Archives

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, Flowers & Veg

The park has been looking even more wonderful this week on my dog walks and when the sun is shining the beauty of it all sometimes takes my breath away.  How lucky I am to not only have this splendid park on my doorstep, but be able to take the time to stop and stare at the things that change each week:

I have noticed that the hawthorn and cow parsley are putting on a wonderful display:

IMG_3759 IMG_3757 IMG_3755

And so too are the flowers that we so quickly remove from our own gardens, but on mass they look spectacular:

IMG_3771

IMG_3746 IMG_3748 IMG_3732

Also the Horse chestnut trees are really giving a good display this year.  Apparently last year wasn’t a good year for conkers – it certainly looks like the trees are going to be making up for this later on in the year:

IMG_3736

But unfortunately there is always someone who wants to spoil things….it seems like every Monday morning there is lots and lots of rubbish for the park keeper to pick up near the cricket pavillion.  There is food left on the floor like chinese containers and chicken bones, which could quite easily cause dog owners large vet bills if their dogs eat something they shouldn’t.

It’s such a shame as the park keeper has enough to do without picking up rubbish that could quite easily be taken home with them.

IMG_3766 IMG_3767 IMG_3762

.

.

This week in my kitchen garden:

.

After checking the weather forecast I decided that I would plant out my remaining tender crops.

I started by planting my outdoor tomatoes which are an early outdoor variety called ‘Outdoor wonder’…..I usually get a decent crop before blight hits with this variety and I use them to make passatta or soup to freeze for the winter months ahead, or we just eat them as they taste so much better than shop bought tomatoes:

SAM_2922 SAM_2926 SAM_2927

I also planted out my cherry tomatoes…..

SAM_2967 SAM_2966

And my french beans which are a variety called ‘Maxi’ that hold the beans above the plant so they can be easily picked:

SAM_2929

I then began planting my squashes.  I started by planting a couple of pumpkins at the base of the arch I made a couple of months ago.  The variety is called ‘Winter Sweet Dumpling’ (which I have never grown before), but the seed packet says the squashes are small and the plants are highly productive, so I am hoping to train the plants up the side of the arch as they grow.

SAM_2981 SAM_2980

I also planted two courgette plants and one patty pan plant in my new area……last year both these plants didn’t produce as much as usual, so I am hoping this year will be different:

SAM_2977

“I incorporated lots of compost in and around the planting holes before planting my squashes and I also sprinkled some blood, fish and bone around the planting area as squashes are hungry feeders”

.

I have been trying to successionally grow my lettuces carefully this year so we have a constant supply.  Unfortunately my next lot of home sown lettuces are tiny, so I decided to buy some that are ready to plant.  I was very pleased to find some reduced to £1 (I would never pay the original price of £3.99 for lettuces though).  I planted them in a space next to my outdoor tomatoes, again in my new area:

SAM_2982 SAM_2985

.

As all my plants have now been hardened off, I had room in my greenhouse to plant my basil and peppers.  Unfortunately the peppers that I grew from seed myself, just sat and sulked and did not grow…. so I decided to buy in some better plants for £1 each and planted them in my greenhouse this week:

SAM_2979 SAM_2968

.

So that was all of my vegetable planting done for now and then I started to plant the remaining flowers that I had grown from seed.

As my garden is a kitchen garden and not an allotment I decided that I wanted to make it as pretty as possible, so it will be pleasent for my family to sit out in the garden as well as it being productive.  This will also have a knock on effect as it will attract beneficial insects to my garden which will eat pests and pollinate my crops.

So I planted antirhinums, dahlias, marigolds, tegetes, bedding begonias, tuberous begonias and lobelia, wherever I could fit them in:

SAM_2955SAM_2961 SAM_2995 SAM_2989 SAM_2925

.

Things I noticed in my kitchen garden this week:

.

My azalea is showing a dazzling display of flowers and I have also noticed that the self seeded aquiligias are now flowering too and looking beautiful (these are one of my favourite flowers).  The chives that line my path are beginning to flower as well, which is great as all of these flowers will attact the bees:

SAM_2970 SAM_2971 SAM_3012 SAM_3011

I have also noticed my new strawberries all have flowers and one or two have tiny fruit on.  I have always read that you should remove the strawberries that the plants produce the first year to build up the strength in the roots….but I have never done this and I have always had good crops.  Next week I need to cover my strawberries to protect them from the birds:

SAM_3007 SAM_3008

I have noticed that my plum tree that is growing in a pot has three small plums on…whether they develop into full grown plums, I will have to wait and see:

SAM_3020 SAM_3021

The herbs that I planted this year are growing really well too:

SAM_3010

And the grass I sowed a couple of weeks ago has germinated well and is growing strongly:

SAM_3017

.

.

This week in the home:

.

This week we have been eating lots of the lettuces, radish, coriander and chives growing in the garden.

SAM_3023 SAM_2954

  However, what I found brilliant this week was my daughters quite happily nipping out into the garden to pick things to use in their sandwiches or to make a salad for lunch….this is something they couldn’t do when I had my allotment, so it is yet another advantage for me:

SAM_2984 IMG_3751

.

This week I decided to use a little bit of my rhubarb growing in the garden to make some rhubarb crumble muffins.  I transplanted this from my allotment in January last year, so it is only in its second year in my garden.   Last year I didn’t pick any of it and this year I have been picking it sparingly, so it builds up strong roots.  From next year I will be picking it as normal.

SAM_3022

.

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

.

The muffin Mix:

200g caster sugar

200g peeled rhubarb diced into small pieces

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100mls semi skimmed milk

200g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

.

The crumble mix:

50g light muscovado sugar

50g plain flour

50g margarine (or butter if preferred)

25g porridge oats

1 tsp cinnamon

.

Preheat your oven 200C / 425F / Gas 7

Put the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and stir well together

SAM_2934 SAM_2935 SAM_2936 SAM_2937

In a separate bowl make the crumble mix.  Put the muscovado sugar, plain flour, margarine, oats and cinnamon together and mix well using your fingers to rub in the margarine. 

SAM_2940 SAM_2941

In another separate bowl put the oil, egg, vanilla and milk and add all of the rhubarb sugar mix (incl. all the liquid).  Mix together well

SAM_2942 SAM_2943

Sieve the flour and baking powder into the rhubarb mix and fold it in gently until all the flour disappears….the mixture should appear lumpy-do not over mix

SAM_2944 SAM_2945 SAM_2946

Spoon the mixture equally into 12 muffin cases and then sprinkle the crumble mix over each of them

SAM_2947 SAM_2948 SAM_2949

Bake for approx. 18 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.  

SAM_2950 SAM_2951

Enjoy!

SAM_2952

.

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

Have a great week.

XXX

Advertisements

Planting Potatoes, Peas And More….

Last weekend the weather was very strange and Linda Darby left a comment on my blog to say they had even had snow in Derbyshire.  Snow isn’t unheard of in April, but it is unusual.

Here in Leicester we had hail stones.  Unfortunately at the time myself and Mr Thrift were mulching around my mother-in-laws roses with greenwaste compost, so we had to stop what we were doing and wait for it to pass:

IMG_3508

Incidentally as there were lots of annual weed seeds germinating in the beds, I laid sheets of newspaper between the roses and put the mulch on top…..this will kill the small annual weed seedlings without having to pull them all up, so it saved alot of time:

IMG_3507

.

This week I went for the monthly dog walk in Bradgate park with our trainer Steven Havers.  Unfortunately this is the last walk in Bradgate Park as the walk is being relocated to Switherland Woods next month.

The Bradgate Park Trust reported this week they have now brought in a new sets of rules regarding dogs in the park, because people have been acting irresponsibly in Bradgate Park recently.  On their website it says…..

“Incidents have included parents filming children chasing the deer, dogs chasing the deer, fights between dogs, dogs bothering people, mountain bikers riding off permitted paths, as well as dogs killing wild birds.  In addition dog poo bags have been left hanging in trees and vandalism recently occurred over night in areas where the Trust’s rangers have been improving habitats and facilities”

Reading this made me extremely sad and I am amazed that people think that it is acceptable to treat the park and it’s wildlife in this way!

The ranger that took us around the park this week together with the dog trainer, told us that the number of deer calves is significantly reduced due to this, which is terrible.

Deer in the distance lying down

Deer in the distance lying down

.

Castle Gardens:

 As I have said previously there are lots of places on our doorstep that we walk past frequently without even noticing how beautiful they are, or how they change in the different seasons.

This week I visited Castle Gardens, which is just five minutes from the clock tower in the city centre and I was amazed at how beautiful it was….again Leicester City Council should be very proud of their parks department:

IMG_3528 IMG_3550

IMG_3542 IMG_3558

IMG_3554 IMG_3556 IMG_3546 IMG_3540 IMG_3524

Everyone that walked past me seemed to be in a rush missing the beauty I was seeing.  Some walked along talking on the phone and others were listening to music through their headphones….I think this was such a shame as they were missing the wonderful birdsong that I could hear.

I honestly believe that when people sit at the ‘pearly gates’ they won’t be wishing that they had worked more, rushed more or spent more money on material things…..I think they will be wishing they had slowed down more and enjoyed the things that life can offer for free.

.

Leisure  – By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

 .

.

This Week In My Garden:

.

This week I have been planting my potatoes.  I have planted my usual ‘Marfona’ which are white second earlies and ‘Desiree’ which are a red late main crop.

Over the years I have tried lots of different ways of planting potatoes, but I have found that speading manure / compost over the bed in winter and then digging a trench and using a bulb planter when planting the potatoes works the best for me.  This way I can plant them deep and I only usually have to earth them up once.

IMG_3501 IMG_3520

Amazingly, as I was digging my trenches I still found lots of rubble (though I dug the beds well last year) and I even found a big blue brick!

IMG_3519 IMG_3518

.

This week my parsnips germinated.  As soon as the seed leaves appeared above the compost in the kitchen rolls, I moved them outside into my mini greehouse for a few days.

IMG_3510

I then made holes in the ground that were deep enough for the kitchen rolls.  I did this by banging an old piece of guttering pipe into the ground and then planted the kitchen roll into it, making sure there were no gaps between the soil.

IMG_3512 IMG_3513

I then watered them to settle the soil around the tubes making sure there wasn’t any of the cardboard tubes showing above the soil (as this acts like a wick and dries the compost out in the kitchen roll).

Then I put mini-cloches made out of ‘pop’ bottles over them to give a bit of protection from the weather and slugs (I use old sticks inserted into the bottles to stop them from blowing away):

IMG_3514

.

This week I have also been planting my climbing peas.  They are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which I have been growing for quite a few years now.

IMG_3565

As with all my crops, I  raked in some blood fish and bone a couple of weeks before.

I put up some pea and bean netting using canes and planted the peas.  Last year I grew my peas facing east to west, however the peas at the back didn’t do so well due to the shade from the peas in front, so this year I am growing them facing south to north in the hope they will do better:

IMG_3572

I have given the peas a bit of protection from the weather and birds using old panes of glass that I brought back from my allotment when I gave it up.

You can also see in the photo below that I put weed suppressant in between the peas so it helps to cut down the weeding, where it is awkward to hoe:

IMG_3568

.

I have continues to deadhead my daffodils this week and nearly all of them have finished flowering for another year, which is sad as they are my favourite flowers….however there is so much more to look forward to in the garden now the weather is warming up.

IMG_3522

We have eaten our first ‘cut and come again’ salads in my greenhouse and today I have noticed that my first radish of the year are ready to eat:

IMG_3582 IMG_3588

And the ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce which is growing under glass outside is ready for me to pick the odd few leaves to add to our salads.

IMG_3590 IMG_3581

Also the chives I brought back from my allotment in January 2015 are doing brilliantly sitting along my main path and I am picking them to add to every salad we have:

IMG_3591

Also the rhubarb I transplanted from my allotment in Jauary 2015 is also doing well.  I will be picking it sparingly this year so each plant builds up it’s roots system ready for normal harvesting from next year.

IMG_3593

.

.

It’s taken me over a year to get used to my small kitchen garden instead of my four allotments.  Finally I am beginning to enjoy working in it, instead of constantly thinking about what I would have been doing at my allotment.

I have had moments during this month where I can honestly say it has been sheer bliss working in my garden, whilst Judy (my dog) has basked quietly in the sun.  One big advantage is I can nip out when I have five minuites to spare and finish a job, deadhead, weed etc. and if I want I can stay out until the sun goes down and the moon shines….. and once again I have felt happy to be alive in my garden, which is how I used to feel at my allotment!

IMG_3577

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

Have a great week!

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:

IMG_3399 IMG_3400

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.

IMG_3402

.

A ‘Judy’ Update (Our rescue dog)

.

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

.

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.

SAM_0225

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.

IMG_2989

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.

Judy relaxing in her 'forever' home

Judy relaxing in her ‘forever’ home

.

.

Seed sowing:

.

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.

IMG_3356 IMG_3363

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.

.

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”

IMG_3347 IMG_3349

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.

.

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.

SAM_2088

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:

IMG_3361 IMG_3362

.

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.

IMG_3412

.

Well that’s it for this week.

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

XX

Manure & Odd Job Week

We have had a mix of wet and dry weather this week here in the East Midlands, but Wednesday was absolutely glorious and it felt like Spring was here already…the sun made everything look more beautiful, especially the waves of snop drops and crocus in our local park:

IMG_3239 IMG_3243

One thing I wasn’t expecting to see this early was my first dandelion of the year….this is a reminder that soon it will the time to weed my kitchen garden on a weekly basis:

IMG_3235

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually a wonderful plant, though we do tend to see it as a nuisance weed.  In actual fact it is an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees…and bees need our help in every way possible at the moment due to their decline in numbers over recent years.

I wrote a lot of interesting facts about dandelions here if you have a spare five minutes to read them….it does make you see this ‘nuisance’ weed in a completely different light.

.

This week in my kitchen garden:

.

This week I have been spreading manure over the beds that I will be growing my brassicas and potatoes in this year.  This is usually a job I start to do when the beds become empty in November, but I am a little bit late this year:

SAM_2669

I decided to buy bags of composted organic manure as I have nowhere to store fresh manure while it composts down.  Ironically, the six bags I bought from the garden centre cost me £24 which is just £1 less than I used to pay the organic farmer who would deliver manure to my four allotments….his manure used to last me two to three seasons when I used it on all four plots:

SAM_5981SAM_5982

“Animal manure is a wonderful soil conditioner which also adds a small amount of nutrients to the soil.  Some animal manures add more nitrogen than others and if you apply it fresh, the nitrogen will ‘burn’ and kill plants.  Compost fresh manure for at least six months before using it”

SAM_2672

I lightly forked my new bags of organic manure into my beds and it looked and felt like compost.  This is a long way from the manure I used to use from the farmer, as this was heavy and stuck in clumps, where as my ‘bagged’ manure could be raked easily over the soil….but it was expensive.

As I forked it into the soil I found quite a bit of different bindweed roots.  I know from experience that you need to keep on top of this weed if you don’t want to use chemicals to kill it.  I keep pulling it out as soon as I see it, as it spreads very quickly if I don’t.  Eventually the plant will weaken and give up, but this can take a long, long time.

SAM_2673

Eventually I want to stop using manure and just use compost (mainly made by me), but for now I wanted to put some ‘umph’ in the soil (as my wonderful old allotment friend Eric used to say to me), to improve my soil and add a few nutrients (though I will still be using a slow release fertiliser like blood, fish and bone before I sow / plant my crops).

.

This week in the home:

.

This week I have continued to clean my kitchen cupboards.  I am very sad to say amongst my recipe books I found two of the same books, they were just printed at different times but have exactly the same recipes inside.  This just shows me I don’t read my books enough after buying them, so I am going to try and make a conscious effort to look through and use all of my recipe books from now on!

IMG_3215

I have also caught up with a few little jobs that I have been putting off, like cleaning my fridge:

IMG_3247

…..And fixing the hook in the kitchen that for two years has twisted round and around when you hook the curtain tie back on to it!  It took me less than five minutes to fix it with ‘hard as nails’ adhesive:

IMG_3233 IMG_3234

I also fixed the curtain holdbacks in the bedroom I recently decorated for my daughter:

IMG_3229 IMG_3228

So this bedroom is completely finished now and I am really, really pleased with how it looks and so far my daughter has kept it tidy:

IMG_3230

 This week I also made Mr Thrift some valentine chocolates.  I managed to get a silicone mould in the sales last year for £2.  I just melted a bar of Mr Thrift’s favourite chocolate in the microwave and then poured the melted chocolate into the silicone mould (I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate either).  I let the chocolate set (out of the fridge) and then pushed the chocolates out of the mould.

IMG_3214

I also had enough left over chocolate to make my daughters a few chocolate lollies using a silicone lolly mould I had tucked away.

IMG_3220 IMG_3217

If you look carefully at the hearts above, you can see that each heart has a couple of ‘valentine’ words on.

I wrapped them up in cellophane and gave them to Mr Thrift on valentines day.  He really liked them thank goodness.

IMG_3222 IMG_3223

It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gift…..it really is the thought that counts!

.

Finally last weekend we celebrated my daughters 18th birthday at a Toby Carvery.  I wanted to mention this as the manager was absolutely brilliant.

My daughter said she didn’t want a party and asked us to go for a quiet meal with her….but then two weeks ago she decided she wanted to ask this person and that person, until the number of people she had asked totalled forty!

So we spoke to the manager at the restaurant and he arranged for everyone to be seated in just one area and allowed us to come a couple of hours earlier to decorate it with banners and balloons:

IMG_3186 balloon 12728842_10153986409853856_406938050261309274_n

The manager even gave us a table to place the cake and presents on, which he could have quite easily given to someone else.

Everyone had a lovely time, the food was great and the staff fell over themselves to help.

cake 1

My daughter certainly had a wonderful birthday!

.

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

Have a great week!