September 2017

Sunset at Sandown Bay

25th September - Back again, and so are those weeds!!! The weeds on both plots have taken advantage of my week away on the Isle of Wight and are making a bid for world dominance. Two barrowloads later yesterday made hardly a dent in their luxuriance, but gave us plenty of soft green addition to the compost heap. The heap has sunk down by over half a metre during this past week, so there is plenty of space

There was lots to harvest though, and the car boot was filled with small trays of vegetables and fruit, as you can see:

Spicy Fermented Cauliflower Pickle: Day 1

So let's move into Harvest Monday.

Two cauliflowers ready at the same time prompted me into considering a fermented pickle, and after reading around, settled on a recipe from Cultures for Health as a basis for this spicy version. You can see the jars are standing on a tray, so that any spillage from the daily "burping"will be safely contained. I shall add the recipe tomorrow. I am unsure how long the fermentation phase will take though, before putting the jars in the fridge to slow the process, but I shall keep you informed

Some of the sweet red peppers also made it into the pickle as I felt it needed a bit of colour. These are Anchos, and there are plenty more to come.

The last of the large calabrese heads needed cutting, and this will be blanched and frozen tomorrow. It looks quite small in the photo but it is about nine inches across

Fruity Chutney used Tomatoes, Courgettes and Apples

The last of the indoor tomatoes have now been picked (Summer Cider and Yellow Pear) so in this coming week I aim to clear the area where they have been and get it ready to plant out Red Mustard and so on to overwinter.

The Lungo Bianco courgette plant has a new lease of life, and much to my surprise there were two ready to pick. There are a few flowers still forming so there may be more to come.

In an effort to use up stored tomatoes and courgettes, as well as some windfall apples, I made a batch of Fruity Chutney (Recipe coming tomorrow) I am having to use whatever jars I have left now!  It'll need to maature for around a month, but a quick taste at the end was promising. Space in the fridge now for the newly harvested tomatoes and courgettes duly created.

Carrots (Autumn KIng) and Turnips (Golden Ball) were pulled for our roast dinner, together with beetrrot anf Kondor potatoes from stores

The vine of the "Atlantic Giant" pumpkin (The smaller of the two in the photograph) had withered, so we cut the fruit to bring home for ripening. Not sure it deserves it's name though. The second squash is a self sown one that popped up in the path by our seating area, so we let it grow to see what it produced. After last year's self sown Green Blimp Plant I was prepared to uproot it if necessary but a nice neat orange coloured foot ball sized squash might be useful at Hallowe'en at the very least.

Added to the mix were also the last of the blackberries, seven cucumbers and some windfall apples from the tree supposed to be Braeburn. After some research, I think it may be Lord Derby, which is another cooking apple.  I shan't be picking more blackberries now, as the end of the month is approaching, when myth has it that the Devil spits on the berries, rendering them inedible. Late harvests are often not so sweet, so Devil or no, they can stay on the bushes for the birds.

And that, with some herbs and a bunch of gladioli, completes our harvests from last week

The mild, damp weather has encouraged a variety of fungi to put in an appearance, their mycelial growths spreading through the woodchip before forming their fruiting bodies: we never know what might come up. They have a beauty all of their own, so here are a selection of those I spotted yesterday:

There is some other news: we were awarded a Silver in the Most Attractive Allotment in the Reading in Bloom competition, and a Gold for the Best Maintained Allotment. Delighted to get two awards plus a silver cup to keep for the year, although if the judges had turned up yesterday they would have given us an award for the greatest volume of weeds per square metre I think!! No time for resting on laurels is there?

For folk who asked to see some photos from the Isle of Wight, here are a just a few. We stayed by Sandown Bay and from our chalet,there was no sound of traffic or of people, just wind, waves, birds and ... tigers. Half a mile away the zoo has several rescue tigers and their deep throaty roars travelled over to us in the evenings. An unexpected pleasure!

We were also lucky enough to spot a pair of peregrine falcons high up on the sandstone cliffs, and watching them hunting was such a privilege.

The scenery of course is amazing, with colours changing with the light. I never tire of it, no matter how many years I return

Autumn is certainly with us now, putting on its glorious annual display, so here, to finish, is a picture of the sedums in our garden, alongside a small acer... an unplanned but beautiful combination.

Thank you for reading this week's entry: your interest is really appreciated! 

I hope by next week to have planted out some of the over-wintering crops into the polytunnel, and perhaps made some pear chutney too. 

Recipes I mentioned today will be added in the Preserves tab for September very soon.

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

Sitting Thinking... a sculpture at Wisley

15th September - Early blog this week as I am off to the Isle of Wight tomorrow and I am unsure if there is wifi where we are staying or not, so...... I shall have a little Harvest Monday on Friday instead.

First, let's take a look at some of our Winter Squashes. The North Georgia Candy Roasters have produced three fruits per plant, and the largest one is 45cm long and weighs just over 8lb. Ute Indian has grown a couple fo fruits each and are a gorgeous greeny blue colour, whilst the Thelma Sanders are still being produced, and although these are smaller, they will be just as tasty. The small butternuts I spoke about before, but they are at home now in the box with their relatives. We certainly have enough for our needs during the colder months!

Next is another cucurbit: cucumbers. There have been an amazing quantity this year, with the Telegraph in the greenhouse at home producing massive fruits, as you can see here compared with an 8 inch Diva. The Divas in the polytunnel are giving us between eight and ten cucumbers a week, and we a;ways seem to find homes for any surplus

Cucumber relish

One of the ways of preserving them has been to make this slightly spicy Cucumber Relish (I shall attempt to put the recipe on later today to keep up to date) whcih should keep for several months.

Tomato harvests have slowed to almost a full stop, and under cover only the beautiful orange coloured Summer Ciders have unripe fruit still, with Crimson Crush still ripening outside. I had a whole large boxful of fruit still, and decided to dehydrate them. This really minimises storage space and they will be used to add extra flavour to stews and curries later in the year when we have no fresh tomatoes left

Dries tomatoes and apples ready to store

Whilst the dehydrator was out, I processed a batch of apples too. These make great snacks, as well as being added to cakes, muffins etc and in fruit pies they absorb lots of juice from other fruit and give extra flavour too. The fruits that are sound are all stored in the garage in stacker trays, where I hope they remian in good condition for a couple of months

Apple & Lavender Jelly

There were a lot of apples though with bruises, small holes where maggots had exited, bird pecks and so on, so these were all cooked up for juice to make Apple & Lavender Jelly (Hope to add the recipe in Preserves this evening) It is a gorgeous deep amber colour, with just a hint of lavender flavour, and I have already given away several jars. The photo was taken hastily as I was trying to store everything away before tomorrow, so it is slightly odd, but it gives you an idea of the colour

Other harvests have included the first cauliflower. The plants came as part of the clubroot resistant selection at the end of April, and is a variety called Clapton, which is new to me. This does seem a very small head:  I hope others will a little larger. 

Siberian Kale is a stalwart vegetable and tastes wonderful steamed with a dash of horseradish, and I hope these plants continue to crop throughout the Autumn and Winter.

And that is the end of this week's harvests. We have been eating carrots, beetroot and potatoes from store as well as some lettuce and turnip tops which I didn't photograph.

I had a great day out earlier in the week, visiting the RHS garden at Wisley with a friend. It was interesting to see their vegetable garden, with some crops the same as ours and of course lots different, such as impressively sized celeriac, huge purple carrots and flower sprouts.

There are lots of sculptures installed in the gardens for a month or two, which were interesting to see. So to nd this week, is a picture of some Alpine Autumn Flowering Crocus in the Alpine House at Wisley

And a wire sculpture of dandelion clocks that I would love to have in the garden!

I hope to be back blogging again Monday week

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

The sunflowers have been wonderful again, but now are blown down by the wind

11th September - Is this Summer's last hurrah? This week the flowers on our plot seem to have made an extra effort to look their best, and glorious they look too. I have added some photos further down, but first let's take a look at harvests this week, linked to Harvest Monday hosted by Our Happy Acres in the US. Here are the vegetables that went with our roast dinner last night, with Kestrel potatoes from our store:

The Snowball turnips sown on 14th July are now large enough to begin being harvested, and this also gives them an additional thinning to that others can expand. Gently steamed, they were just delicious

The carrots are Autumn King, a third sowing of carrots at the end of April. The soil in this part of the bed is still a bit stony, and you can see the effect on the roots. There is enough of each that is usable though. I really must remember to sow some Early Nantes in a large box in the polytunnel to grow on for use in the Spring.

The cabbage is large enough for several meals, and is one of the three Greyhound plants grown under enviromesh, which has kept off all flying pests including whitefly. We went for a selection of cultivars this year, maturung at different times to try to avoid a glut. So far, so good ...

And last of all are runner beans. These are Moonlight, and they have been an excellent stringless crop for several weeks. Now however, this is the last picking, as the remaining pods are being left to mature for next year's seeds

Cucumbers are still going strong, and this week I made up  a batch of pickled cucumbers with garlic and dill to keep over the Winter. I shall add the recipe in Preserves tomorrow, not because it is anything fancy but so that I can remember it next year!

Growing a small fruited variety in the polytunnel has been a huge success, and we shall certainly do the same next year, although with the plants twice as far apart. Having only grown these in large pots before, I had no idea they would grow into such large plants and it can be tricky to spot the fruits lurking among the leaves at times. These two chose to hang in full view...very convenient

Those are purple french beans behind the cucumbers...another success in the tunnel, so they can have their own space next year to aim for an early crop

Chillies and sweet peppers have also flourished in the protected environment, and these plants have also grown much larger than usual, and produced masses of flowers and fruit. Here are some of this week's harvest:

  • These are, from the left, one of the Mixed Sweet Peppers, Hangijiao 1 chillies and Atris peppers. These Chinese chillies produced massive fruit which are very mild and will be grown as a sweet pepper in future as they have been prolific

  • Here are some of the Serrano Chillies, which are very hot, and a few of the Yukari Baken, which have a medium heat. I have saved very ripe fruit of both for next year's seed. These are drying on kitchen paper on the desk at home

I picked a lot of each to make some Hot Chilli Jam. The heat of the serranos was fierce enough to make the skin on my fingers tingle for some time.. I should really have worn gloves... and I had to be very mindful of not touching my face at all, even after washing my hands thoroughly.

Whilst it was boiling down, I got involved in podding dried peas for seed, time went by, and then there was an eyewatering burning smell filling the kitchen. It took a long time to clean the pan, and I had to go to harvest more chillies and sweet peppers to start again the next day. Disappointing, but my own fault.

The end result second time around is a gorgeous colour, and is pretty hot (Recipe to follow of course) and not for the faint hearted. I shall be interested to see if it mellows out as it matures, but if not, caution will be required in eating it

The other chilli in the photo of the jam is a Cayenne, Joe's Long, which is quite mild and could replace serranos in the recipe, if you would like something with less bite. The pips are from tomatoes, not chillies. Including the seeds would have made it too hot for most people !!

Tomatoes are still harvested almost daily, but not for much longer. These are ones which were picked slightly under ripe, to be kept in the garage fridge in order to slow their ripening: Golden Sunrise, Moneymaker, Yellow Pear and a single Summer Cider. In the kitchen I am now down to one tray, and a couple of bowlsful of salad ones in the kitchen fridge. There are very few left on the plants now, and with cooler weather these are ripening very slowly 

There are two heads of calabrese on display too, which have been blanched and frozen, alongside the first of our Winter Squashes, Thelma Sanders. This one was hiding in a flower bed I needed to clear to plant wallflowers, so it had to move. Once the other squashes have been harvested, I'll post some pictures for you to see them. We shan't be eating any for a while, as they taste so much better when they have been stored for several weeks

And if you look closely, there are a couple of strawberries hiding on one side! 

All the usual suspects such as courgettes, blackberries, raspberries,lettuce and some other salad leaves are cruising along: more photos not really required by now.

 

Yesterday we harvested most of the apples from the Braeburn tree at the plot, as gales were forecast. We are very glad we did as the wind was strong enough to tip over the tall sunflowers overnight and would certainly have brought down a lot of fruit.

We picked four boxes of apples, some of which are slightly damaged so will need to be used soon, but undamaged fruit should store well. These green apples bear little resemblance to the reddish Braeburns we have seen in supermarkets though, so there is a doubt in my mind about the provenance of this tree. 

And that is the end of our harvests for this week.

The long Autumn clear-up has begun, and amazingly the compost bin left empty after last week's Grand Opening and re-stacking is already nearly half full of soft weeds, chopped stems from spent crops and flower pruning, shredded paper and layers of comfrey cut from the long bed at the side on #146. It'll probably be filled by the end of this month!

The seeds sown last week in pots are all germinating, even the Spring Onions, the Winter Radish seedlings make two neat, well spaced rows across the middle of the bed where the remaining carrots still sit and the perpetual spinach plants are growing well: all signs that we shall have crops throughout the Autumn and into the Winter. 

And now for the flowers. Be warned, I am going to make up for so few photos of flowers in the last couple of blogs, but I make no apology for their inclusion really as they really give us such enjoyment:

This final photo is out of focus, but I am including it as it is the first one I have managed to take of one of this year's skittish young kestrels, albeit through the windscreen of the car. So many of you enjoyed the pictures of adult birds earlier in the year that I thought you might want to see this youngster too, even if it is a somewhat misty view!

Thank you for interest in what we have been doing this week. I shall post recipes mentioned tomorrow and hope to be back next week having conquered the tomato mountain and sorted the apples.

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

Blackberries at their best!

4th September - Autumn Days are here again, with cooler unsettled weather this week. The local Show was on Saturday...more about that later. Let's look first at our harvests during this week:

Tomatoes are a major player still, with several kilos coming home with us again this week, to sit in stacked trays in the kitchen until their transformation. This week I have reduced down nearly 10kg to unseasoned tomato puree (Thanks, Dave for this idea) and have 8 x 580ml jars now in storage to bring a taste of Summer to our meals throughout the Winter. Each batch takes a couple of hours, but other than keeping an eye on things, takes little effort once it is blitzed and cooking.

Our recipe for Mixed Tomato Chutney is a sure-fire favourite, so a batch of this, flavoured with fennel seed has been duly cooked (Recipe in Preserves Aug tab: scroll down the page a bit) , as well as Oven-dried Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic & Oregano (Recipe in Preserves Sept tab) It is lovely to have these stored away to add to pasta sauces, pizza toppings,salads and so on throughout the year.

  • Two trays of cherry tomatoes ready for the oven, together with sliced garlic and chopped fresh oregano

  • Two hours later, they were poured into jars, lids screwed on and cooling down ready to label

Sweet peppers are really coming into their own now. Coincidentally, having grown Amy's Hungarian Sweet Wax, a pale creamy-green fruit, several of the mixed pepper plants also have fruit this colour, and really they are not the most flavoursome. There are too many to use just in salad, so they will be added to all sorts of dishes in the next week or so to make sure we can use them up, and perhaps a mixed Greek-style pickle too.

Jalapeno chillies

Chillies are ripening too, and in the photo above there are Serranos (hot!) Yukari Baken (medium hot) Joe's Long Cayenne (medium cool) and ripened Padrons (who knows? Heat is wildly variable)

Here are some of our Jalapeno Earlies too. This is the first year we have had a good crop of these, and the fruits are just perfect, completely unmarked and beautiful... they were awarded a First in the Any Other Vegetable Class on Saturday so it is not just us that think they are lovely!

If you look closely in the photo above, you can see two small aubergines. The larger fruited Black Beauties are at last setting fruit, but really this has been a great year for them

There is also a token courgette. The plants are getting their second wind, so we do have several in the fridge now, but not too many to cope with, thank goodness. I shall be stir frying one with some garlic, onion and turkey salami, topped with fried egg, for lunch tomorrow.

Runner Bean Bhaaji

Runner beans are running out of steam now. We have sufficient in the freezer for our needs, and so I have been looking for alternative ways to use the last few. Here is a very tasty Runner Bean Bhaaji (Recipe to follow tomorrow), topped with our home grown Coriander leaves. I think we shall be pulling the plants out and chopping them up to feed the compost bins very soon. 

Top fruits have been a major harvest for us this week, with lots of apples again. I stripped the James Greaves and Greensleeves trees today, as birds seem to have started pecking the fruit, and a squirrel was eying them up when we arrived. The sound fruit is now in stacker trays, and  any with damage have been cut up and cooked to make some Apple Jelly with Garlic & Sage. It is in the jelly bag to drip overnight, so I'll let you know next week how it turns out. All of the Bramleys have been picked now too, but I have not included any in this batch of jelly as they sometimes make it a bit cloudy. I'll keep them for another time, possibly for another herby jelly

 

 

Fruit harvests this week includes our plums

At long last, our plum tree has fruited! It is now seven or eight years old, so I was beginning to think it was barren forever. We bought is as a Victoria, which it clearly isn't, and it seems likely to be Czar. The fruits are huge and very sweet, and I hope that now it has found out how to produce them that more follow next year. Although it is a small crop, it is too many for us to eat over a few days, so I shall be making  spiced plum preserve to enjoy during the festive season with a good, rich ice cream. The ones we have eaten have been free of maggots too, which is a relief. Wait all these years for a crop, you don't want to see maggots in them!

Rocket leaves are undamaged

Just one more harvest this week, another new one: Rocket. A plot neighbour gave me some seedlings a few weeks back, and they have really taken off, enjoying the cool, damp weather to produce massive spicy leaves. IUsually rocket leaves end up with lots of holes in them from flea beetles, but the plants are under enviromesh, and they are completely unmarked. Good! The leaves make a good spicy garnish to all sorts of dishes, including tonight's meatballs  

There have been the usual blackberries (see the header picture), raspberries, lettuce and cucumbers, but I thought you had probably seen enough of those for now.

Today, we had one of our most useful harvests though, our home-made compost. Every year I look forward to the moment the bins are opened and the gloriously dark and crumbly mixture, resulting from a whole year of chopping and mixing and stirring about and then waiting, and waiting, and waiting.....  is seen for the first time.

It is hard to believe that all that kitchen waste, all those soft weeds, chopped up plants, grass mowings and shredded paper turns into such nutritious food for the soil. A miracle for sure.

For us, it marks the turning of the season from Summer into Autumn, getting ready to take out spent crops and feed the beds for next year.

It seemed a good day to sow seeds of crops that will overwinter to feed us during the cold dark days of Winter into Spring: Chinese Dragon Winter Radish in the space left in the carrot bed, in pots Hispi Cabbage, Giant Mustard, Komatsuna torasan (Mustard Spinach) and Winter Density Lettuce, and in modules, White Lisbon winter hardy Spring Onions. All these are to grow on in the polytunnel once the current crops are out.

So now let's have a quick look at how the Show went for us. Despite thinking our potatoes were not as good as usual, we came away with a 1st and a 2nd, the disastrous onion harvest left us with just five good enough for the small onion class, that were awarded a 2nd as well.  Our carrots were a bit too bent, but our daughter's family had a 1st for theirs, to go with the 1st for their onions and a 2nd for their shallots. 

There were a few 1sts, quite a lot of 2nds and some 3rds as well as lots not placed, but the whole joy of a Show is celebrating your best produce dressed at its best, whatever colour ticket it may have in the end. 

We have grown a lot of flowers this season, and the quality of them was well received by the judges. We had the highest number of points for roses, for other cut flower exhibits and for plants grown in pots, so we had silver cups to bring home, to keep until next year.

Preserves were to the judges taste, with all except for our Clementine marmalade being placed either 1st or 2nd... our Son-in-Law won a 1st for his Seville Orange marmalade though, so well done to him

And our grand daughters who entered the junior classes had lots of award cards, with Kitty winning the Junior Cup this year, and Poppy winning the Novice Growers Cup. Good to see them so keen and enjoying their modest financial rewards, which they promptly spent on tombola tickets and cake!

Our Top Tray was placed 2nd: you can see our cabbages in this photo, which we were very proud of, despite the sudden slug attack which meant I had to remove more outer leaves than I would have liked! 

These are our prize-winning roses, relaxing in their vase at home...

And these are some of our dahlias and asters, not as they were displayed but as they are now in their vase on the table. This is where I finish for this week, hoping you have all enjoyed sharing our news and grateful for your interest. 

 

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can