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Car Boot Bargains & My Garden This Week

I started my week by taking a quick trip to town.  On the way back I walked through ‘Castle Gardens’ which is literally 2 minutes walk from the city centre.

“The Castle Gardens in Leicester was the original site of Leicester Castle, all that can be seen now is the large mound that it was once situated upon. This 4 acre site has a rock garden, mixed borders and a river boat landing next to the Grand Union Canal”

Castle Gardens is one of those hidden gems of Leicester, that people walk past everyday and never visit……if only they knew what they were missing, as even in the rain it was beautiful and so peaceful.

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I used to bring my daughters here for picnics when they were small, so it has some lovely memories for me too.

I noticed Leicester City Council had once again placed really good information signs around the park too:

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This week in my garden:

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Autumn officially started this week and I have noticed that there is a ‘nip’ in the air in the mornings now and it definately gets darker far earlier in the evenings.

Some of my plants are starting to show that autumn is here too and I will shortly be clearing them away:

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My autumn raspberries are producing berries well, especially considering they were only planted this year:

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I’m still watching my ‘patty pan’ plant with interest wondering if it will beat the first frost and provide me with a small harvest?

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And my sweetcorn still has a clear liquid inside each kernel, so unfortunately it is not ready to pick yet!

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My outdoor tomatoes which are a variety called ‘money maker’ are huge and are finally starting to ripen,  after I removed most of their leaves so the sun could get to them:

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The green manure ‘phacelia’ that I sowed last month is growing well:

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And so too is the grass lawn I laid a couple of weeks ago.  It is lovely and green, but I know this will change to ‘green with yellow patches’ as soon as I let Judy, our dog on it:

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This week I have picked some really nice salads crops to have for tea.  I am still picking radish, chives, spring onions, tomatoes, lettuces, beetroot and kohl rabi too:

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I also scattered our mixed salads with the purple petals from chive flowers and the orange petals from a calendula flowers and they looked so pretty:

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This week in the home:

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This week I cooked my beetroot.  The beetroot was delicious sliced, but one of the beetroots was quite big and tough so after I cooked it my daughter used it in a smoothie and she really enjoyed it:

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This week I made what Mr Thrift calls an ‘English salad’.  It’s what my mother would give to us when I was younger….lots of things on the table to pick what you want.  I also cooked a quiche and made some homemade coleslaw using the cabbage that I dug up last week:

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I thought it would be nice to make a cake and serve it on the table for tea too and my family thought the tea was really nice and made a lovely change:

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My sister also kindly brought some of the plums from the large tree at my old allotment (she took on one of my old plots).  These plums are the size of damsons, but they ripen slightly later and I think they are actually ‘bullaces’.

As they are small, I decided to make a jelly out of them, rather than taking all of the stones out:

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This week I also made some wine.  I have been meaning to have another go at wine making since I made my first batch a couple of years ago from a starter kit.  I still had three cans of juice left that I used and it’s sitting bubbling in my kitchen at this moment:

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Hopefully next year when I know what I am doing, I will have a go at making wine from start to finish with homegrown fruit.

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I must say, it has been lovely serving my homegrown salads and vegetables this year….after I gave up my allotment I thought I would have hardly anything to pick from my garden:

Lasagne served with homegrown potatoes and salad

Lasagne served with homegrown potatoes and salad

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Finally this week I thought I would show you my ‘car boot’ finds.  I managed to find two pictures for the walls in my front room – and they are just the right colours to match our lovely charity shop three piece suite and it finishes our room off lovely (apart from the carpet that we are saving for).

We managed to buy both the pictures for just £1 and they had no marks or scratches on at all :

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I also found a pair of curtains for £3.  I will be taking the lining off them and using the material to cover a pair of old, dirty sunloungers that my dad gave to me.  He was going to throw them away but I think they still have lots of use in them and these curtains will make them look great.  I will show you when I finish covering them.

If it works I will have two lovely sunloungers for just £3 and they will be great next year in the summer:

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Anyway, that’s enough for this week.  Thank you for reading my blog today.

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

Flowers from my garden

Flowers from my garden

My Harvest & A Freezer Breakdown

I wanted to start my blog today by saying well done to my eldest daughter for her AS level results that she received yesterday.  She has had a very difficult year (which I won’t go into here) but dispite this she achieved a ‘B’ in English language/literacy,  a ‘B’ in psychology and a ‘distinction-star’ in hospitality……..we are extremely proud of her!

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This week I visited Haddon Hall and gardens with my lovely sisters and had a wonderful day out.  This was my eldest sisters Christmas present to us all….it was such a treat!

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The website says:

“Described by Simon Jenkins in “1000 Best Houses” as “the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages”. Set in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park, parts of the house date from the 12th Century, sitting like a jewel in its Elizabethan terraced gardens, and overlooking the River Wye.

Film-makers flock to Haddon Hall to use it as a location. The house and grounds have played host to no less than three versions of “Jane Eyre”. Screen credits also include “Elizabeth”, “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Princess Bride”, the cult classic movie in which Haddon Hall becomes Prince Humperdinck’s Castle and village”

I enjoyed looking around the house as it was so interesting and the gardens were lovely too:

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They had lavender lining their path in one area and the bees loved it.  It reminded me of the lavender path I used to have at my allotment as it smelt so wonderful as you brushed past it:

(The photo on the left is Haddon Hall and the photo on the right is my old allotment)

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In my kitchen garden this week:

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This week I noticed that my sweet peas are being attacked with greenfly, so I spent a happy half an hour squashing them between my fingers…..as an organic gardener I prefer not to use sprays.

  I think it has been a particularly bad year for aphids this year, so hopefully next year we will have a bumper year for ladybirds, as this usually happens.

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There is some fabulous information and advice on the RHS website regarding aphids here if anyone is interested.

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Everywhere around my kitchen garden seems to be doing well, though the ground has been really dry.  This has caused some of my spring onions to go over a bit quicker than normal, so I pulled them up.  I don’t want to waste them, though I don’t think they are good enough for our salads, so I have decided to pickle them like ‘silver skin pickles’.

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My outdoor cucumbers are growing well now and my leeks and spinach have put on a growth spurt:

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 I also had a surprise this week as I found that a patty pan that I had given up on, is growing.  I put three seeds in my big tub between my two courgettes after my previous sowing in pots didn’t germinate.  Two seeds germinated and the slugs destoyed them and I thought the third seed hadn’t germinated until I found it this week.

I removed a couple of leaves from the courgettes either side of it, to allow the light to get through to the little plant.  It maybe too late to get a harvest of patty pans now, but if we have a mild couple of months I may be lucky:

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This week I dug up the last of my ‘2nd early’ potatoes which were a variety called ‘marfona’ (I still have my ‘desiree’ main crop left in the ground).

At my allotment I would always start to dig up my 2nd early potatoes in July, as I used to plant so many potatoes (early and main crops).  This way I could spread the harvest over July and August as I always found digging up my potatoes such hard work.

Obviously it is really easy in my small kitchen garden, so I have just dug the potatoes when we needed them for a meal and I have got to say I am really surprised and pleased with the size some of them have grown, as they have been in the ground longer than I would normally leave them in:

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In place of the potatoes I decided to grow some green manure.  I gave the soil a good rake and sowed some phacelia.  My seed packet is quite old now so I’m not sure if the seeds will even germinate, but I thought it was worth a try….I will have to wait and see.

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“Phacelia tanacetifolia is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.  It is a green manure that tolerates most soils.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I used to grow it in my wildflower area at my old allotment.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.  I will chop it down and fork it in before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year”

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I also sowed some seeds in the area where I pulled up my strawberries last week.  I sowed ‘Broccoli raab ’60 days’ which apparently are quick growing broccoli-like shoots that grow on dwarf plants.  I have never grown this before but the seeds were free with a magazine so I thought I would give them a go:

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I also gave my apple and pear trees a summer prune.  I am growing them as cordons so this first prune was to encourage the shape I want the trees to grow into:

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This week I have been harvesting runnerbeans, outdoor tomatoes, frenchbeans, spring onions, potatoes, courgettes, parsley, a few peas and my first red cabbage of the year (that I couldn’t resist picking):

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So overall I am very pleased with the produce my small kitchen garden is producing each week.  Next year I will be looking at ways to increase my harvest and hopefully my fruit bushes will produce more in their second year too.

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This week at home:

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I started the week by making some more laundry liquid.  

Just before our holiday last month I ran out of my homemade laundry liquid and I bought a box of supermarket brand washing powder to tied me over until we got back and this is what I have been using since then.  I must say, I don’t think it washed any better than the laundry liquid I make (and mine is much cheaper) and also, my eldest daughter started to complain that the new wash powder was making her skin itchy!

Next time I will make sure I am more organised and won’t run out of it just before a holiday!

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This week I also cooked and pickled the beetroot that I harvested last week and we are looking forward to eating it soon:

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Finally this week, our old chest freezer unfortunately stopped working.  Thankfully it was the freezer that I just kept my vegetables in and it was only a quarter full.  I have been trying to use up the contents of this freezer for a while so I could switch it off completely and just use the other two freezers that we have.

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I don’t know how long it hadn’t been working for, but everything was half defrosted and there was a puddle at the bottom of the freezer!

So myself and my daughter set about trying to save as much of the half frozen vegetables as possible.

We made a massive pot of tomato pasta / pizza sauce with vegetables to freeze in portions, I cooked lots of the vegetables in my steamer to freeze in portions and then reheat in curries and my daughter made a big pot of creamy, thick, vegetable soup to freeze in portions.  I also filled my slow cooker with vegetables in gravy to again freeze in portions so I could reheat it for a lunchtime meal.  I also cooked the sweetcorn I had left and froze it in portions so I could defrost it and add it to salads:

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Luckily I still had room in my other two freezers for the things we made:

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We managed to use nearly everything in the freezer, so really we were very lucky that hardly anything was wasted….and the soup was delicious!

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week!

A Tour Of My Kitchen Garden & A Bradgate Park Dog Walk

Last weekend we took part in a ‘Bradgate Park dog walk’ with Judy our rescue dog.  This is what their website says about the walk:

“A chance for you and your dog to get out for a walk at Bradgate Park in the company of one of our Rangers who will talk about the history and wildlife of the Park while dog behaviourist Steven Havers gives tips on how to ensure that a walk in the park is a positive experience for you, your dog and any other people and animals you may meet.”

I have got to be honest and say the only reason we went was because Steven Havers is our dog trainer and I feel confident when he is around.  The last time we attempted to walk Judy on our own in Bradgate Park a few months ago, we ended up hiding up a hill behind trees as Judy reacted so much to each and every dog, regardless of how far away they were!…….but not this time.

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At the start of the walk she barked a bit as there were lots of dogs, but after a few minutes she behaved really well and took time out to relax and have a lie down….I was so proud of her!

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Bradgate park is beautiful and the views from ‘Old John’ are spectacular as it stands on Bradgate’s tallest hill and Leicestershire’s second highest point – some 690 feet above sea level:

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Old John:

This Folly or Prospect Tower was built in 1784 by the 5th Earl of Stamford. The circular stone tower replaced a former wooden windmill (which had been made unsafe in an earlier storm).

On the 31st October 1786 a huge open-air fire was built on the Hill by the 5th Earl of Stamford to mark the coming of age of his son, George Harry.  Legend has it that a bonfire timber burnt through, falling amongst the guests and accidentally killing an old retainer of the Bradgate Estate called John.

After the accident, the 5th Earl is reputed to have decreed that the Tower be named in affectionate memory of “Old John”. It is said that the stonework at the side of the Tower was altered so it looked like a handle – perhaps knowing the old man’s liking of ale, it was deliberately modelled to give the Tower its familiar beer tankard shape of today”

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You can read more about Old John here if you are interested.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I planted some Cosmos just behind the new wire fence that I put up last week.  Hopefully they will grow and look pretty later in the season and because they are behind the wire fence my daft dog won’t be able to destroy them.  Again I planted them through the weed suppressant:

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I also had four spare tomato plants which I planted in this area as well.

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As I said last week, I’m not sure how well these plants will grow as I haven’t prepared the soil in this area at all….I just dug a small hole for each plant and used a small amount of blood, fish and bone and filled the hole with compost…..it will be interesting to see the results!

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I also decided to give my old garden chair a face lift by buying a new piece of wood for it and giving it a new coat of paint.  It does need a second coat but it certainly looks better already:

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My new kitchen garden:

Considering it is the first year of the garden, it is doing really well.  I thought today I would give you a tour:

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In the photo above you can see the whole kitchen garden with the new area in front that I created last week.

The new front area has mangetout, dwarf peas, a bag with potatoes growing in it, strawberries, sweetcorn and four tomato plants:

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In my onion and root beds I have onions, garlic, parsley, parsnips, spring onions, beetrrot, radish and lettuce.  The lettuce will shortly be replaced with leeks:

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I have two beds with potatoes in – ‘Marfona’ a second early and ‘Desiree’ a late main crop potato:

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In my legumes beds I have broad beans, french beans, runner beans, climbing peas and lolla rossa lettuces:

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And in my brassica beds I have cabbages, curly kale, swedes, kohl rabi, outdoor cucumbers and two butternut squashes that will hopefully grow up my washing line post:

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At the back of my plot I have herbs in pots and fruit trees (apple and pears) and I have autumn raspberries along the side fence:

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On the shady side of the garden I have rhubarb, comfrey and jerusalem artichokes.

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And at the front I have blueberries, red and black currants and a gooseberry bush too:

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In my greenhouse I have cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, peppers, basil and two melons:

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And elsewhere in the garden I have courgettes, patty pans, outdoor tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, corriander and two dwarf plum trees…..

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….and as usual I have squeezed as many flowers in as possible to attract bees and other beneficial insects to my plot:

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I’m sure I have missed one or two things, but never mind I’ll write about them another time when I remember them.

So I am hoping over the next few weeks I will get some lovely crops, but for the moment we are enjoying some delicious salads:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

Farm Visits & Growing Herbs

Before I start today I wanted to remind anyone that is interested, that my usual monthly blog post of

‘What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In June’ can be found here.

There is loads of information in this post e.g. weather conditions expected, what to sow / plant / harvest in June, jobs to do and pests / diseases that you may encounter this month.

I hope it helps someone out there.

My 'free' azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

My ‘free’ azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

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I have loads to talk about this week, but firstly I want to say an enormous “thank you” to all the people that commented on my blog last week after my ‘blog wobble’.  I was absolutely overwhelmed by the lovely things you all said and it really has spurred me on to keep blogging.

All I can say is I am very lucky to have your continued support…thank you for this.

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Out and about during the week:

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Last weekend I visited two working organic farms with my friends from the ‘Western Park Organic Gardening Forum’.

Firstly we went to Oakley Grange which is a 660 acre farm, just outside Hathern in Leicestershire and a gentleman called Richard gave us a guided tour and it was most interesting to hear about his farm.

We had a lovely lunch too in his cafe.

You can read about the farm here.

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We also visited Manor Organic Farm in Long Whatton, Leicestershire:

“We have been farming organically since 1989 and believe that organic farming is a positive philosophy, and is more than just avoiding the use of artificial chemicals and fertilisers. It is a sustainable approach to farming which views the farm as a whole system in harmony with the natural surroundings and nature itself as well as the local community”.

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The farmer (Graeme) again showed us around the farm and told us all about his animals and the meat they sell.  One of the things he said really stuck in my mind……he said when he goes out for a meal he will only eat vegetarian meals as he doesn’t know how the animals have been treated by other people.  He said he only eats the meat that he has produced, so he knows that the animals have been treated well.

The butcher in their shop was also very knowledgable about the meat they sell and spent time showing me what I could buy and how much it would cost me.  Organic meat is a lot more expensive to buy, but I can now see the benefits of buying it……the hard bit will be convincing my family, so I need to think about this.

This farm also had a cafe and we all had a lovely drink and cake to finish the day off.

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I enjoyed both farm visits immensly and it was great getting so close to the animals.

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In my Kitchen Garden:

As it’s June I have been planting some of my more tender plants outside…..I started with my two butternut squash plants.

Our family love butternut squashes and I had the luxury at the allotment of growing lots of these as I had plenty of space:

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However, it would be impossible to grow this amount in my new kitchen garden, but I wanted to try and grow at least a couple of plants.  I decided to have a go at growing them up the post that holds my washing line.  So a few a weeks ago I tied some chicken wire around the post and dug some organic manure into the soil.  This week I planted two plants at the base of the post and as it was still quite cool at the beginning of the week, I placed a bottle over the plants to act as a mini cloche to help them establish:

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As the plants grow I will tie them to the support…..I will keep you informed on how they are doing.

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I have also planted out the tagetes that I grew from seed, along the edges of my paths.  I think they look good when they are in flower and their smell helps to confuse pests, which help to protect my vegetables.

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I had a few outdoor tomato plants left, so I decided to put these in pots as I couldn’t bare to throw them away.  I didn’t really want too many pots around my garden as it means daily watering, but I do love tomatoes so I decided to keep them:

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This week I planted some more spring onions that I grew from seed.  Again I sowed a few seeds together in modules and didn’t bother to thin them out, as they ‘push’ apart as they grow:

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The first spring onions are not yet ready to eat, but we have started to eat the onion sets that I planted closely together in March.  I don’t know if you remember but I  planted 66 onions very close together in the hope that I could harvest them over a longer period, by picking some when they reached ‘spring onion’ size and leaving the remaining onions to grow to a good size:

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Well I’m pleased to say my plan worked and I have been picking some lovely onions to put in our salads:

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Herbs:

This week I also planted the parsley that I grew from seed.  I love parsley as it’s easy to grow and I like to freeze it to use for the garlic bread I make in the winter months.

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The apple mint that I also brought home from my allotment has finally began to put on some growth.  I will leave it in its pot so the roots are contained and don’t become invasive.

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My daughter likes to put mint in her drinks to make them refreshing and I must say it’s nice now for her as she can just nip outside to pick a few leaves instead of having to remind me constantly to bring some home from the allotment:

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I wanted to include lots of herbs in my new kitchen garden but I didn’t want to use the small amount of ground that I have to grow them – so I have been wondering what to do with them for a while and then I found these pots in Poundstetcher a couple of weeks ago:

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As you can see the pots only cost me 74p, but when I got them home I found that they did look really cheap and nasty when I put them up.  So after a bit of thought I got some old white, outdoor paint from my shed and sponged it on lightly to make the pots look a bit older….and I think it worked and they now look a lot better:

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I then bought some herbs from my local garden centre and planted them in my new pots.

So I now have oregano golden french, marjoram gold, oregano country cream, thyme compact, sage and dill in the pots – though I do know that some of them will need to be moved when they grow larger in a year or two.

I also have lavender and rosemary in bigger pots in between my fruit trees:

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And I have chives growing along my path, which are looking beautiful at the moment as they are in flower and the bees love them…..and the flowers are adding a lovely colour to my salads:

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This week in my kitchen garden I also planted out the calendula that had self seeded in the compost that I brought back from my old allotment.

Calendula looks beautiful when they are flower and the bees love them and you can also eat the flower petals too.  They look great in salads or sprinkled on pasta.

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And finally in my kitchen garden this week I removed the top couple of inches of growth on my broad bean plants.  I do this when the first tiny beans are visable on the plants.

Blackfly absolutely love the top, soft growth on broad bean plants and this stops them:

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In My Home:

This week I decided to do a job that I have been putting off for some time….I have been cleaning the top of my kitchen cupboards for the first time since they were installed 18 months ago….so they were very dirty!

I used white vinegar and a scubber to clean them and they cleaned up well:

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I really don’t want to put this amount of effort into cleaning my cabinets like this again, so I have lined the tops with a sheet of newspaper.  When the paper is dusty and dirty I will remove it and replace it quickly with another one, without having to do any hard work:

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Since we have had the new kitchen I have thought the area above my cupboards looks quite bare, so this week I put some old baskets on the top of the cabinets and I have used some cheap wooden hearts to decorate them….and it now looks much more homely (and I have somewhere to store my jars for jam making too):

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

Have a good weekend!

Hidden Leicester, Cabbage Root Flies And More…

This week I nipped into town for a few bits and bobs.  On the way to the shops I took a detour and walked past Leicester Cathedral, as there have been a lot of changes to this area due to Richard III.

I pleasently surprised at how lovely this area now looks:

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I also passed through an area behind the Mary De Castro church where I walked through the ‘Turret Gateway’ which dates back to approximately 1423.

Years ago I took the same walk but didn’t know anything about it, so I was pleasently surprised to see that there is now an interesting information board next to it.

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I then walked past Castle Gardens and it was lovely and neat and the flower beds looked beautiful:

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I do wonder how many other beautiful areas there are in Leicester that I have forgotten about or that have been renovated…..perhaps it’s time I started to pay more attention to the city I was born in.

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This week we have had lots of rain and I have been dodging the showers outside.  Amazingly the ‘makeshift’ water butt that I set up next to my greenhouse (which I will sort properly when I get around to it), is full already.  This area obviously collects more water than I realised and I may need to set up another waterbutt there as well, so I can collect as much water as possible for my garden.

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Between the showers I have been sorting my cabbages.  Two weeks ago I planted my red and whilte cabbages and put plastic bottles over them to act as a mini cloche to each of them.  This was to protect them from the cold nights and the slugs while they were small.  However, they have grown so well that they were beginning to become squashed in the bottles, so it was time I did something about it.

I first built a D-I-Y cage using bottles and canes:

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I then removed the bottles and made homemade (and free) cabbage collars out of old cardboard, which I then placed around the cabbages to protect the plants from the cabbage root fly.

“Cabbage collars can cost between £3 or £4 for 30, but you can make them easily by using a square piece of cardboard which you cut a cross in the middle and place around the stem.  The cross in the middle allows the stem to grow.

  By using cabbage collars, you can avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of your plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassica’s to either grow weakly or just wilt and die.

The following year, cabbage root fly will emerge from the pupae which overwintered in the soil.  This is a good reason to rotate your crops each year”.

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 I then put a net over the top of my bottle and cane structure, to stop cabbage white butterflies from laying there eggs on the leaves of my plants.

“Cabbage white butterflies lay eggs on brassicas (usually underneath the leaves) between May and October and it is the resulting caterpillars that do the damage to your plants by eating the leaves.

  The easiest way to stop them is by covering your plants with a net, but make sure the net has small enough holes and the sides are firmly attached to the ground to stop the butterflies from entering.

If you do find the tell tale yellow eggs on your brassicas, then you can squash them between your fingers and the caterpillars can be picked off using your fingers and destroyed”.

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I will soon be planting kale next to my cabbages, so I have made sure my cage was tall enough and the net was long enough to cover the kale as well.

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By the way, you can use this D-I-Y cage on a much larger scale if you want to.  In fact at my old allotment I used the same bottle and cane structure to make a cheap fruit cage:

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And also, don’t forget you can store your bottle cloches ready to use again easily, by using a cane pushed into the ground and sliding the bottles over them:

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This week in my garden I thinned the khol rabi I sowed a few weeks ago.  I find it easier to use a pair of scissors to thin my seedlings out, as this stops any root disturbance to the remaining seedlings (a tip that Angus Scott gave on my blog – so thank you Angus).

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Also, the area where I sowed my wild flowers a few weeks ago had a visit from a squirrel.  Unfortuantely one of my neighbours feed the squirrels money nuts and they dig the garden to hide them.

So I covered the area with wire that I brought home from my allotment, hopefully this will deter the squirrel while my plants are young.

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I ‘earthed up’ the potatoes I put in my old dustbin, by putting a few inches of compost over the shoots.  I will continue doing this until the shoots have grown over the top of the bin as this will stop the potatoes from turning green from the light.

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I transplanted my greenhouse tomatoes this week into their final pots.  I use old Blood, fish and bone pots to grow them in, with holes drilled in the bottom.  The lids make great saucers to catch the water underneath the pots in the greenhouse too:

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I also gave my greenhouse a sort out this week and removed some staging that I haven’t use this year, as I’m growing so many seeds.  This staging had become a bit of a ‘dumping’ place which wasn’t good:

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Unfortunately one of the two cucumber plants I grew from seed died this week.  Unfortunately cucumbers are suseptable to ‘root rot’ when the soil is too wet….I do know this and I obviously wasn’t careful enough, so it serves me right for not paying enough attention.  Luckily the other cucumber plant is doing well:

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Over the past few weeks I have been wondering where to plant my outdoor tomato plants at the end of May and this week I decided on a place outside my greenhouse.

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I dug up the grass (and the forget-me-not that had self seeded) and realised that the soil was dreadful…. there was only about an inch of top soil, which was full of stones.  So I dug some of the subsoil out and replaced it with a mix of compost and manure, ready for my tomatoes.  I then edged it with some of the stones I found when I was first clearing my new kitchen garden area:

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It looks much neater now and the forget-me-not is now sitting in a pot until it dies:

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In The Home This Week….

Back in the home this week I have decided to get a bit more organised and I bought a ‘things to do’ book to help me.  I borrowed some ‘post it notes’ from my daughter to create sections in the book:

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I am hoping that I will actually remember to write in it, so I don’t forget the jobs that I need to do.  I always had a book at my allotment for this reason where I would walk around my plot on a Monday morning and look at what needed to be done….I can’t see any reason why this won’t work in the home too….I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

I wonder if anyone reading this blog keeps a ‘things to do book’ too.  If you do, let me know if it’s successful.

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‘Leftovers’

Finally this week, I found myself in a situation where I had three sausages and a small amount of cooked chicken leftover in my fridge…..so I cooked the sausages, chopped them up and put them in a ‘use it up’ curry together with the cooked chicken and left over vegetables that I had in my freezer (I always freeze left over cooked veg to use in pies and curries etc).

I have never thought of using sausages in a curry before and I actually wondered if they would taste horrible, but I’ve got to say, they were really nice!

The recipe for the ‘Use it up curry’ can be found here if anyone is interested.

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Well that’s it for today, but I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a good weekend and thank you for reading my blog.

A New Gadget & Blogging Once A Week

At the beginning of the week it was really warm and I decided to take a day off from the allotment.

Mr Thrift very kindly took me to Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Oakham.  This is where Geoff Hamilton filmed Gardeners World from 1983 until he sadly passed away in 1996.

It was Geoff Hamilton’s series called ‘The Ornamental Kitchen Garden’ that inspired me to have a go at growing vegetables, which has obviously grown into a passion of mine as I now have four allotment plots.

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The gardens were beautiful and so peaceful.

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I particularly enjoyed seeing the gardens that I remember Geoff Hamilton constructing on Gardeners World and it was great to come away with some new ideas.  One such idea was to grow ‘Lady’s mantle’ (Alchemilla mollis) around the base of fruit trees, which will act as a weed suppressant and a mulch to retain moisture around the roots of young trees.  You can see this in the photo below:

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If you are ever passing, the gardens are really worth a visit.

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I had a lovely visit from my nephew at the allotment this week.  He is rather good at photography and he took a photo which I thought I would share with you.  There are quite a few empty beds at the moment waiting for the more tender plants which will be planted at the end of this month, after any risk of frost has passed:

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You can see in the photo above that the lavender hedge that lines one of my paths will soon flower and look beautiful.

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This week I purchased a new gadget to try…. A ‘Bentley patio, paving and decking weed brush’ for £12.99

I get fed up of spending hours on my hands and knees each week weeding in between my paths.  As you know I am an organic gardener and I won’t use weed killers (glyphosate) on my plot.  Therefore I decided to treat myself:

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I didn’t buy the cheapest weed brush I could find, as I wanted to make sure it was a good quality brush that didn’t break after a few uses.

This brush is like magic as the hard wire bristles simply ‘brush away’ the weeds in between your slabs, as you can see in the photographs below.

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Obviously perennial weeds will grow again as the roots are deep below the slabs, but if you brush regularly then even the hardiest perrenial weeds will ‘give up’ growing after a while.

I found this brush particularly good at ‘brushing’ away horsetail (Equisetum arvense) that grows between the slabs outside my polytunnel.

An hours job per week has now turned into a five minute job and I think this brush is worth every penny.

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I have noticed a few things at my plot this week:

The first thing is my oriental poppies have started to flower.  My friend gave me a cutting a few years ago and it seemed to take a long time to become establshed, but last year I had a few flowers and this year it seems to be even better.

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You can read about oriental poppies here on the Gardeners World website.

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Another thing I noticed was a lovely Iris that has popped up in one of my flower beds.  I can’t for the life of me remember planting it, but I shall leave it there as it is beautiful:

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The perennial cornflowers (Centaurea montana) are now flowering in my flower patch, together with the aquiligias.   I always think perennial cornflowers are like ‘marmite’….you either love them or hate them….I love them:

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When I looked, I noticed my strawberries will soon be ready ro ripen:

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And I also noticed that the fruit trees and bushes seem to be doing well.

The golden gages, pears and apples all developing nicely:

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I have also checked the pheromone traps and I can see that the plum moths and codling moths are active, as some have already been ‘lured’ into the traps:

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One sad thing I have noticed this week at my allotment is that I think a few of my onions are suffering from the ‘allium leaf miner’ again.  The tell tale signs are white dots on the foliage and the foliage seems to twist.

I wrote about the allium leaf miner here if anyone is interested.

There is nothing I can do about it now but I think I will have to reassess how I grow my onions next year if there is alot of damage to my crop from this pest.

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This week at my allotment I planted out my runner beans.  I don’t usually plant tender plants out until the end of May, but they were getting a bit big (due to all the hot weather we have had) and I have sheets of glass ready to cover them if we have a late frost.

I also planted nasturtiums in between the runner bean plants as a sacrificial plants.  Blackflies prefer the nasturtiums to the beans, so it keeps the beans clear of the flies.  Also as a bonus, if there are no blackflies around, you can eat the peppery nasturtium leaves and flowers in salads.

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I also prepared the area where I will be planting my tomatoes at the end of this month.  At the end of March I spread manure over this bed and then covered it with weed suppressant as I hadn’t got time to fork it in.  I have found if I don’t fork the manure into the soil then it just dried in clumps on the top of the soil.

By covering the manure I was hoping that the worms would do some of the job for me…and indeed they did:

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….but there were still the odd bits that needed forking in, so I set to work turning the soil with my fork:

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This is the area that had my wildflowers in for the last two years, so this is the third time I have dug it over and I was astonished to find this in my soil:

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How on earth did I miss it before?  You can see how big it was next to my fork.

Another one of those crazy allotment mysteries!

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My chives have been looking beautiful this week and when I have stood and watched I can see lots of insects buzzing around them:

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But unfortunately as beautiful as they are, they now aren’t providing me with any chives to pick for our salads.  So at this time of year I chop some of the stems back and this allows the chives to regrow and provide me with another lot of fresh pickings in a few weeks time.

I also leave some of the chives in flower, for the beneficial insects to still visit.

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I don’t know if you remember that back in March I started to re-vamp the area at the back of my allotment.  This is the area that I moved my shed from last year.  I planted a quince tree here and also dug a small area at the back where I transplanted some rosa rugosa from my garden at home (so I could use the rosehips when they are established) and I also transplanted some ‘vinca minor’ (periwinkle) from home to cover the bare soil around rosa rugosa.

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I’m not sure at the moment whether I will woodchip this area or grass it…I will decide later on in the year when I have more time.

Until the plants become established, the ground around the vinca and rosa regosa is quite bare.  So I decided to transplant some calendula, that self seeds freely around ‘Calendula alley’.  You can see the established flowers in this old photograph below:

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I also transplanted some calendula in the old tubs at the back of this area too

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I think this area will be a lovely area to sit down and have a picnic, when it is finally finished next year.

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When I started my blog nearly two years ago, I wrote a post every day to get my blog established.  In January 2013 I decided to write just twice a week, however I am finding this incredibly difficult with other commitments that I have.

  One of my new commitments is learning to play the piano and I really enjoy practising every day as I find it a good way to relax (especially after stressful days).  I also enjoy writing my blog though and I don’t want to give this up.  So after lots of soul searching, I have decided to write my blog just once a week now and publish it on a Friday only.

I think this is a good solution which will allow me time to still blog and do other things (and write about them for you).

I hope nobody minds this too much.

I will still answer all your comments, as this is my favourite part of blogging.  If you haven’t left a comment before I would really love to hear from you.

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One other thing I wanted to mention, is my followers on ‘Twitter’ are growing rapidly, which I am very pleased with.  Therefore I have started to use Twitter more by posting little ‘chestnuts’ of information or ‘top tips’ on there every few days when I think of them.

So if you have a Twitter account you can follow me by clicking on the ‘follow’ button on the right hand side of this page or visit my twitter account ‘@Mrs_Thrift’

I was a bit nervous about using Twitter in the beginning as it sometimes gets bad press, but there really is nothing to it.  You can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ people whenever you like.

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Anyway,  thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be here every Friday from now on.

A Holiday In Scarborough And ‘Slowing Down’

Last week I spent four nights away with my family and it was a really welcome break, as I had been feeling really tired lately.

We went to Scarborough in Yorkshire and stayed in a Travelodge.  We booked the holiday last July and managed to pay just £153.20 for bed and breakfast for all four of us in a family room.  We like the Travelodge as we know exactly what we are staying in, as they are all vitually the same…the rooms are basic, but they are clean, warm and have an ensuite bathroom.  The breakfast is nice and filling too.

Our family room was a bit on the small side, but the view from the window definately made up for it.  It was lovely sitting watching the sea from the window:

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We expected the weather to be wet and windy at best (especially after all the storms we have had recently), or extremely cold, but it was really amazing.  When we arrived on Sunday it was sunny and it stayed dry the whole time.  In fact, most days we walked along the seafront eating ice creams!  Even my youngest daughter could join in this luxury as we actually found a shop that sold ‘lactose free’ ice cream which made my daughters holiday, as this is so unusual.

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We also expected most places to be shut in February, but everything was open and it was busy too.

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I really enjoyed this holiday with my family, even though we didn’t do an awful lot, it was wonderful to just spend time together.

We walked, talked, played bingo on the seafront and lost a few 2p’s in the arcades togther.  We visited the shops and my eldest daughter spent some of her birthday money and in the eveings we played board games.  To me it was sheer bliss.

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We took pasta salads to eat the day we arrived and then we used our Tesco vouchers to have a couple of free meals at ‘Ask’ and we also had fish and chips whilst sitting on the seafront.  We took crisps and drinks to have whilst we were in our room and out and about, so it really was a cheap holiday.

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When the sea went out it revealed some fantastic rock pools, so we spent quite a bit of time walking around these.

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All in all it was a fantastic holiday.  I know it wouldn’t be everyones ‘cup of tea’, but we had a lovely, relaxing time.

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The last of my stored apples

The last of my stored apples

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While I was there, it gave me lots of time to think about ‘this’ and ‘that’.  Recently, I have felt like I haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees and I have once again found myself rushing everything and generally feeling run down and tired.  I have also felt like I’ve not been achieving as much as I usually do.  So I decided to go back to basics and think about the things that are important to me.  Obviously my family are important as they mean the world to me, but other things that are important to me are:

My allotment and living simply.

Reducing mine and my families carbon footprint.

My blog and sharing recipes and gardening tips, in the hope it will help one or two people out there.

My music – I play the violin and last month I started piano lessons.

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Just by writing this down, it made me feel a bit better and more focused about what I want to acheive.

  I then went on to work out what ‘living simply’ means to me and what I needed to do to acheive it and I actually realised I was doing quite well, except for ‘slowing down and enjoying the moment’…and that’s when the penny finally dropped…I have once again gone back to multi-tasking and rushing.  I have been trying to do too many things in a day and I have stopped enjoying what I have been doing, as it now feels like a ‘chore’ instead of a pleasure.

So I realised things have got to change.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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Since coming home on Thursday I have made a real effort to slow down and enjoy each and every job I do.  I have spent time checking my stock of food and making sure I know exactly what is in my cupboards and freezers.  I have meal planned and batch baked, made our meals from scratch and washed and ironed our holiday clothes.  I have also spent time at my allotment.

Homemade Rolls

Homemade Rolls

Each job has been completed slowly and on it’s own, without multi-tasking.  Strangely, I actually feel like I have achieved quite a lot, even though I have slowed down, but more importantly, I have enjoyed each and every task.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have slowed down or if it’s because I have finally had the time to focus on my goals and what is important to me…but it doesn’t really matter why.

I once again feel like I have a spring in my step, looking forward to each new day.

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.