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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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bee1 I like to garden alongside nature – in a way that does minimal harm. So I am delighted at all the wildlife living around the place, we have frogs and newts, and a resident hedgehog. I saw a deer in the fields.  It’s worth fighting the slugs off my veg without the use of chemical warfare.bee2

This year, I’m doing it alone, and have my new veg beds – I thought if I got one up and running that would be a win, – I managed last year but was on autopilot, now I am about seeing how viable it is and how well I can do it.  As it goes, I wheel-barrowed compost from our heaps, up the lane, and into the garden and have beansmanaged to establish Three beds.  The beans have never looked finer – I have managed to fight the slugs off with nightly collections, and all plants survived.  I did notice the flowers weren’t setting, which was odd, as we have bees.

Then the plant really took off and were covered with red flowers….only in one day they all vanished.  Gone.

I established it is the sparrows.  Once in decline, we have loads of them around here.  I have never had a problem with bean flowers being scoffed by sparrows before – if you have the solution, let me know.  I was despondent for a couple of weeks, then realising each time a new flower appeared, it was swiped, I decided to try to net them – problem is the flowers will grow through the netting, and the plant leaders wind thought.. we may never get the net back.. if we get beans we may never reach them – slugs are safe in there, weeds are 20170714_144831growing… it’s all not ideal.  I may have to rethink it for next year.  Or not have runner beans.  Which I cannot imagine…

In other news, the rest of the gardening projects appear to be working, the courgette mountain is upon us – despite strong winds snapping one plant in two – the usual – sowing more courgette plants than we need, planting them all out – well I had space in the new flower cutting bed, so I bunged them in.  A glut is never actually a problem.20170715_120351

We have had lots of raspberries – despite the raspberry bed being completely overgrown, we should get lots of blackberries (ok I perhaps ought to cut the brambles out of the flower beds…) and despite me fighting those dang sparrows (shakes fist) nature still seems to like my garden – Whilst taking a peek at how the compost heap was doing – it is very satisfying to observe waste being turned into lovely compost….(ok maybe that is just a nerdy gardener thing…) I found a clutch ( .. is clutch the right word?) of  grass snake eggs – well I am pretty sure that’s what they are as the UK’s only egg laying snake, and we have found grasssnake shedded skins in the area.  I’m quite pleased, so carefully tucked them back in – as the snake lays them, then abandons them, depending on the heat of the composting to do the work.  Kind of OK about not seeing them though.

I mentioned above my new venture – a cutting garden.  Because flowers bring me joy, but hot house flowers flown in do not, so best to grow my own – so far I have only planted a few plants and harvested gladioli, sweet peas and marigolds – and have been experimenting with some of the established perennials I have growing in the garden. I plan to set aside an area for growing spring bulbs too.  It’s been hard to actually cut the flowers…. as they look nice in situ – but having an area meant for this means I don’t see it as ruining a flower bed, but harvesting a crop20170720_082545

and the flowers do bring me joy.

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Courgette season is upon us, and as always the forums and groups call out for courgette recipes – and frankly some are a bit scary, but there are lots of great recipes and a few winners. This is my contribution, first posted in 2012 (!), the courgette bhaji – definitely a family favourite:





courgette bhajis
3 or 4 courgettes
1 tsp black onion seed
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
gram flour
oil for frying
For this I use 3 courgettes – but I probably pick slightly bigger than shop size.
Grate the courgettes using a food processor.  Tip everything out, liquid and all, into a bowl and fish out any bits that did not get grated and slice them up.Now stir in the spices and salt, and mix well.Add gram flour and stir, and keep adding more gram flour until everything comes together as a sort of ball, and is fairly stiff.  How much gram flour depends on how juicy the courgettes are!Heat oil in a frying pan or wok, and when the oil is hot enough (test with a shred of courgette – it should sizzle instantly), drop small amounts carefully in – about a dessert spoon is enough  -much more and it wont cook in the middle.  I use my hands for this.As soon as they browned on one side, turn and fry until cooked on both sides. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper, whilst you cook the rest.

Serve with a cucumber raita or as a accompaniment to a curry.

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frogspawn 2017

The frog love in has been successful once more. This is the earliest to date, in the same pond, although only by 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

I really should do a graph some time..

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