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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.
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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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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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