Sunday, 29 January 2017

Three Little Birds

I was intending to join in with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, but the birds didn't want to join us on the wet, dreary day so I'll have to give it a miss this year - of course the robin, blackbirds and magpies were there, but not enough to hang around for an extra hour to do the counting :-(
We've had a week with two excuses for celebrations. Last night we celebrated the Chinese new year of the Rooster - that little Buddha was bought for us in Malaysia and has blessed us with green fingers (apparently) so he's always a welcome addition to a celebration. Earlier in the week was Burn's Night, with a delicious Stahly vegetarian haggis - really, if you see one in a shop you must buy it! So tasty!
The plot looks unloved so it was good to do quite a bit of tidying and most importantly our garlic is planted!
We pulled all the weeds, topped it off with last year's potato bags and added a bit of manure. That looks better doesn't it? (Jamie's raking, not mine obviously)
We've now got 30 cloves of Cristo softneck garlic. I really wanted hardneck, but am just glad it's in at last! We surrounded each clove with some organic onion fertiliser - shouldn't take long for the rain to soak that in.

Much of the chard that's left is a soggy mess, I always sow afresh each year. These pink stems were gleaming out through the greyness of the day so I picked a few of those lovely fresh new leaves. I may add them to my carrot soup, if they aren't too bitter.
Today's song is provided by Bob Marley - "don't worry about a thing".

Sunday, 22 January 2017

All the Plans...

...were thwarted by solid ground today. I was hoping that at least the raised bed would be protected enough to dig, as it wasn't frosted on the top. However, within a couple of centimetres the earth was full of frost - so not the time to be digging in preparation for garlic...
All this frost is good for clearing the nasties from the earth and it's nice to feel the Sun on your face, so, instead of working, we had a couple of hours on the plot chatting to our allotment buddy, Malcolm, and watching the wildlife around us. One particular thrush wasn't too bothered by our presence and seems to be making a good job of clearing the snails, judging by the many empty shells.
I did manage to break through the ground to pick two parsnips which I'm currently turning into soup.
There is some canker (Itersonilia pastinacae) on them, but plenty of parsnip left when that's chopped out. I think the canker is a result of the soil on plot 3, it's very compacted. Or it may be because of pest damage...
We're surprised to see that the Valerian has sprouted again on Plot 3. It didn't produce any flowers last year and we thought the Winter would spell it's demise, but it's looking quite healthy and pretty with pink foliage - strange, as the leaves were completely green on the plants last year. Will be interesting to see if it flowers this year..
I've now made parsnip and pea soup, with garlic and rosemary. Unfortunately we don't have any frozen peas, so I spent some time picking the peas out of a bag of frozen mixed veg! Not very satisfactory really. My soup wasn't as green as the recipe I saw online which put the idea in my head... Next time I definitely need more peas.
Starsailor are providing today's title...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Cold Day in the Sun

With sub-zero temperatures and frosty nights over the last week we weren't expecting to do anything on the plot today, but decided to walk up to feed the birds in the afternoon.
The sun was shining and the sky was such a fabulous blue that we opted to walk along the towpath which was frozen solid, as was the canal!
There was evidence that some boats had moved but most were moored in sunnier spots with their heaters on and doors shut down.
There were lots of thrushes, robins and wrens on the allotment - quite a bit of squabbling too as they try to protect their territories.
The sun's heat had managed to melt the top layer of frost, but where the heat didn't get through there were interesting things to look at:
A frosty brick, looking like a frozen landscape in miniature
Puddles which had frozen - is this a spanish galleon?...
Then melted and re-frozen trapping the air bubbles in bizaare shapes (I'm pretty sure there's a sea creature in there).
We left before the sun went down. I got up before the sun today, specifically to take photos of the steamy River Dun from the A4 bridge. It was beautiful, but so cold!
And today's song title is brought to you by Foo Fighters...

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tonight, Tonight

I couldn't find a song titled 'cheesy, sprouty nosh' so... can you guess what we're having for dinner tonight, tonight?
Lovely Brussels sprouts straight from the plot, mixed with fried Quorn lardons. We've had some frosty weather, even some snow, so the flavour should have been enhanced by that.
Covered in cheese sauce and topped with grated cheddar and chopped nuts - mmm, yum.
We aren't going to get a chance to work on the plot this weekend, but I'm hoping that by next weekend a raised bed will be ready for garlic planting. We haven't planned this year's seeds yet but these were delivered this week...
Here's the lovely Smashing Pumpkins video from the title...

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Stop Me...

...from eating all the delicious soup!
We've visited the plot both days this weekend. Yesterday I showed a new plotholder around and then we did a bit of clearing of Plot7 and also weeded and dug a bit of 6x fertiliser around the rhubarb. The plants look like piles of burned debris, but there are signs of life in there.
Today we only walked up to pick some ingredients for my soup: parsnip and carrot. Some of the parsnips have rotted right through, but the one I took home was a lovely big one with only a small bit of canker near the top. It was such a big parsnip that I only pulled one carrot.
Two cloves of garlic, some paprika, cumin, salt & pepper were added to olive oil and butter to heat up.
Then the carrots and parsnips for about 15 minutes before the stock was added and it was all boiled/simmered for another 30minutes.
And then I tasted it - yum, it's so tasty but I must save it for my lunches next week!
So, The Smiths song seemed an appropriate title ,but here's the Mark Ronson version (because he doesn't include the 'if you've heard this song before' phrase in the title!). Enjoy!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Five Years

At last! The news we've been waiting for... Hungerford Town Council and the housing developer (on behalf of the landowner) have confirmed ("in principle" - well, nothing's signed yet) that we can have a further five year lease extension - yay!
Our changing plot over the last few years
We can do a lot with 5 years and actually plan a bit. Of course, we are still hoping that permanence is on the cards in the future, but let's not be greedy at this point! Now, where did we put those seed catalogues?!
And, this post's music is provided by the lovely David Bowie, such a sad loss last year...

Sunday, 1 January 2017

On a Day Like Today...

... you don't feel like leaving the flat. However, it's the new year!  
Good luck and good wishes for the next 365 days and beyond...
So, although it was rainy and rather cold, with no risk of snow (shame), we ventured to the plot to pick some sprouts.
We're pleased that they've grown, though the stalk is shorter than the advertised 1m; we think they are a bit stunted because we didn't plant them out till the end of July. We don't need many for our chestnut, sprout and (Quorn) chorizo stir-fry tonight and there should be enough for another 3-4 meals at least.
The top dish is roasted, chopped/mashed potato, carrot, parsnip which we re-baked and had with vegetarian haggis for our New Year's Eve meal. I prefer the Stahly haggis rather than the Waitrose, but it's hard (expensive) to track down. The soup is parsnip and carrot with garlic - really tasty - it was just two carrots and the two legs of that parsnip with about 1pint of stock and a bit of paprika. It's probably the first soup I've made where I haven't added an onion, just garlic. I think I'll try that again.
This year I'm going to attempt to use a song title as the title of each post. It's tricky thinking of new titles for each post anyway, so this is only going to make it harder, but I'll see how I get on... I hope this isn't the last song title I think of!!
I was thinking of the Keane song and someone's helpfully added the lyrics in Spanish to this video - enjoy!