Archives

Cucumber Sorbet and Allotment ‘Catch up’

 Thank you for all your kind words last week, after my father-in-law passed away.  It was lovely to know so many people were thinking of us.

We had the funeral on Monday and the church was full, as he was a very well liked and respected man in our community.

We found the day exhausting and we felt very drained at the end of it.

SAM_9639 SAM_9641

Unfortunately we were away on holiday in Scarborough when we received the call that he had passed away.  This was devastating for us as we couldn’t be with him during his final hours.

We obviously cut our holiday short and drove home that day, so we could be with my husband’s family.

SAM_9611 SAM_9610

We are all missing my father-in-law very much.

.

This last two weeks have been very hard on us all and I must say I have really had to push myself to do anything at the allotment…..but nature doesn’t stand still and things need to be picked (though I haven’t been keeping on top of the weeds as I would normally do).

Amazingly the allotment is looking good even though it hasn’t had much attention for three weeks now:

SAM_9704 - Copy

Things are growing well:

SAM_9721 - Copy SAM_9718 SAM_9717 - Copy SAM_9715 - Copy SAM_9713 - Copy SAM_9711 - Copy SAM_9709 - Copy SAM_9708 - Copy

SAM_9720

I also have melons growing in the polytunnel which I really need to support and I have little cucamelons which are about ready to eat:

SAM_9723 SAM_9722

.

Since coming home I have been picking my produce by the basket load and using it up or freezing it, pickling it or preserving it…

SAM_9700 SAM_9699 SAM_9697 SAM_9696 SAM_9693 SAM_9691 SAM_9665 SAM_9658 SAM_9656 SAM_9648 SAM_9647

.

I have dug up my onions and garlic and they are currently drying in my mini greenhouse and I have begun digging up my potatoes, which I dry for a few hours before putting them in sacks to store for the winter:

SAM_9692 SAM_9662

.

The shallots have now all been pickled, together with my gherkins and my pantry is bulging, even though some have already been passed onto family and friends.  However, the first jars to be opened are already half empty as my family love them, so they won’t last long:

SAM_9732 SAM_9733

.

CUCUMBERS GALORE…

SAM_9717 - Copy SAM_9731

As it has been a very dry summer here, my indoor and outdoor cucumbers have done exceptionally well and I have so many of them.  They will store in a fridge for a few days, but there are only so many cucumbers that you can eat!

I read if you peel them and then puree them, they can be frozen in portions and then added to spag bogs, pasta sauces, etc. so I have given this a try and I’ve found it’s a great way to add a few vitamins without the family knowing:

SAM_9671 SAM_9729

.

Also, I made a very easy Cucumber and Mint Sorbet.  It sounds horrible, but it is quite a surprisingly refreshing taste.  I must admit I couldn’t eat a whole bowl of it, but a scoop served with another pudding, e.g. meringues, is really lovely and it will impress friends at a dinner party.

.

Cucumber amd Mint Sorbet:

.

800 grams of cucumber that has been peeled and the seeds scooped out

5 – 10 grams mint leaves (I used apple mint from the garden)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

130 grams icing sugar

.

Start by putting the cucumber, mint, lemon juice and icing sugar into a food processor:

SAM_9676 SAM_9678 SAM_9679

Blend until the mixture is runny, but still a bit course (see the photo below):

SAM_9681

Chill for a few hours in the fridge.

Then pour the mix into an ice cream maker and let it do the hard work for you.

SAM_9682

When it is ready, transfer the sorbet to an ice cream tub and pop into your freezer until required.

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingredients into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals).

Decorate the sorbet with some fresh borage flowers from your garden if you have them.

.

And Enjoy!

SAM_9687

.

I just wanted to finish by saying a big ‘thank you’ to those of you that voted for my blog in the ‘easyshed.co.uk’ competition.  I am amazed that I received so many votes and even more amazed to have won – thank you so much.

.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

 

Two ‘Trials’ & An Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe

This week at my allotment I decided to trial two different things:

1) Nemaslug Slug Killer:

The first is ‘Nemaslug Slug Killer’, which apparently controls slugs naturally and is harmless to children, pets and wildlife (inc. birds and hedgehogs), even if they eat the infected slugs.

They seemed pretty easy to use from the instructions that I read before I ordered them, so I thought I would give them a go as they are a natural organic way to fight slugs.

SAM_9322

Apparently this pack can treat upto 40 square meters and it gives six weeks of protection.

I particularly wanted to use the slug killer around my potato patch as I seem to suffer regularly each year from slug holes in them.  After researching the best way to use the nematodes, I found it was best to use them six to seven weeks before I plan to harvest my potatoes, which was this week.

As the product only has a shelf life of four weeks, I ordered them a couple of weeks ago and when I received them they had to be stored in the fridge.

SAM_9323

The instructions said that you needed to apply the nemotodes on a dull day or in the evening….so I waited for a dull day.  It also said the ground must be moist before you apply them, so I had to use my hosepipe to wet 40 square meters!

I split the packet into four and poured each quarter into a watering can (with a course spray as advised) filled with clean water.  I then set about watering the area where my potatoes are growing…..I found I almost had to run along to make sure the watering can didn’t empty before I had covered the desired area!

I then read that you need to keep the area moist for the next two weeks, which means using more water from a hosepipe.

My first impressions are that it’s all a lot of messing around and an awful lot of watering (unless you apply them in a wet period which is no good for me at the moment).  However, I will follow the instructions and see if my potatoes have fewer slug holes this year…..The cheapest price I could find was £9.44 (incl postage), so I will let you know at the end of my trial if it is worth spending this money.

.

2) The second trial is ‘Tagetes minuta’

SAM_9317

I go to a wonderful garden forum that used to be held at the ‘Eco House’ in Leicester (which sadly closed down last year), but we managed to keep the forum going.  We decided to trial these plants together as according to Sarah Raven:

“Tagetes minuta is an extraordinary plant that isn’t a looker, but its roots kill perennial weeds such a ground elder and couch grass.

Height: 180cm”

I sowed my seeds on the 30th April and they were ready to plant out this week:

SAM_9316

I planted them right at the back of my plot which is covered in all sorts of perennial weeds such as couch grass, dandelions, brambles, buttercups, nettles and even some Ivy:

SAM_9318 SAM_9319

To be honest you have to look really hard to see where the plants are in the photo below.

SAM_9321

I did give them some slug pellets to start them off as I know slugs love to eat tagetes and I wanted to give them a chance to work their magic.

.

I will let you know the results of both trials.

.

.

This week at the allotment I cleared the poached egg plants away as they had finished flowering and had shed most of it’s seed.  They gave a wonderful display last month and they brought lots of beneficial insects like ladybirds and bees to my plot:

SAM_9294SAM_9297

I then replaced them with some marigolds that I grew from seed in March and hopefully they will look great in a few weeks:

SAM_9305

I also gave my flower patch a good weed and removed the forget-me-nots that also gave such a good display this year.  I cut back my hardy geraniums to encourage a second flush of flowers too:

SAM_9309 SAM_9310

  I then planted some dhalias, petunias and antirrhinums that I had also grown from seed.  Hopefully these will give a good display all summer:

 SAM_9307

.

Elsewhere on the allotment I have sown some more radish and I have been watering my celeriac at least twice a week to encourage bigger roots.

I have also been hoeing to keep the weeds down.

SAM_9295 SAM_9304

.

Harvesting:

This week I have been harvesting lots of wonderful salad leaves, radish, spring onions, coriander and also watercress (which incidentally is grown in a large pot of compost that is watered only once a week):

SAM_9334 SAM_9311

And also lots of broad beans that I have been blanching and then freezing on trays before putting them into a freezer bag, to stop the beans from sticking together in large lumps:

SAM_9329 SAM_9333

And strawberries…what a wonderful crop this year.  In total I have harvested four baskets full so far:

SAM_9301 SAM_9332

So we have eaten loads, I also made some more jam and I froze the rest.

SAM_9303 SAM_9339 SAM_9313

.

At home my hanging baskets are looking beautiful so far and I have started to feed them with a high potash liquid feed….the same one I use for my tomatoes at home

SAM_9342 SAM_9343

And I have my first flowers on my ‘poundshop’ dhalia’s.  These were a bargain as there were three tubers in a pack for £1.00 and I didn’t really think they would be up to much….but all three have grown.

SAM_9345

.

I love receiving comments on my blog and this week ‘Angela’ asked me for the recipe that I use to make vanilla ice cream.  I don’t bother messing around with vanilla pods, I just use ‘madagascan vanilla extract’ which seems to be a bit thicker than ordinary vanilla extract and can be bought from your local supermarket, however normal vanilla extract should also work.

SAM_9354

.

A Very Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe:

(With or without an ice cream maker)

.

165 grams caster sugar

240ml double cream

500ml  milk (I use semi skimmed)

2 teaspoons Madagascan vanilla extract if possible (or normal vanillia extract)

.

Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined with a hand blender or a spoon:

SAM_9355 SAM_9356

Add the mixture to your icecream maker to do the hard work

SAM_9357

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingredients into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

SAM_9358

As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for 10-15 minutes before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

SAM_9269

.

.

Altogether it has been a good week in the ‘Thrift’ household and to top it off, my good allotment neighbour gave me some ‘Sweet william’ flowers to take home and they look beautiful.

SAM_9336

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  I hope you have a good week.

A Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe & My Allotment This Week

Before I start, I don’t usually advertise anything on my blog, but I thought I would make an exception for this:

Transition Leicester are holding a ‘Leicester Green Open Homes And Living’ event….

Their website says “Would you like some ideas about making your home and/or life greener? Come and look around the homes of people who are changing their homes and lives to reduce their carbon footprints and talk to them about what it is like”.

For details on the houses, their availability and features, click here I can imagine it will be a real eye opener.

.

————————————————————————————————————————–

What a busy week it has been at the allotment.  Due to all the rain we had last week I have had to work twice as hard to catch up with my planting.

First though, I had to dig up my old spring broccoli and curly kale before I could even start planting:

SAM_9209

I then planted my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green), leaving them under glass to give some protection for a couple weeks as it has been really cold and wet and they do not like these conditions:

SAM_9232

My runner beans and tomatoes were planted out:

SAM_9202

And my sweetcorn, butternut squashes, patty pans and courgettes:

SAM_9210 SAM_9231

And more spring onions and lettuces:

SAM_9224

And some more cauliflowers under environmesh and I planted cabbages under bottles as they were small and I wanted to give them a bit of protection from slugs and the cold

SAM_9201 SAM_9218

I also planted my leeks that were sown way back in January.  If you haven’t planted leeks before, it is a bit unusual the way they are planted.  You can read how to plant them here.

SAM_9222 SAM_9220

I also planted my celeriac, which like plenty of water and they certainly had plenty of rain on Wednesday this week…

SAM_9223

…and I finally got round to planting some flowers- sweetpeas, nasturtiums and tagettes.

SAM_9214 SAM_9215

I also planted some nasturtiums around my runner beans as a sacrificial plants.  The blackflies prefer nasturtiums to the beans and so they leave my runner beans alone.

.

I also invested in a very large net from ebay this year to stop the pigeons from eating my peas.  I hope to be able to use it for years to come as it wasn’t the cheap sort that you can buy.

A few years ago I didn’t need to net my peas as the birds never bothered with them, but they seem to eat everything these days, including my lettuces which I still find strange.

SAM_9212

.

Also, I finally got round to nipping the top couple of inches off my broad beans to stop the blackflies as they love the top growth.  The best time to do this is when the first beans start to develop on the plants, but as you can see in the photo below, I was a little bit late on one or two of them, but I’m sure they will be fine.

SAM_9203 SAM_9206

.

Finally at my allotment, I have had loads of people ask me what is wrong with their onions this year and I have said the same thing over and over again….it’s the allium leaf miner, which is a fairly new pest.  You can find information about it here.

My onions have been hit too and I will be covering them with environmesh next year:

SAM_9234

.

.

During half term when it was raining nearly all week, it was lovely to have some time to catch up at home.  Especially as my daughters were off school, as I love spending time with them.

One of the things we did was toasting marshmellows over a candle.  I had forgotten how good they taste and they took me back to when I was a Guide (many years ago).

I absolutely love the melted marshmellow taste:

SAM_9192SAM_9193

.

During the week I also managed to catch up on some long overdue jam making sessions with leftover fruit in my freezer.

I made rhubarb jam and strawberry jam:

SAM_9186 SAM_9188

SAM_9189 SAM_9191

I find jam making quite thereputic and it is so easy to do.

If you haven’t made jam before, you can find a strawberry jam recipe and some jam making tips here if you are interested.

.

I also managed to give my drains a bit of a clean  by pouring 1 tablespoon of bi-carbinate of soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar.  It bubbles up like a volcano for a few minutes and then I flushed it all down by running the hot tap for a few moments….the result was clean smelling, unblocked drains!

SAM_9187

.

I was also able to take time to make some nice salads from my polytunnel and some nice meals for the family without rushing….it was such a pleasure:

SAM_9179 SAM_9195 SAM_9184 SAM_9182

The last photo is homemade shortbread, which is one of the simplist recipes I have.  You can find it here.  I use pure margarine as my daughter is lactose intolerant, but you can use normal margarine or butter and they taste even nicer.

.

The photo my daughter took as we picked them

The photo my daughter took as we picked my strawberries

This week I made some luxury strawberry ice cream as double cream was on offer at Tesco….and the taste is absolutely delicious!…and yet again so easy to make.

I used my strawberries from the allotment as they are ripening nicely.  These are a very early variety that I planted two years ago:

SAM_9248

.

Luxury Strawberry Icecream Recipe:

300 grams strawberries

300 ml double cream

140 grams of caster sugar

.

Puree the strawberries in a bowl with a hand blender / liquidiser or a fork

SAM_9241 SAM_9242

Add the caster sugar and the double cream to the bowl

SAM_9243 SAM_9244

Give it all a mix with a spoon until it is all combined

SAM_9245

And add it to your icecream maker to do the hard work

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingrediants into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

SAM_9246

As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for fifteen minutes or so before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

SAM_9173

.

I actually made double the amount of ice cream and it filled an old two litre plastic ice cream tub and I worked out it cost me just £1.85 to make.  I’ve checked on the Tesco website and the ‘posh’ ice cream is far more expensive than that!

Within an hour of making the ice cream, some of it had disappeared out of the tub….it must have been the ice cream fairies…so beware of the ice cream fairies if you make it too.

SAM_9249

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again next Friday

My woodland garden this week

My woodland garden this week

Have a good week!

Batch Baking, Fixed Beds And Celeriac

Before I start I thought I would show you a couple of photos that I took yesterday out of the car window, whilst my husband was driving.  I think the display of daffodils that Leicester City Council planted a few years ago, really look beautiful this year.  I think the daffodils are the variety called ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and they look stunning planted all along the central reservation.

SAM_8584 SAM_8588

.

Yesterday morning I did my usual weekend ‘batch baking’.  I love baking all in one go, as it saves me time during the week and energy as I cook things together.

This weekend I made fruit scones and weetabix chocolate brownies for lunch boxes and a chocolate cake for tea. I butter the scones before freezing them as it makes it easier in the mornings, as I just take a couple of scones out and pop them a lunch box.

SAM_8569 SAM_8572

I also made a large pot of vegetable soup to take to the allotment with me in my flask.  I love having homemade soup with a homemade roll, sitting in the sunshine at my allotment watching all the birds and insects buzzing around….and it’s full of vitamins and cheap too.

My homemade soup has whatever I fancy from the freezer when I make it.  Yesterday’s soup has my homegrown swede, turnip, courgettes, runnerbeans, broadbeans, pumpkin and leeks in it.

I just fried the leek in a tablespoon of olive oil until it was soft and threw everything else in and just covered it all with vegetable stock and left it to simmer for thirty minutes.

SAM_8567 SAM_8568

I then used my hand blender to ‘blitz’ it until it was smooth and divided it into portions which I froze when it had cooled down.

It really is an easy meal to make.

SAM_8573 SAM_8574

.

.

At my allotment this weekend I noticed lots of ladybirds appearing.  In this particular clump of overgrown grass there were loads of them together, though the photograph actually only shows three.

SAM_8582

.

I have ‘fixed beds’ at my allotment, which just means I have paths either side of my beds so I don’t need to walk on them.  This makes it far easier for me to manage the soil, as I can just lightly ‘fork’ over my beds if I need to.

I chose not to have raised beds as I couldn’t afford the wood for raised beds (as I have four plots) and I would also need to buy in the top soil to fill them.

My top soil is nice and deep and I don’t think raised beds would be an advantage for me.  The only exception is my one raised bed that I use to grow my carrots in, as I can not grow carrots in my very heavy soil.  This one and only raised bed is made up each year of my homemade compost, leafmould and a bag of sand and this is the only way I have managed to grow carrots.

SAM_2465

So this week I have been busy finishing the weed suppressant paths that I talked about here and I have been ‘forking’ over this area ready for my legumes.

I think this area looks much better without the bricks holding the weed suppressant down and it will be lovely not to have the weed suppressant ‘fraying’ all over the place as it gets caught up in my fork, which is very annoying as it makes the job harder to do.

SAM_8557

There was one area that I had been treading on all winter, as I had put the prunings that I took from my plum tree late last summer there.  This wasn’t a wise move as it was really hard work forking the soil over, as it had all compacted and the water was slow to drain from this area.

  I thought I would show you the difference between the soil that I had trod on lots over the winter and the soil that I hadn’t trod on.  Both photos were taken when I had turned the soil over with my fork.  You can see the soil structure where I hadn’t walked, in the right hand photo. This was far better than the soil on the left hand photo, where I had walked.  So this is really enough proof to me that my ‘fixed’ beds do actually work.

SAM_8555SAM_8556

.

This weekend I had been transplanting some of my plants at the allotment.  I have divided my chysanthemums and planted them through my weed suppressant next to the boxes that I made last week to edge my plot:

SAM_8564

I have also been transplanting some of them to the outside of my woodland area, together with foxgloves that have self seeded around my plot.  Hopefully they will look lovely when they flower.

SAM_8563 SAM_8562

And finally, I transplanted some Michaelmas daisys that had outgrown their spot, to the back of my plot around the Hazel trees which I coppiced this winter…

SAM_8550

…I do already have Lavatera and Buddlia growing at the back of the Hazel, so hopefully with the  Michaelmas daisys,   this area won’t look so bare whilist the Hazel is growing back.

SAM_8551 SAM_8553

.

One last thing, I picked the last of my celeriac this weekend.  I don’t usually leave it in the ground overwinter, but I somehow over looked it….but I have got away with it as it has been so mild.  The celeraic does have one or two slug holes in, but I am really pleased with it overall.

So my next job is to freeze it this week.

SAM_8565

.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Winter Vegetables And A Parsnip Cake

This weekend at my allotment I noticed that the snow drops I planted last year have begun to flower.  Where on earth is time going to?…I can’t believe it will be February on Saturday.

SAM_8149 SAM_8148

I planted the snowdrops last year after my good friend passed away.  The day she died I noticed that snowdrops were in flower and they looked beautiful, so I decided to plant some in my ‘woodland area’ at my allotment.  This way I will remember her each time I see them in flower.  I will plant some more this year too, as eventually I want to see a mass of snowdrops in this area.

I still miss my old friend very much.

.

SAM_8147

I also noticed that I have some primroses in my woodland area that are in flower too.

There are also one or two early flowers on the poached egg plants and in the photograph below, you can just see a daffodil bulb poking through too:

SAM_8154

These are all reminders that Spring will soon be on it’s way, (though we do still have some cold winter weather to get through first).

.

This weekend I brought some vegetables home from the allotment for dinner.  I have decided that I am very pleased with my winter vegetables this year:

SAM_8158

I put a twelve inch ruler next to the parsnips so you could see the size of them.  I tried various methods of growing parsnips with limited success, until I started to grow them in kitchen roll tubes.  This gives me an almost perfect germination rate and also nearly always gives me straight parsnips that don’t fork.

You can read how I grow my parsnips here.

SAM_6064.

I have had a problem in the past with my brussell sprouts ‘blowing’.  I always thought that this was due to the soil not being firm enough around the plants, but I knew my soil was firm as I dug manure into it the autumn before and stomped around on it before I planted into it.

I then read that F1 varieties were less likely to ‘blow’ and I planted these last year….and I’m pleased to say I am very happy with the result.  The photo below shows a variety call ‘Igor‘, which I will definately be growing again this year:

SAM_8157

.

I am still picking carrots at my allotment.  I grow my carrots in a raised bed each year and then move the raised bed completely, to a different part of my allotment.  I fill the bed with homemade compost, leaf mould and a bag of sharp sand mixed together and this gives me good results.  After sowing I cover the bed with environmesh to keep the carrot fly out:

SAM_2465

You can read about carrot fly here.

I picked a monster carrot at the weekend, it weighed just over half a kilogram.  It was almost a meal on it’s own!

I put a teaspoon in the photograph to demonstrate the size of the carrot:

SAM_8146

.

The swedes are still good at my allotment too.  I love swede mashed with a little bit of butter and pepper, though I had never tried it until my husband introduced it to me a few years ago.  I think it is one of my favourite vegetables now.

SAM_8156

And I’m still using homegrown onions and potatoes from my storage boxes outside:

. SSAM_8159

.

All in all, I feel like we are living like kings on the winter vegetables that I have grown.  I’m sure they would have cost us a fortune in the shops to buy and it’s nice to know they are all grown organically, without any chemicals.

SAM_8174 SAM_8175

.

I finished the above Sunday lunch with ‘Parsnip Cake’.  Parsnip cakes are very, very moist and taste very much like carrot cake.  This is how I made it:

Parsnip Cake

175g margarine

250g soft brown sugar

100ml honey

3 eggs (beaten)

250g self raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

250g parsnips grated finely

1 apple grated

1 orange – use the juice and zest

130g cream cheese

100g icing sugar + extra to sprinkle on top

.

Preheat your oven 180C / gas 4 / 350F

Grease and flour two 8 inch sandwich tins

Put the margarine, honey and sugar in a pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has all dissolved.

SAM_8161 SAM_8162

Allow to cool for a while.

Add the eggs to the pan and stir thoroughly.

SAM_8163 SAM_8164

Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into the sugar and egg mixture and stir.

SAM_8165 SAM_8166 SAM_8167

Then stir in the apple, parsnip, orange juice and zest.

SAM_8168 SAM_8169

Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes.

SAM_8170

Leave the cakes to cool.

SAM_8171

Make the icing by mixing the cream cheese with the icing sugar and then spreading it over the bottom layer of the cake.  Put the top layer of the cake on top and dust with icing sugar.

SAM_8172

Enjoy!

SAM_8173

.

Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back on Friday.

I hope you have a good week.

Homemade Compost From Perennial Weeds And Couch Grass

During the last week I have been catching up with some overdue jobs at my allotment.

With Mr Thrift’s help over the weekend, I have managed to spread some compost over the beds where my brassicas will be planted this year.

SAM_8079

I haven’t bothered to dig the beds as I don’t walk on the soil (as I always walk on my paths) and brassicas like firm soil anyway.  I will let the worms do the hard work for me.

When I first took on plot number three in March 2010, it was covered in couch grass and weeds.  You can see a photo of it below:

I put all the weeds (couch grass, perennial weeds etc) in a compost bin which I made out of pallets tied together.   I then covered it with weed suppressant.  Over the last four years everything has been rotting nicely and it has now produced the most beautiful, sweet smelling compost:

Image059 Image058

Books and magazines are constantly telling you that you mustn’t add perennial weeds to your compost bins, but I do this all the time and produce lovely compost.  I think the main reason they tell you this is because it is sometimes hard to kill perennial weeds (but starving the weeds of light will eventually kill the hardiest of weeds) and because of the weed seeds.  I hoe each and every week at my allotment to remove any weed seedlings and so weed seeds have never really been a problem for me.

  I love making compost as it has so many nutrients in it, which makes it great to add to vegetable beds and it is also free to make.

.

Over the past week I have been clearing some areas of my allotment.  I started by clearing my wildflower area.  I had to use an old plank to walk on as the ground is still so wet:

Image061 SAM_8071

I also cleared away the canes and straw where my tomatoes grew last summer:

SAM_8073

I am planning on growing my tall peas in this bed soon, which is why I have left the weed suppressant in the middle.

I have moved the old straw that was around my tomatoes to my globe artichokes.  If you surround the crowns it gives them added protection over the winter (though I am a bit late doing this, but we haven’t had a really hard frost yet luckily).  Last year I planted two new globe artichokes that I grew from seed and I have been told that they don’t always make it through their first winter,  so I have built a cold frame around them out of old glass windows:

Image069 SAM_8074

.

I have also cleared the old flower foliage from around my old swing and on the bed next to it.  Incidentally, the clematis that I planted last year should have some lovely flowers on this Spring time, as it grew well last year.

SAM_8076 SAM_8075

Everything I have cleared has gone into my compost heap at the bottom of my plot:

SAM_8077

I know it looks like I have put far too much into it, but it will rot down and then I will cover it for three or four years before using it.  Below is a picture of a compost heap that is now just about ready to use that was actually higher than the one above when I first covered it and now you can see how much it has rotted down:

SAM_8078

.

Another job I did last week at my allotment was to build a more permanent runner bean support.  I dug down a couple of feet and put two old metal posts in the ground.  I then tied some canes to the supports.  You can see from the photo below that I have started to fill my trenches with old peelings etc.  As they rot down they will help to retain the moisture in the soil, if we have a hot summer.  When the trench is full I will cover it with the soil I have taken out and start to fill the trench on the other side.

Runner beans can stay where they are year after year as they require little nutrients, but they do need lots of water, which is why I use this trenching method.

SAM_8080

.

Over the last few months I have been trying to think of a way to change my fruit area, to make it more low maintenance.  It was a real pain to lift the nets of my two fruit cages every week when we needed to mow.  You can see my fruit area in the photo below (the cages aren’t in the photo as I take them down after I have removed all the fruit):

SAM_8081

I decided to have just one fruit cage this year and bring the blueberries in their pots into the middle and remove two gooseberry plants that really haven’t given me much fruit over the years.

I firstly covered the area with weed suppressant:

SAM_8082

I thought long and hard about how I was going to do this area and in the end I decided to make my edges out of old sticks and hazel that I have at my plot.  This way insects like ladybirds can use this area to hide in over winter.  I just bundled the sticks up and tied them with wire and then pegged the wire down into the ground.

SAM_8086 SAM_8090

I used some small lengths of hazel pushed into the ground to ensure the bundles of sticks didn’t move and then I covered the whole area with woodchip (most councils sell woodchip cheaply).

SAM_8098

It looks much neater now and it will be easy to put my fruit cage over it in Spring (incidentally I make my cage out of old handwash bottles and canes).

I’m very pleased with the area now.

.

I have also been busy in my kitchen this weekend too.  I decided to use up some of the fruit from my freezer.

I made a ‘Blackberry soaked cake’ which is delicious served with a drizzle of the left over blackberry syrup.  It is a River Cottage recipe which you can find here.

SAM_8068

I also made my daughter some strawberry flapjacks, by just adding a cup full of defrosted (and drained) strawberries to the recipe.  You can find the Flapjack recipe here.

…and they were delicious too.

SAM_8112

I froze the flapjacks on a tray and then put them into an old container when they were frozen.  This stops them from sticking together so you can take them out of the freezer one at a time.  I pop one into my daughter’s lunch box in the morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime (or even break if she is hungry).

.

That’s it for now.

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

.

Christmas Decorations In The ‘Thrift’ Household

This week has been a lovely, creative week for me, but very busy.

.

I started off by making my laundry liquid as I had ran out of the shop bought box that I had to buy when the builders were here.

Incidentally, I never use the amount it says to use on the box, I only ever use half the amount to make it last longer and it always washes well and this saves me money.

SAM_7775

I prefer to wash our laundry using my homemade laundry liquid as I know what goes into it and it is really really easy to make.  It only takes 10-15 minutes to make up a batch and it lasts for weeks.  It is great for every day washing and the last time I worked it out a few months ago, it cost me approximately £1.75 to make and I managed to get 71 washes out of it.  This works out at a staggering 2.5p per wash….the supermarkets can’t beat that!

SAM_7776

I’ve stored my laundry liquid in old ‘pop’ bottles as they fit nicely under my new sink.

You can find the recipe I use for my laundry liquid here.

.

I nipped into the supermarket as well this week and found a lonely pack of bananas in the ‘whoopsie’ aisle for 10p.  They were all nice and yellow except a couple which had started to turn brown (which was probably why no one wanted them)… so I bought them.

After we ate the yellow ones, I made a lovely banana cake with the others.  You can find the recipe I used here.

SAM_7853 SAM_7856

.

I’ve also finally got round to writing and sending my Christmas cards.  I bought my cards in the 2011 New Year sales, for a fraction of the price that they were before Christmas.  They don’t take up much space and it saves me a bit of money.

To save time, I have a Christmas card list that I print off from my computer every year.  The list tells me exactly who I need to send Christmas cards to and if I have any extra people to send cards to I just update the list ready for the next year.  It makes writing the cards so much easier.

SAM_5052.

I also made some strawberry jam this week ready for my hampers.  I didn’t get chance to make it over the summer as I was packing things away ready for the building work, so all my fruit was washed and put straight into the freezer.  I am hoping to make some other things for my hampers during the next week as well.

SAM_7854 SAM_7860

.

I started to put up the Christmas decorations this week too (except the tree, as we are still waiting for our fireplace to be installed).  Our old faithful cheap and cheerful door wreath was looking a bit sad as it had lost it cones, so I replaced them with some more and it looks much better now:

SAM_7849

I hung up our trusty old garland along our stairs too.  I bought this approximately fifiteen years ago from Wilkinsons and it still looks as good as new and makes the hall look lovely and Christmassy when you first come in the house:

SAM_7847

.

Also this week, I continued using my bargain charity shop material that I used to make my curtains and my kitchen Roman blind.  For those reading this that don’t know, it only cost me £16 for 10 meters (a piece four meters long and another piece that was six meters long) and it was brand new, never used…I still can’t get over what a bargain it was, I suppose one mans rubbish is another mans gold.

I have now re-covered our old (and stained) seat pads for the chairs around our table and I am really pleased with the result:

SAM_7770 SAM_7781

And I have managed to make a table cloth and eight napkins out of the remainder of the material.  So I am very pleased as my kitchen looks very co-ordinated now and I don’t think anyone would know that the whole lot cost me just £26 to make (£16 for the material and heading tape and a further £10 for all the other bits,  for the Roman blind and for the cotton).

SAM_7825

.

With some of the little off-cuts I still had left, I made some bows for my Christmas table wreath.  They were really easy to make, I just followed  some instructions that I found on ‘You Tube’  here.  I think they turned out well:

SAM_7793

.

I love Christmas decorations that are made out of things that you can pick from your garden at this time of year, so I went out into mine to collect some holly, bay and conifer leaves.

While I was there I noticed there are some lovely sights in the garden at this time of the year:

SAM_7701 SAM_7700

I even discovered that our Lavatera still has flowers on and my Vinca has a flush of flowers on too:

SAM_7697 SAM_7695

I made a couple of ‘sprays’ with some of the bits I collected and tied them with a spare ‘off cut’ of material I had and hung them in my kitchen.  I was very pleased with the result (especially as it cost me nothing to make them):

SAM_7805 SAM_7806

  .

I then began to make my Christmas Table Wreath.

I openly admit that I’m not very good at flower arranging.  In fact, I was the only Brownie that just ‘scraped’ a flower arranging badge due to ‘Brown Owl’ stepping in and rearranging it all for me.  My arrangement was so bad.

Last year I made my first table wreath and I was very proud of it and couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. So this week I made this years wreath.

.

How To Make An Easy Christmas Wreath:

.

I bought an oasis ring from Wilkinson last month for approx. £4.50

I used bits of old ribbon last year and material bows as above this year

Pine cones from my local park

Shrubs from the garden

(I used conifer and bay this year and Viburnum tinus last year)

Large paper clips or florist’s wire)

.

I started by soaking the oasis ring upside down in water for about 5 minutes, until the bubbles stopped coming out of it.  I have read that you should not press the oasis ring down, as this will cause air bubbles to enter the foam, creating dry spots.

0295958_m[1]

I cut the foliage in lengths of approximately 10cm and striped the leaves so there was about 4cm of stem to push into the oasis.

SAM_5428

I layered the shrubs into the oasis by pushing the stems in at a slight angle, starting at the bottom.

SAM_7817

I kept building the foliage up, so eventually the oasis couldn’t be seen.

SAM_7818

Use big paper clips stretched out or florists wire to secure the ribbons and the pine cones to the oasis.

SAM_7823SAM_7824

I have read that it is best to mist the wreath with water each day so it doesn’t dry out

(I’ve got to admit I didn’t do it last year and my wreath lasted ages).

SAM_7844

I’m very pleased with my table wreath again this year and as an extra bonus, the bows match my table cloth.

.

Finally this week, I sliced some oranges to make ‘old fashioned’ Christmas decorations.  I put the slices on a piece of greaseproof paper and then put it on the top of my radiator.  I have read that they will dry this way without having to use your oven, so I thought I will give it a try.

SAM_7796 SAM_7814

I’ll let you know how I get on with them and if it works.

SAM_7841

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.