Thursday, December 31

December in pictures

Monday, December 28

Santa Paws came but Rudolf was left in the stable

Well that's it for another year, Christmas has been and gone. I hope that you managed to make the most of it amid all the restrictions. To be honest for us it wasn't really any different to previous years as there is usually only the two of us and my sister. As my sister is in our bubble and in today's restrictions classed as being a member of our household it was the same year. Of course it wasn't always like that, at one time our house would have been full and Christmas meant more to us.
We made a flying visit to the allotment on Thursday to gather a few vegetables.
Sabrosa Savoy cabbage, Crispus sprouts and Red Lodero, red cabbage
We made the first picking of sprouts. Like our cabbages the outer leaves were spoiled but once removed there was plenty of sprout left for Christmas dinner. These was accompanied by half of one of those huge parsnips that we dug the week before. It would have been appropriate for us to have had Rudolf potatoes for Christmas dinner but that didn't occur to us until later so, Rudolf stayed in his stable aka the garage.
As well as picking our first sprouts of the season, we also cut our first red cabbage. As a change from the green cabbage that I normally use, I'm going to use some of this in coleslaw but we also like to braise red cabbage with apples and onion. The braised cabbage freezes and reheats well.
Our 'Christmas pudding' was a blueberry cake made by my sister. Martyn classes it as his favourite cake at the moment and I don't actually like the traditional Christmas pudding so this was a delicious alternative.

Ruby  jhad turkey for her Christmas dinner too. After her Christmas walks and lots of playing time she had a little snooze.

As she had mostly been a good little girl Santa Paws didn't forget her.

Our acrylic print made it to its place on the dining room wall

Unlike the print we had bought some years ago, this one didn't come with fittings so we had to order some before being able to hang it. We still have another blank wall in the dinning room - I wonder whether it will take as long to find another worthy photograph to hang ther. I'd really like an autumnal print so I may have to wait until next autumn.
Christmas dinner wasn;t the only meal last week to feature our homegrown vegetables.
One such meal was a vegetable risotto. I used parsnip, carrots and peas in this. If you are wondering why my rice is yellow, I add turmeric to many of my meals.. I don't add enough to change the flavour but turmeric is reputed to have health benefits. The amount that I use may not be sufficient to have much effect om health but every little helps.
Another of our vegetable based meals was a sweet potato curry served with rice and peas - another misnomer as the peas are actually beans. I used cannellini beans as I didn't have any of the black eyed beans that the recipe called for. Some of our onions and cabbage went into this recipe but I had to buy the sweet potatoes and peppers. We've tried to grow sweet potatoes with no success. I’m still experimenting with spice mixes to make my own curry powder.
To finish - with the actual day behind us, I'm wondering whether it is allowed to wish for a belated Christmas gift. Sunday's news suggested that the Oxford vaccine developed here in the UK may be approved as early as next week. As this vaccine doesn't require the same incredibly low storage temperatures it may speed up the process of getting us all vaccinated. Now wouldn't that be a good, if not a belated Christmas gift, a really positive start to 2021.

Here's hoping the slackening of restrictions on Christmas Day hasn't given the virus more opportunity to spread.  Whatever the outcome keep safe and well.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Thursday, December 24

Happy Christmas

Sunday, December 20

Life goes on

We had a few days last week when it wasn't too wet or windy to be out.

Monday afternoon we headed for the allotment to dig our first parsnips of the season and also to lift the frost blackened dahlias.
We lifted the dahlia tubers and removed as much soggy soil as we could before laying the tubers, to hopefully dry off a little, on the plot greenhouse floor. They were also covered with a pile of enviromesh to protect then from any possible frosts. Eventually the tubers will be bagged and stored in the garage at home.

It's always a tense moment when we dig the first parsnips of the season. Vigorously growing tops do not always result in large roots. In the event the parsnips would not have won any prizes in a beauty contest but the roots were very chunky each having enough flesh for a couple of meals for the two of us.

One of these was another pie that wasn't a pie. It had a scone topping so I would really say that it was more of a cobbler than a pie.
Along with half of one of the parsnips, I used some of the leeks that we harvested, and some carrots. I added some bought sweet potato and mushrooms. The recipe called for scone mix but I made my own mix instead.

You may have noticed from the photo of the leeks above, our leeks have brown streaks but no evidence of any sort of bug attack. We have to peel off several layers of leaf before the leeks are clean. We thought that the cause of the problem was the excessive wetness but apparently we have been too kind and provided them with too much fertiliser. Next year we will treat them mean!
On Thursday we took Ruby for a walk around the grounds of Nostell Priory. The scene now is very different. No signs of autumn colour hanging on just very bare trees. The 'lake' in top left and bottom right photos isn't actually a lake more a giant puddle. The going is generally much muddier now which didn't bother, Ruby although she wasn't at all happy that she had to have her legs washed when we came home. Fortunately, her coat prevented her tummy from becoming muddy so she avoided a full body wash.
My acrylic print destined for a dining room wall finally arrived on Friday. It was shipped quite quickly from Germany but was hanging around for longer once it arrived on our shores. The courier was UPS and at first their tracking informed me that the parcel would arrive on Tuesday. As we planned to go to the allotment on Monday I checked again to make sure there had been no changes. There had been and the parcel was now due to be delivered on Thursday. Of course when we arrived home on Monday there was a note through the letterbox saying that they were sorry to have missed me and would try again the next business day which one would assume would be Tuesday. To make sure I checked the tracker again and it stated that my parcel would arrive on Wednesday. At this point I decided to try ringing UPS which isn't easy as finding a phone number isn't easy. Finally, I managed to get through to them and after discussion decided the best option was for me to specify that I wanted a definite delivery on Friday. In the meantime I had an email from the German company asking if I was satisfied with my print!

We paid a second visit to the allotment on Sunday afternoon. This time the aim was to clear a bed in which we had grown flowers. We pulled up all the dead flowers and removed the sweet pea supports. We were then intending to dig up any weeds but the ground was far too soggy so we pulled up what we could. We had also planted some spinach and chard in this bed. These were left in place as they were still fresh and healthy.

The fungi that we are finding on the allotment bear testimony to how wet it continues to be.
A mini harvest from the garden greenhouse was a second cutting of some coriander. Some was used fresh and the rest frozen. I wonder whether it will regrow again and provide a third harvest.

Another vegetable based meal last week was a vegetable and bean stew. This used some of our cabbage,  carrot, onion, squash and peas.
A third veggie meal was a spiced root and lentil casserole that was made in the slow cooker. I forgot to take a photo but the ingredients included the other half of the parsnip, some carrots and an onion.

What a better way to finish than with some photos of Ruby? In the top photos she is doing one of her favourite things, looking over the back of the sofa at what is going on outside. She's the quintessential nosy neighbour. Sometimes a higher position is required for a better view.
In the bottom two photos she is showing off her recent haircut

I hope whatever tier of lockdown you now find yourself in you keep safe. A friend of ours has an appointment to be given the first of the two required Covid vaccinations so there is light at the end of what had been a very long tunnel - just hang on in there.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, December 14

Not so glorious mud!

What a dreary week it has been weatherwise! I don't think it has really been light all week and  it has continued to be wet and miserable.

Other than our usual walks with Ruby and one necessary quick visit to the allotment we have been stuck indoors.

Our week indoors has however been productive. Our wallpaper arrived early and although it isn't quite what I expected - the pattern is larger than I imagined - I do like it which is a relief. The pattern was tricky to match up until we managed to get our eye in but we managed to finish the wallpapering in a day. Now we just need to wait until we feel safe enough to go shopping for curtains and carpet.
It's difficult to photograph the pattern as it looks different in differing light conditions. 

Our visit to the allotment was primarily to collect some vegetables. Everywhere is now wet and squelchy.
Some well used paths are slippery and care needs to be taken when walking along them.

The dahlias are now well and truly blackened so we are hoping for a reasonable day when we can lift the tubers for storage.
The cardoons are shrugging off the miserable weather and have already put on quite  lot of new growth.
We just spent sufficient time at the plot to gather together the vegetables that we needed for the week.
9 December - Flakee carrots, mixed leeks, 2 Kalibro cabbages & a Cordesa savoy cabbage

The vegetables are suffering from the weather. This is partly due to the wet conditions providing the ideal environment for slug foraging. Both carrots and cabbages bear the scars of their activity. This means there is quite a lot of waste when it comes to preparing the vegetables for cooking. Both the cabbages and the leeks are suffering from being constantly wet. Both need to have lots of leaves stripped off before parts of the vegetables that are good for using are reached. It makes meal preparation a longer task.
So onto last week's meals where our vegetables played a major role. 

Monday was chicken pilaf into which went onions and, from the freezer, green beans, sweet corn and peas. I used brown rice.

Tuesday's vegetable curry was cooked in a slow cooker and made use of our onion, carrot, green beans and potatoes.
Thursday, I used our, potato, leeks, onion, carrot, squash, sage and parsley in, what the recipe calls, a Vegan Shepherd's Pie.
I think that this is a misnomer as in my book a shepherd's pie contains lamb, so by definition, a shepherd's pie can't be vegan. I guess if we were to be  totally pedantic we could argue that it isn't even a pie. Anyway I'm going to call my version an allotment pie. I used Osprey potatoes which tend to break up when cooking. The recipe calls for half of the potatoes to be mashed and mixed into the vegetable mixture and half to be cut up a popped on top of the 'pie'. The Ospreys mashed well but crumbled when I tried to cut them up so my end product wasn't as it should have been and I also forgot the spinach. Still we enjoyed it.

Then Sunday I used  carrots, leeks and parsley in a turkey pasta and leek crisp.
Looking back, over the weeks,  at my photos of the dishes that I have made, I was struck by how similar they look but honestly they don't all taste the same.

By the way one of my visitors has told me that she can't access the web links to the recipes that I have used, is anyone else having a problem?

Now I wonder what this week will bring? Let's hope more vaccines are approved and they start to beat Covid into submission. Until such a time as always keep well and safe.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, December 7

A non-gardening week

Last week the second national lockdown here in England came to an end. In our part of the country it has made little difference as we are subject to tier three restrictions that are more or less the same thing as being in lockdown. People living in tier three areas are not supposed to visit areas in lower tiers or vice versa. It makes you feel a bit like a pariah. 

I fully expect signs to be placed on our boundaries, a bit like they do when farms suffer from outbreaks of foot and mouth. It's also reminiscent of the story of the village of Eyam in the Peak District National Park that cut themselves off from the outside world when they suffered an outbreak of plague in 1665.

We didn't go to the allotment at all last week nor did we pay a visit to Nostell Priory. Our only outings were local walks with Ruby. Nostell did feature in the week though as we chose an image to use for an acrylic print for the dining room. I would have preferred one with more autumn colour but in the end we went for photo quality.
We already have one acrylic print on the dining room, the photo that we used was taken some years ago in Scotland.
The company that produced our first print isn't trading at the moment so fingers crossed that the quality of our new print will be as good.

Another photographic project was to print out our Christmas (there I've said it) cards. We have made our cards for a few years now. I pick a somewhat festive image and this year opted for one of the photos taken on our night time outing to Fountains Abbey.
Another project last week was to experiment with some spice mixes for making curries. I found lots of suggested recipes on the internet and wanted to try something using whole spices. The problem was that the grinder that came with my stick blender doesn't work very well with spices. It's fine for grinding things like nuts and ginger so either the blades are too high or my quantities are too small. Does anyone have a grinder that works on spice seeds?

That brings me on to last weeks cooking. One meal was a vegetable and bean curry 

Homegrown vegetables that went into this recipe were, potatoes, carrots, along with sweetcorn and peas from the freezer.

We fairly recently started to cook with quinoa but up until now I've used it as an accompaniment in much the same way as you would use couscous. I wasn't sure about incorporating it into the main part of the meal so decided to dip my toes in the water and made a quinoa pilaf.
Some of our carrots, onions and frozen peas went into this and I also added a red pepper that needed using up. We really enjoyed it, the only problem was that the portions were a bit small. I think in future I would add a bit more vegetables, maybe some French beans.
I'm now busily searching for promising quinoa recipes - any recommendations

We are at a stalemate with our decorating; all the painting is finished and now we need to wait for the paper to arrive hopefully next week.
We also managed to do a lot of decluttering by offering items on Freecycle. All the items that I posted were snapped up minutes after I hit the submit button and all were collected with social distancing in mind. Most items were left on our doorstep just before they were due to be collected. Much better than throwing away things that other people can make good use of.

Martyn is making progress driving his trains. He didn't crash last week, although once he actually got the engine going he was prone to ignoring red lights and speeding through stations where he was supposed to pick up passengers. When he did manage to stop he overshot the platform and left passengers unable to reach the train!

Any finally some colour in the garden. Our flying flowers just love sunflower hearts.
As always stay safe and well. Hopefully it won't be too long before the vaccines take effect and we can experience a more normal life - whatever that may mean

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, December 2

November in pictures