Saturday, 7 July 2012

I hope you like jammin' too

June has brought us a mammoth crop of 8kg of strawberries and the freezer is now overflowing so I used 2kg to make some jam and boy is it tasty...

Sunday, 1 July 2012

June produce update

It has been a terrible spring/early summer for all veg growers - drought, then floods, slugs and strong winds, all conspiring against us! But things are coming along.

The photos below show the toms just after they went into the greenhouse, our first red tomato, a Hungarian Hot Wax chilli and some of the strawbs we have harvested (3kg to date!)

Saturday, 30 June 2012

One man in his shed

As well as a greenhouse, Operation Aubergine involved the dismantling and rebuilding of a lovely little shed. It has a window with a twee net curtain. Matt is delighted with it as you'll see...

The arrival of The Greenhouse

I have finally downloaded the blogger app which, I hope, means more regular posts! (I haven't worked out how to put photos in the correct place yet so please excuse them all dumped at the bottom!)

A couple of months back we spent a weekend enacting Operation Aubergine. This was the code name for our mission to dismantle, transport, and rebuild a large glass greenhouse which we won on eBay for the bargain price of £100!

Here it is, in it's original home in North Kent...

We collected it in this van...

It took five hours to dismantle and get into the van. Next day, we had to out it back up! We put it in a sturdy base of sunken sleepers (oh my god are they heavy!)

All in all a knackering weekend but well worth it...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Say Cheese!

There is nothing quite like a big pile of cheese to celebrate your birthday so this year I thought I would go one better and got Matt a cheese course!

This weekend just gone we headed to the Yarner Trust (, near Bideford in North Devon. Located in the little village of Welcome, just 1 1/2 miles from the coast, this organisation is dedicated to providing training for people who are interested in becoming self-sufficient.

They are based in a beautiful 14th century farm. We stayed the night and had a lovely little room with wobbly walls and original floor boards. It was very difficult to drag ourselves back to boring old London!

The cheese making course was run by the incredibly knowledgeable Vera Tooke. Over the course of the day (from 8 until 3) we firstly made soft cheese flavoured with herbs and garlic (a bit like Boursin). This is it hanging and then the finished product...

Second was the mozarella - a remarkably easy cheese to make - you just add the starter and rennet and then leave for 2 hours before pulling out lumps of curds, adding some bioling water, then stretching into mozarella balls

Finally, we made a Gouda like cheese. The Gouda has to sit for a month before it is ready so we currently have it in a cupboard - we turn it every day for the first week then once a week from then on. It's already looking lovely and yellowy on the outside so we'll report back once it's ripe.

Not only did we make cheese but we had a thoroughly lovely very short break away. On the way down we visited Clovelly, which I haven't been too since I was little, and it was just as lovely as I remember. You have to pay to enter the village because it's so popular in the summer and it consists of one, very long, very steep street down to the sea. They still have donkeys to carry goods up and down. In fact, here's a donkey we picked up on the way (his name's Dominic)

In Welcombe itself we had a good explore - we walked the vert steep road to the coast, which is protected by the National Trust and has a gorgeous little river ending in a waterfall at the sea. Opposite the river was a very beautiful house at which I said, "you know, I swear that's Kirsty Alssop's house" and do you know what?
It is!

Our final event was a visit to the local pub - and what a local pub it was! The Old Smithy is a lovely thatched building from the outside and inside wouldn't look out of place as a quirky London pub. Needless to say we fully sampled the local cider (well, it was half the price of London!) and were treated to an impromptu performance by a Quartet of chapscalled The Show Ponies playing varous instruments and singing what can only be described as twenties ragtime meets cabaret - brilliant!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mak'n Bac'n

Something we've wanted to do in a while, is try our hand at home curing. We finally got our acts together in January and bought us some pork from Tablehurst, the wonderful bidynamic farm in the Ashdown Forest that we go to occasionally.

I followed a recipe from one of our home craft type books - I don't have the weights but I mixed curing salt, sea salt, raw brown sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns and some herbs (thyme and rosemary) together and made sure I got it all over the belly (the pig's, not mine!)

We then left it for 2 weeks, covered in muslin in the fridge (although a cold larder will do) and occasionally drained the liquid. After 2 weeks I tried a bit - it was very salty - so I soaked it in cold water over night. The finished product was deeeeeelicious!

After about a week it started to smell a little so we used it up quite quickly. I'm not sure whether I should have put more cure on it or whether that's how quickly it goes if you don't hang it in the salt for longer. I have read, in Home Farmer magazine, that you should entirely cover it in the cure (lots and lots of cure) so I'll try that next time but a reat first attempt!

Produce 2011

As I didn't do any updates last year, you will have no idea how well our allotment has been getting on so this is a gallery-style update on things what we grew last year...

A basket of produce (this must have been autumn time)

My beautiful "Twilight" chillis (one of three varieties I grew - I have so many!)

Some strawbs in the fruit cage from early in the year

The onions, ready to come up

A GIANT carrot (after never having had much luck before, we outdid ourselves this year!)

A GIANT mooli! Slightly enexpected and we only managed to use some of them sadly...there's not that much you can do with a mooli it turns out!