Three Things Thursday: 11 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, tomato futures. The limery provides such great growing conditions that my first tomatoes are appearing already. I see lots of passata in my future!

Heritage tomato: Veepro Paste

Second, potting-up. Every day now I am spending a bit of time potting up plants: lemongrass, peppers, melons and summer purple sprouting broccoli in the past few days. There are also seeds to be planted and surplus plants to be given away.

Third, working from home. Almost all my work these days is done from home. It means there’s no commute and no dress code, but best of all, it means I can intersperse my day with coffee, homemade biscuits and crochet in the limery.

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So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

Sowing and growing

Life is flourishing in the limery. Seeds that were sown a few weeks ago are developing  nicely into young plants – lettuces, tomatoes, sweet peppers and melons:

I sowed more seeds over the past few days, including the first ones outside. The latter is a pea variety called “Carouby de Maussane”, a mange tout with red flowers that is going to grow up the pea obelisk that Mr Snail created (I think most people use them for sweet peas, but I prefer to grow edibles). A few days of sunshine has given me the chance to weed one of the raised beds and that’s where the peas are.

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only planted yesterday, so no germination yet

 

Unfortunately one of the things that is flourishing in the limery is the cluster-fly population. I really don’t want to use chemical pesticides, but the flies have arrived before the carnivorous plants are doing their stuff. However, the recent sunshine has encouraged pitcher growth and so I’m hoping that soon the Sarracenias will be munching their way through the flies. I grew some from seed last year, so I’m especially pleased to see one of the youngsters producing a vigorous pitcher already. The sundews are also showing signs of growth; in particular the Drosera dicotoma looks like it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future (I think of it as living fly-paper). The Venus fly traps are growing too, but never really earn their keep apart from providing interest!

Amongst my favourite seeds to plant are the squashes, but I’m hanging on for a few more days so they don’t get too big before it’s warm enough to plant them out. And then there’s beans and borage and all sorts of herbs…

Investing in the future

Today I planted the first seeds of the year.

  • Two types of chillies: Pyramid and Romanian Yellow
  • Two types of sweet pepper: Corno di Torro Rosso and Sprinter
  • Two types of tomato: San Marzano and Veepro Paste

They are in the propagator and I have my fingers crossed for fabulous harvests in the limery again this year.

The labels are made from old milk cartons and are in their second or third year of use; the modules and pots I’ve owned for years; and the compost is made in England from wool and bracken.

When the rest of the world gets me down, sowing seeds always brings a smile to my face.

And finally…

The limery has done us proud all year – from seeds sown in the propagator in January to the great abundance of peppers through the summer. Currently there’s a pot of rosemary flowering in there, although we’re a bit short of pollinators, and the passion flower vine is putting on plenty of new growth.

However, the most amazing thing may be that today, 20 December, I harvested these:

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Freshly picked today

 

That’s right – tomatoes still ripening on the plant in the depths of winter. From these I will be able to make winter solstice passata!

Three Things Thursday: 17 November 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Ms Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds (note her new blog) and others for Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, African flowers. I’m very fond of this granny square pattern and I’m greatly enjoying making these for my latest Sixty Million Trebles blanket; they are also using up lots of oddments.

Second, the magic of putting green tomatoes in a box with apples and them coming out ripe a couple of weeks later. I hate green tomato chutney, so turning green tomatoes red at this time of the year means they will actually get used; indeed the ones from the box are those pictured in the roasting dish, which is currently in the oven.

Third, Sugru. This magic creation has saved many items in our household from the dustbin. This week I’ve made a fourth mend (the one in pink) to my favourite headphones. Obviously, it would be better if such things were built to last, but since that is not the case, Sugru will always have a place in our house.

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Can you spot all four mends?

 

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Forward thinking

This is a time of abundance – tomatoes are ripening every day, there’s the last flurry of courgettes, squashes need picking and there’s the potatoes to harvest. Indeed, as I was digging up potatoes this morning I thought about my successes this year and my failures, and I have come to the conclusion that I need to change my attitude in the garden. You see, my problem is that I am easily seduced.

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Some of this week’s harvest that we will definitely enjoy

No, not like THAT… I am seduced by seed catalogues! I read the descriptions of interesting crops and I fall for the marketing. I’ve got better over the years at resisting, but I still succumb sometimes. There are several vegetables that I love the idea of growing even though I know that there are good reasons not to – because only one of us likes them, or because they need lots of care, or because they’re  not something that thrives in our area, or just because they don’t really come out well in a cost benefit analysis (for example, space versus yield). Broad beans are good example: yes I like the flowers and the young beans are nice, but I don’t like them when they get old plus they take up lots of space for a relatively small crop… they also tend to get blackfly.

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Ready for soup-making

When you only have a limited amount of space, it’s essential to prioritise, and so that’s what I’m going to do next year. I’ve been thinking about the things that I really like growing and that I’m successful with. So next year we’ll continue to grow peppers, chillies, tomatoes and melons in the limery (I may even be tempted to try something new), but in the garden I’m going to focus on potatoes, courgettes, squashes, kale, lettuce and other salad leaves, broccoli, mange tout and climbing French beans. These are all crops that I know we will eat and enjoy and that, where appropriate, I have reliable ways of preserving. I’ll also carry on growing various fresh herbs and nurturing the soft fruit.

This afternoon I will be making Mulligatawny soup for the freezer, using courgettes, potato and tomatoes that I harvested this morning. I’ll also be planting some winter lettuce seeds and I will be collecting seeds from the French beans to sow next year. And later in the winter when I’m being tempted, I’ll come back to this post and remind myself of my priorities!

Three Things Thursday: 1 September 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, chickens – happy and behaving naturally. Specifically the fact that this:

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Feathers!

is because of this:

Moulty Bluebell

Moulty Bluebell

not because of a fox or other predator. This is quite an early moult, but it’s good because the weather is still pleasant, so she’s not shivering or drenched (yet). As you can see the two new girls are also doing well; they are both laying almost every day… so I’m grateful for their eggs too.

Second, crafty activities. I spent the whole of Sunday sewing, crocheting, paper-crafting and generally being creative. I’ll write a whole post dedicated to some of the sewing sometime in the future, so here is an example of some paper-craft:

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Mr Snail’s birthday card

Third, tomatoes. For many years I have found it impossible to grow tomatoes. Every year in our old greenhouse I got only a tiny crop before the plants succumbed to Botrytis mould. This year is the first full growing season for the limery, and I’m delighted to report it’s turned the tide and I can now produce my own tomatoes – hurrah!

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

 

Preservation, preservation, preservation

It’s that time of the year again when produce is abundant – both in the garden and on the market – and so my mind turns to preserving it for those future lean times.

As a result I had two main jobs this morning: first a visit to the Friday fruit and veg market and then cleaning the family preserving pan. The shopping trip can only be done on a Friday, so I had to miss going swimming. They set up in Newcastle Emlyn early, so I left home at 7am in order to make sure I got there before what I wanted had sold out. I arrived before 7:30 and started selecting my bulk purchases. I returned home through the early-morning mist with two large trays of tomatoes, two trays of nectarines and a bag of 20 peaches. I will return for more produce in a week or two (when, hopefully they will have plum tomatoes like last year and trays of peaches), but what I bought will keep me busy for a little while.

And so to the next task. All this preserving – passata, bottled peaches, nectarine purée – will be greatly facilitated by my second preserving pan. However, having spent several years in my mother’s barn, it needed a little cleaning. A quick internet search suggested that brass could be cleaned quite easily using a mixture of white vinegar (half a cup), salt (one teaspoon) and flour (enough to make it into a paste). All you do is dissolve the salt in the vinegar, add enough flour to get a spreadable consistency, smear the paste on your brass, leave for 10 minutes and then wipe/rinse off and dry. And I’m pleased to say, it worked. I did the inside of the pan twice and the outside once… and if it was for decoration I might do it again, but for my purposes, it looks good and was very easy – no elbow grease required!

So now, there are tomatoes roasting in the oven and for the rest of the weekend I will be getting sticky with peaches, nectarines and sugar syrup.

There will be no green tomato chutney

The basic message over the years has been: It doesn’t matter how many of you tell me it’s lovely – I simply do not like green tomato chutney! Honestly, it’s a waste of time and ingredients me making it when I know it will only go to waste. It’s better for the chickens to have any unripe tomatoes than for me to make them into chutney.

And this year? There will be no green tomato chutney; not only because I don’t like it, but because there will be no green tomatoes! The limery is still providing a productive growing space – chillies  are going red or yellow, according to variety, courgettes are blooming and producing fruit, peppers, although growing slowly, are still being productive, the red banana passion fruit vine is reaching for the skies and the tomatoes are ripening.

It astonishes me that, despite the delay in starting growing in the limery (it wasn’t completed until July), we have harvested so much and will continue to do so into November. I can’t wait to see what’s possible next year with a full growing season!

In the green

I know that you are probably sick of seeing pictures of the limery, but it was so long coming, that I still can’t quite believe it’s complete and that the plants in there are growing so well. There are now tomatoes, peppers and chillies fruiting (although all green) and the passionflower has put on about 20 cm in height since it arrived.

I promise to stop obsessing about it eventually, but it is making me SO happy right now!

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