6. JANUARY

I had my usual shopping morning on Wednesday and apart from  the usual few things in the butcher shop I decided to get some fruit. That’s when I found they had Seville oranges – of course, it is marmalade – making time after all. I didn’t get them at the time as I wasn’t quite sure of the quantities. After lunch I thought I’d better go back and get the oranges, didn’t want to leave it for another week as they might sell out.

Later that afternoon with my best recipe in hand I got down to it.

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The whole process is quite labour-intensive but the result is great so it is worth putting up with it. The oranges are boiled first of all and when they cool down, sliced and the flesh scraped out and rubbed through a sieve. 

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The halves are sliced nice and thin, or I cut them with my kitchen scissors because that way I can control the thickness much better.

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All the peel will go here in the large pan with the left over liquid from boiling oranges and the pulp, sugar and lemon juice added and boiled. It is tested on a very cold saucer (kept in the freezer for this purpose) and then potted. 

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Of course I save my jars so this is the best kind of recycling. I made two batches from two kilos of oranges and now have an amazing amount of jars of marmalade.

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I used to make marmalade each year around this time but because of the Covid wasn’t able to get the oranges. All is well  now, this will  keep us going.

17. NOVEMBER

I must’ve misremembered the weather forecast for today – I was ready to go to the allotment to carry on weeding. It wasn’t to be, it has been raining since early morning and I think we had rain during the night too. Plan B had to be used. When in doubt, do some cooking. I was going to prepare today’s lunch anyway so I just continued in the kitchen getting tomorrow’s lunch done. Today’s meal was a simple affair – pasta with homemade sauce and veggie sausages.  The sauce was oven roasted tomatoes, peppers and courgettes. Very tasty and quick.

The plan for tomorrow was a dish using one of my squashes I grew on the allotment. I  like BBC Good food so I chose one of their recipes. It is a slow cooker recipe, even better as I can cook it overnight.

The recipe asks for a butternut squash but as I didn’t grow them I have used a substitute – Moschata muscade

They grew well and I have saved some seeds to  make sure I’ll have them next year. The rest of the ingredients was my own as well, roasted tomatoes and peppers instead of a tin of chopped tomatoes and homemade pesto.

Of course anything made at home from scratch always takes a while – peeling, chopping and so on but the result is infinitely better. My slow cooker was just big enough for it and we shall have at least two servings each from it. I’m going to make the dumplings for the first day and we can have it with some bread the next time. Of course the bread will be homemade too.

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22. OCTOBER

Today was an ideal day for digging. I started on the allotment around 10.30 and as I didn’t have to  cook I took a flask of coffee with me and worked. It was highly enjoyable and it felt almost like a late spring day. I decided to tackle a bigger area and the place to work on today was my large net cage. I had a mix of vegetables there – peas, chard that survived from  last year and a group of yellow pear tomatoes. The tomatoes and peas have finished a while ago but the chard was growing well.

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I harvested it with the idea to make our favourite lasagne.

It took quite a while to clear all the old plants and weeds but it was well worth it. The soil is crumbly and rich , I didn’t pull out the chard, it will grow again for another harvest. That’s the beauty of chard, it grows well, doesn’t bolt and after cooking it it doesn’t shrink as much as spinach. The cage is ready for next year, I will have some wigwams for growing peas, amaranth and perhaps some tomato plants.

All this work was made easy thanks to my favourite tool – the azada.

As I was working inside the cage I could hear and see my resident robin getting very agitated because he couldn’t get to the worms. So after I finished inside the cage I cleared the new raspberry patch next to the cage. It is only small but the robin was waiting on top of the fruit cage next to it and when I left he started looking for his worms.

All this work took a good few hours,  I came home after three pm but there was no time to rest, the chard had to be cooked, white sauce made and lasagne assembled. We shall have our favourite for lunch tomorrow.

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13. OCTOBER

Even though it was a lovely sunny autumn day I decided to change my plans and instead of going to work on the allotment I started baking first thing in the morning. It was a loaf, this one is an overnight loaf, I don’t have to kneed it, just scrape the dough into the loaf tin in the morning and after it has risen again, bake it. It always works, it makes a very tasty loaf.

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Next I made two cottage pies. I went to my favourite butcher shop yesterday and got some mince. I had all the other ingredients and even though the preparation takes a while, it is worth the effort. 

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As the mince was cooking I got two apple cakes mix ready and baked these while we had our lunch.

The apples are from the allotment, we’ve got a few communal fruit trees and they were laden with fruit. I’ve got no idea what variety they are. I use them in cooking but they are equally nice to eat raw.

After lunch we went for a short walk and on the way back we stopped at the allotment. I wanted to  collect my pumpkins, they look ripe but I knew I  couldn’t manage to carry them home  by myself.

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They are not big but feel very heavy. It’ll be a challenge to do some clever carving.

1. OCTOBER

Following a very rainy day yesterday today started crisp and sunny. After sorting out some technical difficulties – a lot of them of my own making – I went to the allotment to do more harvesting. It was the turn of apples and chard. My little Bramley tree has given me some beauties. The tree itself didn’t look like anything and the apples themselves were rather small. I thinned them but they didn’t improve too much. I left them and all of a sudden they suddenly swelled up and look very tasty.

The rain was equally beneficial for the chard and I harvested a full plastic bag. I prefer it to spinach because it doesn’t shrink so much in cooking. The flavour is excellent and I use it the same way, I make spinach lasagne.

I grew the chard inside one of my net cages because otherwise the pigeons would strip it all. In the same cage I grew some cabbages and kale and I cut two little red cabbages. These are very tasty just shredded and steamed, we’ll have it together with some steamed potatoes and fish.

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1. AUGUST

I knew that today was ‘stay in the kitchen’ day and I was right. The result is wonderful, well worth the time spent chopping and slicing. A few trips up into the loft to collect some more jars for bottling the pickled beans and Kilner jars for the bottling and all is done. The huge lot of jars is rapidly going down, there are no more Kilners there, only the ones I have ready downstairs. Never mind, that can be sorted out.

I used the box of blackberries to bottle them, just packed them in the jars and pressed down, they were so juicy nothing else was needed.

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They will make a perfect desert in the winter.

Next on the list were the beans – I had a lovely mix of different climbing beans so I decided to make something savoury for a change.

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We’ll have to wait a few months to let them mature but they are perfect, very tasty. I might be making some more, there will be many more beans.

The last but not least were the tomatoes, courgettes and a few of the left over beans. My latest favourite product, pasta sauce.

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It was in the middle of the afternoon that I finally did the last lot of washing up and labelled all the jars. 

Tomorrow is another day, I’m sure I will find something else to do on the allotment and harvest more goodies.

29. JULY

It was back to a hot day today but I wasn’t planning to do anything too strenuous on the allotment. Nowadays I go every other day to water all the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouses and harvest whatever I can. It was no different today.

As there are so many blackberries that are ripening so fast I pick them every time I go there. Last time I made some jam and today I thought I would try something else. We like blackberry and apple crumble, I had a fair number of apples under my trees so I picked them. When I got home I sat and very painstakingly cut them up, and chopped them into small pieces, mixed with the very ripe blackberries and over a low heat cooked them. The result is delicious, I didn’t use any sugar but I would add some later if needed. I filled four Kilner jars, one pie dish ready for crumble tomorrow and I still have a bowl of them left to have just with a drizzle of cream.

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Of course there were more tomatoes ready to pick and this time I  made a huge pot of tomato soup, just added some basil leaves, no water at all  needed, the tomatoes are beautifully juicy. This made four Kilner jars as well and a bowl left, enough for supper for  the two of us one evening, served with a garlic baguette or some such.20220729_182124

Both lots were put through a water bath, around 15 minutes and I have a ready supply for the winter. Nothing artificial added, just pure fruit or vegetables.

24. JULY

At last the temperature is a bit easier to work on the allotment, however my activities are rather curtailed. I have great plans on the way there – I’ll do the weeding here, collect the cut branches there etc. It is the same every time I go there and it always finishes in the same way – only a fraction of jobs get done. Take today. I was hoping to get on with watering all the plants in the four greenhouses but when I got to the farm I  noticed that the blackberries had turned black overnight. I wanted to  make some jam so I decided to pick them first and then do the other jobs. This didn’t take too long and I had two full boxes quite quickly.

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As I started watering the greenhouses I realised the tomatoes needed picking as well, even though I had a large bag of them a couple of days ago. Another little delay but well worth it, I could make more pasta sauce because I also picked a handful of sweet chillies in yet another greenhouse.

After that I finally got going with the watering and after that came a few more jobs – cutting off some of the tomato foliage and tying the plants to their sticks, weeding inside the greenhouses and here I thought – how come the weeds always grow so well, even if the plants I want growing are struggling. There must be some kind of logic here but I can’t see it.

I was slowly getting round to all  the jobs I wanted to do, even managed to harvest some runner beans and other climbing beans. I wanted to make more pasta sauce, this time a mix of tomatoes, peppers and the beans. It all together made a huge potful and I have kept one portion for us for tomorrow’s lunch, the rest is already bottled in my Kilner jars. All will be very nice in the middle of the winter.

 

As the last thing in the evening I made the jam. I had more than enough so I got two Kilner jars of blackberries as well as all the jam. I’d better slow down a bit with the jam making, there isn’t much storage space left and I’m beginning to run out of empty jam jars.

There are very dark clouds overhead and I’m hoping we might get some rain at night. I think I will work in the back garden at home tomorrow, and I must catch up.

17. JULY

After a break of a few days I have decided to put down some more facts about the farm. As I mentioned before I have three plots and they contain my little shed and four greenhouses. There are also a few net cages of different sizes, all full of plants. We have to cover all our crops that pigeons might like to nibble. An easier way to do that is to grow these crops inside the net cages, much easier to harvest, weed and water. If there is a bit of space left in the cage I usually plant a few tomato plants there, they always survive and do very well. My main harvest of red tomatoes is from the greenhouses, that is no surprise but the outside ones ripen eventually.

As usual I’m growing courgettes this year but not on such great scale as before. I have found out the hard way that courgettes produce a lot of fruit – one plant can keep a family in fruit. This year I have grown yellow bush courgettes and yesterday was the first time I was able to pick some.

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I remembered that last year I made lots of courgette and tomato sauce to use with pasta. I decided to do that again, with some onions, garlic and basil. I didn’t use my tomatoes but used some tinned passata as I wanted to use it all up while it is in – date.

Because I had another good harvest of tomatoes I roasted them just with olive oil and a few sprigs of rosemary and bottled. 

The courgettes gave me four Kilner jars of the sauce and there was enough left to have it on our pasta for lunch.

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I’m lucky to have a space in the loft to store all my empty jars, be it Kilners or just jars for jam so for now I can continue. Another problem is storage space for the produce – cupboards are filling up. But I think that is not a problem, at least we shall have something wholesome to use during the winter.

12. JULY

The weather was a bit different today, overcast and a bit cooler. But as the morning progressed it was back to hot and oppressive even though the sun didn’t come out. I decided yesterday that I would try and pick a lot of raspberries and harvest my red tomatoes. I’m pleased to say I  managed to do both things.

This is my third batch of raspberry jam but the fruit is so good it would be a shame not to make it. This jam seems to be the most popular and it makes very good presents.

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After lunch I put the tomatoes in my large roasting dish with a few cloves of garlic and a good glug of olive oil and after a while in the oven it was ready. It filled two Kilner jars and after sterilising  15 minutes in a water bath it was done. Starting my winter supply of chopped tomatoes, they are so much better than shop bought tins.

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