Friday, 28 August 2009

plums R us

Well, we've been on holiday for a week hence the lack of posts. We haven't really done much at either allotment since coming back other than a quick visit to both sites to check on things. Site 1 is still coming up trumps with the runner beans and we harvested (prematurely as it turned out) the first of the sweetcorn. The silkies had gone over brown and the corn was milky when pressed with a thumb nail, but on opening 4 large cobs they were mostly immature and covered with an excess of green outer. Never mind, they've come home and been blanched and are in the freezer - they'll be absolutely find for using in stir frys. Guess that's what comes from being too eager.

On Site 2 the Nicola potatoes are all doing well as are the onions. Photos on those after the weekend when we have a proper session up there.

The main focus this week has been on home produce, namely plums. When we arrived back at the start of the week we were amazed that all the plums were ready to harvest. There were about 25lbs of plums to do something with. I passed a couple of pounds over to my Mum and a few were eaten, but that still left a lot to use up.

A couple of weeks ago, Cloddigger had taken a first harvest of plums - enough to start 2 gallons of home brewed wine. From this bigger harvest he has started a second batch of plum wine. All being well it will be ready in time for Christmas.

I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon making Spiced Plum Chutney using an amazing recipe recommended by Mum. It's an adaptation* of
Deliah's Spiced Damson Chutney and boy, does it taste good. The recipe recommends letting it mature for 3 months before opening, so that'll be another plum product ready in time for Christmas.

* my adaptation was to use 1.5 pints of vinegar (Deliah says 2 pints, but I find it doesn't all evaporate off) and I used equal measures of malt vinegar and white wine vinegar, rather than just malt vinegar. I couldn't get any whole berry mixed spice, so sprinkled in about a teaspoon of ground mixed spice over the cloves and cinnamon in the gauze square before infusing it in the other ingredients in the pot.

I still had a couple of pounds of plums to use up, so this morning I spent an hour or so making Plum Jam from a really
easy-to-follow recipe found on the Internet. This was the first time I'd ever made jam and was surprised how straight forward it was. Of course cook's prerogative meant I got first taste and was pleased that the resulting mixture was just the right balance of sweetness and fruity tang.

all the ingredients in the pot to start the Spiced Plum Chutney. I didn't have gauze so improvised with an old clean muslin square to infuse the cinnamon, cloves and mixed all spice

near the end of cooking, I dished some out to check how well it thickened as it cooled (yummy flavour!)

the chutney all bottled up, labelled and ready for storage

plums, water and lemon juice boiling up before adding sugar jam (this already has pectin added so no need to buy separately)

the finished product. The photo doesn't do justice to the wonderful warm colour of the jam. If might not be the prettiest jam (it has a few bits of plum skin in and perhaps hasn't cleared as well as it should) but it is really tasty and that's all I'm interested in!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

two days, two allotments

Its been a bit of an "allotment fest" this weekend with us managing to hit both sites over both days. Before going any further, I must apologise for this post being rather photo-heavy; my excuse being that I'm feeling rather fatigued from all my efforts and so too tired to compose a proper post. Anyway, the photos pretty much speak for themselves!

a treat for me - new pair of Town and Country leather and fabric gloves. So comfy and no more cuts and stings. Pricey but definitely worth it. And no, they don't look this clean now!!!

Yesterday we went to Site 2. The fruit bed is now planted up. Against the fence are a loganberry and 2 redcurrant bushes. The rest of the bed is taken up by gooseberry bushes courtesy of Deb & Dan who popped up yesterday with them as an allotment warming present (very much appreciated). At some point we'll construct a fruit cage over the whole bed to keep the birds off the fruit.

Our Nicola potatoes have started making an appearance already! Not shown, but the first of the onion shoots have also come through and all only a week after planting.

Today we went to Site 1 and were greeted by a huge sunflower smiling down at us as we walked along the path to the plot. Cloddigger is going to harvest the seeds to keep for next year.

The Boyz flower patch is looking particularly colourful. All the plants you see here were plug plants rescued from the compost heap!

Our first pumpkin has started to grow

managed to harvest more runner beans (they just keep on coming) and the spring onion

another bed has been cleared - the remaining carrots have been lifted
So another successful couple of lottie days. We're going away for a few days to visit family so we'll be taking some of our produce with us by way of a gift. I hope they like carrots!!!!!!

a lovely surprise

We arrived at Site 2 yesterday to find a lovely surprise waiting for me in the shed - this lovely yellow courgette courtesy of Dad. He's been growing them in his greenhouse at home and had very kindly brought one up for me. It's enormous; plenty big enough to make a tasty side dish. I haven't decided yet which recipe to use it in but I'm certainly looking forward to eating it.

Friday, 14 August 2009

a film about allotment life

Cloddigger and I watched a lovely film on BBC 2 tonight called "Grow Your Own" about an allotment site in Liverpool and the impact that refugees introduced to the site have on the existing allotment holders.

A wonderfully engaging film which we really enjoyed.

If you didn't get a chance to watch it, possibly its available to see on BBC iPlayer. I would really recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Monday, 10 August 2009

not so good old Blight(y)

Disaster has struck. All our tomato plants on Site 1 have been wiped out with the dreaded 'B' - Blight. We had an email from Deb last night to say her tomatoes were diseased and thought that ours might be too. Cloddigger hot footed it up there today after work to find that all our tomato plants had been infected. Nothing for it but to pull them up and remove the plants for burning. We couldn't believe how quickly it had taken hold as there were no evident signs of blight on Saturday.

Looking at a neighbouring plot, Cloddigger could see that their potatoes have been infected. Luckily our last batch of salad potatoes had been spared so these have now all been lifted. We're not taking any chances though, the potato plants will also be burned.

I guess it was pretty inevitable that we would feel some effects as the weather conditions have been perfect for encouraging the disease. I think we will be cautious about planting up tomatoes at Site 2 and just stick with growing them in the greenhouse at home where there is more control over the climatic conditions.

magic beans?

We had rather a lot of runner beans off Site 1 this weekend so I thought I should prepare some for freezing. While doing so, I came across a very large, mature pod which was far too tough to eat so I decided to remove the beans to see if they could be dried and stored for next year.

When I took them out of the pod I was surprised at just how shiny and colourful they were. They almost look magical and put me in mind of how Jack must have felt when he exchanged the family cow for a handful of "magic" beans.

If they do produce plants next year, then they truly will be magic !!!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

meanwhile, back on Site 1

It's been awhile since I've posted any updates about Site 1. Rest assured, we haven't abandoned our efforts there. In fact we've been busy harvesting and most stuff seems to be doing really well.

All the potatoes from the main barrow have been lifted, as have the onions. The carrots are still going strong and are now starting to be quite big. The taste of them is amazing - having never grown carrots before, we can't get over how much better they taste compared to shop-bought ones which are insipid in comparison.

The runner beans are consistently providing plenty of pods each visit and I'm having to now freeze them as we are in danger of glut.

sweetcorn are doing very well. Lots of cobs which should be ready to begin picking by the end of the month

the cauliflower have started to develop

a little sad that the potato barrow is now empty and onions all lifted as this signifies the start of the gradual "closing down" of our section of Deb and Dan's plot

some of the many onions harvested - now hanging up to dry in the greenhouse at home

still plenty to pick in the coming weeks

Monday, 3 August 2009

planting up on Site 2 (at last!!!)

Yesterday, while the men were installing the wooden frame greenhouse, I was able to get on with some planting - yippee!!! On the cards were:

  • Jerusalem Artichokes in Bed 1 (permanent bed) right at the back to act as a screen. These have been transferred from Site 1 so fingers crossed they'll take ok

  • Bed 2 is designated for brassicas this year, so have planted up sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower. Also set up a net cage around them as cabbage white butterfly are prevalent on the site

  • Bed 4 is for root veg so the spuds ("Nicola") have gone in and, if I've got my calculations right, should be ready to harvest just in time for Christmas Day

  • Also planted up a clematis to grow up the side of the shed

All in all it was quite a productive day. Didn't manage to sow the spring onion (need to do soon as just slipping past the ideal time to get the seed in the ground) as the netting took longer than I thought. But hey, time has its own pace on the allotment :D

(clockwise from top left) Beds 4, 3 and 2 with all paths in and chippings laid down

brassicas all protected (hopefully) from butterflies and slugs and any other little chompers

jerusalem artichoke

Sunday, 2 August 2009

greenhouse #2

We have been on the lookout for a greenhouse for Site 2 for some time. I had placed a wanted ad on our staff intranet site at work and was delighted when someone responded saying they had an old greenhouse they were looking to dispose of. Cloddigger and Dad went to have a look and were thrilled to discover a 30 year old, hardwood greenhouse complete with solid base in excellent condition. They spent a morning last weekend dismantling it and then today hired a van and delivered it on site and then put it all back together again. The results are very pleasing and it will prove an invaluable space for bringing on seedlings and cuttings. So, big, big Thanks to ND (you know who you are!) and expect some produce to come your way in the near future.

some of the component parts prior to re-assembly

are you sure that bit goes there?

ta-dah! The finished item. Well done to Cloddigger and Dad for your splendid efforts!!!