In My Garden: Late July

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It’s feeling a lot like autumn out there. The rain has returned, the air is cooler and those shadows in the afternoon are foreboding now. Still, I’ll keep the faith and won’t admit defeat till the leaves have turned.

In my garden this week then:

:: the leek seem happy. No one has told them they’re living in a bag and they’re just getting on with becoming leeks.

:: the garlic has started to sprout and that can do it’s thing till spring.

:: I returned for clearance aisle raspberry canes – two more – one has died, but I’m hoping the roots might give me something next year if I’m nice, and one has rewarded my faith by giving me a teeny tiny raspberry!

:: those apples, goodness, if they don’t break that tree in half it will be a miracle. It has almost doubled over with the weight of them. I called the arborist.

:: the plums are blushing up nicely. Not many but more than none. Bonus.

:: the bramble and I have come to an understanding: if you can’t beat it, farm it. Stakes have gone in and I’m training them up as canes.

:: the tomatoes are vexing me with their ability to pull every stake down. I’m pleased for the weighty tomatoes, but some thought will have to go in for keeping those babies upright!

:: I’ve set some more carrots off; they can do what they like till next year.

:: Ditto winter cabbage. If any survives

:: I’ve put some courgette out; I know it’s late, but if we get anything then fine and if we don’t, no worries.

:: More herbs – this time valerian, yarrow and fennel, along with a beautiful Russian Sage that I hope will look nice with the hollyhocks next year.

:: the strawberries and chilli have had another flush of flower – I think all this rain is helping.

Soon I need to start keeping notes about what I will do differently next year.

An Afternoon in My Kitchen

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It had started off so innocently, as it usually does; I had just meant to decant the stock into pint jars to freeze.

But then I remembered about another chicken carcass from the meal the previous evening, so set another stock pot on the boil, mixing it up with spices and chilli.

Then remembered those strawberries we picked last week won’t keep much longer – and there’s nothing easier than making jam – in went the jars to sterilise and by the time they were done so was the jam!

The leftover raspberries were looking a little worse for wear, so a batch of muffins was called for so they weren’t wasted.

And you know, whilst they’re cooking and seeing as I’ve washed all the pots and pans up, it wouldn’t take me five minutes to get some fermented radishes set up. And the milk kefir. And some almonds soaking. And a fancy batch of chilli black bean hummus for the eldest. And some onion salad. And I guess I’d better start cooking the evening meal…

I swear I went in to do one job. And four hours later I think every pot in my kitchen had seen some action.

Ah, but the satisfaction of having a freezer drawer a little bit fuller, the cupboards stocked a wee bit higher, and some happy boys with plenty of things they love to eat makes this mama’s heart happy. An afternoon well spent.

Listen

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I’m a great believer in intuition; it’s served me well so far. But sometimes I’m so busy getting through the to-do lists that I ignore those subtle cues. The sudden urge to gather all my car breakdown information in my purse only for the car to break down that evening? Yep. Needing to find a friend you haven’t seen in years, and instinctively going to the right place and finding them? That happens too. But sometimes my poor body has to drag me around on a broken crutch for days before the penny finally drops: that it isn’t age creeping up on me, I just need to convalesce! I’m tired for a reason, I’m craving bone broth for a reason, I’m seeking nettle tea for a reason, I have the urge to burn lavender oil for a reason! My body knows it before I do.

I really need to remember to be quiet, and listen.

Right now my body is telling me to rest. So that’s what I’m doing. And here’s hoping the next time my body needs to let me know something I’ll get with the programme a little sooner.

Mr. K. Fisher

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I’ve been playing about with strips of fabric and bird ideas again. This time, instead of papier mache, I opted for a soft, sewn bird. Both styles have their pros and cons.

I am feeling both intensely satisfied at completing this bird, and totally irritated at my lack of skill. I don’t think there will ever be a thing I make that doesn’t disappoint me in some regard, but this little kingfisher is making me smile nonetheless.

Now… what other bird shall I try?

From Garden to Table

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Rather a lot of photos for such a small harvest, but we were quite pleased with ourselves. Potatoes! Carrots! Herbs! In such a tiny plot anything is a bonus and everything is an experiment this year.

The potatoes were grown in tubs and did OK, but I’m sure there’s a trick or two to get better yields. The carrots were a variety that grows short and stumpy for container gardens, and we pulled them early because I’m having a rearrange out there.

Peas are still plumping up, the tomatoes getting fatter and the beans are doing their thing. We were happy to get this tiny harvest into our bellies, as the youngest stated: “Food always tastes better when you’ve grown it yourself!”.

It certainly does.

Notes From My Kitchen

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Blink! Here we are at that time of year again, five minutes after starting the garden: minds have turned to canning and preserving.

For a few years I let this slide; it’s not like we’re going to starve if I don’t pickle my one tomato from the garden insha’allah. But back at the farm with those delicious berries it made me want to put some by for winter – a little summer time ‘hello’ when we’ve forgotten what sun feels like.

I pulled every jar I own out from every nook and cranny and the eldest cheered when he saw them all. “Are you making JAM this year??” he asked hopefully. “I’ll think about it”, I answered. “YES! … I LOVE your jam! I love it when you make stuff!!”. Poor, deprived child. No pressure then. Some notes, then, from my kitchen:

:: Lakeland now stock wide necked Ball jars in various sizes, as well as regular jars too. For those of you with a few more pennies than I do, they’ve also started stocking those pretty Weck jars too! In fact, most things preserving related can be found there, along with Certo pectin for the first time.

:: Talking about Certo pectin, they’ve produced their own jam recipe booklet with some nice ideas in there.

:: An interesting article entitled “The Old British Method of Just “Bottling” Preserves is Known to be unsafe Now“, in case you didn’t know it already. Some more information on safe canning in the UK. And here’s water canning and pressure canning explained.

:: Passata Italian family recipe. Nuff said. And a nice tomato sauce recipe found here.

:: As little bits are coming in from the garden I’m making refrigerator pickle. I’ve been using this recipe with various green things like snap peas etc. It’s really good and it’s ready to go in a week. Also, check out these eBooks by Denise as well as the rest of her free recipes. So good.

So, what’s coming out of your kitchen these days?

Gathering Berries

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We are lucky enough to live near a PYO farm which opens from June to the end of October and sees us right for all kinds of berry (not blueberry, we have to travel a fair distance for that privilege), flowers, farm food, all the way to pumpkin and sweetcorn season. And the field on which we park is surrounded by dog rose and hips are free for the taking. There is a place to picnic and the wee cafe sells the most delicious hand made cakes and tea. All in all, there is no better place to be on a scorching day.

I hope the weather keeps giving!

Early July: In the Garden

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It’s amazing how many pictures I can take of such a tiny space. I’m sure my neighbours think I’m nuts.

Last week I put cardboard and mulch down the border and added a couple bags to grow leek in. I’m not sure if this will work, but it looks better than overgrown mint and bramble.

I have squirrelled away yet more clearance aisle finds, this time a raspberry cane. I might go back and get another. So, you know, we can harvest six raspberries instead of three.

Herbs were going for a song, so they’ve found a place to live.

I’m wishing I had more land to fuss over, and I’ve had to reign in my ingratitude. This is plenty, I remind myself.

The potatoes: have you seen them? I have seen shrubs smaller than these babies, and they’re still growing! Hope some energy is going into the tubers and not just the leaves.

Tomatoes: yup, I see you! Making plans for more next year.

Everything is plumping up, the apples, the plums, whats left of the brassica.

The privet hedge is in full bloom and the sound of bees fills the air. The dead flowers are like confetti all over the garden.

The peas are putting out, except the sweat peas, annoyingly.

All in all a nice place to sit and watch the world go by.