Archive | January 2015

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In February…

I decided to do my usual monthly blog post a few days early, as I have something that I want to share with you next week…I hope you don’t mind too much.

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When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed the 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 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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February:

It is said that if February starts with cloud and rain then winter is virtually over, especially if there is a westerly wind.  Though it is also said that if the wind is in the east at the beginning of the month then winter will be here for some weeks to come.

February can be one of the coldest months of the year, with afternoon temperatures not rising much above freezing.  Blustery winds can bring heavy snow fall too.   However in a milder February, afternoon temperatures can reach 10C in the Midlands.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Brussels, kale, cabbages, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, cauliflowers, swedes, Jerusalem artichokes, hardy lettuces, corn salad, land cress and winter purslane, mizuna, chicory, endive and early sprouting broccoli.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Broad beans can be sown outside if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Hardy peas can be planted outside in milder areas or undercover.

Onions can be grown from seed in modules, but they must have a minimum temperature of 10C.

Early varieties of Kohl rabi, brussel sprouts and sprouting broccoli can be sown this month indoors and Globe artichokes, rhubarb, lettuce and salad leaves, leeks, radish, coriander, parsley, basil, spinach and greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers too.

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Things to plant (if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged):

Garlic can be planted outside.

Bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes can be planted.

Jerusalem artichokes can be dug up and re-planted and rhubarb sets can also be planted this month.

Shallots can be planted this month too (though I prefer to plant mine undercover in modules).

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Jobs to do:

Lift your remaining Jerusalem artichokes and dig in some compost or manure.  Replant them 10-15cm deep, 30-40cm apart.

Warm the soil where you will be soon planting crops e.g. broad beans or shallots, by covering with plastic or cardboard.

Continue to plant bare-rooted trees and fruit bushes.

Cut down autumn raspberries to just above ground level, as they produce fruit on new growth during the summer.

Give your compost heap a turn and water it if it is dry.

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Finish digging your plot over if it is not waterlogged or frozen, incorporating compost or manure if required.  If it is just a little bit wet, use a plank to stand on while you dig, to spread your weight evenly.

Don’t forget to feed the birds and top up water for them to drink.

Keep removing any yellow fallen leaves around your brassicas as these can harbor pests.

Order any seeds for the coming year and plan this year’s crop rotation.

Weed and mulch around established fruit trees.

Continue to fill your runner bean trenches with old peelings.

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Check the fruit and vegetables that you have stored. Remember that one bad fruit or vegetable can destroy the whole crop if you don’t remove it quick enough.

Bullfinches love the newly forming buds, especially on gooseberries, apple, pears and plums. If you have had a problem in the past then nets are the only solution.

Continue to cover the white cauliflowers with their green leaves bent over them, to protect them from frost and light.

Finish pruning fruit trees and bushes (except cherries and plums) unless the weather has turned very cold.  They will start to come out of their dormancy in March.

Buy seed potatoes and ‘chit’ them by putting them in egg boxes or trays with their ‘eyes’ facing upwards.  Leave them in a cool, light room.

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Check all your tree stakes and fruit supports are stable and repair if necessary while plants are dormant.

‘Force’ rhubarb by covering the crown with an upside down dustbin.

Feed fruit bushes with a high potash feed or blood, fish and bone and then mulch.

If you grow apricots, peaches or nectarines in a sheltered, south facing spot, then they may start to blossom in February.  Cover them to protect them from rain and frost.  You may have to hand pollinate the flowers.

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February pests and diseases:

Mice and rats love to dig up and eat newly planted broad beans, early pea seeds and garlic.

Slugs can still be a problem even in February.

Pigeons are hungry and love eating brassicas so keep them netted.

Bull finches love the new buds on gooseberries, so net them early.

Check apple and pear trees for signs of canker and cut out any diseased wood.

Check for ‘big bud mite’ on blackcurrants.  The buds will actually look big and swollen if affected.

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I hope this information has been helpful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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A Week Of Organising…..

This week has been a busy week in the ‘Thrift’ household for me.  It has been a week of catching up with some of the jobs that I just haven’t had time to do over the last few months.

The first Snowdrop at my allotment

The first Snowdrop at my allotment

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As I said previously, the last few months have been quite stressful for myself and Mr Thrift and unfortunately my usual routines have gone out of the window and leading up to Christmas, I felt exhausted.  This has certainly had a knock-on effect, as I have noticed we have spent more and more money at the supermarket on products that I would usually make myself.

I bought washing powder for the first time in ages (and my goodness isn’t it expensive) and more dishwasher tablets than I would usually buy.   I have also been buying vegetables that I would normally just go and dig up from my allotment over winter (cabbages, carrots, leeks, kale, brussells etc) and I have been buying bread and pizza’s to save time…..but this has all had an effect on the bank account and I’ve got to say we also started to get out of the routine of sitting down as a family for our meals.

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“So onwards and upwards”…. it’s time for a change!

So I decided it was time for me to establish a new routine (as best I can at the moment) and start to go back to basics again.

I started this week by making my own laundry liquid.  It took just 15 – 20 minutes to make and it will last me approximately 70 washes and last time I worked it out, it cost me just £1.75 to make (far cheaper than buying it).  The recipe is here if you are interested in how I make it.

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I then set about making some dishwasher liquid using the soap nuts I have in my cupboard.  Again it is cheap and quick to make and it washes well.  However, I do use a supermarket dishwasher tablet every third wash as I find this stops the grease from building up inside my dishwasher.

Again the recipe is here if you are interested in making it.

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I then gave my food cupboards and pantry a really good clean and tidy and discovered that I have more things in them than I remembered:

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I even found some Christmas cake that needs eating up , that I had completely forgotten about:

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I also took stock of what I have left in my freezers too (this took quite some time as I have three large freezers).  I found I still have a lot of fruit and vegetables still to be used up, which is good news.

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One of my three freezers

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I then looked at my stored crops and I found I still have a big pumpkin and lots of butternut squashes to use.  As it’s January and they have been stored a while, I will need to think about using them up soon:

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Outside in my vegetable storage boxes I also still have potatoes waiting to be used and a few apples are left too:

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So I have discovered that we still have lots left to eat in my cupboards and storage.

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I then decided it was time to keep organised and on top of things:

Firstly at the end of last week I started to hang my washing out in the morning on a regular basis again.  It seldom completely dries outside in winter (unless it is windy), but it does partly dry which means I can usually just air it inside to finish it off.  This saves money as I don’t need to use the tumble dryer so much.

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An Organised Shopping List:

A long time ago I typed up a big list of products I regularly brought from the supermarket, so I could compare prices (this was before Mysupermarket.co.uk existed, which now does the hard work for you).  I decided to update this list and print out a few copies to hang on my pantry door.  This way I can quickly mark down which products I need to buy when I next go to the shops.

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Batch Baking:

I then set about batch baking some chocolate brownies ready to freeze for my daughters lunchbox (it’s easy to just pop a frozen brownie in her lunchbox each morning and it will be defrosted by lunchtime):

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 I also made some rolls for the first time in ages and they tasted so delicious, they were eaten up really quickly.

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Meals From Scratch:

This week I have finally started to cook my meals from scratch again.  We have also started to have some nice puddings too (even though they were very quick to make, especially the microwave chocolate sponge) :

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So all in all it has been a good, positive week for me at home.

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Other bits and pieces:

After my blog post last week (Problems With Our Rescue Dog Judy), I had some lovely comments – thank you all for your kind words and encouragement.

Mrs Yub said something that stuck in my head:

“Your wee doggie has a different look in her eyes in the last picture from what she had in her first! I can see the difference. It’s a calmer, more confident look”

So I dug out a photograph which I took of Judy when she first arrived home with us in October from the RSPCA and compared it with a photograph I took this week.  I can really see how much she has changed and how she looks so much better now, so thank you for pointing this out to me as I just hadn’t noticed this.

  In the first photo she looks very thin……

Her first week with us in October

Her first week with us in October

….but I am glad to say that Mrs Yub you are right…I think she does look a lot happier and healthier in the photograph that I took this week:

This week

This week

Her training is still going well and I am starting to have some nice, longer walks with her now she isn’t reacting quite so badly at other dogs.  However, the walk to and from the park is still hard with her as she is still so scared of the buses, motorbikes and lorries on the main road outside the park……but we are working on this slowly with lots of treats.

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Finally I want to show you something my daughter made.  It was her friend’s birthday and she wanted to give her something special, so she made her some cup cakes and iced them beautifully.  She didn’t have a box to put them in so she used wrapping paper to decorate an empty sweet tub too:

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I think it looked great and I would love to receive this birthday present.  I was very proud of her!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Problems With Our Rescue Dog Judy

It seems a long time since I last wrote my blog and I am glad to be back.

Unfortunately Christmas didn’t go as planned, as my daughters were both really poorly with a horrible sickness bug and we didn’t have our Christmas dinner until New Years day.  But I suppose this gave us the chance to rest and not rush around as we normally do over the Christmas period.

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Unfortunately 2014 wasn’t kind to us and it certainly had some very low moments, especially when my father-in-law passed away in July.  We also now have some family problems which I really cannot talk about on my blog at the moment, but we are a strong family and we are dealing with them.

The strain of the last two or three years has started to show on the ‘thrift’ household and myself and Mr Thrift have been forced into making some painful decisions, which I will talk about when the time is right.  For now, I will only say that we are in the planning stage, but however painful the changes are going to be for me, they are necessary and I know that as one door closes another one opens.  I also know that it is the way we react to circumstances that determines our feelings….so whatever we decide, I will embrace it.

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(PLEASE NOTE THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE I WROTE THIS BLOG POST AND THE METHODS I WAS USING WITH THIS BEHAVIOURIST JUST DIDN’T WORK FOR JUDY).

Today I want to talk about one of the problems we have been having……Judy, our four year old rescue dog.

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website before we brought her home.

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Some of you will remember I wrote about Judy in October when we first brought her home.  The RSPCA said she was a ‘little bit’ nervous and worried and could live with a male dog.

I grew up with a dog and looked after my sister’s dog on various occaisions over the years and I considered myself experienced around dogs…….I now know I knew nothing about dog behaviour and I have had to learn the hard way.

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Judy was very thin when she came to us and the RSPCA had said she had been quite sick when she first came to them.  I know now that this was due to anxiety, as she is far more than just a ‘little bit’ nervous and worried.  I also know that there is no way she could ever live with another dog, but the RSPCA had no way of knowing this.

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Judy is a very, very loving dog and everyone that meets her at home adores her.  However we noticed after the first week at home that she started to bark madly at the television if there was a dog on it and this got worse and worse until she would bark at dogs, cartoons, and even woman with ‘big’ hair.  She also barked madly at the washing machine, the hoover (even biting the attachment agressively) and then she began barking uncontrollably at every little sound she heard at home.

Training at home was good though, as very soon I had managed to get Judy to ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and even ‘roll over’, so I knew she could be trained.  From day one I discovered she didn’t know how to ‘play’ (which I found very sad) and I began trying to teach her.

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  But outside the home by week three or four she was barking at people with hats on and a poor man with a balaclava on got barked at everyday when he passed us.  She had also started to react badly to any dogs on leads when I walked her and then lunging and barking at any dogs that came near her to play on the park, until on the 6th of December she actually bit a dog and hurt it…..I was mortified.  The other dog owner was lovely about it, but I was so upset I raced upto the RSPCA to ask for advice.   Unfortunately they sold me a muzzle which I put on her straight away (which she hated) when I went out and they advised me to feed her treats when she reacted to dogs -but she wouldn’t take them at all.

I read whatever I could to help with Judy, but nothing seemed to work with her outside the house.

The final straw was a lady  (I use this term loosely) with a pram and the most perfect dog, shouting at me on two separate occaisions, saying that my dog was out of control (even though she was on a lead and muzzled both times).   I felt really upset as I knew that I was struggling with Judy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to give up on her, though I knew others would have in my situation.

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I contacted the RSPCA and the Dogs trust in desperation for help and the Dogs trust gave me a couple of associations that could point me in the right direction for a good dog behavourist.

The behaviourist spent two hours with me and explained to me that it was very likely that Judy had long standing issues with other dogs but her behaviour was inhibited at the beginning by her nervousness with the trauma of going into kennels and as she has become more settled she has become more confident in showing this behaviour.

She advised me to buy a plug in diffuser in the house (which gives out a mothers natural pheromone that helps to calm puppies and dogs) and she also advised me to buy a kalm aid to add to her food.  She advised me to buy a front harness and to remove the muzzle I had been using and buy a basket muzzle and get her used to it before putting it on.

So the next day I started to drive Judy to the top field of our park where less dogs go and started to train her.  I first had to learn how near to dogs she could get before she reacted and try to avoid this, as basically she wouldn’t take treats when she was scared.  When Judy first looked at a dog, the behaviourist had taught me to call Judy and give her a treat which I did and over the last month I have been managing to get nearer and nearer to off-lead dogs without her reacting.

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Unfortunately, last week I had a bump in our car and it’s been in the garage for repairs, so this has forced me into walking Judy to the park gates again and we sometimes see dogs on leads.  Also when we get to the park we now have to walk in an area where there are more dogs running around off lead.

By watching Judy’s body language when we have been walking to the park gates this week (just five minutes from my house), I have realised that Judy is also scared of motorbikes and buses as she walks along the road, so I have been giving out lots of treats whilst walking to the park gates, so she associates the walk with good things as advised by the behaviourist.

She is still sometimes reacting to dogs on leads, but I am managing to keep this under control with treats.

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December

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My ultimate aim is for Judy to walk calmly past ‘pram lady and perfect dog’ with a smug smile on my face.

Being realistic though, I know that Judy’s training will be on going and I will always need to be careful of her stress levels when she is outside. I know that my dream of chatting to other dog walkers while walking Judy will probably never happen.

I also know it’s not a good idea to have Judy with me at the allotment either as birds and squirrels stress her out too.  She also suffers from separation anxiety, so I don’t like to leave her on her own for too long (I am also working on this with the behaviourist at the moment).

So as I said at the beginning of my post, with everything else going on with our family at the moment, myself and Mr Thrift have some important decisions to be make.

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The one thing we do know though, is Judy is now part of our family and we love her to bits.  We certainly don’t want to give up on her.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

 

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In January

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed the 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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January:

Up until now we have had mild weather and some very cold weather.

  In mild winters it is common for rain and gales in January and if the weather does turn cold, then snow is more likely to lay on the ground for longer than it would have done in December.  The coldest temperatures of the year will usually occur at the end of January.

Daylight is lengthening slightly every day, but January does feel like a very dark and gloomy month.  However, it’s an exciting time for gardeners as it is time to plan your plot and decide exactly what you want to grow in the coming year.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Brussels, kale, cabbages, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, cauliflowers, swedes, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, winter radish, hardy lettuces, corn salad, land cress and winter purslane, sprouting broccoli.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

It’s too cold to sow seeds outdoors as they will rot in the cold, wet conditions.  Broad beans or garlic can still be sown in a cold greenhouse or cloche when the ground isn’t frozen or too wet.

You can get an early start by sowing the following seeds indoors: Leeks, onions, peas, radish, salad leaves and spinach.

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Things to plant (if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged):

Rhubarb can be split and re-planted this month.

Continue planting bare root trees and bushes while they are dormant.

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Jobs to do:

Work out what you will be growing this year and either buy or order your seeds.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables to make sure they are not rotting.  If one rots, it can rot them all if it isn’t removed.

Protect cauliflowers from frost through the coldest months by wrapping their leaves over the curds.

Continue to prune fruit trees and bushes (except cherries and plums) unless the weather has turned very cold.

Check stakes and ties on fruit trees and bushes are not worn or broken.

Prune your grape vines.  Next month it will be too late as the sap will start to rise.

Check your nets are still in place to protect your brassicas from pigeons.

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Continue with your winter digging if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Spread compost or well-rotted manure over your soil and either dig it in or let the worms do the work for you.

If it snows, keep an eye on your polytunnels as snow can get heavy.  Carefully remove snow to stop any damage.

Wash seed trays and pots ready for seed sowing and ‘pricking out’.

Sharpen tools such as hoes and secateurs.

Start ‘chitting’ seed potatoes by placing them in trays or old egg boxes with their ‘eyes’ facing upwards.  Store them somewhere cool and light.

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January pests and diseases:

Slugs can still be a problem even in winter.

Pigeons are hungry and love eating brassicas.

Bull finches love the new buds on gooseberries, so net them early.

Leaves can kill grass and start to spread diseases like downy mildew if they are left on your vegetables.

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I hope this information has been helpful.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be next Friday with my plans for 2015.