Yesterday I nipped up to the plot to gather some vegetables for lunch. The first of the leeks, two varieties, I picked the largest of each. I have to say, rather smugly, that my leeks are the largest, by quite a big difference, on the plots that I walk past. It is early for leeks, but as I love them so, I start them off in spring, then prick them out and put them back into another seed tray (I never have enough room for a seed bed!) so that they are standing individually, water them assiduously in the summer of spring and then wait, with bated breath, whilst the onions who are occupying the space for the leeks to come to maturity. There was a point that I thought I had over egged the pudding and the leeks were looking quite sad for a couple of weeks and I thought they might die! Which would have been quite dreadful, but 96 leeks out of 96 leeks have survived.
I dug out some parsnips, these are Tender and True, they are rather nice if a little small. I haven't cropped any of the other two varieties yet as I was working on the principle that these had the most foliage on them when I started to dig them out, so I've just followed that row. I have about a third of a row left of these before I start on the others.
Remember the dustbin potatoes, well these are the last lot. They are Pink Fir Apple, a salad variety which according to the books taste quite nutty, we haven't tried them yet. Yesterdays lunch was roast pork, so they would not have worked, but today we have cold pork so these will work quite well, I'll let you know. But the real beauty of these are that they were swapsies , of five seed potatoes given to me by my next door allotment holder, for five of Red Duke of York, I must ask her what she thought of those.
The brussels, well these are Bedford Fillbasket, which are an old variety. They seem to blow before they are formed, so I picked the best of what we have. I also picked some F1's a mixture of Cascade and Wellington, it was interesting. The F1's have the flavour and texture, but in the Bedfords defence we have not had a hard frost yet, so in the interest of fairness and along with that an awful lot of the old boys still grow Bedfords on the plot, I will reserve judgement until later in the year. Today I gathered the last of the tomatoes. I could have done with a small child today. As I was picking these, a lovely memory came back to me, how my Grandad never used to let any of his grandchildren into his greenhouse until the autumn, and then, we were allowed to pick and eat any of the tiny red tomatoes that were left on the plants. We used to beg all summer, "can we have a tomato?", the answer was always 'No, they are for your Grandma".. I think I may well have been the most persistent of the group, as my love for tomatoes is well known. And then at some stage at the end of summer, he would let us in, and we would like locusts, clear the plants. After much work, I have an empty greenhouse. The glass still needs cleaning but it is empty. You might have guessed it would not remain empty for long. Salads for winter. The rocket is already sprouting. A slight experiment, these are some winter cabbages/calabrese, that really should have gone in months ago. Actually I had fully formed plants of these varieties and no room on my plot so I gave them away. I doubt they will form hearts, but they will have nice leaves which will be a nice addition to our meals come the point in the year that nothing really grows.
Along with some chives and some basil, which will be taken home when the frosts become severe. Another experiment, I'm trying to force some carrots and radishes along with preserving a root of mint, that will continue to grow in the greenhouse. Is it a Kite or a Kestrel? I have no idea. Yesterday I saw this bird from a distance working the fields, it was beautiful. Today, for less than a few minutes it worked our plots, the closest it came was two rows away and I managed to get this wonderful photograph. Then homeward bound, a rainbow, and just before I left the plots, a little robin red breast, who I heard before I saw, he does look like a well kept lively chap doesn't he.
I just had a rather nice conversation with someone who is dear to me. She has fought for employment, nearly gave up, then remembered my persistence, carried on and is now fully installed in that position.
and she said, "It was your persistence that made me carry on"
I queried the conversation, " my persistence, when?"
"With son no.1, two years" she replied.
"Oh yes", I replied.
Which then made me leak, its the nicest thing that anyone has ever said to me.
Hubby at my request bought me one of these which came this weekend, I've been wanting one for a while. I have been looking at ebay as these wonderful contraptions were no longer being made and only antiquated versions were available, originally known as a Wolf Terrex spade. So I was a bit nervous about buying one and being able to get the spare parts. When, a fellow allotment holder tipped me off that the license had been bought and they were back in production. Well, I sprinted.. (metaphorically, perhaps it was a reasonable trot) logged in, looked at the backsaver with a deep and utter longing. Such a deep and utter longing had only previously been recorded in my brain for gorgeous, gorgeous wool and asked for permission to buy one. Permission was granted and before you could say 'my god you stupid woman that means you'll be doing all the digging' the credit card number was handed over.
It came and was duly taken to the plot, just at that point, a fellow allotmenteer who was organising my muck delivery came up to the plot, she has an original which stands her in very good service and we admired my shiny new tool together. It was a beautiful moment. I dug over where the strawberries were and it worked.
Today, I cleared out a rough area along with my cabbage patch. This involved scraping the ground clear of what was fast becoming a rather long lawn and digging a trench to start with, (you need a trench so that the backsaver can flick the earth) which nearly caused a hernia when I tried to move the earth down to the other end in a wheelbarrow, the earth being used to fill in the gap at that end. I soon learnt to put less earth in the wheelbarrow.
And I dug and I dug and I dug, stopped drank coffee and then I dug some more. Until I had done it all. Am I seriously impressed with this tool? I am. Do I realise that I Will be doing all of the digging? I do. Do I care? I do not.
And the last of the summer cabbages, I at the time did not have room for winter versions. I think I'll pickle the last red one for Christmas. The other cabbages will be eaten as salad, some will be cooked and a couple will be blanched and frozen. I've not tried blanching cabbages before but I have noticed them in the frozen vegetable section so it must be do able. So, back to the drinking, I'm currently drinking a G & T, the bathwater is heating and starting to call to me and my jim jams and woolly socks are in easy reach. And then, I have to cook tea. Anyone fancy being my Mary Poppins.
So in a nutshell I will not be at knitting, I will be de gunking.
Some people go to exotic places for the weekend, staying in lovely hotels, enjoying the sites and cuisine that the area has to offer, me, well I'm happiest at the plot. I know that this doesn't make me the most exciting person on the planet, but, what you see is what you get.
The one big job that I wanted to sort out this weekend was the tidying up of 'my' shed. It had during the course of the summer become a bit of a dumping ground for hubby's tools and as he has far too many sheds that even a grown man should want.. or need, it was time to take control. The shed was emptied, this took quite a while, whilst everything was deposited outside the shed the clouds gathered and turned a rather angry shade of grey and I thought to myself,,, 'oops' but it was okay, there was enough of a wind to send them on there merry way. Cobwebs were dusted away, shelves brushed clean and floors swept and then my imaginary master plan put into practice. I'm happy with how it has turned out, which means my blog readers that I am ready for winter and spring, and the serious amount of work that I do in this shed come January onwards, peaking in March.
Did I mention that the estate car was full of his 'things' It really is only a small shed, no wonder I couldn't get into it! I tidied up the brussel sprouts. Its all right for you blog readers that are sat in the comfort of your chair at home, but this, this, took me hours. I pulled off yellow leaves, raked the ground, came back the next day and hoed the ground, to be honest its a large area and you have to be delicate about things otherwise you might risk damaging the plants and that would never do.
Am I pleased, abso bleeding lootly. There are three varieties here, two of which are F1's and the other is an old fashioned variety. I was testing things out this year. The F1's are fine, standing well, buttons are tight, not too tall for the wind to damage them, the old fashioned variety, well, practically every button has blown. Actually its worse than that, because the buttons are blowing before they are even formed!. Its all on the same ground, had exactly the same care.. Its been a good test, paying twice the amount for a seed packet for F1's is worth it. Hubby on the other hand has been busy with this, it might not seem much to you, but to me, well I am giddy with excitement. I have been whinging for a trailer load of muck for over a year, but until hubby had time to make this, I've had to wait, supplementing my longing with a few bags of well rotted muck. What I needed was a trailer full and when one of the allotment holders put a notice up to announce that her friend who does not use hormonal weed killers had muck to spare, I was first in the queue. Which meant that hubby had to get to work, I know the posts are sturdy as they are a nearly three feet deep. Do you like the gate? I do. Later after photographs were taken hubby fixed chicken wire to the gaps so not only are we Charlie proof to keep said gun dog in, we are rabbit proof (at long last) to keep the little vegetable munching blighters out. It might also help with foxes, having unwittingly trod in some rather smelly poo this week on my plot, left by our red furred friends, I'd rather not go through that again. Its one thing to squirt tomato ketchup on a dog that has taken to rolling around in the fields, (it neutralises the stink) but quite another to contemplate wandering down to the shops to buy a bottle to squirt at a stinky deposit. Whilst hubby was clearing a patch of ground I had time to think about my feathered friends. This year I have put the bird feeder even closer to my 'hide'.. okay my shed. I do love the birds, they are the best bit of sitting in a cold and draughty shed in the middle of winter whilst planting seeds for the coming year.
and then, this is horseradish, I have permission from an old boy that I can take as much as I would like. He started with three horseradish plants and has a double plot, so about 18ft by 6ft of the stuff. Let that be a lesson, horseradish needs containing. I shall just scrape it and grate a little bit just to add a bit of umph to the commercially bought jar.
Whilst hubby moved the strawberry bed for me. I made a lovely minestrone soup, from our own beans and mostly our own vegetables. Then I went up to the plot to help him clear out the old strawberry bed, after we walked in the woods, saw a farmer preparing his field for winter and came home and had steaming hot bowls of minestrone served with Parmesan.
Whenever I make kedgeree I think to myself why don't I make that more often. I think the reason has been that we simply haven't had a decent fishmongers where we live for a very long time. The man at the market gets my attention in autumn for goods such as mussels and spanking fresh cod and I then forget about smoked haddocks interesting flavours.
I first made kedgeree when I was about 9 or 10. My school had a kitchen to teach in and was determined to make full use of such a wonderful resource. I also remember making shepherds pie with 'smash' as the topping, french onion soup, bread, butter!, lemonade, and I'm sure there were other treats that I've long since forgotten, but Kedgeree was one of my favourites.
So when hubby bought home some smoked haddock that he had fully intended to have for his breakfast with a couple of poached eggs. He did say he was going to share.. And the minestrone I was going to cook was still at the chicken stock stage, I suggested kedgeree, to which he agreed, although there was one or two squeaks about breakfast. What he hadn't told me, which I was to find out, is that he had bought Two very large fillets for breakfast... (I think the boy must have been hungry when he went shopping!) which was far too much. So his breakfast is quite safe.
For this, and you know I never really measure anything unless its for the alchemy of cakes, there was..
1 large undyed, smoked haddock fillet. 4 eggs 4 0z basmati white rice. 2 medium onions oil for frying onions milk for poaching haddock 2 very full tsp of curry paste 3 handfuls of frozen peas chicken stock, enough to cover the rice. and there would have been parsley, finely chopped, but I left it down the plot.. So you'll have to imagine that bit.
Serves two greedy people for dinner, you could probably make it stretch further for lunch.
Slice and then gently fry your onions, until they are brown and sticky, whilst at the same time, gently poaching your haddock until it is just cooked. Don't forget to put your eggs on for an eight minute simmer. When your haddock is cooked, take it out of the milk, let it cool and then skin and take the bones out and flake it into nice big chunks.
When your onions are brown add your curry paste, and cook that for 30 seconds, then add your rice, stir that around a bit and add your stock. You can use chicken or vegetable stock, you can use a cube and you could even use water, this dish has so much flavour. Clamp a lid on and put it on a low heat for ten minutes. Then just take it off the heat, don't look at it... just leave it to rest whilst the residual heat does its work and the rice absorbs all the liquid. After five minutes you can look, by this time you will have shelled the eggs and chopped them up along with nuking the frozen peas for a couple of minutes. Add the haddock, eggs and peas to the rice, give a gentle stir, check for seasoning, but with the smoky salty fish I don't think you need any and serve to a very grateful husband whose comments on most of my food are in the Nice, Tasty range but this was Excellent!
At the end you could add finely chopped parsley and a couple of knobs of butter to gently melt into it and a wedge of lemon to serve it with. Its not essential and we did not miss out by not having them.
I picked these yesterday, the last of the blackberries. If I was just another foot taller and had a longer reach I could pick a further ten pounds, but sadly we will have to leave the best of the blackberries, the really large and juicy fruits, for the birds. As it is I don't do too bad on the picking front bearing in mind that in my walking boots I must be at the very edge of six foot and sheer determination, heavy jeans and tenacity more than make up for the want of a little extra height. There was one particularly painful moment when reaching for some fruit, the wind took a particularly tall and well covered stinging nettle which then swept against my hand, made me jump in pain and I then impaled my stung hand on a really nasty inch long thorn which became embedded. It made me ouch and as I carried on picking, I was ouching under my breath for a good fifteen minutes. So I've given up that game for the year. Although.... there is just one little area that still has fruits ripening, so if we don't get a frost and my memory fades about the pain, as it always does, I may be back for another pound or so.
They're back in the packet now. Well, almost all of them are.
Son no.1 had bought them home as a present for me, how kind of him and how appropriate.
Its taken hours to shell these, it seems a much longer process than shelling peas. I love the clatter of the hard beans against the pottery and the feel of the hard shiny beans as they slip through my fingers. Son no.2 thinks I am slightly deranged, he's probably right! We have 1lb 11oz, they will make a nice addition to home made minestrone and other bean soups. I'm so pleased that I've just ordered some Borlotti beans to try and grow for next year.
Today was sunny and warm and having recovered from a nasty cold virus, which took away my knitting and stained glass window pleasures, I was able to get up to the plot.
The first thing to greet me was a rather beautiful and enormous spiders web. Absolutely amazing it was, my photography does not do this justice. I looked for the spider responsible, expecting to see quite a large spider, but no, it was just a little spider who crept away before I could photograph her, she was all of a half penny in size. She must be hungry.. I left her to it. Then I inspected the tomatoes. Looking really good aren't they? The temperature last night had dropped down to 4.5 C in the greenhouse. Which means if we don't get a very clear night with a frost we should get a few more ripening before November/December. Hubby is thinking about heating the greenhouse if we have a one off dip, I'll let you know how that goes. We are not watering as frequently as in the summer, we were, but found the fruit was splitting, so now its just about keeping the plants alive whilst the fruit is ripening.
Remember the Forty year old freezer, well those are her wire trays that will be used for baskets for drying onions. We like that. :) Then I started to plant Garlic, Japanese onions and Shallots.. These are the shallots, magnificent aren't they? Normally, shallots are planted January/February but these according to the packet are to be planted in Autumn. I've shown them to a couple of the old boys at the plot and they have never heard of such things, but me,, well I do as I'm told, so have planted them according to the instructions. Fingers crossed. And just because I like to show you mud. Mud, with garlic, onions and shallots planted in it. Impressive isn't it? Although you will have to take my word for it. These are the butternut squash, see how the frost has damaged the leaves. This gave me a very loud message that the game was up and I would have to harvest them.. and the results... Well, don't get too excited. I carefully placed the hat for perspective. Need I say more. Apart from I've nurtured those plants for months and months, probably since February/March. I need to find a 'will do well in a dreadful summer' variety for next year. The long yellow fruits are the courgettes which I have to say, always make me smile, because whatever the weather they always keep plugging away at trying to reproduce. If anyone at knitting would like any Sage or Rosemary, give me a nudge as I'm just about to trim these. The Oregano has gone past its best, but its so pretty. Then I took down all of the canes to get ready for winter. These are the last of the haricot. The last of the runner beans. And just a final shot of today, note all of the canes tidied up for winter, its really starting to take shape. Just to put some perspective on my day at the plot, I was there just after eleven, I was home just before four, I worked gently but consistently. There is still much to do.
Walnuts are particularly good at this time of year, these are the first of the season. They are mild and creamy and in no way resemble the sometimes bitter, dry and dusty nuts that you may be offered with a glass of port at Christmas. Figs are good too, ours have finished now, so we are having to buy and with these delightful ingredients a small wedge of Gorgonzola. I wanted something blue but not too strong. I think I would rather have liked a Dolcellata but where we were today did not have any.
Just a quick one, before I slink back to bed. As proud as I am that son no.2 has the gumption to get himself out of bed at 5.30 a.m. on both days at the weekend to help out at the local paper shop, I wish his alarm clock wouldn't wake me up.
Socks, I said I was knitting socks and I haven't stopped. I was hoping for a pair a week and looking back at the blog I am doing better than that, but only just. I have two big pairs to knit next so that should slow me down a little.
I can't find tags and name wools at this time in the morning, and to be honest, Pip, the dog that likes to walk around with things and then drop them, has probably removed them along time ago. I found one of these socks on my bed, not chewed or anything, just carefully placed there.
I knew that my second freezer was feeling its age when the red emergency light stayed on no matter what we tried. I knew the freezer was old when we got it off my Mum about eight years ago. (my first freezer is twenty years old as she was bought for us as a wedding present)
I decided we needed a new freezer, hoping that my rather poorly freezer would stay with us long enough and after wandering around the net for a while, chose an A rated machine, big as we could afford before they went up to silly prices. Delivered yesterday afternoon. Fortunately my poorly freezer managed to keep going until then.
Yesterday morning, Mum and Dad took me out for coffee, whilst chatting I told them about the freezer and commented that it must be well over twenty years old. Mum said, "and the rest". "Go on", I say. So she charted the history of the freezer, that it had started life at my Nan's house, then resided at my Uncles butchers, then back home to my Nan, then it was the family emergency freezer for a while staying at various places, before becoming the emergency freezer for my Mum. During its life with Mum I seem to remember it being the freezer that was carted back and forth to the school (Mum was a caretaker for an infants school) to keep ice cream and ice lollies frozen for the children at their Summer Fete. Then when Mum no longer needed it, it was given to me, must be about eight years ago.
My Mum thinks that as a conservative estimate the freezer is Forty years old, which is nearly as old as me!
If that freezer could talk, I wonder what tales she would tell us about the produce/goodies she has kept frozen in her tummy.