Thursday, 28 February 2013

Things I Made Thursday (and update!)

It is a beautiful day today.  When we left for school at 8.30am, it was 0°C and I had to scrape ice from my windscreen.  But now it is about 8°C out there and there are big blue skies and plenty of sunshine.  I hung my washing out to dry for the first time (so it is officially Spring yeah?!) and the guinea pigs are happily wheeking about on the grass in the sun.  I haven't been too good this week at doing my 20 minutes per day in the garden, but that is because it has been so darned cold!  I am very glad to see the sun and hope to get out later.  Dylan has started work on making adjustments to the garage roof, which currently overhangs one of the veg beds and floods it when it rains.  Hopefully there will be a gutter on there before too long!

My early seeds are starting to germinate too!  I now have chillis and tomatoes germinating, as well as the coriander.  I am especially pleased about the chilli seeds as these are our home-grown seeds, from chillis I grew last year, then dried.  I gave some seeds to some friends and was most miffed that their seeds germinated faster than mine!  I think this is testament to how chilly our house has been recently (trying to spend less on fuel!) and one of my friends used a heated propagator, which I am now totally sold on and I fully intend to purchase one at some point!

I tend to cook on Thursdays.  In winter, this tends to be a little dull due to lack of garden fodder to cook with, but a necessity to ensure my tribe have interesting things to go in their lunch boxes!  Today I made a flapjack.  The preferred option is usually chocolate flapjack and our favourite recipe is this one, which I gather was originally from the Green&Blacks website (no wonder it tastes good!), although today I opted for change and made golden linseed and chocolate chip flapjack!  Smells good.  I just need to chop it up and freeze it in portions to serve four, so I am not tempted to nibble at it!  (If I freeze in portions of four, I can't eat it as this would mean I won't have enough for all four lunch boxes on one day!  This has backfired on me before when I decided to eat all four pieces, so no one was without, d'oh!!)

Golden Linseed & Chocolate Chip Flapjack
500g porridge oats
250g butter
4-6 tbsp of golden syrup
180g sugar
50g of golden linseeds
good handful of chocolate chips

Mix the oats and seeds.  In a pan, gently melt the butter, syrup and sugar.  Mix this into the oats/seeds.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before mixing in the chocolate chips.  Pour into a 20cmx30cm buttered tray and cook in the oven around 180°C for about 25 minutes.  Cut into squares whilst still warm.  

Golden linseed & chocolate chip flapjack

I also made a soup for my lunches for the rest of the week. This week it was spiced parsnip soup.  Sadly these were not parsnips I had grown.  The wet Summer we had meant lots of our vegetable growing efforts failed last year, and parsnips were one that failed to get passed June.  But, parsnips are cheap in the shops at this time of year, so I bought about 1.5kg today and made soup.  I spiced it with spices from a jar and dried coriander leaves to keep it low budget and quick-to-make:

(Very Easy) Spiced Parsnip Soup
1.5kg of parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped.
1 clove garlic, crushed.
1 tsp of garam masala.
1 tsp of hot paprika
2 tsp dried coriander leaves
1.5 litres of stock

Add all ingredients to a large pan. Bring to a simmer and put a lid on.  Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the parsnips are cooked.  Blend in batches until smooth.  Season with care.  Please note, all quantities are approximate as I do tend to make it up as I go along!

Very easy spiced parsnip soup

I also bought the March edition of Kitchen garden because there were ten packets of free seeds included which made me very happy!  Most of the varieties I already have, but they have long dates on them, so they will keep for another year!  Free seeds, good food and sunshine.  Good day so far!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

First Life

When I wasn't watching, first life appeared!  I usually scrutinise the soil day after day and I love spotting the first signs of the soil being disrupted, followed by a brand new shred of life pushing through.  I hadn't been watching too closely though.  The days are still short and although the sun has been out a bit more than usual, I hadn't expected to see germination yet. 

But today I saw this:

That is coriander, first seeds of the year to germinate.  There are no signs of life yet from the chilli seeds or the tomatoes, but hopefully they won't be too long now. 

I am moving the propagators from the windowsill as light fades, onto the fireguard so they can stay warm.  TLC all the way...

I have stuck to my '20 mins per day' of gardening.  Or rather garden-clearance!  I haven't been out in the last two days as I was working, but I did a good hour on Sunday instead.  All the old broken toys are cleared and ready to be taken to the tip.  Lots of old, dead stalks from last year's plants have been cleared and I have swept up a lot of leaves.  Dylan has used a very clever contraption, borrowed from our neighbours to take the top off the tree in the garden which is getting a little tall and threw a lot of shade over our veggie beds last year.  I have bought some rubble sacks to start clearing the old water-logged compost out.  Not looking forward to getting out there today - it is cold and damp, but I shall at least try and get a few more weeds/dead plants cleared. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Seeds and snowdrops

Today I planted some more seeds; this time it was tomatoes and more chillies.  The chilli seeds were brought from the South Devon Chilli Farm, who have a great reputation, and I had great success with their seeds last year.  So today it was a yellow chilli that went in - Golden Cayenne - another HOT one! 

The sun was streaming in the window and the windowsills were positively crying out to be filled full of seeds to germinate!  Spring feels as though it is just around the corner....

Here is my seed collection for this season.  Some are leftover from last year, others, I have just purchased.  And some were freebies I picked up along the way!

The snowdrops are really adding a Spring-like feel to the garden now.

The slightly warmer temperatures and sunshine are making me want to start getting the garden into order again.  Despite it being a very small space, it needs a lot of work as it has been neglected over the winter.  The soil needs clearing of cat poo and turning over.  Last years dead things needs cutting back and clearing.   Toys need moving and we need to put guttering on the garage to prevent it flooding one of the beds I want to use for veggies.  I also need to sort out the patio tubs I use - many of them are water-logged with old, wet compost, which needs partly throwing and partly mixing with new compost (which I need to acquire!). 

The greenhouse needs sorting and I need to move the guinea pigs back outside, although I will wait a few more weeks for this.  The shelves I will use for seedlings need putting up in the greenhouse.  And that's all for starters!

I am going to try and aim for 20 minutes per day in the garden from now on (with the exception of Monday/Tuesdays) to start getting things sorted. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Small things make me happy

Today the small things that made me happy were: 
  • Starting a new blog about the things I like to grow,
  • Noticing that the snowdrops in my garden were about to bloom,
  • Planting my first seeds of 2013
I LOVE this time of year... not quite as much as Spring or Summer, but close enough!  Winter is still cold and bleak at times, but there are tiny little signs everywhere that Spring will soon be here.

My garden is full of debris and dead things which I was too lazy to clear away at the end of 2012.  But through that debris, there are signs of new life.  The snowdrops are pushing through - and even very nearly blooming!  There are other bulbs coming through, including daffodils and crocuses.  There are starlings and blackbirds clearly building nests in the large hedge between our neighbour and us.  The weather may still be icy, but changes are happening.  My youngest daughter turns 6 at the end of February and every year the snowdrops bloom in time for her birthday.  It marked the end of a long cold winter being pregnant, back in 2007.  The day the snowdrops bloomed, that is when she decided to come earth side.  So the snowdrops still mean a huge burst of good feelings around here, for many, many reasons.

 I haven't made lots of plans yet about what exactly I want to grow this year, but I do know that chillies and tomatoes will be part of these plans.  I found that last year that both of these did very well from having a longer growing season after I started them off in February, inside.  The chillies benefited from germinating in the warm, on top of the fireplace and later on the windowsill as the sun rose high enough to shine beams over the hedge and into the house.  

So it made me happy today to fill a small propagator with chilli seeds, which came from last years home-grown chillies.  I had hung my 2012 harvest up to dry in the Autumn and we are still using them now for cooking.  Each chilli is FULL of perfectly preserved seeds, and because the chilli has been dried, I have simply cut the top off the chilli, and tipped the seeds out.  The chilli can be used for cooking and the seeds can be planted :-)

2012's crop drying out, full of seeds.

Seeds sown and being coaxed to germinate on the fireguard

 I have not yet bought tomato seeds, so I filled the other half of the propagator with coriander seeds.  I have had limited success with coriander from year to year - it tends to bolt before I can make use of it.  I thought I would try it early this year to see if I can get more usable leaves before the sun gets strong and convinces my coriander plants to run to seed and produce flowers instead of edible leaves!