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no dig

31082842545_932e299d28_oI’m going to give a go at growing veg in a different way. Mostly, I  wanted to break the growing areas up into manageable bits.  It’s a visual trick really, but I figured it was all so much less daunting if you could see it as one small bed at a time, rather than a massive unmanageable area. OK so the beds aren’t that small but still…

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With this in mind, I researched various gardening set ups and am planning on dabbling with the no-dig method.

I have always ignored it as a method, because  quite frankly the do-dig method works very well.  There I said it.  Furthermore, I’m going on to say both methods appear to work. Controversial of me, I know – as usually people have to choose a side and laugh at the other.  With the ‘old allotment boys’ laughing at the folk who “think they don’t have to do any work” and the no-dig gardeners rolling their eyes at the ‘old allotment boys’ and sighing “at what cost to the soil” and stating that the old method doesn’t work… and “why do work you don’t have to do?” and so on.

It’s ignorance that is the problem – no-dig doesn’t mean no work – seems to me there is a lot of time spent moving compost about and mulching and weeding.  And the digging method does work, because you know….people have been using it all this time. I really dislike the snorting and laughing at the other camp – it doesn’t matter – do whatever works for you. I particularly dislike being told by anyone without successful experience…

Anyways, most of my experience with veg growing has been by trial and error – this is true for most gardeners and different things will work with different climates and different soils etc.

As I read more about it, it turns out that some of the things we just naturally arrived  at doing, fit in with the no-dig way – for example I try to start as many plants as possible as modules in the greenhouse  – they just do better.   And I haven’t fed my tomato plants  in years … well.. forever. Because we always replenish the greenhouse with compost from the compost heap.  And as it goes I always put the wood ash from the fire on the heaps so there is no potash shortage, and have always had good tomato crops.  Also when adding compost to the veg beds before planting out the hungry plants – like squashes beans and sweetcorn, we have just added a layer of compost on top.  These are all part of the no-dig method, and I have been doing it all along.  Who knew.

There are lots of calls on my time in other areas of life, and a certain amount of stumbling about trying to find my feet in difficult times… so no promises. But these new beds are inspiring, and doing things differently suits.

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So, it’s tweaking my veg growing habits into a slightly new but actually not that new way.  And venturing back out gradually, one smaller bed at a time.

and then…

…it all went wrong.

The day after my last post, the one with the happy family scene with frog biscuits… we lost himself.  Colin.

It’s been over seven months now. Please don’t think I am now ok. I don’t believe I will ever be ok, I’m just not going to talk about it here.  (I am talking about it elsewhere, and if you really want to know how that’s going, then drop me a message and I will give you a link)

So now, life is changing dramatically, and I don’t know which way we are going, and amongst everything else,  I pondered the blog and whether it was time to delete it.

But then something happened…someone (no one I know)  pinned a picture of mine on pinterest and it was this one14752907657_c85a71c5aa_c and when I clicked on it, and read the blog post it relates to, its just an ordinary day in August 2014, when we went to the beach.  A snapshot of our life.

And it struck me then, that it was brilliant. Our life was brilliant.

Other people climb mountains or visit iconic sites, but for us the adventure was  being self sufficient, self reliant… the journey was about learning new skills, the pleasure was having done it ourselves. We took time to enjoy the smaller but beautiful things, like breakfast on a sunny beach, a bonfire on a winters day, a home grown meal, watching shooting stars  lying on the loungers in the dark night garden, picking up beach glass……

but mostly…time…we took a lot of time to be together. I know that not everyone will understand, and I don’t care, because we did. We got it.

 

So no.. I’m not going to delete the blog , I’m going to leave it in place, holding the images and chatterings of  some of our time. And by and by I shall add to it; more of what we started.

 

leap year food

leap frog biscuits I’ve been researching, and the only leap year specific food I found was a South African pudding that looks suspiciously like queen of puddings, renamed.  What’s that all about? a once every four year day, and nothing special to celebrate it?  Well, what we say in this family is, if there isn’t a tradition in place that you like, make your own.  And so I give you:

leap day biscuits 

(A.K.A.  fennel shortbread)

225g salted butter

110g sugar

225g plain flour

110g corn flour

1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds

green food colouring (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C/ 150 C Fan Prep some baking sheets with baking paper or the like

Cream the butter and sugar together and add the food colouring if using – I used 1 tsp of green and they only came out with a hint of green after baking, but I probably would just leave it out next time.

Add in the flours and fennel, mixing until you have a ball of dough. Roll out on a floured surface and cut out the shapes you desire. – I went for frogs because.. you know.. they leap?
besides which cutting out frogs means you can have something as mad as a box of frogs.

 

Bake for 15- 20 minuits. Allow to cool a little then finish of on a drying rack.

We shall have this biscuits after our main course of toad in the hole. More leap-minded food.

It’s such a slow, ongoing process, this home improvement thing,  particularly with other calls on our time – namely the sheep and chickens, work, wanting to go out cycling and other jollies, and dealing with serious health issues (himself – stable now).  However we have now made a bit more progress in our kitchen – the previously blanchmange pink alcove (was it a window or a chimney?) is now a mostly white alcove, sporting a new bespoke (we made it) free standing unit with reclaimed wood counter.

 

No mean feat.  The alcove had a huge layer of cement and many, many coats of gloss paint on it, all designed to hide the water feature behind…  The incredible damp was dried out, the mud removed and  the stonework repointed, the original brick hearth was found – yes it was a chimney – the original one we assume since the kitchen has another one, complete with the remains of a (sort of ) filled in bread oven, and a lot of soot. The chimney had to be insulated and capped off  – more so than the previous owners efforts with a plank and a bit of fibreboard (no wonder there were so many drafts).

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a delicious combo of horrid pink and horrid damp

 

We had a bit of a break then, re the health issues and a think about what we are doing, decided we like what we are doing, and picked up home improving again.

Just before Christmas the aforementioned water feature made an appearance.  It turns out if the gutter becomes blocked, the rainwater overflows and pours directly into our house wall – the walls being somewhat not straight – and the water turns up as a mini waterfall in the kitchen at the back of the alcove – hence the slight yellowing of the clay paint.  This has been going on for decades, hidden behind the cement and gloss paint barrier.  So we shall solve this problem from the outside and repaint then.

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reclaimed wood, diverted from the log pile

And now we have a nice open fronted unit – open so the damp can continue to dry out, and I have put my nicer pans there (the more disgraceful ones can hide in a cupboard). I love the counter – made from reclaimed wood from a packing crate.  It looks shiny as I have just treated it with Danish oil, with built in wood stain.

frogspawn

Looking through the years of recording, this is the earliest yet – which makes sense since it has been such a mild (and wet) winter. I hope they haven’t leapt in (see what I did there? ) too soon.

The records:
2007 14/2
2008 8/2
2009 13/3
2010 21/3
2011 26/2
2012 25/2
2013 9/3
2014 18/2
2015 20/2
2016 2/2

other than mincepies

mincemeat pinwheels

mincemeat pin-wheels

It is a shocking concept, but some folk don’t like mincepies.  True.

The good news is, there are many other ways to use mincemeat, and whilst some are a lovely festive alternative, others are really useful when it come to using up the leftover mincemeat after Christmas if, like me, you make large quantities.

mincemeat pin-wheels

Pre made puff pastry sheets

mincemeat

1 small egg, beaten

a little milk

a little icing sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180 C fan.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.

Unroll the pastry and spread a layer of mincemeat all over, about 1 piece of fruit thick, leaving a small border round the edges.  Roll up loosely(they need growing room),  rolling the long side.  Paint the edge with milk and press the ends in. Slice into 1 cm ish slices and move to  the baking sheets, pushing into a vague circular shape.

Mix the egg and remaining milk and paint the tops and sides with the mixture.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.  Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar.

mincemeat flapjacks

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

1 tablespoon of mincemeat

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

 Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan, and grease or line a 9” square cake tin.

Melt the sugar syrup and butter together in a pan, gently, until the sugar has dissolved. 

When the  sugar mixture is ready stir in the oats and mincemeat, then pile the mixture into the tine, spread out evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before cutting.

mincemeat loaf

4oz butter

6oz sugar

2 eggs

8oz plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

3 tbsp mincemeat

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and baking powder, and milk.  Stir in the mincemeat.

Pile into a 2 lb loaf tin, and cook at about 180C for about an hour, or until it springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

 Allow to cool a little then turn out, and try to let it cool completely before eating it all!

mincemeat and clementine pavlova ….or mess

make a standard meringue pavlova base, pile high with whipped cream, scatter with mincemeat and fresh peeled clementine segments.  Alternatively make microwave meringues, break up and mix with whipped cream, mincemeat and clementines.

Untitled We went to visit Cotehele Estate today – a favourite place in the summer with its quay and mill and old house, with amazing kitchens, but in winter it is largely shut down, and for a lesser fee you can visit the gardens and the tea rooms (!) and go and look at the long long flower garland they put up every winter. For the first time, we remembered to go and see it Untitled
I didn’t realise just how vibrant it would be, dried flowers are, in my mind, beige. But this was just beautiful. All grown on the estate.

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