Thursday, 16 June 2011


"We're jammin
I wanna jam it with you,
We're jammin, jammin
And I hope you like jammin too"

OK, enough of Bob Marley..  Some would think we (or rather myself..) would have to have a sweet tooth to make all this Jam seeing as we're a family of 3 (soon to be 4).  Well, in my case you'd be right in saying that.  You think you have a sweet tooth?  You 'aint got a PATCH on me.  Seriously, put me down with a Kilo, two if you're feeling flush of chocolate and provide me with a constant supply of tea - I'll demolish the lot.  I'd be on the look out for afters too.  I'm a pig, no question.  I'd eat chocolate for breakfast (I do on Christmas day!), Biccies for lunch (any type - sweet mind..), then polish off a 3 litre tub of ice cream for dinner (or tea if you're that way inclined).  Sad thing is, I know I'll "suffer" the next few days, but man I just can't help myself... errrr anyway--

Back on track!

Soo, I've had my eye on that maslin pan jobby in Lakeland for a while (over a year infact - Ellie would never let me buy it).  Now that I'm the bread earner and she's the lump just getting fat with her feet up all day I decided to buy it [incoming slap no doubt -- infact, that remark coupled with the state of the kitchen, there's no question - I may even have a boot up the back side (if I'm lucky - wayhey!!)]---- erm yes anyway so I went ahead and bought this big maslin pan thing as whenever we've made Jam in the past it's just boiled over everywhere (no saucepans large enough).  On the subject of Lakeland, I wish they'd get rid of the shop in Cardiff, if I go in there I'll blow £60 easily in a quick visit.  Any longer than 15mins and the bank are phoning up checking the transaction is legitimate).  

Argh -ok back on track again.. 

Right so anyway, we've had a pretty big glut of strawberries recently (there's still loads on the plot too - but I've decided now to give it up-but that's another story)- a reasonable harvest of gooseberries and a bit of rhubarb.  

Over the past couple of weeks we've been busy bodies making a lot of jam.  So far, we've done 21 jars of jam (a mix of 1lbs and 8oz jars), with a load more fruit on the plot to use too (mainly currants.. though we've blackberries coming through - and later on will have Autumn fruiting raspberries too!):

Strawberry & Rhubarb, Strawberry & Gooseberry,
Strawberry & Vanilla,  and finally Gooseberry & Elderflower
Seem to have a few small air bubbles near the top of the jars - I think this is either down to the jars being too hot (I noticed it re-boiling when ladled into the jars) or I left it too long to jar them up (was trying to get an even distribution of fruit, rather than it all going to the top).  Not sure really (any ideas on how to stop it will be welcome! - I'm sure this didn't happen before).  Anyway, it tastes good, it's mainly for us - if you have some and you moan don't expect anymore in the future (Dad!).

Just tried the Gooseberry & Elderflower on a bit of bread (freshly baked - thanks El!).. mixed thoughts. 

The gooseberries were sweet enough to eat raw, bit taste different in a Jam.  I'm not sure if this is the elderflower?  It's kind of like marmalade (though it did start to burn a little!).  Tart, yet sweet - different I guess.  I think I like it... I'm not keen on marmalade mind.  Sod it, yes it's nice - I made it ;-)  Quite surprised at the colour, it's almost pinky-orange..  I expected it to be green, mind you that could have something to do with it almost burning.  Mind you.. I did enjoy eating the burn sugar/fruit from the bottom of the pan!

In other news - we've decided it'd be a good idea to drop the plot that we have near Ellie's mothers old house..  It's a little bit too far just to pop over - and with nipper #2 on the way shortly I think it'll be easier just to maintain the 1/2 plot we've got that's a 2 minute drive away.  I'm looking forward to taking Seren up with me and having her trample all over my bloody hard work, ripping crops up left right and centre, screaming, crying, trampling over other peoples plots, stamping in muddy puddles help me out harvesting (hopefully) and weeding.  Should be fun, either way :)  That'll leave El with some time off from Seren running riot - and able to see to the new arrival in a bit of peace and relax (aka deal with newborn poo-ey nappies (yuck!)).  Naturally, I'll make sure Seren will have done her business and is changed by El before I take her out.

Righty-ho, off to get lamped around the head & clean the bomb site (kitchen) up.

Until next time! 

(I did look for a funny quote by Bob Marley.. but couldn't find anything.  I'll try and come up with something witty perhaps later!)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Better late than never?

Have managed to clear a bit of the new 1/2 plot I've taken on - that's a lot closer to us than the other allotment.  Took it on last Sunday (22/05/11):

View from the front of it (South end)

View looking back down it, from under the tree above (looking South)
Turning around, there's a shed and the plot tapers to a point on the left.
Huge Japanese Knotweed problem though.
By Thursday I'd cleared enough ground to plant the potatoes given to me by the allotment site (thanks!) as they had surplus stock.  I'd also erected a (wonky) bean frame, a bit more stable than the others on the other plot made out of canes using some wood that was used as battens after stripping a room that we're converting into a playroom for Seren + the one on the way!

Spuds in!
Bean frame ("Munty Frame" - from a users' idea on some allotment forums).
The idea is the beans grow up the string, then up across the top of the frame with the beans all hanging down for you to pick.  There's 4 courgettes planted underneath currently - a couple more may go in.
The beans planted are Borlotto beans - growing them for the dried beans.  I've also got a load of others ready to go out, Blue Lake, Roquefort, Tendergreen, Yellow Tepee, Ying Yang, Ruth Bible.. I think that's it.  All in all about 200 plants..  A few will be grown for the beans inside, to be used in cooking (and saved to regrow next year), other as green beans.

Must say, being the only person on the allotment trying "new" ideas causes much discussion and whispering!  I've found that out on both allotments now!  

That's all for now as I'm off down the allotment for a good clearing session!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Thanks, April!

...and the start of May... Thank you for some amazing weather. Not only was the weather great when we went away to Cornwall over my Birthday, but it continued to be warm and sunny throughout the first two weeks of May. In turn this has meant plants have put on good growth, such as the strawberries we inherited on our allotment. Each visit since we've been back - I've come home with a handful, and just tonight, I ran out of hands whilst picking them.. The next best thing was holding up my tshirt. Thankfully no one was around to question my sexuality.

Picking your own is great fun, the strawberry bed is infested with weeds (the slugs are loving that!), so it's almost like an Easter egg hunt!

Comparing this free harvest to organic strawberries, we'd have had to pay £4.56 (going by Tesco selling them at £8.30/kg - and the harvest roughly 550g)! Owt fer nowt is good in my books ;-)

The gooseberries on the plot (again inherited) are also coming along nicely:

Also the transplanted peas that I started off in modules seem to be doing ok, with another row direct down to the left of them:

Meanwhile... Back at home in the garden we've some apples fattening up nicely, currants fruiting (can't remember if they're red or white- the blackcurrants don't seem to be doing much again), blackberries just showing some flower buds and something I'm looking forward to personally this year is what looks to be a pretty good blueberry harvest (compared to the single berry last year):

The tomatoes are just about showing some flower buds too:

Which is great because they seem to have slowed down recently, probably due to the cold weather we've had, but at least they're still growing (I was a bit concerned the compost I'd put them in was no good).

I've also pinched out some armpits, which are sitting in water (a few in compost in the greenhouse too) - hoping to get a couple more plants for free (just as well really, as the sungold tomatoes that I'm growing this year are quite expensive):

Back to the boring real life stuff... We've recent decorated our bedroom, just about done and already Ellie is eyeing up the next room to do. We've an integral garage in our house, that's been converted into a room prior to us buying it, it's currently just really a dumping ground, but now it's set to become a games/xbox/big telly roomplayroom. Best get off now, I've just heard the whip crack!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Potting on, sowing & tantrums.

Managed to pot on our Tomatoes and Aubergines this weekend, which was just in the nick of time I think, as they'd massively outgrown their small pots that they were sown in.  Thankfully you can repot Tomatoes deeper [they'll root from the stem as a bonus, providing more stability in the final pots], so they all got planted up to their seed leaves (and some, erm right up to the necks!).  The Aubergines weren't too bad, so they were sown roughly the same level as they'd been in their previous 3" pots.  Only 1 of the type that I really wanted to germinate has done, and as they need a long growing season I think I've missed the boat.  There's still 4 others (Black Beauty), plus the Listada de Gandia means we've 5 plants - hopefully this year we'll get a crop off them as they'll be in the greenhouse rather than outside (the greenhouse wasn't really ready last year).

These are now making the daily trek in and out of the greenhouse as it's still dropping below 10°C at night in there.  Shouldn't be too long (hopefully!) until they can stay out over night though..

After taking part in a squash "seed parcel" from some gardening forums I'm part of (which is seeds are donated to a parcel, and then sent around a list of members, who take out what they fancy, and add something back into the parcel and send it on to the next member - a great way to try things so you can see how they work out/taste/etc) we've around 10 types of different squash..  So as the last frost date is supposedly late April where we are they were sown this evening:

Two of each of the following were sown:
  • Butternut Squash (Hunter)
  • Crown Prince (tastes amazing!)
  • Golden Nugget
  • Green Acorn
  • Jack Be Little
  • Jarrahdale
  • Little Gem
  • Red Kuri
  • Squashkin (a mix between a butternut squash and a pumpkin)
  • Turks Turban
Fingers crossed they all germinate - as this lot will see us right through winter, and probably even spring next year.

I'm planning on training a few of the small fruiting squash up over an arch/fence/whatever (if I get around to building one! - and knowing how fast these grow, they'll probably just trail along the floor)

Seren is really enjoying being outside now, and when I was washing the above pots, she was bringing over the labels, and throwing them in the bucket, then her play cutlery set, and then finally a doll... bathing the lot in the mucky water. Come dinner time having to go inside to eat she was kicking, screaming, arching her back, banging her head, biting (the usual tantrum thing) in protest.  I pretty much was carrying her back in, upside down by her little toe, at arms length to keep from injury!  Toad in the hole + green beans / peas soon sorted it out though, after we just ignored her and got on with our food.  Terrible twos?  More like terrible twenty months!

Found a nice surprise today at the allotment.  Moving some tarpaulin/plastic sheet/rubbish I came across a nest of slow worms.  There were probably about 20 in there (didn't realise, until I tried picking up the "stick" to lob across into the rubbish pile... said stick decided to wrap itself around my hand.  I don't think I've ever sworn so fast, and in rapid succession as then).  Great to know though, at least they'll help  control the slug population!
That's all for now!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

...and we're done!

We've finally got the new run sorted - with the chickens moved in.  The broody one wasn't too impressed, but seems to have calmed down a bit now.  I've decided to leave them in there for a couple of days, whilst I get rid of their old coop, and to give them time to get used to the new coop/nest box (one has already got the idea, just waiting for the other one to pop an egg out now as she didn't lay yesterday).

I think I've put deep alayer of shavings on the floor as they've kicked it all in their water and feeder, but here's some photos anyway:

Still need to get rid of the mountain of soil...
Chickens exploring their new run

New coop - opens out fully for ease of cleaning

Next project.. too many to list.  Looks so far to be the bedroom, but I've not been back down to the allotment in a couple of weeks now.  I plan to this coming weekend.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Chicken run update

Just in from working on the run again today, here's a few pictures so you can see the progress:
Panels created

Roof frame put on

Some cross-supports put on, photo from back bedroom

Roof trimmed and fixed on

There's still the mesh to staple to the panels, and the back panel to build (ran out of wood).  Hopefully should be finished by next weekend, so the chickens can move into their new home!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Busy bees.

We've been quite busy for a while, hence the lack of updates.  Ellie has another bun in the oven (now the name of the blog can hopefully make sense - it'll be my two littles stars in the garden!), and is half way through now (or will be tomorrow), the bedroom & en suite are being re-decorated/replaced, everything is a tip in the house, and we've started to plan the 'playroom'.  On top of this, we've been busy doing a new chicken run and have taken on an allotment!  There's plenty of fruit on the allotment - raspberry canes, two crowns (so far) of rhubarb - seems an early variety as it's miles ahead of the 'Victoria' we're growing at home, currants, gooseberries, and erm the brambles too!

It's not in too bad shape, behind the shed is a mass of brambles that I'll have to chop down eventually - but the plan is to work this half in the foreground and then sort the half behind the shed out as/when we can fit it in (I say we, I mean me ;)).

Chickens wise... we've gone from this:
To this:
To this so far (concrete laid, via a few fence boards removed and a skillful driver poking the chute through and dumping a cubic metre of concrete in the area:

Eventually, it'll be home to their new coop (that needs painting - probably done later on during summer):

Oh, and the light sussex has gone broody again (second time since feb).  She wasn't impressed trying out the above ladder I can tell you!

All this whilst El has been very ill with her pregnancy has ensured we've been through a tough few months!  So much so, that all the stuff I sowed in the previous post has died due to neglect.  So I've re-started.. have sown a few more sungolds, and golden sunrise with a couple of aubergines inside, along with some beetroot, marigolds (first time growing flowers!), mixed salad leaves and little gem lettuce (outside).  This weekend I'm planning on sowing some more chillies.