Thursday 26 February 2009

At last - greenhouse and fruitcage completed

One of those weeks when I have been too busy to even stop and think so this post is a bit late. On Saturday we finished building the greenhouse. All the glass is in, the door works and it's even warm inside! And on Sunday, we built the fruit cage.

These will probably be the biggest construction jobs of the year but we absolutely had to get them finished before the end of February so they would be in time to use them.

There are two minor additional jobs to do on the greenhouse. We need to get some decking in and we need to put some guttering on. The latter is ordered and Dad has some spare water butts from his allotment which he will bring down. We do not have a fresh water supply on the allotment. Nor do I want one. Pouring water all over the ground that is so highly refined that we can drink it strikes me as an incredible waste of a good resource (and it increases your carbon footprint.) That said, we still haven't fitted a water butt at the house in Sunniside though we have one installed in our house in London. The decking will be bought over the weekend.

So, here's the link to the video of our building the greenhouse and fruit cage:

I'll post up the photos shortly.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Down to Earth

Just travelling back from the garden centre in Hexham called Down to Earth. We have stocked up on onion sets and seed potatos. I also got a mushroom kit and, interestingly, a set of horse radish roots. I was reading a book about wildfoods last night on the train back from London. It included a section about horse radish. I'm not aware of any growing wild where we live though admittedly it is not one of the wild foods we have gone in search of before. Anyway, we'll give a go at growing our own. Dad is with us and he said his uncle used to grow it and it nearly took over the garden. That didn't stop him from buying some roots for his allotment!

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Friday 20 February 2009

What's coming up this weekend

It's back to building the greenhouse this weekend. We think we are ready to put in the glass as the concreting of the infill at the front appears to have worked. So tomorrow Dad is coming down to give us a hand to finish the job. Hopefully my next post of the subject will be about about its being completed.

We have three other big jobs to do this weekend. The first is to go to the garden centre at Hexham. We are after a number of things including onion sets and seed potatos. And after that we are going to the farmers' market at Gibside.

Back on the allotment we have a fruit cage to build, and a large amount of manure to move around.

And the other big job is to go through all the jams, jellies and chutneys to see what we have left over, and then go through the contents of the freezer. It's a big chest freezer and I know there are bags of raspberries and red currants in there waiting to be used, along with about 6 pheasants, 4 ducks and 2 woodcock. Goodness knows what else is in there!


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Monday 16 February 2009

The greenhouse round up

We are only a few steps forward with building the greenhouse. We had hoped to complete the job this weekend, but alas, it was not to be. The problem is the base. Although the width of it is correct, the length is 6cm too long. On Saturday, we filled in the gap with gravel, bricks and rubble but when we returned on Sunday, it had sunk. So we spent the day making concrete to fill the gap. It meant none of the panes of glass could be installed. That is a job for next weekend.

Talking of which, of all the panes to drop and break, it just had to be the specially cut one for the front apex of the greenhouse, above the door. We will have to cut a new pane from some spare glass we have.

Time is however pressing. We have seeds that need planting and the only place we will be able to put the seed trays is the greenhouse.
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Friday 13 February 2009

Building the greenhouse - the story continues

We both took today off from our PAYE jobs today to work on building the greenhouse. Though the frame is up, we have to sort putting the glass in. As one of the panes was broken, we had to go over to Newcastle to get new glass. We also called at B&Q for some sand and bricks to help finish the building job. However, the fiddly job was what we had to to this afternoon. We had to attach the rubber seals to the frame ready for the glass. As the sun was going down, we finished. Next job, putting in the glass.

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Wednesday 11 February 2009


We are given two woodcock last week. Though we have had pheasant and duck, this was our first brace of woodcock. We searched our food books and the internet to find out what we needed to do to prepare them. There are some significant differences from duck and pheasant. The head is not removed and the only bit to be removed was the gizzard, near the anus. Slit the back end, put in your little finger andwhen you find something hard, pop it out. That's the gizzard. It will still be joined to the gut so snip it off and put the guts back inside the bird. Plucking was easier than with larger birds.
The two birds went into the freezer. We expect to eat them this weekend. (I had to come down to London on Monday and am not home til Thursday, otherwise we would have eaten them earlier.)

Monday 9 February 2009

From the ice a greenhouse emerges

Well, here are the pics from Sunday's greenhouse building experience, complete with snow!

Above, Dad and David discuss the merits of where the next bolts will go.

Above, Dad and me with the frame completed.

Above, the greenhouse in the middle of the allotment. The glass goes in next weekend. Watch this space.

Thursday 5 February 2009

2 pheasants and 2 woodcock

I can now tell you what game we were given last night: 2 pheasants and 2 woodcock. We have never had woodcock before. We'll need to think about how to cook them, given their small size. Perhaps a casserole?

Credit crunch cooking - orange chutney

Not quite a self-sufficiency story but a good use of leftover food nonetheless. I had some oranges that had not been used and clearly they were getting on a bit. I also had a couple of aging limes and a couple of clementines. So, instead of putting them in the compost bin, this is what I did.

5 old oranges, 2 old limes and 2 old clementines, along with the peel of 3 clementines, chopped finely.

250 ml of white wine vinegar

half a teaspoon of all spice

200g of sultanas

4 cinnamon sticks

300g demerera sugar

All all the ingredients other than the sugar to the jam pan.

Leave to simmer for about half an hour, until everything is soft.

Add the sugar and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and add to warmed jars.

My expectation is that this chutney will go well with smoked fish such as mackeral, and possibly with cold meats such as ham.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

More game on the way

I am in London at the moment but I got an email from David telling me that he is taking a delivery of a "bag of birds" via a colleague tonight. We don't know what we are being given but we guess that it is more pheasant and duck.

So we will be doing more plucking this weekend.

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Tuesday 3 February 2009

Some photos

Well, at last we have made a start on the greenhouse. It is 8ft by 6ft and as you can see it is much smaller than the old, brick built greenhouse that was on the allotment and then demolished before we took over. The base in now in, as the photo shows. This coming weekend will see our attempt to put the rest of it up.
Shovelling manure! This is me forking the stuff into the wheel barrow. A large amount of it has now been spread on the beds we used last year. We will soon spread it on the beds that were not used last year but which we rotovated. Some weeding needs to be done first.

Monday 2 February 2009

Weekend round up

As usual, we have great hopes of getting certain jobs done and the outcome fails to match up to the aspirations. Nevertheless, some progress was made over the weekend. Thankfully the snow that is falling now did not arrive a day earlier.

The plan was to build both the greenhouse and the fruit cage. We got as far as putting in the base of the greenhouse. We have now scheduled next weekend for building the rest of the greenhouse and putting in the fruit cage.

Standing on the allotment yesterday nevertheless did give us a sense that it was coming together, despite the construction delays. Most of the existing beds have been manured and we are planning to prepare the last bed we rotovated but did not use last year. Whilst that means doing a lot of digging, weeding and manuring, it will increase the amount of land under cultivation by a quarter. About 40% of the allotment was not rotovated last year and one of the jobs we will need to do later this year is to clear that land and get it ready for 2010.
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