Sunday, 4 February 2018

Signs of life in the allotment!

Popped up to the allotment for a bit of a tidy up this afternoon, as - for a change - nice weather coincided with me not having to work or having other plans for a Sunday afternoon!

Anyway, there are signs of things stirring, though with snow forecast this week maybe they ought to un-stir for a bit!

 This was a surprise, wallflowers planted last year - biennial of course - but didn't expect them to be flowering so early in the year!

Should be a lovely display if the frost doesn't do for them.
 These are the catkins on the hazelnut tree - this tree has had a bit of a traumatic life in that half of it is in the the next door allotment and when this allotment was being made over by the landowner after being vacant for a long while they chopped the tree down on that side just leaving our side to grow. This was rather annoying as for the first time it had produced hazelnuts that summer. Fast forward a few years and hopefully producing catkins for the first time since means that it is going to produce some nuts this year. If we can catch them before they drop into the undergrowth...

Rhubarb showing itself, Twitter today has had various pictures from gardeners showing rhubarb so maybe it is a coordinated sprouting across the country! Maybe not, just coincidence! But, this rhubarb was originally a offcut of a plant grown within the Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire and so is pretty much the real thing as far as rhubarb growing goes!
I once did a summer job on the farm (Oldroyd's Farm) that has been on TV and in the news for promoting rhubarb and getting the protected place of origin status for Yorkshire rhubarb. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Bit of an onion theme going on...

Today has been a bit of an onion day both in an allotment sense and in a culinary sense.

Firstly a trip to the allotment to see how the overwintering onions and garlic are getting on. Found, as usual, that the blackbird has probably pulled one up thinking it was a worm, so replaced that in the ground.

Overwintering these 'Japanese' onions - grown from sets - means that by the end of June we will have onions ready to pick, store and cook from the allotment.

These onions are the main crop from last summer that are still storing well in our utility room, though occasionally the strings slip and the door catches on them!

It is a single glazed room so it doesn't get that warm which is ideal for long term storage, in fact we used to have potatoes and apples in here until we needed one end of the room converting for a downstairs toilet.

Today we had cottage pie, and homegrown leeks and onions went into this. Also added were carrots (still going strong in the tyre stacks at the allotment) and a homegrown parsnip diced up and boiled with the carrots. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Has Michael Gove had a "Road to Damascus" moment?

There's been plenty of coverage on the news about Michael Gove's speech to the Oxford Farming Conference and his visit to the Oxford Real Farming Conference , a summary of which can be found here .

Now, not so long ago, he was taking aim at the EU Habitats Directive and saying that laws restricting development near protected habitats could be slashed after Brexit , and when he was wanting to reform the education curriculum, (although this was denied) climate change would have been dropped from Geography lessons. Also, Gove voted for a levy on energy from renewal sources and voted against an amendment that would have forced oil companies to always have an environmental assessment before fracking, and indeed with the Government when they originally proposed to sell off national forests (proposal was subsequently withdrawn after a public backlash)

Now, it seems as if he's a paid up environmentalist. Whether what he has read in coming into the DEFRA has changed his view or whether this is just green spin with no substance we'll need to wait to find out. However, elsewhere in Government there is the drive for fracking, the slashing of feed in tariffs for renewables, the freezing of fuel duty for road vehicles and the year on year increase in rail fares, the stated aim for "cheap" imported food under new trade deals (cheapness comes at a cost somewhere whether it is in animal welfare, worker payments, environmental damage etc). Though to be fair Michael Gove has stated that he doesn't want to water down our high animal welfare standards as a sweetener for trade deals.

The way in which the Government has failed, despite repeated court orders, to deal with air quality is also cause for skepticism, and there's those on the right that outright deny human caused climate change. There's the omission (and I think this is still the case at present) of the precautionary principle when considering environmental impacts from the translation of EU law to UK law.

So. Do I trust this government? In a word, no, but at least there's a bit of leverage here to hold Michael Gove and indeed the rest of the government to "leaving the environment in a better state than when they found it" and a "green Brexit".

What can we do? Well writing to your MP does get some attention, I wrote to mine about a number of concerns as regards such as the precautionary principle and translation of the habitats directive in the Brexit legislation etc and I received a response from a government minister! Also, joining forces with campaigning organisations on specific issues, signing petitions and indeed showing examples from your own life to encourage others and show benefits to the environment. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Parsnip wine

Just before Christmas I got around to bottling some parsnip wine that had been quietly maturing in a demijohn in one of the bedrooms (there's demijohns lurking in at least two bedrooms!). This one stopped fermenting a little while ago but I have not had chance to bottle it, but to be honest parsnip wine benefits from plenty of time to mature anyway. 

Note to anyone thinking parsnip wine - what ??? It actually does taste like wine - seriously, when I first did this about 3 years ago I was so surprised with the results! 

Pretty clear wine although as you get near the bottom of the demijohn it is harder to keep the silt from getting sucked up the tube!

The method I used to make the wine is here :

Bottling etc here

Now, this year's wine has turned out quite sweet, and has indeed mellowed with age. Bottles from a well known soft drink often available in pubs are the right size for a couple of glasses, the wine is a lot stronger than 'normal' wine so probably not best to drive or operate machinery afterwards!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

First pepper of the year!

Exactly as it says in the title!!

These are pepper plants that were brought inside at the start of November, and have provided a few ripe peppers since then.

This will be popped in a curry tomorrow.

Today's home grown eating: Sprouts from the allotment (accompanying a pie - with local meat) from the butchers round the corner from the house), pumpkin chutney (on a Wensleydale sandwich), Blackcurrant and raspberry jam (on breakfast toast)

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!! (well sort of...)

First day of the new year (well Gregorian calendar anyway!) , beautiful sunny day as I write this, and I am laid up with Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot! Now, although that does sound like it could be an ideal flower to grow in a hanging basket (!), it basically means I have strained the skin/muscle that is between my heel and my toes, and it is too painful to walk anywhere if I try to put pressure on it.

So, a trip to the allotment is out of the question, possibly for the next few days, but my thoughts are already turning to the new season and what to grow in the coming year. That being said, the allotment is still productive with sprouts, parsnips and leeks there for the eating!
In store there's onions and garlic hanging up, apples in the shed, and in the cupboards pumpkin chutney, pickled courgettes and gherkins, and a large collection of various jams.

And there's the amazing long lived tomato plant, which gave us 3 fresh home grown tomatoes on Boxing Day!

We even had three peppers in December from the outdoor lean-to greenhouse!

There's still lots of ground to dig over and distribute compost over in the allotment, but that will get done when my foot is better. The next job I think is to start some peppers off in pots on a bedroom windowledge that has a radiator beneath it (same place as where the tomato plant lives)

The Meyer lemon tree is flowering, I think it is a bit confused as it was brought inside in early November so with the warmth in the house it probably thinks it is Spring now! There's still one remaining lemon on it as well!

So, what went well in 2017:

Borlotti beans - grown up an old swing frame they have produced lots of these rather pretty and indeed very tasty beans!

Gherkins - never grown these before and three plants were intensely prolific in the lean to greenhouse at the front of the house. Really nice on cheese sandwiches or indeed as an accompaniment to burgers and other meat dishes.

Carrots - grown in tyre stacks these are still giving us carrots despite the snow and frost - the tyres act as insulators and raise the carrots well above the ground - which also helps with controlling carrot flies. The courgettes were prolific (as is their modus operandi!) and the calebrese did well too.

What didn't go well in 2017

The peas - very few peas this year, I think this is a problem other people have had.

Potatoes - whilst we have had home grown potatoes from late July until December, they haven't been that big, and blight was a problem for some of them. A good year for us means home grown potatoes until February.

Just in time for Christmas I bottled some parsnip wine that has been sitting maturing in a bedroom for some considerable time (I think it was started about 2 years or more ago!). However, it does benefit from aging and indeed the first bottle of this tasted was quite a sweet wine and indeed quite clear.

It is strong stuff, hence using the smaller bottles!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Allotment update - August 2017

Isn't time going quickly? I have been convinced for some time that someone is in fact meddling with time - one minute you are planting seedlings out and the next minute you are pulling up the beetroot! I did read that "subjective time" is to do with the number of new experiences we have - an exciting trip somewhere new flies by but a slow afternoon with not much to do drags on. Watching the clock doesn't help either....

Anyway, so much for a brief history of time, what's been going on in the allotment?

This is the first year we have grown gherkins - and the way things are going we might not have to grow them for a couple of years, there's only so many that you can pickle and eat!

This is just one batch!

There's just three plants,  happy in an unheated lean-to greenhouse.

Two methods of preserving have been used, cold pickling - the uncooked gherkins put into spiced vinegar (quick fix as we went away the next day) and the other, more traditional method I think, of boiling the gherkins for 8-10 minutes and then putting in the jars, and pouring spiced vinegar on top, then sealing etc.The latter will last longer than the former.

This is just for one meal, midweek, with pie from the local butchers (and I mean local - just round the corner from the house and the meat for the pies from 3 miles or so away!)

The courgettes have gone a bit mad, we're giving them away! And the carrots, well - see below!

Beetroot have been really good this year as well, not bolted at all, though I would imagine that it is time soon to pickle some.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago - now you can't even see the tyres! This year there are three tyre stacks (again a bit of recycling - some from the local garage who are only too glad for them to go, and three from being dumped in the countryside nearby)

In Spring - weeds go in the bottom of the stack, followed by old compost from pots, window boxes and the like, and then fresh compost for the top layer. As the carrots are at waist height there is no danger from carrot fly and the tyres keep the carrots warm right into the winter.

And finally....

This is what happens when a potato happens to grow round some stones, reminds me of the Wrong Trousers in the Wallace and Gromit film of the same name!