Music + video…

One of my favourite D&B tunes up first (B-Complex: Beautiful Lies) with some really very impressive video. Love the stars capes and cityscapes. Particularly like the graveyard star sequence around 2:50. The slow-moving camera combined with the vert fast visuals works well.

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Day 007…

Two bugs enjoying the sunshine while I was at the plot : )

Allotment 19.05.13 - 02

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Dig for victory (or maybe partial success)…!

I think the last time I spent two consecutive days at the plot was the middle of last year. Well, that has just been put right, with two sessions, of maybe two hours each. My eldest son Jamie also actually volunteered to come with me on the first day and my youngest, Jac, volunteered on the second day : )

So, the mission over the two days was digging and potato planting, so if nothing else, we’ll have a load of spuds to eat over the coming autumn and winter. This year we’re focussing our less than considerable efforts (less is more and all that), into only two varieties: Red Scarlett (1st earlies) and Victoria (main). Roughly 50 of the reds and 100 of the Victoria will be going in.

First day was finishing digging over the previously undug middle section, which took about 1.5 hours with the awesome Canterbury fork. 45 Red Scarlett went in (5 rows with 9 in each) – 18 cms apart.

Allotment 09-10.04.13 - 3

Second day was digging over last years onion area and 42 Victoria were put in (6 rows with 7 in each) – 20 cms apart. The soil is looking pretty good there and getting a finer texture.

Allotment 09-10.04.13 - 7

42 Victoria about to go in

Allotment 09-10.04.13 - 6

If I assume 6 spuds per plant, this would result in 522! There are still another 45 Victoria to put in, bringing the total to roughly 800 : ) That should be plenty. Once that’s done, it’s easy to handle, with only a bit of banking up needed. Then it’s onto the peas, tomatoes, squash, corn, onions and shallots, carrots and parsnips. Roughly 10 varieties only, rather than the crazy 60+ we had last year from Rocket Gardens.

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Canterbury Fork, carpet and potatoes…

A very satisfying trip to the plot, on my birthday! A very cold day but fairly clear.

The good thing about the very cold and unseasonal weather has been the suppression of the grass and weeds so it has looked virtually the same for the last 4 months, including the state of the undug ground!

So, I managed to move the plot on a bit and have now dug over another part of the central area, between the raised beds and last years potato patch. This will be this years potato patch, leaving last years potato area for peas and beans. The area had been covered by a tarpaulin over the winter which possibly helped keep the weeds down, but there was still a lot of tough grass and accompanying roots to remove.

It was also a good chance to test out the new Canterbury Fork. Overall it was a bit easier using this, compared to the traditional fork, but I wouldn’t say there was a lot in it. The downside was getting the soil and clay off the fork, which was slightly more tricky than a normal fork. I even managed to bend my spade! I may have to use the solid metal one i’ve got at home next time : )

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Go potatoes, go…!

Ok, it’s the most exciting time of the year – all the expectation and hope for the coming growing season, without any of the disasters, pest attacks or unknown disappearances in the night! : )

The growing (pun intended) sense of new life about to emerge.

Chitting potatoes 09.03.13 - 1 Chitting potatoes 09.03.13 - 3 Chitting potatoes 09.03.13 - 4

So, the sight of chitting potatoes on the window sill is something to cherish. I opened the bag up and the majority of the Red Scarlett’s had already well advanced on their own, so minimal chitting needed. Can’t wait to get planting – just need to select and dig over their new home (a bit behind!).

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The Chillington heavy duty Canterbury Fork.

Given the lack of opportunities to get to the plot, I have enlisted the help of a serious tool, which will hopefully make digging the plot over a breeze (and does according to one of my fellow plot holders).

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Allotment mission starts here…

Ok, for me the start of the allotment season is buying the seed potatoes. This may be because we haven’t yet managed to gather the required where with all to actually sustain a growing campaign through the winter months, therefore the ‘start’ of the season is really the start of Spring. : )

So, Spring is nearly here and now is the time for getting the seedlings going, putting the finishing touches to soil preparation and buying and starting to chit potatoes.

We have made our pilgrimage to Dundry Nurseries for the seed potatoes – this year instead of the 6/7 varieties, we’re going for just two: for new potatoes / first earlies it’s Red Scarlett and for the Main Crop it’s Victoria. Both were selected from the Dundry website for the highest level of disease and pest resistance. The website is great for general info and a good tool for helping to choose varieties.

So, onion setts, potatoes etc will soon be put to work but in the meantime, there were jobs to be done at Plot 18B. I dug over 6 of the raised beds, spread out 5 tubs of home-produced compost onto last years potato area (peas and beans this year) and cleared a whole load of rubbish from the shed, which had been left from the previous plot holder.

I was there maybe two hours, during which time is started snowing (!!) and I was visited by my mate the ever-hungry worm eater. we’re trying out a weed-suppressant method which involves spreading newspaper over most of the soil and covering with more soil. we’ll have to wait and see if this works but could save some weeding. The great thing about digging is the heat it produces – just what I needed on a very cold day (see ice in water trough!). The rainbow chard and spinach had survived the winter with only minimal die back.

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I’d forgotten what you looked like…!

So, the allotment is still there…

I had slightly tweaked my back shifting some furniture so hadn’t managed to get to the allotment for a month or so – I drove over there today with a boot full of compost and some very good intentions.

A clear, bright and mild December day lifted the spirits and connected me back into the Earth. It all looked very much the same but actually less work to do, given the recent cold and frosty weather, meaning fewer weeds and very limited grass growth.

Allotment 16.12.12 - 09

Still a few pests hanging around though – fair play, it can have the last bit of the cabbage!

The compost was duly dumped and spread out, with a good helping of ash from our wood-burner. Ash from wood is a great source of potassium, which regulates plants’ water balance (so tissue is firm and juicy), and has a part in transporting food within the plant and creating sugars and starches. Without enough, vegetables are more vulnerable to drought, frost, pests and diseases.

Allotment 16.12.12 - 15

The ash will create a more alkaline soil, but peas, beans, fruit and most root vegetables will do well with some extra ash. The area where i’ve just spread the ash was just used for growing all the potatoes and this season will be the main pea and bean growing area, to rotate the crops and improve the soil.

The other thing was the very healthy looking rainbow chard and spinach – the toughest boys on the plot! A good clump of that was harvested and eaten an hour later for lunch – very nice and full of iron.

I also spread out a blue tarpaulin over the central part of the plot, which will be another useful growing space for the coming season.

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Thai coconut pumpkin soup…

Wow, lots of cooking inspiration is coming from somewhere. I think maybe it’s because Autumn has hit and the changing season has altered my internal functions a bit.

Darker days, leaves blowing around, changes everyday and warmer food needed. I’ve got into soups and stews over the last year, as well as baking and puddings. I’m less inspired by the bit in the middle but i’ll keep trying : )

Always on the lookout for a new seasonal soup recipe and with the glut of pumpkin around, the following recipe from allrecipes.co.uk seemed like a good one…

http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6120/thai-coconut-pumpkin-soup.aspx

So, Thai coconut pumpkin soup – the first time i’ve attempted anything Thai in style or flavour. The main flavours come from the pumpkin, red chilies, shallots, and lemon grass. All mixed and cooked together to produce an amazing smell.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 small fresh red chillies, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped lemon grass
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 350ml coconut milk
  • 475g peeled and diced pumpkin or squash
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over low heat. Cook garlic, shallots, chillies and lemon grass until fragrant (be careful not to burn the garlic). Stir in chicken stock, coconut milk and pumpkin; bring to the boil. Cook until pumpkin softens.
2. In a blender, blend the soup in batches to a smooth or slightly chunky consistency, whatever you prefer. Serve garnished with basil leaves.

The recipe worked really well and produced a nicely balanced flavour – not too much pumpkin. I also used veggie stock in place of the chicken stock.

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Pumpkin magic…

Another Halloween and more fun pumpkin carving.

There are three things that i’m doing differently this year…

1) Buying pumpkins early so I can actually do some pumpkin carving on the actual day rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to find the large orange balls of goodness, from shops which have long sold out!

2) Teeth and ‘advanced’ carving: well, advanced for me anyway! I used a craft knife to slice off the outer orange layer to reveal the whiter areas underneath and also the teeth lines looked quite good.

3) We’re going to really try to use the pumpkin after Halloween for cooking, such as crisps, soups, chips, chutney, juicing even. I’ve lost track of the number of pumpkins i’ve seen around the town which are just rotting and dead outside people’s houses.

We managed to get 3 very pale and small pumpkins from the allotment! Not sure what happened there, whether it was the very damp season with limited light or the variety?! In preparation for the carving I stuck post it note faces on the little guys, which the boys loved – Jac especially liked that!

So, it turned out well and I now have two large bowls of pumpkin pieces for the freezer and can’t wait to start experimenting : )

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Green juicing…

Being at home more with the kids has defo got me more into the whole food / cookery / baking groove. There is a certain amount of pressure to feed the boys good food and to come up with new and exciting things for everyone to try – doesn’t always work but i’m certainly trying more things out.

One of these i’ve recently started doing (after following my fab wife’s example) is to get the juicer out and start making green juices with the boys helping out.

We have a L’Equip Omni Juicer 6 in 1 brand juicer which does pretty much anything and the benefits are mostly about getting the maximum amount of nutrients out of the vegetables and fruit while not having to eat masses of fruit or veg. Anything goes with this, but we tend to use cucumber (don’t peel them as the nutrients are mostly in the skin), apples, oranges and some kind of leafy green veg, such as rainbow chard or spinach, then with some added apple or orange juice for added sweetness. The flavours balance out and it’s an awesome drink to go with a snack or meal, or some people just have a large juice on its own.

The ingredients

What i’ve found really useful about this is the benefit of using leftovers and things which are just past using to eat, or if there is too much of something – such as a big crop from the allotment.

The tiny amount of ‘waste’

Here’s the juice I made today with Jac (my youngest boy), actually mostly gone from the glass! : )

The green juice – nearly all gone!

The other thing is ways of using the leftover pulp, which is mostly the fiber from the fruit and veg. Seems a shame to waste this part as fiber is so important to general health.

Here’s a good site for some ideas, but i’ll probably try adding some it it to a stew.

Left over pulp (to be reborn in something else soon)!

A final idea is about storing the juice. This can be done by putting it into a sealed jar, with as little air space at the top as possible. Should keep for 24 hours but it’s best to drink fresh.

Happy juicing!

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Rainbow chard…

There is nothing more intense from the allotment than the colours and contrasts found in the rainbow chard plant – awesome sight and always lifts my spirits!

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Green fingers on one hand…?

Some signs of success against all the odds! We weren’t too confident of getting a huge range of products from the plot but so far, during our first full season, it’s looking like some definite progress, with the first few things being harvested.

The obvious main crop are the potatoes, and the first test plant has been dug up, producing 0.7 KG of Maris Peers. We’ve planted around 100 seed potatoes and a total of 6 varieties.

The leeks and onions are also doing well and so far some amazing growth of chard and spinach. It’s looking good for a good first year there and we’ve learned lots and managed to dig over 70% of the plot, with all the raised beds (except one) being set out and planted.

All we need now is a magic spell to stop the slimy snails and slugs plus a decent grass strimmer to make lighter work of the grass surrounding the plot.

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Allotment (bit of) progress…

Some good, bad and really bad happenings in allotment world.

We received our 4th Constant Garden delivery from Rocket Gardens, which was full of awesome seedlings. All those were planted out in the hope of at least a few of them growing enough to be eaten. The lettuces are doing well in our garden as well as the cabbages.

I also put in the penultimate raised bed at the plot and did a load of weeding and borber grass cutting. I was dreading what it would all look like after 2 weeks away, but it didn’t look that bad – the ‘main crops’ of potatoes and leeks were doing well and a few of the other things were also strong, such as the chard, spinach and pumpkins. Wildflowers doing well and celery still alive!

There are slugs and snails everywhere! My god. I must have picked out 20+ while I was there.

Here’s to continued success, if only partial, and a massive slug and snail predator outbreak!

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