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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.

My Calendula at my allotment

‘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!

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How To Avoid The Pea Moth & How to Harden Off Plants

I wanted to start today by saying a big ‘thank you’ to everyone that reads my blog and for all the lovely comments I receive each week.  It really is the comments that spur me on to continue writing.

Things changed in the ‘Thrift’ household when I gave my four allotments up last year, however your comments gave me the confidence to continue blogging about my new ‘kitchen garden’.

My blog will never win awards, but as long as people are reading and enjoying it, I will continue to write.

Thank you.

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This Week:

The weather has gone from one extreme to the other over the last week or so….from hail and snow to hot, sunny days.  On Sunday morning I walked my dog early to avoid the heat and even then it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves:

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I always think the park looks beautiful in the early morning and I love to hear the birds sing at this time of the day…. they sing so loudly, as though they are excited about the day ahead.

I noticed the bluebells looking stunning in the dabbled shade under the trees and the ‘Cytisus scoparius’ (common broom) looking equally as impressive, in amongst the hawthorns that are in blossom at the moment:

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I felt blessed to be walking around the park at this time of day on my own, as it felt magical.  I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be there and have the time to stop and enjoy it.

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However the park looked completely different on Wednesday after twenty four hours of rain, but it still looked beautiful:

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In My Garden This Week:

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As it has been warm this week I decided it was time to start to ‘harden off’ some of my frost tender plants that have been sitting in my greenhouse, by moving them in my colder ‘mini greenhouses’.

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“Hardening off” your plants allows them to adapt to outside conditions before they are planted in their final positions.  There are two ways to do this:

1) Put your plants in a cold frame and gradually open the window of the cold frame more each day until it is fully opened or

2) Put your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day afterwards.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks.

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This week I also started to put some of my homegrown bedding plants into pots so they can grow on and look pretty in the summer.  I used marigolds and dwarf dahlias:

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I also made up a couple of hanging baskets with the cherry tomato plants that I grew from seed:

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As with everything else, I will harden them off gradually and I will be bringing them back inside my greenhouse every night until all the risk of frost has passed.  This is usually the end of May in Leicester, however I am still very careful to watch the weather forecast even then, as a few years ago I lost all  of my outdoor tomato plants at my allotment in the first week of June!

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This week I removed the glass from my climbing peas that I planted out in April, as they are now growing well:

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I tied some garden string around them to give a bit of support to help them climb.  I also draped some environmesh over the plants to stop the birds from eating them and give a bit of protection fron the pea moth (though I didn’t have quite enough to cover the sides, but it worked well like this last year):

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 “Adult pea moths lays their eggs in May, June and July on pea plants.  Their caterpillars feed on the seeds that develop inside the pea pods and then drop to the ground in late summer to pupate……this is a good reason to rotate your pea crops each year.

You can reduce the damage of the pea moth by covering your plants with environmesh or fleece”

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The tomatoes that I planted in my greenhouse are growing well now and I am continually ‘pinching off’ the side shoots that are appearing between the main stems and leaves….you can see in the before and after photos below:

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The seeds that I sowed last week have started to germinate and I have moved them from my kitchen into my greenhouse to ‘grow on’ for a week or two before I also start to ‘harden them off’ ready to plant later this month:

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I noticed this week that the first geraniums are starting to bloom in my hanging baskets:

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And elsewhere in the garden the dwarf wallflowers that I sowed last year are giving a good display….

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….together with the two dicentras (bleeding hearts) that I replanted after finding them growing recently in my border (though I haven’t a clue how they got there):

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 And finally in my garden my Azalea is beginning to flower.  My dad gave this plant to me when it was tiny – it came ‘free’ with some plants he ordered and he didn’t want it.  Over the last few years it has really flowered well:

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This Week In The Home:

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There is not much to tell you about this week except I have spent time altering the length of a new pair of curtains that my dad brought for his front room……unfortunately they were fifteen inches too long!…. (I’m not sure why he decided to buy this length of curtain).

After I altered them I decided to ring around a couple of well known shops to see how much they would charge for altering curtain lengths, just out of curiosity……I was quoted £35 by one and £40 by another!  It’s amazing how much you can save by learning a few basic sewing skills.

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After altering the curtains I took them to my dad’s home and hung them up for him….but unfortunately they weren’t really wide enough either (which I didn’t realise before as dad had given me the measurements).  This meant I couldn’t gather them up very much at the top, but I did my best.  However, they didn’t look too bad in the end and dad seemed very pleased with them …. and that is all that matters!

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That’s it for today.  Thank you for reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  Have a great week!

A Problem With My Leeks….

This week nature has produced some beautiful sites.  It started with the most beautiful red morning sky last weekend:

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And then a covering of snow that made everything look very pretty:

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 I’m very pleased to say that the snow disappeared as quickly as it came and this week and I managed to get into my garden to start my winter ‘clean up’ and start my preparation for the new growing season ahead.

I started by emptying the compost bags I had in my greenhouse as I want to clean my greenhouse in the coming week.  Nothing really grew very well in these bags, but I think this was due to my watering system overwatering the compost and the dreadful, dull weather we had last year.

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I spread the compost over two of my beds to help improve the condition of the soil:

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I started to put manure around my rhubarb too, but unfortunately I ran out of it so I need to but some more.  However I did manage to surround one of my rhubarb plants:

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I then cut down my old runnerbeans, leaving the roots in the ground as the nodules add nitrogen to the soil, which will be good for my brassica’s which will follow them:

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Next I cut the tops off my jerusalem artichokes which I grew in a large bottomless pot to contain the roots.  I will dig up them next week to see if I have managed to get a crop:

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So this area now looks better, though I do need to tidy my utility area behind:

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I also turned my attention to my leeks which have been very disappointing:

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As you can see from the photo above they have been targeted by the allium leaf miner and some of my leeks have started to rot.  I have written about the allium leaf miner here, it is a fairly new pest in this country and only appeared in Britain in 2002.

The allium leaf miner only ever affected my onions at the allotment which lulled me into a false sense of security, so I didn’t bother covering my leeks with environmesh…..but unfortunately they were were hit hard this year, so I will have to make sure I cover ALL of my alliums from now on.

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I took the photo above of the small brown pupae that I found in some of them to show you.  They are approximately 3-4 mm long, embedded into the stem.The pupae will overwinter in the plant or in the soil.  In the spring, the adults will emerge from the pupae and lay eggs and the first generation of larvae will then feed in April and May. The second generation is likely to feed in mid-September.

But I am pleased to say, some of my leeks were ok, so I did get a amall crop:

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This week I also tidied a bed that I had covered with environmesh in the Autumn, to give a bit of protection for my summer lettuces.  The summer lettuces had been picked a long time ago and I thought there was nothing underneath, but to my surprise I found a row of winter radishes that I had sowed in late summer and completely forgotten about:

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They have grown lovely and so I picked one straight away and later grated it into the salad we had for tea:

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I had a quick weed around them and then put a cloche over them to give a bit of protection:

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I also picked some winter purslane (sometimes know as miners lettuce) that I had been growing in a pot in my greenhouse and also added it to our salad:

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I love being able to pick winter crops to add to salads and I am very pleased that I have acheived this in my new kitchen garden, though I want to do a lot better for next winter.

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I also sowed my first seeds this year, which I always find exciting:

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I planted overwintering broadbean (Aquadulce), which over the years I have found they grow best in pots planted this month and then transplanted in the spring.  I also sowed leeks and the remaining garlic cloves that I had left over and these wil sit happlily in my cold greenhouse for the moment.  I also sowed my peppers, but these will be kept inside a propagator in the warmth of my house for the time being.

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This Week In The Home:

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I sat and finally sorted my seed tin as it was in a bit of a mess.  I listed down exactly what seeds I have and I worked out exactly what I want to grow this year in my garden.

I now have a plan of exactly when I need to sow my seeds and what I still need to buy.

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I am hoping to grow even more this year in my new improved small kitchen garden.

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I then caught up with a few things for the freezer…..each are small things that help me a lot to save time:

My daughter wanted some chocolate chip cookies, so I made them and then froze them so that I can take just a couple out of the freeze each day, so she doesn’t eat them all at once:

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I sliced some lemons up and froze them on a plate, ready to put in a freezer pot when frozen.  This way we have a ready supply of lemon slices to add to water when we need a drink.  As the lemons are frozen they also cool your water down without having to use icecubes:

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I then made a double batch of white sauce.  I froze one of the sauces in a freezer bag after it had cooled down.  Next time I need a white sauce I will just defrost it and reheat it in the microwave.  This way it is easy to use it as it is, or just add parsley for a parsley sauce or cheese for a cheese sauce.

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I made and froze leek and potato soup in portions.  Again I can just defrost a portion and then reheat it in the microwave for my lunch:

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I made the leek and potato soup using the leeks that I dug up this week:

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A Leek and Potato Soup Recipe:

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800g potatoes peeled and chopped small

800g Leeks chopped

1700 ml vegetable stock

800mls hot milk

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Add the potatoes, leeks and stock to a large pan:

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Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered for approximately 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

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Heat your milk while you use a hand mixer to blend the vegetables to make them smooth and then add the hot milk to the pan.  Bring the soup back to the boil and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring all the time:

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 Serve and enjoy adding salt and pepper to taste!

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

Have a great week!

A Chicken and Parsnip Stew & A Fruit Loaf Recipe

I thought I would start today by letting you know that Judy, (our lovely rescue dog) has made a full recovery after her illness last week and she is back to her normal, cheeky ways.

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We all absolutely love Judy to bits and I am so glad we didn’t give up on her like the previous three owners did.  Though I have got to be honest, when our previous ‘dog behavourist’ told us she was untrainable last February, we were very close to giving up….she had so many problems e.g. barked all the time at home, barked and lunged at dogs, people, cars, bikes, lorries, washing machine, birds etc. etc.

Nearly a year later, she still has one or two things she doesn’t like, but she is getting so much better as time goes by, thanks to our wonderful dog trainer Steven Havers.

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Curtains for my daughter:

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I’m not sure if you remember a couple of months ago I decorated my youngest daughter’s bedroom.  I struggled to find any ready made curtains that she liked, to finish off the bedroom.  So in desparation I took her to a material shop and she found some fabric she liked, so I bought it promising to make her curtains after Christmas.

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The curtain material and new furniture in her bedroom was a present for her birthday and Christmas, but because of this I was a bit concerned that she wasn’t going to have many presents to actually open on Christmas day.  So during December, while she was at school I worked really hard to make the curtains so I could wrap them up for her to open on Christmas day.

She was very surprised when she unwrapped them and I must say I am very proud of them now they are up:

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I also had a bit of material left so I managed to make a couple of cushions for her too, which I also wrapped up for her to open on Christmas day:

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Over the Christmas holidays I decided it was time to catch up with one or two jobs that I had been putting off…..

  I started by clearing our loft and it was amazing how much rubbish we had up there.  I have since sold one or two bits on ebay and given away some other things…..but most of it was thrown away.  But the attic looks better now.

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I also went through my bills folder…..again there was a lot in there that I didn’t need to keep.  Myself and Mr Thrift looked at every bill we pay to see if we could possibly reduce it….unfortunately we are quite ‘bill savvy’ so we didn’t manage to make any savings, but it’s good to check every so often.

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Over the Christmas period myself and Mr Thrift surprisingly managed to buy lots of ‘whoopsies’ ….for some reason we seemed to be in the supermarket when they reduced their produce to ridicuously low prices.  So over Christmas I froze whatever I could and my freezers were bursting:

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The last photo shows the ready cooked beetroot that was reduced.  My dad sometimes buys this and pickles it, but as I already have pickled beetroot in my pantry I decided to cut it up and freeze it on a tray.  When it was frozen I put it in a bag and this way it is easy to take a few slices out at a time to defrost for sandwiches.

I also used the reduced parsnips and Chicken drumsticks in a chicken and parsnip stew which I cooked in my slow cooker.  By cooking it in the slow cooker you find that the chicken ‘falls off’ the bones easily and tastes so moist:

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Chicken and Parsnip Stew:

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6-8 chicken drumsticks or thighs

2 onions peeled and roughly chopped

4 -6 medium parsnips peeled and chopped into chunks

Hot Chicken stock to cover

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Put all the ingredients into a slow cooker making sure the hot stock covers the ingredients.

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Cook on ‘low’ for approximately 8 hours

Serve with vegetables of your choice:

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This week…

This week at home I decided to use up the mixed fruit that I had left over in my pantry.  I decided to make a fruit loaf (which I absolutely love).  It’s really easy to make in a bread maker and I used my bread slicer to cut it into nice thin slices.  This loaf freezes well so you can take a couple of slices out to defrost when required:

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A Fruit Loaf Recipe:

1 teaspoon of Fast Action Dried Yeast

400g Strong White Flour

2 teaspoon Granulated Sugar

75g margarine or butter

½ teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Mixed Spice

2 Eggs

110ml Water

110ml Milk

300g Mixed Dried Fruit

 

Add all the above ingredients into a breadmaker EXCEPT the mixed fruit.

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Set your breadmaker to a ‘Basic bake loaf’ with raisens and add the mixed fruit when the breadmaker tells you too (that is approx. 47 mins after the start in mine but you will need to refer to your own manual).

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Enjoy it!

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In the garden this week:

This week in the garden I dug up my parsnips.  This is the first time I have grown a crop in this area so I wasn’t sure what they would be like….but they weren’t too bad (though most of them were a lot smaller than the ones I used to grow at the allotment -probably due to the condition of my soil):

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Parsnips next to a 30 cm ruler

Unfortunately some of the parsnips suffered from parsnip canker:

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“Parsnip Canker is a fungus that causes orange, brown, purple or black coloured rot, which usually starts at the top of the root.

I have read that the fungus is caused by drought, over-rich soil or damage to the crown, BUT I have also read that it is worse in wet, pooly drained soils as well”

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As you can see in my photo above, if the canker isn’t too bad the parsnip under the skin is usually fine to cook and eat.

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To avoid canker:

  • Rotate your crops
  • Don’t manure your soil before growing parsnips
  • Improve your drainage
  • Grow resistant varieties such as ‘Albion’or Hollow Crown

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As I had too many parsnips to eat in one go, I peeled and chopped them and then froze them on a tray (without blanching them).  When they were frozen I took them off the tray and bagged them up.

When I next cook a Sunday lunch I will roast them from frozen.

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Finally this week I brought my seed potatoes.  I chose my usual ‘Marfona’ which is a second early and ‘Desiree’ which is a red main crop potato.  I also brought some ‘picasso’ to plant in my mother in laws garden, which are an early main crop.

All the potatoes are now ‘chitting’ in our bedroom…..very romantic!

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That’s it for this week.

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

Have a good week!

 

Pear Rust & A ‘Judy’ Update

After reading last weeks comments, I realised that a few people out there also have a nice, old fashioned ‘English tea’ similar to the one we had last week, which is nice to know.

This got me thinking about other things I used eat when I was younger and I remembered that on a Sunday my dad would always make a cooked breakfast.  Now this isn’t too unusual, however while he cooked he would feed me and my sisters raw bits of sausage and we would suck on the raw rind of the bacon!!!!….I’m surprised we weren’t really, really poorly.

It’s funny but I can still taste the sausage now and I have to admit it was lovely!   I wonder if anyone else reading my blog today ate raw sausage and raw bacon rind too?….it’s not something that is advised nowadays!

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A ‘Judy’ Update:

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For those of you that don’t know, Judy is our lovely rescue dog that we have had for eleven months now…..unfortunately she came with a lot of problems and we recently found out that we were her fourth owners.  Our first behaviourist suggested we should give her up as she was untrainable and in the wrong environment, but thank goodness we didn’t.

We have been training since the beginning of May with Steven Havers (a different trainer) and the results have really been amazing!  Finally this last week I have started to walk to the park (instead of drive) as she can now tolerate the traffic well (except for the very large lorries).  This is something that used to really make her stressed.

She can also walk with other dogs on the park now and is fine if another dog runs up to her.  But the most amazing thing this week is….I have started to let go of her long training lead when I walk her on the park, so I am not holding her (this way I can pick it up if she strays too far, though her  ‘recall’ is much better now too).

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So things are going very well with Judy and other dog walkers are now commenting on how well she is doing……one particular lady who has seen me walking Judy from the beginning spoke to me this week and said how well she was doing and said to me that “I have given Judy her life back”…… and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day as it made me feel so proud!

She still gets anxious if there are lots of people around and dogs on leads are sometimes still a problem, but I will keep working on this.

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I am so glad we didn’t give Judy up as we all absolutely adore her.

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This week in the garden:

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This week I noticed that my Cosmos has finally started to flower properly and it looks beautiful together with the orange berries of the pyracantha that the birds love to eat:

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The grass on my newly laid lawn is rooting well and as it was growing well, I ran the lawn mower over it, on its highest blade setting.  I will leave the grass a couple more weeks before removing my ‘make shift’ fence from around it, so we can walk on it properly:

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This week I decided to cut back the Viburnum tinus that was casting far too much shade over my one raised bed.  I planted the Viburnum when we first moved into the house thirteen years ago and I didn’t really want to cut the whole plant down, so I took away some of it as a compromise….hopefully this will make a big difference to the light in this area:

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In the end I removed a ‘car load’ of branches (which we took to the tip the next morning), but by the time we had filled the car the moon was shinning!  This really made me realise that the nights are drawing in quickly now autumn is here:

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This week I planted some spring cabbages in my kitchen garden after raking some blood, fish and bone into the soil.  I made some cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly, as the odd one may still be laying eggs at this time of year and I then used my usual method of using canes and bottles to support a net over the cabbages, so the birds don’t eat them:

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I also planted some more lettuces which will hopefully last until the really harsh weather of winter comes our way.  As the nights are getting colder, I decided to cover them with a cloche to give them a bit of protection:

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Unfortunately this week I noticed a problem with the pear trees that I planted this year… They have ‘Pear rust’ which is a fungus that unfortunately spreads long distances between pear trees and junipers, which I can’t do anything about.  Therefore all I can do is remove the infected leaves on my trees and hopefully, if it doesn’t become too bad, it won’t reduce future harvests too much.

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You can read all about pear rust on the RHS website here.

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This week I thinned out my tray of over wintering onions…..again I used scissors to cut off the ones I didn’t want, to stop any root damage to the remaining onions.  I will wait a couple of weeks now before I  plant them in the ground:

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This week I also dug up the last of my ‘Desiree’ potatoes.  I left them out to dry for a couple of hours and then placed them in a sack to store them in a cool, dark place until required.  It seemed strange only having one sack of potatoes as I usually have lots of them to store, but at least this year I only had a few to dig up:

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I have also put the garlic that I grew, in a cool dark place to store.  I didn’t think the garlic looked very big but when I separated a bulb the cloves seemed a decent size, so I was very pleased with it in the end:

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I am STILL waiting for the sweetcorn to ripen, however the ‘Moneymaker’ tomatoes that I planted outside are finally turning red…..I am praying that we don’t have an early frost….I am watching the weather forecast very, very closely.

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This week in the home:

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I am still picking autumn raspberries and a few blueberries from my kitchen garden and my daughter stuffed as many as possible (together with fruit from my freezer) into the pancake that I made her this week:

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Also this week I made a couple of plum cakes (one for us and one for my gardening forum):

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Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the cakes after I cooked them, but this is how they look when cooked:

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Unfortunately we have now finished eating my homegrown onions for this year, all except the last few really small ones……

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I hate using the really small ones when I cook dinner as they are so fiddly when I’m in a rush, so I decided to pickle the last few instead:

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And finally this week I topped my wine up with cooled, boiled water and it is bubbling away nicely…..I can’t wait to try some soon!

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

I will be back next week as usual.

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Have a good week!

A Bargain Cabinet & Another Good Harvest

We have had some miserable, wet and cloudy days this week, but there has also been some beautiful sunny days where I have managed to sit for a while and watch the world go by.  I’ve noticed on these warm days the birds have sung beautifully, as if they are making the most of the final days of summer.

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A couple of time this week in my garden I have spotted a frog.  I don’t know if it is the same frog but it is very welcome in my garden as they love to eat slugs and snails.  I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of it but below is a good photo of a frog I spotted at my allotment, waiting to pounce on a snail:

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This week in my garden I have started to ‘thin out’ the winter salads that I sowed a couple of weeks ago.  I used a pair of scissors again to chop off the seedlings that I didn’t want as this helps to stop any root disturbance on the remaining seedlings:

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Also in my garden I took the tops off my main crop potatoes (as the foliage had died off)…

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….and I then dug some of them up:

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These are a late variety called ‘Desiree’ which I have grown for a number of years.  I have found over the years that these potatoes don’t suffer so much slug damage as other varieties and they have a particularly good drought resistance if we have a dry summer and they always give me a good harvest….so I think they are a good main crop to grow.

‘Desiree’ potatoes are also a good all rounder in the kitchen, as they are great for mashing, roasting, chipping, baking and boiling too.

Unfortunately though I noticed that a few of my potatoes are suffering from ‘Scab’:

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“Scab can be caused by dry conditions when the tubers are forming and it is worse in alkaline soil.  Therefore if you are going to be liming your soil to increase the Ph level to avoid club root, this is best done after you have grown potatoes in rotation with your other crops”.

I do know my soil is very alkaline, so this is probably the reason for the scab on my potatoes, however I will just peel them and they will be fine to eat so I am not worried.

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This week I also cleared away my french beans as they have finished producing:

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I didn’t keep any of the seeds as I wasn’t really impressed with this variety, however I forgot to write down the name of variety.  Next year I will go back to growing a variety called ‘Maxi’ as they produce lovely thin, stringless beans with the advantage that the beans are grown above the foliage so they are easy to pick.

'Maxi' frenchbeans grown at my allotment in the past

‘Maxi’ frenchbeans grown at my allotment in the past

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The weather has certainly been strange this year and plants have been getting confused.  I saw on Gardeners World last week that Monty Don has Foxgloves in flower, which usually flower in Spring.  I have found my Primroses are in flower too….I wonder what will happen to them in Spring?

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This year I have grown two different tomato varieties outside.  ‘Outdoor Girl’ has been producing tomatoes for weeks now, but this has always been an early variety which I grow to produce a good harvest before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits…. this is something I haven’t seen this year thankfully.

I have also grown a variety outdoors this year called ‘Moneymaker’.  They have produced lots of big tomatoes which are yet to ripen….I am keeping my fingers crossed they all do, but I am finally seeing the odd one begin to turn red:

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I must say that over all, my outdoor tomatoes have produced a far bigger harvest than my greenhouse tomatoes, which I think is due to the cold, dull weather we had in April, May, June and July.

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The patty pan plant that surprised me and began growing a month ago from a seed I had given up on, is now growing a couple of patty pans….if it doesn’t turn cold maybe I will have one or two to harvest?

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I am still waiting desparately for my sweetcorn to be ready.  You know it is ready to be picked when the tassells turn brown and a milky liquid comes out of the kernals when you press a nail into one……unfortunately the liquid is still clear in mine So we will have to wait a bit longer yet:

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This week’s harvest:

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I am still astounded with the amount I have grown this year in my small back garden, though I am convinced that I can fine tune this and grow more next year.  One advantage of growing things in every inch of ground is there is certainly less weeding to do, which is a big advantage to me!

This week I thought it may be easier to show photos of what I have harvested:

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So you can see why I am so pleased with my new kitchen garden.

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This week in the home:

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I made passata again using my home grown tomatoes and froze it ready to use in the winter:

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I also froze the parsley, again so I can use it during the winter months for garlic bread and parsley sauce.  I just cut the leaves off, wash them and put them in a freezer bag.  When they are frozen they crumble easily in the bag:

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I made some more of my ‘vinegar spray’ which I use in my kitchen as a multipurpose antibacterial cleaner.  I make it by adding a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil to white distilled vinegar and it is as good as any antibacterial kitchen cleaner that you can buy and it is an awful lot cheaper too:

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Mr Thrift has continued to find some really good ‘whoopsies’ this week and it has meant that I haven’t made any homemade bread.  Some of the bread he has found has been reduced to just 9p……so we couldn’t resist it!

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Finally, since I decorated our front room I have been looking in charity shops for things to make the room more homely.  One thing I have been trying very hard to find is a cupboard to match the darkwood TV cabinet we have….and this week I found one:

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It cost me just £40 and I was really pleased with my find….until I got it home and realised that we have a little gas pipe in the alcove where I wanted it to go, so it didn’t fit.

So I had to saw a bit off the side praying it wouldn’t look too bad.

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In my shed I still had a bit of dark woodstain that I used on my mirror years ago, so I used this to darken the wood that I had cut so it wasn’t so noticable…..and I am really pleased with the result (thank goodness):

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Now I just need to keep looking for a few pictures for the walls and we need to buy a new carpet (when we can afford it).

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

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

Kitchen Garden Photos & A Christmas Chutney Recipe

I thought I would start my blog post by showing you a wonderful sand sculpture I came across this week outside the ‘Richard III’ visitors centre in Leicester.  Apparently it took a lady called Susanne Ruseler just seven days to create it…..what a talented lady!  I think it is wonderful and I found it purely by accident as I walked past:

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I turned my attention to sowing some winter seeds.

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I sowed mizuna, winter lettuce, winter purslane, winter spring onions and corn salad.  I am a tiny bit late sowing these seeds, but hopefully they will be fine.

At the moment they are in my mini greenhouse, as I am trying desperately to keep the squirrels from them.  The squirrels are becoming a nuisence in my garden at the moment, as they keep digging holes to bury the monkey nuts that one of my neighbours insists on feeding them….it also sends Judy (my rescue dog) into a mad barking session each time they come in the garden, so I really need to think about this problem and come up with a solution.

But for now I have used some chicken wire to try and keep them away from my seeds:

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Also this week I noticed the ’60 day’ raab that I sowed three weeks ago was ready to ‘thin out’.  I used scissors as normal to cut away the seedlings that I didn’t want (this stops any root disturbance for the remaining seedlings).  I will need to thin them again at a later date, but for now I left plenty of them in case the slugs and snails decide to have a feast on some of them:

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I have continued to harvest runner beans, tomatoes, beetroot, salads, spring onions and curly kale this week too:

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….And I noticed that my sweetcorn has really had a growth spurt and will soon be ready too:

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“Sweetcorn is ready to pick when the tassels at the end of the cobs turn brown and when you press your nail into a kernel the liquid comes out is milky”

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The phacelia that a sowed a few weeks ago is growing nicely now.  I won’t thin the seedlings out as it is a green manure that I want to grow thickly to keep the weeds from germinating:

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I will chop down the phacelia before it sets seed and then dig it into the soil to add nutrients ready for next year’s crops.

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The rest of the kitchen garden is doing well too and I thought I would be nice to show you some photos that I took this week:

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This week in the home…

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This week has been a very busy week here in my kitchen:

I started by making some more dishwasher liquid as I had ran out.  I make it using soapnuts and it works really well in our dishwasher and it is really easy to make:

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I also made a big portion of spaghetti bolognaise.  We had some for tea and then I managed to freeze four portions.  I always ‘pad out’ my spaghetti bolognaises with whatever vegetables I have to hand, so this one had carrot, runner beans and curly kale included in it.  I find the portions go further if I mix the spaghetti (or pasta) in with the sauce rather than layering the sauce on top:

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I then had a freezer disaster to sort out:

I don’t know if you remember, but a couple of weeks ago our small chest freezer broke and myself and my daughter had a mamouth cooking session to save the large quantity of vegetables that were in this freezer.

Unfortunately this week I had another ‘freezer disaster’…. the door of one of my other freezers was left open by accident.  Luckily again, there was no meat in this freezer as it was mainly full of allotment fruit, homemade cakes, scones and my bread rolls for the week ahead.

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I had been waiting for a spare few hours to make jams with the fruit that was left in my freezer, ready for my Christmas hampers, however this forced me to make them now instead of later.  So I spent a couple of days cooking yellow plum jam, gooseberry jam, strawberry jam and finally some plum and worcesterberry jelly….

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On the positive side, nothing was wasted again and this has created a lot more room in my second freezer, though I am sad to say I now have no fruit or vegetables left from my old allotments……so I must work out how to grow even more fruit and vegetables in my new kitchen garden next year!

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Beetroot from my new kittchen garden:

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This week I also wanted to use up the beetroot and apples that I was given last week (together with my own beetroot), so I made some beetroot chutney:

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……And I also wanted to use the remaining plums that I was given last week, so I made some ‘Christmas Chutney’ which uses cranberries and plums and a few lovely ‘christmas’ spices.  I have written the recipe below if anyone is interested.

  We will use some of the preserves that I have made, but a lot of them will be given at Christmas in the hampers that I make.

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Christmas Chutney With Cranberries & Plums

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500 grams courgettes chopped

500 grams plums halved with stones removed

400 grams granulated sugar

300 grams dried cranberries

600ml white wine vinegar

2 onions chopped small

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground mixed spice

1 tsp salt

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Add all the ingredients except the sugar to a large pan and bring it to the boil stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved and then simmer for a couple of hours or so, until the chutney is thick and chutney like.

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Pour the chutney into sterilised jars and store in a cool dark place for a minimum of three months to mature.

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Then enjoy it with cold meats and sandwiches at Christmas!

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

Have a good week!