Archive | March 2016

Cleaning The Old Fashioned Way

As I said previously, I am having a break from my blog during March, but as promised I will share one of my favourite blog posts each Friday instead.

Below is one of the first posts that I talked about ‘old fashioned cleaning’….I hope you enjoy it:

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This week I’ve decided to write about  ‘cleaning the old fashion way’.  I am not saying I don’t ever use harsh chemicals, but I do try and minimize their use as much as possible now.

I simply feel that the old fashioned cleaning methods are just as good and often cheaper that our modern chemical cleaners.

Over the years we have all become more and more reliant on harsh chemicals and powerful cleaning products, in the hope that we can reduce cleaning time and eliminate all germs and bacteria.

I am very guilty of this as I used to proudly call myself the ‘Dettox Queen’, which I now feel very sad about, but we live and learn.

Some products contain chemicals that are toxic if ingested and when these products are used they are also released into the air of our homes and then inhaled or absorbed through our skin.

My opinion is, that this has somehow led to the increase of allergies and intolerances that children and adults now suffer with.  When I was a child most of these allergies were very rare or unheard of.  I also think that by excessively using ‘anti-bacterial’ products, we are also decreasing our resistance to bacteria and reducing our immune systems in ourselves and our children.

I remember there was a discussion on the television not so long ago, about chemicals found in breast milk.  Below is an interesting link regarding this:

www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/chems.asp

Something else that I should also mention is that chemicals can threaten the environment, animal and plant life, when they are leaked out through our drains and into the watercourses below, so I think this is a good enough reason alone for me to reduce my usage of them.

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So this is what I use:

Old Fashioned Cleaning Products

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Lemon juice – this is a mild acid which has a bleaching and deodorising effect.  It also dissolves grease.  It is an antibacterial and antifungal cleaner.

White vinegar – it’s cheap and harmless to use and is a good multi-purpose cleaner.  It is especially good as a glass and mirror cleaner and removes limescale easily.

Bicarbarnate of soda (also known as Sodium bicarbonate and bicarb, and baking soda) – this can be mixed with lemon juice, vinegar or just water to produce a gentle abrasive paste that is a great stain remover and a multi-purpose cleaner.  It’s good for cleaning tea and coffee stains on cups and cleaning stainless steel items.  It is best known for how good it is at deodorising smells as it absorbs odours and neautralises them, so it is good to use in the fridge, in shoes and to remove odours from carpets.

Lavender Essential Oil – I use this on some pot pourri near my toilet instead of an airfreshner.

Tea tree Essential Oil – This has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, so I add a few drops to my vinegar spray in my kitchen.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil – This oil is great for removing grease and oil, for example, around cookers.

I must stress it is always best to test these products on small hidden areas when you first use them.

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You can find more information on all the above ‘old fashioned’ cleaning products here.

I hope someone will find this information useful.

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Tonight for tea we had ‘Spinach and Poached Egg Florentine’ served with home grown new potatoes and a freshly picked salad.

The recipe is here:

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Spinach and Poached Egg Florentine:

500g Spinach, washed and any thick stems removed

4 Eggs

A little bit of olive oil or a knob of butter to fry

1/2 pint of a plain white sauce

Grated Cheese to sprinkle over the top

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Fry the spinach in a little olive oil or with a knob of butter, until just tender

Make the white sauce

Arrange the spinach in an oven proof dish with four wells in for eagg each.

Break an egg into each well and pour over the white sauce.

Sprinkle cheese on the top

Bake for 12 minutes on Gas 5 / 190C / 375F and then increase heat for 10 minutes to Gas 6 / 204C / 400F

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Spinach and Egg Florentine

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Thank you for reading my b;og today.

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A Wild flower Patch And A ‘Thyme’ Capsule

As I said previously, I am having a break from my blog during March, but as promised I will share one of my favourite blog posts each Friday instead.

The blog post below was written in August 2012  and again these are memories that I am so glad I wrote about:

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My Wildflower Patch:

When I took on allotment plot number four, I inherited two sheds.  I already had a shed so I offered the larger shed to my sister, who had taken on the plot next to me and the smaller shed to one of my other allotment friends.

I was left which a patch of really poor quality, rock hard soil, that needed an awful lot of organic matter digging into it before any fruit or vegetables could possibly be grown there.

While I was deciding what to grow there, I saw a program by Sarah Raven called ‘Bees, butterflies and Blooms’. She explained how 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows and grass lands have been lost and how the world’s bees and other pollinating insects are in crisis and without these pollinators our future food security is under threat.   Her mission was to encourage farmers and village communities to help recreate a network of habitats for struggling bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.

I was blown away by the beauty of the wildflowers that she showed on her program and I wasn’t the only one to feel this way either.  In fact, the designers of the 10 football fields-worth of wildflowers, at this years olympics, were influenced by Sarah Ravens TV program.  Also, wildflowers sales have apparently tripled this year.

All I did to prepare for the seeds, was forked the ground, weeded and then raked, where my sheds once stood. I didn’t add any organic matter.  Then at the end of May, my daughter and I sowed a few different packets of wildflower seeds, using dry sand to distribute them evenly.

I have found that Wild flowers are not only beautiful, but they are really easy to maintain, as they don’t require watering or deadheading.  They attract all kinds of beneficial insects and I have found it incredibly relaxing watching all the insects come and go, in fact I think, it’s absolutely amazing.  Everytime I look, I see bees, hoverflies, ladybirds etc. there is so much insect activity going on all the time.

I am so proud of my wildflower patch.  I have Corncockle, corn chamomile, cornflowers, corn marigolds, corn poppies, white campion, phacelia, borage and essex broad red clover, to name a few.   I will definitely be sowing more seed next year.

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Our ‘Thyme’ Capsule:

In June this year, we made a family time capsule and I thought it would be good to share this with you.

We purchased an airtight & watertight plastic box and filled it with all sorts of things to show how we live.

My daughters wrote about their favourite things e.g. their friends, favourite pop groups and all about their school.  They put pictures of their mobile phones, our television and some of their games.  They put pictures of their bedrooms and toys and wrote about their hobbies.

My husband and I wrote about our lives and the allotment.  We put pictures of our allotment neighbours and wrote about how we love it there.  We also wrote all about the food that we harvest and eat from our allotment.

We all took it in turns to dig a very deep hole at the back of our plot, in a grassed area under our apple tree.

My daughter dropped the box in the hole and we covered it up again.

We wondered how we would remember exactly where it is and came up with the idea of putting a plant over it.  After a few milli-seconds of thinking, it was decided that the only plant that could possibly be planted there, would be ‘Thyme’.

So here it is, waiting to be discovered in years to come, when we are long forgotten.

I wonder what will be in this spot in another hundred years time?

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

Two Wonderful Days

As I said previously, I am having a break from my blog during March, but as promised I will share one of my favourite blog posts each Friday instead.

The blog post below was written in August 2012 and the two days are very nice memories that I had completely forgotten about until now:

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On Sunday I invited my family round for ‘Afternoon Tea’.

Originally my ‘Afternoon Tea’ was intended for just the ‘ladies’ of the family.  However, all the men folk wanted to come too, so it became a whole family occasion.

This has now become a regular thing over the last few years, as everyone seemed to enjoy it.  This time there were 18 people including my 1 year old great nephew, so I was grateful that the weather stayed fine, so we could all sit and eat outside.

I took out my best ‘china’ tea set for the occasion (which I bought second hand from ebay).

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This time I decided to have an ‘allotment’ theme to my afternoon tea:

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I started by serving Patty Pan Soup and homemade bread.

My wonderful sister made sandwiches for everyone this year to help me, so we served these next.

Afterwards I served the cakes.

To keep with my allotment theme, I served the following:

A Chocolate Beetroot Cake, with chocolate butter icing and a chocolate topping,

A Pumpkin and Orange Cake,

A Rhubarb and Ginger Cake,

 

Blackberry Flapjacks,

 

Apple & Yellow Plum Muffins,

 

And Chocolate Courgette Cakes

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This was all served with lots of Tea and Coffee and a homemade Raspberry Cordial.

It did take quite a while to bake all the cakes, but everyone seemed to have a lovely time.

 The recipes for the Patty Pan Soup, Chocolate Beetroot Cake and the Chocolate Courgette cakes, are in the ‘recipe section’ at the top of the page.

I really enjoyed the day with my family.

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The very next day:

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Yesterday, the four of us went for a lovely family day out to Skegness in Lincolnshire.

Skegness is a well known place for a day trip when you live in Leicester, as we do.  It’s one of the nearest beaches to us.

It took two hours to drive there.

Skegness has a reputation of being a bit ‘tacky’ with the amusements and ‘cheap’ shops, but for a day on the beach you can’t beat it.

We took a big picnic, chairs, buckets and spades, etc. and had a wonderful cheap day, making sandcastles, playing cricket, collecting shells, etc and chatting about life.

The weather was good and the sea was calm and I had fun with my husband and daughters.

Two wonderful days with family, what more could anyone want in life?

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

What To Do In Your Kitchen Garden In March

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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March:

March can have some beautiful spring-like days, but don’t be fooled as it can also turn very cold.  Snow isn’t unheard of in March and frosts are still common this month.  March is the month when there is the most difference between the weather in the north and the south, but March is usually a little bit dryer than in January and February.  The sun’s rays are beginning to grow stronger and daylight hours are lengthening so it can feel warm on a sunny afternoon but it can also feel bitterly cold, in cloudy, windy weather.

So March is the month to be cautious and to sow in pots and trays in a cold frame or greenhouse for earlier crops.  Remember, if you sow too early in cold, wet ground you will probably be disappointed, as your seeds will just rot.  It is safer to delay your sowings.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Harvest your last celeriac, swede, parsnips, brussel sprouts, endive and Jerusalem artichokes, if you haven’t already and continue to harvest kale, leeks, winter lettuces, mizuna and corn salad.  Harvest your first rhubarb, Swiss chard, spring broccoli, cauliflowers, chicory, hardy spring onions and loose spring cabbages.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Broad beans, Sprouting broccoli, spring onions, cabbages (red and white), calabrese, early cauliflowers, spinach, peas, lettuces, leeks can all be sown outside towards the end of the month, if the soil has been covered to warm it up, otherwise sow in cloches or in cold frames or indoors if it is really cold.

Lettuces, spring onions, radishes, rocket and herbs such as chives, coriander, fennel, oregano and parsley can all tolerate low temperatures, but cover with fleece if a frost is forecast. Again, the protection of a cold frame is advisable for germination.

Brussels, globe artichokes, cabbages, cucumbers, celeriac, aubergines, chillies, sweet peppers, kohl rabi, sprouting broccoli and tomatoes can all be sown indoors, either on a window sill or in a heated greenhouse.

  Look at each seed packet for the temperature required for each individual vegetable to germinate.

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

Peas and broad beans can be planted outside if you started them off in pots in a cold frame.  Shallot sets can be planted this month and onion sets can be planted this month or next month.  Early summer cauliflowers and jerusalem artichokes can be planted out too.

Pot up ‘cold stored’ strawberry plants and bring inside for early strawberries or plant outside.

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First early potatoes can be planted this month in well prepared soil.  Also, asparagus crowns can be planted in pre-prepared trenches.

Rhubarb sets can still be planted now and so too can blackberries, cranberries, gooseberries and all currants.  Raspberries, grapevines can be planted too.

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Jobs to do:

Feed overwintering crops with a top dressing of fertilizer such as blood, fish and bone or a seaweed fertiliser.

Rake your soil to a ‘fine tilth’ before sowing directly.

Apply an organic fertiliser approximately two weeks before planting crops such as shallot sets, broad bean plants etc.

Split chives every three or four years to make more free plants.

Weeds will start to grow more this month so it’s time to bring out your hoe and dig out any perennial weeds before they take hold.

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Finish winter pruning of blueberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants.  Autumn raspberries should be cut back down to the ground if this wasn’t done last month, as autumn raspberries fruit on the new years growth.

Feed fruit trees and fruit bushes with a high potash feed.  Sprinkle it around them and cover with compost or manure.

Keep removing yellowing leaves from brassicas as they can spread diseases and harbor pests.

If possible, cover cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines with fleece when a frost is due to avoid frost damage

Complete your winter digging and warm the soil with plastic before planting.

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March pests and diseases:

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

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

Slugs can be a problem even in early spring.

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

Cabbage white caterpillars can appear this month if the weather is mild and they have overwintered.  Inspect the leaves of brassica’s and pick them off if you find them.

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

Cover nectarines and peaches with a rain-proof sheet to protect against peach leaf curl.

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I hope this information has been helpful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.