Sunday 29 December 2013

Last Blog of 2013

So on December 29th 2013, we visited our Allotment, to find the un-protected Cabbages have been eaten by Pigeons or Pheasants, a pane of glass had fallen out of the Greenhouse door and smashed, not surprising really, the glazing clips had rusted thin and not up to the job, I can blame the damage on the strong winds most of us have experienced over the last few weeks, luckily no flooding here though.
Oh well, I have been sampling the wines I have made from this years fruit and I can say the Beetroot Wine has come out favourite, doesn't taste of Beetroot, sweet, lovely colour and very nice. 

The others I made are also rather good, Rhubarb, Blackcurrant, Rhubarb/Raspberry, Beetroot/Rhubarb & Rhubarb/Pear.

Here is the Beetroot recipe so you can have a go:

3lb Uncooked Beetroot
12 pints Water
3lb Granulated Sugar
6 Cloves
3 Unpeeled Oranges (washed & sliced)
Teaspoon of Wine Yeast

All equipment must be clean, best to sterilise with baby bottle cleaner or boiled water, preferably both, rinse well with clean cold water. Even the Muslin/Jelly Bag must be clean best to soak in Boiling water. 
Use a Brown Demi-john or wrap a clear one with a black bin liner, restricting the light will keep your wine purple/red, if not it will go brown.

Wash Beetroot well (do not peel). Cut into thin slices and put in a large pan, add water and bring to the boil, simmer for 40mins until Beetroot is tender.
Strain* off liquid into a 12 pint bowl (discard the Beetroot) put liquid back into the pan and add Sugar, Cloves and sliced Orange, heat gently for 15mins. Strain* the liquid back into bowl and leave to cool, best temp between 20-30 degrees then add yeast and cover with a cloth for 3 days, stir daily.

After 3 days, syphon into a Demijohn (topping up with cooled boiled water) and leave to ferment, using an air-lock check daily until bubble rate stops, rack the wine into a fresh Demijohn to clear the sediment, do this twice over the next 3-4 weeks, then bottle.
(* strain through Muslin cloth or a Jelly Bag, this way you will get a clearer wine)

Leave for 6 months, but drink within 2 years.

Good Luck and thanks for reading my Blog, see you in 2014. Ian

Monday 23 December 2013

Feeding the birds with home made Fat Balls

Too cold & wet for me, but the Birds need food too.

So I made some fat balls.

Some bird seed, un-salted peanuts, sunflower seed & some mixed dry fruit (raisins, sultanas etc) and half a block of Lard (not veg fat). Put the Lard in a pan and heat gently, when liquid add the dry ingredients, mix well and leave to cool a little. Will fill about 6 yoghurt pots.
I use washed out yoghurt pots, with a hole in the bottom (use a skewer heated in a gas flame) put a length of string through the hole, then spoon the lard & seed mix into the yoghurt pot, pop in the freezer to set hard. 

When set you can push the fat ball out and if you want to hang them up, you can tie a piece of twig to the string as it acts as a perch. But I'm putting them in feeder's made for the fat balls you buy. I bet they will be gone next time I visit the plot :)

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 15 December 2013

Wintertime jobs

Just a few winter jobs to do. Have started some more Broad Beans in toilet roll tubes, home made compost and even cut down milk containers for holding them, drainage holes punched too :) 
The variety I have started is 'Super Aquadulce' a good Autumn sowing variety.
Another task I have been waiting to do is prune the Apple trees, these are Cox's Orange Pippins. 
Between Nov and Feb when all foliage has dropped, you need to trim off any very low branches, then reduce all remaining ones by a third to an outward facing bud.

Another job I did do I went to the Stables again and filled the car with sacks full of Horse Manure to fill up the Manure Bin I made recently.

So only a quick visit today, went late in the day and light was fading.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Storm damage at a minimum on the plot

Thursday was, as most will know in the UK, a very stormy day, with a tidal surge and high tide not seen for over 30 years. As we are on the coast we expected some damage on the plot, but as you can see the Greenhouse is intact, only the fleece cover on the Carrots was a bit ripped! 
But sadly and for the second time this year, Wendy Worzel our scarecrow snapped her stave again! 

Think it's time for a new brush handle.

So only a short Blog this week, Christmas preparations took over, but at least the Tree is up and decorated. 

Only things we harvested were some Spinach for dinner & some greens for the Chickens.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian 

Sunday 1 December 2013

Growing update

Been a bit of a miserable day, that very light rain that soaks you right through. 

But we put on our warm, waterproofs and braved it as we needed greens for our Chickens.

The Garlic is growing well as you can see from this photo. 

Even managed a bonfire between showers (see video).
Still haven't started on the replacement boundary fence, despite having enough Pallets now (I hope), but hope to get the Manure bin done over the next week.

Remember to watch today's walkabout video, below. 

Thanks for reading/watching. Ian

Sunday 24 November 2013

Best time of the year to get some building done & preparation for next year

Over the last few days I have been busy collecting Horse Manure from a local stable, here you can see some collected earlier in the year, well rotted & spread all over the Rhubarb. 
In the corner you can see the start of some construction of a new Manure container, from Pallets, as I have collected 15 sacks of fresh manure that needs to be broken down.
I also collected some other Pallets, the Blue ones from a local Stove shop who were glad for me to take them, I got 5 and they are so heavy they will make a very good manure store. The other pallets you can see will make a new boundary fence, the blue line just visible on the left, I put in so I get the fence straight and in the right place.
We haven't taken the Hens down to the plot for some time, so today I fenced off the patch where the Peas, Leeks, Cabbage, Kale & Spinach are growing and let them peck around, they only pecked at the kale a little as they preferred scratching around the rest of the patch. 
We will certainly bring them back over the winter so they can finish the job! 
So it's been a good week very cold but with only a month until Xmas its no wonder. 
So glad today warmed up a bit (still in single figures) daytime has been around 4 to 5 degrees but over night temps get to Zero! 

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Where there's Muck there's Veg

Well I was right about the temp, its dropped to near zero, 4 degrees today actually, so to keep warm I decided to collect a few bags of Horse Manure from local stables. 

As you can see it's a huge pile of poo! 

I didn't take it all, but just what I could fit in the car and it's FREE.
So here it is all 14 bags full on the Allotment.

Will leave it for a while to break down in the bags, then will spread some of it onto the soil where hungry crops will go, Potatoes for example.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 17 November 2013

Weekend of Potato digging & yield results.

This weekend I have dug up all the remaining Potatoes.

Here you can see the Picasso main crop, I estimate about 60lbs (27kgs) but will have to dry & remove as much soil before final weighing.
Stored in Hessian sacks they will store over winter if kept cool and in a dark place.

You can see the row marking labels I make are now sack labels.

2 sacks of Picasso, 1 sack of Valour (both main crop) and 1 smaller sack of Anya (salad).
I also dug up the last of the Charlotte (2nd early) there's about 12lbs (5.4 kgs) here. I have kept a record of all the weights as we dug them up, so check out my final yields below. 
So as you can see a very productive weekend, all the Potatoes dug up, weeds removed and a bonfire too.

Lovely weather for digging too, quite mild but dry. But the forecast said the temperature will drop next week which is why I decided to take this opportunity to get digging! 
So the final weigh in:

Foremost (1st early) 25 lbs (11.3 kgs)
Charlotte (2nd early) 22 lbs (10 kgs)
Anya (salad) 23 lbs (10.5 kgs)
Valour (main crop) 82 lbs (37 kgs)
Picasso (main crop) 80 lbs (36 kgs)

Considering I bought about 3kgs of each as seed spuds (15 kgs in total) I think a total yield of 105 kgs is very good.

In this photo you can see my Joseph Bentley Potato Fork, I would highly recommend you get one, as it's name suggests it digs Potatoes perfectly, the flat/blunt tines make digging easy, without damaging too many spuds. I dug up all those and only speared about 6. 
It's so good I use it for most of my digging tasks.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Lovely day for a spot of digging

One job I've been waiting to do for a few weeks, was to clear this patch. 

It's where we had Dwarf Beans, Broad Beans, Butternut Squashes & flowers growing. 

The flowers were enjoyed by us & the Bees.
Just after a few hours digging and its all cleared, hardly looks like the same patch. We still have Leeks, Chard & Potatoes growing here, which is why I put in the blue rope edging so I didn't accidentally dig up anything important.
As I said it was a lovely blue sky day, the sun was out, it was dry, but a little chilly when the wind blew, but I kept warm digging.

Had a bonfire too, just out of shot on the right!

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Strong winds but little damage

 Yes the last few days and last night was the worst, we had gale force winds and driving rain, hail too!
But as you can see my shed survived, needs a coat of paint though :(
Musselburgh Leeks: 

We have had mixed results this year, some very thin ones, but most about an inch thick which is fine.
But this is an impressive one, so thought you might like to see it.
Another crop doing well, the Onions I planted out recently. No wind damage, but that might be because they are sheltered behind the Runner Bean frame. 
Only one casualty from the strong wind, Wendy Worzel scarecrow.

Sadly the broom handle spine snapped! 

Her hair is a bit muddy too :(

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian. 

Sunday 27 October 2013

A very windy end to October

 If you saw last weeks Blog, I featured my 'no turn composting' well in this photo you can see a barrow full of compost from the 3rd bin. It has been left for about 2yrs, lovely and crumbly dark stuff. But here's a tip, don't use those plastic kitchen caddy bags, that claim to decompose, as my compost that's been working for 2 years has not broken down the caddy bags, better to use paper bags or newspaper to line your kitchen caddy. Plus the plastic bags clog up your compost bin, I have stopped using those bio-degrading ones!   
Still harvesting: 
Peppers from the green house. 
Butter Nut Squashes.
But there was more, watch the YouTube video to see.
There was another important job to do today, before we left for the Plot. Sort out our seeds & decide what we need to order for next year. Even after removing all the out of date seeds, I still managed to cover our dining table and we still had to order more! But more importantly I have decided & ordered the Potatoes for next yr:
1st Early: Winston
Salad: Charlotte 
2nd early: Nadine 
Mains: Cara & Sante
I have chosen spuds with good resistance to diseases & blight too.

So as my title says a very windy day, if you can see my wind sock flying horizontal! 

And the clocks went back!

But we managed to plant some more crops for winter growing, watch the Video for more details. 

Thanks for reading, viewing & returning. Ian.

Sunday 20 October 2013

A quick lesson in Composting

My no-turn Compost recipe:
This is the 1st of three Compost bins we have.
In this photo are the Tomato stalks & leaves that I removed from the greenhouse, if you look close (if on a computer, click on the photo & and use ctrl+ to zoom in) you can see all the worms doing the hard work for me.
In this photo I have added kitchen waste collected over a few days, a good mix of veg cuttings, tea bags, coffee grounds, shredded paper, potato peelings & some fruit that had gone off. Never put cooked food or meat in your compost, it will only attract vermin! 
And its all topped off with straw & chicken poo from daily cleaning of the hen house, collected every day in a black sack, so breaking down is started. with this good mix of materials, the worms do all the hard work in mixing it all up. 
We add to the compost bin every week, it breaks down gently, so there is always room for more. We have a 3rd compost bin which we will start in January.
In this photo you can see the 2nd of the compost bins filled last year, we did the same as described above, we just left it to 'cook' and as you can see it has broken down into a lovely dark brown compost. It still has worms working on it. 
So despite the weather forecast of rain all day, the sun came out and I took my chance. At least I picked some greens for our Chickens: Kale, Spinach, Cabbage leaves & Dandelions too.   
And a few late Raspberries, nice mixed into a bowl of Porridge or just a handfull tossed into bowl of cereal like Cornflakes, makes them more tasty :)

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 13 October 2013

Just a harvest today

The Peppers in the Greenhouse are still ripening, we only picked the bottom left one as it was ready.

We still have a few 'Bell Peppers' that are ripening too (I feel a Pizza night looming).
The main reason for going to the plot today was to dig up some Potatoes for dinner tonight. I went a bit mad and dug up 3 'Picasso' plants, the yield as you can see is impressive and weighed 8lb (3.6kg) and a good mix of sizes, Roasties tonight, maybe Chips tomorrow & Mash or Baked later in the week.
Not a bad additional harvest of Courgette, the Pepper & autumn Raspberries.

The weather today has been a bit wet so didn't stay long today, just long enough to check over the crops planted in the week and they are doing fine. 
Just before leaving we picked up the last 2 Pumpkins (2 on the right) so here are the 4 we grew, as its gone colder there's no hope of them getting bigger as foliage has died off. But big enough to make soup from!

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Thursday 10 October 2013

Autumn planting on the Plot

Another dry day, so good timing for some more planting.
But first a Bonfire as there were dry weeds etc to burn, that were in the way of where I needed to dig.

Here is where I will plant the Cabbages, that we started off at home. 
First I dug it over removing any weeds that survived the last bonfire, then firmed the soil by walking all over it, Brassicas prefer firm soil. Then I scattered a few scoops full of lime and dug that in too. Brassicas do well on limed soil, but it's better if the soil hadn't been manured the year before, if it had the lime effect would be reduced or even cancelled out. 
So on the larger patch of ground I planted 30 'Senshyu' white Onions & 30 'Red Winter' red Onions. These are Autumn planting Onions so will be fine over winter, 

Approx 8"/20cm apart, in rows also 8"/20cm between.
As you can see I have planted the Cabbages, in 3 rows 15"/40cm apart. Now under netting, to keep the birds off especially Pheasants that regularly raid our plot!  These also over winter well and will give us & our Chickens greens in the new year. I also planted about 15 Kale plants under netting, lovely in a Stir-Fry and our Chickens love it raw too.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 6 October 2013

Summer in October ?

I had to pinch myself this morning, the sun was shining, it's warm, can it possibly be October?

First job to do, was to weed the Spring onions, after doing it I could only find 6 that had germinated, so along the string on the right I sowed another row of Lisbon Winter a hardy variety for winter growing. 
The Brassicas we planted out last week have taken well, I think the CD bird scarer's worked as none have been pecked out. 

The late Peas we sowed on the netting where the Mange Tout grew have already sprouted, a lot quicker than the Peas planted in Spring! The warm weather has helped all the late crops. 
The Buzzards were busy today circling over the Allotments, there were two taking advantage of the thermals, the occasional screech to let each other know of a potential prey.
Not a bad harvest again. I dug up some Potatoes too, 2/3 of a row of Valour (main crop) when weighed I was surprised at the result 25lb (11.3 Kg). As I planted 3 rows the estimated yield is 100lb (45.3 Kg). I also dug up 5.5 lb (2.5 Kg) of Charlotte (2nd early) will add up the totals when all dug up and let you all know.
So another lovely summers day, the plots looking good at the moment, we have been busy weeding, but one disappointment, the Ulster Classic spuds I planted a few months ago for Christmas harvesting, only 4 have come up, will have to watch the weather forecasts as Frost will badly affect them. 

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian