Wednesday, 4 June 2014

We're Baaaaaack

Oh crikey, I hadn't realised it had been such a long time since I posted last, I guess life got in the way and I just got out of the habit of posting.

2013 was a bumper year for us, we got our local parish council (half) plot, and turned it from a weedy dry neglected chunk into a productive plot in a comparatively short time. We grew sweetcorn, toms, runners and french beans, broad beans, beets, peas, and found garlic and spuds left over from the previous plotholder.

We ate it all and enjoyed it immensely. Our plot is on the sunny side of the site, the soil is fertile, if prone to weeds, and the views across the open fields are stunning. We are very lucky to have such a super plot, for the grand total of £15.00 a year rent.

We ate a tremendous amount of home grown veg and fruit last year, and I made jams, jellies and chutneys, and tomato sauces for the freezer. My favourite is my seedless raspberry jam, which was so easy to make it was almost scary! (It probably helps if you know a bit about jam making before you start though.)


Seedless Raspberry Jam

Pick the raspberries through the season as they ripen and freeze them as you go along.
Once you have enough (at the end of the season probably) defrost them all in a big bowl.
They will collapse and go squishy and juicy when they defrost.
This is the messy bit.  Push the raw raspberries through a sieve into a large measuring jug bit by bit, until you have all the juice and pulp in the jug and a pile of dryish seeds. Discard the seeds.
You make the jam in the same way as a jelly, i.e. a pint of juice to a pound of sugar.

Raspberries aren't as high in pectin as brambles, so you may want to add some lemon juice, or some cooking apple peel & lemon peel tied up in a muslin bag to the mix to increase the pectin. Or you could use sugar with added pectin but I've never used this so have no idea whether it would work.
Bung the raspberry juicy pulp and the sugar (and the muslin bag of cooking apple peel/lemon peel if used) in a big pan and cook it until it gets to the setting stage.
Pot into sterilised jars, pop the lids on and allow to cool before labelling.
The resultant jam is a little sharp and utterly delicious.


Then the winter came with all its rain, rain, rain, and our clay soil got compacted and neglected by us. We both work full time and when the weekends came the weather was usually unpleasant. So when we finally got some half decent weather this spring we got down there, watered the weeds with a double concentrate of glyphosate, and gradually got the plot back into shape.

And this weekend just gone I finally cleared the remaining dead weeds, we finished digging over the big first bed, tilled it, fed it with horse poo (from a good friend in work), got the runner bean frame up and finally planted!

So far we have - runners and french beans (couple of varieties) with pretty marigolds along the edge, sweetcorn (mainstay variety, same as last year, from Dundry Nurseries, a local independent near to Staverton Airport) and a couple of pumpkin plants that were spares off a chap in work. We've grown courgettes before but not pumpkins so that should be interesting.

We've also still got raspberries, a rhubarb crown, and a wee blackcurrant.

In the greenhouse and in the back garden we have some tomato plants ready to go to the lotty, and we have broad bean seeds to go in, and a few other bits and bobs.

The spuds we didn't manage to dig up last year are sprouting, but as they've been in the ground for a few years now we'll probably just dig them up and compost them.

It felt so good to finally get some plants in the ground. In the back garden we have a couple of fruit trees (apple and pear), a fecund redcurrant (seems to have gone mad this year!), a feeble rhubarb crown, and herbs, beets, carrots, strawberries, toms, dwarf french beans and a courgette. We have an empty bed where we'll probably sow peas although we haven't decided yet.

We feel very behind, other plotholders seem to be well ahead, and some plots are planted with military precision! Ours is a mess by comparison, but as far as I'm concerned we aren't growing for show we are growing to eat. There are some other messy plots on our site, and lots of neat and tidy ones, but we aren't fussed about neat and tidy - as long as we keep on top of the weeds and our plants grow that'll do us grand. And we will catch up, we did it last year, and we'll do it again.

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