Thursday, 20 July 2017

Hobby or stick horses

I was taking out the broad beans last week and pulled out the three old wooden broom handles I had used as supports when I remembered a bit on the news the other day of people doing hobby horse show jumping. We don't like plastic toys but do like to have something to entertain the grandchildren over the summer holidays visits.

Quick look on Pin-interest for ideas and a pattern and out to the sewing cabin to raid the stash and bits of ribbons,felt and cord, etc.

Round the garden on the flat or over the jumps guys?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Nightshade plants

"What are nightshade plants?" My husband is reading a book about arthritis and keeps reading out bits with strange requests to change his diet.
"Nightshade? Belladonna? which you would definitely not eat. Or do you mean the fact tomatoes and potatoes are in the same DNA whatsit species family, once a long time ago, before they were refined?"

By this time he has read on "Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers are not good for arthritis!"

"Really? Not sure about egg plants as never been a fan. But there is lots of vitamins in tomatoes and peppers. Anyway I am sure in moderation they are all fine."  These wretched american feel-good books, I must make sure the next one is UK based, but at least he is thinking about doing something about his health.

Gosh,I hope I sounded reassuring - there are stacks of ripening toms and peppers in our poly tunnel!  Now is not the time to be a fussy eater.
Thanks for the birthday wishes and nice comments  Have not been on line much as I am suffering from horse fly bites. I forgot to change out of shorts BEFORE cutting under a hedge.  Silly me.  Every time this happens (and it has been like this since early teens) I end up with great big swellings and on antibiotics.  Luckily the local health centre fitted me in immediately when I described the red line and swelling creeping up my leg! Will only take 24 hours to knock it on the head.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Funny veg

The season has started to produce its weird veg!  The carrots are twinning around and around - hopeless for peeling!

Friday, 14 July 2017


I am really enjoying this book I requested from the library service.  For some reason our local library does not stock any "exploring Britain" type books.

It combines some of my favourite things - walking, observing places and people, social content  and MAPS.  I love a map.  I wanted to follow his progress on our A-Z along with him but struggled to read the detail.  As it is my birthday week I begged the husband to buy me this!
A great big magnifier  with a light!!  Fantastic and only cost £10!
Not only can I follow him across London I can follow the Tour de France in our atlas as well!  My other birthday present was cheap too (£2.58) but did not last as long but was very nice.

Yum..... hot chocolate with all the trimmings....

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Sun Hats

A request from my grandson for a bigger sun hat sent me back to my sewing cabin to make a bigger hat for him.  Two sizes made just in case; using material from my stash and a free pattern from the internet.
This is a very simple bucket hat pattern and takes an hour or so to make and uses about half a metre of cotton fabric. If you have small children do try this one (its on Ollie/Oliver and Co, a blog, I think).   The pattern goes up to 9 year olds - I have expanded it by half an inch all the way round and made myself a sun hat too!  I used a more upholstery style fabric and did not line the crown or sides this time.
My last attempt at a sun hat for me was not a great success but this one seems a little better as it sits lower on my head.  I am not a hat person normally but we were out boating the other day on the River Ouse and I had to borrow my husband's spare one.  So hot and burning!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Mangle? Granny what's a mangle?

One of my son's is renovating a house and found a 1950's Practical Woodworker magazine in the loft.  We all enjoyed reading it and laughing at the some things looked odd and some things we were still doing - like insulating the loft!
This page sparked a lot of discussion.

The bottom right advert is for a stand alone spin dryer.  My mother had one!  Daughter in law (Indian descent/city dweller) and grand daughter could not quite grasp why you would have a spin dryer separate to a washing machine. Why would you want something that squashed all the washing so that it was plastered to the sides of the spinner and came out all creased they asked? Was it not all soft and bouncy?

Twin tub washing machines (my second washing experience when we had first child in 1976) was vaguely familiar to daughter in law but then I mentioned my first washing machine with a mangle on the top (second hand freebie in 1971). Bit like one of these.
Image result for washing mangle wringer
Mangle?  I tried to explain the working of two rotating drums squashing the washing as you turned the handle and how my mother's and grandmother's were so big they were kept just outside the back door.
Image result for washing mangle wringer

Perhaps I should not have mentioned the wonderful description Charles Dickens gives in "Our Mutual Friend" of mangling.

"See sweetie" explained R. "You always say Mummy was brought up in the Dark Ages. Grandma was brought up in ancient times!"

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Onion crop

We have grown red and white onions from sets and they have now been harvested and put out to dry.
Only 3 had soft/white rot and not too many went to seed. So a good crop.  We would normally leave to ripen in the soil but the bed was so weedy we needed to get on top of it.  Trouble is finding space in sheds for open storage - one already has 30 garlic cloves drying out. Took those out to get rid of rust that was developing on the foliage.  These crops make a great difference to our shopping bills as we get through a bulb of garlic and a good pound of onions a week. (Saves about £1.50 a week).

Meanwhile my husband is growing GIANT onions from seed in the poly tunnel. 

At least nothing was eating them!  Chasing birds off everything at moment, especially the blackbirds who are desperate for anything juicy (it is so dry here there are no worms)  they have even started to nibble the ripe tomatoes in the poly tunnel.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Soft fruit

I have finally come up for air from underneath the avalanche of soft fruit which has all come at once and as promised I will contemplate what we have done with it all.

Strawberries growing in the poly tunnel  have fruited well as they were keep warm in cold and watered in the heat.  Picked 4 lbs every day for about 2 weeks.  They have finished now (thank goodness) and I have cleared the plants back to a nice green crown to re grow and I am keeping the runners under control) Outside the strawberry plants in the open ground have not done so well, in fact I think the blackbirds have taken nearly all the ripe fruit there has been.

Raspberries started small but followed strawberries quickly and have cropped well - collecting 4lbs every other day!  The autumn fruiting ones have not made much growth and may well not fruit till well into August.

Blackcurrants looked dreadful with yellow leaves and aphid damage and have ripened in batches of a pound or so every two days.   I did not think the gooseberries were doing well but eventually a good crop was picked especially the red desert variety which are much sweeter than the green ones.

We netted the tayberries this year having lost them all to the birds last year and this has worked well. The plant now 2 years old cropped well.

Rhubarb had an early flush then stopped all together as it was too dry. It is only just making some growth.

Blueberries are ripening slowly and only a handful have been picked. Blackberry (thornless, grown on wires for easy picking) crop is full of berries and a tinge of pink is appearing.

So what did we do with the crops?

Gave away about 10 lbs of fruit.

14 jars of jam.  The tayberry jam is particularly nice  (2 jars), the raspberry set well (6 jars)  I still have problems with strawberry (6 jars)and just can't get a good set.  I hesitate to make more as we don't use more than one jar a month.  A couple may go as gifts.

2 demi johns of wine.  One strawberry (4 lbs of fruit) and one raspberry (3lbs  of fruit with 8 oz of leftover dried sultanas in the must for a sweet wine).  I love blackberry wine so I am intending to get one more jar going this year.  They are happily sitting in the space under the stairs.

Frozen fruit:
10 lbs strawberries
10 lbs raspberries
6 lbs blackcurrants
2 lbs green gooseberries
12 lbs red gooseberries
Just one box of stewed rhubarb.

Fresh fruit for lunches and tea.  Lunch tends to be freshly picked fruit with yougart.  Evening meals we have gooseberry, black current and Tay berry crumble and the same with a sponge topping.   I tried a tart with tayberry - the bottom is a rich pastry case and the tayberries were sweetened with icing sugar and simmered with a packet of powered gelatin.
I am envious of blogger "That British Woman" who recently listed 51 blackcurrant recipes. I may need several such lists.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fledged now buzz off!

Suddenly a few days ago the behaviour of our hedge sparrows changed and they were not so quick to clear the bird seed first thing in the morning. I kept a look out and eventually spotted this fledgling down in the clover doing that fanning thing with its wings as recently shown on BBC Springwatch.

Then the mummy bird gathered up some bits and fed the youngster.

So sweet!   And now can you all learn to fly and go a bit further away from the privet hedge. It really, really needs cutting - it has put on a good 18 inches of growth this year.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Kitchen Chaos

I was hoping to blog positively this week about dealing with soft fruit. Everything is ripening at once due the hot sunny weather.  Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries. tay berries, black currents and now blueberries!

Instead the kitchen is upside down and things are everywhere.  First, the fridge/freezer failed to keep up with the hot weather. "I told you months ago it would not cope!" I cried as even opening the door to get milk caused it to start to de-frost.  I had to stop picking the fruit as I had no where to put it down or deal with it.  Jam making had to stop as it not only caused me to be reduced to a puddle, having the stove going warmed up the kitchen even more straining the fridge more!

Current accounts were emptied and we went to buy a new fridge/freezer. We had to take out as much food as possible out of the old one (15 years old) and keep it ticking over while the new one was delivered and allowed to settle down. So the old one ended up parked in the middle of the kitchen with leads requiring jumping over.

Second disruption was the arrival of my hand built food cupboard from my husband's workshop. so my old storage was taken away. But the new one needed doors fitted once it was in place and can not be set up till that is finished. Tins and packets of food everywhere.

Finally the new fridge was in full use.

I could return to the garden and collect the fruits, oh, and now broad beans!
I have given up jam making and am using the glut to make wine instead. I need it.  Especially as the crises and expense (and the heat) meant no trip to London this week for my grandson's 3rd birthday party.

Monday, 19 June 2017

How to keep cool?

After a sweaty half hour harvesting broad beans I returned to the house to process them and watch a recording of CARDINAL from BBC4.  First one of  one of my favourite series of books by Giles Blunt set in a very snowy and very cold north Canada.  Ah, that was cooling.
Image result for giles blunt forty words for sorrow

I am also following FARGO - set in a nice snowy Minnesota!

St Ives

My husband proposed a visit to St Ives this weekend. I got all excited and dropped a container of freshly cooked beetroot thinking we were off to the west Country. No. St Ives, Cambridgeshire! 

Ah well.  It did turn out to be a pretty place and despite the 30C heat we had a pleasant walk across some water meadows and had lunch on the riverside.

He really should have got the air conditioning in the car fixed last month!  Told husband it would turn hot if he didn't.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Blight and birds

Been plodding up and down the fruit and veg garden all the last week collecting the rapidly ripening soft fruit (I will blog about what I am doing with it all another time!) but on this occasion I glanced at the lovely rows of potatoes and noticed a couple of breaks. Instead of fresh green leaves and purple flowers there was a gap. Went wading up the rows and found BLIGHT.

YUK. We donned surgical gloves and took a plastic bag and have cut out the affected plants down to the soil. Carefully removing the black slimy stems and wilting foliage to be burnt. In the past I am sure Gardeners World have said cut off the tops and harvest normally. I do hope this works!

While we in the potato rows our attention was drawn to the nearby fence. The swallows had lined up their 5 fledglings and were gamely showing the babies how to do aerobatic flight over our neighbours beautifully mowed grass. Landing occasionally alongside to feed the fledglings caused a lot of tweeting. 
They all ignored us.