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A Good Website And My Seed Sowing Calender

Before I start today, I thought you may be interested in a website that my good friend ‘Jeff’ has set up with Catherine.  It is called “Crafts for a sustainable future” and it is fantastic.  This is what it says about it:

“Crafts for a sustainable future is a small business using willow weaving and green-woodworking, local and UK-farmed materials to promote a more sustainable future. We demonstrate and teach the crafts, make useful and decorative products and encourage bio-diversity and good habitat management. We work from two bases in Leicester and Cambridge”.

I love all the information on this website and the page about ‘foraging’ reminded me of when Jeff and Catherine took me around our local park.  I was absolutely astounded by the things that grow wild that we can eat, especially beacuse I had walked past them many times without realising that they were edible.  It was such an enjoyable evening that I won’t forget, so thank you Jeff and Catherine.

You can find their website here.

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It’s been another busy weekend.

I did my usual batch baking yesterday and made fruit scones for my daughter’s lunchbox:

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I buttered them and put them in the freezer on a tray, until they were frozen.  I then transferred them into a freezer bag, ready for the week ahead.  It’s easy to pop a frozen scone into my daughter’s lunch box each morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime.

You can find the recipe here.

My first wallflowers this year in bloom

My first wallflowers this year in bloom

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This weekend I syphoned my first homemade wine into bottles.  I paid £10 in the Christmas sales for a starter kit and I then purchased six wine bottles and some re-usable corks, which came to £6.  I managed to get 5½ bottles of wine out of it, so this worked out at £2.90 per bottle, which I thought was pretty cheap.

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We thought we would try the half bottle of wine straight away and I’ve got to say it was really nice.  So I definately will be making some more.

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My daughter came to my allotment yesterday with me and she noticed there was some frog spawn in the pond.  It seems to be late this year, I assume it is due to the cold spring weather.

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I love frogs as they eat lots of snails.  I was lucky to catch the following photograph last year, which shows a frog eyeing up it’s dinner:

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Seeds I have already sown this year:

I thought it may be interesting for people to see what vegetables I have sown so far this year.  I try to pick crops that we like to eat and I like to grow.  I also like to try a different fruit or vegetable each year, this year I am trying to grow melons in my polytunnel.

I occaisionally buy special varieties that I think are particularly good to grow, but usually my choice is dictated by the seeds I manage to buy in the sales at the end of the year.

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I start most of my seeds in pots on my windowsill at home, or my heated greenhouse, or my plastic ‘mini’ greenhouse that has no heat.

I love to grow my crops from seed, as it gives me an enormous sense of acheivement and self satisfaction, especially when I serve my vegetables at meal times.

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So here is a list of what I have sown so far:

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Crop Variety Date sown
Broad beans Aquadulce 09-Jan
onions Bedfordshire champion 09-Jan
Basil Sweet genovese 09-Jan
Coriander For leaf 09-Jan
Leeks Musselburgh 09-Jan
Peppers California wonder 09-Jan
Celeriac Brilliant 25-Feb
Lettuce Webbs wonderful 25-Feb
shallots 06-Feb
Cauliflower All year round 25-Feb
Cabbage Robinson champion 25-Feb
Brussells Igor 07-Mar
Red Cabbage –  Summer Kalibos 07-Mar
Cucumber-greenhouse Euphya 07-Mar
Pea (Dwarf) Meteor 07-Mar
Coriander For leaf 07-Mar
Tomato-greenhouse Wladeks / Moneymaker 26-Feb
Basil Sweet genovese 07-Mar
Cape Gooseberry (variety not known) 07-Mar
Onion sets Turbo 27-Mar
Spring onions White lisbon 17-Mar
Indian spicy cress (variety not known) 17-Mar
Lettuce Webbs wonderful 17-Mar
Cauliflower All year round 17-Mar
Potatoes Marfona 09-Apr
Potatoes Picasso / Desiree 20-Apr
carrots (variety not known) 09-Apr
Tomato Outdoor girl 05-Apr
Parsnips Gladiator 05-Apr
Beetroot Boltardy 05-Apr
Spring onions Shimonita 17-Apr
Spring Brocoli 05-Apr
Khol Rabi Azure star 05-Apr
Pea (Climbing) Pea shooter 06-Apr
Pea (Dwarf) Mixed – saved seed 06-Apr
Mangetout 06-Apr
Basil Sweet genovese 05-Apr
Coriander For leaf 05-Apr
Radish Sparkler3 09-Apr
Swede Ruby 17-Apr
Butternut Squash Hunter 17-Apr
Turnips Purple top milan 18-Apr
lettuce Webbs wonderful 17-Apr
Pumpkin Hundred weight 17-Apr
Patty Pans Sunburst squash 17-Apr
Courgettes Black beauty 17-Apr
Pea (Dwarf) Onward 18-Apr
Mixed salad leaves 18-Apr
Melon Outdoor wonder 18-Apr
Cauliflower All year round 18-Apr
Perpetual spinach 17-Apr
Gherkins Diamant 18-Apr

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I will put this information on a ‘page’ at the top of my blog, in the next week,  so it doesn’t get ‘lost’ in the many blog posts I write.  I will also include a list of the seeds I have planned to sow over the next few months too.

Hopefully this will help anyone that is unsure of what they want to grow and when to grow it.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

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A Busy Easter Holiday, Mincing And Sowing Parsnips

Hi all, I hope you had a lovely, restful Easter.

My pots of bulbs, courtesy of 'Spalding Bulbs'

My pots of spring bulbs, courtesy of ‘Spalding Bulbs’

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I had fun with my two new gadgets over Easter:

First was the meat mincer (with a sausage making attachment) that I told you about here.  I was disappointed to find that there were no instructions in the box, but I did manage to easily work out how to mince the beef that I had bought, thanks to the pictures on the box.  I am yet to make sausages.

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I wanted to work out if it was cheaper to mince my own beef, rather than buy the ready minced beef.  I spoke to the butcher at Morrisons (as we don’t have a local butcher) and I’ve got to say he was extremely helpful.  He told me that brisket is usually the cheapest cut of meat that can be used for mincing and it is fine to use, however he pointed out that ‘topside’ of beef was actually half price and worked out cheaper  per kg, than the brisket.  So I paid £10.69 for a lovely joint of beef.

The beef was beautiful.  It only had the smallest bit of fat on, which I cut off before I chopped it into chunks.  I then put it through the mincer.

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I must say though, my arm did ache by the end of it, but I managed to get eight bags of mince beef, all weighing 250 grams, which I froze.

I worked out that it would have been cheaper to buy the prepacked ‘value’ minced beef, but it was certainly cheaper than buying prepacked ‘lean minced beef’ and I had the benefit of knowing what is actually in the mince beef we are eating.

I was very pleased with the meat mincer I bought and I will definitely be mincing my own beef from now on.  I will now be looking out for bargain beef joints.

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My 2nd ‘gadget’ is something I have been wanting for a while….a bread slicer.  I have never been very good at slicing my nice homemade bread, which sometime spoils the overall look of it.

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Normally these slicers retail at nearly £90 (which I certainly could never justify), but we were killing time one day a couple of weeks ago and found Debenhams had a half price sale and had reduced it to £40.  They only had one left, which was in an extremely bashed box and my wonderful husband managed to haggle them down to just £35.

This was such a bargain and I am really pleased with it.  It cuts my bread beautifully and I have also sliced ham with it and it cuts it as perfectly as the ready cut ham, that you buy from the supermarket.

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Over Easter I had another jam making session.  This time I made rhubarb jam (my favourite), with rhubarb I still had in the freezer from last year.

I also made some crab apple jelly and crab apple ice cream syrup, from a bag of crab apples that I had frozen last year.  You can find the recipes here and here.

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I also finally opened my Wilkinsons ‘Starter Wine Kit’ that I had purchased in the New Year sales for £10.  Unfortunately some of the items were missing from the box and we didn’t have the receipt.  However, Wilkinson’s were fantastic and changed it anyway for a more expensive kit and gave us the remaining items from the old kit as a goodwill gesture, which we thought was fabulous customer service.

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I have never made wine before, so it is all new to me, which is why I chose a starter kit.  Hopefully when I have sussed it out, I can use some of the grapes from the vines I planted at my allotment last year, when they are established and fruiting well.

So it is now bubbling away nicely.

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I’ve also been ‘pricking’ out my seedlings and they are sitting nice and snugly in my heated greenhouse.  I try to stop the temperature falling below 10c, but unfortunately it has been dropping to approximately 8c on the cold nights we have been having.

My peas that I sowed on the 22nd March in guttering, are doing well now too, they will soon be ready to plant out:

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The peas have a bit of protection in my coldframe.

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The lettuces I sowed on the 17th March are doing nicely and I will be planting these in my polytunnel this week:

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I also sowed my parsnips on Saturday:

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I have always had such a problem with my parsnips ‘forking’ when I sow them direct, or not germinating.  I have dug trenches and filled with compost, I have filled holes with compost and sown into them, but nothing seemed to work until I came up with the idea of sowing the seeds in kitchen roll tubes.

I fill the tube with compost and sow three seeds in each and keep the tubes on my windowsill.  As soon as the seeds germinate, I move them outside into my coldframe and then a few days later I plant the whole tube into the ground.

This way I get straight parsnips nearly every time.

I have been asked in the past if this works with toilet rolls, but it doesn’t.  The reason for this, is the tap root on a parsnip is very long and grows down a long way before the seedling shows above the compost.  Therefore the tap root hits the bottom of the toilet roll tube, which causes it to ‘fork’.  However, as the kitchen roll is longer, the tap root has a longer distance to grow before it hits the bottom.

My parsnips

My parsnips

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Finally, over Easter, I decided to plant my onion sets into seed trays to start them off, as the weather showed no sign of changing.  This will give me a little bit of breathing space before I need to plant them in the allotment.  At least they will have developed some roots and this will help to stop the birds from pulling them up.

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So all in all, it has been a busy, but enjoyable Easter.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Friday, at approximately 4pm.

I hope you have a good week.