Hanging out to dry

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snap!

There are some things in life that you don’t buy very often… not because they don’t get used, but simply because they don’t wear out very quickly. A particular example is clothes pegs (pins). It’s probably 20 years since I bought any new ones and at the time the problem of plastic waste did not occupy my mind, although I can remember cursing about my old plastic pegs breaking. I think I looked for wooden ones, but couldn’t easily find any and so bought a (plastic) basket of (plastic) pegs from Woolworths. The basket has long since disintegrated and I made a felt peg bag some years ago. Recently, however, there has been an outbreak of exploding pegs. The plastic is finally breaking down and I’ve been cut several times as a peg snaps whilst being squeezed to open it. Some pegs have even snapped whilst in place on the washing line – leading to even more cursing and some essential re-washing.

My very old wooden pegs (given to me by my mum about 30 years ago) are still going strong, although they probably need soaking in something to get them clean, as I think things may have started growing on them. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. So, a purchase was required. In this case I did not need to do any research because I knew exactly what I wanted. Years ago I read about a company in Scotland that was selling a product called K-pegs – strong metal pegs capable of holding washing on the line in the windiest of conditions. A little bit of hunting around and I found the company (Exquisite Scotland) and placed my order. They arrived a few days later and I have been very impressed. I’ve already tested them out in windy conditions and to secure a heavy mat and I’ve had no failures. There’s no plastic and they are easy to keep clean, so I think I am on to a winner…. and will probably never have to buy another peg again in my life. Oh, and wonderfully they arrived in re-used packaging… a company after my own heart.

My laundry issues did not stop there, however. I also have some plastic ‘smalls’ driers. I really like these because it means that when the inevitable rain comes, all those little things on the washing line can be brought in quickly and with minimum effort. Like the pegs, though, these elderly plastic items were starting to disintegrate. One was thrown out a few years ago and the remaining ones have started losing pegs and arms:

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gradually deteriorating

Replacing these took a little more research, but I found that several metal options are available. In the end I chose a version that does have plastic cables to suspend it, but that is mostly metal. The pegs are good and strong and, although the hook does not grip the washing line, the new K-pegs can be used to secure it.

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lots of pegs

So, I’m now all set for many years of hanging the washing on the line – no matter how windy it is.

All dried out

Yesterday I experimented with dehydrating as a way of preserving some of the great courgette mountain. I borrowed an electric dehydrator off my friend Linda so that I could test out the resulting produce and see whether it’s worth our while building a solar dehydrator of our own (i.e. one that does not use electricity).

I chose a sunny day to do the test because (a) the air was dry and (b) we were generating enough electricity from our solar panels to run the thing. I started by wiping and drying the courgettes, then sliced them by hand into thin pieces. I spread the slices carefully on the drying racks and switched the contraption on at about 10:20 in the morning. The temperature was set to 125°F/52°C, so it’s a fairly gentle process. Being new to all this, I checked how things were going every hour or so. It’s a slow business, but by about 8:00 in the evening they seemed to be ready. I allowed them to cool in the dehydrator and finally transferred them to clean Kilner jars. They taste very intensely courgetty to me and quite nice, but Mr Snail isn’t keen – he says that they taste like cucumber (which he doesn’t like).

The finished product

The finished product

I’m going to try re-hydrating some of them soon to determine whether the reconstituted product is good to use. If it is, I’ll do some more, otherwise it’s been an interesting experiment. I notice that sweet peppers are also supposed to be good for drying, and I might have a go at these if we get a big enough crop.

Have you had any successes with drying your own vegetables?

Hung out to dry

Socks and other things drying indoors

Two hobbies combined: knitted socks and gardening

It will not surprise you that I don’t have a tumble-drier. Environmentally they are not a great choice and even here in soggy Wales I mostly manage to dry my washing outside. Currently we are having to make do with hanging washing on the clothes horse as our rotary drier collapsed the other day. We always hang small items on a contraption involving spokes and pegs and this was in use, hanging from a curtain pole in the kitchen, the other day, providing a nice display of hand knitted socks when I realised its potential for another drying role.

January harvest from the unheated greenhouse

January harvest from the unheated greenhouse

Earlier in the day I had ventured out to our flooded greenhouse an picked the last (possibly) of the ripe chillies. It may have been wet this winter, but it has not been particularly cold, so many of the chilli plants have survived out in the unheated greenhouse. I picked the ripe fruits and wanted to dry the yellow lemon drops (the fat red one isn’t suitable for drying and I shall infuse some oil with it), so I tied them on a piece of string and hung them up with the socks! What a great way to display two of my hobbies.

Naked

This year I have been experimenting with growing pumpkins for seeds. My friend Deano (see his great blog over at The Sustainable Smallholding) kindly gave me some seeds earlier in the year. Originally, they were intended for High Bank, but various things got in the way, so I ended up growing some of them here,

Seeds out of the pumpkin

Seeds out of the pumpkin

The seeds are ‘naked’ and therefore can be consumed whole. Apparently the flesh of these pumpkins is not quite as tasty as others, but is still quite acceptable. I haven’t eaten any yet, so I can’t comment. The fruit were harvested last week and today I have removed the seeds from one of the small ones. It’s a bit of a fiddle to extract the seeds from the stringy interior, but nothing goes to waste as the ‘debris’ is popular with chickens.

Pumpkin seeds ready for drying

Pumpkin seeds ready for drying

I think, that a slightly more mature fruit would be easier to handle and the separation of the seeds would be more straightforward, but it didn’t take me too long to get a tray of seeds ready for drying. I intend to put them in the top of the oven once it’s been switched off but is still warm from cooking other things. Once dry, the seeds can be stored for later use – roasted and salted, fried or added to bread.

So, thanks to Perkin for the inspiration and to Deano for the seeds… let’s hope they taste good!

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