Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hope you had a lovely Xmas

Here are a couple of festive photos from my flat. I had a lovely time as host with my family. We played games, over-ate and made merry. All great fun :) This is my first day alone and the place seems really quite empty. I hope all of you had a lovely time whatever you got up to.

Sending you Happy New Year wishes :) Here's to an exciting and eventful 2010!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Winter wilderness

Aww, it looks so sad at the moment at the allotment. I am currently juggling a zillion things I need to do before Xmas but I had a day of holiday from work today so I took the chance to get up to the allotment. I did some clearing - piling up dead vegetation to make the site look a bit more presentable. I just wish I had more time to devote to the allotment as the light faded before I could get everything done I wanted to. I really get into it when I am down there. That is, once all the chatting with other plotholders is over, which is lovely, but takes up precious time! I don't think they realise what little free time I have. It is easy when you're retired! :P

I did get the bulbs in that I'd bought, which was an important job to do. Below is a little plan of what went where. I'm pleased my verbena and lady's mantle is still going strong :)

I really hope I can get down there again soon but there is so much 'life' to get on with it is always hard to find the time. I need to prune the fruit some more, and all that grass HAS to go!

If I don't blog again before - HAPPY CHRISTMAS! x

Sunday, 8 November 2009

I'm touched!

Lovely Jo of The Good Life has given me an award for my blog. It is a 'Best Blog Award' and I am so pleased she fancied passing it on to me. Many, many thanks. I hope others, as well as Jo, enjoy my ramblings. I need to pass it on so here are the rules.

"Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award."

In no particular order, here are some of my fave blogs...

Beads By Laura
The Glass Slipper
Cake Wrecks
Inside the lines
Chloe's Designs
The Linen Cupboard
Jane Foster
Wooden Donkey
Print & Pattern
Kella's Musings
Rebecca Frere Flowers

That Crafty Fish
The Cotton Monster

Shock horror!

Yes, I actually went to the allotment yesterday! It's been about 3 weeks. Finding the time to go is getting difficult now, what with evenings being too dark to go up there. I don't get home from work until 6.30pm so can't see a thing! Well, I got quite a bit sorted out. Attacking things with secateurs and putting raspberry nets and bean canes away. I need to go back up there to continue cutting back/burning. I am going to trim the soft fruit back hard as it hasn't been done for a while, I think. During the summer it was almost impossible to walk through the bushes to harvest so I am trying to make things easier for next year. I also still need to dig over the ground and get some bulbs in. I'm mulling over just keeping the 'shed end' for next year and letting someone else take on the 'road end'. 50x7m is a lot of land to tend for one person!! I picked up some pumpkins from the plot and my chilli plants is still covered in chillis, the aubergine still has lots on too. There are potatoes still in the ground which I am wondering if they will still be there or will have been eaten away. Only one way to find out! I did cull the kiwi plant yesterday - it didn't fruit and I hear without another plant it probably won't. I'll find something else I'd like to grow up the shed next year. It was nice to see the Lady's Mantle I thought had died after I moved it perking up again. It has produced some new growth so that is good to see. I find them very pretty plants. Especially when water droplets get trapped in the fan-like leaves :)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Hello! More or less everything has finished on the allotment now. All I need to do next is dig and put in bulbs I have bought - flowers (narcissi, irises and tulips), and some onions and garlic. I also need to cut back the soft fruit. I'll post about that when I do it!

I did harvest some veggies though - peppers and sweetcorn...

The larger pepper was the only one on the plant. It was really sweet and tasty though. The little ones are in my freezer.

The sweetcorn I grew was SO delicious with some butter and simply steamed in the microwave. It wasn't much of a harvest from 12 plants though. Most of the cobs weren't fully formed so I only really got to eat a few. One cob per plant, most failures. However, I think I will still try it again next year, just a little earlier.

On a random note I got this book recently from a charity shop. Loving the cover! "We've got this book on biscuits. Hmm, what should we put on the cover...?" "I know, a MASSIVE biscuit" hehe!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Yummy yummy onion marmalade & time away

Look at this cute cottage :) How sweet is that?! I went away for a holiday to Dorset last week (hence the blog silence!) and stayed here. Very nice too. Had a really nice time relaxing and even had some pretty good weather. I now have more silly tan lines to go with the others I have accumulated this year!

When I got home I got around to making my 'famous' onion marmalade. My flat now stinks of vinegar but it is worth putting up with for a few days as this stuff is SO delicious. It doesn't last very long - it gets eaten super-quick as it goes with everything. I love it with cheese in particular, however I think my favourite is with lamb burgers. I wonder how long this batch will last...

Here's the recipe if you fancy making it yourself:

1.5kg onions (red onions work very well), chopped
1kg sugar
500ml red wine vinegar
a sprinkle of salt
2-3 teaspoons caraway seeds

  • sprinkle the onions with a little salt in a large bowl. set aside.
  • in a heavy based pan, add sugar, vinegar and caraway seeds. boil for 5 minutes.
  • add the onions - i don't bother to wash off the salt - and cook on a low heat for at least 2 hours. sometimes i leave it on the low heat for about 4 hours, until it no longer tastes overly vinegary and has thickened.
  • put into sterilised jars. as soon as it is cool you can eat it. yummy!
  • keep opened jars in the fridge, unopened ones in a dark cupboard.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Pumpkin purée

Well, the 1st batch of the pumpkin is now purée :) I needed 850g for my pumpkin pie recipe so I cooked that much 1st - baked on a low oven shelf at gas 4/180c covered tightly with foil to steam/roast. I was meant to cook it for 30mins but it wasn't totally soft so I gave it another 20mins. Once it was cool I blitzed it in the food processor. Now it is ready for pie making! I won't be making the pie until later in the week so I am going to pop it in the freezer for now, then defrost it over a sieve so it is not too watery. I love the colour of it!

I still have loads of pumpkin flesh left so I am going to steam/roast the rest of it and save it in batches of 500g. I will then decide what to make with it. :)

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Some clearing, rearranging and harvesting

Managed a few hours down the lottie and mainly did weeding. I also moved some stuff around too that was getting swamped by my enormous cosmos and rudbeckia plants. Remembered the camera so a photo-tastic post for you!

spinach is doing well but it has been seriously nibbled! picked loads for my spinach and ricotta lasagne. there is lots left. yummy :)

weeded beds - flowers, herbs and butternut squash. i moved the lady's mantle out from under the cosmos to give it a better chance. i also moved the tree onions and dug out the golden courgettes as they were pretty much done for. i'm pleased the butternut squash pulled through though :)

hooray! the verbena my friend gave me is starting to flower. love these :)

cosmos. just look at it!!

butternut squash starting to perk up and form some fruits :)

the white dry stalks are from the tree onions i have already harvested. it is good to see they are still growing. not tried the onions yet. i was told they are HOT! i moved them out from under the shadow of the cosmos/rudbeckia giants so hopefully they do ok.

pretty rudbeckia. i picked some more for the flat :)

spotted this busy bee on the globe artichoke flower. i love bumblebees, me!

the blueberry still has a few berries on it but the leaves are turning lovely colours so i took this snap.

the sweetcorn is tempting me every time i go to the lottie! not quite ready yet. the taller ones are the babycorn!! the aubergines are still flowering and fruiting.

i dug some leftover spuds out of this patch last weekend. the courgettes are still going strong and the pumpkins are ok. they were looking a bit yellow and sad so i gave them a good water in the hope they perk up. there are still some pumpkins forming.

runner/french/dwarf beans harvested. these are so delish eaten as is :) so sweet!

there are so many runner beans on this frame that they are pulling it over! this is only a few plants too. i will not need more than this next year!!

I also picked some aubergines, some courgettes and the remaining green tomatoes from the shed toms which FINALLY got chucked out! Hooray - I feel liberated.

Prepared pumpkin

So, I managed to harvest one of my pumpkins for me! The other 2 I've harvested so far have gone to a friend and my big bro. I've spent time cutting up the flesh and now I need to cook it to make myself some pumpkin puree. There is a lot of it from just one pumpkin - that is a big pan! I am thinking of making some pumpkin pie, just becasue I've never had it and it sounds good! I hear you can freeze the puree once cooked so I think I will probably do that as I am away Sunday/Monday on a jolly! Maybe I will cook me up a pie next week. The flesh is very pale and smells a little like melon. I will take pics of the mush once it is cooked. Oh, I added a link to my recipes list for pumpkin-related things - prep and recipes.

I am off to the allotment later to see how things are getting on and to do more work. I am going to chuck out the tomatoes in the shed as I have had enough of looking after them and they're not really behaving. A girl can only take so much! I will try to remember the camera this time for more progress photos.

Oh, my spinach is ready to harvest so I think I am going to make a spinach and ricotta lasagne. Found this easy-looking video recipe - also added to my recipe list. I have grown basil from seed so I have that, and I have bay and thyme at the allotment. I will also be able to use the few tommies I have managed to harvest from the shed plants.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

First pumpkins & a catch up

I've been bad and haven't had much time for the allotment. I've been down to harvest but not done much but mow the grass and plan really. I've only had the plot for a few months but already I am thinking of changing my plans. Firstly, I need to get rid of the grass as I am wasting time mowing it when I could be doing something productive. I am thinking more flowers for next year as the ones I have have really brightened up my flat. I need to get some bulbs in now I think so am mulling next year's plan over. I won't bother with brassicas again I think - too much effort and liability! Def want to have lots more peas - a full row or two. Runner beans about the same (about 6 plants) but try some more exciting varieties, maybe a purple one? More pumpkins and squashes - something like 'petit pan' for def and certainly more sweetcorn. I must plant more onions and some garlic for next year and maybe try some fruit trees. Long list but it does sound like a plan doesn't it?!

So, already harvested my very first pumpkins. I don't know what variety they are unfortunately. They are such a gorgeous colour and shape it seems terrible to cut them up! I gave one to a friend of mine who was with me when I bought the tiny weedy looking plants. She was touched I think and blogged about it here. :) The other I gave to my older brother as he's into growing veg but didn't plant pumpkins this year. I have one on the plot almost ready for me to try which I am looking forward to :) The 4 plants I got are going great guns and I have to keep twisting the plant back into the bed, off the path! Think I will get a great crop of them.

Finally, my tomatoes in the shed have started to ripen. I thought they'd stay green forever! I am not doing the whole tomatoes-in-the-shed malarkey again next year. They needed far too much attention. It was like having kids! ha! It also meant I didn't have much workspace in there. My excuse for not sowing as many seeds as I had planned. I am also pleased the chilli plant I bought is producing fruit too. I picked some teeny red ones and some bigger green ones. There are still plenty on the one plant so that was a bit of a good buy. They are now cleaned up and in the freezer for when I need to use them. The sweet peppers are producing too but not quite ready for picking. The tomatoes I had in the plot have all rotted with all the excess rain we've had which is a shame. The cherry toms especially were going great guns. Hey ho. At least they were only cheap reduced-price plants. You win some...

My aubergines were doing well but have been eaten by slugs. There are more coming on so hopefully they won't get so eaten. The 5 plants I have are still flowering so I'm pleased with their progress :) I am still being inundated with courgettes and runner, french and dwarf beans. The sweetcorn is fattening up and I can't wait for that to be ready.

I had planned to spend some time at the allotment this week, clearing out the brassicas and digging up the spuds. However, I have been a social butterfly instead! I am going to go do some work on today. I need to dig! I hope things are going well for you :)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Coming soon

I will be posting soon, promise! Got some nice photos to share :) Currently suffering mowing blisters - so much grass to mow. Need to dig that out for next year I think!!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Don't panic!

I am still alive. Not had much allotment-time lately. It has been torrential rain most days. My poor outdoor tomatoes are more or less rotten. :( Too wet. Some things are thriving - namely weeds and grass paths - and sweetcorn and leeks. I have pulled up my red onions and need to harvest all manner of things like beans and courgettes which are prolific! Also need to get round to digging up all the spuds I have left. I did do some weeding in the pouring rain last week and got soaked. Next week is the week for getting my allotment back into some sort of order.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Comedy courgette and big ol' blueberries

I've still not had much time to do any proper work down the allotment. I did manage to weed around 2 beds though so at least part of the plot is looking tidy. At this time of the year with the sun and rain the weeds are a proper battle. You dig them up, turn around and they are back again! I also got started on tidying up my 'burning bed'. My plan is to bag up all the crap there and get it down the tip. Once that is done I can plant out another 5x5m bed. Not sure what with yet!

I am pleased to be harvesting my first courgettes. It doesn't seem like that long ago when I planted 4 little weedy plants. They are now monsters and are producing the first veg. I have been down checking the progress of the plot every other day. I saw that they were nearly ready to pick so I have been waiting for them to get a little bigger. How the hell this one missed the checks I don't know! It is a whopper! It made me laugh when I spotted it. Almost looks like a marrow! It was very tasty :)

These two little beauties are much more reasonable size-wise. Look at the difference in size! These are waiting to be eaten. I expect they will taste better than the giant.

The checking also revealed some ripe blueberries off the plant I put it a little while ago. The fruits were really quite big compared with those you get in shops and they didn't have that soapy taste. I had them with some vanilla icecream and a smashed up crunchie. Yum!

More beans picked too. Looks like I will be eating a lot of beans as there are loads of flowers and forming beans on the plants. Luckily I love beans! I'm really pleased the blackfly seems to have been dealt with by nature too. Hooray!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Not done too much but harvest down the allotment. Too much rain! Have done some watering of the tommies in the shed but that is about it. I have been busy with my raspberry glut. I found some recipes I wanted to try and got down to business on Saturday. I baked a cake - raspberry and lime drizzle cake - and some bars - raspberry and hazelnut (an adaptation of the pinenut recipe). Both got taken into work and were very, very well received! So many compliments on the cake. It was the first time I've made it and it was very moist with a yummy tang. Easy peasy to make too :) My rasos were a bit gooey by the time they got used but both sweet treats turned out well.

Cake uncooked
Cake cooked

Bars uncooked
Bars cooked
I also picked some flowers from the lottie. I think these are 'goldstrum' daisies/'black eyed susan'/rudbeckia goldstrum. They're lovely :)

Also picked my first beans. Not too many yet so will hold off on photos!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Very first globe artichoke, picked, cooked and eaten - the verdict...

Well, I inherited some very attractive globe artichokes with the allotment. I've never tried them before so now they are getting ready for eating I thought I'd give one a go. I found this link on the internet and I followed the steps. They are very majestic plants and the heads are beautifully symmetrical - I like symmetry, me!

First you have to snip off the prickly, pointy tips of the leaves and remove the stalk.

Then you cut off the top.

Boil in a pan of salty water for 35 mins, making sure all the 'choke is covered in water - weigh down if necessary.

Scoop out the furry bit in the centre and discard. Eat the leaves by biting on the big end of each one and drawing out the flesh with your teeth, outer parts of the leaf are too tough. You can eat all of the fleshy heart as is.

Verdict - not too much hassle and DELISH! :D Hooray!!

Also chowing down on cauliflower cheese using the first cauliflower from the allotment, as well as some butter-fried mushrooms (from the supermarket!). Yummy :D

If you have globe artichokes I recommend you give those funny-looking things a go!