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King Richard III & A Quick Microwave Syrup Sponge Recipe

Because I live in Leicester, I couldn’t start my blog today without mentioning King Richard III.

For those that haven’t seen the news over the last week, the bones of Richard III were found buried deep under a car park in Leicester some time ago, and on Sunday a cortege carried King Richard III’s mortal remains from Market Bosworth (where he died in the battle of Bosworth) across Leicestershire into Leicester city centre.

We were all very excited as the A47 at the bottom of our road was closed for an hour as the cortege was to pass by.  So we all walked down to see a part of history, as Richard III was the last King to actually die in battle.  There were hundreds of people lining the road waiting when we got there.

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Well I can only say it was very dissapointing for everyone, as the cortege sped by so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it.  I had my camera ready in my hand and I still only managed to take the back of it as it shot by.

It was such a shame for everyone, especially as some people has white roses to throw, but there wasn’t time.

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There had been so much news coverage over the week leading up to the day, which is why so many people turned up to see him being driven past and everyone was under the same impression it would drive past at least a little bit slower.

However, it did all look amazing in the city centre when they showed the coverage on the news…it’s a shame we weren’t in town to see it.

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This week at home I realised that my butternut squashes were beginning to go over and I didn’t want to waste them.  We love butternut squash in our house and I grew loads last year at the allotment.

My last butternut squashes from 2014

My last butternut squashes from 2014

 I really didn’t want to waste the squashes, so I chopped them up ready for roasting and then popped them into the freezer on a tray and then bagged them up when they were frozen.

When they were frozen I tried roasting a few of them straight from the freezer, by just increasing the roasting time and I’m very pleased to say they were as good as they normally are.

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So I now have butternut squash, celeriac, jeruselum artichokes and parsnips, that I just take out of my freezer and roast from frozen (it makes Sunday dinner much easier).

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This week I decided to buy some trellis for my back fence.  The fence was looking very bare, as my cordon fruit trees haven’t grown any leaves yet.

I have been looking for trellis for a while, but what I wanted was always over £10 and I needed four pieces which would make it expensive.  However, I managed to find an expandable trellis in Wilkinsons this week for just £2 each and it matches my fence colour quite well so I won’t even have to paint it:

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It easily screwed onto the fence and I am very pleased with it:

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I shall be planting sweet peas up three of them, but I’m not sure what I will grow up the fourth one yet as this one is in the shade….I will let you know when I decide.

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I had a quick wander around my local nursery last weekend and I found a pot of Tegete seedlings for 60p.  I had already decided to grow some of these plants for my new kitchen garden as they are great to attract beneficial insects to the plot, but as yet I hadn’t managed to find the seeds in the shops.  I’m sure a packet of seeds would have cost me more than 60p.

So I brought the seedlings home and pricked them out.  There were enough for me to grow on and give to my family too.

(You can read how to prick out seedlings here).

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I also bought a tomato plant that was also 60p, but it was a lot further forward that the ones I am growing.  I have potted it up, by planting it deep in the pot, as new roots will then form from the stem and make the plant stronger:

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It will be interesting to see how much sooner I will have tomatoes ready to eat.

My tomatoes sown on the 3rd March

My tomatoes sown on the 3rd March

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This week my broad beans were ready to plant out. They are a variety called ‘Aquadulce’ that I sowed on the 11th February, which was really a bit late as they are an overwintering variety.

I do have a few spare plants that I can pass on, as I am not yet used to sowing seeds in such small amounts.

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It felt very nice to finally be planting something in my new kitchen garden at last.

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I noticed that the ground must be beginning to warm up as weeds are starting to grow, so I hoed for the first time this year.  It was very nice as it only took just a few minutes to hoe the whole plot – this job would have took a whole morning at my old allotments due to the size of them.

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I also decided to tidy up my strawberry patch, that was already in a mess from fallen leaves.  This is the only raised bed I have because this area is full of roots from the Viburnum tinus and Photinia bushes behind it.  The raised bed has been placed over weed suppressant as it was impossible to plant directly into the soil.

I used my homemade compost from my allotment compost bins and the small amount of compost I had made at home to fill the raised bed, so I could plant the strawberries in January that I also brought home from my allotment.  It was the wrong time really to plant them, but they seem to have survived.

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I also removed any of the dead leaves on the plants and gave them a good watering as the ground was fairly dry – I suppose this is one of the drawbacks with raised beds, especially ones that are situated under bushes as well.

(Incidentally, the raised bed will have plenty of sunshire as it faces south, so the bushes are not a problem as far as light is concerned).

Another thing I did was to cut the bushes back a little bit, so it was easier to walk around the raised bed.  I need to give some thought on how to stop the leaves from falling onto the bed and also more importantly, how to stop the bird muck falling onto my strawberries from the birds that sit in the bushes above….I’ll let you know when I’ve thought of something.

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Around my new kitchen garden my daffodils are flowering nicely and I had a nice surprise when I saw an aquilegia was growing next to one of them too.  These are one of my favourite flowers and I can’t quite understand how I missed it when I was digging my plot over.  It obviously is determined to stay and it’s ok for it to grow in the spot it is in, so I’m going to leave it there.

I like nice surprises like this.

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The rhubarb is growing nicely now and the comfrey is just starting to poke it’s head up from under the ground.

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Some of my raspberries are showing growth, but some aren’t yet, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that they show soon and they have survived the move from my allotment.

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So the kitchen garden is coming along nicely.

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Finally I though I would share another pudding recipe that I cooked for my family on Sunday.  It is really quick to cook, taking just eight minutes in my 700W microwave and tastes absolutely lovely (no one ever knows it has been cooked in a microwave either):

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Syrup Sponge Pudding Recipe:

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100g margarine, plus some for greasing the bowl

100g granulated sugar

2 eggs beaten

100g self-raising flour

2-3 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

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Beat the margarine and sugar together.

Mix in the beaten egg then fold in the flour.

Then add enough milk to achieve dropping consistency (so it falls off the spoon easily).

Grease a microwave bowl with margarine and then put the golden syrup in the bottom.

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Pour the sponge mixture on top of the syrup.

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Cover the bowl with a plate and microwave on high for 8 minutes (based on a 700w microwave).

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Leave it to stand for a couple of minutes before turning in onto a plate. 

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream – or on it’s own if you prefer.

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Enjoy!

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

Have a good week!

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Time For Change – Giving Up My Allotment Plots

If you have been following my blog over the last few weeks, you will know that I have been having some family problems that now take up a lot of my time.   On top of this we have a very anxious rescue dog that we brought home in October called ‘Judy’.

Right from the start it was apparent that she was not an ‘allotment dog’ as she is scared of most things and quite often just stands and shakes with her tail between her legs when we are outside our front door.  However we have all become very attached to Judy as she is such a loving dog and we refuse to give up on her, especially as she is responding to training with me.

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So all of this forced myself and Mr Thrift into making a very hard decision…..

On Saturday we handed back the keys to my four beautiful allotments.  It was such a hard thing to do as not only have I spent the last ten years working them and producing most of our fruit and vegetables, but as I stood and looked at the plots for the last time I realised I also have so many fond memories ….  my daughters planting and picking crops, playing on their bikes or on their swing and I remember them collecting ladybirds and making mud pies.  We also had lots of lovely family picnics there too.

However as my youngest daughter pointed out to me, these memories will stay with me forever.

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So what about my blog?

I’m still going to carry on writing my blog as it’s one of the things I love to do and I will still be talking about cooking from scratch, cleaning the old fashioned way, etc. but instead of allotment gardening I will be talking about my ‘kitchen garden‘.

I’m sure that you already know how much I love growing organic fruit and vegetables and I certainly couldn’t give up growing them completely.  So my blog is going to be focusing now on how much I can possibly grow in my small garden.

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So over the last few weeks I have started to transform my garden.

The photographs below show my back garden in November, before we had made the decision to give the allotment plots up.

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After much consideration, I decided that the top half of the garden would be my new vegetable patch and the grassed area near my greenhouse would remain, for my dog to run around.

My main aim is to grow as many fruit and vegetables in the garden as possible, but this will be a challenge as it’s a very small area with shade in some parts.

I began by cutting shrubs back and digging out their roots….and I must say it took far more trips to our ‘green waste’ tip than I thought it would.  I cut back the large shrubs we had (the choisya, lavatera, elaeagnus and the rosa rugosas) and then started to dig out the roots, but no matter how I tried I just was not strong enough to dig out the three remaining roots of photinia, the elaeagnus and a self seeded root of a pussy willow (which incidentally I didn’t even know was there).

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After cutting everything back this is what it looked like:

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  I was actually amazed how much bigger the area was than I realised.

I found lots of rubble and large stones which I piled up around the left hand edge of the garden.  The garden slopes down to the left so these stones will help to hold the soil in:

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I also found two slabs buried under the soil too:

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Unfortunately everytime my dog ran around the new vegetable patch she would end up absolutely filthy, covered in mud.  I decided to use some of the chicken wire from my allotment to make a fence to keep her out and I also made a little gate for easy access.

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After I cleared all the shrubs from the garden I then hit another problem….the fence at the end of our garden that was previously covered in the shrubs, was completely rotten and part of it was holding onto the support post with a piece of wire.  At first I thought we could just use screening to cover it, but if I wanted to use the fence as a support for plants then it just wouldn’t be possible.  So after much discussion we decided to go ahead and replace the fence….it was an expense that we hadn’t bargained for, but it looked much better afterwards and they dug out the three remaining roots for me too:

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Over the last couple of weeks I started to bring home things from my allotment that I wanted to make use of and some of my remaining crops.  I have been busy freezing leeks, carrots, brussells and some parsnips (I still have my celeriac and remaining parsnips yet to freeze).

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Unfortunately as the rent for the plots was due I had to leave some of the crops still growing e.g. curly kale, spring broccolli, spring cauliflowers, etc., but hopefully someone will have a nice crop from them.

I also brought home some autumn raspberries,  the currant bushes and the gooseberry bush that I only bought and planted in early October at the allotment and some chives and a few strawberry plants.  I also brought home a couple of globe artichoke and some of the wall flowers that I grew from seed too, and a hand full of jeruselum artichokes, a comfrey plant and a few overwintering onions.

I ‘heeled’ the bushes into the ground and planted the wall flowers at the front of my new wire fence and planted the globe artichokes, but I’m not really not sure if any of these plants will grow, as it really is the wrong time of year to move them….but I will keep my fingers crossed.

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One last thing I bought home was a few snowdrops from my lovely woodland area, as these remind me of my friend who passed away two years ago this month.

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Though time was short I managed to bring home my tools, nets, some woodchip (that I still  had bagged up ready to use), some large pots and some willow canes (to edge my new path).  I also managed to bring home my two bug boxes, some glass and some of the weed suppressant paths that I stitched up last year on my sowing machine, so I could use them again.  And finally I bought home the raised bed that I made for sowing my carrots into each year, the bird bath that I brought on ebay for £5 last year and the chair my dad used to sit on when he came to my allotment:

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I have an area in front of my greenhouse at home where nothing really grew due to the roots of the bushes that line our fence.  I already had weed suppressant in this area to screen off my neighbours garden from ours (unfortuanely they also had a new dog a month ago so our behaviourist advised us to do this while we are having problems with Judy), so I put the raised bed on the weed suppressant and filled it up with all my remaining homemade compost from home and topped it up with some of my allotment compost too.  I then planted the strawberries that I brought home from my allotment plot (again I’ve got to keep my fingers crossed that they will survive, due to transplanting at the wrong time of year).  Again I fenced this area off with chicken wire so my dog doesn’t jump all over it and made a little gate:

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So that is how things are looking this week in my new kitchen garden.  I have come a long way in a just a few short weeks but there is still alot to do before I am ready for planting.

I know I will miss my allotment plots, but I can’t change the circumstances that brought me to the decision to give them up.  By growing vegetables at home I will have more time for my family and our anxious dog.

My old allotment plots

My old allotment plots

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.