Monday, December 27

That's it for another year.

The allotment is certainly looking bleak now. At this time of year, I always find it amazing when I think of the transformation that will take place next spring and summer.
Any work on the allotment is put firmly on the back burner. If it was just a case of wrapping up warmly on a cold but dry and bright day it would be a different story. At the moment it is cold, miserable and wet, so the only thing that tempts us to venture to the plot is to harvest a few winter vegetables. This is just what we did last week
We needed to harvest some sprouts and parsnips for Christmas dinner to which we would add some braised red cabbage from the freezer. We only had two surviving sprout plants and so we decided to dig these up and store them in a bucket. The sprouts will be picked from the plant at home as we need them.

We also dug another batch of leeks which I prepared and popped in the freezer. As I have explained in previous posts, some of the leeks have been attached by allium leaf miner and so I am preparing and freezing batches of leeks rather than leaving the preparation until I am cooking only to find out that most of the leek is unusable.
As most of the brassicas, in the bed where the sprouts were growing have been harvested, we removed the enviromesh. Garden experts will tell you that wood pigeons only are a problem when plants are young and tender. Don't you believe it. The wood pigeons move in as soon as any covers are off and will readily feast on any available greens.

We managed a visit to Nostell. The scene here is very different now. The trees are leafless and everywhere is wet and soggy.
Despite the cold and damp Nostell was very busy with lots braving the conditions, especially dog walkers, in order to enjoy some exercise.
The meadows are no go areas at the moment. The area above develops a small lake every winter. This will hang around until the weather dries up in spring or summer. Ruby headed for the enclosed area where we play chase the ball with her. She looked at us expectantly but we had to disappoint her as the ground had been badly churned up and was basically a muddy mess. 
The birds on the lake don't seem to mind the cold. The lake is home to lots of ducks but for some reason we never saw any ducklings.

The young swans have now left the lake leaving their parents to enjoy the peace and quiet. The youngsters will join larger gatherings where they will live for a time until they find a mate and some territory of their own. Setting off into the wider world is a risky time for young inexperienced swans. Telegraph wire, pylons and countless other obstacles are new to them and they haven't acquired the knowledge to help them avoid collisions. I hope our four survive.
Adult swans mate for life and so will probably raise another brood on the lake next year.

As well as enjoying a medley of our vegetables on Christmas day they also featured in other meals last week.

Parsnips, carrots, onion and peas from the freezer went into a vegetable risotto. I always put more vegetables and less rice in my versions.

I also made a squash and parsnip cassoulet. Into this went some of our frozen pink banana squash, parsnips onions and garlic.

I used some of our frozen roasted tomatoes and onion in a batch of tomato soup which was loosely based on this recipe. Instead of adding carrot and celery, I added some red pepper.
My second soup of the week was celery soup. Unfortunately, we can't grow celery so that was bought in but some of our potatoes and onion were used. It was based on this recipe.

Now that Christmas is behind us and daylight hours very slowly extend, it's time to look forward to a new year and growing season so the seed orders will be sent off and we can start to plan next year's growing season.

I wish you a happy, healthy and productive new year.

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

Friday, December 24

Christmas Greetings

Monday, December 20

Wet, soggy, muddy, misty and miserable,

We didn't go to the allotment at all last week. If we hadn't Ruby to consider, we probably wouldn't have ventured out at all, other than for Martyn to attend a hospital appointment.
Not only was it bitterly cold, with frost decorating everywhere, but it was also very misty.
The afternoon that we visited Nostell, the mist gradually thickened and later in the evening the fog rolled in.
In spite of the miserable conditions, we managed an hour or so walking round the lake.
Everywhere under foot was really wet and soggy so we didn't venture into the meadows where it can be quite boggy.
It's a pity really as now that the cows have been taken in and the electric fences taken down we could have enjoyed a much longer walk.
Although we stuck to the paths, Ruby didn't. She doesn't let the conditions spoil her fun and makes no allowances for mud and wet grass. As she likes to sniff everywhere,  she is especially drawn to cowpats, molehills and drainage channels, it's not just her feet that end up in a mess.
When we arrived home we headed straight for the bathroom where legs, paws and the ends of ears were given a good wash.

At least, on an evening, we could shut out the weather and enjoys a hot meal.

Meals last week that used our produce were a turkey and black bean quinoa bake that incorporated our onion, garlic and frozen sweetcorn.
I made a vegetable hash in which I used some of our squash, potatoes, shallot and garlic. As I didn't have any kale I substituted this with some spinach.
Another warming meal was a potato curry. Into this went some of our potatoes, onion, garlic and frozen peas.

In spite of us having no actual rain, everywhere is so wet, so it looks as though any gardening will be put on hold for a while but we will need to visit the plot this week to replenish our vegetable stocks.

I also foresee another feet washing session for Ruby, but don't tell her.

That's all for now - keep safe and well and let's all hope that this new Covid variant doesn't turn out to be the beast that we are all being threatened with!

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

Monday, December 13

We got off lightly

Last week we made it to the allotment on a couple of afternoons. Monday was bitingly cold but we decided to have a quick visit to harvest a few vegetables. It was the first time that we had ventured to the plot since storms Arwen and Barra. To be honest the two storms didn't really hit us with any real force. It was very windy but nothing unusual for this time of year. In fact our strongest winds were during the period between the two storms.

We did wonder whether the allotment would have suffered any wind damage. The only minor problem was that some old enviromesh, that I had used as a wind break for the sweet corn, had become loose.
The overwintering onions and garlic were looking a bit battered but that usually happens at some point over winter and they generally recover.
The bed of sweet Williams is still looking really healthy and has been untroubled by the recent winds and snow.
Gardening wisdom, or is it folklore, decrees that parsnips are sweetened by frosts and so shouldn't be harvested until the temperatures have fallen below zero. There was no doubting that this criteria had been met and so we decided to dig up some roots. It's always a 'hold your breath' moment as when the first parsnips are lifted there is no guarantee that anything useful will have formed below ground regardless of how well the tops have grown.

We usually end up with multi-forked roots but the ones we harvested last week were perfectly shaped but rather smaller than we are used to. Maybe we should have watered them more. They were sown later than usual though so maybe that had something to do with the smaller size.  At any rate they were tasty. The frost had done its work.
As well as lifting some parsnips we wanted to lift more leeks.
I mentioned last week that I am almost certain that our leeks have fallen foul of the dreaded allium leaf miner. There are brown stripes on some of the shafts and when layers are stripped off tiny pupae are discovered.
Some leeks are totally devastated and unusable. After stripping layers off some leeks have a usable central area and some leeks seem to be totally unaffected. The problem is that until I start to prepare the leeks for cooking, I have no idea how affected they are. To make meal preparation easier, I decided to prepare all the leeks that we harvested and then freeze them.

The two red cabbages were cooked and frozen in suitable portions. I cooked them with onion, eating apples, cider apple vinegar, sultanas and cinnamon. The vinegar is essential or the cabbage will turn blue. This reheats really well.

Our second trip to the allotment was on Sunday afternoon, when the plan was to coppice one of our hazel bushes. We usually do this every three or four years. We ended up with a large pile of hazel poles and twiggy branches. The poles will be used as supports for sweet peas and other climbing plants and the twiggy branches will be used as pea sticks.

Mid week we went to Nostell. The scene there is very different now. Many of the trees have completely lost their leaves and temporary ponds have appeared as a consequence of all the recent rain and snow. These ponds are likely to remain throughout winter.
As you can see from the larger photo the scene is rather bleak now. We had to get out Ruby’s winter coat and the muddy conditions meant that paws needed to be given a good wash when we arrived home.

Last week was just the right sort of week to enjoy a warming stew. I made a turkey stew into which went our, carrots, leeks, potatoes, frozen peas and frozen green beans.
I also made a vegetable lasagne which used some of our onion, carrots and garlic.
Finally, I made a chicken paella which used our frozen runner beans and frozen peas. I used less rice and more vegetables than the recipe called for.

That's all for now, thanks for reading and keep safe and well.

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

Monday, December 6

Hunkering down

It's one of those very rare weeks when I am really struggling for anything to write. It's been a bleak week weather-wise. We've had brief glimpses of brightness which has quickly been consumed by gloom. It's been wet and freezing cold, not the sort of weather that could tempt us into the garden or to the plot especially as we weren't really needing to harvest anything for cooking. Even, Ruby, at times, would stand at the door reluctant to venture out into the rain.
Even had the weather been better, we would have had little time for gardening 

Martyn had a hospital appointment on Monday. As I wasn't allowed to go in with him, I sat in the car with my iPad to keep me company. We are never confident that we will manage to grab a car parking space, despite the car park being huge, so one of us needs to be available to move the car around whilst the other attends the appointment. Amazingly parking was free, probably a Covid safety measure. Parking at the hospital can be an expensive business especially if appointments are running late.

Tuesday, I couldn't stop sneezing and had a permanently streaming nose. I hadn't been anywhere so goodness knows where that came from. I was a bit concerned so took a lateral flow test which happily was negative. Remarkably the 'cold' had disappeared completely by the next day. 

Thursday, Martyn has another hospital appointment - this time by telephone and on Friday we took my sister for a flu jab. Her doctor wasn't offering flu vaccines this year, as they are concentrating on Covid vaccinations, so we had to make an appointment with a pharmacist.

I finally was contacted to arrange an appointment with a dermatologist. The appointment is in January. As the rash comes and goes in intensity, I'm concerned that by the time I go to the appointment things may be going through a calm stage and I'll feel as though I am wasting everyone's time! I will go armed with photographs though which go back at least to June.

So other than medical issues it's been a week for hunkering down indoors. At least we have had, heat, light and a means of producing a hot meal.  The poor people further north have been without power for over a week now. I do wonder whether problems with power supplies will be something we will all become familiar with in the future. For now we are the lucky ones.

As we weren't venturing out, I decided to make some sausage rolls. We don't eat pork and so I made some turkey and mushroom rolls. As usual, they are very rustic. Most have now been frozen.

I didn't use any of our produce in the sausage rolls but did use some of our harvests in other meals.

I used our onions, garlic and frozen peas in some sweet and sour chicken. The recipe, that the meal was based, on calls for sugar snap peas but I didn't have any. I really only used similar ingredients but cooked it in a pan rather than the quick microwave method described.

I used some of our potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic in a vegetable version of a 'shepherd's pie'. I never think I should describe something without lamb as a shepherds pie and a cottage pie should contain beef. On top of all that a pie should have a pastry top shouldn't it?  Can anybody come up with a more appropriate name?

I used some roasted tomatoes from the freezer, along with some of our carrots, onion and garlic to make a pasta sauce that I didn't photograph.

My final meal of the week was a bean casserole into which went some of our leeks, carrot and garlic.

By the way, I did a bit more research and now I think that our leeks really have been attacked by allium leaf miner so it looks as though we will end up growing leeks, onions and garlic under enviromesh in future, as well as our carrots and brassicas. Soon we will need to cover the entire allotment. To be honest there were signs that the leeks may have been affected last year too. The article, that I read, states that there is a second generation which is active in October and November so I am now concerned that the overwintering onions and garlic which are doing so well will be affected. I know that this pest has been active in other parts of the country for some time so if you have this problem I would be interested to know how you deal with it.

Other than cooking, curling up with my iPad and looking out at the miserable weather, I have been designing my Christmas cards. Now I just need to set to and print them out. I just hope that my printer keeps on working as in the past it's chosen times like this to throw a wobbly!

I'm hoping for a better week next week, until then keep safe and well. 

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

Wednesday, December 1

November in pictures