Saturday, 17 February 2018

I Feel the Earth Move

Look at this sleepy little bee - not dead, just over-done the crocus nectar I think!
We had a good afternoon digging and chatting on the plot. The sun shone for a while and it was pleasantly warm. I'm still digging the area that I started last weekend. As you can see my weed bucket is mostly hedge roots, which makes for slow progress.
Jamie planted our shallots and they're covered with netting - just to protect them from birds/mice while they take root and secure themselves.
Everyone left the site as it began to get chilly as the sun was sinking. It's always lovely to see the 'usual suspects' back for the new term. A few long-standing plotholders have had to resign their plots, but we have some very keen newcomers and others will likely join us as the weather cheers up.

So, why the title? We had an earthquake! We didn't actually feel it, but we were talking and all stared at the sky because we heard a strange rumbling. We only realised there had been an earthquake when we got home but some people in the local area apparently felt it.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

These Days

We spent more than four hours on the plot this afternoon - the sun was shining for much of the time and it was great to see blue skies. The bitter wind brought some clouds and even a little sleet - but at least it wasn't raining!
Another leek soup is cooking at the moment - leek and butterbean today. I thought I'd made the partnership up, but when I looked online I found this recipe on the British Leek website, so clearly it's a thing. I'm hoping the lack of a bayleaf or onion won't make too much difference.
Jamie's finished clearing and digging the patch where our shallots will be planted (hopefully) next weekend. We've bought Longor from Thompson & Morgan. We haven't grown shallots for a few years and haven't grown this kind of long bulbed one before. Here are some other seeds that we've bought.
The Lilla spring onion looks interesting. If we don't pick them as salad onions they can be left to bulb up and have a nice red/white inside. All the others we've sown before and they are our preferred varieties.
Here's the bit of plot I was clearing and digging - before and after.
I didn't quite finish before my back couldn't handle any more, but I was pleased that there weren't too many tree roots. I think the fancy red sweetcorn is going in that section, but we need to do a bit of planning.
At least there are few areas without weeds now, but there's a load more with weeds :-( A few more dry weekends would be appreciated! So the title song by Rudimental is because these days it's very hard to feel like doing anything outside, but these (dry) days have to be taken advantage of!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Weve Only Just Begun

Mmm, this week's soup is a good one, unlike last week. Swede with carrots, parsnips, leek, a bit of garlic and a hint of chilli from the oil I that I cooked the leeks in - lovely. This won't be going down the sink, which is why I couldn't resist a small bowl of it before dinner last night - well, it's a starter, isn't it?
On Saturday we only had a quick visit to pull some - you guessed it - leeks and carrots, to add to a cottage pie and it was a completely rainy day so we couldn't do much on the plot if we had wanted to.
We didn't want to, because we went to the Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage to buy our seed potatoes.
From the huge choice we were very restrained and only bought these:
  4 x Orla
  2 x Nicola
  3 x Pentland Javelin (because Jazzy were only available in bagfuls)
  1 x Foremost
  4 x Catriona (because there weren't any Kestrels left)
I find it hard not to buy masses of potatoes, especially when they're 16p per tuber, but on Sunday we threw away so many of last year's that were rotting away in the ground so it's only sensible. Here's Jamie digging through last year's potato plot, where we want to plant the shallots quite soon.
It was a very cold day yesterday, especially when the wind blew, but we did see a little bit of sunshine and were actually properly working so it wasn't too dreadful.
I cleared up the purple sprouting broccoli cage - all the plants have fallen sideways so I've staked them up. There were three tiny florets which I snipped off as (apparently) that should really help the plants to produce more.
While Jamie was clearing and digging I hand-weeded this patch, where our onions were last year. It was a bit painful but worth it. I added some coffee grounds that we've been collecting, as we're putting the potatoes here this year - they should appreciate the added bit of acidity.
After last week's slightly disappointing bird count we were inundated with robins this weekend. And this little chap was very friendly, bribed with mealworms.
He was particularly keen because we were doing some digging and providing him with fresh worms for a change.

We left yesterday as the temperature was falling and the clouds clearing for a frosty night ahead..
And here's our haul of veg. Look at that colossal parsnip! Unfortunately I put the fork through it, but there's still plenty for my soup and more than half left over - Jamie's going to add that to bubble and squeak.
So the song title for this post was a tricky one, but I chose this Carpenters song as it's pretty and we have only just begun really - at least we now have some clear earth.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Three Bells

Another dull day, but this time no rain so it was slightly less awful. The temperature was reasonably mild too, but a little sunshine would have made a world of difference. I put a filter on this photo of the ash tree - to make it a bit more interesting.
Today I was counting birds for the the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I thought they were going to be a no-show, but although numbers were low there were quite a few different species (even the robin wasn't keen on posing though).
For an hour from 3:15 we counted:
 2 x Robin (annoying as we've seen 5 together (fighting) recently)
 1 x Great tit
 3 x Long-tailed tit (we've seen 6 or 7 of these together before)
 1 x Pheasant
 1 x Wren
 1 x Blue Tit
 1 x Blackbird
So, not great but not too bad either. I didn't count the two swans which flew over; I heard the lovely noise their wings make but couldn't get to my camera in time. On the walk to the site we spotted this little squirrel in the churchyard - I know some people don't like grey squirrels, but I do.
We spent the rest of the time doing more tidying and filled the fourth dalek compost bin mostly with old stalks of sweetcorn - chopped and mashed up a bit to break down easier/quicker. Jamie packed a load of stones in around the compost bins - perhaps it will help keep the rodents out. By the time we were ready to leave it was getting dark, so we had one more cuppa and picked our veg (leeks and the giant swede) and walked home.
The church (St Lawrence) was all lit up and the bells were ringing so it earns a photo for looking so pretty.
I think it is a Swede - Best of All (from Kings Seeds)
I was fully expecting the swede to have brown heart (caused by boron deficiency) as a couple of our roots have had traces of it, but it was perfect all the way through and weighed over 1kg! It's currently being made into swede & leek soup with the addition of smoked paprika as on first tasting it was a little bland - now I understand why 'swede soup' always includes lots of other veggies!
Jamie's using the other leeks tonight in a sausage and leek dish and is making leek and potato cakes tomorrow. Still plenty more to go though...
So, today's song is... not very related to this post, but there are bells in it and it explains why I did what I did to the tree photo (the singers are The Browns). Also I love this song, though the male singer is a little bit creepy :-)

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Grey Day

Not the best day for showing a new plotholder around the site, but she is very happy with her new mini plot. In fact we've had four other new arrivals over the last couple of weeks so I hope the weather cheers up soon - for them and us! At least the rain stopped for a short while so we could get the kettle boiling.
Jamie sowed our Sutton broad beans in the greenhouse and put their little cloche tops on to protect them from mice. It's nice to be sowing something, but we've got lots to do before anything can be planted out. Plenty of time though...
I spent the afternoon clearing and composting. Three compost bins are full, but it will soon shrink down and make room for more green waste to be added, though I may need to use a fourth bin given the amount we still have to clear.
Jamie did 'neeps and tatties' for our lovely Burns Night meal with a Stahly's veggie haggis on Thursday - so delicious, with our own swede as the neeps but we had to buy the tatties.
Yes, I know I'm in pyjamas - it's the only tartan I own :-D
Leeks and carrots are still our main harvests at the moment. We had a tasty cheesy pasta bake with them last night. Here's a little timelapse.
We seem to have a never-ending supply of leeks! This was a bunch that I stuck in the ground last year - I couldn't bear to waste them but couldn't be bothered to plant them properly - they look in pretty good condition, as 'Baby Leeks'.
They certainly look better than the ones we planted into pots... when I say "planted" they were basically dumped into soil and abandoned, so that may have been the reason for the poor show :-)
Here's our french garlic that we bought at Hungerford Food Festival last year. Not many plants this year, but the cloves that we planted were huge. We usually end up with far too much.
The bunches we stored in the greenhouse are starting to sprout but there's still more at home which is lasting well.
And look what we spotted on Plot 3! Our very first purple sprout - I did have to zoom in to photograph it, so broccoli won't be replacing leeks and carrots on our menus any day soon!
The very apt title is provided by Madness.