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Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, Flowers & Veg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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

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

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I also planted out my cherry tomatoes…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things I noticed in my kitchen garden this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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This week in the home:

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

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

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

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Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

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The muffin Mix:

200g caster sugar

200g peeled rhubarb diced into small pieces

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100mls semi skimmed milk

200g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

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The crumble mix:

50g light muscovado sugar

50g plain flour

50g margarine (or butter if preferred)

25g porridge oats

1 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat your oven 200C / 425F / Gas 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enjoy!

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

Have a great week.

XXX

Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Cabbage Collars

I don’t really know where to start today.  After I had a rest last weekend (as I felt under the weather) I have been working in ‘overdrive’ mode ever since and I have achieved such a lot.

  The rest obviously did me some good.

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At home I made some more dishwasher liquid, using the soap nuts that I bought a few years ago.  I use the liquid for two washes and then I use a ‘value’ dishwasher tablet for one wash and this seems to stop the grease from building up inside the dishwasher.

You can read about how I make the liquid here.

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I also made some more ‘multi-purpose vinegar spray’.  I use this to clean down my work surfaces in my kitchen, our table mats, my cooker hob, etc.  It is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All I use is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell for approx. 45p a bottle), and a few drops of ‘Tea Tree Oil’ (which I buy from Wilkinsons).

Distilled white vinegar is great as it’s cheap to buy and cuts through grease and dirt and is antibacterial too, so it kills most germs.  It does smell when you first spray it, but the smell doesn’t linger and no one will know you have used it.

White vinegar is milder than malt vinegar and dries odourless.

I mix the vinegar with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties too.

This makes a fantastic natural multi-purpose cleaner and it lasts for ages:

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I also decided it was time to add a couple more shelves in my pantry, in the hope that I can store more food in there (instead of our bedroom, which isn’t very romantic).

I bought a couple of cheap shelves from B & Q, put them up in a couple of hours and then painted them with some leftover white paint that we had in our shed.

I am very pleased with them and I will fill them when I do my next ‘big’ shop:

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At the allotment the poached egg plants (Limnanthes) are looking beautiful lining my centre path.  They are providing a much needed early source of pollen for the bees and it is wonderful watching them.  There are also loads of ladybirds around the flowers, which is brilliant as they are such a beneficial insect to have around the plot, eating any aphids that come my way.

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I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but at the beginning of the year I contacted Leicester City Council and asked them if I would be allowed to keep bees at my allotment.  As I have four plots, I have ample room and I had spoken to my allotment neighbour who thought it was a brilliant idea and he was quite happy for me to do this.

I wanted to make sure it was ok with the council (who I rent the plot from) before I spent money on a bee keeping course and equipment, as my garden at home is not big enough.

Unfortunately, Leicester City Council said I can’t keep bees at my allotment plot because bees are classed as ‘lifestock’ and the rules say that lifestock cannot be kept on their allotment plots, but more importantly to them – keeping bees would cause ‘health and safety’ problems.

I was dissapointed, but I felt there was nothing more I could do.

But to my surprise this week, I have found that some bees have now set up home in one of my leaf mould compost bins….I find this really amusing and I wonder what Leicester City Council would say to that?…..surely this causes a health and safety problem?

It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t bother with health and safety regulations….if it did then mankind would be in a mess!

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This week at my allotment I have been ‘earthing up’ my potatoes.  It is a job I hate as I find it really hard work….it’s the only time I wish I had the strength of a man!

‘Earthing up’ the potatoes helps to protect them from any late frosts and it also increases the length of underground stems that will bear potatoes. 

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I have also been planting things at my allotment this week.

I planted red and white cabbages first:

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I make my own cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of my plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassicas 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.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money I make my own by cutting out a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.

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I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

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At the allotment this week I also planted the last of my peas and mange tout that I sowed into guttering on the 21st April.

The birds love the tops of pea shoots at my allotment, so I make sure that they can’t get to them.

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I also planted out some more spring onions and some beetroot that I started in newspaper pots…

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…And a pumpkin plant that was getting a bit too big for it’s newspaper pot.  It is a bit early for planting out tender plants in this area, as it’s possible to get frosts here until the end of May.  However, I have planted it in my old compost area and surrounded it with glass for protection, so hopefully it will be ok:

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Another job I did was put a new sticky paper and ‘lure’ into my pheromone traps, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths and plum moths.

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You can read about the codling moth here.

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I also started planting in my polytunnel.  I raked in some blood, fish and bone over the new compost I added a week or so ago and as the ground was so dry I dug holes for the plants and filled them with water and let it drain away before planting into them.

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I planted four melons which are a variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’.  I planted them last year in my polytunnel and they were a great success, so I thought I would have another go this year.

‘Outdoor Wonder’ can actually be grown outdoors but I thought I would have better results growing them in my polytunnel.

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Below is a photograph of one of the melons I harvested last year and they tasted lovely:

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I also planted my gherkins, peppers and basil…

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…and some more lettuces:

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Every year I like to try something different, e.g. last year I grew the melon I wrote about above and a couple of years ago I tried growing shark fin melons:

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.

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….And this year I have decided to have a go at cucamelons.

Apparently, they look like grape sized watermelons that taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime and they are supposed to be really easy to grow….I will let you know.

You can read about cucamelons here.

I sowed the seeds on the 10th April and I planted two of them this week in my polytunnel:

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I will let you know how they do in my polytunnel and if the ‘Thrift’ household likes the taste of them.

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The polytunnel is fully planted for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some more plants in somewhere as time goes by.

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I have been picking a few leaves from the salads in the above photograph and some radishes from my polytunnel and this week I picked our first spring cabbage.  I know it’s silly, but I still feel excited when I pick the first of each vegetable when it’s ready to eat.

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To finish off with, I noticed a couple of things at my allotment this week:

First my watercress that I sowed a couple of weeks ago has appeared.  You can read how I grow watercress in a pot here if you are interested.

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And secondly I have flowers on three out of four of the clematis I planted to climb up the old swings that are no longer in use.  They will be better in a couple of years when the plants are more established, but for now I am happy with a few flowers:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

 

My Pumpkin Weight And A kitchen Update

This week at my allotment I have been planning next years strawberries.

I have been separating the runners from their parent plants and transplanting them into my new patch:

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There is nothing like the taste of the first strawberry of the year and I am already dreaming of it.

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I have also collected in my butternut squashes and put them into my greenhouse.  I will leave my squashes in there until it gets too cold for them and then they will be transferred to my usual ‘romantic’ position in our bedroom (as this is the coolest room in our house).

Unfortunately, at the moment my greenhouse is quite full as it has my dining chairs in due to our building work, so I have had to work around them:

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Pumpkin Competition

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So now it’s the moment you have all been waiting for……the total weight of my pumpkin is…….

(drumroll please)

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My '2013' pumpkin

My ‘2013’ pumpkin

My 2013 pumpkin weighed 5 stones and 8 lbs, which is 78 lbs altogether!

So the winner of my ‘guess the pumpkin weight competition’ is Mrs Yub, who guessed 81.5 lbs

Well done Mrs Yub!

I am very pleased as it has finally beaten my own pumpkin record of 76lbs in 2006.

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Today, I thought I would give you an update on how our kitchen is going.  The following three photo’s show my kitchen and back room after we had emptied them the day before our builders started:

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The builders have been here for three weeks now and below shows the progress they have made.

By the end of week one:

The kitchen was removed, the ceiling removed, the wall between the kitchen and dining room had been knocked down, the chimney breast had been removed, two steel supports had been inserted and the pantry, back door and back room door had been bricked up.

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By the end of week two:

The electrics have been put in, the plumber has been working on the gas and water and the building inspector has been round to examine the work.

The new door to my pantry

The new door to my pantry

By the end of week three:

The French doors were put in this week and the walls were plastered.  It is actually beginning to feel like a room again, instead of a building site.

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I am so looking forward to the builders finishing as I am really missing my home now.  I am fed up of cooking without a cooker and washing up with a bowl on the floor.  I have learnt how washing your clothes at the laundrette is expensive (£2.60 a load) and i’m not sure how people manage without a washing machine?… but all these little things will be a small price to pay when it’s finished.

Homegrown flowers

Homegrown flowers

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend.

Radio Leicester And A Blog ‘Pumpkin’ Competiton

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

On Saturday morning I had a visit at my allotment from Radio Leicester, it was lovely to talk about my plot.  If you would like to listen to the interview, you can find it here (approx. 1 hour 26 minutes into the show).  It was a fun morning talking about my favourite subject (my allotment) and I especially enjoyed talking about my flowers which attract beneficial insects, e.g. bees, ladybirds, lacewings, ground beatles and hoverflies.

The photo’s below show my plot at the moment:

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Last week I gave my woodland area a good weed and I removed plum tree suckers that insist on growing from the roots of the large plum tree.  I made this area into a woodland area as it is too dry and shady to grow any vegetables underneath it.

I planted bluebell and daffodil bulbs last year around the tree and they gave a lovely display in the Spring.  Back in March I also planted snowdrops ‘in the green’, so I am hoping they will give a good display for many Springs to come.  I chose to plant snowdrops as a way for me to remember my dear friend, who lost her battle with cancer in February this year.  The week she died I noticed snowdrops were flowering everywhere and as we walked out of her funeral service, the snow fell so thickly from the sky it was just beautiful to watch.  So I decided to plant snowdrops, so that every February when they flower I can stop and remember my good friend and the wonderful moments that we shared.  I don’t want to ever forget what a big part of my life she has been.

'Forget-me-nots' that have self seeded

‘Forget-me-nots’ that have self seeded

I have also been replanting some self seeded ‘forget-me-not’ plants, which also seemed fitting for the area.

Below are my before and after photographs:

January 2012 when I took my fourth plot

January 2012 when I took on my fourth plot

My woodland area now

My woodland area now

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Last week I have put a couple more ‘bug homes’ around my plots.  You can buy bug boxes but I prefer to make mine for free.  I just cut up a few old canes using a saw and tie them to a piece of wood in the ground.

The bug homes recreate the natural nooks and crannies that insects like to hide in over the winter.

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I also gave my brassicas a good tidy last week.  I removed any yellowing leaves which can harbour pests and diseases and tied my brussels to the supports that I put into the ground when I first planted them.  This will stop them from rocking in the wind over the winter, as this can loosen their roots from the soil which can be another reason for ‘blown’ sprouts (sprouts that have developed loosely).

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I noticed my cabbages have a few slug holes in the outside leaves, but I’m sure this won’t be problem as so far the inside of the cabbages are fine:

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I thought I would remind you to be careful of frosts this week if your pumpkins and squashes are still outside like mine.  Bring them inside or cover them up if a frost is forecast.

Below is a photo of my pumpkin this year.  I put my wrist watch on it so you could see its size, as I am quite proud of it.  I am hoping I will beat my personal record of 76 lbs, which is nothing compared to last year’s new world record weight of 2009 lbs, grown by a gentleman called Ron Wallace.

My '2013' pumpkin

My ‘2013’ pumpkin

I thought it would be a bit of fun to have a ‘guess the weight of my pumpkin competition, just for fun (no prizes).

I don’t even know the weight of it yet, as it’s still sitting on my plot.  So even if you don’t normally comment on my blog, please have a go and leave your guess in the comments below and I’ll reveal the weight when I bring it home.

Last years pumpkin that was just under 54 lbs

Last years pumpkin that weighed just under 54 lbs

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Moving A Shed/Pond And A Butternut Squash Problem

Last Monday I wrote about our very exciting building work that was due to start last Tuesday.  Unfortunately, for one reason or another the building work was delayed another week, but I am pleased to say they have started today.  As I write, The kitchen has been removed and our backroom carpet has been lifted and they are currently removing the ceiling.

It is all very exciting.

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Up until now the builders have been very professional and they have great references from people we have been to see, so we are hoping that the delay was just an unfortunate ‘blip’.

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I’m very pleased to say that at the weekend Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law managed to move my shed on to my newly laid slabs, without it collapsing and I no longer have a ‘crooked house’.  I am very grateful to them.  They also moved and set up my two water butts ready to catch the winter rains.

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My pond in Spring

My pond in Spring

I also decided to move one of my small ponds at the weekend.  Unfortunately the pond was in an awkward place next to one of my compost heaps so I came to the conclusion it needed moving.  I wanted to move it before the winter as I wasn’t sure if I would disturb anything that would be hibernating over winter.

I put the pond at the far corner of my woodland area.  This area is not in the shade and it is near the middle of my plot, so I thought it would be a good place to encourage frogs to visit it and then go away and eat the slugs and snails on my plot.

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First I dug a hole ready for my pond liner.  The soil was rock hard as I don’t think this area had been dug for years and years:

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I then put all the pond water into an unused water butt next to where the pond was moving to:

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I dug out a bit more soil so the pond liner sat straight and then I filled the pond up.

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I put some old bits of crazy paving around the pond and then transplanted the aubretia that I grew around the pond previously.  Finally I emptied the water from the water butt next to the pond.  I didn’t want to use the same pond water, as there were leaves, mud and lots of lots of pond weed in it, but I hoped that by emptying it next to the pond, any pond life would be able to crawl back into my newly located pond.

I was very pleased with the result, however I will need to cover it with netting soon to make sure that the autumn leaves don’t blow into it:

Before

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After

After

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I just thought I would finish with a couple of things.  The first is my tomatoes….I am sad to say that they have finally succumbed to the dreaded tomato blight.  You can read more about it here.  As I have caught it really early, I have stripped the remaining tomatoes off my plants and I will be ripening them in my polytunnel and greenhouse at home (I would normally ripen them on my windowsills but due to the building work this isn’t possible).  I may still lose some of them to blight, but time will only tell.

I have read so many times that you should burn the foliage when you have blight, but this is just not true.  Blight is a fungus that remains in the seed (the tomato) but not on the foliage.  The fungus will not survive on the stems or leaves after the plant has died, so it is safe to add it to the compost heap, provided you have removed all of the tomatoes.  If you are still unsure, you can read more on the Garden Organic website here.

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And finally, three different people at my allotment have asked me the same question this week, so I wondered if the answer would help anyone who reads this blog, as it is obviously a problem that a few people are suffering from…..butternut squashes that are not yet ripening?  I have been asked what to do with them when they are still partly green?

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Butternut squashes were late producing fruit this year as if you cast your mind back, it was still quite cold in late May and June.  This meant the squashes were all slow to get going.

My reply was that I would leave them out as long as possible and watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  If there is a frost forecast I would either cover them up with fleece for the night or if I couldn’t leave them outside any longer, I would bring them into a cold greenhouse or polytunnel to see if they would ripen just a little bit more.  If they are still green then they won’t store very long, so I would eat these ones first.

I hope this helps someone here too.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday, hopefully with some better news about our building work.

A Week Of Planting Tender Crops

The weather has been beautiful this week, making it a real pleasure to work at my allotment.

I’ve had a good week there, as I have started to plant out my tender plants.  These plants are the ones that can’t tolerate any frost, so I have kept them at home until this week.

Two weeks ago, I prepared the soil by spreading some blood, fish and bone fertiliser over the area where the plants were to go.

Unfortunately, the week didn’t start off too well as I had an accident with my first set of plants…I dropped a whole tray of sweetcorn, face down on my path!  Every one of my home sown plants either bent, or snapped in half and they were unusable. Only a ‘gardener’ can understand how upsetting this was for me, I just kept looking at them in disbelief!

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Luckily, a wonderful nursery in Syston came to the rescue and I managed to get some replacements.  They were really reasonable in price too, as they were £2.00 for twelve plants, which isn’t as cheap as growing them from seed but cheaper than buying ready grown, tasteless ones from the supermarket.

I planted the sweetcorn in a block.  Sweetcorn is wind pollinated and by planting them in a block it gives the male flowers at the top of each plant more opportunity to shed their pollen on the female tassels below.

Afterwards, I planted my butternut squash plants in between the sweetcorn.  I do this as it saves space, but also because the leaves of the squashes are quite large they help to prevent weeds from growing and help to keep moisture in the ground (as the ground is shaded from the sun).  I have grown my sweetcorn like this for a number of years and I have always had a good result.

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes between them

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes planted between them

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This week I planted my outdoor tomato plants.  They are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’.  I use this variety as they fruit slightly earlier than other outdoor varieties and this gives me a chance to get a decent crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits.  You can read about tomato blight here.

If you live in the UK, you can use a wonderful website called Blightwatch UK.  If you register, they will email or text you (free of charge), when the conditions are perfect for ‘blight’ in your area.  It doesn’t necessarily follow that you will suffer from blight, but it will remind you to check your plants.   You can find their website here.

I also planted some ‘Tagetes’ in between my tomatoes, as they are one of the best organic controls against aphid infestations, as their foliage has a scent which aphids hate….and they look nice when they are in flower.

My tomatoes

My tomatoes

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My courgettes and patty pans went in this week and my pumpkins too.  The allotment society is having a pumpkin competition this year and we were all given two or three seeds each to grow.  My daughter won last year’s pumpkin competition with a pumpkin that weighed 24.4 kg.  I wonder if we will be lucky again this year.

Last year's winner

Last year’s winner

This year's plant

This year’s plant

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I like to make sure we always have salad leaves, as we eat a lot of them in our house.  So I sow lettuces often through the spring and summer.  I planted some this week and I covered them to keep the birds away:

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Finally, I planted my celeriac (which incidentally need lots of water to get decent sized plants) and I also planted my swedes.  My swedes were still very small, so I put mini cloches over them (made out of pop bottles), to protect them from slugs, snails and flea beatles.  The mini cloches will also keep them in a sheltered environment until they are bigger.  You can see from the picture below that I also put a small cane in the cloche, this stops the wind from blowing them over:

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Things seam to be growing well around the plot at the moment.  I noticed my gooseberries seemed to have appeared since I last looked:

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and my strawberries seem to have grown just as quick…

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My poached egg plants that attract the bees and hoverflies are looking beautiful now…

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and the flowers in my flower bed have sprung into life, together with my ‘sink’ of alpines:

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I love days at my allotment when the sun is shining and the weather is warm.  Days like these make me very grateful for living the life I do.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.

Halloween Trivia and Pumpkin Recipe Week

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween originated back in the 5th century BC.  The Celts celebrated the end of summer and the gathering in of the harvest with a festival called ‘Samhain’, which took place on the night of 31 October.  It was believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the following year.

A large part of the celebration involved the building of huge bonfires, which were thought to welcome friendly spirits and ancestors, but ward off those considered dangerous. People would dress up in animal heads and skins and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The name ‘Halloween’ came from All Saints Day on 1 November, named by Pope Boniface IV in the seventh century.  It was a day given in honour of saints and martyrs. It is believed that it was the Pope’s attempt to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows, All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated from a ninth-century European custom called ‘souling’. On November 2 (All Souls Day), Christians would walk from village to village begging for ‘soul cakes’, made out of square pieces of bread with currants.  The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.  At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could help a soul’s passage to heaven.

Now a days, children go trick-or-treating, which means dressing up and knocking at doors shouting “trick or treat”.  If you do not give a treat then the children will play a trick on you.  In actual fact, in England, it’s polite for children to only knock on a door that obviously welcomes ‘trick or treaters’.

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Interesting facts:

About 99% of pumpkins marketed domestically are  ‘Jack O’Lanterns’ used at Halloween.

In the United States, 86% of Americans decorate their homes for Halloween.

Magician Harry Houdini died in 1926 on the 31st October.

The record for the fastest pumpkin carver in the world is held by Jerry Ayers of Baltimore, Ohio. He carved a pumpkin in just 37 seconds!

People have believed for centuries that light keeps away ghosts and ghouls. Making a pumpkin lantern with a candle inside may keep you safe from all the spooky spirits flying around on Halloween.

The record for the heaviest pumpkin grown is 2009 lbs.!  You can see the pumpkin here.

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Thanks to Mrs Yub, one of my regular readers, I have a link here to a website that shows some wonderful carved pumpkins.  Some of them are absolutely brilliant.

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Now I’ll continue with my ‘Pumpkin Recipe Week’, so you can use up the pumpkin flesh that you scoop out of your halloween pumpkins.  Don’t forget you can put your chopped up pumpkin flesh straight into a freezer bag (without blanching) and put it into your freezer, to use at a later date.

Today’s recipe is:

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup

1.4kg Raw pumpkin cut into chunks

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 onions, chopped

1 ½ pints of vegetable stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mild chilli powder

A tablespoon olive oil

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Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then slowly fry the onion and potato until they are nearly soft.

 

Add the garlic and pumpkin and continue frying for 1 minute.

Add all the other ingredients and bring them to the boil.

 

Simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes until the ingredients are soft.

 

Blend the soup in a liquidiser or by using a stick blender.

 

Bring the soup back to the boil and serve with some nice homemade bread.

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I freeze this soup in one bowl portions, which I defrost and reheat. I take it in a flask to the allotment and it’s very warming on a cold autumn day.

Enjoy your ‘Halloween’.

Thank you for reading my blog today.