Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's Been a Funny Old Week...

The Twilight Zone I went out shopping for a genuwine authentic totem pole, as you do, found one, well almost, ended up talking to the man who calls himself a wood butcher on a traffic island at Wolsley.

Had a surreal experience on the road to Catton, a route we have never been on and had my brother grinning and waving in the car next to me as they slowed down to pass us (my sister in law was driving) on their way to somewhere. The chances of seeing him on that road at that moment in time must be a million to one.
Got lost in a one acre field (being used as a car park) - now we are known for getting lost anywhere but even by our standards this beats our record !! However, read on...

Night of a Billion Stars. The Firework Festival at Catton Hall was nothing short of spectacular and totally mesmerising, the way the music and fireworks were orchestrated. It was totally magic and a real treat. Can't wait for next years.

The Journey Home well ,was quite honestly, scary. We left the field, we missed the sign 'home' (as usual). Went down some dark, dark lanes and through some dark, dark woods. We journeyed on and on into the wilderness and then, an orange glow appeared in the sky - was it a close encounter? A town? not really, it was Burton, real alien territory. At least it got us to the A38!! I always thought I wanted to visit Burton

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Flying Geese

I expected to have finished my quilt by the autumn, after working on it for the best part of this year, but I have finished it on the day I heard the geese calling for the first time on what will be one of their many practice runs before their mammoth journey. It was especially wonderful to be able to have the memory of my flying geese quilt with their calls. I have made many quilts but this kingsized one is my biggest yet, I have made it to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary this September. I can say after wrestling with the finishing touches it will most definitely keep us warm in this fuel starved winter.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Welcome to Our Garden

As I am sitting on my bench on a warm summer's morning reflecting on all the visitors that have arrived in my pocket handkerchief sized garden, I am amazed at the bee I am watching who has collected so much pollen on his back legs, that it is a wonder that he can manage to carry it all.

I was reflecting on the unusual visitor we had when we opened the back door on Sunday morning. It was a large green frog with yellow stripes who hopped in ,to the absolute delight of Molly, who had never seen a frog , let alone one who was heading towards her bowl. The more it hopped, the more she skipped, the more the frog jumped around the kitchen and under the fridge - great!! Now what? So we all stood and waited for its next appearance, well almost all of us waited. Molly, on the other hand, was busy poking her paw under the fridge to make it move quicker. No one wanted to pick it up. Finally, a solution. We got him to hop into a kitchen roll tube and managed to take him outside where we were able to let him go free. (This will now be remembered as the Jeremy Fisher incident). We kept Molly in, of course, who would still be looking under the fridge for him on Thursday if something hadn't come along to distract her, which was Teabag.

Now Teabag is a real newcomer he appeared a couple of days before and he is really big, so big his face alone fills our catflap, yipes! should we be scared...fortunately no he seems to be a real pussycat and anyway Molly vouched for him so it must be OK. Tea bag was followed not long after by an unknown a white cat with a black bushy tail we have yet to find out where he or she comes from and what he/she is called We have now realised that this constant procession of cats must have something to do with our sign outside the kitchen door.

Highs and Lows

Last Sunday, when we sat down to our family lunch to celebrate my birthday, the vegetables on the table had been grown by ourselves including the rasberries for our pudding. This was the dream that we had had when we first started the allotment, that one day we would be able to do just that and it hasn't taken that long for it to come true.

When we went down the lottie earlier this week, there were some highs and some lows. First the highs. The autumn rasberries are really coming on now with lots of big juicy red fruits. We are picking a punnet a day, too many to eat, so we are open freezing them.We also picked a few russetts from our apple tree, though they are not at their best yet.The corn is coming on and is as tall as an elephants eye, to quote a line from Oklahoma.
We also found that caterpillars love kohl rabi leaves so we won't be growing those again next year.

The worst low was that some of the tomatoes planted in the ground had started to blacken, both stems and fruits, so we decided to take them up as, if it is the blight, we don't want it to spread. That was a real blow as we were hoping for a bumper crop, however, we still have quite a lot left which have fruit on them . Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Move Over Hairy Bakers

Last week the Hairy Bikers began a new T.V series called the Hairy Bakers, where they are going around the country making bread and cakes. Too late boys, Bri has already had a go!! I made a quick and easy wholemeal loaf from a recipe by Delia. The hardest part was kneaqding the dough which you have to do for at least 10 - 15 minutes or when it is smooth. I should have got Plum to do that bit as she is stronger than me!!Firstly you put a damp cloth over it and leave it in a warm place for 40 minutes to rise. Then ,you take it out fold it and put into the tin to bake for 40 minutes, then hey presto, you have a loaf heavy enough to kill someone with!! Seriously though, although the texture is quite dense, it tastes good and is more filling and cheaper in these hard times, than bread you buy from the supermarket.I recommend that everyone have a go even if only to build up their muscles

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Love me, Love my Tomatoes

When we first started our allotment, my brother in law, Terry, and my niece, Jay, weren't particularly interested in what we were growing. However, since they have been sampling the produce, they have expressed an interest in growing their own. We have given them both a tomato plant, and Jay a brocolli and Terry and Yvonne a cucumber plant. The plants were duly esconced in the garden and conservatory respectively. Unfortunately, Jay's brocolli succumbed to caterpillars, however her tomato plant has four tomatoes and lots of flowers.

Terry and Yvonne's tomato plant has gone berserk and they have more cucumbers on their plant thean we have on ours (Not that we, as seasoned gardeners are jealous!)

The point is, that they are both now so excited with their efforts and are really keen to grow more stuff. That's the thing about this allotment lark, once you're hooked, there's no going back

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plotting the Plot

We have had our allotment for two years now. We have never had a garden to be able to grow things in, therefore it has been a steep learning curve. We have had lots of advice and encouragement from our fellow allotmenteers but we have still made mistakes.

The first year, we hadn't a clue what we were doing ,and so we grew everything we could. We had no idea of how much space some vegetables take up when they have grown so we ended up with vegitation all over the paths and we also found that we didn't like some things so this year, we vowed to only grow what we knew we would eat.

This has worked to some extent, however, we still have too many courgette and tomato plants, the slugs have decided they like our lettuce and carrots (even though we have grown the latter under fleece for the duration of their growing time) the perpetual spinach has run amok and the climbing beans didn't grow but what can you expect from the French? The weather hasn't been good enough to ripen our tomatoes yet, but overall we haven't done too badly and at least we are eating more than the pests this year!!

After reading Hazel's blog about the show, we have to agree that forward planning is the only way to go so, next year,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sumer is icumen in

Dateline ... North Yorkshire, 27 July

The harbingers of summer have been spotted at last. It takes a while, but summer arrived here a few days ago and survived for only a few days.

The first indication came when it was noticed that the village idiot was abroad without his cap. Just over two years up here and it is possible to claim acceptance of a sort when one is on nodding terms with the village idiot. At least it could be the village idiot, but one can't seek confirmation without risking a smack in the gob from a relative.

Anyroadup, he was spotted sitting on a stool outside the Old Wurdling Shed during the late morning, his grin indicative either of a certain contentment or lunacy. Mind you, there hasn't been any wurdling around here since the 1950's. The nearest you'll get is the Bank Holiday demonstrations at the Nidderthwaiteforthside Museum in Scagglegarthsidekirkbythorpe Parva.

We've had not one but two harbingers. Eddie across the road is wont, in warm weather to march to and from the shop in shorts and sandals - with socks! But no, the socks have been eschewed, either reflecting the higher temperature or because his family have had a quiet word.

At the time of writing, the rain is persistent, the cap has been returned to its rightful and constant place and the socks have returned. The mien of the village is restored and Eddie's toes are warm once again.

The relative warmth and abundance of precipitation has been a boon to gardeners (and slugs and snails), and it is likely that many readers will have a surfeit of produce, for example, courgettes. So here are a couple of ideas.

Zucchini Fritti

Cut the courgettes into thin 'sticks', batter them and deep fry briefly. Serve hot, salted and with dips, particularly a garlicky mayonnaise.

Grilled Courgettes

Cut into thin slices lengthways and place in a bowl with crushed garlic and olive oil (quantities to suit). Put on the barbie or use a griddle pan and cook for 4-6 mins until tender and slightly charred. Put them on a plate and mix in some lemon zest and juice and olive oil (add a bit of chopped chilli for the adventurous), and allow to marinate.

Serve cold with shavings of a hard cheese - Parmigiano Reggiano, or summat else, such as the Upper Swarfwoldhowside Barnetby Gold.

And remember, for those chilly evenings, the fleece is the cardigan de nos jours.

Old Arthur.

Duck Tales From a Quiet Corner of Warwickshire -One

Having several ponds in the garden has meant there is always an abundance of wildlife around. Some more welcome than others! Graceful, but probably one of my least favourites is the Heron, having feasted upon a great many of our fish.

My favourites are probably the mallards.

Over the years many have enjoyed 'our hospitality' from single ducks to whole groups. Notably, three males, whom we nicknamed the Three Muskateers. I have not seen them for some time now so maybe their batchelor days are over! The ducks would come into the garden, have a swim, eat and leave. Some would return a few times.

Then two years ago began the reign of a pair of mallards who decided our garden was theirs. The male saw off much competition, defending his 'mates' honour and securing the garden as their home from home. So began my first real interest in the ducks, but I could not have imagined what was to come! L.A.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Brain Training - Molly style.

Can Opener out of Drawer - Molly appears at cupboard door for TUNA!!!

T.V. goes off - Molly appears and rounds us up for bed.

10.10p.m. - Molly waits at back door for last look out at Bats

5.30 a.m. - Molly wakes us up for brekkie.

1.00 p m - Molly appears for lunch.

1.40 p m - Molly reappears for siesta on our bed.

Whenever we call her - Molly gets treats

Now we abide by all this, please tell us who trained who!!!!!

To Wii or Not to Wii

Keeping fit is not something we are good at. In the weeks after Christmas, feeling guilty for all the food and drink we have consumed, we join a gym or a weight reducing class, ride a bicycle like Hazel, buy some weights, or in extreme cases, a home gymnasium. After a week or two, the gym subscription slides, we 'forget' to go to weight watchers and the weights, usually unused, are put at the back of the cupboard.
Now, however, due to the wonders of technology, we can get fit in the comfort of our own living rooms. YES!! IT'S TRUE!! All we have to do is buy a board, wobble around on it for a bit and wave our arms at the television. Yeah, sure. If to Wii or not to Wii is the question, then the answer is most definitely not as the board will end up in the same cupboard as the brain trainer

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

General Custer's Last Words...

I said... 'I can't make these Indians out.
Just a minute ago they were singin' and dancin'!'

Cool Up North

We had an unexpected visit from Old Arthur this week and with him he brought an old custom which we thought was at least a little strange .....

The Slug Roast The self-sacrifice of the inhabitants of the plague village of Eyam in Derbyshire in the 17th century is well known. What is little known, however, is that a similar event during one of the plague epidemics of the 14th century was played out in the remote village of Wassup-with-Dee in the Cleveland Hills. This village nestles in the deepest, dampest valley in Britain and this accident of geography has led to the evolution of the remarkable natural phenomenon of the largest slugs recorded anywhere in the British Isles.

These creatures provided, during this terrible time, a most valuable food source which enabled over half the population to survive. The period is commemorated by the locally famous Slug Roast. Although they can grown to a length of 14-16inches, a more typical size is around 10inches long. There is none of you namby-pamby, smelly garlic and parsley escargot bourguignon. The traditional dish calls for the slugs to be marinaded in broonale prior to roasting and serving with mashed turnips and chopped pissabed leaves... Well it beats roadkill....

Not Quite Masterchef (3)

Yesterday, on my road to mastering the culinary arts, I made a batch of warm chocolate brownies, and, even if I say it myself, they taste as good as they look. We are eating them with ice cream..lovely!! The problem is, I haven't yet made any 'real' food only cakes. I really must knuckle down and cook a proper meal... watch this space.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First,Catch Your Kohlrabi

Doesn't this look good enough to eat... or something. Kohlrabi is an unusual vegetable to grow, mainly because no one has a) heard of it or b) know what to do with it when they have grown it. Fear not, your intrepid allotmenteers have grown not one, but two whole rows and can now admit that we have no idea whatsoever what we are going to do with it. We have read that it tastes like a cross between water chestnuts with a touch of radish, and celeriac. It can be grated raw in a salad, par boiled stir fried, stuffed whole or fried like chips. However, we are not so sure, after all it is purple for heaven's sake ! We are going to make soup with it from a recipe we have found on a site that has lots of recipes for kohlrabi which is Very interesting....

Friday, August 1, 2008

And Finally....

At last a recipe for courgettes that we actually like. This is the dish we made yesterday, it's courgette, tomato and feta tart with pesto. It was very tasty. We haven't started on the recipes Hazel sent us yet, but we still have hundreds of courgettes to go!!!