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Archive for June, 2008

cottage garden

gardencomplimented today on the garden, how it has naturalised to give a feeling of privacy.  That’s neglect for you.  I think it does look nice though, in an unkempt sort of way.

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pavlovaThis morning, as he put my coffee down on my bedside table, himself said to me:

“you really want to open the fridge door and inhale deeply”.

Nope, not a kink.. but the fact we have far too many strawberries (or would have if that were possible) and the smell of them lurking in the fridge is heavenly.

Its a sort of ritual for us as a family, the strawberry time, and will continue to be so until such time as we have a decent strawberry patch of our own set up. We go to a pick your own, pick lots and lots, then eat them with cream and sugar, then process the rest. Its a seasonal intense strawberry splurge.

Today I made two batches of strawberry jam.  I would post the recipe but really.. go and buy a packet of silver spoon pectin and follow the instructions. Yup – I know, powdered pectin is ‘cheating’, but there is nothing nasty in it.. its only apples.. a by-product of the cider industry I think.. and with something as yum as strawberries.. its the way to go.

Himself made two batches of homemade strawberry ice-cream (recipe to follow once we get our act together) and it is fantastic. Seriously though.. made from fresh strawberries, cream and sugar.. how wrong could it go?

I froze some strawberries in preparation for this year’s batch of strawberry liqueur.

And we still had a load left over. What to do with a load of lovely strawberries, when you also find lurking in the fridge, some egg whites from when you recently  made creme brulee? pavlova!

I just find making merangues tricky.. I don’t know what I do wrong.. but luckily himself is a dab hand at it, and made a lovely base last night.. and we ate it today, with our barbecue, absolutely wonderful.  Luckily strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, and cream Vit A, and egg white is pure protein.. so ah.. almost health food eh? …….

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start point

Went on a lovely walk today around start point, up to the lighthouse, part of the coastal path and back through fields.start point saw some wild thyme, but didn’t pick any, as we have plenty in the garden.

Glorious day, sunny and windy. We are so lucky to live near the coast. However, we made the most of our journey and also managed to drop off some work  stuff, and has a nice visit and coffee with my parents.

And we  visited a pick your own fruit place, where we picked nearly 6 kg or strawberries. So lovely as the fields overlooked Slapton Ley and the sea. Now we are committed to making icecream, jam, liqueur..  oh what trials..

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peas!

picked our first – yay. There are many reasons to grow your own veg, and one of them is for peas. Peas freshly picked from the garden are the tastiest (the ones that make it as far as the kitchen!). Even made it worthwhile picking in the wind and rain in our wellies and raincoats (flaming June eh?)

Even the sound of peas is great.. as you are podding them.. the pop and unzipping, followed by the soft drumming as they hit the saucepan.

Fans of peas.. can you tell?

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mole in the house

moleI’ve mentioned before what a prolific hunter our cat Ebby is.  He has brought home countless mice and voles, rats, jackdaws, magpies, smaller birds, moles and squirrels.  I mind about the birds.. as they are mostly not a pest to me, but luckily he mostly sticks to small rodents. I mind when he eats them noisily( although it better than a wasted life). I  mind even more that he often releases the animals alive in the house! Himself has become particularly good at catching live mice.

So it was with limited surprise that himself interupted home ed (we watching Simon Schama’s ‘A history of Britain’, )to inform us there was a live mole burrowing under the paper bags in the hallway.  Of course, moles are a pest, in our fields garden and veg plots, and so the right thing to do would be knock him on the head, but we are softies.. and he was a nice little thing, so released him on the other side of the stream (don’t tell the neighbours)

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Egg production has slowed down dramatically, which is annoying given the amount of food eaten. The copper headed marans, pretty birds though they are, and beautiful dark brown eggs, are really not the best of layers.  The cream legbar is pretty good actually, but has the occasional day off, and the buff leghorn is sitting on a clutch of eggs. Typically she is our best layer.. when not brooding.

She seems a lot happier this time round, as she is in the broody coop, shut off from the other girls. It seems mean, but the truth is they hassled her and picked on her when she rushed out for her daily hasty scoff drink and poo. When you only leave your eggs for a short while to deal with your daily needs, the last thing you need is another hen establishing the pecking order all over you. Now she has her own private garden. And we move her every couple of days.. broody hens do the biggest single one days work of poo… (too much information?)

The chicks – as were – small chickens now, are looking great. I have a suspicion they are all cockerels. Particularly the attractive golden brown one, he/she is so unafraid.. When I turn up in the afternoon to check on them and the sheep, often carrying some offering from the garden, they fly over.  The beauty of having a very large covered run – No wing clipping needed, and room to fly. Smaller chickens obviously have a better muscle to weight ratio than the older ones (although they fly a tad too), and they often fly up to perch on the broody coup and fly when there might be food on offer.

They are growing up, we evicted them from the broody coup when we started another clutch of eggs, and they moved into the hen house without a backward glance, perching with the other girls. I’ve noticed too, that they have stopped making chick noises and now make chicken noises.  I must take a picture.

So curently the layers pellets are going on three growing chicks (I’m not getting into trying to feed them separately with growers pellets.. prefer to have them all in together), one broody hen, two not so great layers and one hen who lays most days.  And still we have too many eggs. I’m not complaining.

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Himself was working from home today, and we sat in the garden eating lunch, when I looked down and realised its all our own home grown food.  It seems every day we eat something home produced, even if its only the jam on our toast or chutney, but in the summer there is more. 

 We are digging our new potatoes now, and I did too many yesterday for tea, so kept the leftovers and made a potato salad, with some chives thrown in. It sat on the plate with hard boiled eggs, pickled beetroot (last years), lettuce and rocket. All our own, and washed down with homemade elderflower champagne.

We are not self sufficient.  I’m not even sure we would want to become totally self sufficient – sharing within a society makes more sense sometimes etc. Transition town attitude an all that.  But it is still satisfying to produce your own food, and so much fresher and tastier too. Not to mention free from nasty chemicals. Oh.. i just mentioned it…..

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We have great plans for amazing strawberry troughs etc.. somewhen.  In the meantime, we have an old beam resting across one of the piggery bags, and hanging from it are half a dozen hanging baskets. lined not very prettily with old compost bags, filled with strawberries.  I bought four plants – Cambridge I think was the variety.. the label blew away in the strong winds earlier in the year… and my mum gave me a whole load of runners from her strawberries-of-unknown-origin.. they have always had. The perfect starter pack for our strawberry growing enterprise.

Harvested our first today.. all 5 of them.  Think a trip to the organic pick-your-own might be in order.  Interesting that the Cambridge (?) ones were perfect – symmetrical, even colour.. perfect, and the ones from my parents were mis-sharpen, small.  but the ugly ones had the better flavour.. and beauty isn’t everything.

annnny day now we will be setting up a better strawberry growing arrangement, just as soon as we have done all the other pressing jobs… and find more time in the day…

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