Allotment, Writing

Friendly Giants;

As usual I have recently sown winter brassicas, since then we have had a flurry of growth at home and at the allotment, but this week we are worn down with cold! I have returned to homemade meals to improve our vegetable intake as the return to a weekly shop allows me to concentrate on finishing home projects. With all of my kitchen in place It is a few final fixes to finish, and with two thirds of both rooms tiled it is looking great!

My pumpkins this year have been few, watermelons, squashes, courgettes, and marrows are nicely mixed. Last year I had five different jack o lanterns, but this year we are set a few treats to save seeds.

My friend planted four plants, two Big Max (see header photo!) and two lanterns a quick postcard and note for next year I will be ordering some seeds, grown on our site without preparation or added manure it is well worth setting the seeds. So I will be trading some of my beans for some seeds of these beauties for us to try!

I have already resourced the varieties, a few that failed to appear despite an abundance of sowings. I will try my Atlantic giants with their Australian set the Big Max, I am sure we will be gifted a few of whatever we set.

Despite a difficult start this year, I achieved my goals, Greater variety of cucurbit crop, yellow tomatoes, and a far more successful coverage of  plants in my main beds. Next year as my time is more flexible, I will focus on building up our front beds and setting a few giants of our own!

And as my September sowings start outside I hope to clear my raised beds to fill with my climatized winter crops! For now the plants are still producing, as everyone enjoys the end of the season, I can plan, resource and prepare for next year!

Happy Harvests!

Cheryl

5 ingredients recipes, Writing

Halloween Cup cakes;

Ingredients;

  1. Prepared Cake mix,
  2. Eggs
  3. Water
  4. Icing
  5. Decorating pens

The pre- Halloween I planned baking was a success, the children managed five great Cupcakes, literally, In cups as I refused to pay £8 for a bundt baking tray, however our garden cups which are a great size worked wonders! After a well prepared selection of baking products, reinforcing the need for handwashing as we are all full of cold, they set to their cake mixes.

A box mix carrot cake and a chocolate mix from Aldi, all of which were simple to prepare and took very little mixing, great for toddlers to work as they required very short work process. Once they were mixed they were added to a selection of cups suitable to withstand heat of the oven.

The icing packs, decorating pens and marshmallow for making fondant! We eventually  worked through flattening the icing to cover the cupcakes however I had to place oil down to stop it fixing to our work surface. We needed a few laminated sheets to roll it between, we eventually managed to get four fully covered and decorated.

So, for around five pounds we managed to make five small cakes, this was a trial to see what we could achieve, I think they did well. A nice break in a week of nursing snotty noses… Today I will be making homemade chilli, for medicinal purposes, followed by a large piece of carrot cake!

The marshmallow fondant was a fail, we do not have a microwave so if anyone has a easier process for making an icing alternative I would appreciate the information…

Happy baking!

Cheryl

#Next time I will buy more so I can make my own, using my Christmas cake base!Recipe – Christmas Cake!

 

Gardening on a budget, Writing

Easter Treats!

The sun is blazing again today, but after our adventure yesterday we will be pottering around the garden! My seedlings finally finding their spaces, I have been searching for places to visit in our next holiday time! Fortunately I have stumbled across a little bargain which will make up for our two weeks nesting at home!

The visuals from yesterday still bright in my mind I am looking forward to getting the pool out at home and watching the family enjoy their own space. We had looked at another place to visit today but instead we will save it for tomorrow, and enjoy a quiet day in.

This week I have been donated some seeds from a friend including Berlotti beans, blue crown prince pumpkin seeds, and a carrot array for my husband who seems to enjoy setting the seeds in the boxes he graciously built for me.

I have set some Mahonia seeds this week which I collected from one of my two plants in the garden, hopefully the warm weather will spur them on and I will have some new plants to utilise. These provide winter blooms and seeds, so they are great for birds and early insects when everything else has died back.

The extra seedlings I will set today with a little help from my children, I am hoping for a few more fruit this year. looking at the weather I am hoping for a warm spell to bring everything on to fill the spaces the recent frost made. Whatever I grow I can share, but the space I have at the allotment there is plenty of room for extra seedlings!

So as my Husband returns with our Easter Eggs for the children, I will leave you with another snapshot from our day out, have a Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Cheryl

If you have a few hours to spare, Check out my previous posts and craft an Easter egg Brooders!

Family Postcards, Writing

Saturday Stars!

Today was amazing! An early start ensures we arrive at our destination, after the usual preparations, snacks, change of clothes, pack-up and medical bag! Finally we set of for our local beach, this was a pack-up, petrol and parking day. Drawn out to make the most of the warm, sunny weather.

After placing our youngest daughter in a carry harness, balanced by our pack-up bag we set off for the start of our beach trek. I found the walk refreshing, busy with other visitors we headed towards the sea, as the tide had washed up a surprising amount of Starfish. As my family set to rescuing them to the nearest deep pool I enjoyed the fresh air.

A seat for a light lunch, allowed me to rest a while, surrounded by golden sand glittering landscapes and children rambling through the sandbanks and beach collecting shells! A few treasures to mulch my pots in the garden, adding a little treasure to our landscape.

As we made our way through the beach we made an unusual decision to follow on to the main beach! This became a mini-adventure, tired children, clagging quick sand and deep estuaries ensured we walked at least a mile through uncomfortable terrain. As we hit the main beach we were muddy to say the least, but we made it back before the tide and had a scramble up quick sand to get back to the main path.

I have also a fantastic array of photographs of the family which I have selected a few to print and frame. The addition of the stars were a wonderful, an amazing bonus, something unusual to share!

Happy Holidays!

Cheryl

 

Family Postcards, Writing

Holiday fun!

So with two weeks off I prepared in advance and collected a few sets of props for Easter, all of mine have enjoyed the search for eggs through our garden! So after finding a large plastic chicken container full of eggs for £4 and purchasing a craft kit full of characters from chicks to bunnies, eggs and flowers I filled a few of the chick eggs with my purchases and set aside a few for treats which I place in cool carrot bags designed for each child to have a treat.

The first was a chocolate egg hunt, I have also purchased Haribo bags, lollies, sweets and a selection of eggs for Sunday. The children enjoy the variety of treats and it costs around ten pounds to collect the props as the egg hunt cards which I added to large garden tags, cost a few pounds.

Whether it is part of your calendar or not I find this time of year is great for showing the circle of life, can help build a knowledge of reality about different food sources. A great opportunity to draw them outside in search of something, Which often breaks up the day and allows them to enjoy the wonderful warm weather we are having!

I am still thrilled by the addition of chicks into school at this time of year, for those who have not the access to their own it is great to watch the chicks hatching and growing over the weeks running up to Easter. I have sourced a few clips, I have found to access for my children to watch eggs hatching, chicks developing.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Cheryl

 

Gardening on a budget, Writing

Spring Garden!

Some times I find I need space from technology! After a few weeks of family focussed work I found inspiration in the garden, and echoing the growth in our life I found the light perfect to show the blooms of our garden. The Orchard flowers are beginning to appear on the tree’s, the plum has already been pollinated, but the later harvested fruit are just showing their white beauty.

The Ribes and clematis have 6 foot between them which I plan to sow some flower seeds between but along the fence they greet and gather, I love the clematis as it flowers twice a year and they blooms smell off strawberry chocolate. The archway it initially clambered has all but gone, however the tree like stem still holds the rambling arch strongly.

Our little decked area set for the children is still amazing this time of year, the combination of bamboo’s, ferns and my favourite ‘Bloodgood’ Acer which has flourished in its sheltered position. After adding mulch throughout the base of our planted and play areas around the garden it has created a relaxing woodland feel which the family enjoy playing in whilst searching for their holiday treats.

It seems and age away from when it was first planted, and today it still activates their imagination. A space for them to search for insects, grow their plants and create, priceless to see how they have blossomed and skilled in their own knowledge and confidence.

After a quiet afternoon enjoying the sunshine!

Happy Horticulture!

Cheryl

Writing

Mothers Day!

I have to admit the outside space we enjoy really does shine at this time of year, the shrubs and evergreens adorned with flowers are wonderful. Yesterday as the light warmed our space I had my best mothers day present, watching them interact and play together within the space. I love this weather you turn off the electronics, open the door and watch them all spill into the garden, there is always a level of disorder to the space but with six kids it holds its own.

I enjoy the variety of spaces, shelters created for inspiring play landscapes and architectural structure for the wildlife and to add height to our modest space. The summer weather has prompted a spring clean through the borders, our last woodwork collection requiring collection as the children have built small fairy dens and projects, eventually dis-guarded to the edges.

So this week we have sectioned off the outside shed using a few decking  boards from the allotment, this with an additional cabinet will ensure our expanding tool collection will have a place out of our summer house which will be set with our slide and toys as an indoor play space away from the house.

Thursday I managed to clear the deck space next to the house, using the space for the children’s sitting area and potting on area. This weekend I plan to set a large variety of plants for successional sowings and additional for using up flower, and fruit seeds which I often find adding to my seed collection yet never seem to sow them. These I will donate as I enjoy sharing the extra’s our endeavours provide.

So today I plan to enjoy a good Dinner, complete the essentials and wait for my husband to return to give me a some time to potter in the garden. After a few spritzers last night and for once an entertaining film, the occasional moment were I am reminded that a few moments can be set aside for me, at the cost of a few hours sleep! I enjoy the moments I share with my family, the riverbank being the first in hopefully many to enjoy the warm, bright days that we are currently enjoying!

So whatever your doing today, enjoy those precious moments!

Happy Mothers Day!

Cheryl

 

Family Postcards, Writing

By the river bank;

Yesterday was a day for excursions, my husband felt the need to take us to a local stretch of river for a long walk, unusual choice but as we walked the few mile stretch the weather was beautiful, and the world was vibrant and colourful. I was surprising how peaceful it was as we rambled down the pathway following the farmers fields and wind turbines.

I find them mesmerising from a distance but up close they were ginormous, as the propellers spun the shadows blinkered the sunlight and as we walked on the scenery shone bright ahead of us. Two swans were basking in the sun and a few large fish were visible from the surface of the water, sitting in the shallows was a pike idling out of the direct sunshine. One of the majestic birds, took flight behind us and the wingspan stretched the width of the river itself, each beat of it wings highlighted the elegance of this Jurassic sized bird. Its white plumage shone in the bright spring sunlight.

The deer made a rare appearance across the fresh green fields, they seemed to stop just long enough for us to watch them until they vanished off I the distance. I find each space I see, sets off a drive to plant it up with my own design whether it is in need of  a drift of wildflowers for the insects or a space to build a new home!

After a few miles we came across an array of daffodils, a few with unusual colourings, pom pom centres and multi headed varieties which were rare! The weather was warm and despite the usual addressing for safety it was delightful to see the space at its best.

After a brief visit to the allotment to plant some seedlings and transplanting my strawberries for our slabs to create a seated space we returned to work in the garden!

Happy Tours!

Cheryl

Grow Your Own, Propagation, Writing

Sundays Seedlings!

Today the seeds we set over the last few weeks inside have begun to germinate, the popcorn planter sweetcorn is looking strong, almost reaching the top of its container it will not be long before I can pot them on and set a second sowing!

Our Brassica’s are looking great, I will set a few more when I pot these on as I hope to have a continuous succession through the year! I have three set beds which I plan to fill with our ton bag of compost from the first year, it should be perfect for building up firm growing area’s for cauliflowers and Broccoli.

Our Cloche frames are strong, however the scaffolding fabric will require securing to the framework to deter the Cabbage whites feasting on the newly planted crops. I shall add a few cup hooks to hold it in place.

My excitement today as our Pumpkins have just begun to show the first stages of germination inside, it will be a few weeks before the greenhouse sown crop catch up but it will good to see whether the inside set seedlings will get ahead after they have been climatized to plant!

I have already set all of my different types for this year which is probably around 50 seedlings, I will probably plant around 15 large cucurbits in the area which we have just manured and dug over. My next job is to dig over and trench manure in the final area of that side, this bed will probably fit another 25 plants.

Any extras I will donate or share, as between these I will set the sweetcorn, as the pumpkins will ramble through the small fields of corn. However as I plan to train the smaller pumpkins and squashes up the pergola, a few of which I set on our last visit at the allotment, hopefully when I return they will be just starting to germinate. I plan to add wire to three sides of it and cover it with mesh to create a space which is sheltered, that provides a little warmth in the colder months.

My Silver Moon onion sets are all showing new shoots so these will be planted on our next visit, probably in the front garlic bed. I will add straw to deter the weeds but these front beds I intend to rebuild with scaffolding boards in time.

So as Dinner Settles, I plan on finishing some chores ready for another week!

Happy St Patricks Day!

Cheryl

Allotment, Crop - Seed to Table, Propagation, Writing

St Patricks Day; Potatoes!

Today the weather has improved slightly from the last few days and the sky is bright blue with whispy wintery clouds, the wind has died down from its previous torrent! It has been a family week this week so I am grateful for my early sowing of potatoes, as today despite the good weather I am looking forward to a relaxing day at home!

Around the country however thousands of my fellow allotmenteers will be sowing their selections of potatoes in whichever style they choose, whether it be a no dig version successful piling of compost or the long enjoyed trench dug preparation. The enjoyment of potatoes straight from ground to table is surprisingly satisfying, the fresher the better!

I have set aside 6 pots for our potato competition, I let my children set a potted potato set into similar level soil to see who can grow the most over the season, something  we have done since they were small and that we have been lucky to have been supported in their local schools.

So Today post Sunday Dinner we will be planting a selection of Salad potatoes from our home favourites, to trial growing from supermarket bought potatoes. Whereas at the allotment we shall try setting a few chitted varieties in last years pots. Either way we hope for a more successful crop than last years pebbles.

Last year I planted a similar selection, Charlottes are our favourite salad potato, King Edwards and Desire are all from £1 bags. If I have the chance ‘Valor’, from the garden centre would be another variety I would find space for, but already my trenches are full of potential.

Trench digging for me ensures the ground is weed free, especially with newly dug beds riddled with couch grass. It also allows you to break down the top layers of soil which for ground that has not been dug for several years. I know plenty of people who try this method who are physically unable to dig but for me the cost of piling up good compost over the surface every year is to expensive a method for growing if you are purchasing it.

It is fine if you have ten years of rotated compost but for those just starting out I prefer straw as it is financially viable and prevents the weeds draining the crops of nutrients! I have a compost bin ready to clear, but at the moment I am focusing on ground preparation, I may however start using it to build up the ground levels on my main beds and for earthing up the potatoes as they grow.

Earthing up prevents the potatoes which surface going green and toxic in the sunlight so as they grow it also allows more tubers to grow on the enclosed layers increasing the yields from the plants. I have to say that I place my tubers at the bottom of the trenches and then double dig the plants out to reduce the need for earthing up. The principle being that the plant once established has a foot to set tubers in as it grows, once it is in the earth is already deep enough to ensure no tubers are likely to spoil.

If you are interested in trench digging your potatoes in please check out my previous post GYO: Potato Planting

If you are interested in container planting, grab a large container or pot and purchase some seed potatoes. These can be a £1 per bag from poundstretcher or £3 plus for a set weight at the garden centre. Early croppers grown for June, middle and late croppers for September just wait for your first flowers and check for the potatoes underneath.

If you plant a few in June you can set a few for Christmas dinner, or set aside an area with the plants you will add to your Christmas table. This will allow you to pick fresh and add a harvesting treat to your special day. This could be completed in a metre square bed or selection of containers and grow bags the opportunities are endless, over the years we have grown in Belfast sinks, potato bags and selected garden spaces. Which is perfect for growing a selection of crops on a small scale.

So whether you are trenching in this years crop, or planting in containers, today is the day to plant your potatoes!

Happy St Patricks Day!

Cheryl

 

 

Photography – Online CC