Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What a lot can happen in 12 months.

I missed my blog anniversary! I was 2 on the 10th April. So much has happened in 2 years and I can't really believe that when I started the blog I was still living in a tiny flat in miserable London and only dreaming of a life in the country. Now I can't imagine living anywhere else.

I love my house and I love my town, but the thing I love most - if you hadn't guessed - is my garden.

Today was spent in there pottering about, the grass had it's first mow of the year. I strimmed. I planted some purple sprouting broccoli in the raised bed (currently the rasied bed is home to that, leeks, spring onions and one black Russian tomato.) I have some runner beans and Morning Glory gone in.

Thought I would provide the latest before and after gardening photos, because they are always fun to look at. 1 year ago and today.

1 year ago. I must say the grass was healthier, probably because it had hardly been walked on.

Today. So different.

A year ago. Untouched but so rural and lovely.

By the way, the near bed is so full because I have put pots and stones on it to deter the cats - seems to be working.

Took this just after the doors and windows went in last year.

It is nice to look back and see the difference.

Well who knows what the next 12 months will bring and what the before and after photos will look like then.

Next before and after will be the bathroom - later in the Summer months.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Things are finally happening in the garden

There has been a huge amount of activity suddenly in my garden in the last few day. Good job, it has a lot of catching up to do.

I can almost here the rhubarb grow. I must admit that not having touched it at all last year has clearly made it's root system good and strong. It is well on and has grown every time I look at it.

The 4 inch stem and leaves on this clematis have grown in the last 36 hours.

These Alliums have suddenly taken off. On the right are the gigantic ones and on the left, well another sort, can't remember what now, haha.

Even these delphiniums are coming through. I am most pleased about these, because I found them at the end of last summer hidden under a tree, doing nothing because they were in full shade and were just a tangle of leaves. I transplanted the roots and had no idea whether they would survive. And here they are.

But there is one thing that makes me sad and that is my complete inability to grow rosemary. Yes, this herb which is usually hailed as a herb that 'anyone can grow' seems to hate me. Every rosemary I have ever had has died and yet I don't think that I do anything particularly bad to it. This one is no exception. I hold out a little hope that it may return to life, but it really does look dead.

So to cheer myself up I made a batch of Paul Hollywood's savoury scones. Ironically they are supposed to be cheese and rosemary scones but I replaced the rosemary and made them cheese and chilli scones. Have to say, I love this recipe, it really did take seconds to make and they are the nicest savoury scones I have ever tasted.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Cat protection

It's turned cold again this morning, in fact, I have icy cold little fingers as I type this. Didn't frost last night though. unlike yesterday. Typical, on the day that I plant out some sweet peas. Fortunately I had the foresight to wrap bubble wrap around them and was out there at midnight doing just that. They are all absolutely fine.
My raised vegetable bed was being used by the local cat population as a giant litter tray so I took action yesterday. I was going to make it a 'square foot gardening bed' anyway, (thanks to Sarina's good suggestion) so I knocked a few nail in and added string, this left me with 18 separate 1 foot squares  ready for different veg collections. As there is nothing yet in them I filled every square with anything that I could find to just put the cats off - small plant pots, rocks and stones - you get the idea.

and guess what? This morning, no digging and no cat poo.as I add some veg seedlings to it I will remove the stones or pots accordingly and by then, hopefully the cats will have given up on it and moved to a different place, hopefully, not in my garden.

This weekend I tried sourdough loaf number 2. I thought it was going badly, as rising seemed to barely happen even though all in all it  had about 24 hours! However, as it turned out, it seems to have worked far better than the last one. Although it lost it's lovely round shape by not coming out of the bowl cleanly.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I will be road testing it for taste and texture in the form of a good bacon sandwich in a little while, when it has cooled a bit.

Nom nom

Friday, 19 April 2013

Busy few days.

I've been in and out, dodging the rain most of the time. One second it is beautiful and warm, the next rainy.
I now do two ladies gardens on a regular basis, which is a nice bit of extra money and quite franky, a pleasure to do most of the time. It's only a couple of hours here and there, but maybe it could build up? who knows?
Did I mention that my oven broke down? Can't remember. It just stopped working which didn't really surprise me as it must have been over 20 years old. Fortunately on the day it stopped working my sister was throwing out her oven so I grabbed it (although I think that her builder wanted to nab it, because he tried very hard to not let me have, cheeky bugger).
So, much as I was tempted to try and put it in myself my mum was horrified and told me I had to get an electrician in. Did so and the kind man only charged £20 so I'm not complaining (watched him carefully and I could have done it myself, but never mind)
Anyway, it works perfectly, but my sister wants shooting - it was filthy!!!!! So a packet of Oven Pride later and I have a shiny new oven, hooray, cooking is back on.

Other things I have been up to - my first sourdough loaf. I can't say it was an absolute success, but it wasn't an absolute disaster either and I have learnt from my mistakes. There is nothing wrong with my starter, he is happily sitting there, bubbling and alive. The loaf itself had two problems, first of which is that it definitely needed more rising - I will give it a few more hours next time and somewhere warmer I think. The other problem was with my cooking, my oven was a bit too hot I think (still trying to get used to the new oven) and so it was very much cooked on the outside, but still a bit stodgy on the inside. Having said all of that the taste is beautiful, but it is just a bit dense - makes wonderful toast though. Loaf number two should be a better effort thanks to my trial and error first loaf.

My sourdough starter


Ready to bake.

First loaf

Made great eggs on toast though.

I haven't been neglecting my own gardening and working in the greenhouse continues to be a joy. Today I planted out some of my sweet peas - I know it is a bit of a risk mid April, but they were getting way too big for their pots and really wanted planting out. Hopefully no more frosts, but I will keep on eye and wrap them up if there is. 2 wigwams at either end of the new bed.

I'm desperate to get some veg in that raised bed in the distance - every morning the local cat population have used it as a giant litter tray!!!!

Hope you have all had a lovely weekend - time for me to have a piece of the Victoria sponge I made and a cuppa.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

gateway to the greenhouse

I finally did it, only 8 months late. I put the arch way up between the trellis and the decking. The men who did the deck did offer last summer, but I said I would do it myself. Well it took me a while, but I decided that today was the day - and now it is done.

I think that it finishes it off nicely and I look forward to the rambling red rose that was planted last summer on the left of it, finds it's way over the top.

A job well done.

Tomorrow - my first sourdough loaf.

Monday, 15 April 2013

greenhouse pleasure.

What a joy it is to still be able to potter about in the greenhouse even when it is raining.
Things are looking great in there, most of the plants look strong and healthy and happy and will soon be ready to go out after any lingering frosts have passed. In hindsight, living here, where it is colder than in the South, I will start things off just a few weeks later as some of them are getting too big and I am trying to waste time before they can go in the garden.

Plenty of sweet peas, amongst other things. If there is a poor performer it is the lobelia but I do actually blame the compost. I usually just use a multipurpose from B&Q but this time I bought a special John Innes seed compost and, do you know, it is terrible, by far the worst compost I have ever used. It has ruined the lobelia because it clumped into rock hard piece and I am sure the roots have had great difficulty in pushing through. After 2 months they are still only half a centimetre and some are dead. Everything that I did in the multipurpose has thrived beautifully.

The daffodils around the apple tree are ready to burst forth which is going to look lovely.

And finally, tada, here is my new freezer.

Now I'll be able to find things and not have food frozen in lumps at the bottom, never to see the light of day.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Coriander and lemon Hummous

Loads of you asked for the recipe I mentioned, which surprised me somewhat - I thought I was the last person to start making homemade hummous and everyone else already did.

So here it is.

I will base this on a normal size can of chickpeas - although I actually made it with a half size can as I discovered they were 3 for a pound and a half can makes more than enough hummous for me to eat by myself. I just halved all the following ingredients.

·         1 x 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
·         bunch coriander, roughly chopped.( I just did this buy eye.)
·         2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
·         ½tsp ground coriander (I couldn't find mine so I missed this out, I'll try it next time)
·         2 lemons, juiced (I actually just used lemon juice from a bottle, about 2 tablespoons - again by eye)
·         1tbsp tahini (I would probably not buy this especially and would just miss it out, but I happened to have some. A friend of mine uses peanut butter in his instead and says that it gives a saltier and nice texture, but I have never tried)
·         3tbsp olive oil - again, by eye.

And that's it! Just put it all in the mini chopper or blender, whatever you have, even s stick blender (you can probably even just mash it although it won't be quite so fine perhaps. I then added some salt, to taste.

I prefer this coriander and lemon flavour one as I find ordinary hummous a little bland.

Let me know if you try it.

Friday, 12 April 2013

I'm back

Hello everyone,

The wanderer has returned and somehow, although I have been away for a month, it is still cold! I've had to put the heating on this morning, partly because the house has been empty for a long time, but mostly because there is such a chill in the air. however, it hasn't gone below freezing and isn't forecast to either.

The good news is that all my seedlings and plants have survived, just about. The longest they were left unattended was a fortnight as I popped home for Easter and my home style seedling irrigation system - a washing up bowl full of water in the bath with a large wet towel draped across the bath with all the seed trays on it, one end in the washing up bowl - worked a treat, maybe a little too well as everything was very damp.

All the seedlings, with the exception of the aqualegia and cosmos, have germinated, which seems something of a miracle considering how cold it must have been indoors here and the bigger plants that I left in my mothers care are all ok she says, although desperate for potting on.

The garden, if not a picture, is at least pleasant. The daffodils are going to burst forth imminently everything is budding, but all the clematis look dead! Last time I saw them they were budding forth and then the snow came and all the buds are dried husks now. I hope they may come back, but I am concerned about them. Also one of my azaleas looks decidedly unhappy.

I was staying with lovely friends who made my time away a joy and from them, I have learnt new recipes, 2 of which I have tried already and one of which will be started today. I have never had great success with home made hummous, but the one they made me was so delicious that I tried again last night with much greater success. I think the problem with my old attempts has been that they have lacked flavour so their  coriander and lemon hummous has changed this and it was absolutely delicious. Had that for my tea last night.
This morning I made tzatziki, another simple dish, but one that I have never actually tried to make before. Since I got my yoghurt maker for Christmas from my sister I always have a surplus of yoghurt so this is a perfect solution for using some of it up each time I make some.

The recipe that I am curious to try today is to make a sourdough starter. I was fascinated by how my friends nurtured this pot of slimy beige liquid, but one taste of their delicious home made sourdough bread was enough to convince me to give it a go. If nothing else, it will be fun, so today I will make my sourdough starter, I think it takes about a week, but I will play it by ear.

All good, cheap, easy things to make today then.

Oh, and I had a spot of good financial news while I was away, so I treated myself, finally, to a new freezer, yes, a brand spanking new one, which will be delivered tomorrow. Mine is absolutely about to give up the ghost and I am terrified of losing all my food stores if it suddenly stops working (also I am rather concerned about it blowing up or setting on fire or something, it ices on the outside now as well as the inside and all around the electrics is solid frozen ice, can't be good). It is not often I actually get something completely new, so I am like a kid at Christmas.

Well, I am glad to be home for 3 and a half weeks and will finally catch up with all of your blogs over the next few days.

No pictures today I'm afraid, but I will remedy that next time.