Unexpected bounty. 

Hubby visited a friend last night, who has recently moved to a lovely barn conversion with a walled fruit and veg garden many of us dream of. He returned with a carrier bag full of peaches. 

Now I have to be honest at this point. I hate peach. I even find the smell of them pretty off putting. Let alone the floral scented taste. Hubby ate one instantly, declared it lovely but admitted he couldn’t eat them all. I unpacked the rest of the bag and finding most to be over ripe decided jam was needed and quickly. 

This morning found me frantically searching the internet for a recipe that didn’t involve canning. It’s a skill I don’t have, would like to learn, but not today! 

I found a honey apricot recipe that looked fairly simple so I started with that. Boil together honey, water and sugar. Add sliced fruit. Boil a bit longer. Put into jars. After lots of chopping and peeling I only had enough for one jar so I gave it a go but wouldn’t recommend it just yet. 

I was however then left with a big pile of pieces that looked jam perfect. 

I also found quite a good Peach and raspberry conserve recipe in this book. I didn’t have the pectin or jam sugar it insisted I need but I do have raspberries. In my garden! 

I rushed out to pick some but not before measuring the fruit and adding an equal quantity of granulated sugar. The recipe said less sugar and to leave over night but I only needed a guide so I decided to ignore that! 

2lb each of peach and sugar. I left it while Miss C made some flapjack and we had some lunch. Gave it a good stir and added 1/2 lb raspberries, which was all that were ready in the garden. I then heated it gently until the sugar dissolved while Miss C wandered in and out commenting on how good it smelt and I tried not to sniff at all. 

It dissolved fairly quickly and I soon got it boiling but it did take a good 20 minutes, and quite a lot of scum, to get to the point I felt it was ready. 

I put in a knob of butter to disperse the scrum and, having heated my jars in the oven, started to jar it up. I must admit at this point that I don’t have a jam funnel but this one, that came with the dishwasher to fill the salt dispenser, works a treat! I hate having two utensils in the cupboard when one will make do. I’m tight like that!

The book suggests conserve only keeps for 6 months but as I made it in a jam style I don’t think I have to worry about that. 

If I’m honest I put the left overs in a small bowl in the fridge to try later. Later has arrived and even I can see a certain appeal to it. I think keeping it for any amount of time could be the real problem. 

It’s very summery tasting. I might even enter a jar in next month’s village show, which is high praise indeed from someone who hates peaches! 

Beaten by the pollination. 

My poly tunnel is like a jungle this year. Everything is growing and fruiting. 

I have 4 melon plants and every day we find another young fruit hanging enticingly on the nets. 

Today one looked and felt ripe enough to harvest so with great excitement we brought it into the kitchen and laid it on the surface to await our teatime treat. 

It didn’t smell very ‘melony’, so I did wonder, especially as our cucumbers have tasted horrible this week. However we carefully cut it in half.

At that point it was obvious that it wasn’t the galia melon I’d expected. The flesh is to pale and the seeds to small. It tasted disgusting, bitter and sharp. 

Clearly my melons have been pollinated by the cucumbers and the cucumbers are being pollinated by the melons. 

It’s all got a bit muddled in the poly tunnel. Part of me is very disappointed. We have at least a dozen melons growing and lots of cucs. Part of me laughs at the power of nature. You just can’t beat it!! 

Finally it’s harvest time. 

At last, after what feels like a long wait, the crops are coming in. 

The onions and garlic are lifted and dried.

The cucumbers in the poly tunnel have been cropping for ages but the tomatoes, although they’ve grown so well, have been a long time ripening.

Now there are more every day although the Money Maker is a bit mushy and bland which is disappointing. They are cooking down well for the freezer though so they won’t go to waste. 

I’m not inundated with courgettes, which having seen some of the posts on social media I’m quite pleased about, but we have enough. There won’t be any chocolate courgette cakes or strange courgette soups and for that I’m happy! The peppers are the same, slow but steady. Some to eat and some to freeze for later, just as I would hope for. 

The last bag of potatoes has been tipped out. We’ve had a few meals out of each bag which is better than last year. I’ve been reading up on growing them and next year I intend planting them nearer the top of the bags. Apparently they can get lost if they go in to deep

The new apple trees have a very small crop. I think I should have taken them off really to help them establish better but  I didn’t and it’s to late now! 

The bollotti beans turned out to be a dwarf variety. ( I should have read the package more closely) and are going over much quicker than last year’s. I’m picking them plant by plant as they die. Not enough for a meal yet but at least they will keep without taking up freezer room. 

The raspberries are much later than last year but there are lots to come. The blueberries are coming in steadily, some fall off as I approach the bush and have to ripen on the windowsill but that seems to be working ok. This years crop is much improved on last year. Not least because with no chickens we have been able to keep the bushes in their old run away from feathered thieves. 

The bees have had a late surge of honey production. Usually I don’t extract after early July but this year the hives are overflowing and I needed to reduce the size of them for winter so it had to come off. This last batch is very thick and was much more difficult than usual to spin from the frames. 

The difference in colour and style from the different crops is amazing. The jar on the left is probably more lime and field bean, it’s runny and rich tasting. The jar on the right is predominately oil seed rape, it’s solid and very sweet. 

Today while shopping in Morrison’s I brought this magazine. It’s got an exclusive to Tesco label on it which made me smile, as did the quantity of free seeds it contained. I may not have started my Christmas shopping yet but I’ve started my spring veggie shopping and that’s even more exciting.

I’m planning bigger and better next year and I can hardly wait! 

Quick note to one’s self. 

Cabbages need more space and certainly don’t need interplanting with lettuce. 

Broccoli need more firming in before they fall over and grow sideways.

Brussel sprouts need a stake at planting time before they grown along the ground and head upwards in all directions. 

In short. Brassicas need more space, more support and more netting. 

Lesson learned! 

After the rain. 

Like most of the country I was kept awake most of Tuesday night by the storm. Thunder and lightening and torrential rain pummelled the garden so it was some surprise when I went outside yesterday to find hardly any sign of it ever happening. The water butts were over flowing and every container without a hole in it was full but otherwise the garden just looked fresh and clean. Our neighbour was not so lucky and a huge tanker was pumping his drive out all morning, so we had a lucky escape. 

It has rained all morning again today. I’ve moved the downpipe into another tank and filled that now as well. This afternoon is bright and sunny and a foray into the garden shows just how much good the rain has done. 

Peas planted last weekend are through, as are lots of the other seeds.

Butternut squash are looking hopeful. These are my outside ones, extra plants I was to tight to throw away! I planted one in the polytunnel as well after last year’s lack of cropping success. I’m hedging my bets as I absolutely love butternut soup and am sure I will never have to many. 

I nipped out yesterday and planted my oca in the ground. It has fallen over the sides of the pot and as it makes tubers wherever the stems touch the ground I decided to plant it in the space the onions came out of. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it out of the pot so I settled for second best. I wrapped the celery while I was there, I used these tubes for the leeks last year with great success so I hope it will work as well again. 

The polytunnel is like a jungle. It’s hard to move in there at the minute. 

The tomatoes are disappointing. Moneymaker are huge but just not ripening and the Gardener’s Delight is not much better. The cucumber is growing like a triffid and the fruit is tasty but has to be peeled as the skin is just to tough. No strange foreign varieties for me next year, the lesson of cheap seeds has been learnt! 

Peppers are doing better than last year after I started them off so much earlier and chillies are looking good although we haven’t tried any yet. 

There’s a tiny melon growing and an even tinier watermelon. Both seem to pollinate ok but then the fruits keep dropping before they swell to any size. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong but fingers crossed. 

Outside the raspberry bed is feeling the strain after I used the spare space to grow a few sweetcorn. Which then got underplanted with bollotti beans and then just a few spare brassicas were added. In all they now feel swamped and are retaliating by growing so tall I will need a ladder to pick the fruit. 

My next year’s resolution is more beds with less in them. I’m not holding out much hope in keeping it. Growing veg is just so much fun. We haven’t eaten a shop brought veggie all week and boy does that feel good. Home grown new potatoes and cauliflower tonight.

I just need a cow and a pig next. Now where on earth will I put them! 

July update.

It’s a while since my last garden post and what a difference there’s been. The evenings have been spent moving the bees to the new apiary. An experience my hubby will probably never forget for a variety of reasons not least when one lot escaped the hive during the car journey! 
They are much happier there and I’ve been able to work them again and extract the honey. 

The polytunnel is now full to overflowing and the cucumbers have just started to crop. The strawberries have finished with only a small number but great flavour. The blackcurrants are almost non existent this year which is disappointing after the huge amount I had last year but not a major problem as I made lots of jam with the last ones from the freezer in the spring which should see us through this year at least! 

The early raspberries came to nothing but there are lots of autumn ones coming so fingers crossed there. The blueberries are ripening nicely, a good few have even made it into the freezer for  future eating. 

The whole garden is so hot and dry this year and we’ve really struggled to keep everything watered. The attention has gone to the tunnel as everything in there is important. The beds have had to look after themselves a bit. The brassicas are thriving, the root crops have failed to germinate. More have been sown so perhaps we will be lucky. 

The leeks planted last autumn came to nothing. I ran out of space to plant my spring sown ones and they’ve got to big to plant now so that’s another fail. The autumn planted garlic is lifted and looking good. The onions are still swelling and it’s just a matter of knowing when to harvest them for the best results. 

Hubby has taken a week’s holiday and we’ve been busy taking down the summerhouse. We needed the space for the caravan after getting bored of it filling half the drive. Like all jobs, one led to another and a tree and a patio on the other side of the garden also had to come up to make a new space for the summerhouse. As usual time rushed away from us and the job didn’t quite get finished but the caravan is in its new position. It got there via a quick trip to the seaside. Hubby had a gig at a holiday camp and a weekend on site seemed a great excuse for a short break. 

I do love a big sky, as does hubby it seems!

The show. 

It’s 7 or 8 years since we last went to the Gardener’s World Show at the NEC. A lot has changed in that time but a lot has stayed the same. 

There are still lots of show gardens. Clever designs both old and new, especially as this year was a celebration of 50 years of Gardeners World. 

There was still the central marquee with its wonderful array of exhibitors. All showing off their plants to the best. Miss C loves carnivorous plants and I love hostas so we were both very happy. 

Hubby prefers order in the garden. He thought these herbs in large pots were an idea we could bring back with us. The chaos of colour in a garden is not so appealing to him as a nice tidy green plant and herbs fit the bill in his eyes. 

Having seen how big fennel can grow I realise I need to move mine and soon! 

He had me take lots of pictures of structural things he could build into our garden. Brightly coloured fences, bottle gardens and bee homes could all be this winters projects. 

The vegetables already being picked were amazing and inspired me to try harder. The stubby little carrots were a surprise. It reassured me that mine hadn’t been so bad after all! 

‘Don’t eat the display’ 

It seems a sad indication of the nation’s standards that we have to remind people not to steal from the displays. 

Lots of schools had made ‘ a meal in a barrow’ wheelbarrows. They all had some fun and well thought out items. I think this one was my favourite, just because they had used bull rushes to signify sausages. Such a great idea and just exactly how Miss C would think! 

In all it was a great day. Far to hot with temperatures in the 30 ‘s. Far to many people with far to few manners. Definitely far to far from home to make it a yearly event. But still well worth the visit. 

Happy birthday Gardeners World. Friday evening telly has been so much better since we had an hourly fix of Monty and Carol and I just love it when they finish the programme with the ‘ jobs for the weekend’ section and I’ve already done them. Makes me feel all smug and knowledgeable!! 

My new apiary. 

My bees aren’t happy where I presently keep them. My own hive is nearly unworkable and the swarms, who were all so happy when I collected them, are now all showing a tendancy to attack first and buzz later. The apiary they are in is under quite dense tree cover and near a very busy road with little natural food now that the farm crops are finishing. Quite honestly working them is becoming a painful chore and last weekend I took so many stings I began to wonder whether it was worth the bother. I dread my visits, which is obviously not the attitude a good hobby should provoke. 

I was very happy to hear of an opportunity of a new apiary.  It’s in the village, it’s isolated and if I look very carefully I can see it from my bedroom window. It’s within walking distance, if I also had a pack horse to carry all my beekeeping paraphanalia! 

This is part of the very long track I drive down to get to it. It feels very isolated although that is my village in the distance. 

It is surrounded by a double layer of these huge conifers. 

Inside the trees is a good acre of mostly  native trees and bushes. A huge area of land initially used as a hide for pheasant rearing but now left entirely to nature.  

Hubby put our new brush cutter to good use cutting me these tracks. I picked the route of least resistance, along the tree line. The middle of the plot has more than a lot of stinging nettles. 

This is the bees eye view of the plot. I took it by sitting on the very stand they will be sitting on. 

I unearthed a rather nice pair of cattle feeders that will be perfect for creating a water feeder. 

Hubby has made me a new stand out of Miss C’s old bedstead. Everything is ready for me to collect the hives from their present site and move them to here. I’m sure my own hive and the three swarms I’ve collected this spring will be very happy here. 

Just got to find the courage to do the job. I shall do it in the late evenings when the little darlings are hopefully all asleep! 

Veg update. 

It’s been raining  on and off here all week. The weak mizzly rain that doesn’t fill the water butt but makes you wet should you be caught out in it. Today has been overcast and windy but dry and I was very pleased to get a line of washing dry the outdoors way.

With that in mind I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I went to check the garden this afternoon only to find it all in need of a good watering.

These potatoes have grown to tall and fallen sideways and I can’t help thinking that the dying leaves are not a good sign. I gave them a good water and will have to keep an eye on them.

My sweet potato continues to grow as does the oca

The polytunnel is looking lovely.

The watermelon puts on growth every day

There’s a tiny fruit on the cucumber and lots of male flowers, which are always the first to appear.

The peppers look healthy. I hope I’ve got them in early enough to get fruit this year.

Melons grow on the plastic netting. Hopefully this will be more supportive as I am growing more than last year and am aiming to improve on my crop total if I can!

The first tomatoes have set. Thanks to my group of little bumble bees who often work so hard they actually have to sleep over night in the tunnel.

Outside the onion tops are starting to fall over. I hoped they would be bigger but last year once this happened they seemed to stop growing so I will just have to see what happens

The leeks are going to seed which is a pity. I planted my second batch of peas up them and I had run out of space and thought it might be a novel idea. That was perhaps a mistake!

A bigger mistake was taking the net off the other peas as they grew to tall. Something has definitely had a nibble.

The Pak choi has also gone straight to seed, at seedling stage, in another bed.

The strawberries look promising though.

The grape and fig have both recovered from their late frosting

The grape even has a couple of tiny flowers coming

I had an inspired idea for my lack of space the other evening and planted my 2 giant pumpkin plants in the piece of lawn where I had the bonfire some weeks ago. Hubby intended digging it into more veggie bed space later anyway so I thought it was a great idea. He rolled his eyes but said nothing so inspired by the extra space I have now planted my courgettes there as well.

He wasn’t so impressed by that and dark mutterings about how he would keep the lawn tidy or dig around all the leaves have continued all week. Should I tell him that I have 3 butternut squash and some left over Brussel sprout plants that I need to fit in somewhere, or should I just sneak them in while he’s at work and claim they are self set.

He’s not really a gardener, he might just believe me!!!

Every cloud has a silver lining. 

I’m a great believer in the above saying, that and ‘ it’s an ill wind that blows no good’.

This is my new cat George. He is smiling with good cause! 

 A week ago he was knocked down by a car and left badly injured in the middle of the road. Luckily for him he was screaming so loudly we heard him above the telly, and through the double glazing, and were able to rush out and save him before he was hurt any further. 

His second lucky break came from the fact that extensive x-rays show he hasn’t broken anything. He is young and fit with, apparently, very heavy bones and has managed to take extensive knocks with only minor grazes and massive bruising and a face that looked like he had been in a boxing match. 

The bruising even with his pain killer and anti inflammatory is such that he is not able to walk on his own still. The vets were keen to keep him in the surgery but we have brought him home and he is in a cage in the lounge. Miss C and l have been plying him with care and attention and all the signs are good that he will make a good recovery. 

Meanwhile our last remaining chicken, who quite honestly was getting very old and slow, managed to very quietly die in her sleep. Very upsetting especially for Miss C but a very dignified and easy end for us all. 

Obviously with so much going on we have spent almost the whole week at home and that’s the next ‘ silver lining’. We have tidied and cleaned the house and done lots to the garden. 

The polytunnel is now fully planted. This is a watermelon plant, I have no idea whether it will fruit but oh I do hope so! 

You would never know what had had to  lift George onto the sofa here. Apart from the obvious wound he looks so happy and relaxed. 

It’s been a very busy and difficult week here. Good and bad news, highs and lows. So many emotions, but a positive outcome to hope for. 

That’s the story of life in general I guess.