Monday, 27 February 2017

Harvest Monday - leafy greens, Eves Hill Veg Co and a coastal walk

Phew, we largely escaped the effects of Storm Doris on Thursday....a few things were blown around on the allotment but nothing major..my shed escaped unharmed. On other sites in the city, greenhouses were demolished and wheelbarrows sent flying. Two of our fence panels in the back garden were blown out of place and bent a bit too, but our neighbours popped them back in place...they'll do for now, I don't fancy replacing the panels at the moment.
 
Inbetween the gnarly weather passing through this week I've actually made quite a lot of harvests....firstly some Brussels sprouts and a self -sown cabbage (the cabbage came from a plant I let go to seed a couple of years ago)...here's some of the outer cabbage leaves plus the sprouts -
...the inner cabbage leaves plus some of the Nero kale I've picked this week -
...more Nero kale and some self-sown chard -
...self-sown corn salad -
...a few leeks (plus there was an extra one I'd already used up by the time I got round to taking a pic)
....some dwarf curly kale -
...and finally, some Brussels sprouts which had started to 'blow'...I love these as spring greens. Here I used them with some leftover cooked potatoes and nut roast (yummy nut roast made by Jan's mum, who'd been visiting over the weekend).
A touch of colour came from some stewed fruit I made with the last of our stored apples, and frozen berries - gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry, saskatoon and red currants. I still have lots of berries in the freezer too, so hopefully they'll last us through to June (when the first strawberries should be ready).
As a bit of a sweetener I added about half a jar of my homemade apple and elberberry jelly (from 2015). I'd given away most of the jars for Christmas 2015 but still have a few left.
When the fruit starts to thaw it releases quite a bit of water, but that's fine as we mainly use it up on muesli for breakfast (along with organic milk and a big dollop of yogurt, mmm).
Whilst Storm Doris was giving it her best outside I got stuck into sowing some seeds...tomatoes, peppers and a few aubergines. I was comparing how many I'd sown of each variety last year but still managed to sow too many...couldn't help myself...but I'll give away spares. I covered them all with a thin layer of (peat free) compost, filled the tray with water to let the compost soak it up from below, then after a little while moved them to a fresh dry tray, wrapped it with bubble wrap and placed nearish the radiator. Quite exciting.
These are the tom varieties...
Last Wednesday I volunteered at Eves Hill Veg Co again. Amongst various tasks we pegged out where the beds in the new polytunnel will go. Five beds with four paths. Yes that'll be a lot of veggies...awesome. Unfortunately Storm Doris struck the following day and damaged the original smaller polytunnel next door, bending one side out of shape (the side in the photo below). But from what I've heard, it's repairable and may even have been sorted by now...phew.
We had a little excursion from Norwich at the weekend, with Jan's folks who were visiting and headed up to the coast to sunny Cromer (well, it wasn't actually sunny, but it was still lovely nonetheless)
Down on the beach we were actually out of the wind too, walking a couple of miles east to Overstrand.
But on the way back along the cliff top we experienced the full brunt of the wind plus some heavy rain joined in too - it was bracing to say the least. Nice scenery though.

So that's it from me, I think the weather is meant to perk up again soon (we had lots of rain showers again today) so hopefully I'll get some more work done on the plot too. Oh, this evening I went to an interesting Norfolk Organic Group talk on stinging nettles...that's how I like to spend my evenings :D

 

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Harvest Monday - kale and Eves Hill Veg Co

With some lovely sunny weather recently it definitely feels like spring is on the way. Mustn't get too carried away though as we can still get some heavy frosts (and even snow) before spring is properly here. But it's nice to have the sun on your face while getting down to allotment work.

 

I've had a couple of sessions this week, mainly continuing to weed the couch grass from around my fruit bushes, trying not to damage the roots of the bushes in the process. I'll mulch around them soon with homemade compost and then I think I'll cover the mulch with several layers of newspaper (weighed down) to help prevent the couch grass coming back. Every year I cut down one of my three blackcurrant bushes completely (on rotation) to manage a supply of medium-aged stems....I did this to the oldest bush yesterday and...mmmm....the blackcurrant scent was delicious, I can't wait to start drinking blackcurrant leaf tea again, and enjoying the juicy berries later.

 

I noticed that the kales are starting to develop a flowerhead in the middle of each plant, so have begun harvesting the entire tops, which should encourage some more side shoots to grow from below the snipped-point. Although small, the top leaves are nice and lush, with a soft texture.

Rather than faff with cutting off the leaves and trimming out the stalk (which is particularly fiddly when they're small), I pinch at the base of each leaf and pull up either side of the stalk, which neatly removes the leafy part you want to eat, leaving behind the tougher stalk...easy! I also pinched off the developing flowerheads to eat too.
Whilst slicing each stalk in half to make it compost quicker, I noticed the juicy flesh on the inside. Being someone who eats broccoli and cauliflower stalks, I thought I'd give these a go too. They were actually really yummy raw....a nice fresh flavour, even a hint of spiciness?
And quite a nice amount of greens, despite the small leaves.
Back on the allotment plot, the two hazel trees are dripping with catkins...could be a good year for them? I spied lots of the tiny red flowers too.
I mentioned last time that I'd started volunteering at Eves Hill Veg Co (not for profit market garden). I had to skip a week because of a tummy bug that was doing the rounds but had a good day out there last Wednesday. Three of us mainly focussed on trench-digging, which will help secure the cover of the new polytunnel....which is a big 'un.
The edge of the cover has to be buried to keep it in place. I can imagine the wind whipping it away easily otherwise. A secure cover helps prevent rips too.
It's strangely satisfying to finish off a nice long trench!

I'm not sure what the plans will be for this Wednesday...I'll look forward to seeing the polytunnel progress that's taken place over the week anyway.

 

And back home, I think I'll sow my tomatoes and peppers this week...exciting. I sowed some peas in the lean-to recently...for pea shoots. I think there's a rogue slug or two on the loose in there though, so will have to keep an eye out, especially when the peas (hopefully) germinate.

 

Righty-ho, thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres - check it out to see what other people have been harvesting this week.

 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Harvest Monday and Eve's Hill Veg Co

I'm rather lacking in my own harvest photos this week, but have been mainly using up stored goodies from the freezer....fruit, leafy greens, green beans.
 
I've also started saving cardboard loo roll tubes for sowing sweetcorn and a few runner beans into, as usual (I also direct-sow runner beans into the ground but like to sow a few at home as back-up). The loo rolls are handy to use for long-rooted seedlings, and seedlings that don't like to be disturbed, as they can be planted straight into the soil, gradually breaking down over time (and they're free!). I've brought a trayful of compost inside from the lean-to for it to warm up a bit before sowing tomato, peppers and aubergine seeds in a week or so....I'll then keep the trays of sown-seeds indoors for quite a while to germinate and grow-on, before moving them into the lean-to later after potting on. If you're going to be growing tomatoes outside, it's probably a bit early to be sowing, but mine stay in the lean-to so get extra protection.
 
My one harvest photo is of a black radish (I hadn't heard of them either). The photo doesn't really show the size of it, but they're pretty big. This is one I sliced the bottom off...aaw. Anyway, although I harvested this, I didn't actually grow it...it's from Eve's Hill Veg Co, a not for profit farm I've recently started volunteering for.

The farm has been going for less than a year, but Hannah, who runs it along with a band of volunteers, has done an amazing job of transforming two acres of former arable field into a thriving veggie plot, focussing on regenerating the soil after years of conventional agricultural use. The owners of the main farm (mainly arable and cattle, as far as I'm aware) are really supportive too, which is brilliant.

It was a bit misty the day I took these photos, but you can see some of the lovely winter salads, some beds prepped for later sowing and heaps of different compost piles in the background. It's a 'no dig' system, so there's no treading on the beds, which would compact the soil (I do this on my allotment too). The idea is to protect the soil and build up nutrients, trying not to leave it bare at any time, for example by sowing green manures and adding other natural soil improvers (such as the municipal compost that local councils produce from green waste recycling). The municipal compost is completely sterile, so is good for topping-off the beds (no weed seeds will germinate) and adding organic matter which improves soil structure for holding onto water etc, with the long term aim to increase the biodiversity of life in the soil, on a microscopic level as well as loverly worms etc.....whilst weeding the beds we have been finding quite a lot of worms, and spotting mycelium forming (mushroom roots) which is very encouraging. Hannah also has a supply of donkey and horse manure, as well as two big heaps of compost generated from the site itself.
The paths are lined with cardboard, then topped with woodchip (that a local tree surgeon provides free I think).
In the polytunnel...really good winter salads (no of course I'm not jealous, ahem).

Yummy. About an acre of the site is in active use at the moment (which is amazing when you think it was still a corner of an arable field this time last year), with another acre around the perimeter that's currently being left as a wildlife corridor, whilst the focus is on regenerating the initial acre. Long term plans include tree / hedge planting too I think. I'm sure there's loads more in store for the farm...building soil, building communities, improving the area for wildlife and of course growing delicious organic food. A second polytunnel is in the process of being put up too (of course, I'm still not jealous, ahem.). I'll try and take some more pics next time, there's loads more to see.

 

Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, hosted again by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Big thanks to Michelle at From Seed to Table, who hosted throughout January.

 

 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Harvest Monday and allotment peep

I'm just back in this evening from a really interesting talk on hedgehogs, given to the Norfolk Organic Growers group, which I joined just before Christmas (I was lucky enough to get a gift membership as a Christmas pressie). The talk was given by a lady who volunteers her own time to run a rescue centre for these lovely little creatures....and she even brought in one of her current lodgers....so cute. Anyway, there's a lot that we can do as growers and gardeners to help these vulnerable mammals, so I'd encourage people to do a quick internet search to find out how.
 
Back to veggies, this week I've managed a couple of trips to the plot and have even brought some goodies home. I lifted a few leeks, picked some chard and snipped some corn salad.
Jan used up the chard and a lot of the corn salad almost straight away, making a delicious pizza. She also added some homegrown purple basil pesto, which I found another jar of in the freezer, in a place I wasn't expecting it to be - a nice surprise.
So as the chard had been eaten quick-smart I popped down again today to get a bit more greenery - first some small leaves of Nero and curly kale -
And a lot more chard - I leave some chard to go to seed so it pops up all over the place (and can easily be transplanted if it's in the way). I also got some more corn salad but didn't take a pic.
Talking of corn salad, here's the main bed that I have it growing in - I let it self-seed too - this bed originally had my maincrop potatoes in, with the corn salad germinating later - I also transplanted some clumps from where they'd germinated on top of the hay mulch which I had over the potatoes. They germinated on top of it because I'd laid some dried corn salad stems on top too.
Yum. I tend to snip off the bigger plants at soil level, and leave the rest to get bigger.
The Nero kale is still looking ok - the top leaves are quite small but picking from several plants gives a reasonable yield.
The autumn-sown broad beans (super Aqua-dulce) are looking healthy so far. I took a bit of inspiration from Sue Garrett of Our Plot on Greenlane Allotments, and sowed double seeds in some spots, because I had a few spare seeds after filling the bed. If I recall, Sue sows double at each station and gets a good crop. I'll see how my doubles do this year and maybe extend it across the whole bed next time. I'll be sowing a bed of spring beans too (Eleanora Express).
The garlic looks alright. This was planted in two sessions, so the ones at the back are only just coming through. I used broken-up bulbs from the organic veg stall but I think next time I'll buy a proper variety suited to our climate more. On the surface of the soil you can just make out the dissolving chicken-poo pellets I scattered when planting out the garlic. I'm wondering if it's better to scatter these in November or spring, as maybe some of the nutrients will wash through the soil over winter (or maybe it doesn't make much difference).
Still a few leeks to harvest. They're not very big but I try to harvest alternately-ish to leave space for the remaining leeks to grow-on.
And a shot across the main rotational beds on the plot (The two in the foreground are strawberries though). I have a lot of weeding to do! but am prioritising weeding under the fruit bushes, so the birds can get in and eat any overwintering pests in the soil. Plus I don't want to leave the soil bare as the nutrients will wash through otherwise. I've weeded and then covered the beds with large sheets of cardboard in previous years but I don't have any at the moment.
Oh, I've started volunteering at a community veg farm (Eve's Hill Veg Co) and will hopefully share some photos next week.

So that's it for me. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.

P.S. Am posting a day late due to technical issues yesterday

Monday, 16 January 2017

Harvest Monday - extending the stored goodies & a freezer peek

I often find that around mid-January to February the stored veggies start needing a bit of attention (especially as we've had a lot of mild weather again this winter....despite a bit of snow this week).
 
I store my potatoes in thick paper sacks in a brick shed in the front yard, which faces north, so they keep pretty well in there. But they started sprouting recently, so we decided to use some in a big pot of mashed potato, to then freeze in portions.
 
Similarly, the carrots (stored in plastic mesh trays lined and covered in newspaper) have started shooting too. For these I prepped a whole load of them and am storing in a big jug of water in the fridge. (These were reject carrots saved at one of the gleans back in November).
And with another batch I'm having a go at fermenting in a brine solution. They've been going a few days so far and the bubbling has eased off, but they haven't developed a sour taste yet, so I guess I'll just leave them longer and see what happens.
I've continued to sprout seeds this week, which go nicely in sandwiches and added to noodle soups right at the end of cooking. These are alfalfa on the left and green lentils on the right.
And a mixture including mung beans and chick peas. They have a really good crunch. Sprouting your own beans etc is way cheaper than buying sprouts from a shop, and it's easy too. There are expensive kits you can get for sprouting seeds but actually just an old jar will do, as long as you can rinse the seeds out effectively.
Before Christmas I grew mushrooms from a gift kit which uses spent coffee grounds as the growing medium. They produced a lovely crop and were tasty too. The instructions said it's sometimes possible to get another crop from the same kit, so after leaving the grounds to rest for a couple of weeks I got them going again recently....ta dah....not as many as the first time but they were very tasty again.
I thought we'd have a quick peep in the freezer to see what's left. I've been using up bags of frozen sliced green beans, chopped courgettes, tubs of stewed fruit and tubs of partially cooked greens (chard and kale). Here on the top shelf are some glass tubs of mashed potato plus leftovers and green beans. I'm trying to use less plastic and was kindly given the tubs for my birthday (just the sort of pressie I like). They have a glass base with plastic top.
Second shelf - mainly tubs of greens and leftovers.
Third shelf (drawer) - mainly bags of fruit plus a big tub of stewed fruit. When I've used up all the tubs of stewed fruit I'll make up some more batches using a mixture of berries plus apples that I've got left in the storage shed.
Bottom shelf (drawer) - more fruit.

Hmm it's not a bad little stash altogether. Plus on the plot I still have kale, chard, corn salad, with purple sprouting broccoli to come too. I'll try and get down the plot tomorrow to harvest some more goodies.

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted at the moment by Michelle at From Seed to Table.