Harvest Festival

This morning I was lucky enough to have the time to go along to the RHS Harvest Festival in London. My very first time at this, a very small venue but I spent a contented 45 minutes wandering around taking photos and grinning inanely to myself.

I thought I’d share my photos with you.

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I was totally in awe of the size and quality of everything on show.

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I love these, they’re so quirky looking.

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I thought these photos intriguing.

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How is it even possible????

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I grabbed a few packs of seeds, 5 packs for £6 and some garlic to plant out.

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If you are in or around London, I’d recommend it

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-London-Flower-Shows/RHS-London-Autumn-Harvest-Show

x

Autumn in disguise

The weather today was glorious, I pottered in the garden in a t-shirt. Washing drying on the line and windows all fully open letting out the pungency of the last batch of chutney bubbling away on the stove. A good day!

DSCF4711Myself and Dave got through 2 jars of chutney this week, (it just goes far too well with a nice mature cheddar) and I always like to have a few extra jars around at Christmas as I make up little hampers for gifts (not as posh as it sounds). I cleared the last of the tomato plants that were all looking very sorry for themselves and now the garden looks that much emptier for it.

So I’ve been doing some more jobs to prepare for the coming months.

I am one step ahead of the squirrels this year, my pots that have been planted up with Spring bulbs are now nice and secure un some netting.

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I’ve given Bob the apple tree his grease band which prevents winter moths from climbing up and laying eggs. Sticky job but worth doing and I’m using the stuff I bought last year to do the job (Boltac) which meant I didn’t have to shell out any money.

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I picked up some wool slug pellets, £5.99 for a largish bag.

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I’ve not used them before but I was keen to try something organic. The regular slug pellets just look wrong to me, it’s never sat well with me using them so I really hope they work.

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Apparently the slugs and snails don’t like the feel of the wool and so you make a nice barrier up to discourage them. Sprinkle them on, water and over time they supposedly break down and release nutrients into the soil. All good. The only downside is they do smell of sheep, quite strongly, not something that bothers me especially if they work.

After a lovely Autumn day it’s on with a nice chunky cardigan and time to snuggle up on the sofa.

x

No shortage of tomatoes

Well, I’m really just down to my last tomatoes in the garden which are green which I think I will probably pick and decide what to do with over the next few days, either chutney or ripen them indoors.

The last of the ripe tomatoes are done really, I decided to try drying them and after a couple of goes, this is what I found worked for me. It is one of those jobs where it helps if you are not going out all day, at home pottering around.

Put the oven on at about 100 oC, nice and low.

DSCF4460Cut a “v” to remove the centre.

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I have a very useful non stick baking sheet, cost about £5 and gets used loads in our house, I placed this on a wire rack on a baking try. I sprinkled the tomatoes with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

This is where a good deal of patience helps. dry them for 10-12 hours!

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You need to open the oven every now and again to release steam/moisture. What I would do is shut a knife in the door every couple of hours for about 10-20 mins to allow the moisture to release.

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Turn the tomatoes over about half way through.

After a lot of patience, this is how they looked, the smell going through the house is amazing!

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Then I just placed them in a sterilised jar and poured olive oil on top and stored them in a dark place.

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In the garden, I am fighting a seemingly losing battle with the slugs and snails. What lifts my spirits is the sight of the flowers still hanging in there. I took these photos in the week.

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This sunflower looked particularly pretty.

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I never get tired of the cosmos.

Both sets of flowers have still got a good deal of bees hanging about so that’s a good thing. The squirrels are starting to attack the sunflowers but we’ve had a good run this year.

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Thanks for following and dropping by, it’s nice to have you around.

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Some dry and warm weather? Yes please!!!!

Bliss!

I spent a lot of Sunday in the garden sorting, tidying, potting, weeding, relocating…….

Yes, it was a busy day and a much-needed day for both me and the garden.

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This bed has some radish, pak choi and carrots in but the slugs and snails have been running amok. They are oblivious to the coffee grinds and eggshells so I’ve pulled out the big guns and taped around with copper tape. This was the cheapest I’ve seen it at £2.97 for 4m from B & Q. I’ve found in the past it can be quite effective. Once my pumpkin has ripened, my plan is to put the large grow house over the bed and see what happens.

Where there is any bare earth, I’ve started sowing green manure. I’m really going to work on getting my soil much more fertile for next year, although many things have been productive the leaves of the plants are telling me I need to up my game with my soil quality. When I’ve got productive plants and vibrant green leaves, I will be a happy gardener.

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Bob the apple tree is now in a bigger pot, he’s a couple of years old and I felt he needed it, his apples we pretty miniscule this year.

The fig I bought earlier in the year is thriving.

A lot of what I was trying to do on Sunday was about getting plants into their Autumn/Winter position, places where they can get whatever sun is on offer or are more protected from the elements. I suppose this is one of the up sides of container gardening, being able to shift things around.

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I’ve planted more alliums and a few anemones.

This jostaberry is on its final warning. In the three years we’ve had it, nothing has happened other than a bad case of sawfly. I have now given it a bigger pot, a good dose of potash and a new position. A few berries in return is not too much to ask for.

There is still plenty to do and the fine weather should help.

Hope it’s good wherever you are.

x

Time is not on my side

We’ve been smashing through milestones in our house this past week with my youngest turning 11 and then we’ve had to start the laborious process of looking at secondary schools. A little bit daunting to say the least.

It has been hard to seek sanctuary in the garden with the rain never being too far away but I managed an hour or so today.

We’ve had so much rain that the tomatoes were splitting all over the garden.

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So I spent my time collecting and salvaging what I could. I’ve still got a few plants that are ok, where the drainage is good so we will still be harvesting for a while longer, weather permitting. Other than that, tomorrow shall be spent preserving.

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I’m very proud of this aubergine, the biggest of 5 that are growing

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And my Reubens peppers are lovely but they should be for all the attention I’ve been lavishing on them bringing them in at night and chasing the sun by day..

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I’ve sown some wild garlic but as it is apparently quite invasive, I’ve done this in a pot in one of the beds.

Summer is just a memory and Autumn has made its presence felt. I’ve never been more aware of the changing seasons since I started gardening, oh and turning 40.

It’s almost 8pm and it is dark. A few weeks ago and I would still have been mooching around the garden at this time. Ho hum.

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Squeezing in some late sowings

When we were away, one of my biggest worries was that the sunflowers would die. They are my pride and joy. Thankfully my neighbour ensured they were fine.

We’ve had no squirrels attacks, my theory is they are just baffled by the sheer number of flowers and don’t know where to start! As the petals begin to fall, I cut the head off (which is a stretch as I’m not that tall) and I’m drying them out for the birds in winter.

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I’ve had a bit of a pea nightmare this year. We’ve only had a few good pods and the plants have gone all mildewy. From what I’ve been able to find out it occurs because the roots are too dry. I had been concerned I was overwatering so it looks like I got it wrong. I will try again in the spring and I may have to look at different varieties.

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So, I’ve pulled up the peas and sown a cheeky late sowing of Adelaide carrots. Also a sowing of bok choi has gone in a space where I pulled up a courgette plant that had come to the end of its usefulness.

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Just some of the huge harvest of tomatoes awaiting us when we got home.

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Courgettes!

 I am currently in a race against time to get my peppers to ripen. These have been a great success, Reubens peppers (I would definitely  recommend) and they’ve produced a surprising amount considering the size pot they are in. The problem is, they are under attack from snails that seem to be partial to the part where the stem meets the pepper (I’m sure there’s a technical term but I’m not aware of it at this time of night). The more I think on it the more likely it is that I will go and bring them inside after I finish here.

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My cosmos is finally budding and here’s the first one on the verge of unfurling today.

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Now I think I will go and rescue those peppers.

x

Tomato glut

Being a family of 4, rather unsurprisingly after having planted out 13 tomato plants (yes, I know!) we have a glut of tomatoes. It’s exactly what I had hoped for.

My 15 year old son is a big fan of the little sweet toms so we do get through a fair few off those and what we aren’t eating with meals or by just me when I’m grazing, my aim has always been to turn them into chutneys and the like.

This is what I spent Tuesday doing.

This recipe is loosely based in a recipe from a Thomasina Miers book, I have tweaked it a little bit to suit what I had available. It is actually for a chipotle ketchup which has a chipotle en dobe as its base, this is made up of 65 chillies which I don’t have. This is what I used and how I did it

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion

10 cloves garlic

3 lb ripe tomatoes

250 ml cider vinegar

140g dark muscovado sugar

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon ground mace

i cinnamon stick

4 bay leaves

4 teaspoon coriander seeds

4 teaspoons black peppercorns

4 bay leaves

5 large chillies

1 teaspoon salt

DSCF4466I halved the tomatoes, roughly chopped the onion, bashed the garlic just enough to a release the flavour, pierced the chillis with a sharp knife and put all this in a baking tray with the olive oil. Oven at 180oC/350oF/gas 4 for about an hour.

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All the other ingredients went into a large saucepan to which I added the roasted tomato mixture. Simmered for about an hour.

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I then removed the ketchup from the heat and puréed it and then passed it through a sieve back into a saucepan to cook until thickened. Pour into sterilised jars/bottles. Store in a cool dark place and it should keep for a good few months. I ended up with an extra small jar which we’ve already opened and finished, it has a lot of flavour at the moment and a gentle kick. I think a month or so and it will mature into something really yum.

I’m very much a novice at this whole preserving food lark but it’s like you find yourself telling kids, practice makes perfect. The more I’ve worked on different recipes, the more I’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t. Even mistakes are a learning experience.

Something I’m aware of is that timings in recipes are a subjective thing, experience and your gut should also play a part.

thanks for listening

x

Hoping for the best but fearing the worst

When we left for our holiday last Saturday, the cat was packed off to a cattery and I’d done all I could to prepare the garden for us not to be around.

By Sunday evening I was suffering from separation anxiety! I had one eye on the forecast and not a drop of rain was on the cards for the London area. I texted our neighbour and asked her if she could give our garden a spray when she was doing hers. I didn’t hear back from her. I spent the holiday trying to set aside all worries about the garden.

When we arrived back yesterday afternoon, my stomach was full of butterflies, I just did not know what to expect but had resigned myself to the fact that it would be bad. I needn’t have worried. When she couldn’t get her hose pipe to work, she climbed over our fence and watered diligently. I am beyond chuffed and so grateful. I’ll update on the garden in a day or two after I’ve settled back, ploughed through some of the washing and ironing,  caught up on reading blogs and so on…..

We spent our week in Somerset, near Burnham on Sea in a lodge on a farm. If I share some photos, I can write less.

The view from our kitchen window

The view from our kitchen window

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle

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Dunster village

Dunster village

 

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Cheddar Gorge

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The caves were amazing but when we climbed up outside, we just sat for ages. All we could do was sit and try and take it all in.

Somerset is just such a beautiful part of the country. What I noticed as we drove from place to place was lots of apple trees. Of course Somerset is known for its cider but to see orchards and trees in people’s gardens heavy with apples was something I really enjoyed. I would recommend Somerset to anyone.

Oh well, back to normality.

x

Butterflies and busyness

I’ve been busy with the kids some have had to grab a little time here and there each day to keep on top of things and generally get an idea of jobs I need to do.

I’ve cut back the strawberry plants quite hard and cleared weeds and waste.

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Planted up, the Mexican tree spinach and Aquilegia.

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I always pile up cuttings and leave them for a day or two, it gives any bugs the opportunity to crawl away and find new homes.

It’s been nice to get out with the kids and enjoy places like the Wetlands in Barnes and the Olympic Park at Stratford. Here this caterpillar was crawling on Leah’s shoe as we ate out picnic under a tree.

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A second dive bombed Chris which was amusing to everyone but him.

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I’ve never seen anything like it and I haven’t been able to identify it so if anyone out there knows what it could be I would love to know.

One I have been able to identify is I think a Meadow Brown which was in our garden a few mornings ago and kindly stayed for long enough for me to get a fair few photos.

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I was thrilled to have it land on me and stay for several minutes.

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Summer is coming to an end but there is still plenty growing and plans to make for Autumn and beyond.  It’s a nice feeling. Contentment.

x

Out and about

On Friday, we hopped on a train to London Bridge where just across the way is Borough Market. It’s a great place, good location, a little bit pricey and always very busy but great to mooch around and take in the sights and smells.

They seem to have made lots of changes but the main thing that got my interest was what seemed to be an area where you could go and eat. They have planted olive trees in large seating, pillars with pots running up them and hops growing up cables. So great to see in the middle of London, just shows a little of what can be achieved.

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I apologise for the less than great photos, not my usual camera and the kids were stood rolling their eyes impatiently at me as if to say “Mum’s at it again” so this was the best I could get.

Well, not only does it look great but it seems they are working alongside local school children who have been involved in the planting and are learning about growing stuff and market life. Brilliant!

Have a good Sunday.

x

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