Friday 30 January 2009

The weekend workload

This weekend is expected to focus on construction. We have a fruit cage to install and the patch for it has been prepared. It is 5m long by 2m wide. I did not make myself the most popular person at home however when I agreed to speak at an environmental conference in Newcastle on the afternoon of Saturday 31st January. So we are going to have to crack on tomorrow morning to get the whole job done.

The other construction work is to get the greenhouse built, or at least started. The allotment used to have a brick built greenhouse but this was gone long before we took over. There are however some solid foundations. The ground there needs to be cleared and we have a pile of branches there which means a bonfire tomorrow morning. I suspect it will take more than Sunday to get the greenhouse up. I think it will be a two weekend job.

Meanwhile I can report that our pasta making machine has arrived. We'll be trying out pasta recipes soon.

And finallt, the garlic planted in November is growing well.
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Sunday 25 January 2009

Fruit cage

It arrived on Friday, a very large fruit cage. We have a number of raspberry canes to plant and have black currant and red currant bushes on order. Next weekend is when we plan to put it up - much of the digging today was to get the bed prepared.

I am sincerely hoping that we have time to do it next weekend. I have been invited to speak at an environmental conference in Newcastle so that will take up half a day. And we also need time to put up the greenhouse which has been sitting in the garage for a year. We may be calling on Dad to give a hand, in exchange for letting him use it once it is up. We would have roped in Mam as well to help if she hadn't just come out of hospital following a hip operation!

The joy of manure

I am pleased to say that as of yesterday, we have managed to shift all the manure we needed down to the allotment. There was still a modest pile left but Brian, who has one of the neighbouring allotments, was happy to take it off our hands.

As our allotment was derelict when we took it over 2 years ago, the soil was not in the best condition, so I am hoping the manure will work some magic. We haven't spread it all on the land yet. All the beds we used last year have been manured other than the one which had potatoes.

There is still a large part of the allotment that needs to be brought into cultivation and we now have three large heaps of manure ready to apply to them. (You can see part of one of the heaps behind me in the photo.) But we need to dig up the unused plots to get rid of the weeds and grass before we put on the manure. That was much of what we were doing today. There's still plenty to do.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Turning our London garden to production

I am in the unusual situation of living in the North East but working in London. As a result, we have a flat in London where I stay when I am in the capital. The flat itself in in a block of two, with ours as the downstairs. It comes with a reasonable size front and back garden and the people upstairs aren't interested in doing anything with their part. They have left us to get on with looking after it. As part of my plan for 2009, I intend cultivating the garden to grow fruit and veg, but also to demonstrate that there is much that can be done to supplement your food supply in a suburban garden.

There is however a great deal of work to be done in getting the garden up to scratch. Whilst over the years I have planted a reasonable number of fruit bushes, much of the garden has had only modest maintenance. Much of the space has been wasted: a derelict shed occupies one corner (it belongs to upstairs, not us but the residents above don't have a problem with our removing it at some point). We also have a huge rhododendron plant next to the shed and next to both was a pile of garden waste, mainly branches, that had been added to over the years.

I was down in London over the weekend so we made a start. We had a bonfire to get rid of the garden waste. Much to my delight, we shifted the whole lot. Next to go will be the rhododendron.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Allotment update

Frustratingly, I am having to work in London this weekend and won't get home until Wednesday. So David is seeing to the allotment and has been shovelling more of the manure from the heap and moving it down to the allotment. Alas, there is still plenty more to move. However, he does report that the garlic that was planted in November is growing well.

Since I am in London, I hope to spend a bit of time on our garden here. My plan is to convert it from an under-utilised semi-wasteland into a productive plot. It will also mean growing more in pots and bags and hanging baskets and sorting out the ones we currently have. It will be a good exercise in suburban food production.

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Monday 12 January 2009

More manure than we expected

Saturday morning it arrived: a wagon load of manure. It was much more than we expected and so we have spent the weekend shovelling the stuff into a wheelbarrow which we then had to push down a long path to the allotment itself (we can't get any vehicles down to the allotment as it is only accessible by a path). We nearly struck disaster when the tyre went down on the barrow. After blowing it up again we found it lost pressure very quickly. We didn't have time to get it repaired so we ended up going to B&Q to get a new wheelbarrow.

The soil itself needs a lot of work doing to improve the quality of the soil. The allotment itself had been derelict for years before we took it on in 2007 and parts of it have remained fallow. The job this year is not only to get the soil improved but to get the whole of the allotment cultivated.
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Sunday 4 January 2009

Blackberry whisky chutney

This was a recipe of my own making that uses up a few left overs from last year. When I made blackberry whisky, I was left with a pile of whisky soaked blackberries. I made most into a pie but still had some left over.

In addition, I had a large quantity of wild apples left over so in the autumn I stewed then in a lot of sugar to preserve them. But I still needed to do something with them.

So here is my recipe for blackberry whisky chutney:

170g whisky soaked blackberries

180g raisins

400g apples preserves in sugar water

Quarter teaspoon of ground all spice

Quarter of a nutmeg, grated

One shot of whisky and two additional tablespoonfuls of same whisky

Add all contents to the pan (other than the tablespoons of whisky) and simmer. There is quite a bit of liquid to start with and this needs to be evaporated off. This took about 20 minutes.

Then place into jars and add to each a tablespoon of whisky. Seal the jars. Normally with chutneys I recommend leaving then to stand for at least 6 weeks before using them. I reckon I can start using these after about 2 weeks. After all, the blackberris have already spent 3 months pickling in whisky. The apple should absorb some of the neat whisky.

Perhaps this is a chutney not to be eaten before driving!

Your mathematics should tell you the above quantities have made 2 jars.


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