2017 Vegetable Planting Lists…

Really, this post is for me; sorry it’s so boring.

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Here we go with the lists for 2017:

FEBRUARY

Strawberry Mount Everest

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi, Rainbow Blend (from Thompson & Morgan)

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Broad Bead Crimson Flowered

MARCH

Red Onion Red Arrow

Shallots Longor

Elephant Garlic

Spinach Bordeaux

Cucumbers Tiffany, Crystal Apple

Courgettes Zephyr

Melon Orange Sherbert

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell, Rainbow Mix (from Thompson & Morgan)

Kohl Rabi F1 Hybrid

Peas Whatever I’ve got left

Sweetcorn Lark

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Beetroot Pablo, Bolthardy, Coloured Mix (Thompson & Morgan)

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Mixed seed

Turnip Snowball

Lettuce Various varieties

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1, Potimarron, 

AUGUST &  SEPTEMBER

Pak Choi Rubi

Spinach Perpetual (Leaf Beat)

Purslane

ANYTIME

Kale Cavolo Nero & Red Russian

Herbs Parcel, Cress (Bubbles)

I placed an order with Thompson & Morgan and below is what’s new this year (already included in the lists above):

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dsc_0044Also, just for fun, I’m growing mushrooms indoors (in the utility room at the moment) as someone on the radio said one of the best things you can eat that you’ve home-grown (and see how amazingly different they are) are mushrooms….we’ll see!

dsc_0040We can’t stop eating the Chocolate Rye Brownies from Gill Meller’s ‘Gather’…..I think I’m addicted.

dsc_0035Finally, we’re sad the snow only stayed for one night :(, but the boys did manage to get sledges out and push each other around the garden, plus make a snowman (in the dark, whilst using torches!!) but I think that the chickens are happy as the poor things keep taking it in turns to molt and are almost naked. I think the warm (so far) winter has confused them.

More snow tomorrow, for an hour or so before it turns to rain? I do hope so 🙂

 

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Chickens: Congratulations, she’s a boy!!!

I’ve been busy with the chickens recently; upgrading their runs, making them clean and fun for the chickens to be in, and in the case of the little chickens, longer. Whilst working away, I couldn’t help but notice that Bowie, is, in fact, a boy after all.dsc_0034Now, I get that looking at the above photo, there is no doubt, but just so you don’t think I’m a complete lunatic for ever thinking otherwise…dsc_0047here is a quick reminder of what she (doh! – he!) looked like in November.dsc_0039Not sure how clear it is on the above photo, but his brothers-from-other-mothers where looking distinctly male, at this same point.

Looking at the photo again, I guess he was showing signs of hackle feathers, but Bowie has never shown any aggression, has never shown any interest in the girls, did have pink, small wattles and combs and skinny legs (in November, that is), so I really was genuinely surprised she became a he and especially so much later than the others. Sargent Bilko and Bowie seem fine in together; I may have to get them more girls, between them, but as long as they can live in harmony, I’ll leave it that way.dsc_0028I moved Silver (who deserves a proper name, although Silver has stuck now) out a while ago to live with the other small bantams (all the Orpingtons are bantams, but Sargent Bilko is massive and Bowie not much smaller, after the recent growth spurt, so they fit better with full size girls).dsc_0023I just gave the little’s even more run (all the others are in the big, walk-in run) and a new fancy cover from Tarpaflex who I heard about on an Omlet forum. I have a similar cover on the walk-in and have discovered that not only are they a lot cheaper than Omlet, but they stay lovely and clear and are (in my opinion) much better value for money. All the other bits of the run have black bird netting over, that I use in the garden for the berry trees. Let’s hope the avian flu scare is over soon and they can go out again. I’ve rather stupidy put them where my bluebells grow so I will need to move them, but it’s good for now.
screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-07-02-13On a slight tangent, I just discovered these (now all sold!) amazing plates and furniture knobs by Holly Frean, sold through Anthropologie.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-06-57-40I’m slightly gutted I missed the chicken plates as the boys would have loved one each,screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-06-56-49but I just bought the two remaining furniture knobs with ‘Puffles’ like black silkie style chooks on for Charlie’s room (Puffles is his chicken, as you can tell by the stupid name!).

dsc_0007I don’t actually have a decent photos of Puffles…she’s back…and a silkie…and a bantam.

So, from the eggs we hatched, we ended up with 3 boys and 1 girl. Isn’t that just the way it goes. Much as I really enjoyed the whole process, I’m too much of a wuss to do it again, as I’d never have the heart to ‘get rid of’ the boys and I’m not sure it’ll be easy to re-home them as no-one ever really wants cockerels, even handsome bantam ones that are quite tame. We’re managing as we are though; I lock them in at night and so their crow is not very loud at all, but it’ll be difficult for us to go away over summer and leave them out, as that would be very unfair on the neighbours, even though they all also keep chickens and some have cockerels too.

I’m getting my planting and seed lists together for spring, which I’m quite excited about. I’d really like to have a productive garden this year and think it can really happen, as I’ve done a lot of the never-ending jobs and feel like, for once, I’m slight ahead. Here’s to a fabulous 2017!

Ding Dong Merrily…

I’ve just done my very last trip to buy food, and I don’t plan the leave the house again for at least a week! I’ve had a Ocado order booked for ages, but there were a few things I’d missed, including some cabbages to tie from the chicken runs, to try to distract the chickens from being kept indoors, for the 30 day bird flu prevention.dsc_0089It’s just me and the boys for Christmas Day this year (with guests coming Boxing Day), which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve done loads of early freezer preparation and cheated quite a bit. We’ve still gone for a proper turkey (free range Kelly Bronze) as I know we’ll eat all the left overs and make some broth from the bones, so I’m happily to cook more than we need; Charlie (who’s vegetarian) has chosen a vegan M’hanncha from Jamie Oliver’s new book (I have to restrict my Christmas book buying, but this one seems worth the space). The boys, much to my disappointment, don’t do bread sauce, or Gran’s stuffing balls, so I’ve made those ahead, separated them into small batches and frozen them for me to have whenever we cook a roast bird (recipes in this post).dsc_0092The boys don’t much like Christmas pudding either…or sprouts (sometimes I wonder if they are really mine – ha ha), so I wasn’t going to bother, but again, it isn’t Christmas for me without my Gran’s recipe pudding, so I made a small batch with a bigger pudding (for Boxing Day) and a mini one for me on Christmas Day (recipe here). The boys will be having Heston toffee puddings, which I hope are nicer than his mince pies, which we found to be far too sweet. I made a batch of homemade ginger ice cream, to this recipe, as compensation for microwave puddings!beth-apronMy apron comes out every year for the festive season, as I love wearing it (the above is Christmas Day in France a while ago…..I’m looking very rosy-cheeked so no doubt rather a lot of wine has already been opened by the time the above photo was taken!), this year was no exception and it first appeared in November, ready for making the cake and puddings. In my head, I swan around serenely in a clean kitchen, with Bing Crosby singing in the background, ideally properly dressed and in makeup. In reality, I’m usually a bit stressed and sporting my usual bag lady look and trying to rush everything, before a school run.dsc_0206I did make a new apron for this year, but never managed to get it photographed in time for the shop. Still, I have one tucked away for me to wear on the day itself, and even though it’s just me and the boys, I plan to get dressed up and maybe put some slap on, as that will make me happy 🙂freddieThat’s it really. I just didn’t want to finish the year without a Christmas post so Merry Christmas everyone!!

Vegetables 2016: The results

It didn’t go well this year. I was quite busy with the animals, the house and most importantly, the boys. In some ways, I’ve made better progress than ever in the garden; I’ve cleared away most of the ivy and years of resulting debris under our conifer trees, so we’ve gained an extra few meters of space (this is a ongiong job, it’ll be some time before it’s ivy free and usable), the lawn has been regularly mowed and his slightly less moss in it then usual, and the hedges and shrubs have been trimmed.  All good stuff, but at the expense of the vegetable patch and the borders, which have been quite neglected.  I think, going forward, that I need to think very carefully about my planting lists and only go for things that pretty much look after themselves.

Well, for now, here is how it went:

FEBRUARY

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

The tomatoes were mostly a fail. They germinated well, I did pot them up but then lost interest and the plants weren’t fed properly or watered enough. We did get some nice fruit, but I may just reduce it down to a couple of plants next year.

Aubergine Money Maker F1

They germinated too late and although were looking good at one point, didn’t have time to form decent fruit.

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Chilli (I need to buy new seeds, again, not sure what variety yet)

Chillies and peppers never germinated…..the seed is likely too old.

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

I can pretty much never get my artichoke seeds to germinate….need to do some reading up and find out what I’m doing wrong.

MARCH

Spinach Bordeaux

Grew brilliantly, mostly self seeding and the chickens benefited greatly 🙂

Cucumbers (Need new seed, again not sure what)

Forgot to buy seed – doh!

Courgettes Zephyr

Grew well. One for next year.

Melon Edonis

Never formed fruit 😦

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Grew well but went to seed quickly.

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered

Err…..not sure what happened here….not sure I actually planted them.

Peas Oasis & Purple Mangetout

Grew well.

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint, Coriander, Lemon Grass

Hit and miss, depending on if I watered the pots properly. Will always make space for herbs though.

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Brilliant, as always, and self seeds everywhere.

Beetroot Bolthardy

Grew well.

Sweetcorn Conqueror

Great success…again something I’ll aways make space for.

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red (seed collected from last year’s plants)

Grew well.

Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi & Rubi

Never actually got planted….should do it next year as in the past they’ve been great.

Beans Blue Climbing

These grew amazingly well this year and I’ve got lots dried and ready to sow next Spring.

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Turnip Sweetball & Snowball

Didn’t actually grow any of the above 😦

Lettuce various varieties

Pesky slugs ate them.

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1

They fruited too late and I now have mini squash rotting in the garden.

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Things that I will definitely always plant are garlic and shallots. Both grew brilliantly, with little effort so they are a must. Also, the potatoes (Anya) were good and I still have three bags in the greenhouse to tip out and eat, at some point. I have normally ordered all of these by now and see that many sites have run out (of Autumn planting garlic, anyway) so had best get on with it, if we want to grow them next year.

dsc_0008Sweetcorn was also a great success and I did my usual method of freezing them whole and raw, with the outer leaves intact. I have quite a few still in the freezer, which I shove in the microwave for a few minutes to cook (again, with the leaves on)…delicious!!

I need to sit down and have a good think about planting lists for next year. Adding an irrigation system would be the biggest help as inconsistent watering is definitely one of my biggest problems. I would love to add longer term things (such as an asparagus bed) now we’re committed to staying here (oldest has just gone into Secondary school, which has been a nightmare transition and is not one I’d like to repeat) and generally need to plant things that I can find time to maintain easily.

dsc_0087In other news, I’m back to cooking and baking again, especially now the weather is cooler. Bread is back on the menu and thanks to two new books (both recommended by my Sister) I’ve been enjoying trying new things. I have to be careful with my cookery book buying as I already have loads and so I only add new ones if I really think I’ll really use them.dsc_0085The rye section in Gill Meller’s ‘Gather’ is going down well. I’ve made the ‘Coriander and Caraway’ bread, which tasted delicious and would have been great, had it not got stuck in the tin so that it came out in pieces 😦 and the ‘Chocolate Rye Brownies’ have been declared ‘the best thing you’ve made yet’ by the boys. Awesome. I’m still miles away from the master baker that my Gran was, but I do try.

Christmas food post next, if I find time to keep writing.

 

Chickens: My, How They’ve Grown!

So, they are big chickens now……really quite massive,  in the boys’ case.dsc_0051Sergeant Bilko is ‘King Chicken’ and has turned out to be quite magnificent. As he’s a Orpington bantam, he’s about the size of a regular hen. Gosh he’s handsome.dsc_0039His brother-from-another-mother (not named…..can’t believe we haven’t actually named them all yet) is equally big and so far they seem to be getting along quite well. I do keep an eye on them both, and if they start to fight, I could either put one of them in with the brown hybrid chicks, or try to re-home one. As long as they seem happy, I’ll just keep both.dsc_0047Bowie, the only girl Orpington is still one of my favourite chickens from the ones we hatched. I’ve spent less time recently handling them and I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve gone shy. They are happy to be around my legs, will always come running to me (in the hope of a treat) but are less likely to hop up on to my lap for a cuddle. Shame. dsc_0036I think when I last posted….ahem…in July..we had three Pekins. Sadly, I came down one morning to find the cage door open, the chickens were all out and two were missing 😦 I think Mr Fox (who drops by nightly, leaving his little calling card on the lawn) had managed to work the door open by jumping repeatedly on it (I looked at night footage once, from the security cameras in the garden and was amazed at how much the foxes jump all over the cages, trying to get in). If the door latch isn’t pushed down hard, it can work its way lose. Bogart and the chicken with no name were both munched, I assume, as there wasn’t even a trace of feather. We now only have Lana (Turner) left (middle chick in the above photo).dsc_0052As I now have quite a little flock I’ve had to be a bit inventive with my Eglu. They really need a Cube version, but I cannot afford that, so I have put the guinea pigs’ summer house (they are indoors at the moment) up against the original ‘Up and Go’ so they have more room. When I peak indoors at night, I see that they are still mostly all crammed into one coop, and weirdly, there seems to be quite a reasonable amount of room around them, so if they continue to do that, I’ll revert back to just the one (as it’s loads easier to empty the tray that way, for cleaning).

They’re still ‘free range’ during the day. After Mabel (one of my original hybrids) got eaten by a fox in the middle of a sunny Saturday, I was a bit worried about a repeat visit, but I think it’s more important that they have a nice quality of life and so as long as I’m at home (which is most days), I let them out and leave them to it.  I have to say, I do love having chickens, they do make me happy 🙂

Chickens: Little Boys or Little Girls?

We played the game of all amateur chicken keepers and played guess the gender and quite frankly, failed.DSC_0026I did try to photograph the chicks at various stages, but they aren’t very good at sitting still and often present me with a rear view.  I did get some images though, so here’s the little chickies as they were, and now.

The Orpington Bantams

Bowie – named because I was sure she was a boy, when younger.  Oops.DSC_0033DSC_0017Definitely a girl.

Silver or Birch (?!!! Must stop letting my kids name chickens!)DSC_0036DSC_0021Boy. Sadly.

Nameless Chicken (the ‘ugly’ one that I saved from near death when little)DSC_0038DSC_0020Also a boy.DSC_0034They’ve grown a lot, even since the above photos and the boys have started to square up to each other, which is interesting to watch. I’m waiting for them to feather out a bit more, so they look a little more handsome, then I’ll try to find them new homes.DSC_0027The Pekins

(Humphrey) Bogart ‘Bogie’DSC_0016DSC_0008I was positive, a boy….still am, I think…but he’s showing no characteristics of a boy and is the softest drip of a chicken, loves a sit and cuddle. He’s one of my favourites.

Chick One (yet to be named)DSC_0011DSC_0023DSC_0011 (1)Girl – hurrah!

Chick Two (also waiting to be named)DSC_0024DSC_0013Another girl.

So, three girls and three boys. The fourth Orpington died at a few weeks old, sadly.

It’s been a fun process hatching the eggs, but the dihlema of what to do with the boys is a problem. I did know it would be, so I am ready for it, but as we are now at our chicken maximum it’s not a process we’ll repeat again, at least, not for some years.

Garden Catch-Up!

DSC_0001 (1)I’m forever thinking I should try to photograph the borders and flowers more in the garden, but I never really get around to it. The top borders (as above) where looking quite good, earlier in the year. They are now rather overgrown and weedy, but there is still more colour than there has been for a while.DSC_0006I do like having the chickens roaming around. The ‘big’ girls can make quite a mess, but the Bantams are much less invasive and definitely get my vote.IMG_20160529_144610Ava was looking especially dandy in front of the side bed,DSC_0009which has my winner of a plant, Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ growing in it. I just LOVE this and plan to buy another for the upper border. It flowers early, is architecturally quite fabulous and the bees are always all over it. I think you can dry the flowers…must try that some time….I wonder if you could then spray them silver for Christmas?DSC_0002I just nipped out now to try to take some photos, but it’s too windy and to be honest, on close inspection a lot of the blooms are very much past their best. We’re about to enter that period where my garden looks all faded and sad, and where I always wish I’d grown some dahlias for later colour!IMG_20160619_100525-EFFECTSI was lucky to get invited to Hampton Court Flower Show last week and the main theme seemed to be wild flowers, informal planting and lots and lots of wild flower turf.  I could happily also go in this direction, especially as maintaining my beds is quite a chore (not that I’m suggesting for a moment, the meticulously planned ‘informal’ planting of the show doesn’t take forever to achieve), but I feel like I’m now stuck in the ‘Brilliant Bold’ garden theme I opted for 10 years ago.DSC_0001My own wild flower patches, in the vegetable garden, aren’t nearly so impressive….especially as the shed behind them needs re-painting (that’s the wasps, by the way, eating the wood and removing the paint stain layer. There’s a purple wasps nest somewhere…hopefully not in my loft!).

I’m about to upgrade my chickens to a walk in run, which will likely have to be static and I quite fancy a border of wild flowers alongside.  I might just dig up this lot up though, and simply re-plant it by the run, it’ll save me spending hours weeding out the  seedlings that grow all over the gravel path, next to it, in future.DSC_0004There isn’t a lot else to report in the garden. I did harvest the garlic, including some quite impressive bulbs of ‘Elephant’ garlic that have been growing since last autumn.  It’s not the best crop I’ve had, partly due to the rain, it was in danger of going mouldy if not pulled up and so was taken out a little too early. Still fresh garlic is so amazing, it’s something I’ll always make time for.

We have courgettes, french beans, lettuce, radish, herbs, spring onions also on the go;DSC_0005and plenty to come, including tomatoes, aubergines, melons, squash and sweetcorn (which I’ve allowed flowers to grow amongst, as above) so quite a productive garden this year.

I will try to be better at photographing and blogging, it should be berries next, if the pesky pigeons have left me any!