Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Autumn Colour

The clocks have gone back to 'old time' to herald the beginning of winter, I'm not sure how many countries actually do this. I always liked the idea of long evenings by the fire , curtains closed and I could knit in front of the TV, the eyesight does not lend itself to much knitting anymore but I still enjoy the cosy glow of the fire.

 The children look forward to Halloween, how many of you know that it is a very old pagan festival which had its origins in Ireland long,long ago?!You can read about it here

 The unexpected delivery of a bag of crab apples led me to doing something I had never attempted before, making crab apple jelly!
I had read some recipes over the years but the mention of jelly bags, muslin and jam thermometers always put me off. I Googled and came with  simple recipes on the BBC Good Food website.
 I used a white pillow case suspended from the ironing board (opened) .The fruit when cooled a little was put into the pillowcase, tied and hung from the ironing board for about 3 hours until it had stopped dripping. I had about 2 1/2 litres of juice from the 4 kgs of fruit.
Today I added  1 kg of caster sugar  and cooked as for jam and ended up with the above quantity which is about about 7lbs in old measurements I reckon.Another site advised  to use ripe nicely colored fruit, the ones I had could not be any greener so the lovely red colour was a complete surprise!
Half of the fruit was used for the jelly above, the other half is now simmering to make a Winter Spice Jelly, with the addition of cinnamon sticks,star anise,nutmeg, allspice, mace and orange peel.Its a spiced version which can be used with cheese and cold meats like a chutney.
Sounds like Christmas to me!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dublin Community Gardens Harvest Festival Sat 14th Sept

I received this email recently asking for some exposure on the blog and I must say I am slightly, no ,very envious!I am not aware that we have any Community Gardens here in Cork ( please correct me if I'm wrong) let alone up to 35 which is the figure quoted  here for the greater Dublin area.
 I wish them every success with what is looking to be a fantastic day out for families interested in growing their own or becoming part of a group which does. 
Dublin Community Growers are hosting their annual Harvest Festival in Wolfe Tone Park, Jervis Street, Dublin 1 on Saturday 14th September from 12 – 5 pm to demonstrate the benefits of organic food.
There is free entry into the event which will provide a variety of entertainment including live music from R3Winder and the Prairie Dogs, a pop up garden and children’s activities such as face-painting, flower pot painting and story-telling.
The festival is supported by Dublin City Council, who have stated:
“For the second year in a row, Dublin City Council are proud to support Dublin Community Growers Harvest Festival. It is a welcome addition to the City’s calendar of family-friendly events.”
The festival will feature workshops on bee keeping and apple pressing which will allow both adults and children to make their own apple juice using apples that have been collected from trees all over the city. Attendees are also welcome to bring their own apples for juicing. In addition, there will be an opportunity for everyone to get their hands dirty in seed bomb and grass head making.
As part of the festival, Dublin Community Growers are presenting a film screening of the acclaimed film “Vanishing of the Bees” in Dublin Food Co-Op on Thursday 12 September at 8 pm. The film examines the current agriculture landscape and celebrates the ancient and sacred connection between humans and honeybees.
The festival aims to bring different community gardeners together and to encourage others to set up their own community gardens.
Dublin Community Growers are a voluntary group dedicated to helping people set up community gardens around Dublin City. It is wholly voluntary and non-profit, and anyone who is interested in community gardening can join. There is a network made up of over 35 community garden groups. 

For more information, please visit the Dublin Community Growers website
www.dublincommunitygrowers.ie or email dublincommunitygrowers@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Autumn is here!

I cannot believe I have not blogged since 31st July?! Where do the days and weeks go?
Being very busy on all fronts takes up a bit of time but I have been on the plot and I have to say after such a late start we are very happy with our veg from the 'new' allotment. There is no point in back tracking so this is Mondays harvest, courgette,sweetcorn,globe artichokes and tomatoes and a few raspberries also.
The 3 courgette plants had romped away producing to such an extent we were giving them away and had done all we could with them.The plants had grown to ginormous size at this point and then stopped producing.
I cut back all of the huge old leaves, leaving only the newer ones at the top of the plant, fed them with the Comfrey tea and lo and behold they are now producing again at a much slower pace I might add, each plant now has two fruits and some new flowers.

The courgette bed after being stripped, you can see how much they grow in length from the base!

The leeks are being weeded (slowly) they had almost disappeared in the weeds, 2 rows have now been done and earthed up for the first time.

Our sunflowers are really tall and skinny at about 5 to 6 feet and this is the first one to come into flower, last Mon this is it just opening
This morning!
I have dug out the winter onion bed and its been watered and left to settle for a few days before planting the overwintering Senshyu onions.
I tried to buy these online last night in the Mr Middleton online store but it kept refusing my card saying the number and the card did not match?! I have had a problem on this site before.
I bought them locally today and I was surprised to see the Senshyu is also available in a red variety!Will I dig out another bed........

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Rain Stops Play Outdoors

Between the showers was the title of yesterday's post, not so today its just one unending downpour! I decided I would use the stash of Courgettes while still fresh.
I checked the sidebar of the blog, there under labels, courgettes, there are 34 posts?! 
I first made Angela's Courgette cake back in 2009, delicious, moist and moreish, but not feeling 'cake like' I decided I would try muffins using the same recipe and they turned out gorgeous!
Angela, by the way was our next door neighbour on the Hydro Farm allotments
The recipe for Angela's Courgette cake can be found here
The muffins will not be iced as the cake so they can then be heated for breakfast.
Angela's Courgette Soup was next on the list,it does use 900grms of courgette after all! I have made it to the blending stage without adding the cheese as I am going to freeze it in portions.When defrosted then I can add the cheese, Blue, Stilton or Brie plus the cream for serving.
 I also discovered Courgette & Apple bread in there which I had forgotten about and Margaret's Stuffed Marrow recipe to use if any of them 'get away'!
Mark's Courgette appetizers, they can be dried and packed in jars with Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil. have a browse if you are wondering what to 'do' with all those courgettes which this hot ,humid and wet weather is cultivating!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Between the Showers

 Today's harvest from the allotment, it was not very colourful until I added the carrots and beetroot from the raised bed.I cut down the Broad beans and stripped the pods which are filling the bag on the left.I just cut the stems leaving the roots to rot down in the ground as legume roots are rich in nitrogen.
There are 7 courgettes! Time to start making soup I think.
The carrots from the covered raised bed are really tasty, these are the Sutton's baby veg which we are using while young and tender, leaving others to mature.
We are coming to the end of our new potatoes, these are old reliable Home Guard, there are more beetroot and 2 nice  size heads of Broccoli. A few weeks ago we didn't think we would have anything much to take home as we started so late but the heatwave helped and dare I say it , those nice soft summer showers!
 The tomatoes in the lean to tunnel are just about OK, not a lot to harvest at all.I have almost stripped all the leaves and branches now as they don't need them to ripen and hopefully the plants might put on a spurt.

3 Kgs of Broad Beans when shelled  yielded just over 1 kg of beans, which will be blanched and then shelled again before freezing. Broad Beans have a very short season in the summer, I have frozen them each year and instead of trying to use a glut of them I enjoy them during the winter months.The 2 jars of baby beets were pulled last week, they were roasted and just put into jars with red wine vinegar to be used almost immediately

One of the first heads of broccoli or to be more precise its Calabrese which is what we buy in Supermarkets as Broccoli. Calabrese has one central head while Broccoli is usually sprouted.This was one of the first  be used last week,they have matured to a good size.

After cutting the head with a sharp knife, cut a cross in the stalk and give a liquid feed and with any luck we will have some tasty side shoots in a few weeks.
I sowed Golden Globe swede turnips and last Sat they were up nicely

Ditto the baby turnips which will be ready to harvest in approx 10 weeks from sowing. I also sowed more beetroot and carrots so a little good weather over the next few weeks should keep us in veg for another while.

I had noticed what  looked like side shoots on the Sweet Corn so today's mission was to investigate. There were no cobs on them , I think they were just side shoots or suckers. I removed them from the plants they were on, hopefully the right thing to do!

The cleaned up Sweet Corn bed,there are now 2 good sized cobs on each plant as I also removed any small undeveloped ones from some of the plants as they would not mature at this stage and would only be using up the plants energy. If we get 2 cobs matured on each plant we won't be doing too badly as  again they went in late due to us changing allotments and then the wet Spring.

A ladybird nestled in the top of one of the plants.
A lot of the onions were already bending so I bent over the remaining ones in this bed. I think the idea is that the onion does not waste energy on the green part and the bulbs bulk up a bit before pulling to dry in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Carewswood Garden Centre and Cafe

 Last Sunday was not beach or lie out kind of weather then I remembered that Carewswood Garden Centre  ( Tripadvisor) were having an Open/Family day. This is an old Garden centre which as far as I know had been closed for a while then I heard a rumour that a young couple  had taken it over! In the teeth of the worst recession in years, in a business which is closing garden centres all over the country, were they mad?
I set off early to find out which is why the centre looks quiet but by the time I left you could not get a parking space in the ample car park!
There is a lovely cafe where food cooked/ baked on site is served, veg is grown specifically to use in the restaurant  and to make the range of ready made sauces,jams and cakes to take away which on the day were disappearing quickly by people who had obviously bought there before!
David Leahy is the young man in charge of the garden centre and planting and his girl friend Juulika is in charge of the cafe and food side of the operation.
Carewswood as anyone from Cork will know is between Castlemartyr and Garryvoe in east Cork and well worth a visit as it is very family orientated also.

 20% off the good range of plants for the day
 Children's play area where you can buy the safety bark etc for playgrounds
 Some of the mouth watering range of home made goodies
 Handmade soaps which could be mistaken for edibles!
 Geranium workshop on the day
 Wall of herbs
 This young lady was selling home made lemonade
 easy access around the displays, very important for buggies and wheelchair customers
 Kiddies cookery class ready to begin, Chocolate cookies were on the menu
 Co owner Daniel on till duty

 Carewswood mission statement
 paint your own plant pot, plant it up and take it home

 The poly tunnel full to overflowing with veg for the cafe

Daniel & Juul believe in recycling and using natural materials as much as possible, this beautiful gate & fence blocks an unsightly corner

 Cabbages covered from the white butterfly

 More veg being grown for their own use, veg plants were on sale earlier in the season but had been completely sold out

I enjoyed my stroll around and will be back again as any young couple starting off in business need  support and they have obviously put their heart and soul into the centre and it will be nice to see it develop over time. They don' t have a website  but as with all young people nowadays you can find them on Facebook & Twitter!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Sowings

 We have learned over the years its a mistake to sow everything together as you end up with a glut of different veg and if it is a hot summer as this one has been (so far) then you don't want to be cooking every day to use up the veg.
I had some of these seeds which are Sutton's Speedy veg they are ready to harvest in 10 weeks from sowing which would take us to the end of Sept and into Oct therefore  utilising  the ground as much as possible and for those of us paying for allotments that is the bottom line.
The first early spuds, a lovely variety called Premier has just vacated its space so I have followed up with planting out my leeks and also sowed these veg varieties in any spare space.
Baby beets,turnips and carrots.They are picked and used small so are tender and tasty as we can vouch for the carrots which we have been using in another bed already!

 Thinnings of an earlier sowing of the Speedy baby veg and sugar snap peas with the Premier earlies which are a lovely tasty, floury white spud, all went to make a delicious meal this week.

What you need to transplant leeks, a dibber which would be ideal but it was sitting in the shed at home so I had to find a suitable substitute and a full watering can. These leeks had been sown at home and already transplanted into a seed tray and should really have been planted out sooner but with our tropical summer I didn't get around to it.

Make a hole with the dibber and drop the leek into it, if the leeks are long enough then about 5ins would be fine as this is the part which is blanched white.

Don't fill the hole with soil, pour water into the hole and it will fill in and settle itself.

Half of the leek bed sown at this point, lots of warming winter soups to come!

The brassica bed rejigged.Sprouts are at right angles around the edge, broccoli which is hearting up nicely  to the right and 2 lone heads of cabbage now covered with netting as we discovered we have a marauding blackbird who got through the netting and munched his way through about 6 heads already.

Line to the left is baby turnips, right is Golden Ball turnips and 3 short rows of baby beetroot in front.This is the 3rd sowing of baby beetroot , I am pulling them small and roasting them, then packing into jars with red wine vinegar.They can be used within days but I'm not too sure if they would last as preserves all winter but they are being used almost immediately!
The darker lines are compost scattered over the seeds not for any particular growing reason as they all grow downwards but it is easier to see where I have sown the seeds!
The netting was put back down and secured before I left.
This morning was dull , very overcast and very humid I sprayed the remaining spuds as you could almost feel the potato blight in the air, talk about ideal blight conditions! We have had blight warnings all week here.