Welcome to our plot!

I'm Hazel, and in Nov 2006 my friend Jane and I took on a half plot at Hill Allotments, Sutton Coldfield - we want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own fruit and veg, and to improve our diet (and fitness!).

This is the story of what happened next...........

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Danger ... apprentice Domestic Goddess at work!

It has been such a grey week – not really cold, but really rather wet, & just so dull & dark. Mind you, it is January, I suppose.

With the plot tucked up for the winter, the only jobs that are on my mind are pruning the gooseberry bushes (a vile job as they are FULL of thorns!) & ‘doing something’ with the raspberry canes that have popped up by the compost bin.

The weather not being conducive to these outdoor jobs, I turned to more ‘homely pursuits’, the first being to bottle the wine. After it had finished doing it’s fermenting, I added the sachet of ‘wine stopper’ to stabilise it, then 3 different grades of finings in order to settle all the bits out of it.

Then came bottling which was reasonably successful in that I only lost perhaps a glass – or maybe two – in the siphoning, but spillages were easily mopped up leaving me with a fruity smelling kitchen & a mental note to buy a siphon with a tap on the end for next time.

Five bottles are now upstairs out of the way to mature for a month or two, with a part bottle being left to drink – & very acceptable it is too. I'm sure it would have been fine without that extra slosh of sugar – but it tastes ok, it’s clear & is most definitely alcoholic, so I’ve won overall there, I think!

Buoyed up with this success, I bought 3 Seville oranges, a lemon & some sugar & devoted a great deal of Saturday to making orange marmalade. I soon found a system for slicing the peel, & though quite a long job, it was very satisfying. The simmering the peel bit was easy peasy, but the getting a set point not so.

I used the jam thermometer & when it got to the right temperature I started testing for a set – it took about 20 minutes to look about right, & even so, having potted it (jam funnel – best investment EVER!) it is what could charitably be called ‘soft’, so I’ve not cracked that bit yet. Mind you it is THE orangeiest orange marmalade that I’ve ever tasted!

That excitement over, between the almost constant rain I did find a drier spell to go to the Hill to dig another huge PARSNIP (white gem) & to pull a couple of LEEKS (mrs D). I think that I’ve finally given up on the CARROTS (autumn king) – a dug a dozen up & have had one useable portion to eat for dinner tonight. I dug over half of the carrot patch before the rain started down again & I called it a day.

That was not the only produce of my own in the cook pot this week – I bought a pound of venison from the farmer’s market on Friday, & thinking that it might be rather a strong taste, I thought I’d make it go further with some of my own BEANS – so I included a handful each of black turtle, barlotti & blue lake) which resulted in a very tasty casserole - and it went into seven portions too - there's economy!

….and finally, in preparation for all that lovely seed sowing, I saw this little bargain in Woolworths – a half price mini greenhouse! And armed with the knowledge that so many people have been disappointed with them blowing over, I’ve strapped it to the garage wall, & weighed down the bottom with a big bag of compost. That is staying exactly where it’s put!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Not Parsnips AGAIN....!

Straight after New Year we’ve had a VERY COLD SNAP – not still & frosty so much as wind chill of minus-quite-a-lot & snow in some areas. It all warmed up a bit by the weekend, though, so I took the opportunity to go to the Hill & finish digging in the green manure (plot D legumes this year).

The ground it still soft so I did the digging row by row standing on a plank. I’ve perfected the technique from last week, so there are fewer stray green bits still on top of the soil!

I saw Chrissie Best Newcomer from further up, her back half plot is adjacent to the hawthorn hedge so she was busy knocking that into order. I foisted a parsnip onto her, & she said that I must have some lime off her, which means I won’t have to buy any from Wilko. Hurrah!

Looking at the parsnips, I think that we’ve eaten about a third of them – I had parsnip soup again this week – so the sooner I can get myself organised for parsnip wine, the better.

I’ve bought a Wilko all-in-one wine kit in order for me to familiarise myself with the principles involved. You brew it all in a bucket (rather than a demijohn) which I would not have thought ideal, & the whole lot is supposed to be ready in a week. Not Chateau Neuf de Pape then.

After 6 days it has stopped ‘working’ & when I tested it this afternoon it had a specific gravity of less than one – which means (I think) that it is absolutely dry as a bone. In order to stop my mouth shrinking to the size of a drawing pin when I drink it, I’ve ‘meddled’ with the bucket & added a little more sugar. Having consulted C J J Berry, I figured that it may reactivate the yeast & get it fermenting some more, or at the very worst it might sweeten the wine slightly. If it’s got no more ‘fizz’ tomorrow I’ll continue the process of emptying sachet ‘this’ & stirring finings ‘that’ into the mix & then give it a first siphoning & give it a taste!

Although the weather is dull, the seed catalogues abound, so I’ve had a sort through the seed box & put a load of seeds up for grabs on the GYO grapevine forum, & today I have spent a happy afternoon addressing envelopes & packaging up seeds for sending out in the post tomorrow.
I’ve been the recipient of some tasty sounding seeds too – particularly some squash seeds from Nevi in the Netherlands, & some interesting tomatoes & peppers from Manda in Wiltshire. The seeds from the Heritage Seed Library have also arrived - all from my 'first choice' list too.

One of last year’s less successful areas was the ‘everything else’ crops, & I want to make an effort to do better at these this year! The obvious problem was with blight on the tomatoes, of course, which everyone seemed to be struck with, but the squash went in far too late, & given that I also want to grow peppers & cucumber this year, I need to pay a bit more attention to what day of the week it is, as it were!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...