Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Being Green with Shakespeare!

Yesterdays harvest became todays dinner.I made the Spinach and Feta Cheese flan which is becoming a favourite. Some of the new potaoes were very small so I boiled them and allowed them to go cold. I blanched the beans in salted water and refreshed under cold water. I mixed them together with salt,pepper and mayo and had a lovely salad to go with the flan plus some lettuce.While reading allotment2kitchen last night I came across much the same recipe but used warm! There is also a lovely recipe for raspberry oaty bars which I intend to try rather than making jam with all of ours.
These potatoes are the Orlas and these were the first I used of them.I noticed some holes in them, while they look like worm holes surely our nice worms who turn our waste into compost know the difference between our good spuds and waste??!!All info appreciated, I will post the photo and question on gardeners forum also.
Back to Shakespeare, while unpacking I came across this bag I had bought in Stratford on Avon and the quote intriqued me so I looked it up on Google.The scene takes place in Bury St Edmunds and goes as follows,A post arrives, I presume a post is a message bearer:
Great lords, from Ireland am I come amain,
To signify that rebels there are up
And put the Englishmen unto the sword:
Send succors, lords, and stop the rage betime,
Before the wound do grow uncurable;
For, being green, there is great hope of help

Taken slightly out of context and shortened a little!
I also found this little gem in there so maybe Shakespeare was green!
Now 'tis the Spring,and weeds are shallow rooted;
Suffer them now, and they'll o'ergrow the garden
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry
.
Surely good advice even 400 years later.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fruit and flowers

I am so excited, I have figured out how to load up more than 5 photos to my posts! This morning I strolled around the garden checking on what had come out or died back while I was away and also on the allotment.I was trying to decide which to post first when I had a brainwave ( I may have to lie down for a while)and got them all loaded up.Captions will be brief as I don't want to tax myself completely.First is one of the squash plants which is planted in the sweetcorn bed, with flowers and tiny fruit.
Today's harvest was spinach,dwarf beans,Orla potatoes and lettuce.
There is a huge amount of raspberries even though Kathryn had picked what were ripe on Sat and made some jam
One of my baskets at the front of the house,this one is Bonfire begonia.
Red begonia and a yellow one which I cut out of the photo and a bacoba.
Fuchsia out the back, I cannot cut back the hedge until it is finished flowering as it is growing through it.
The hosta has sent up long spires of purple flowers.
My Lillies in their tin bathtub all flowered while I was away so I may have missed the best of them but they are still gorgeous.
A close up of the Lillies
The sweet peas have made a spurt and finally reached the top of the trellis and some have flowered, of course I have been smelling them all day!"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shakespeare and Stratford on Avon 1

Back home after the weekend in Leamington Spa. I discovered we were only a 45 minute bus ride from Stratford on Avon which is Shakespeare's birthplace so we set off on Friday to visit.We had just landed on the open topped, hop on hop off tour bus when the heavens opened for a two hour deluge so our hopping on and off the bus was severely curtailed!I heard one lady remark " thats not just rain, its the wrath of God pouring down"! The houses in the photo are preserved in the town centre and the one to the far end is the house where the bard was born.A lot of houses of the period are very well preserved and newer ones built in a style sympathetic to the period. It is not a quaint old village but a very busy tourist town.
We could not visit all of the places associated with him but made a point of stopping at Anne Hathaways cottage.It is a beautifully preserved place and a guided tour goes through the rooms which have been furnished in the period style. The cottage had a farm to the front in Anne's time but in the 1800s it was replanted with a cottage garden complete with flowers and a thriving vegetable garden all growing in profusion side by side.
This is a bird scarer which was made according to instructions in a book of 1845. It is a potato with bird feathers stuck through it. I must give it a go on the allotment to see if it works.
The garden, even in the rain it looked stunning with all sorts of flowers jostling for position with the result there were very few weeds evident.
A view up the garden under an archway. The tour also included a visit to Mary Arden's ( Shakespeare's mother) house and farm but we were too wet at that stage to want to get out for another soaking! We had beautiful weather every day except for this one but maybe someday we will get back to wander around again.

Shakespeare and Stratford on Avon 2

One of the many flower displays around the town ,this one is at a roundabout. It looks like bunnies made of small succulents and are dotted around the flower bed. The hanging baskets were stunning and hung everywhere.
Some of the house names are quaint and whimsical and in keeping with the tourist attractions.The shops and houses are kept in theme with the whole Shakespeare tourist trail.
The house is Shakespeare's birthplace and these students were getting in the name plaque to prove they were there! The house is entered from the side by going through the Shakespeare Experience and paying £12 to see inside.I would wonder how long more it will survive with the volume of tourists tramping through it each day.
A permanent Christmas Shop! The smell of cinnamon or pine I am not sure which, hits you as soon as you walk through the door.Selling ornaments and Santa's in June.Business was brisk when we went inside.
Lots of people were taking photos and going inside this particular shop.Shakespeare's words are used in the names of shops as in a cafe'the Food of Love' or a toyshop 'Much Ado About Toys'you get the picture.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Allotment Open Day 1

Our Allotment open day was a great success in bright sunshine.First an update on Kevin, he is now home on the way to a complete recovery. He developed a limp which got steadily worse and by the time he was admitted to hospital he could hardly walk.After extensive tests including an MRI scan we are no wiser as to what caused it, it may have been a viral infection.He was very upset missing the Open Day but we will have a BBQ especially for him soon to make up for it. He told the medical staff about the allotment and what we were growing and from all accounts at least one of them is very interested in visiting or maybe even getting a plot!I was only there for a couple of hours on the day but did manage to take a few photos, I was babysitting Scott for the day and brought him on his first visit to the allotments and he had a ball.Pic of the windmills and scarecrows on Sinead, Aoife and Kevin's plots.They all have terrific onions growing ,much better than our ones!
Allotment owner Zwena showing some visitors her polytunnel, this was designed and a lot of the work done by Zwena herself.The sides are higher than usual to maximise space for growing and caused a lot of interest on the day.
Our sweetcorn, finally growing with the squash plants around the sides.I put up the green netting as a wind break as I think the howling gales we had earlier was slowing it up a bit.
The hens in their outside run, they are getting used to people being near them and being fed as they come right up to the gate now when anyone approaches.Scott thought they were hilarious and spent the time laughing especially when they 'clucked'! They are laying daily and the egg count is growing each day.
Some of the old farm machinery which was painted and put out on display in the new BBQ area, it is part of the history of the farm as it has been a working farm for generations and our plots are in what was the walled garden.I have to make this 2 posts to load up all the photos.

Allotment Open Day 2

Photo is of Chris setting out the tables for the food,which he prepared on the day for which donations were accepted to give to a charity.Chris had made different types of scones,served with cream and rhubarb jam and also his Elderberry cordial which went down a treat on such a warm day.Chris is also organizing a 'Slow Food' event on the allotment in August, I will do a post on this soon with full details.
Some of the visitors browsing around the plots, it also shows the top of our new plot and one of our wicket gates of which I forgot to take a decent photo.Most of the plotters were present so it was nice to talk to everyone as we all go out at different times and do not meet up very often.
View down the new plots which are all looking green and productive.Visitors arrived all afternoon so it did not get too crowded at any one time and was nice and relaxed, everyone could look at the plots and speak to the owners, it had an air of an old fashioned garden party!
A view down the old plots, again looking lush and green.We had all put in extra effort so the plots were weeded and looking their best. There is a great variety of produce and everyone has their own method of growing in different shaped beds, so all of the plots are very individual.
We are going to the UK on Wed for a few days off so the blog will not be updated until I return,Kathryn and the girls are in charge of watering until then as the weather is hot and sunny and everything will be crying out for water!We are digging our new pops and they taste great, no sign of blight so far as we are spraying religiously!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Busy Week

I cannot believe it is a whole week since I posted here! It has been a very busy week on all fronts and when I came home each night I just tidied up the house,showered and fell into bed.Today is our allotment Open Day and we have spent the week painting and bringing our plots up to 'show' standard. Today is marred a little as my gardener in chief Kevin was admitted to hospital last night and is waiting to have an MRI scan this morning but he is in good form and enjoying the attention.
All of the old machinery has been painted and put out on display and flowers are blooming all over the place.A large number of visitors are expected and the day so far is sunny but breezy.Kathryn and the kids weeding up a storm to get all the beds cleaned up.
One of the days produce, I did not have the camera some days or forgot to take photos.I pulled up all of the garlic as the rust had taken over despite spraying a few times.Some of the bulbs had started to develop into cloves, we can use them as they are but they won't store so it will be garlic with everything for the next few weeks.The peas are flying and we are using them as sugar snap peas cooking them whole instead of waiting to pod them.Spinach is in great demand and is producing fresh leaves every few days.
My sister called to the plot yesterday with my aunts who were visiting and I dug up some of our Colleens for her, the week made a huge difference in size and they looked good, I am waiting to get her verdict on taste.
The rabbits are all over the place and are not too afraid of us, this one was hopping on the roadway and just hopped inside a gate and waited for me to pass!The photo is a bit fuzzy as I took it through the car window.
I was going through my freezer and came across blackcurrants since last year! There was not a lot ripening at any one time so I froze them as we were picking them and forgot about them.There were 2 lbs of fruit so I made blackcurrant jam and of course had to make fresh scones to put it on.I remember a lady saying to me years ago that blackcurrants were the only fruit that used one and a half lbs of sugar per lb of fruit and even though none of the recipes I came across does I still used that amount and it tasted delicious.Baby Scott who is big into trying new tastes loved it!
The scones and jam before they got demolished.I will have lots of photos of the Open Day as I will be spending some time there today and we will have our own open day with BBQ for Kevin as soon as he is out and about again.While his parents are in the hospital with him I will have Scott who will be paying his first visit to the allotment for an hour or two.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Plot to Plate

We spent most of today on the allotment, it was a beautiful sunny day if a little breezy with a few heavy showers.We hung the three gates and with Kevin's help got the gates and posts primed and undercoated.We did some weeding and watering and of course can now pick something to eat on site or take home.The Spinach has finally taken off and I pulled what I thought was a lot but it sweats down to a tiny portion, some of our peas and of course some red strawberries, no point in leaving them for the slugs.
I have only used Spinach a few times and basically just steamed it, today I decided to make a Spinach,bacon and feta cheese tart.I found a recipe online which did not look too complicated or had too many ingredients so went ahead and made it.I used Catherine's recipe for the pastry, I have been getting compliments on my pastry since I began using it.It is:
8ozs Self Raising Flour,
4ozs Hard margarine or butter ( I use the butter)
1 oz of icing sugar (for sweet pastry) or pinch of salt for savoury pastry
1 egg made up with milk to bind pastry.
The recipe for the tart is from Timesonline.co.uk and is credited to Lindsey Bareham, I tweaked it a little bit so this is my version.
200g young Spinach leaves, blanched in salted water for 2 mins. Refresh under cold water then pat dry and chop.
125g Bacon lardons fried in oil until brown then dry on kitchen paper.
4 eggs with one tbsp cream ( or creme fraiche)for each egg.
100g Greek Feta cheese.
black pepper.
1 tbsp chopped chives.
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese.
I made the pastry,and baked it blind for about 8 mins, combine all of the ingredients and pour into flan case,scatter another 1 tbsp grated parmesan on top.
Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes,gas mark 7 or 220c, until the top feels firm and is a nice golden colour.
I was a bit iffy about the two cheeses as I am not a lover of strong cheese so I tested it on Ed first who gave it a thumbs up. It was a devine combination of ingredients, D.Aisling waited patiently for hers to be sent down to her and wanted to know when I was making another one.I think I will sowing a lot more Spinach!


We did some more painting for the Open Day also, I gave Kevin a wire brush and he spent ages getting all the rust off of this old Dairy Separator, he was complimented on his hard work by everyone.We painted some of the body of it a bright yellow so it was just as well he was wearing a bright yellow Tshirt!
The days dues for working, fresh strawberries warmed by the sun and straight from the plant.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spuds!

Today I decided I could not wait any longer to see if we had pops under the stalks! I dug up just one of the Colleen, there were 11 potatoes under it, weighing in at just over 1 lb or 500 grms.Some of them are quite small the largest being about the size of an egg.The skins are wonderfully light,the slightest touch rubs it off. I will leave them for another week before trying another one.The proof of the pops is in the eating so they will be used tonight for dinner for 2.
The rest of the 'booty' from the allotment, 6 lovely fresh eggs just gathered this morning.Zwena collects them every morning and leaves them in the fridge in the tea room. There is an honesty policy in operation money is left in a mug for the eggs to go towards the cost of feed for the hens.They are 4.20e a dozen but even one can be taken if that is all you want.The hens are really getting the hang of the egg laying and the daily total is increasing, some of them are small but one hen is laying quite large eggs!
Our Open Day is on Sat 20th June and this year we are going all out to have a super day with all of the new plot holders. Everyone can bring friends and family to view their own and others plots and we will be on hand to answer any questions. We spent the morning painting in glorious sunshine. Zwena has lots of old farm implements stored in the barn and outhouses so they are all being cleaned and painted and being put out on display as it has been a working farm for many years and the machinery tells the history of the place. Photo shows some of the painting crew at work , I had painted the seed sower on the left of the photo, it is blue and yellow.In the centre is a mobile forge which would have been taken around the farms shoeing horses. The item on the right is a weeder. These old timers had already thought of labour saving devices this generation has just improved and mechanised them
Zwena brought us down some of Elderberry cordial which Chris had made.I was a bit dubious at first but it was delicious,tasting faintly of lemon. Zwena thought it had an after flavour similar to Lychees.Thanks Chris! Life on the allotment is really getting to be fun this year with lots going on and so many new faces, all with great ideas on growing and producing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crochet and Compost

Baby Katie finally got her finished crochet blanket, with all the gardening for the past few weeks crocheting has been relegated to a couple of nights.The blanket was nearly finished when I ran out of the darker colour for the squares and it is no longer being produced so the whole thing had to be unpicked and different coloured squares put in to complete the blanket.Katie looks quite pleased with it even though she seems to be examining it for mistakes!
The PSB bed that was has now been nearly covered with the wilted leaves and kitchen compost which I brought out to rot down on the bed, it does not look pretty and believe me it did not smell pretty either! This was covered with the compost from the composter then wet cardboard and finally black plastic.It will rot down until next spring when it should be rejuvenated and ready for replanting.
I had to take a photo of Micheal's bird scarers,there are cans hung on strings to bang against each other in the wind and make lots of noise.I think they look a bit like Chinese lanterns. Micheal says these are all recycled he did not buy them or drink the contents,at least that is his story!It makes for another unusual and interesting piece of recycling on the allotment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lunch Munch

I pulled one of the lettuce growing in the timber bed out back, this is the head after being washed ,more than enough for lunch for the week! It is crisp and tasty. I reset another plant in place of it as I have some extras 'heeled' in to a spot in the garden as I am trying to keep a succession of fresh salad leaves going for the whole summer.
Lunch munch sandwich, lettuce, I had to buy the tomatoes as I don't have any ready to eat as yet. The onion I pulled on the plot last evening as it was developing a seed head but it is edible as is. Chives also from the garden to complement and this is what I call a fresh lunch! The sun is shining so I am off to sit outside with the teapot and sandwich.