Sunday, November 28

Snow in November?

Last week started in much the same way as previous weeks. We went to the allotment and cleared and tidied up more beds.
It was bitterly cold and so we needed to do something energetic and digging certainly fitted the bill.

With even colder weather forecasted, Martyn decided that he had better increase protection for the dahlia tubers in the plot greenhouse and so they were covered with a huge pile of hessian sacks and enviromesh.
This was a good decision as by the end of the week things certainly took a turn for the worse. The temperatures dropped and we actually had snow! We don't usually get snow in November so it was a bit of a shock to the system.
It looks as though this may have put paid to anymore work on the allotment, that involves digging, as the melted snow is likely to have made our soil unworkable. On the positive side the frosts should help break down the clumpy soils that are a feature of some of the beds.
We managed some walks with Ruby before the snow came. All three of us wrapped up in warm coats and managed a shortened visit to Nostell.

Ruby then had to content herself with gazing out of the window, which I don't think impressed her very much.
At least it was warm and cosy inside, the poor birds had it much tougher. The bird feeders were very busy.

I'm afraid the photos that I managed to take are of rather poor quality. The light was poor and I was shooting through our leaded windows. The birds didn't tend to stay still for long either, and who can blame them?
On Monday we brought a few leeks home from the allotment. I found a tiny bug in one of the leeks and some on the leeks have brown streaks on the white shafts which I hope isn't a sign that the allium leaf miner has made it to our area. I have looked up information and I don't think this is the case. Fingers crossed. Soon we will be at the stage where everything that we grow will need to be covered!
Some of the leeks along with homegrown carrots and parsley were added to turkey when I made a pasta bake.
More leeks, along with some of our pink banana squash, small potatoes and parsley were used in a chicken and vegetable casserole. It was based on this recipe but I used apple juice instead of cider. The photo makes it look very oily but it wasn't.
More pink banana squash, onion and green beans from the freezer went into a Thai curry. Some coriander that I had frozen also was used in this meal.
Here's hoping that the snow doesn't hang around.  Keep safe, well and, if you have freezing cold conditions, keep warm. With power outages in some parts of the UK we are lucky that we still have heating, lighting and can cook a warm meal.

This week I am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres

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

Monday, November 22

Little splashes of colour

My blog posts are becoming rather repetitive so I thought that I would start with something a bit different, On Sunday it was bitterly cold at the allotment and, as I can't see them hanging on for much longer, I thought that I would take some photos of the flowers that are still braving the wintry conditions.

The roses were still producing flowers and even had new buds.
The statice were also producing clusters of papery flowers.

The calendula and cosmos are occupying a bed that I should be clearing but I really didn’t want to discard the plants whilst they were still trying their best to deliver a shot of colour into what is otherwise dull scene.
Strawberry flowers are still setting fruit but the berries go mouldy before they manage to ripen. Taking the strawberries indoors to finish ripening no longer works as the fruit still goes mouldy before it ripens.
Now for the repetitive stuff! We had three afternoons at the allotment and did more clearing and tidying. We are really quite pleased with how much we have managed to complete. We are much further ahead than we were at this time last year. However, there's still lots to keep us busy if the weather allows.
The sweetcorn has been dug up consigned to the compost heap.

We had planted potatoes in an old strawberry bed. After having housed strawberry plants for a few years the ground was fairly compacted and the potatoes were planted to break down the soil. We have already lots of potatoes in storage and didn't expect a crop from that bed but we did harvest a bucketful of decent Apache tubers. As Martyn lifted the potatoes, I cleared as much bindweed and couch grass as I could. We ended up with a wheelbarrow full but I am sure there will be lots of new growth shooting up next year. Bindweed and couch grass are horrendously difficult to eradicate. The potatoes have done their job and the soil is now really workable.
The overwintering onion and garlic will have perhaps stopped growing now until the weather warms up next spring. There were a few weeds springing up amongst the young plants so these were pulled out.
Martyn, trimmed the apple hedge to restrict its height and spread. We actually treat it like a hedge rather than pruning in the recommended fashion but it doesn't seem to affect fruiting.
As well as the unexpected bucket of potatoes we also harvested a bunch of leeks. This time the variety was Porbello.
We brought home a couple of cabbages too.
Cabbage - Cabbice and Savoy - Cordessa

Last week, we cut into the first of our Crown Prince squashes. Maybe hacked into it would be a better description as they have really tough skins.

Some of the squash was used in a curry, along with one of our onions. It was based on this recipe. The rest of the squash was frozen for use later. I find once the squash is frozen the flesh becomes softer and takes less time to cook.
I used some of the leeks to make Wensleydale patties. These are really a Yorkshire version of Glamorgan sausages. I use Wensleydale cheese and shape them like fishcakes instead of using Caerphilly cheese and forming into sausage shapes. They were served with some of our potatoes sautéed and a mix of our frozen peas, sweetcorn and French beans. Some patties were frozen to provide a quick meal at a later date.
More leeks were used in a chicken pilaf. I also used some of our carrots in this along with some bought mushrooms. I alter the proportion of rice to the other ingredients as we prefer the rice to be less dominant.
In other news, Ruby was taken on her usual walks but wasn't too keen on the shower that she had to suffer after her walk around Nostell. Her feet were filthy and she would have got away with a footbath but she was due to be groomed the day after so the full works was required.

Martyn and I had our flu jabs which I am pleased to say were a lot less hassle than the Covid boosters.  We were back home before the time that out appointments were due.

That's all for this week, I hope everyone is still keeping safe and well. Take care!

This week I am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres

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

Monday, November 15

Getting to the root of the problem

We had a couple of days working on the allotment last week and a couple of days at two of our usual haunts.

The trees now cast a golden glow but it won't be long before they cast off their leaves and become silhouettes. For now, we can enjoy the autumn tints.
Nostell Priory
Temple Newsam
At Temple Newsam, photos had to be taken trying to avoid the metal fencing that had sprung up around the lake area. The fencing isn't at all photogenic. We guessed that the fencing was in preparation for some sort of event so I checked on the internet when we arrived home. Sure enough they are staging a Christmas Lights Trail in a week or two. Video of visit.

Our days on the allotment mainly focused on continuing to clear and tidy beds to prepare them for their winter rest.

However, the first thing we went to check on was the site of the previous week’s bonfire. All that remained was a thin layer of ash which will be dug it later.

The two cardoons, that stand sentinel throughout summer at one edge of the plot, have been cut back. The new growth is already fairly well advanced. Video here
More beds have been cleared, weeded and edged and the grass paths have been strimmed. Hopefully, the growth of the grass and any new weed growth will be slowed down by the onset of colder weather and less hours of daylight. The only crops that remained in the long bed - bottom right photo above - were a few swedes and moolis.
For a few years now, we have failed when it comes to growing swedes. We have had the odd fluke but other than that our swedes never develop a ball like root - or is it a stem? We’ve tried sowing direct and in modules but all we get is a cylinder shape. Any secrets to success that we should know about?

Having been introduced to moolis by Mal on his blog, we decided to give them a go. I only sowed a few seeds in case we didn’t like them. I thinned them out exactly as specified but I dug up a very motley looking group. One - top left photo - looked like a cross between a mooli and one of our deformed swedes. There were also quite a few little tiddlers. I did end up though with three or four that looked as I expected. Video here. Apparently small moolis can be eaten raw but larger ones are better cooked. I didn’t  really know how to cook the moolis so I decided to try them in a stir fry with some chicken that needed using up.  I julienned  a mooli and a carrot. I added one of our onions and some strips of red and green peppers and some sliced mushrooms. It was moistened with sweet chilli sauce and served with noodles. The mooli worked well in this so now I need more ideas on how to use them. Any suggestions?

Another meal that made use of our homegrown vegetables was a vegetable turnover. Into this went a leek, carrot and frozen peas. Green, yellow and red peppers and portobello mushroom were also added and the turnover was served with a mixture of our frozen sweet corn, broad beans and runner beans.

I used some of our carrots and onion in a vegetable orzo dish. Next time I make it I'll cut down on the liquid content.
Most weeks, on one day we have a salad for dinner. I try to make some sort of pastry as part of the salad. I’ve been making little pies in a muffin tin but I had difficulty removing the hot pie from the tin so I was on the lookout for something to make the task easier. 

This takes me on to some 'gadgets' old and new which have certainly helped. I'm sure you will be familiar with most. A great find was a muffin tin with loose bases. This really made it easy to remove the pies from the tin to pop on the cooling tray. It would be even easier if there was an additional piece of kit with the set that would sit under the tin and pop the pies out. Something like that provided with some plant raising modules.

Another difficulty when using a muffin tin for pastries is that it can be tricky to line the cups with pastry without pushing a finger through the pastry. This was made easier when I acquired a pastry tamper.
I never seemed to have a pastry cutter the size that I needed so made do with cups, dishes or glasses that were about the right size. My next useful item is a set of pastry cutters in a wide range of sizes.

Finally, something that I have had for a while now is a set of rubber brushes that I use to give the tops of my pies an egg wash. Before I bought these I used a traditional pastry brush which often left bristles behind that needed picking off before someone ended up eating one.
Last week's pies were chicken tagine pies. The recipe came from the Great British Bake Off. I left out the olives as neither of us like them. My pies aren't as dainty as the ones in the recipe and the judges would probably say that they weren't very neat but Martyn reckons that they are rustic and look homemade so I'll settle for that.

That's all for now so until next time, I hope that you have a good week and stay safe and well.

This week I am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres

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

Monday, November 8

Bonfire night - taking the rough with the smooth.

Monday morning, Martyn and I went for our Covid booster vaccination. It was nowhere near as slick as the system operating for our main jabs which were more or less a straight in, wait the allocated 15 minutes after the injection and back out experience.

We chose the main vaccination venue in Wakefield as we assumed it would be the best organised and we both managed to book the same time slot. Unfortunately on the day of our appointments, they also were allowing those eligible to just walk in and have a vaccination. This really made a mockery of the appointment system as walk-ins seemed to be delaying those who had booked an appointment which begged the question why make appointments at all?

We arrived at the allocated car park which was basically open for anyone not specifically for those going for vaccination. After some difficulty finding a space, there was no signage directing to the vaccination venue. Fortunately, we met someone in the car park who knew where to go and so we followed him which turned out to be some way from the car park.

When we reached the centre we had to wait outside as only a small number were being let in at a time. Eventually, we gained entry and our details were taken. We then had to join another queue. We then had to give more details and have the process explained after which we were sent to another queue to await our turn to be vaccinated.

We then had to wait 15 minutes in case of side effects and left the building into pouring rain so when we finally reached the car we were soaked. The whole process took over an hour. Thank goodness we managed to book a double appointment and don't have to repeat the process. If there is a next time we will go to the supermarket car park.

We managed to get to Nostell with Ruby, although we had to shorten our walk. Cattle had been moved into the large meadow which is the main part of our regular route.  Cows and dogs are not a happy combination so we had to stick to the pathways around the house and lake.
Fortunately, we were able to access the off lead area so Ruby worked off some energy chasing her ball.
The recent rain had been ideal growing conditions for fungi which Ruby was kept well away from.
Rain clouds loomed during our walk but fortunately it stayed dry.

Martyn decided that November 5 would be the best day for having a fire at the allotment. Being Bonfire Night it shouldn't upset people living in houses nearby.

He mainly wanted to burn some old twigs that had been used as pea sticks for a couple of years and were now too brittle to be of any use. Once cleared the area where they had been piled could be used for the new prunings that will result once Martyn coppiced our hazels.
Before starting to build up the bonfire we harvested a few things for use the following week.
5 November - Leeks - Below Zero, Cabbage - Cabbice, Savoy cabbage - Cordessa, Strawberries - Albion and some mixed dahlias and chrysanthemums.
Surprisingly despite the very low temperatures, the dahlias as still green and producing flowers.
Whilst, Martyn was busy with his fire, I did more tidying, I cleared another bed but also cut the tayberry completely to the ground. This obviously will mean no fruit next year but the canes had become really untidy. The fence which it was trained along needs some renovation work and the area around the base of the canes needs clearing. The canes are very prickly so working alongside them isn't very pleasant. I'm contemplating repeating this process every other year to try and keep the plants more manageable. As new canes grow next year, I will tie in a few of the strongest growing ones which will fruit the following year. 
By the time, Martyn's fire had died down it was dark so it was a good job that we had brought a torch.

Ruby is quite a little poser and seems to know when she is being photographed. Pictured here at Nostell she hasn't a care in the world.
She was a very different dog on Bonfire Night. She usually takes the noise from fireworks in her stride and just barks at them but on Bonfire Night there was an horrendous bang that shook the house windows. I have been told that this was likely to be a firework aptly named the bomb. Whatever, it was reduced, Ruby to a quivering wreck - she was terrified and didn't calm down for the rest of the night. We're just hoping that this experience doesn't affect her long term as we had really thought the fireworks weren't going to be a problem for her. Fireworks do seem to be getting louder and I really don't understand the appeal of ones that just make a loud bang. I thought at one stage there were moves to make fireworks quieter. The problem is that fireworks are no longer confined to 5th November but continue for days. It's no fun for the animals who really don't understand what is going on.

Finally, as well as being served as side dishes, our vegetables formed a starring role in some of last week's meals.

I made a spicy vegetable and quinoa dish that incorporated an onion and our frozen peas, sweetcorn, cauliflower and green beans. It was based on this recipe but I used tikka masala paste rather than madras.
Carrots, onion, potatoes and frozen peas went into a  chicken stew.
I used onion, carrots, garlic and cabbage with minced turkey to make another stew - it's that time of year. It was based on this recipe.

Until next time, I hope that you have a good week and stay safe and well.

This week I am once again joining in with Dave’s Harvest Monday collection of posts over at Our Happy Acres

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

Wednesday, November 3

October in Pictures