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and indeed with the Government when they originally proposed to sell off national forests (proposal was subsequently withdrawn after a public backlash)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!