Showing posts from August, 2010

Living in Harmony with Insects

I have been looking up all sorts of insects on the web this summer... my radishes were attacked by flea beetle, my brussels have been ravaged by greenfly and I have been trying to encourage insect predators such as ladybirds to keep things in balance in the hope that I will at least be able to harvest something. Every caterpillar I find is moved carefully to the wild end of the allotment and I feel rather proud of my Buddhist intentions and if I have very little cabbage at the end of it all I will console myself with the thought that I am living in harmony with nature.
Bearing that in mind... there is one creature that drives all my pacifist, Buddhist, hippy good intentions right out the window. Enter stage front.... The wasp!! And there hundreds of them sucking the juice out of my grapes right now!!!!

The grapes are just this side of ready... but obviously sweet enough for the wasps. and on top of that the grapes hang just outside the conservatory door above the patio... which mean…

Making the most of your Herbs

Throughout the summer I have been hanging and drying my most favourite herbs from the roof of my conservatory. There is Lavender,

..... and sage.....

.........and Lovage seed heads in paper bags to catch the seeds as they fall.

Once the herbs are dry I rub them to flakes and put them into containers ready for using in the depth of winter. The lavender is for lavender bags and sleep pillows. For most of my herbs this has been very successful.

However, the tarragon I hung up to dry has gone totally brown ..........

..............and doesn't actually smell of anything. That's no good. So I had to try an alternative way of preserving that wonderful tarragon flavour.

I made a tarragon butter. A large handful of fresh tarragon is washed and shaken dry and then the leaves removed.

I then chopped the leaves fairly finely and added them to a pack of unsalted butter which I left out of the fridge until it became soft.

I then added the zest of half an orange and about two tablespoons of the …

A Work in Progress

This title applies to more than the embroidery job I found half finished in the back of the sewing room.

.... it also applies to PhillyBilly. He did not come home yesterday. His gig on Saturday night at The Custard Factory in Birmingham was not the success he had hoped for, he did not get to perform at all - still got paid mind you! The night was supposed to continue to 6am the following morning and PhillyBilly was scheduled to go on in the wee small hours but alas the crowd had disappeared by then and the venue owners decided to close early. As you can imagine he was very disappointed. So... his record company (Chronos Records) stream a regular Sunday night Dubstep showcase on Ustream, where you can get to see your favourites actually perform, and they asked PhillyBilly to make a guest appearance.

There was a lot of hype prior to his appearing because he has virtually never been seen by his fans before. So a lot of excited comments were streaming in. PhillyBilly omitted to tell …

Attack of the Squash People

I don't normally so blatantly copy someone else's blog like this... (have just stolen this poem from the Portugal Smallholding blog) no apologies... just had to share this with you....
And thus the people every year in the valley of humid July did sacrifice themselves to the long green phallic god and eat and eat and eat. They're coming, they're on us, the long striped gourds, the silky babies, the hairy adolescents, the lumpy vast adults like the trunks of green elephants. Recite fifty zucchinirecipes!
Zucchini tempura; creamed soup; sauté with olive oil and cumin, tomatoes, onion; frittata; casserole of lamb; baked topped with cheese; marinated; stuffed; stewed; driven through the heart like a stake.
Get rid of old friends: they too have gardens and full trunks. Look for newcomers: befriend them in the post office, unload on them and run. Stop tourists in the street. Take truckloads to Boston. Give to your Red Cross. Beg on the highway: please take my zucchini, I have a crippled mother at home …

Hot as a Cucumber

Having been struck down by some kind of allergy induced migraine for the last couple of days, I have been watching and worrying, as freshly harvested produce from the allotment sat idle in the fridge. Feeling a tad better (migraine like headache still not gone but accompanying running eye and nose has abated). I decided to do something about it before the harvest was lost.
In desperation to find something to do with the huge glut of cucumbers that I have (and still more swelling on the vine almost as I watch) and bearing in mind that I am not a fan of vinegary pickles, I decided to make Cucumber and Lemon Jam.
Well it said it was a jam on the recipe which dates from the 1930's... but it has turned out to be more like a marmalade, with that slightly bitter, very grown up taste that marmalade has.
Marmalade is a bit like a fine whisky... you need age to appreciate it's subtle flavours - actually I am still not old enough to appreciate whisky - blagh.... - but marmalade, which I…

Goodbye Summer?

Already? So soon? I was reading a gardening newsletter just the other day that said how of all the seasons, autumn, is the least disappointing. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was probably true.

We have had a great summer. It was mostly dry and sunny all through June and July. After a late start, most of the veggies in the allotment and garden bore fruit...
Some more than others.

But it's only August and there is a distinct chill in the air and the definite feeling that the summer has gone... how disappointing.

But I do love Autumn. It seldom disappoints. If it is warm then we relish in an 'Indian Summer' and we marvel at being able to keep the summer sandals on our feet a little longer. If it is cold, then we settle down in front of the fire with warming pots of vegetable soup and unlike during winter, when we are tired of the cold and dark, we rejoice in the 'snuggli-ness' of it.

Down on the allotment I still have cucumbers coming and F…

BIG Slippers!

This is my latest knitting project. It is a pair of slippers for me.

It knits up very quickly - I like that kind of knitting! It is knitted on size 9mm needles which, if you are not a knitter, will mean nothing at all to you, so I have shown them here next to the needles I normally use to knit socks.
Everyone has had great fun trying on the finished slipper - it doesn't fit anybody!!
Here they are finished (almost finished) beside a pair of my shoes just to illustrate how BIG they are.
Do I sound disappointed that I have knitted them so big? Nope!
Have I a large beanstalk in the garden perhaps? er... Nope!
Here they are inside an old pillowcase and in the washing machine... They are knitted in pure wool and I have set the machine for a powerwash at 50C.
Do I hear screaming? Fear not, there is a plan afoot, (pun not intended) and even though this is the first time I have ever done this, I am confident of success. (Felted slipper kit bought from here).

Well that was fun! Now…