Archive | June 2014

Can You Live A Simple Life In The City?

My dream house would be a cottage in the country. It would have a door in the middle, with roses trained around it. It would have a large back garden to grow all my vegetables and I would have room for flowers too. It would be so quiet. We would live a very simple life with chickens, pigs and maybe a couple of goats.

In reality we actually live in a town, just over a mile from the city centre. It takes just 30 minutes to walk to the high street.

If I step into my small back garden, I can hear the hum of traffic from the busy A47 at the end of my road….it’s a lot different from the house I dream of, but I know my dream house is just that – a dream, as our whole life is here in the city.

SAM_9402

I like to think we have the best of both worlds. We don’t suffer from savage winters that leave us without electricity for weeks, we have lots of supermarkets and food shops very near to us and we can ‘nip’ to town if we need to and we are not isolated.

I know I can’t have complete peace and quiet in my back garden and it’s certainly not big enough to keep pigs or goats, but I do have a small lawn, I can hang my washing out and I can hear the birds singing.

images

What I am trying to say is, it’s not exactly my dream house but we make the best of it. I can’t grow all of my vegetables in my back garden, so I took on my four allotments to grow organic food for my family and they are just fifteen minutes walk away from us ….it’s the best of both worlds.

SAM_7557

I try to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the high street, so I can avoid buying things for the sake of it. I use vinegar, bi-carb and lemon juice to clean our home and wash clothes using my homemade laundry liquid and nearly always hang my washing out to dry.

SAM_8631

I cook from scratch and I make jams, pickles and chutneys etc. using the produce I have grown at my allotment. This all helps to avoid unnecessary chemicals and expense….but it also helps us to live a more simple life.

Sixteen years ago we began to cut household costs dramatically, so I could stay at home to look after my two daughters and this opened up a whole new unexpected life for us, which we now wouldn’t change. No longer do we get caught up with the ‘round-about’ of buying things to make us happy and we don’t keep up with the ‘Jones’ anymore with expensive cars and holidays. In fact we only own what we need to and we have simple, cheap holidays in the UK that we so look forward to.

SAM_3542

I have been asked a few times how our daughters feel when they miss out on the latest ‘this’ or ‘that’…. but they don’t miss out. What they have learnt is they can’t have things straight away and they have to save for things they really want. I think it is a good lesson to take through life, as you really appreciate what you do have. My daughters have turned into lovely, kind and considerate teenagers and I am very proud of them.

SAM_3677

None of the above came easy at the start, but we took one step at a time and here we are sixteen years later living a happy, simple life in the city.

SAM_3448

Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday.

I hope you have a lovely week.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Two ‘Trials’ & An Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe

This week at my allotment I decided to trial two different things:

1) Nemaslug Slug Killer:

The first is ‘Nemaslug Slug Killer’, which apparently controls slugs naturally and is harmless to children, pets and wildlife (inc. birds and hedgehogs), even if they eat the infected slugs.

They seemed pretty easy to use from the instructions that I read before I ordered them, so I thought I would give them a go as they are a natural organic way to fight slugs.

SAM_9322

Apparently this pack can treat upto 40 square meters and it gives six weeks of protection.

I particularly wanted to use the slug killer around my potato patch as I seem to suffer regularly each year from slug holes in them.  After researching the best way to use the nematodes, I found it was best to use them six to seven weeks before I plan to harvest my potatoes, which was this week.

As the product only has a shelf life of four weeks, I ordered them a couple of weeks ago and when I received them they had to be stored in the fridge.

SAM_9323

The instructions said that you needed to apply the nemotodes on a dull day or in the evening….so I waited for a dull day.  It also said the ground must be moist before you apply them, so I had to use my hosepipe to wet 40 square meters!

I split the packet into four and poured each quarter into a watering can (with a course spray as advised) filled with clean water.  I then set about watering the area where my potatoes are growing…..I found I almost had to run along to make sure the watering can didn’t empty before I had covered the desired area!

I then read that you need to keep the area moist for the next two weeks, which means using more water from a hosepipe.

My first impressions are that it’s all a lot of messing around and an awful lot of watering (unless you apply them in a wet period which is no good for me at the moment).  However, I will follow the instructions and see if my potatoes have fewer slug holes this year…..The cheapest price I could find was £9.44 (incl postage), so I will let you know at the end of my trial if it is worth spending this money.

.

2) The second trial is ‘Tagetes minuta’

SAM_9317

I go to a wonderful garden forum that used to be held at the ‘Eco House’ in Leicester (which sadly closed down last year), but we managed to keep the forum going.  We decided to trial these plants together as according to Sarah Raven:

“Tagetes minuta is an extraordinary plant that isn’t a looker, but its roots kill perennial weeds such a ground elder and couch grass.

Height: 180cm”

I sowed my seeds on the 30th April and they were ready to plant out this week:

SAM_9316

I planted them right at the back of my plot which is covered in all sorts of perennial weeds such as couch grass, dandelions, brambles, buttercups, nettles and even some Ivy:

SAM_9318 SAM_9319

To be honest you have to look really hard to see where the plants are in the photo below.

SAM_9321

I did give them some slug pellets to start them off as I know slugs love to eat tagetes and I wanted to give them a chance to work their magic.

.

I will let you know the results of both trials.

.

.

This week at the allotment I cleared the poached egg plants away as they had finished flowering and had shed most of it’s seed.  They gave a wonderful display last month and they brought lots of beneficial insects like ladybirds and bees to my plot:

SAM_9294SAM_9297

I then replaced them with some marigolds that I grew from seed in March and hopefully they will look great in a few weeks:

SAM_9305

I also gave my flower patch a good weed and removed the forget-me-nots that also gave such a good display this year.  I cut back my hardy geraniums to encourage a second flush of flowers too:

SAM_9309 SAM_9310

  I then planted some dhalias, petunias and antirrhinums that I had also grown from seed.  Hopefully these will give a good display all summer:

 SAM_9307

.

Elsewhere on the allotment I have sown some more radish and I have been watering my celeriac at least twice a week to encourage bigger roots.

I have also been hoeing to keep the weeds down.

SAM_9295 SAM_9304

.

Harvesting:

This week I have been harvesting lots of wonderful salad leaves, radish, spring onions, coriander and also watercress (which incidentally is grown in a large pot of compost that is watered only once a week):

SAM_9334 SAM_9311

And also lots of broad beans that I have been blanching and then freezing on trays before putting them into a freezer bag, to stop the beans from sticking together in large lumps:

SAM_9329 SAM_9333

And strawberries…what a wonderful crop this year.  In total I have harvested four baskets full so far:

SAM_9301 SAM_9332

So we have eaten loads, I also made some more jam and I froze the rest.

SAM_9303 SAM_9339 SAM_9313

.

At home my hanging baskets are looking beautiful so far and I have started to feed them with a high potash liquid feed….the same one I use for my tomatoes at home

SAM_9342 SAM_9343

And I have my first flowers on my ‘poundshop’ dhalia’s.  These were a bargain as there were three tubers in a pack for £1.00 and I didn’t really think they would be up to much….but all three have grown.

SAM_9345

.

I love receiving comments on my blog and this week ‘Angela’ asked me for the recipe that I use to make vanilla ice cream.  I don’t bother messing around with vanilla pods, I just use ‘madagascan vanilla extract’ which seems to be a bit thicker than ordinary vanilla extract and can be bought from your local supermarket, however normal vanilla extract should also work.

SAM_9354

.

A Very Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe:

(With or without an ice cream maker)

.

165 grams caster sugar

240ml double cream

500ml  milk (I use semi skimmed)

2 teaspoons Madagascan vanilla extract if possible (or normal vanillia extract)

.

Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined with a hand blender or a spoon:

SAM_9355 SAM_9356

Add the mixture to your icecream maker to do the hard work

SAM_9357

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingredients into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

SAM_9358

As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for 10-15 minutes before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

SAM_9269

.

.

Altogether it has been a good week in the ‘Thrift’ household and to top it off, my good allotment neighbour gave me some ‘Sweet william’ flowers to take home and they look beautiful.

SAM_9336

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  I hope you have a good week.

Strawberries And Cake

I thought I would start with a look in my greenhouse at home:

SAM_9290

The tomatoes and cucumbers are doing well and I have my first fruits forming.  I will now start to feed my plants with a high potash comfrey feed.  You can see from the photo above that I use old Blood, fish and bone tubs as pots for my plants.  I just drill a few holes in the bottom and use the lids as saucers to catch the excess water.

I am also still removing the side shoots from my tomato plants as they form.

SAM_9292 SAM_9291

.

The hanging baskets that I planted up myself at home are starting to flower well too and I will also be starting to feed these this week, with the same high potash feed that I use for my tomatoes and cucumbers.  Soon the flowers will cover the sides of the baskets and you won’t be able to tell that I used a ‘compost bag’ to line the basket.

SAM_9287 SAM_9293

.

As the weather has been lovely here this week I have managed to finish planting the majority of my vegetables at the allotment.

I planted some beetroot that I started off in newspaper pots:

SAM_9274SAM_9275

  I remember reading that beetroot doesn’t transplant very well, but it is fine when I grow it in newspaper pots as there is no root disturbance when I transplant them, as I plant the whole pot into the ground and it just decomposes.

Just in case anyone is unsure if this will work, below is a photo of some beetroot that is growing at my plot that I planted last month in a newspaper pot and as you can see it is growing well.

SAM_9279

.

In front of my beetroot I have planted my parsley plants.  I keep hearing that parsley is hard to grow, but again I never have a problem.  I sow a pinch of seed in newspaper pots filled with compost and they germinate well.  I just remove any extra seeds that germinate and then I transplant them again when they are big enough (I plant the newspaper pot into the ground as well).

SAM_9273

.

This week I also planted my swedes, kohl rab’s and turnips.  Again I’ve read swedes don’t like to be transplanted, so get around this by using newspaper pots and I have great success this way.

The birds love to eat these so I have built my usual cane and bottle cage around them:

SAM_9259 SAM_9260

.

I also planted my perpetual spinach plants.  I think perpetual spinach is such an under-rated plant.  It doesn’t ‘bolt’ like ordinary spinach does in the summer and it lasts for months and is hardy so it can be eaten in winter when there isn’t much else around….but most importantly it tastes nice like spinach and can be used in exactly the same way.  I love adding small, new leaves to salad and the larger leaves are great to cook with.

SAM_9261 SAM_9262

.

Also at my allotment, the pansies and violas are looking stunning now at the front of my plot.  These were all reduced a few weeks ago from Tesco and I paid just £3 for all of them.  I don’t usually like these plants and I only bought them to fill a patch before my own bedding plants were ready, but I think I have finally been converted as they look stunning:

SAM_9257

.

This week, I picked my first broad beans.  I love to open the first pod and eat the beans raw.

SAM_9265

I gave the above beans to my ‘in-law’, as they absolutely love broad beans too and I must say there are loads more nearly ready to harvest.

.

And we are having salads nearly every day now, as I have so many ‘webbs wonderful’ lettuces in my polytunnel and I have mixed salad leaves in my greenhouse at home, which is great.  I am also picking radishes and spring onions from my polytunnel.  I particularly like to add coriander to a bowl of salad, which I have also been growing in my greenhouse too.

SAM_9288

SAM_9055SAM_9289

SAM_9263

.

My strawberry harvest is going well too this week.  On Wednesday I managed to pick a whole carrier bag of strawberries (and I probably ate another bag while I was picking them lol).  There really is nothing like freshly picked juicy strawberries, that are warm from the sun.

SAM_9264

While I was wondering what to do with all the strawberries, I decided to try some of them with the homemade vanilla ice cream I made this week and it was delicious!…

SAM_9269

….And a few hours later my eldest daughter made this cake (which was even more delicious)….

SAM_9271

I felt like a queen, having a cake made for me.  Though I am going to have to stop eating all these lovely things if I don’t want to end up enormous!

.

.

Finally this week I made some ‘Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles’ and some ‘White Chocolate, Apricot and Brandy Trufffles’ for fathers day.  The recipes can be found here.

I think they make super presents and I would love to receive them.

“I always say a homemade present comes from the heart and not just the bank account and thats what makes it special” 

SAM_9282

.

So over all, it has been a productive week from the ‘Notjustgreenfingers’ household….and it’s been one of those weeks that I am glad to live the way we do.

SAM_9267

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Have a good week!

A Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe & My Allotment This Week

Before I start, I don’t usually advertise anything on my blog, but I thought I would make an exception for this:

Transition Leicester are holding a ‘Leicester Green Open Homes And Living’ event….

Their website says “Would you like some ideas about making your home and/or life greener? Come and look around the homes of people who are changing their homes and lives to reduce their carbon footprints and talk to them about what it is like”.

For details on the houses, their availability and features, click here I can imagine it will be a real eye opener.

.

————————————————————————————————————————–

What a busy week it has been at the allotment.  Due to all the rain we had last week I have had to work twice as hard to catch up with my planting.

First though, I had to dig up my old spring broccoli and curly kale before I could even start planting:

SAM_9209

I then planted my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green), leaving them under glass to give some protection for a couple weeks as it has been really cold and wet and they do not like these conditions:

SAM_9232

My runner beans and tomatoes were planted out:

SAM_9202

And my sweetcorn, butternut squashes, patty pans and courgettes:

SAM_9210 SAM_9231

And more spring onions and lettuces:

SAM_9224

And some more cauliflowers under environmesh and I planted cabbages under bottles as they were small and I wanted to give them a bit of protection from slugs and the cold

SAM_9201 SAM_9218

I also planted my leeks that were sown way back in January.  If you haven’t planted leeks before, it is a bit unusual the way they are planted.  You can read how to plant them here.

SAM_9222 SAM_9220

I also planted my celeriac, which like plenty of water and they certainly had plenty of rain on Wednesday this week…

SAM_9223

…and I finally got round to planting some flowers- sweetpeas, nasturtiums and tagettes.

SAM_9214 SAM_9215

I also planted some nasturtiums around my runner beans as a sacrificial plants.  The blackflies prefer nasturtiums to the beans and so they leave my runner beans alone.

.

I also invested in a very large net from ebay this year to stop the pigeons from eating my peas.  I hope to be able to use it for years to come as it wasn’t the cheap sort that you can buy.

A few years ago I didn’t need to net my peas as the birds never bothered with them, but they seem to eat everything these days, including my lettuces which I still find strange.

SAM_9212

.

Also, I finally got round to nipping the top couple of inches off my broad beans to stop the blackflies as they love the top growth.  The best time to do this is when the first beans start to develop on the plants, but as you can see in the photo below, I was a little bit late on one or two of them, but I’m sure they will be fine.

SAM_9203 SAM_9206

.

Finally at my allotment, I have had loads of people ask me what is wrong with their onions this year and I have said the same thing over and over again….it’s the allium leaf miner, which is a fairly new pest.  You can find information about it here.

My onions have been hit too and I will be covering them with environmesh next year:

SAM_9234

.

.

During half term when it was raining nearly all week, it was lovely to have some time to catch up at home.  Especially as my daughters were off school, as I love spending time with them.

One of the things we did was toasting marshmellows over a candle.  I had forgotten how good they taste and they took me back to when I was a Guide (many years ago).

I absolutely love the melted marshmellow taste:

SAM_9192SAM_9193

.

During the week I also managed to catch up on some long overdue jam making sessions with leftover fruit in my freezer.

I made rhubarb jam and strawberry jam:

SAM_9186 SAM_9188

SAM_9189 SAM_9191

I find jam making quite thereputic and it is so easy to do.

If you haven’t made jam before, you can find a strawberry jam recipe and some jam making tips here if you are interested.

.

I also managed to give my drains a bit of a clean  by pouring 1 tablespoon of bi-carbinate of soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar.  It bubbles up like a volcano for a few minutes and then I flushed it all down by running the hot tap for a few moments….the result was clean smelling, unblocked drains!

SAM_9187

.

I was also able to take time to make some nice salads from my polytunnel and some nice meals for the family without rushing….it was such a pleasure:

SAM_9179 SAM_9195 SAM_9184 SAM_9182

The last photo is homemade shortbread, which is one of the simplist recipes I have.  You can find it here.  I use pure margarine as my daughter is lactose intolerant, but you can use normal margarine or butter and they taste even nicer.

.

The photo my daughter took as we picked them

The photo my daughter took as we picked my strawberries

This week I made some luxury strawberry ice cream as double cream was on offer at Tesco….and the taste is absolutely delicious!…and yet again so easy to make.

I used my strawberries from the allotment as they are ripening nicely.  These are a very early variety that I planted two years ago:

SAM_9248

.

Luxury Strawberry Icecream Recipe:

300 grams strawberries

300 ml double cream

140 grams of caster sugar

.

Puree the strawberries in a bowl with a hand blender / liquidiser or a fork

SAM_9241 SAM_9242

Add the caster sugar and the double cream to the bowl

SAM_9243 SAM_9244

Give it all a mix with a spoon until it is all combined

SAM_9245

And add it to your icecream maker to do the hard work

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingrediants into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

SAM_9246

As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for fifteen minutes or so before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

SAM_9173

.

I actually made double the amount of ice cream and it filled an old two litre plastic ice cream tub and I worked out it cost me just £1.85 to make.  I’ve checked on the Tesco website and the ‘posh’ ice cream is far more expensive than that!

Within an hour of making the ice cream, some of it had disappeared out of the tub….it must have been the ice cream fairies…so beware of the ice cream fairies if you make it too.

SAM_9249

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again next Friday

My woodland garden this week

My woodland garden this week

Have a good week!

Radio Leicester – Old fashioned cleaning/Cooking from scratch etc.

Just thought some of you may be interested in my Radio interview with Jonathan Lampon this lunchtime, on Radio Leicester.

The interview was about moneysaving…..cooking from scratch, old fashioned cleaning, meal planning, value products etc.

The interview can be found here and it starts 2 hours and 9 minutes into the show.

Today people texted in and phoned in with questions and I absolutely loved it…..Thank you for asking me onto your show Jonathan.

:

SAM_8631

I’ll be back on Friday as usual.