Archive for July, 2011

We’re off camping at the weekend for a few days for the first time for….ahem…..a number of years.  Bought a tent at weekend, so thought we’d better test it out by pitching it in the back garden and sleeping in it overnight. The hens seemed most amused by our efforts and, at dusk, it was lovely sitting in the tent and watching them hop up the steps into their hen house.

Well, apart from being disturbed by our own dogs play-fighting in their run, it was a peaceful and comfortable night, and it’s a cracking little tent, easy to put up and take down.  (Miraculously – we even managed to get it back in the bag it came in!)


Confirmation of our site booking arrived in the post this morning, so we’re all systems go.  Can’t wait.  Sunny Exmoor here we come! 😉


The garden is really starting to get properly productive now – lots of potatoes, onions, and plums, and we’re starting to use the parsnips and carrots now – though I fear the carrots will be mainly consumed by the ponies given they are all coming out as comedy shapes!  Clearly I was a bit ambitious with the new raised beds this year and should have worked the soil a bit more before expecting the carrots to cope.  Sure they’ll be better next year now the soil has been broken up and the manure sufficiently broken down and mixed in.  The parsnips are variable – some coming out a little stunted, and some fabulously straight perfect specimens – it’s just tricky to tell which is likely to be which from the stems when you’re trying to decide which to pull!

The broccoli is a bit of a disappointment – think it’s just going to go to seed.  This either means it’s not getting enough water or nutrients (which I can’t believe given the soil is incredibly good, and we had so much rain earlier) or else it’s just too hot (more likely).  Perhaps I should have gone for autumn sowing instead – so much for reading the info on the packet.  Another one to chalk up to experience.  Anyway, I’ve taken off all the flowers I can see in the hope that I can salvage some of the crop.

My next headache is to make use of the ground I’m now clearing as each crop comes to an end – this is the bit I’ve not really got the hang of yet.  Am so impressed by people who have small gardens which are really productive all year round – I have loads of space, but it’s all a bit boom or bust! 😉

On Countryfile this evening there was an item on the rise in the number of allergy sufferers in the UK – and they interviewed a specialist who said much of it can be put down to the fact that as children we are no longer exposed to so much dirt.  Absolutely!  A strike for common sense!  If your body is never exposed to dirt, how can it build up any immunity to anything?  I hope the manufacturers of all those bacteria-zapping hand cleaning products are taking note.  A bit of muck is good for you!  Get out there, get mucky, have fun, be healthy!  😉

Very satisfying meal last night – did a pork casserole, and ok, had to buy the pork (!) and I have to admit that the onion was the last of the shop bought ones, but the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas and spinach were all from the garden – and they were all delicious.

Especially pleased with the parsnips after my concern that they were all going to be stunted and misshaped owing to too much rich compost and manure in the raised beds.  Yes, some do look a little strange, but it looks like many of them will be fine.

And frankly, they were so tasty that I don’t much care if they’re not EU standard specimens! 😉

Poorly hen didn’t make it….she died yesterday, and we buried her in the garden, and I cried because I felt I’d been a bad mum and should have been more vigilant when she first started to look a bit peaky.  😦

On the upside, the family had lots of success at Newport Show in the various horticultural classes.  Particular mention must be made of my husband’s THREE first prize-winning photos – a personal best for him.  Strangely, the raspberry jam which we’d thought had turned out so well was unplaced, but the blackcurrant jam came second, so I was dead chuffed with that.  Generally, turn-out at the show was high, and the weather held, so we had a great day.  Well done to the organisers once again.

Another “up” was eating some more of our fresh produce this evening – with potatoes, peas and carrots all straight from garden to pot.  Extremely pleased with both my new potato patch and my raised beds.

Here are the peas (before and after!) and the potatoes…..


And some small but perfectly formed garlic!

The “down” is that one of the chucks is ill – she’s looking very sorry for herself.  Have isolated her from her friends (in case it’s something infectious, and also because I thought she might be better off in the quiet of the little hen house rather than the mayhem of the main run.  Thought she might be egg bound, so (following accepted wisdom in the matter) I sat her in a bowl of warm water for a bit to see if I could ease it for her, but didn’t seem to make much difference.  I’ve also bought some herbal pellets for treating internal parasites, just in case it’s something which might affect them all.  I’ve left some in her feed, but she’s off her food anyway. 

The “up” is that we’ve just been to set up our exhibits for tomorrow’s show.  Looks like they’ve had a really good number of entries this year – the whole Horticultural tent seemed much more packed than it has done in previous years.  Lots of excellent photo entries from the photographers in our family.  Plus some fruit.  Very pleased with the presentation of my jams – but of course, it’s the taste which is most important, so we’ll see what the judge’s comments are tomorrow afternoon!   Love this whole show – love the fact you can take part in some small way and be a part of it, but there’s always lots of other stuff to see too.

Perhaps while I’m there tomorrow I’ll be able to pick up a book on Chicken Husbandry!  Seems like I need one…  😦

For the last few days, each time I’ve gone to the hen house, I’ve walked past lots of tiny fallen yellow fruits lying in the grass.  For some reason I simply assumed they weren’t yet ripe and pretty much ignored them.  It was only today that my husband pointed out we ought to be using them.  We tried a couple and they were gorgeous – really sweet, like tiny peaches.  We googled them to see what they were and discovered they’re Yellow Cherry Plums, or Mirabelles.  And you can use them to make jam….

So I picked some, and tonight we’ve made several jars of very yellow jam!

It was a bit of a chore getting all the stones out of such tiny fruits, but well worth it to get such a rich looking mixture.  Let’s hope it tastes as delicious as it looks.  😉

Show Entry Jams!

Just finished the labels and lid cover decoration for the two jars of jam which are my entries for the Newport Show horticultural section.  Whether or not I can give the WI ladies a run for their money in the taste department, I’m determined mine will at least look the part!! 😉

Had time this afternoon to get into the garden at last and tackle the cauliflower situation – or what’s left of the cauliflower!  The few remaining plants have been reduced to stalks and the odd leaf, so action definitely required.  Haven’t got any spare netting at the mo, so tried a different tack – protection made from plastic bottles:

If it works, it’ll be doubly brilliant because not only will it be a free way to save the poor cauliflower plants, but it’s a good way of re-using the bottles (even better than recycling).  Gosh, I’m overflowing with eco self-righteousness!!  😉

After a long and tiring day at work, there’s nothing nicer than coming home to a meal which includes home-grown veg – this evening, we had the first of our peas, and they were gorgeous. 

The first of the potatoes are also now about ready for digging up – so that will be on the cards for sometime over the next few days.

Lettuce going great guns, as are the onions.  The parsnips are growing so strongly, the raised beds look like a forest!  I only hope the soil in the beds isn’t too rich for them. 

Cauliflower not doing so well – think it might need netting like the broccoli…blooming pigeons/slugs etc.  😦