We have been waiting anxiously for frogspawn this year, as this year is different.  My son decided to build a pond in his part of the garden,with a view to encouraging wildlife.  And the day after we filled the newly dug pond, wildlife came – first came the skaters, then the waterboat men.  The beetles scuttled about on the bottom of the pond, and damselflies flew around the top.  Twice I watched huge dragonflies lay eggs under the new lily pads.  But the ultimate five star rating is whether the frogs think it makes a good nursery.

His timing was perfect as the old pond is not doing so well – a lot due to my neglect – it needs clearing out but also it just isn’t holding water as well as it did – it is a raised pond and frankly I would like to dismantle it, but it did seem hard on the frog, toad and newt population. However, with  a new, more naturally designed, easier to get into pond in place, maybe I can.

I have been told by so many people that frogs will only go back to the same pond they were a tadpole in – and I believe this is essentially true – but thinking about that  time of year that the garden suddenly becomes completely stuffed with frogs – go out with a torch at night and all you see are eyes looking at you… you have to walk a shuffley walk to avoid frogicide….   I figured that any exhausted self respecting frog making his way up the garden – because, contrary to popular opinion, frogs don’t actually live in the pond they just mate there – and as he or she is hopping along they see an expanse of water, with a lovely easy beach instead of that stupid wall, and all in all .. they would think ‘that’ll do nicely’ and begin their love-in.

And I figured right, today was the day.  We have frogspawn. My son is delighted

So, although not technically the same pond, very close, and I shall add to my recordings.  I really will do a graph one day…

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 02/2
2017 01/02
2018 03/02
2019 18/02


Perfect for Hallowe’en. If you are feeling indulgent, double the recipe, divide the mixture between two cake tins and sandwich together with coffee butter icing. A single layer works for us:

2 large eggs
2 tsp coffee granules
225g / 4 oz soft butter
225g / 4 oz self raising flour
225g / 4oz demerara sugar
1 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate
50g dark chocolate

Heat the oven to 160 Fan/ 180 gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Mix the egg and coffee together and set aside whilst measuring out the other ingredients into a food mixer. Give the eggs and coffee mix a good stir then add to the other ingredients. Beat until completely combined then spread in the tin and bake for 25 minutes until the top is springy.
Cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave for about 1 minute until pourable. Melt the black chocolate in a mug. Pour the white chocolate over the top of the cooled cake. Dribble the dark chocolate in a spiral using a spoon. Then using a cocktail stick, feather the spiral for that cobwebby look. Alternatively, if it isn’t Hallowe’en!, just swirl it about randomly with a spoon, for a cappuccino look.

I thought it was time to update on the veg garden and the new veg beds which are now all up and running.

It’s been an…’interesting’   year – with all that snow earlier stopping all work .. then this heatwave – a long hot summer, and so dry. Watering takes ages, but has been necessary.

This year I grew broad beans – well field beans – a type of broad bean – developed initially as animal feed, then developed back as people feed! – the plants are tough, the beans smaller than average but loads and loads of pods, and the beans were lovely – and handled being left standing on the plants unharvested without going starchy or bitter. I will definitely be doing them again.  Hopefully a bit earlier than this year, as I had an early set back with a mouse in the green house stealing all my beans and I had to start over…


They are all over now, and I have a few squash and some beetroot to take up that space


Courgettes – yellow and green – are cropping madly – evener madder as, as per usual, I planted too many plants – you know how it is, you sow more than you need in case of fails, have no fails, and plant all the plants because you have a bit of spare space doing nothing.. and anyway you could give the extra courgettes to the hens.. except you don’t and soon you have 40+ courgettes in the fridge and people are afraid to visit in case they are made to take courgettes away with them….

actually they might be made to take cucumber too.  I’m not an experienced cucumber grower… and planted too many of them too – although.. see I sowed 6, gave one away, planted 5, one died, of the remaining 4, one is useless and refusing to grow, so leaves me with 3, 2 of which are average… and the remaining one is set on world domination.
We do like cucumbers, my son and I but might eat as much as half of one in a day, and on that same day I might pick seven new ones.  Tomorrow I am looking into pickling some…

Meanwhile I am steadily filling up the freezers with the surplus of runner beans and purple French beans – although attempting to eat as many fresh as we can.
After last year’s sparrowagedon – whereby the sparrows ate ALL of the flowers of my runner beans, this year I tried a white flowering variety – and although the sparrow population is very much on the up in my garden, they seem to have ignored the white flowers – success!  I was a bit baffled by getting a crop in before the purple French beans – as in my experience the PFBs always crop first – but it has made me realise we probably always lost the early flowers on the runner – just never noticed with so much else going on.  Anyway, unless the sparrows get over their colour prejudice, I am going to carry on with these white flowering ones.  They are supposed to produce nice white beans too – we shall see (since some of the beans have got away from me and are too big already…).

I have futures in squash and sweetcorn –20180712_200131
baby sweetcorn – as it is what my son likes, but those plants are not baby sized – they are taller than me .  I have, as you can see, opted for a ‘two sisters’ planting scheme and the crown prince squash underneath and lurking and swelling.  I’m quite glad there is nothing to pick from this bed yet, as frankly I am a bit overwhelmed with everything else.

I also have tomatoes, cherry and large, vegetable spaghetti squash, and some salads,  coming along, raspberries and blueberries and the picking garden is providing me with lots of lovely flowers.20180720_163018

I hope you are all having a good harvest too

20180330_171217Tired of paying extra for rubbish chocolate just because it is egg shaped?

Want to avoid the ridiculous amounts of packaging that surrounds Easter eggs?

Forgot to buy Easter eggs ?

Still want to consume silly amounts of calories ?

Well then, I bring you :

hot cross bun fudge

55g butter

250ml semi-skimmed milk

600g white sugar

300g soft dark brown sugar

397g tin sweetened condensed milk

100g dried mixed fruit and peel

1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Line a 25 cm square tin with grease-proof paper.

Melt the butter and milk together then add the sugars and bring to the boil for four minutes.  Add the condensed milk, then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 20 minutes.  If you wish, you can test the mixture for readiness by dropping some in cold water – should instantly form a ball, or measuring the temperature – 118C.

After the 20 minutes remove from heat and beat the living daylights out of it for about 10 minutes. – Add the fruit and spices.  Pour into your prepared tin.  Cool enough to mark the top into squares – makes 36 really big lumps.


The frogs have decided it is spring, or at least two  of them have – and we have frog futures.  I spotted the first lot on Saturday.

It certainly has felt a bit spring like lately – driving me out of hibernation and back working in the garden,  but I guess frogs don’t watch the weather forecast as we have a week of very cold from the East – and I suspect the frogs will have to love again..

but to continue my observations re climate change according to the local frogs in a local pond:

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 02/2
2017 01/02
2018 03/02

Just about on schedule then.

It’s October, yet the  gluts continue to roll in, so here is another glut busting soup.

tomato and courgette soup

1 kilo ripe tomatoes

1 kilo courgette

2 onions

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp plain flour

1 litre stock – I used water and 2 tsp swiss marigold

I chopped the veg, none of this skinning and deseeding of tomatoes malarky – it all goes in…. then melted the butter and cooked the onions a bit, then threw in the courgettes and tomatoes, cooked a bit more then added the flour, stirred around and in goes the stock.  All cooked up until everything is soft, then once again the stick blender goes in.  A little seasoning adjust and done.  *does cheffy hand slap*.

It does make 6-8 portions, so some lurks in the freezer – but not for long as it makes a tasty easy lunch.

mixed spice


It seems that Autumn happened all of a sudden, snapping quickly from summer to the next season, instead of the usual fight, days on and off.  We are getting lovely sunny days, but they feel like lovely sunny Autumnal days.  I have started to light the fire in the evenings, and it wont be long before the veg glut dwindles… saying that I still picked a heap of beans and ten courgettes today.  A good problem to have. The apples were ready very early this year, and to add to the Autumnal feel, I am doing my usual apple processing in the kitchen – Devon apple cake has been baked, and the mincemeat has been mixed, brandied and awaiting festivities in a few months time.

It was only as I was assembling the ingredients that I realised we are low on mixed spice, as the mincemeat needs a lot. I headed out to the village shops to get some – but there was none available.  It is a gripe of mine that ingredients that I feel are essential, are no longer available and instead the baking section of local supermarkets contain such must-haves as ‘ready made frosting’ and various sprinkles and sugary cartoon stickers.


*climbs down off soap box*

Anyway, I wasn’t going to drive to another town to track it down.  Thinking about it, I was reminded that when I posted the mincemeat recipe, I had been questioned by someone from another European country about what ‘mixed spice’ actually was.  You grow up using something you don’t question it really – but I guess is makes as much sense as ‘pumpkin spice’ means to me..  something we are not familiar with in the U.K.

I decided to make my own, as it turns out I keep all the separate spices in anyway.  In fact it makes total sense to make my own, to give a sort of turnover of some of the less used spices, keeping them fresh and tasty.   Any anyway, the shops didn’t have any.

mixed spice

3 tsp ground allspice

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground ginger.

And mix.  Even better if you ground the spices yourself, probably, but using ready ground spices works.

The mixture was loads more scented and flavoursome than the ready mixed stuff, not making sense, as it was only assembling ready prepared spices – but I suspect many packet versions have cheap fillers – coriander and the like.

I used what I needed for the mincemeat, and stored the rest in an air-tight jar. And the kitchen smelt delicious.. the mincemeat tasted delicious.  No going back for me now.


runner bean soup

runner bean soup Runner bean soup doesn’t sound that good does it?  It sounds healthy and earnest .Turns out it makes a very nice soup.  I was talking about it to friends and they said ‘how do you get rid of the taste of runner beans?  Which left me a bit lost for words.. because I like the taste! That’s why I grow them.

So after sparrowagedon whereby the sparrows ate all the flowers.. then I netted the beans – which stopped the sparrows, until the flowers grew through the nets.. then the beans and nets got very tangled and under pressure until I cut the nets… fortunately they were just old torn nets left over from the hen runs, but I wont be doing that again.

The beans kept on flowering and the sparrows got bored – or perhaps they had raised their young and didn’t need the extra food?  And I am now completely overwhelmed with beans.  I have come to the conclusion that I am glad sparrows are no longer in such short supply and we can share and I will accept that in future I will get my beans later on in the summer.

runner beans

yes, I pick this much every day


Now it is September and feeling autumnal, but the beans are still coming in in heaps – Every meal comes with beans, and we are still enjoying them, and freezing the surplus, and making pickle, but still they pile up.  Which is why I experimented with the soup. And it is a winner – really quite tasty.   I am sure this would work well with frozen beans too.


runner bean soup

500g runner beans – prepared as you would normally – I disgarded really stringy ones.

2 onions, diced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 litre of stock – I used 2 teaspoons of Swiss marigold veg bullion and water

1 clove of garlic, peeled.

I melted the butter and cooked the onions until soft, while I prepared the beans.  Then in went the beans, a quick stir around, then the flour ( which looks like a bad idea, but it works), stir around , and then the stock.  I threw  in the garlic,  covered and simmered for 20 mins or so, until the beans were soft and the garlic clove squishable.  In with my trusty stick blender and then a taste for seasoning – but between the butter and the stock, no more salt was needed.

Ideal for the forthcoming colder weather.