Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday 26th August 2010 - weather: bloody awful, rain rain and more rain!

Come on weather, pull yourself together! We haven't sat out and enjoyed a balmy evening since returning from France at the start of the month...and as for summer BBQ's - fat chance. And thanks to the constant rain that Essex seems to be suffering, I still haven't got to the allotment.

Thanks to the wet weather, I have been taking advantage of the fruity gluts that come my way courtesy of the hedgerows, family and friends. Plums at the moment, although I do have 4Ib of brambles in the freezer, and 4Ib of Mirabelles. The in-laws have a rather stonking old Victoria plum tree and after a visit, we came away with 3 carriers full of the mouth watering, golden plum coloured fruits. I still had a 3Ib bag sitting in the freezer, so today was preserving day. Well, what else is there to do when the house is tidy, the kids are entertained, and their is bugger all on telly to watch.

Firstly I made James Martins plum chuts, altho I did had 5 thai green chillis to the mix to try and pep it up. I also did 4 times his original recipe. I couldn't get the heat from the chillis, but I am hoping on storing, the flavour will mature. Next boozy plum jam. 5Ib of plums, stoned and cooked until soft, then 5Ib of warm sugar joined them. Once setting point was reached, I poured in about half a pint of my home made damson gin, stired through and bottled in warm jars. Whenever I make boozy jams, I can't taste it, but when you compare it to a plain version, you can definately recognise a taste difference.

I still have a big bowl full of the beauties, so am toying with the idea of making a plum crumble, then perhaps chinese style plum sauce, and the remainder can go into the freezer for use another time.

The great thing is, my apple trees on the allotment are weighed down with fruit, so I have that to look forward to in a few weeks time, followed by the pears that I have permission to scrump from an old orchard at the back of the allotment, and that doesn't include the hedgerow fruits that I forage along the way.

I did look at a preserving book whilst I was in Wyvales this morning, enquiring as to when their cheap cheap seed sale starts, but I already have 3 preserving books, plus several war time books with great jam and chutters recipes, and to be honest, in the age of the internet, do we really need lots of books when recipes are at the end of our fingertips?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday 18th August 2010 - weather: bright and breezy

Flying visits seem to be all I can fit in during the kids hols. I have told them that I want to go for a decent visit, but they moan and groan. Mananged an hour yesterday and the same again today which was good.

Yesterday was just to pick. Came home with a carrier bag of mixed French and Runner beans. I also cut a couple of courgettes (they are very slow at getting going) and cucumber. I picked a bowl full of tomatoes (I am not sure if they aren't just beginning to show the first signs of blight) and pulled some carrots and spring onions and cut the first few mini corns. There is still plenty on the plot to bring home, beets, spinach, chard, kale, spuds, onions, cabbage, and so on, but whilst I don't need it, it can stay put. I do need to sow some more fast growing things and overwintering bits, so I need to get up to the plot and the kids have promised that next week we can.

Amazing what a drop of rain can do. My squash bed looks amazing. It is a jungle and there are loads of fruit developing which is exciting. After going to a potager in France that grows over 300 varieties of squash, I have decided next year to devote a bit more time and attention to my squashes.

Anyhow, I digress. Todays lottie adventure was mainly to tie up my wayward tomato plants. They are soooooo heavily laden with fruits, that if the blight holds off and they all ripen, I will have tomato sauce in the freezer to last me into the summer of 2011 !! Plum toms seem to have done really well. I am relieved as I had a tomato disaster during spring. When we first got our gals and moved them into the greenhouse, I still have all of my young tomato plants living on the staging - 30 odd varities, looking lovely. All was well for the first few weeks, until the gals spotted greenery, and up they all went one night, and ate every single plant down to a stump. Buggers!! So I had to start again. I didn't sow, but I begged, pleaded and purchased plants at local plant sales, at peoples gates, and took peoples spares. So, I now have quite a mixture of plums, cherries, regular, stripey and huge beefsteaks. Phew, alls well that ends well and all that.

So that was that, home again. Now, fingers crossed next week I will have a more detailed blog after being able to spend a bit more time on the plot.....we shall see.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Monday 2nd August 2010 - weather: overcast with light rain


After my earlier posting, the weather started to become quite grim. Excuse me mother nature, where did the summer go??

Anyhow, just a quick post really with a quail update. As you know, we have 11 birdies, and it turned out that we had 6 gals and 5 lads. Way to much testosterone, so numbers had to be reduced. The first boy went tonight. Gingernut is now languishing in our deep freeze. Hubby did the did quickly with as little distress as possible. He was a plump lad with big breasts and quite a bit of fat on him, which should keep him moist when we cook him. We have decided that the small white and the scruffy brown boy will join him over the next couple of days. The children agree that as our numbers are now down, we should buy a few more ladies, so I will contact our original supplier and get another half a dozen.

The other story is regarding one of our brown range gals. She has been bonked and bonked by the lads and had become completely exhausted. We also noticed that she tends to gather the eggs up and sit on them, dare I say, broody. So, she has come into the house into the first aid cage to rest. She laid an egg on the first evening, and sat tightly on it, so I snuck another 2 under her and she has sat on them all day. I moved her off tonight, and marked the eggs so we know which ones are the old ones in case she lays any more, and also so I can tell which way is up so I can make sure they are turned. The eggs were all warm, and she sat back on them again. So, we shall wait and see. They may come to nothing....she may get bored....but we might end up with 3 chickadees.

Oh, just to add, so you don't think we neglected our birdies whilst off galavanting in France, our neighbour came in and tended to them for us, and gathered 50 eggs in the one week. She really enjoyed looking after them and has keenly offered to do it for us whenever we are away. I hoped she would keep the eggs and use them, but she gave half of them back to me!! I think a quiche for dinner tomorrow.
Monday 2nd August 2010 - weather: bright and breezy

In loving memory of my darling daddy who died 10 years ago today.
I miss you so much dad, and miss our time on the allotment together - you chief weeder, me chief grower.
Love you. xxx

Okay, so I didn't go to the allotment today, it was yesterday, but having only returned from our glorious week in France on Saturday evening, I didn't get my act together yesterday.

So, a quick over view of our week in France. Glorious! The Vendee region is gorgeous, long sandy beaches, amazing food, wonderful people. Yes, I would live there in a shot. Went to the zoo, aquarium, boating, markets and went to a fabulous potager garden where they grow over 400 varieties of pumpkin, and probably a similar amount of tomatoes. Fab time was had by all.

But so much can happen on an allotment in a week. Before we went, the kids and I picked all of the raspberries leaving a lovely lot of just ripening fruit to harvest upon our return....but the wasps had different plans, and had sucked the lot dry. There wasn't a decent rasp to be had. On the upside, they had totally ignored the currants, so picked plenty of red, white and black currants, and a massive bowl of Jostaberries.

The French beans don't mind the hot and dry weather, infact, they prefer it, so I picked a nice selection of purple queen and haricot vert (seeds purchased 2 years ago when we were on hols in the south of France). I also picked the first bundle of runner beans, and am pleased to report that they are smothered in flowers. Runners haven't been great for the last couple of years, but this year I planted them in the dappled shade of the apple trees, and I think the shade has kept them a little cooler and they seem to be thriving, where the few that are in the middle of plot number 2 in full, dry sun are really struggling to make their way up the poles.

The beetroot don't seem to have minded the drought and I picked a few whoppers. The turnips have germinated, but unless they have some more rain, I don't know if they will come to much. I do hope to get to the plot in the week - with our without the sproggles - so will carefully give them a can or 2 of water and thin them out, less competition should mean more water for them.

In general, things are doing okay-ish. Everything looks dusty and slightly limp, but there are some different squashes developing and plenty of toms. Fingers crossed we avoid any blight. Next visit I will take the camera to show you how sad things are looking, but also, how good others are doing.