In full swing…

And so busy with work, garden, and managing to catch some kind of yukky virus that it seems time has flown by and I’ve no time to fit in all the things I want to. I imagined my summer to be full of cordial experiments, baking and being healthy but so far it seems when I just about get one side of life sorted out – seeing family and friends more often, for example – then the balance tips and the rest of the fun and needed elements of everyday life sort of slide by unnoticed. 

But even with the garden suffering from mild neglect we’re getting a few bits and bobs…courgettes and tomatoes abound.

ImageThe chickens are also doing fine – but Sally has gone broody again. I don’t know much about broody chickens or rather, the reasons for it, but possibly something to do with abnormally constant warm temperatures? Anyway she’s happy enough being shunted off the nestbox every morning for a wing stretch and food and drink so we’re not too worried. Even partakes in a snail or two when I go on the hunt…

ImageAnd finally, look what we found in the garden…

ImageA PLUM! On a real, live, plum tree! It’s all overgrown and hidden behind what looks to be a pear tree. Plans are afoot to trim back the undergrowth and in the late Autumn or early Spring we’ll trim it up so it’ll grow back healthier next year.

Oh and one final update. A follow-on from my last post, this is what happened to the first blackberries of the year:

ImageBlackberry and apple crumble, with a twist (home made blackberry brandy, vintage 2012, drizzled on top of the fruit before baking). I can vouchsafe that it was delicious, especially with some fresh custard. 

Next up, deciding what to make with the lb of blackberries now in the freezer; wine, vodka, more pie, jam? Suggestions welcome…





First courgette excitement


So this was the result of the allotment visit this evening, and I was very excited by it! The first decent size courgette we’ve found so far and a couple of days ago it was tiny like the rest. But with the overnight rain it seems to have gone into overdrive. Very much looking forward to finding a good recipe for it…

Eggs as normal…although shortly after this photo I turned my back and they rolled off the chopping board and cracked. Ooops! That’s breakfast sorted tomorrow then.

Busy vegetables and silly chickens

Work has kept me very busy for the last week or so, hence not finding time to write anything else, or even get into the garden for a long length of time. However this is how it’s looking currently:

ImageSo in there, starting from the bottom left of the screen you can just about see the poor battered garlic (fox cubs ran over all the garlic and onions and broke most of the tops), then middle left is peas and beans. Middle right is courgette and nasturtiums. Behind them, tomatoes – the excess from the first sowing I haven’t found space in pots for. And behind them, three (I think) types of potato. And behind that, sweetcorn, which miraculously seems to be surviving, albeit growing slowly… And behind them is a new bed we just dug over which hopefully will eventually be featuring black kale (or Cavolo Nero) Beetroot (golden, striped and regular) and red cabbage. We put the seeds straight in as it’s so late in the year – hoping they’ll be alright, although might need some netting once they germinate. 

In other news, I now know what a broody chicken looks like. I was seriously worried about Sally a week ago – she wouldn’t leave the nest, she wasn’t making her regular noises, she was all fluffed up and wouldn’t move if I poked her…finally I got ever-sensible bloke down there to have a look at her. Ever-sensible bloke reckoned possible egg-bound? So we ran back to the house to get some gloves and vaseline…I couldn’t find the regular kind so she got treated to Aloe Vera. And poor thing, got a finger up the vent to see if we could find the problem egg. That got her up! However, there was no egg.

After some more reading, I picked her up to get her off the nest and check for any other ‘ill’ symptoms and suddenly realised she had a massive bald spot on her chest. Suddenly it all clicked together…she’d gone broody. Unusual apparently in their first year, but it does happen. All this time I thought she’d been laying as normal – no, she’d stopped laying altogether and whenever she spied Henny-Penny’s egg, had nipped over to sit on that! I’ve been looking up how to snap her out of it, but a lot of the methods seem a bit harsh. I mean, she’s still eating and drinking and coming outside for a stretch so we’ll leave her to it for now. We don’t miss the eggs that much; so we’ll see how long it lasts for…

Next on my list of things for consideration; summer cordials and how to revive my cauliflower seedlings that I let get  too dry.


Small scale sowing

Space is quite limited in our little first floor flat so I try and keep as many seeds going on my allocated ‘seed table’ as possible at once. I think each time I plant I keep that old gardeners mantra in my head of ‘one for the slugs, one for the pigeon and one for me’ but all three always come up, I don’t like throwing away healthy plants and I end up with three times as many as I planned for! 

As soon as they go outside and in the ground for some veg I’d generally plant a back up row to be used both in case the seedlings are eaten and also to get some follow-on cropping. It’s always good to have peas and beans that just keep going and going through the summer crop – plus my first lots of beans were sown too early and ended up far too straggly before I got around to putting them in the ground so they might struggle when it comes to production.

Anyway, these last two weeks I’ve been keeping the full size tomatoes inside (Tumbling Toms are already out) also two types of chilli (Serrano and Jalapeno), started nasturtiums and marigolds for companion planting (hopefully this weekend or next they’ll be big enough to get out) and cauliflower. I also have back up courgettes (two have been pulled up/trampled from the first batch) second batch broad beans, and second batch peas, first batch borlotti beans, back up sweetcorn (heaven knows what that’s going to do in such a shady spot) and three more Pumpkin Rouge as my Sweet Dumpling has survived being out, but not the Marina di Chioggia – another mysterious disappearance. 



I really need to put the courgettes and squash into their own pots now so I can get the lid back on the propagator and give the beans the warmth they need – that’s the trouble with getting 6 different things on one propagator – they all come up at different speeds! But generally it’s warm enough in this room and everything’s definitely germinated so hopefully will catch up soon. 

Next to do: Dig another bed in the garden. Plant out tomatoes. Get beetroot, kale and parsnips in. Move chickens so they don’t get too muddy (again).