Sunday, 28 June 2009
We are finally seeing the first fruits of labours, mainly in the form of the mighty broad bean. We have TONNES, despite the best efforts of the aphids who multiply at a ridiculous rate. I bought some ladybirds from The Green Gardener and they were supposed to keep the bugs at bay but they all seem to have disappeared so sadly we are still stuck with tonnes of the little blighters.
So I've just harvested the first lot. Matt is having a little nap after a heavy night yesterday so I've just eaten a lunch for one and what a lunch it was! Broad bean and pea salad with feta. As you can, I tipped too many peas into the pan (ours aren't ready yet so these are frozen ones) so the broad beans got lost but it was still delicious. I made a dressing of olive oil, lemon and mint and it felt so summery!
The good news is that we have loads more so plenty of risottos and salads to come ovet the next few weeks.
Our other produce of the week were some delicious blueberries. We've had these bushes for about 3/4 years and at last they are bearing fruit and plenty of it. I came home from work one day this week to find Matt cooking some pancakes from some buttermilk which our local farm shop was giving away free as a tester. They wanted to see how we liked it and when I went in today I gave them an update - we had the most delicious pancakes I've evr eaten and filled them with freshly picked blueberries, creme fraiche and honey. So, so delicious! I would highly recommend it. Luckily we have loads more blueberries left on the bushes so we'll have plenty more blueberry dinners.
The other news from the garden is an update on the chickens. Dymchurch seems better although still isn't laying so we're keeping an eye on her but they are all starting their summer moult so there are little feathers everywhere! I have been neglecting the lawn somewhat since they first arrive so decided to see how they like the lawnmower. The answer? They don't! Poor girls were very traumatised so I'm going to put them in a box in the dining room while I mow later on. Matt spoils them with seeds, and they know it, so Hythe in particular has taken to running around after him waiting for him to feed her! It's very funny:
We're off on holiday the week after next for a few days, then have a couple of weekens away in July and August so I sent a plea out to the member of the Slade Area Garden Enthusiasts (SAGE) group that we're part of and two of our neighbours volunteered. Lory is chicken-sitting for the first period so came over to visit them last week and loved them! I'm so grateful that people have volunteered to help out, I was really worried that we wouldn't be able to go away or that we'd have to leave them untended. We've done it for 1 night but I'd be concerned doing it for 3. It's so nice to have friendly helpful neighbours!
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
What this does mean though is that she's also back to her mischievous self! I've just been battling to keep her away from her beloved swiss chard and was sat here very pelased with myself for having made a makeshift fence only to turn around and see her munching on raspberries! It is nice to see her back to "normal" though.
The reason that I'm sat at home in the garden at 6.30 on a weekday is because I had the afternoon off work to have an interview for my PhD. It all went very well and when i got home I had an email from my now supervisor to say "congratulations - you're in!" which is brilliant news. So, 6 years of work starting in September. Very exciting and also scary, the girls had better learn to behave themselves by then or there'll be trouble!
and now Romney has just eaten my newly planted cabbages! Right, back in the run for these three...
Saturday, 13 June 2009
But, on the down side, Dymchurch has not been very well. It started last weekend really - she has a very red bottom which is bare because her feathers haven't yet grown back - and she's been increasingly out of sorts. We thought she might be egg bound so we put her into a warm soapy bath which she seemed to enjoy a bit and kept her inside on Thursday night. On Friday we had to put her back into the run as we went to work and it was obvious that she was very uncomfortable and kep away from the others and wasn't eating so we brought her inside again last night and she's currently napping in the spare bedroom! We think she might have an infection of some kind so we are taking her to the vet this morning and hoping to get some antibiotics which will hopefully sort out whatever it is. We're everso worried about her so really hoping that the vet can help. This is her asleep this morning (it's not a very good photo because I couldn't use the flash):
We really hope the vet can help, hopefully next time I post it'll be good news!
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Two were further afield, near Uckfield in East Sussex. Both of which were brilliant - we got to see chickens and bantams (which I now want!), pygmy goats (adorable), pigs, sheep being sheared. We also had some delicious burgers and sausages and bought some locally produced Halloumi cheese which we've just had for dinner.
The first farm though was just up the road. It was set up just 5 years ago and was such an inspiration - they went from a blank canvas and now have ducks, goats, cows and pigs living in the woods. They are pretty small scale but it was lovely to see what they've achieved and definately made us more than ever want to pursue our smallholding dream! One day maybe...
When we got home we went out for a walk to pick some elderflowers. Someone from work brought in some homemade elderflower cordial last week and it was delicious! This inspired me so we went and picked 40 flowerheads which should make a fair amount to fill the bottles that I bought in Ikea yesterday. Fingers crossed the recipe works, we're using this one from Sophie Grigson.
Until we get the lemons and citric acid the elderflowers are sitting in wait:
Saturday, 6 June 2009
June is upon us and the garden is thriving - we've started getting a good supply of strawberries (which I'm freezing to make jam once I have a good supply), raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants as well as a few little apples, which were very unexpected as this is the first year. Our broad beans are also battling through the aphid infestation and have started producing beans so I'm hoping for a good summer crop. Add to this our mass of potato plants and sneaky jerusalem artichoke that I must have missed when digging them up last year, and we have the potential for a good vegetable-y summer!
We've now had our ex-battery hens (Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch) for two weeks, and what a difference it's made! When they arrived they were very scraggy looking but they're looking much better already. This is them on their first free range in the garden and this was a week ago:
Since then they have got even more feathers. Romney has asserted herself as the ruler of the roost with Dym and Hyth occasionally fighting for second and third but, apart from one day last week where they fought like mad, they've really settled down now and seem to be getting on well. We've also had over 2 dozen eggs since they arrived, with 3 on most days it seems.
On another, although quite different, chicken related subject...Last week Matt ordered some chichen livers from the farm shop so that he could make some pate. He ordered 400g which cost the princely sum of £1.80 and made 3 good sized pots of pate! All very exciting although perhaps not that good for our waistlines. When we went to the farm shop today the woman asked how we had been getting on with it and was delighted to hear it was a success. It's so lovely to be recognised in the farm shop - makes us feel like we've really made it in Tonbridge - and amazing that we manage to do most of our shopping there every week. Something we always hoped for but never expected would happen.
In the house we've also been busy and, during our week off a couple of weeks ago, we pulled up the carpet, sanded and painted the stairs and they do look lovely. It's slightly frustrating that there is a hole in each step because we could happily keep them without carpet but as it is I think we're going to look at a runner for it.
That's all I can think of for now without babbling on about the garden so I'll sign-off and take some more photos for my next post.