Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Life on the Weald (and in isolation) June 2020







Life on the Weald - and in isolation - June 2020

1st June: Duke of York - 1st Early Reds

The Duke of York first early potatoes, planted twelve weeks previously looked ready for lifting and I was not disappointed.  We lifted just a few and hopefully the rest will get larger as we pick just what we need.

They looked good and tasted good!

1st Early Duke of York

At home.the garden was coming into bloom with summer flowers and shrubs as we approached mid-summer.

8 June - garden in bloom

With lockdown, Luke had cleared his back yard and lifted the paving slabs to lay artificial grass to give the children somewhere to play and we became the beneficiaries.  Luke was kind enough (and strong enough) to transport the slabs to the allotment and, whilst maintaining social distancing, he and Sylvi laid a path between our plot and our neighbour Viv's plot. So now we can get down the path to pick the raspberries.

9 June - new path
 
Putting netting over the redcurrant bushes had paid off and denied the birds (and marauding humans)  a feast and luckily Jerome was still small enough (just) to get inside the fruit cage and pick them without having to dismantle it.  I don't think we will be so fortunate next year!

14 June - redcurrant harvest


On 15 June we began lifting a second row of Duke of York potatoes and were pleased that they were larger than those harvested earlier in the month.

15 June - First early Duke of York potatoes

We also managed to harvest some Mangetout and more were on the way.

17 June - Oregon Mangetout peas

The regular peas were also beginning to fill and would be ready to pick shortly and we began to harvest some of the early raspberries.

17  June - first picking of raspberries


It would soon be time to harvest the first Patty-pan squash (although the plant had been given to us as a yellow courgette).

17 June - Patty pan squash

Once we have lifted all the First Early potatoes, we can make a start on the second earlies, We have two rows of Nicola and a half row of Charlotte on the allotment and two rows of Charlotte at home.

22 June - 2nd early Nicola potatoes

The celery put on a growth spurt in June and I gave it a liquid feed with some general fertiliser.
The beet spinach which I had grown between the celery rows was beginning to show new leaves but some of the plants were beginning to bolt!

22 June - celery and spinach

I planted out the kalettes, purple sprouting broccoli and kale that I had grown from seed and used plastic bottles to provide some protection from wind and predators. 

22 June - improvised cloches over kale

There were signs of life on the grape vines growing in pots and grapes beginning to form.

22 June - the grapes are forming

The courgettes and squashes were beginning to flower but the runner beans behind them didn't appear to know they were supposed to climb!
 
22 June - courgettes and squashes

There were also signs that pollination was successful with the appearance of tiny squashes.


22 June -signs of the first butternut squash


22 June - the first Crown Prince Squash setting

The Musselburgh leeks which I had sown from seed and planted temporarily in clumps in a seed bed were looking ready for planting out and they will go where the First Early potatoes are waiting to be lifted.

Musselburgh leeks ready for planting out


There had been a chilly start to the month with a top temperature of only 14C on the 6th and the 10th followed by a heatwave around 24th/25th June with temperatures of 31/32C.  But, at the end of the month the temperature suddenly fell to only 17C , which was a bit of a shock to the chilli peppers I had just planted out.

Hoping that we may see some more sunshine, less wind and a few showers in July

John Austin

Hove, June 2020





Tuesday, 9 June 2020

RECIPES - Baking bread in a cast iron pot (Dutch Oven) 3.Wholemeal

Baking bread in a cast iron pot -  Wholemeal Loaf 


Wholemeal loaf

I used my bread machine on the dough setting to make this loaf, using the quantities given in the recipe for a 100% wholemeal loaf that came with the machine.  If you are using a bread machine I would suggest you follow the recipe and instructions that came with the machine as every one is different.

If you do not have a bread machine just follow any wholemeal loaf recipe for making one manually (or with the aid of a food mixer) as far as completion of the first rise then follow the method below.

Using my bread machine the ingredients were as follows:


Ingredients:

 ¾ cup water
1 ½ tbsp skimmed milk powder
1 ½  tbsp butter
2 ½  tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups Strong Wholemeal flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1 x 100g Vitamin C tablet (optional)

Adding Vitamin C improves the rise of the loaf and should be crushed and added to the flour.

Method:

Whichever recipe you are following, at the end of the first rise place the risen dough on a floured surface.

Dough after first rise

There is no need to knead the dough, well only a little - just gently knock back and shape into a ball

Knock back and gently knead

Shape dough into a ball

Using a sharp knife cut a slit across the top,, cutting about 1 inch deep.

slash top with sharp knife

Place the shaped dough into a cast iron casserole dish, that has been lined with baking paper.

 dough in casserole dish lined with baking paper

Put the lid on the casserole dish and place in a cold conventional oven. Set oven temperature to 240C and turn on. Leave to cook with the lid on for 35 minutes. 

remove lid after cooking for 35 minutes


After 35 minutes remove the lid and continue cooking for a further ten minutes but keep an eye on it in case it burns.

loaf removed from oven after 10 mins cooking with lid off


Remove from oven, lift out loaf and place on a wire rack to cool

loaf cooling on rack

When cool, slice and enjoy.


John Austin
Hove, June 2020






Friday, 5 June 2020

Life on The Weald - May 2020

Life on The Weald  (and in isolation) - May 2020 

Rainbow chard - 1 May

Silver leaf chard - 1 May


May Day on the allotment was a time for gathering chard and the following day, to amuse myself in isolation, attempting to create a collage and, with a pack of puff pastry and some cheese, some mini chard pies, roughly using the recipe for Spanokopita



Rainbow chard - a collage



Chard and cheese puffs

The first early Duke of York potatoes were beginning to show signs of flowering.


First early Duke of York potatoes - 4 May


Duke of York, beginning to flower - 4 May

May Day (Friday) had been cloudy with a maximum temperature around 14C falling to 12C over the weekend but feeling much colder due to the wind. The first full week was sunny, however, with the temperature rising to 17C and a high of 22C on Saturday 9 May. But it was not to last as rain came on Sunday 10 May with temperatures falling dramatically by 10 degrees with strong winds.

I had grown some butternut squash plants indoors and had put them out in the garden to harden off but, even in the warm temperatures, they had taken a battering from the wind although they had been covered with a cloche overnight. On Sunday 10 May I decided it was time to bring them back indoors - I doubt whether they would have survived outside and it remains to be seen whether they will recover indoors. 

I acquired a yellow courgette and a Crown Prince squash from a neighbour on the allotment and although they looked OK in the sunshine on Saturday, I also brought them indoors on Sunday.

It was a bit breezy on Monday 11 with a high temperature of only 11C but it felt much colder, so I spent time indoors potting up seedlings that had been sown in seed trays in March and April.  These included a number of chillies which had been sown from seed acquired at Seedy Sunday in February.  Some of them are extremely powerful on the Scoville Scale (see my blog February 2020)

We had our first picking of broad beans on 4 May - I picked about a kilo which yielded about 250g of beans.  They were beautiful but the pods had not filled out as well as I had hoped.  I put that down to a lack of water at the crucial time in April, but there are many more to come both from the November sowings and the later January/March sown crop.



Broad beans picked 6 May

Around the pond the irises were coming into flower and not far behind were the water or pond irises (yellow flags) so it was time for yet another tidy up around the pond and to clear yet more of the ubiquitous bind-weed.  I don't think it will ever be possible to remove it completely since the root runners seem to go around and under the pond itself, but at least it looks tidy for a time.  We have also removed the papyrus from the pond as it was in danger of taking over.  The roots had completely filled the pots they were in and broken through and although submerged had also been taken over by couch grass! I will split the plants, re-pot and return a little.


Irises by the pond

Water irises about to flower

Another plant that had become pot-bound at home was our Moroccan Mint, perhaps the best of the culinary varieties.  I had promised to pot one up for a friend but could not pull out any with a root.  In the end, with brute force we removed the entire plant which was completely root-bound as the roots had grown round and round the inside of the pot.


Roots of pot-bound Moroccan mint

On 7 May, whilst riddling the mound of couch grass to recover the soil, Sylvi found a friendly slow worm.  That's a good sign that the soil should be in good condition and their presence is very beneficial as they feed on slugs and snails.


a friendly slow worm


By 11 May the irises were in full flower

Irises

...and there appeared to be a good supply of gooseberries.


Early showing of gooseberries

Gooseberries - 11 May

I planted out a second row of celery and continued clearing an area for the brassicas.


Celery 11 May

There was a good showing of plums that had set on the trees at the back of the plot but very little sign of fruit on the other ones.



Plums - 13 May

Whilst clearing weeds from the potential brassica patch, I acquired a new friend!


My new friend

Looking for worms?

Having cleared a suitable area, I took a risk and planted out some kale, cavolo nero and kalettes


Kalettes 13 May

In the middle of the month I was in panic mode sowing more seeds and potting up various seedlings that I had sown earlier plus some that I had acquired from other plot-holders. At the beginning of the month, I had sown some Borlotti (climbing beans) directly in the ground but as there was no sign of them a fortnight later, I sowed some more in pots indoors - the seeds were from an old packet from last year and perhaps they haven't kept well.  I also sowed some runner beans and French beans in pots and trays and some more peas.

I have potted on the tomatoes which I had been given but the writing on the labels had partly worn off or was indecipherable and as a result I'm not sure which ones are which; but I believe I have some red, black and yellow cherry varieties, a beef tomato and a regular salad tomato.  In addition I had bought 3 plugs on the internet; an Alicante, a Marmande and a Sweet Million (cherry tomato).  I also potted on some yellow cherry tomatoes that I had grown from seed that my brother had given me and which had done so well in pots last year.  I think I may have gone a bit over the top and will have difficulty finding room for them all on the patio!   I am also waiting for the daffodils and tulips to die back to free up some of the larger pots.  Earlier in the year I had rescued a pot-bound English Mace and have begun splitting this and now have dozens of plants to give away.

The bush mulberry at home has flowered and the fruit just beginning to set so I have given this a feed with the liquid feed I use for the tomatoes.  On the allotment the blueberries have finished flowering and the fruit is setting and I have given them another ericaceous feed.

With the weather forecast predicting temperatures approaching 20C for Sunday 17 May, I planted out some butternut squashes but hope it was not a mistake as the temperature didn't get above 15C and there was a cool wind.  I did provide a bit of protection with improvised cloches made from plastic bottles for both the squashes and the kalettes and kale so hope they will survive.

improvised cloches for kale and kalettes

At home in mid-May the front and back gardens were looking more colourful with the summer flowering shrubs and bulbs coming into flower.




The week beginning 18 May saw continuing sunshine and no rain, so watering the newly planted vegetables was important.  The kalettes, cavolo nero and kale planted the previous week were doing well so this prompted me to plant out the first of the runner beans which I had grown in pots at home.


First Prizewinner runner beans planted

And the good news..........at last the Borlotto climbing beans sown some weeks ago have not been eaten by rodents, and they have germinated and are beginning to break the surface.


19 May The first sign of Borlotto beans - Firetongue (Lingua di Fuoco)

Having planted out some home-grown runner beans, I had completely forgotten that I had ordered some plugs earlier in the year on-line and my recently constructed bean frame was full.  This necessitated the rapid clearing of one of the raised beds and construction of a wigwam before planting out the plugs.

Rapidly constructed wigwam for runner beans -22 May

Having cleared the area around the pond, it was time to plant something.  I had sown some wild flower seeds earlier and hopefully some will germinate, but I have added some aromatic mints - pineapple and grapefruit - and planted out some English Mace (sweet yarrow or sweet-nancy)

planting out around the pond

At Christmas, my son Toby and his wife Jane had given me some bean seeds that they had harvested from their crop last year - they were black and white, Ying-Yang - I checked with them that they were not a climbing variety, as I had run out of space for any more frames, and reassured that they were a dwarf variety I sowed some in pots at home. 

Ying-Yang beans

I now need to ask if you can eat them like flagelots when young or need to dry them and use like haricot beans or black-eye peas.

The raspberries have gone rampant and are beginning to send out suckers which are coming up all over the place, including in the raised beds.  It is a struggle to keep them in check but the fruit has set and we look to be in for a bumper crop.

Raspberries 

The latter part of the month saw lots of sunshine and temperatures soaring to the mid-twenties - and no rain! So watering became a daily necessity.


30 May - grapes setting on the vine

30 May - plums and blue skies

30 May - plums and blue skies

And at home (with the Salvia hot lips flowering behind) the Nicola 2nd early potatoes were in full flower.

30 May - Nicola 2nd early potatoes

A glorious end to a very sunny month.

John Austin
Hove, May 2020