Archive | October 2014

Introducing Judy Thrift And Some Pumpkin Recipes…

Last week it was half term here and we all went to Portsihead, near Bristol for a few days.  We stayed in a Travelodge and just across the road was a lovely marina, full of boats of all different sizes.

We used Portsihead as a base and spent a day in Bristol and another day in Weston-super-mare and I have got to say we were really lucky with the weather as it was so dry and mild for this time of the year.

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Weston-super-mare

The main reason for a visit to this area was so we could take a trip to a little place call ‘Clevedon’.

I had never heard of this place until a few months ago and it was a lovely, small seaside town with a wonderful pier.  You can read about the pier here if you are interested in finding out more about it.

There was a special reason we visited this pier and that was because my eldest daughter is a massive ‘One Direction’ fan and they recorded the video for one of their songs on this pier, so it made her very happy to tread on the same pier as they did.

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Clevedon really was a beautiful, quiet seaside town…just right for eating an ice cream whilst sitting watching the sailing boats on the sea…

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Introducing Judy:

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Our holiday was lovely but we all couldn’t wait to come home as we had a very special lady coming to live with us…….

I would like to introduce ‘Judy’, our wonderful rescue dog:

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We had been talking about getting a dog for a while now, but had decided to wait until after our October holiday.  However, a couple of weeks ago myself and Mr Thrift decided to go and ask the RSPCA what the proceedure was for re-homing a rescue dog and we both fell in love with this quiet, timid dog wagging it’s tail at us.

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website

This is the photo of Judy that was displayed on the RSPCA website

Poor Judy had been very frightened when she first came to the kennels at the beginning of October and was also very anxious.  All we know about her is she is a Jack Russell, Terrier Cross that is three years old and her previous owner was poorly and had to go into hospital, so I think the whole experience has been traumatic for her and she is a little bit underweight.

After we found her, I visited her twice a day at the RSPCA and took her for a walk and by day three I sat down and she jumped on my lap for a cuddle and I knew then that she was definately the right dog for us.

My daughters also visited her after school each day to make sure they took to her too.  She didn’t jump up or bark at my daughters when she first met them, she just wagged her tail which was great for my eldest daughter who has always been a bit scared of dogs.

So on the 22nd October we had a home visit from RSPCA (to make sure everything at home was as we said it would be) and last Thursday 23rd October, we brought her home and she has settled really well.

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She is still a bit anxious (especially of men), but she is having a great time with all the attention she is getting from the ‘Thrift’ family and she now jumps up all of us when she wants some ‘fuss’ and barks at passers by.

We all adore her!

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So I’m sorry to say that this week I haven’t been to my allotment, as I am only leaving Judy on her own for very short periods of time so she can get used to it.  But two things I did before our holiday was I added a new compost bin for my perrennial weeds at the back of my plot:

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As usual, I used strong string to tie the pallets together and lined it with old bits of weeds suppressant.

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I also managed to plant my winter onions which were sown in August.  I covered them in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner laying their eggs at the base of the allium stems (the second generation lay their eggs between September and November).

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At home I had been drying a heritiage bean called ‘Carters Bean’ that I grew this year and this week I took all the dried seeds out of the pods and popped them into an envelope to store / share them ready for next year:

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Halloween

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I couldn’t finish today without mentioning Halloween.  So many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes here with you:

***Don’t forget the pumpkin flesh can be frozen to use another day****

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

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 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

 

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And Finally……

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A Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins Recipe:

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600g self-raising flour

220g soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

300g raisins

2 eggs

400g pumpkin puree

150ml sunflower oil

The zest of 3 oranges

200ml of orange juice

A sprinkling of muscovado sugar for the top of each muffin

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar into large bowl and stir in the raisins.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the pumpkin, oil, orange zest and juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until there is no flour visible. There will be still lots of lumps left (this is the secret of good sized muffins.

 

Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and sprinkle each muffin with a little muscavado sugar.

 

Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes are firm to the touch and golden brown.

 

Enjoy!

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And don’t forget, with a little bit of imagination you can make some spooky treats for your children and grandchildren:

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I hope you enjoy some spooky Halloween treats tonight.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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Too Late To Change….

I thought I would write something different today:

In July the BBC reported that managers work an extra day per week in unpaid overtime.  You can read the report here.  In actual fact I think an awful lot of people do this, not just managers.

A long time ago when I worked full time, I also used to work extra ‘unpaid’ hours and frequently brought work home to do….how different my life is now.

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My life is now simple, as my job is a homemaker that also grows organic vegetables. I’m sure I work a lot more hours than the standard thirty seven hour week, but it is work that I enjoy and it brings a lot of satisfaction to my life.

I like my house to be a home. .. a place that my family love to come home to. I like to make sure my house is clean and comfortable and my family have clothes that are washed and ironed ready for them to wear and healthy meals cooked from scratch, with my home grown organic vegetables.

This may seem very old fashioned, but I love it and feel very privileged to live this way and this is how myself and Mr Thrift planned it.

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The Only Drawback….

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There is one drawback of living this way… I now appear very boring to the average person and I don’t really have anything in common with people around me anymore, as we are a family that lives on just one wage and money is always tight.

I don’t know what the latest ‘must have’ gadget is and we don’t own the latest fashionable flash car and I certainly don’t know the name of any clothes designers. We don’t travel on expensive holidays abroad, or go on luxury cruises either…..we just live simply.

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This is another reason why I write my blog, so I can connect with like-minded people who also enjoy growing vegetables, cooking from scratch and using old fashioned cleaning methods.

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Many times I have been told that I am very lucky as I don’t have any stress in my life….but this is simply not true. We do have our own ‘stresses’ but we try not to add to them by ‘keeping up with the Jones’.  I work very hard during the day and the advantages of living this way far outweighs the disadvantages.

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Over the last few years, I have listened to many people telling me how busy their lives are and how stressed they are at work.  I sometimes think people actually feel somehow more important when they tell you how late they stay at work or how they are running around at the weekends trying to catch up with everything.

I actually don’t think this shows that these people are important, I think this shows that they are either unorganised or just not in control of their lives and I always think to myself it is such a shame, as we only have one life and we need to live it in the best way possible.

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One thing I know for sure, these people won’t be standing at the ‘pearly gates’ wishing they had ‘worked more hours’ …but by that time it will be too late to change.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time

Green Manures & Can You Sow Them Now?

As it has been wet and miserable most of this week, I haven’t been to my allotment much and I thought I would take this chance to talk about ‘Green Manures‘ as they are still something of a mystery to lots of people.

My wet and windy back garden this week

My wet and windy back garden this week

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So what is a green manure and why is it good to use it?…….

A green manure is a plant that is grown to benefit the soil.  Farmers have used green manures for centuries to improve soils.  It improves the fertility and soil structure. It helps to open up heavy soils and improve drainage and in light soils the green manure acts like a sponge and stops the moisture from draining away.

Green manures can also be used to help stop the nutrients from washing out of the soil in heavy rain, as they hold on to the nutrients through their roots.  Some green manures fix nitrogen in the soil as well, ready for the next crop you plant.

Green manures are usually used on bare patches of soil that are not going to be used for a while, but it can also be used between widely spaced plants, e.g. sweetcorn, to stop weed growth.

Green manures are good for predators that control pests, as they are a welcome habitat for them.  Frogs and beetles enjoy the damp, cool ground underneath it.

Some flying pests can be confused by green manures.  If you let it flower near to your crops e.g. under planting brassica’s with ‘trefoil’, is said to deter cabbage root fly.

When you dig in green manures, it stimulates the activity of microscopic creatures that consume the decomposing foliage, which helps to have a healthy soil, which is good for the plants.

One thing that needs to be taken into consideration, is that as a green manure foliage decomposes, it releases compounds that can inhibit the germination of small seeds, so it’s best to leave it for a while  before sowing.  This does have it’s good side, as it also inhibits weed seeds too.

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So can I plant a green manure now?

Yes, it’s not too late to plant a couple of them here in the UK:

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Field Beans (Vicia faba)

Field Beans are in the Leguminosae  family (Peas and Beans).  They can be planted between September and November and they will grow overwinter.

Field Beans prefer heavy soils e.g. clay and they fix nitrogen in the soil which will benefit following crops.

The beans need to be sown at 22 grams per square meter for a good result.

(If you are using Field Beans, for best results, don’t  plant legumes e.g. peas and beans in the same place afterwards so there isn’t a build up of pests and diseases which will attack your next crop).

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Hungarian Grazing Rye (Secale cereal)

Hungarian Grazing Rye is in the Gramineae family (cereal grain crops).  It can be planted between August and November and they will grow overwinter.

Hungarian Grazing Rye is happy in most soils but it doesn’t fix nitrogen like some other green manures do.  However, it is very good for improving soils, especially clay and it is great to use before a potato crop.

The Hungarian Grazing Rye needs to be sown at 16 grams per square meter for a good result.

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If you are thinking of planting a green manure at this time of year, you can plant both the above Green Manures together in alternate rows if you want to, to improve weed control.

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If you grow either of the above Green Manures, leave them to grow overwinter and cut them down three or four weeks before you want to use the ground again (or if the plant starts to flower).

After chopping the plants down, it’s easier to let the foliage wilt before you dig the plants into the soil.  Grazing rye can be hard to dig in, so you may need to ‘roughly’ dig it in first and then repeat the process again a week later.

I hope this information will help someone.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

 

A Bedroom Makeover And Taking Stock Ready For Winter

This last week I have spent some time at home, rather than at the allotment due to the rain.  Hopefully the wet weather will make the soil easier to work now, as it has been so dry recently and the soil has been rock hard.

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I have used this time to do one or two overdue jobs at home and one such job was to replace my daughters bed.

For the last few years my daughter has had a high riser bed, with a wardrobe and a desk underneath.  My wonderful, generous friend gave it to us for free and it has been fantastic, but my daughter is now sixteen and wanted a more ‘grown up’ bedroom.

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So I spent a day taking it down and trying to find someone else who would like it, as it was in really good condition.  I knew no one who wanted it, so I rang a few charity shops that take furniture and I was amazed that none of them would take it as it was dismantled (even though I explained it wouldn’t come out of the bedroom if it wasn’t dismantled).

I then decided to put in on Freecycle and it was collected quickly.  This is what their website says:

“The worldwide Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It’s a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Our goal is to keep usable items out of landfills. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth. Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process.

There are now 581 Groups spread across the country, with 3,708,994 members!”

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My daughters bedroom is very small, but cosy.  I bought a cheap bed (which incidentally I had to replace the slats to strengthen it using old slats from another old bed) and a cheap canvas wardrobe.  I didn’t want to decorate at this time so I gave the curtains and nets a good wash and wiped the paintwork down.  I think the bedroom now looks lovely and my daughter is very pleased with it.

I made the quilt and curtains about five years ago and they are slightly faded but I think they still look good.  The bed and wardrobe came to approximately £120, which I don’t think is bad for a bedroom makeover and after a little alteration to the bed, I think it will last for years:

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 As a last ‘touch’ I put up a couple of strings of butterfly fairy lights around the picture rail.  I found the lights in the gardening ‘clearance’ section in Wilkinsons and managed to buy two sets for £5 and the bedroom looks beautiful now in the evening when the lights are twinkling.

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Taking stock ready for winter:

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This week has also given me time to take stock of what crops I have preserved or stored and those I still have growing at my allotment.  I now have an up todate list of what exactly is in my three freezers…

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… and what I have growing ready to use at my allotment and stored crops like potatoes, onions and apples:

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I have also moved my winter squashes into my greenhouse so they can ‘cure’ with a bit of protection from the frost (they will be moved inside my house soon for the winter).

By leaving the squashes in the sun to ‘cure’, the skin will harden and the squashes will store for longer. Move them inside when frosts are due.

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I also know exactly what is still growing at my allotment and will soon be ready to harvest e.g. brussells, leeks, parsnips and winter salads etc.

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And I know which of my last summer crops that need to be eaten up soon:

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I now have a list of exactly what I want to be growing on my allotment next year and I have been saving seed accordingly:

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And I managed to buy lots of seeds in the Wilkinson 75% off sale this week:

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So it has been a week of organising, but it has been nice to be inside while it has been so miserable outside.

Hopefully the weather will be better next week.

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

Have a good week!

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden in October

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed this information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books.  It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place.  So for the benefit of the UK gardeners, I will write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north.  Therefore, this is a general guide.

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Crab Apples

Crab Apples

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October

October is known to be wet, windy and cloudy, also fog is more likely than in September.  Don’t be caught out with frosts, as they can occur this month.

October is a lovely month as sunny days highlight the beautiful colours around the garden.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Harvest the last of your summer vegetables and salads before the first frosts e.g. sweetcorn, potatoes, beetroot, pumpkins and winter squashes, chillies, peppers, courgettes, patty pans, french beans, runner beans, peas, marrows, kohl rabi, lettuces, radish, celery, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Also harvest cabbages, kale, parsnips, peas, broccolli, celeriac, turnips, leeks, cauliflowers, brussells, carrots, winter radishes, swedes, and spinach.

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Fruit to harvest:

Apples, pears, autumn raspberries, cape gooseburys, grapes, late plums and the last perpetual strawberries.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Over-wintering broad beans, early summer cauliflowers, winter lettuces and over-wintering peas.

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Things to plant:

Garlic, overwintering onion sets and transplant spring cabbages.

Bare-rooted fruit bushes can be planted this month e.g. blackcurrants, cranberries, gooseberries, red and white currants, grape vines and strawberry plants.

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Jobs to do:

Earth up brussel sprouts to avoid the roots from loosening as the wind blows them.  This causes your sprouts to ‘blow’.

Keep removing yellow leaves from brassicas as these can harbour pests and diseases.

‘Cure’ pumpkins and butternut squashes by cutting them from the plant and leaving them in the sun to harden the skin, so they will store longer.  Bring them inside if a frost is forecast.

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Cut down the yellowing foliage of asparagus and jerusalem artichokes.

Dig any beds where the soil has become compacted and add manure or compost to the soil if required.

Clear away old bean poles and store them under cover if possible.

Lift carrots, beetroot, potatoes, turnips, swede and store.

Chop up and dig in green manures that won’t overwinter and sow green manures in beds that will remain empty until spring.

Cover late crops with cloches to give a bit of protection.

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Finish pruning summer raspberries and blackberries by removing this year’s fruiting canes and tie in this year’s new, non-fruiting canes.

Order new fruit bushes and fruit trees.

Dig over your potato patch to make sure you haven’t missed any smaller potatoes which will carry diseases and viruses into next year e.g. blight

Collect up leaves and store for one or two years to make leaf mould.

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Prepare globe artichokes for overwintering by cutting down the dead stems and yellowing foliage and spread a mulch of compost topped with straw over it.

Compost dead foliage.

Fix grease bands, or paint fruit tree grease on the trunks of fruit trees to prevent the winter moth from climbing up to lay their eggs.

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Do not prune cherries or plums now as this may allow the silver leaf fungus to enter the trees.

If you have a greenhouse, close the doors and windows in the early afternoon to ‘trap’ the heat.

Clean your greenhouse, wash the shade paint off the windows and work in organic matter into the soil, before sowing winter crops.

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Octobers pests and diseases:

Aphids on brassicas are likely to be at their worst this month.  Spray with a soft soap or wipe them between your fingers.

Leek moths finish feeding this month and you can find them in a cocoon where they pupate.  These can be picked off and destroyed.

If you haven’t already done so, net your brassicas from pigeons.

Check for brown rot on apples and pears and destroy the fruit.

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I hope the above information will be helpful.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time next Friday.  Until then, have a good weekend.