Monday, 28 August 2017

Little Fluffy Clouds

A second day of blistering heat - how welcome that blue sky is after being such a grey month initially.
Jamie was very busy: weeding and the digging over the area where the potato bags were - that's where our strawbrries are going in, once the runners have formed healthy roots.
I was busy too, sort of. I chopped all the potato haulms off - they've either succumbed to blight or just reached the end of their life. The potatoes will be fine left in the ground for a few more weeks - we've still got plenty to eat at home.
I gave all the plants (tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers) their weekly feed of Tomorite. It's hard work going back and forth from the troughs to the plots with watering cans, but on a lovely sunny day surrounded by nature who could complain?! We have to walk past this empty plot which we (the committee) have left to nature (I want a pond there if the site ever becomes permanent). At least 2 poles are covered in borage and lavender - amazing!
The squashes on Plot46A aren't climbing that well, I hope to go with the idea earlier next year and with a bit more planning (and knowledge of what we're planting!).

They're certainly growing well though - especially the Tromboncini. There are masses of new squashes growing but they won't all mature now. I'm hoping the plants will know which ones aren't worth saving - you may be able to see that the little one in this photo is going brown so I removed it.
The Jumbo Pink Banana is steadily getting bigger and two more little ones have started forming...
And the Mini Munch cucumbers are running rampant. I'm in the process of moulding them into star and heart shapes - so hopefully we'll have some interesting salad for the bbq. 
Of course there are squashes on Plot 3 and Plot 7 too - I'm leaving the Jaune de Vert to use as Winter squash and for the Hungerford Food Festival display.
So, can you guess what we had for dinner? Yep, it had to include a squash, well a spiralized courgette and I couldn't resist doing a little video.

With garlic, tomatoes, dwarf beans and potatoes from the plot and a couple of Quorn Chipotle sausages - delish.

Today's title track is from The Orb - you don't just see little  fluffy clouds in the desert...

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Sweetest Thing

It's the last Bank Holiday weekend of the year and today was sunny and warm. We spent the afternoon on the allotment after having a little lunch.
I had marinaded the Speedy Dwarf beans and Redcurrant tomatoes in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, chilli olive oil and liquid smoke overnight. They were nicely flavoured without hiding the lovely natural french bean flavour. I had them with Burgundy Red potato salad.
The Redcurrant tomatoes have done better outside than in the greenhouse. They're so sweet, tiny and delicious.
Still the sweetest tomatoes are the Aviditas plum tomatoes from the greenhouse. We've had some cooked, but mostly just raw as a snack.
At last the Tigerella are colouring up - what a great looking tomato! These are the only 3 which are turning so far, but hopefully the rest will follow on quite soon...
This is the first male flower that's appeared on the Glass Gem sweetcorn - unexpectedly red, but we hope that's a sign of good colouration of the cobs, if they have enough time to form.
The plants are about 8 foot tall but now that the flowers are appearing perhaps they've reached their maximum height. And talking of maximum heights...
That's our tallest Russian Giant sunflower - about 9 foot I reckon. The flower heads have all developed quite differently and at different times so some are already providing seeds for the birds while others are only just bursting out of bud.
The asters are looking good now - just a week late for the Horticultural show. We particularly like the white flower with pinky tinges on the petals - sorry, you can't see it in this photo :-}
We spent most of the time weeding, strimming, dead-heading and composting. There are tall weeds everywhere - that's what happens when you start thinking about other things, like Horticultural Shows! Jamie also potted on some lavender plants, viola and 6 strawberry runners from the strawberries we inherited on Plot46A - our plants were poor this year.
We're keenly waiting for our Lark sweetcorn to ripen, the cobs are bulking up nicely - I hope they'll be ready for our plotholders barbecue next weekend.
So the song title is by U2 - so far this year it refers to the Aviditas tomatoes. Can they really be improved upon??

Sunday, 20 August 2017

You Showed Me

It was our Horticultural and Handicraft Show yesterday. The Royal British Legion do most of the work, but HAHA are joint hosts and are responsible for the horticulture and floral sections.
Our 5 veg selection - I liked the unusual colours of each item, but it seems the judge didn't :-)
Burgundy potato, white radish, purple carrot, yellow stripey courgette, purple bean
It was a good show again with 310 exhibits from the 23 contributors. Not as many entrants as last year as some familiar faces were absent, but it was great to see some of our newest plotholders came along.
Along with some of us who come back each year now we know it's such fun.
On Friday afternoon Jamie and I retrieved our (reasonably) dry onions from the greenhouse and managed to find 3 that almost looked similar - it's amazing how 50 onions can all look so different! We didn't win a prize for them (they're the little ones next to the lovely red ones in the photo below), but got 3rd prize for our largest onion which was 35cm circumference.
Early Saturday morning was when we picked the rest of our exhibits. So many beans and carrots to find a few matching ones! We had an hour to do all the cleaning up and trimming before we went to the British Legion and set up and then I had to dash off and pick up our judge from Newbury.
I sat outside in the sunshine while the judging was going on and Jamie came to join me with a cake to relieve the boredom.
We didn't enter any pickles but did bag a couple of jars in the auction afterwards
I intended to enter some flowers, but my asters have been slow to bloom
and sweetpeas have pretty much gone over

Here are some of our produce that got first place.
And we got some 3rd places too:
I think a couple of the photos got placed but we were completely out-stripped by fellow-plotholder Kerry's amazing shots.
These are the photos we selected to show - one for each category
Still we managed to win second place in the Horticultural & Floral Section, so we were pleased with that! And we left with a lovely prize-winning cottage loaf to go with the pickle plus a prize from the raffle.
Loved this insect in the needlecraft section!

Such a fun, social event, with a spurious link to The Lightning Seeds song..

Monday, 14 August 2017

Take Five....

.... seed potatoes and this is what you get! We've got potatoes coming out of our ears!
We emptied five of our potato bags - not a bad return, is it?
That beauty is Burgundy Red. We only pulled one of them. You can see in the photo below that they have red flesh as well as red skin! When steamed they kept some of their colour, so we had pink mash last night.
Next was an Orla, a white potato - we emptied two bags. It's interesting to see how different varieties grow in different parts of the bag. And some roll out of the bag while others remain attached to the roots. (well, I think it's interesting!)
And Kestrel, a coloured potato with pink eyes. This is from one bag, but we emptied two.

We've pulled all these potatoes as it's the HAHA/RBL Horticultural & Handicraft Show next Saturday. Trying to find 3 matching potatoes that aren't too scabby is hard work! The bags have helped protect against slug damage - or perhaps it was the nematodes or perhaps there are less slugs about...
The tomatoes are changing colour a bit more quickly now - a couple of days of sunshine and warmth have helped. I've cleared lots of leaves away from all the plants to let more light in. The Tigerella are still all green though...
We have onions drying on a frame in the greenhouse and the mini-munch cucumbers are growing steadily now. I'm not sure whether this Jaune de Verte squash will be included in the show. The photo doesn't show that the squash is about the size of a dinner plate! Not sure how it's going to be eaten yet!
Potatoes are well and truly on the menu now and we're having dwarf french beans with them tonight. Our first taste of purple beans - even steaming didn't protect the colour; they ended up as a darker green than the Speedies (and to be honest, not quite so tasty).
Dessert is just one strawberry and a handful of raspberries - really need to work on that :-)
Oh, and here's today's lunchbox with pink potato salad, cucumber, radish, chard and parsley.
Title track by The Dave Brubeck Quartet - I had to re-write part of this post when I finally found a title for it! This is my 60th song title post.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Food For Thought

I've been cooking! I don't cook often so whenever I do, I feel it deserves a blogpost :-)
That was a tasty quiche. I layered cooked chard on the bottom, topped with cheese and added fried courgettes and spring onions before pouring on the eggy-milky mixture. So tasty! But that only used one courgette.
Yep, it's still courgette time... I used the spiraliser to twirl up a large courgette and fried it up. Fried onions were added then boiled carrots and thinly sliced par-boiled potatoes. Topped with cheese sauce and a bit of cheese on top for browning. 30 minutes later - voila!

And when isn't it chard time? I like chard, mostly for the colours,  but Jamie doesn't eat it so I have it for lunches mainly. Beetroot and carrot salad.
I have a lovely lunchbox, but this old icecream carton is just the right size for my salads. Delicious home-made coleslaw uses up some of the excess cabbage and is so tasty with beetroot.
I love harvest time - nothing better than a dish made with home-grown veg! And there's some food for thought for you - courtesy of UB40. (Haven't heard this great song in years!)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Madam Butterfly

On the last possible day I managed to do this year's Big Butterfly Count - it wasn't so big, but the sun shone enough to encourage a few species to join me in this pretty corner of the site.
This is what I saw during my 15 minute slot:
  • 2 Peacocks
  • 1 Small Tortoiseshell
  • 3 Small Whites
  • 1 Meadow Brown
OK, so not a huge count, but at least they were quite interesting butterflies. That buddleia bush helped as the peacocks in particular were still enjoying the nectar when I left. I tried to get the evidence but only had my little Canon camera on me and it wouldn't behave much of the time.
You may be thinking 'that's not a great photo' but a lot of the photos looked like this...
Some bad ones were the butterfly's fault and not just the camera focusing on the wrong area...
Tut! Just open your wings, stay still and pose for me!
That's better!
And the last one is the Meadow Brown, which was a struggle to but still a little easier than the whites - but we've all seen plenty of whites haven't we?!
I also did a bit of seed collecting: mostly poppy, Californian poppy and nigella.
I'll probably sow them in a communal part of the allotment site next year - I'm sure our plot has self-seeded plenty of these without any help from me.
Here's today's harvest. Salads are on the menu for at least part of this week - home-made coleslaw, yum!

Of the various butterfly songs I could have chosen I opted for Malcolm McLaren's Madam Butterfly as I like it.