Making the most of our summer holidays

I wanted to post daily whilst on my summer holidays (time off, not actually away anywhere) but life doesn’t always link in with what we plan.  We have had a lovely few days since I last posted.  We’ve had family days out, picnics, fun, sea, sand, dogs, friends and then at home, more weeding, fixing, cooking, baking, animals and general playing.

This bed took a lot of fixing, actually it was pretty much all replaced.  We decided to do it properly and buy new boards, then putting the yellow pipes in place which will allow me to put the mesh, fleece or net over them once we start again.  The intention is to do this for all of the beds and eventually we will get cages around the fruit too.

 
I weeded it and then Ste took over.

 
He did his thing and this is the end result.

 
Although some things haven’t worked this growing year, others have.  This squash has doubled in size since I started my holidays.  These photos were taken a week apart.

 
I spotted some courgettes that had gone unnoticed, so they will be going into a chutney maybe.  Any others ideas welcome.
 

This golden zucchini has been a staple of our summer – they are delicious.

 
I harvested the tomatoes which are ripening thick and fast now.  I’ll be doing something with these tomorrow when my son has his friend over for the afternoon.  I’ll need to be close to them but not in the same room, so a cooking afternoon it is.

 
The piquant peppers are a funny old shape, but are starting to turn in colour.  A slight red tinge on the top there.
 
 
We have also managed to cure and dry our bacon.  It’s tiny but it’s ours.  The pigs were so lean that we ended up with bacon medallions, but my word were they tasty.  They also didn’t shrink when we cooked them. 

 
We went to Whitby which is just over an hour from our place.  We took the kids and a friend of Grace’s, plus the dogs.  Buster laid in my footwell in what looked like a very awkward position but he obviously liked it.  Rodney was sat with the kids, very proudly too.
 
 
 
In Whitby, I treat myself to 4 new mugs, one of which has an allotment theme to it which made me smile.  Perfect.

 
There is a Millbry Hill, agricultural store, near Whitby so I popped in and bought the little pony a fly rug as the flies are awful here and he’s been plagued by them.  He looks a bit scary with that and a fly mask on, but it’s worth it until the season is over.
 
 
I’ve been making lots and lots of home made food and really got my mojo back there.  I’m enjoying it so much.  Bramble and apple crumble….delicious.
 

The onions have dried out nicely and are ready to hang.  I practiced plaiting on the ones I lifted in the Spring/early summer.

 
I’m pleased with how they turned out.
 
 
I also harvested a giant swede!

 
And plenty of other things.

We’ve had scotch pancakes for breakfast along with our own bacon and bread.  What treats!

 
Its our last day of the holidays for Ste and I tomorrow and the kids are back to school on Friday here.  So back to it.  I’m feeling organised though, everything is done that I wanted to be done in time to go back.  I’ve a list to get through tomorrow, including picking more brambles !
 
 

Day 3 – baking and veg plot updates

When I was at work, everyone was asking me where I am going for my fortnight off.  Of course, we enjoy a break as much as the next person but we’re not going abroad this time (we are later in the year though, I’m not averse to it).  However what I do want to use these 2 weeks for is a combination of things.  Firstly to spend plenty of time with Ste and the kids doing things that they find fun and that do not cost the earth.  Secondly to get on top of the veg plot, greenhouse and polytunnel and house chores so that when I’m back to work, it’s more of ‘maintaining’ than ‘drowning’.  Included in the house thoughts is cooking for the freezer. We do have some space left in there, not much seen as though they are all full of meat.  However I’ll make sure they are stacked well and there’s plenty of home made produce in there for go-to meals.
Today started off as always feeding the animals and checking everything is present and correct.  The dogs came with me.  They love that I am off work.  Then back in for crumpets and a cup of tea before heading out with the kids and dogs to the feed shop as we needed more layers pellets and corn.  We were back and sorted by 9:15.  The kids offered to help out for an hour by tidying their rooms with the view to spend time after lunch doing the craft things they have both been waiting for.  They did a great job so I am pleased.  Making a start on cooking for the freezer, first up was a lemon drizzle traybake a-la Mary Berry.  I had all of the ingredients in, including the lemons thankfully.  It took no time at all to prepare.  It’s a throw it all in recipe, which suits my lifestyle 100%.

 

It turned out really well so I am adding it (and the cookies I made yesterday) to my batch bake list as the kids loved it as you can see!

In the veg plot, I have a million and one things to do.  I decided the best way to go about it is one bed at a time, finish it and move on.  Sounds obvious but when you get out there it’s hard not to start something and move on before you finish as something always catches your eye and before you know it the day is over.

So today I lifted the onions from Bed 1.  These have been brilliant, great size, didn’t go to seed and every single one came up so as long as the taste isn’t too bad then we will stick with these each year.  If it’s not broken then don’t fix it.  They are Sturon an Garnet (sets).  The bed was full of weeds in between the onions, they’ve been crazy after all this rain.

However I am really pleased with the results.  They’re all drying out head down which my neighbour told me to do.  We’re due a really heavy down pour tonight so they’ll get a wash and tomorrow is supposed to be lovely so they should dry out nicely before being taken into the barn.

I also tidied up the swiss chard as it was taking over, despite us using it regularly.  I’ll definitely be growing this every year, it is so versatile. 

Also the chickens love it so they got all the of bits that I tidied up.

So that’s 2 of the beds weeded and tidied up.  Although I didn’t start on the other beds, I noticed a few squashes coming along nicely which made me very happy.  I’d missed a couple of courgettes whilst I’d been so busy at work too, so I roasted them tonight for tea.

I’m really pleased as we had a free, home raised meal tonight.  It was pork burger (with chilli) in a homemade roll, cucumber and tomatoes, roasted courgettes, red onion and pepper with steamed Athlete potatoes.  It was delicious however a talking point was I’d thought the peppers were peppers when in fact they were chillis, ooops…..Burgers aren’t something I ate until this week – but these are too nice!

I also made a couple of loaves of bread for the freezer and I will continue to so we have them ready to just take out.

We then went out bramble picking for the first time this year and got a great haul which I will preserve with tomorrow as it was a bit late tonight after a busy day.

 
Another couple of photos from today that I took as they caught my eye and I’d like them to look back on for August memories.
 

 

Monday night preserves – Christmas spiced red cabbage and home grown chicken

When I think of preserving, my thoughts don’t always lend themselves straight to the freezer which is crazy really as it’s one of today’s modern options for preserving our harvests.  This week we have switched on the new (to us) chest freezer that we were given, as we will shortly have the pigs to fill it.  It seems to be working fine thankfully, got to love a freebie.
So that got me thinking and when I wandered round the veg plot the other morning I noticed every single red cabbage was doing great and they would need harvesting very soon.
So for my Monday preserve, I decided to trial a Christmas cabbage recipe as those of you who were hear last year know I love red cabbage at Christmas!  It freezes amazingly and tastes even better afterward in my opinion.
This new recipe from BBC Good Food which is Spiced red cabbage.

I’ve used 2 heads of cabbage for this recipe as mine came in short of the kilo that it recommended, but not far off.  I also used 2 red onions of my own, very satisfying feeling.  Don’t the cabbages look pretty?

Method taken from BBC Good Food.
Sweat 2 onions and add the zest of an orange and a cinnamon stick after 5 mins.  Give them a minute to fuse and then add the cabbage (shredded and washed), 150ml port and a dash of red wine vinegar.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for up to an hour.  It looked delicious!
 
We also dispatched our first Ross Cobb chicken at the weekend which was to see how big it was based on it’s current age (9 weeks).  We’re wanting to slow grow them but trial and error as to when they would be ready.  Well it surprised both of us, already weighing in as a table ready bird of 1.8kg.  I’m really pleased as this is a milestone for us, meaning we will never have to buy shop bought chicken again! 
For those who are interested we also did a cockerel, but he will be as tough as old boots I think (weighed in at 3kg, a Rhode Island Red) and we did them using our new area set up specifically for working on the poultry.  As this is a preserving post and to avoid upsetting people just looking for preserving info, I’ll post about that in another post later this week.
So our freezers are now starting to fill up nicely for the leaner growing months ahead.  We’re one step further onto the path of self sufficiency (long it may be!).

Photos of our harvest and growing update – we’re in full swing!

I thought I’d take a snap shot of some of the things going on in the veg garden and veg plot. It’s that really busy time of year when you don’t really know if you or the weeds are in charge. One thing I wanted this year was more potatoes and so far, so good. We’re harvesting the first earlies (swift variety) when we need them and the growing space is being turned over to squash, courgettes and the like. They are beautiful and I’m very impressed.

These salad blue variety, my ‘out there’ choice of the year are starting to flower and their flowers are blue too! They look lovely against the green leaves.
The bags were disappointing. Hardly a meal from 3 seed potatoes. Next year I’m trying a different method.
The tomatoes seem to be doing well though I’m worried no more flowers are appearing on those with fruit on already. 
There’s Jersey Devil for preserving 
Marmande for BBQ burgers!
Tigrella 
My outdoor variety
The aubergine is flowering
The cucumbers are too – I didn’t appreciate how tall cucumbers grew!
At the weekend we harvested our first broad beans, more courgettes (first green), a yellow scallop, out first large tomato and a few strawberries.  I took a mental note to go back and check for more strawberries, which we did last night.
Boy we were not disappointed.  We stopped picking when the trug was overflowing and it help 4 kilograms!
 
Remember my skeletal brassicas?  Well they seem to be fighting back.  Despite the lack of leaves, we have some broccoli heads forming which may be stunted but I will take anything given I thought we have lost the lot.  They’re all coming at the same time despite planting a couple of weeks apart.  I’ll freeze them, as some seem to be wanting to go to seed.

 Grace is on nightly caterpillar watch and if you look closely you can see how many she took off just 1 plant.  Speaking of which my PSB is ready already!!  I only planted it this year so I am thrown and slightly concerned I won’t have any next year now.
Next year I am going to net and enviromesh the lot but it is a lot of money to fork out at once.
This is my bean bed.  Climbing beans in here, with more to go in and I’ll risk some direct sowing too.
I have also sown some more spring onions as I lost the first lot.  Plus I’ve some cauliflowers in, these are the all year round variety.  I’m not sure if we will manage to get any now, but we can try.

 All the rain we had followed by the heat wave has sent everything in to growing overdrive, this lettuce is nearly as big as the kids!

 The sunflowers are starting to open

More than anything, it’s been too hot to work in it for too long, so we’ve taken some time out to sit and enjoy the rays every now any again.  Although, when I looked up and saw this, it did make me chuckle.  My daughter getting a Frisbee out of the bush whilst Ste had 40 winks!