredients were,

2 large cauliflowers, stripped of leaves and cut into florets,
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks
1 large onion, peeled and diced.
1 oz butter
4 pints of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

This makes alot of soup, feel free to half it.

Slowly and gently fry the onions in the butter without colouring them, to soften and extract their sweetness from them. A very slight, edging of colouring at the end is acceptable, but this is not the time for caramalized onions. I find it can take nearly 15 minutes to get them nicely softened. Add stock, cauliflowers, potatoes, salt and pepper. Cook until tender, whiz with a blender, check seasoning then serve as you wish.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Mothering Sunday

I had pleasant start to the day with a lovely card of hubby, bizarrely without an envelope,..! But that was okay as the card was so sweet, apparently he couldn't find the envelope for the card but took it anyway. The boys bought me cards and potted plants apiece which were lovely. Then I went back to bed with the papers, as you do, whilst hubby went to the plot and planted up our onions, shallots and garlic, the garlic is just a little late, but I think I've already planted half a row of garlic, so all is not lost.

Later, I went to the plot with son no.1. Although he winged a bit he did manage to work for several hours with me, planting seeds into pots, I forget all that we did, I seem to have misplaced my gardening notebook, so I'll have to find that pretty sharpish or find me a replacement. We planted up lots of trays which included 4 trays of peas, 4 types of cabbage, 4 types of brussel sprouts, purple sprouting, 2 trays of climbing french beans. I think thats all. Of course I am now very sensitive about the weather. So it was a bit of a shock to hear that we may after all this time be getting a little snow. If all else fails (thats the fingers crossed method) we'll just have to go up the plot in the pitch black and get the paraffin heater going. Note to self, check how much paraffin we have.

It was a lovely afternoon, spent laughing with son no.1, well, laughing until two boiling hot cups of hot chocolate ended up scalding my left hand because of him simply not thinking. Its a good job I did grab the tray as it was falling off the table, otherwise we may well have been in hospital this evening as the hot chocolate was heading straight towards his crown jewels!! Its okay, my hand only hurt for fifteen minutes.. He did make up for it by staying a little longer to help me.

This evening we went to Mum and Dads to wish Mum a happy Mothers Day.

I'm off to bed now, to dream about planting seeds!! It makes a nice change from the wooly dreams that I have enjoyed so much this winter.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

1st of March it is then..

Which means alot of digging, sowing and planting is on the agenda for the next couple of months.

After a hearty brunch hubby and I managed to get down the plot, well, after sending hubby to the chemists for a pregnancy testing kit. I digress, as always.. Its okay, you can breath again as can I. I'm 41 and I should know better, that yes, I am getting just that little bit older and cycles can and will change. But on day Five of being late, well, I had a bit of a crisis moment. You know the sort, or maybe you don't, it goes something along the lines of, "Oh my flippin' doG, I must be pregnant", (well it does when your my age and your hubbys 62) whilst clutching your head and slowly leaking and it was at this moment, that I knew I had to know, not just wait for nature to take its natural course. Fortunately for hubby he did not meet the world and his wife that know and love me at the counter of Boots. Mind you, he probably wouldn't recognise anybody that knows us especially me (me being a local lass) and I may still get a crisis call of my mum.

The test was took in a very calm and measured way, neither of us saying very much, well apart from hubby who said just before the test and I quote " your just getting old, your all dried up" whereupon I duly barracked him. Well, what a thing to say.. me, old,, pot, kettle. But he was right, I'm just getting old. I'm not sure which is worse at the moment, the fact that I could have been pregnant or that I'm sinking slowly into middle age..

So, we went to the plot, hubby cleared the greenhouse and then dug and I sorted the seeds out and sowed into pots, tomatoes (7 varieties), leeks (3 varieties), cabbages (2 varieties) and peppers. I ran out of compost at this point, it was very cold even with five layers on, so we went home. Well actually B&Q to get more compost.. There is alot more to sow, it makes me giddy with excitement. :)

Brunch

Whilst food shopping I noticed the smoked salmon was half price, Oooh Good, me thinks.

So this morning, quite nearly this afternoon I prepared a very nice brunch to see us through the afternoons tidying, digging and planting of seed up at the allotment.

Some smoked salmon, accompanied by a couple of poached eggs so generously provided by our hens, asparagus, a dollop of low fat guacamole, which I thought might be more interesting than mayonnaise and stops hubby shoveling the mayonnaise out of the jar onto his plate and a gluten free pitta bread, which although they are pretty dire, is the best of the gluten free range.