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A Busy Week In The Garden

Well I can’t start today without mentioning the wonderful celebrations that went on in Leicester on Monday evening at ‘Leicester City’s Victory parade’.  I watched it all on the TV, but Mr Thrift was lucky enough to enjoy the parade at Victoria Park with my sisters and brother-in-laws, together with approximately 220,000 other people….this was absolutely amazing as Leicester City’s population is only 330,000!

Mr Thrift said the atmosphere was wonderful and it was an evening that he will always remember.  This event really did bring the city together.

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This Week In The Garden:

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The nights have been cold this week in the garden so I have made sure that my tender plants have been under cover at night.  I will continue to keep a close eye on the weather forecast for now.

However, as the end of May is near I decided to plant a few things making sure they have adequate protection just in case there are still cold nights to come.

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I started by planting out the runner beans I sowed three weeks ago in newspaper pots (they grow so quickly).  I put up some bean poles for them to climb up and then planted the beans.  I also planted some nasturtiums that I sowed two or three weeks ago from seed around the beans, as these attract the blackfly away from the beans – also if there are no blackfly around, I add the leaves to salads as they have a lovely mild peppery taste.

I then put some glass around the plants to give a bit of protection:

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I then planted out my outdoor cucumbers which are a variety called ‘Burpless tasty green’ which I have been growing for a number of years. Over the years I have had fantastic crops of outdoor cucumbers in warm summers, but I have also had one or two years where the plants just sat and sulked in the cold, wet conditions…..I’m keeping my fingers crossed the weather is good for this years crop!

I support the cucumbers by tying them to canes as they grow….but for now I have given them some protection from the cold and slugs by covering them with old pop bottles until they are established:

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I have also used pop bottles to cover the parsley I planted this week, as these plants are still small.  I again grew the parsley in newspaper pots, as this stops any root disturbance to the plant and the newspaper just decomposes in the soil.

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This week I also ‘squeezed’ in some beetroot into my plot (again sown in newspaper pots and covered in bottles for protection until they are established) ….

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I then planted my red cabbages which again I had grown from seed.  I made sure that I used my foot to firm around each plant as brassicas grow best in firm soil and then I put a home made cabbage collar around each plant to stop cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of the plants.

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I then planted my swedes in an area next to my cabbages so I could put a net over the whole lot to stop the birds, as they LOVE to eat brassica leaves!

Just before I put the net over the brassicas I sowed a ‘catch crop’ of radish between the cabbages to make use of every spare piece of ground:

“A ‘Catch Crop’ is a crop that reaches maturity in a relatively short time, which makes use of the ground in between crops until they are established”

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I also planted some spring onions that I grew from seed in a small area under my environmesh that was not being used, next to my garlic:

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And I planted some khol rabi under my net in a space next to my Spring cabbage:

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As my kitchen garden is small, I am determined to grow as much as possible in every spare bit of ground I can find….however I also want to make the area look attactive with flowers for me and for the beneficial insects.  These insects will in turn pollinate my crops and eat the pests that visit my garden.

So this week I planted some Calendula that I grew from seed:

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Calendula is a hardy annual that I grew for years at my allotment and I also grew some last year in my new kitchen garden too.

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‘Calendula Alley’ at my allotment

Hoverflies, bees and butterflies all love the Calendula flowers and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads….so I think it’s always good to try and squeeze some of them into a vegetable garden somewhere:

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This week my mangetout was ready to plant out.  I had sown it in guttering a couple of weeks ago and kept it in my mini-greenhouse until it had germinated, as I think I get a far better rate of seed germination this way:

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I decided to put the mangetout in my new planter as my polyanthus and cowslips had just about finished flowering.  I don’t know if you remember but I bought all fourteen plants from my local nursery in the middle of April for just 40p each…..and they have flowered continuously since then, so this was a real bargain:

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I moved each plant to a different place in the garden to flower again another year.  I then added a bit more compost and a handful of blood, fish and bone to the planter and then I planted the mangetout …. hopefully it will grow up the trellis at the back.

I will add more plants to the planter another day:

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Another job I did this week was to ‘thin’ my leeks once again as there seemed to be so many growing in the tray.  Hopefully they will grow stronger now there are less of them….I must remember not to sow them so thickly next year!

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 I also ‘thinned’ my carrot seedlings which I am keeping in my greenhouse.  Normally it is best to ‘thin out’ carrot seedlings in the evenings to help prevent carrot rootfly, however as I thinned them out in the greenhouse then they will hopefully be ok.

I sowed these seeds far too thickly as the seed packet was a few years old and I thought most of them wouldn’t germinate….I was very wrong!

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Back in March I sowed some ‘cut and come again’ lettuce in my greenhouse and we have had a good supply of salad leaves over the last month or so. However the supply of leaves was just about finished and so I decided it was time to pull them up together with the remaining radish that I had sown around the edge of the salad leaves.

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This made room for me to plant my remaining indoor tomatoes.  As you can see from roots in the photo below, the tomatoes were ready to be planted:

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I also planted a couple of french marigolds next to the tomatoes as they are said to repel aphids and they look pretty too.

My greenhouse seems to be growing well at the moment and this week I noticed I have my first little cucumber growing.  I am being very careful not to overwater the cucumber plants as they don’t like to sit in wet compost.

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I am still continually tying my cucumbers and tomatoes to their supports as they grow and I am removing side shoots from the tomatoes when I spot them.

I also had room to plant some lettuces in my greenhouse that I have been growing from seed….I am trying very hard this year to have a continuous supply of salads (as we eat such a lot):

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Around the garden this week I have been weeding as we had some nice dry days at the beginning of the week.  Unfortunately I have been finding a lot of bindweed growing in a particular bed so I have been digging out as much of it as possible.  Provided I keep removing the top of the bindweed after it emerges out of the soil, it will eventually exhaust itself and die – but this takes a long time.

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Improving our lawn area:

Finally this week I turned my attention to our lawn.  After using a ‘log roll’ a couple of weeks ago against our fence I found had a tiny bit of it spare, so I cut it in half with a saw and fitted it neatly around our bay tree:

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I was very pleased with the results.

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I then decided to take off an inch of our lawn at the end, to make it easier to mow and keep tidy:

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While I was doing this I found a ‘leather jacket’ so I took a photo to show you….

“Leatherjackets are the larvea of craneflies (daddy long-legs) that live in the soil.  They can be very damaging to lawns and can eat the roots and stem bases of small flower and vegetable plants.  There are usually more around after a wet autumn”

  For now I won’t do anything about the leatherjackets, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any damage in this area.

There is a lot of information about Leatherjacket damage on the RHS website here.

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We have now managed to stop yellow patches appearing on our lawn by pouring water on the grass every time Judy (our dog) goes to the toilet.

However at one end of our grass there are still some bare patches where Judy used to run around going mad at next doors dog when he came out.  Judy is a lot calmer now and so I decided to reseed these patches.

I covered the new seeded areas with whatever I could find to stop Judy from running over it…hopefully soon the seeds will germinated and then thicken up quickly:

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It has been lovely spending so much time in my garden this week, especially as Judy has been ‘calmly’ waiting for me, enjoying the sun……this is something that I never thought she would do, so I savour every peaceful moment of it:

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

Have a great week!

XX

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An Amazing Night For ‘The Blues’ & Potting On

Well I can only say that Monday night was amazing for Leicester, which is where I live ….. Mark Selby from Leicester, won his second World Snooker Championship and Spurs and Chelsea drew 2-2, which meant that Leicester City Football club were now ‘CHAMPIONS OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE’ (I never thought I would write that sentence on my blog).

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My family are big Leicester city supporters and Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law take my 85 year old dad and stepmum to all the home matches.  I also used to be a season ticket holder before our girls were born, in fact I still went to watch them when I was heavily pregant and I couldn’t fit through the turnstyles any longer and had to use the disabled entrance!

So early the next day we decorated the windows of our house with flags and posters.

The BBC news reported that on Monday evening the streets of Leicester were full of fans celebrating and from the minute the whistle blew to confirm LCFC were champions, I could hear people shouting “champions” and cars ‘hooting their horns’ into the early hours of the morning.

Myself and Mr Thift went down to the stadium the next day and there were still hundreds of people there celebrating, together with numerous TV cameras from around the world:

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We also met a ‘Vardy’ look-alike and had blue ice creams while we were there.

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  The atmosphere in Leicester at the moment is amazing (especially as this is all so soon after discovering Richard III underneath a Leicester city car park last year). 

We are a multicultural city and every race and religion are celebrating together, as we are all so very proud to live in our city! 

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In my garden this week:

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The weather has gone from snow and hail showers to beautiful warm days and the Spring flowers are still looking stunning in my garden:

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I started the week by planting some spring onions around my tomato plants in my greenhouse.  I am determined to use every single space in my garden possible to grow as many things as I can.

I started the spring onions in modules a few weeks ago as I find they germinate and grow better this way.  I put a pinch of seed in each module, but I don’t thin the seeds out as the onions will grow happily together and when I harvest them I pull up a ‘bunch’ at a time:

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I also planted three more tomato plants in the greenhouse and sowed some radish in between them.  I added some marigolds that I had grown from seed, (marigolds emit a strong odour that repels greenfly and blackfly and they will also add colour to my greenhouse):

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I continued to plant peas this week.  I planted the rest of my climbing peas against our outhouse wall:

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And some dwarf peas in the new area of my garden that I created last autumn:

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Also I found a small, empty spot that I had forgotten about, so I planted the remainder of my sweet peas here in a pot.  I will be dotting flowers all around my garden in the next few weeks, to attract as many beneficial insects as possible:

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I have also been potting up some of my plants that have grown too big for their pots, but it is too early to plant them out (because there is still a risk of frost in my area until at least the end of this month).  I know they have grown too big for their pots as their roots have begun to grow out of the bottom:

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I have repotted my tegetes, antirrhinums, marigolds, thyme, chervil, dill, sage, oregano and my remaining greenhouse tomatoes.  I have grown all of these plants from seed, which I think has saved me a lot of money over all and I also enjoy growing things from seed too.

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As I was potting my tomato plants up I noticed that there were side shoots growing on the plants, so I ‘nipped’ them off using my finger and thumb.  You can tell which the side shoots are, as they always grow between the main stem and a leaf:

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I will be continually ‘nipping’ off the side shoots on all my tomatoes as they grow, as these sideshoots are unproductive and take energy from the main plant.

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I also sowed some more seeds again this week…..I started with some mangetout as my youngest daughter and Mr Thrift LOVE these fried in a bit of butter.  Again, I used guttering to sow them into and I will keep them in my mini greenhouse until they germinate, as I seem to get a better germination rate this way:

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I also sowed some runnerbeans (for me, my mother-in-law and my dad), some frenchbeans (for me and my mother-in-law), outdoor cucumbers, kale, spring onions, sweetcorn, coriander, lettuce, beetroot, nasturtiums (to grow around my runnerbeans to attact the blackfly away from them) and wallflowers ready for next Spring.

All of these seeds are sitting inside our kitchen waiting to germinate, as unfortunately my greenhouse is bursting at the seams now as you can see below:

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The last gardening job I did this week was to cover up the gravel board that broke when our fence blew down in November last year in front of our grass.  Unfortunately when our kind neighbour fixed the fence for us, he left this board broken (I’m not sure why but I guess it would have been too hard to replace it).

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As the broken board was bowed I couldn’t just put a new gravel board in front of the broken one, so I brought a log roll to cover it up and I think it has done it’s job well:

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In the home this week:

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At home this week I have brought back one of my old routines of baking bread rolls at the weekends for the week ahead:

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I then made some garlic bread for tea with the rolls I baked and my stored garlic.  I also made some extra to freeze for another time.  I made the garlic butter and spread it onto the rolls and then froze the rolls.  When I need garlic bread for tea, I will take out the frozen rolls that I need and cook them in foil in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, gas 6 / 200C / 400F.

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I made a big batch of blackberry cordial as well (as my youngest daughter loves it and has been asking me to make it for months).  As my daughter is the only one that drinks it, I separated it into small usuable quanties and put it into the freezer, so I can take it out when I need it and then dilute it with water – this way it won’t get wasted:

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And finally I made some little fairy cakes with sultana’s – some to eat and some to freeze for another time:

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This week we have been having some lovely salads, using lettuce leaves and radishes from my greenhouse and chives from the garden:

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As I am being more organised I remembered to add defrosted sweetcorn and beetroot that I grew last year and froze.  I still have lots left in my freezer, so I must keep using it:

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And finally I added coriander that I have been growing on my kitchen windowsill:

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And the salads have been tasting wonderful:

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This week I also starting picking a bit of rhubarb and stewing it for my breakfast.  I’ve added it to porridge, sultana’s and greek yoghurt and it really tasted nice:

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Incidently, a lot of people think you can’t compost rhubarb leaves as they are poisonous….but you CAN compost them, as after a few months in your compost heap, the toxin level will have dropped so low that it won’t pose a threat:

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During the last week:

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My sister and I took my mum out for ‘afternoon tea’ as it was her 85th birthday.  The tea room was in Syston and it cost us £9.95 each.  The tea room was beautifully decorated as you can see if you click on the link here.

My sister had a cake stand with dairy free goodies (as she is dairy intolerant) and my mum and I shared the one in the photograph below.  There was so much that they wrapped up the chocolate cakes so we could take them home…..it was delicious!

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Finally this week I took some plants to my nephew and his family to help him out, as he has made some deep raised beds and a coldframe out of wood for his garden.  He had done a really grand job on them and they look great.  He is in the process of growing his vegetables from seed and hopefully, my adoreable great nephews will get the gardening bug too:

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I have had some lovely times this week and to round it off, yesterday as I walked my dog in Bradgate Park I heard a ‘Cockoo’ for the first time in my life (they are quite rare birds now).  Recently I also heard a woodpecker in our local park for the first time too….so Judy is bringing more unexpected delights into my life everyday and I am so glad we adopted her from the RSPCA.

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Judy with her LCFC football shirt on

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

 

Living Simply (Again) In The Modern Day

We have had a lot of illness in the ‘Thrift’ family over the last few years, which unfortunately (together with my reactive rescue dog) forced me into giving my four allotments up in January 2015.

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In the beginning I almost felt claustrophobic when I was in my house and I just hated being indoors…in fact there were times when I would sit outside in my back garden even though it was icy cold, as I needed to feel the fresh air on my face….being outside made me feel alive and being indoors made me feel trapped.

To make matters worse I also had to force myself to take Judy (our rescue dog) out for a walk each day and I would hate it, as she would react so badly to other dogs and traffic, etc. by barking and lunging….I lost count of the amount of people that shouted at me on the park when their dogs approached Judy, as she went mad at them!

However sixteen months later things are now calming down at home and I am starting to enjoy my new way of life and Judy is nothing like the dog she was, thanks to our trainer…. our walks are even pleasant most of the time now.

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So it’s time now to get back to ‘Living Simply In The Modern Day’. So I have spent sometime this week deciding what is working fine and what I need to change.  I have written my thoughts below:

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Meal Planning and Cooking From Scratch – No changes needed:

Meal planning saves time and money as nothing gets wasted and I can cook ahead, by making double portions and freezing them ready for next time.  Shopping is always easier with a list to stick to and I can check out prices on-line before I go.

Cooking from scratch where ever possible provides healthy meals for my family, that reduces preservatives, e-numbers and hidden sugars etc. and I think the meals taste better too.

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Baking and Preserving – A new routine is needed:

Over the last year or so I have noticed that I haven’t been baking as much or making as many jams and pickles that I used to and I have only been doing the bare minimum.  However, as things are calming down now I would like to begin a new routine of bread making and perserving….after all, I used to do this at the same time as running my four allotments in the past…..’Homemade’ tastes so much better than shop brought.

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Cleaning using old fashioned cleaners – No changes are needed:

I love my homemade laundry liquid as coventional powders upset my excema.  I find it doesn’t take long to make and is extremely cheap.  I also love the antibacterial vinegar spray and the polish I make and bi-carb is as good as any shop brought cleaner for my bath and bathroom sink.  So I am happy with my old fashioned cleaners.

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Growing vegetables in my back garden – On-going changes required:

It is early days for my organic kitchen garden and I am making changes as I go along.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and I know it will be a few years until I get the garden as I want it.  The ultimate aim is to make the area as productive as I possibly can, but this will take time as the fruit bushes and trees are still very young.

I have ideas to make the garden better, but time and money hold me back, so for now I will do what I can, when I can and enjoy the produce I harvest.

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Low cost living – On-going monitoring required:

This is something that is on-going.  I no longer crave the material things that others have (this stopped a long time ago) but we do have to watch our money as we still have a large morgage and only one wage coming into the family.  Our shopping bill has also risen since I gave my four allotments up, together with every other bill that increases each year……this really is another reason for us to go back to basics and grow as much as possible and make my bread, jams and pickles etc.

We also have two teenagers who get carried along with their friends and ‘Need’  money for this and that.  A few years ago we started to give them their own allowance each month to buy whatever they want and this still works well, as they have learnt that they need to budget for the month.

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Environmentally friendly living – On-going changes needed:

There are lots of things that we could do better here, below are just a few.

* Keep recycling, but better still don’t buy so many things with packaging that needs recycling in the first place.

* Use the car as little as possible by planning trips out so we can combine journeys to save miles – this will also save us money.

* I could borrow my daughters bike for small journeys….I used to ride a lot a few years ago.

* As I said previously I could make as many things as possible e.g. jams, pickles, bread, wine etc. and grow as much as possible to avoid packaging and avoid the miles that the food travels to the shops.

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Continue to learn new skills and develop old skills- On-going:

I want to continue to learn the piano as I love music, but I would also like to play my violin which is something I don’t do very often these days.

I would like to start to knit again.  This is something I used to do a lot before my daughters were born and somehow forgot about it until I knitted dishclothes a few years ago for my hampers.

I want to make soap – something I have been meaning to do for a long time now and just haven’t got round to it.  Again this will save us money in the long run.

I would love chickens and bees but it isn’t practical in our garden with Judy, our dog….However this doesn’t stop me reading and learning about it, as I never know what will happen in the future?

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Peace And Quiet

One thing I have noticed over the last year, I find that I do now crave peace and quiet….maybe this is me getting older or just a reaction to the rotten few years our family has had…whatever it is, I know that living simply in our home will rectify this.

 But overall things are calming down at home for me and I now enjoy being in the house much more than before.  This will enable me to get back to basics once again and enjoy an even more simpler life than before, with the help of my new, muchcalmer companion – Judy.

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

Have a good week.

XXX

A Judy Update & Seed Sowing

I can’t quite believe it’s April already, the year seems to be flying by.

Each week as I walk Judy in our local park I notice different things.  This week I have spotted some of the Camelias flowering beautifully and the first Bluebells are starting to flower in the woodland area:

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Also, as the snowdrops and crocus displays in the park are finishing flowering, there are wonderful displays of daffodils to enjoy.

The park is full of wildlife and recently I have even heard one or two woodpeckers, which I have never heard before.

I think that Leicester City Council should highly praise their park keepers, as they really do work hard to keep this park beautiful.

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A ‘Judy’ Update (Our rescue dog)

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It’s been a long time since I have written a ‘Judy update’ so this week I thought I’d write about her progress.  I will first give a little recap for those that haven’t been reading my blog for very long.

The RSPCA described Judy as ‘A little bit nervous‘ but when we brought her home in October 2014 we realised very soon that she had a lot of problems.  We later found out that we were Judy’s fourth owners.

She was very underweight when we brought her home and she also had lots of ‘doggy’ nightmares where she would whimper and cry in her sleep and her little legs would twitch like she was trying to run away.  However she loved fuss, but if she wasn’t expecting you to stroke her she would ‘cower’, which used to break my heart.  Our trainer seems to think she was hit at some stage, but we will never know.

Her first day at home with us

Her first day at home with us

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By February 2015 our first behaviourist said that Judy was untrainable and we should look to rehome her, so we went to the vet in desperation who prescribed her ‘Selgian’ which is an anti anxious drug for dogs (which looking back, it didn’t really make a lot of difference to her).

We were then told about Steven Havers and contacted him in in April 2015.  We wrote a list of Judy’s problems to show Steven when he visited us for the first time.  I’ve listed below just some of Judy’s problems at the time:

She would bark and lunge aggressively at vans, cars, lorries, buses, motorbikes, bikes, every single off lead dog, every single on lead dog, balaclavas, hats, men (especially in dark jackets), walking sticks, council litter picking sticks, prams, pushchairs, birds, squirrels, cats, walking sticks, workmen with equipment (especially spades), diggers / cranes etc.

In the house she would bark at every little noise from outside or the neighbours, birds flying past the windows, washing machine, hoover, hand mixer, hairdryer, postman, TV.  She would ‘bite’ the water coming out of the shower/watering can.  ‘Wet’ if I left her on her own and pace up and down the room if I went into the garden.  She would also ‘wet’ if I left her in a room and shut the door.

In the garden she would also bark at birds, the neighbours when they were outside and she would never ever sit or stand still…she would just run backwards and forwards up and down the garden.

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It is nearly a year since Steven Havers first visited and as he says, he has trained me and not the dog.  Previously Judy was too stressed and scared to take treats, which was why I struggled to train her however Steven doesn’t use treats to train.  So after lots of training the ‘Havers way’ I am glad to say we have overcome most of Judy’s problems and she no longer needs the anti-anxious dog tablets that the vet prescribed.  She now has doggy friends who she enjoys playing with on the park and she isn’t bothered by ‘normal’ noises in the house anymore.  We can also walk past people and traffic etc. easily now (except the very noisy lorries).

She has now put on 2kg since she first came to us and is a healthy weight, Her coat looks lovely as we regularly brush her.  She now sleeps well next to our bed and she always comes for a cuddle first thing in the morning with Mr Thrift and I, which we don’t mind.

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The one problem that continued was she still barked and lunged towards dogs on leads when I go to the park and I have really struggled with this.  So last month Steven Havers walked with me and showed me different methods to use when we see a dog on a lead.  Finally I am managing to walk past dogs on leads about 50% of the time, but I will keep practising until it is 100% of the time.

March 2016

Would I have a rescue dog again?….I’m not sure if I would, as it’s been such hard word and I have cried many tears over Judy.   However I have spoken to lots of people who have had rescue dogs that have settled without any problems.

It really has been a rollercoaster ride with Judy, but I am so glad I have persevered as she is adoreable.  She deserves to be happy after her bad start in life and we all love her to bits.

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Judy relaxing in her ‘forever’ home

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Seed sowing:

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This week I have been busy seed sowing again.  I have sowed my climbing peas in toilet rolls and my dwarf peas in guttering.  The peas will be kept in my mini greenhouse until they germinate.  Peas can be sown direct but I find I get a better gremination rate this way.

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I have also sown my parsnips in kitchen roll tubes and they are in the warmth of my house, as again I get a better germination rate this way.

I wrote a post a few years ago about growing parsnips in kitchen roll holders rather than toilet rolls and you can find it here.

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I sowed some cucumber, pumpkins, butternut squash, courgettes, melon and patty pans.  As these are big seeds I put two seeds in each newspaper pot and I will remove the weaker seed upon germination.

“Squash seeds have a tendancy to rot in the compost so it is important to sow the seeds on their sides and not flat”

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These seeds will be kept inside my house in a propagator until they germinate and they will then be moved to my now heated greenhouse to grow on (it is warmer in my house at night than my greenhouse).

I have also sowed spring onions, beetroot, turnips, kohl rabi and outdoor tomatoes.

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Previously at my allotment I would grow something new every year to try.  So this year I thought I would carry on with my tradition.  Last year one of my good friends gave me some mini tomatoes to try and I was fascinated with them so I saved some of the seeds on kitchen paper.  After doing some research I have found that the tomato is called ‘Solanum pimpinellifolium’ or better known as the ‘currant tomato’ and it is the wild ancestor of all the tomatoes we eat today.

The tomato has the ability to freely cross with other tomatoes so this has allowed it to be used for the introduction of disease resistance traits in tomato varieties, as well as in the study of the genetic control of tomato traits such as fruit shape and size.

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I sowed the saved tomato seeds by just laying the paper towel on damp compost and then covering them with a thin layer of damp compost.  I have placed them in a propagator in the window and I will keep fingers crossed that the seeds will grow:

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After all the seeds I have been sowing this week,  I am really looking forward to filling my kitchen garden as full as possible with plants in a month or two.

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Well that’s it for this week.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a good week.

XX

Fruit, Fruit And Flowers

I am very lucky as there is a very large park within five minutes walk of our house.  When my daughters were small I would take them to the play area and watch them on the swings and slides and we would have picnics there in the summer too.

However it wasn’t until we had Judy (our rescue dog) sixteen months ago, that I fully realised how large an area the park covers and how much work the park keepers do to make it a wonderful place for us all to enjoy.

Each week there are different things to see….last week I saw the snowdrops and crocus begin to flower and this week there is beautiful blossom on one of the trees:

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I am really not very good at identifying trees so if anyone knows what it is then please let me know….but it really is pretty and brightens the damp and wet days when I walk Judy.

Judy is continuing to do very well and I now only take her to training classes once every two weeks.  She now has little doggie friends that we regularly walk with on the park and she has even started to play a little bit with other dogs……nine months ago I would never have believed this would ever happen as she was so reactive to dogs (and lots of other things).

For a while now I have been walking Judy on a very long training lead and for the last two months when there are no dogs about I have been dropping the lead and let it trail behind her (so I can stamp on it and pick it up quickly if need be).  This week as her recall has improved significantly, I finally dared myself to take her off the lead completely….and she loves it, running around much more freely.

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So this is another major breakthrough and I am really pleased.

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In My Garden This Week:

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It’s been a busy week in the garden this week.  It started when my new strawberries arrived in the post.  They are an old variety called ‘Cambridge favourite’.

I soaked the roots for a couple of hours and then planted them in one of my five new beds:

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I found that some of the roots were ridiculously long so I gave them a little trim before planting them.  I also added a handful of compost to the holes as I planted them, to give them a good start:

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My daughters and Mr Thrift gave me money for Christmas so I could buy some more fruit bushes, so last month I bought a normal gooseberry bush, a dessert gooseberry bush, a red currant bush a white currant bush, a blackcurrant bush and a thornless blackberry plant:

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And this week I planted them.

I have read that all of these bushes will produce a decent harvest in partial shade, which many websites (incl. the RHS) define this as ‘three to four hours of sunlight per day in the summer’.  So I thought I would plant them near to my fence which gets this amount of sun in the summer and see what happens.  You can just see them in the photo below:

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I incorporated lots of compost in each planting hole and afterwards I gave them a light watering to settle the soil.

I then decided to move the two currant bushes and one gooseberry that I brought back from allotment last year, from the sunnyside of my garden to another edge that has ‘partial shade’ in the summer next to my new beds:

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If the fruit bushes do produce fruit when they are established, it will be great….but if they don’t I will have to find another place for them all.

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Last week I also bought five summer raspberry canes to replace the fruit bushes that I had moved.  I once again incorporated lots of compost into the soil:

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 I then turned my attention to my autumn fruiting raspberries that I transplanted from my allotment at the beginning of last year.  They did fairly well considering they were newly transplanted.  However I realised last year that I needed to provide them with some support when they grow large, to stop them blocking the narrow path next to them….so I banged some of my unused posts into the ground, ready to attach some wire (when I get around to buying some).

I then cut the autumn raspberries down to just above ground level and gave the area a good weed.

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Note:

“Autumn raspberries produce fruit on their current years growth, which is different to summer fruiting raspberries which produce fruit on the previous years growth…this is why you prune summer and autumn raspberries differently”

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Unfortunately my brushwood fence is a bit worse for ware now in the middle after the winds we have had, so I tied it up a bit and hopefully this will last another year:

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By the way, just in case you are wondering the compost that I having been using was made in a black plastic dustbin.  This time last year I filled the dustbin with some of the grass that I dug up when I first started my new kitchen garden and lots of vegetable peelings and then I put the lid on and left it (without turning it)….and this is the result:

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It just goes to prove you don’t need to buy expensive compost bins to make beautiful compost!

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Another job I did this week was to repot my blueberry plants.  I also bought these back from the allotment as they were in pots, but they desparately needed repotting as I have paid them no attention at all for the last two years.

“Blueberries are an acid loving plant that need acid soil to thrive.  If you have an alkaline soil it is best to plant them in pots with Ericaceous compost and water them with rain water if possible, as this is usually more acidic than tap water”

I decided to plant them in my big silver tubs outside our back door as they will be easier to water here.  But unfortunately it meant I had to empty the majority of the old compost in the pots first.

I spread the compost over my beds and this will act as a soil conditioner….which my soil desparately needs.  I then filled my tubs with ericaceous soil (leaving the large stones and rubble at the bottom for drainage) and replanted my blueberries.

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As there is a lot of compost visable, I am going to have to think of something to spread over the top to act as a mulch so they don’t dry out so quickly in the summer.

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Finally outside in my garden this week I covered an area with plastic to warm the soil up ready to plant my onion sets next month:

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Seed Sowing And Progress:

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I noticed this week that the leeks, garlic and broadbeans (aquadulce) that I sowed on the 18th January, are all just beginning to poke their heads above the compost in my unheated greenhouse (though you need to look very closely at the photo’s to see the leeks and broadbeans):

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And the sweet peppers that I also sowed on the 18th January in newspaper pots have germinated too.  These have been kept in a propagator on my windowsill inside my house:

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And the cress that I sowed last week is ready for eating:

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This week I turned my attention to flowers for my kitchen garden and I sowed antirrhiums, dwarf dahlia’s, lobelia and french marigolds.  These seeds will be kept in a propagator until they germinate and kept inside until all frosts have passed (usually the end of May here in the Midlands).  I try really hard to keep as many seeds and plants on windowsills or on my staging next to our french doors for as long as possible, as it’s expensive to heat my greenhouse:

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I also I realised I was running out of seed labels so I made some more.  I use an old plastic milk bottle to make them:

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I also cut the bottom off the plasic bottle and it makes a little container to hold them together:

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This Week In The Home:

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I managed to get another ridiculously low priced ‘whoopsie’ this week….five bags of diced carrot and swede for 4p each!!!!

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So I made some lovely carrot, swede and coriander soup (the recipe was very similar to the one here only I didn’t use chilli in it this time).

I managed to make nine portions, some of which we had straight away and some of them have been frozen for another day:

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All in all it has been another busy week.

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

Decorating Again & Judys Birthday

Yesterday it was Judy’s 5th birthday and we bought her a few little presents.  She gets very excited when I give her a present to unwrap and her little tail wags like crazy whilst she is trying desparately to tear the paper off with her paws:

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She seemed very pleased with the ball my daughters gave her.  You fill the ball with dry feed or treats and she pushes the ball around to make them fall out:

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And she also liked the ‘doggie treats’ and tennis balls that we gave to her:

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I also bought a ‘doggie cake’ from the pet store which she absolutely loved (unfortunately I didn’t get round to make a dog cake myself):

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Today it is a year since we brought Judy home from The RSPCA.  It really has been a rollercoaster ride, but I have learnt so much after all the training.  She has turned into a lovely dog and companion for me and I am so glad I persevered with her, rather than give up like her previous three owners did.

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This week in the home:

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This week I have finally got around to decorating my youngest daughters bedroom.

After clearing everything from her room I started off by removing the very old shelves that really needed to be replaced and filled all the holes around the room with some filler.  When it was dry I sanded the filler down until it was all smooth:

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I then sanded down all the woodwork in the room ready to begin.

I started by painting the ceiling and woodwork and then I pasted thick lining paper (1400 grade) on the walls to help to hide all the lumps and bumps.  We did consider plastering this room but it would have been too expensive for us and the lining paper was a cheaper option.

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When it was dry I painted the walls the colour my daughter had chosen….a ‘soft grey’ and I think she chose well (though I did have my reservations when she first told me she wanted this colour).

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I decided to paint her wooden curtain pole white, to match the room (it was previously a ‘wood’ colour).  It took three coats of paint and I couldn’t face painting all the curtains rings so I brought new ones, but they didn’t cost too much and it was still far cheaper than buying a new pole:

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I still need to put the curtain pole back up and I also need to put together the bedroom furniture that we are hoping to have delivered next week (an ‘early’ birthday and Christmas present for my daughter).

And finally I need to make a pair of curtains for the room….we looked in every shop I could think of for a ready made pair of curtains, but my daughter didn’t like any.  In desparation I took her to a material shop and she found some material that she loved, so I now have another job for next week:

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I love decorating, especially when I am pleased with the results.  I’ll show you a photo of the completed room next week.

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

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A few other things before I finish for this week:

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This week I made some butterfly cakes to show off the new cake stand my daughters bought me for my birthday last week……I really love this present!

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid out of soapnuts:

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While I was out and about this week I noticed that the seeds at Wilkinsons had been reduced to 20p so I stocked up with the ones I know I will definately use:

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In the garden this week I found that unfortunately the broccolli ’60 day raab’ that I sowed in the middle of August is flowering…..so it does grow quickly (as the name suggests), but it has gone to seed before it’s possible to get even a tiny crop, so I won’t be growing this again.  I made sure it was fed at the beginning and it was well watered when the weather was dry, so I can only think the ground wasn’t firm enough for it (brassiccas like the ground to be firm).  It was a free packet of seed so I haven’t lost anything but time:

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Also in the garden the leaves are falling from my neighbours trees and I will need to collect them up next week.  Previously I had grass in this area and I would just run over the leaves with the lawn mower to quickly remove them, however this isn’t possible in my vegetable garden so I will need to get down on my hands and knees:

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My Cosmos is still flowering well:

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And the tomatoes that I picked two weeks ago when they were nearly all green, are ripening well in my greenhouse…..(I am very pleased as I really don’t like green tomato chutney):

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So that’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week!

A Lovely Week & A Peanut Butter Biscuit Recipe

I’ve had a lovely week.

It started last Saturday when I woke up early and sat outside watching the sun rise….it was stunning.  In just under an hour it went from darkness to daylight.  This is something I have never watched before….nature is so beautiful:

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On Saturday myself, Mr Thrift and my daughter went on the ‘Bradgate Park’ dog walk again with Judy.  I am still amazed that less than six months again she couldn’t go anywhere near dogs without barking and lunging madly at them and yet now we can walk for a couple of hours with lots of other dogs…….and as you can see in the photograph below, she is chilled out enough to even lie down when we stop.  I am so proud of her:

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Also this week I saw the most amazing rainbow whilst I was walking Judy in our local park.  The colours were really bright and it looked as though both ends of it were in the park…..(so I will keep a look out for a crock of gold over the coming weeks).

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And this week it was my birthday and I had some lovely cards and presents.  My daughter also made me a gorgeous cake.  She spent ages making it into my kitchen garden and even put ‘pretend’ mud on the vegetables…..and it tasted delicious!

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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I picked the rest of my sweetcorn this week as the weather is turning colder and I was very pleased with it.

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I blanched the cobs and froze them so we can enjoy them over the winter:

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I then cut all the sweetcorn down so I can start to prepare this area for next year…

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I also removed the dead leaves from around my curly kale and cabbages as these can harbour pests like slugs and snails etc.  I gave it a good weed and it looks much better now.

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I picked my last white summer cabbage and I left four red cabbages to harvest another time:

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I also picked some more parsley to freeze….

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and some spinach so I could make a spinach and poached egg florentine and it was really nice:

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Unfortunately I also had to cover the overwintering onions and garlic that I planted last week, as the local family of squirrels (that one of my neighbours insists on feeding) keep digging in this area to hide the nuts they has been given:

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And finally I harvested my first few mizuna leaves from the seeds I sowed at the beginning of September.  Hopefully I will have many more leaves to follow over winter:

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This week in my kitchen:

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I’ve been very busy in the kitchen this week.  I started by making the crab apple jelly from the crab apples I was kindly given last week:

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I also decided to make some things in advance for my freezer, to help save time when I prepare meals over the next few weeks.

I made a big portion of spaghetti bolognaise sauce and we had some for tea, but the rest I froze in portions ready for another day:

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I also made a double portion of white sauce to use half in macoroni cheese and I froze the other half after it had cooled completely.  It is really easy to reheat in the microwave and then add cheese for a cheese sauce:

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I made pastry this week for a pie with some leftover chicken and vegetables.  I made a big portion of pastry so I could freeze three portions for a quick pie another time.  It defrosts quickly when I need it.

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I also made another load of passatta out of tomatoes that I picked at the end of last week:

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This week I ran out of cheese, so I bought three big blocks and grated it all in my processor.  I then froze it in bags of 250 grams so it is easy to defrost a pack each time we run out.  I find grated cheese seems to last much longer when I grate it, as it’s so hard to cut thin slices of cheese when it’s left in a block…..and also ready grated cheese costs more money to buy than cheese in blocks:

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And I also made a double load of chocolate ice cream and separated it into individual portions…. again I find it goes further this way.

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All the above things help to save me time or money, which has to be a good thing!

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As you have probably guessed by now, I really don’t like to waste any food in my house and this week I found some peanut butter lurking in the back of my cupboard that really needed to be used up.  So I made some peanut butter biscuits, which really are one of the easiest biscuits to make and they tasted absolutely delicious:

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Peanut Butter Biscuits Recipe:

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150g smooth peanut butter

150g granulated sugar

1 egg

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Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 180C / 350F

Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix together:

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Put large heaped teaspoons of mixture onto a baking tray (there is no need to grease the baking tray):

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Bake in your oven for 10-12 minutes until golden:

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Enjoy!

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

Have a good week!