Sunday, 10 July 2011

Redcurrant harvest. Redcurrant and strawberry chutney. Summer puddings.

After a long pause and the drought back in Spring - AND the very testing conditions for gardeners - I'm back writing this blog. Today's haul from the allotment includes large quantities of redcurrants together with smaller quantities of blackcurrants - with which I'm hoping the make summer puddings, chutney and redcurrant couli/jam to eat with meat dishes or fried camembert -. Sadly there were fewer blackcurrants this year (I went overboard on the pruning) so I've had to buy in some strawberries. Three punnets at a cost of £5.00. I bought the Kilner jars from a local charity shop - before you buy make sure they are not chipped or damaged and wash them well. I use a dishwasher to clean them.

For the chutney I don't tend to measure things out but just cook by eye and taste - I've used redcurrants and strawberries with sugar and a vanilla pod - with a basis of malt vinegar, sugar, thinned out apples (which I don't bother peeling as they are organic - these thicken up the chutney -  and home-grown garlic. This is going to be a very special chutney for Christmas or New Year or for gifts - and here's a picture of what I ended up with. The summer puddings will go in the freezer tomorrow. Chutney takes quite a while to make but you can always have the pan on while you are doing something else. This one is a beautiful red colour and chutney like this makes an amazing difference to the simplest meal - so I feel the time investment is worth it.

Cost-wise - I harvested probably £40 worth of organic redcurrants and blackcurrants from one bush - er..I mean two bushes of course. Apples came for free - sugar cost - £1.50 (I used only one of the three packets) - white bread - hardly anything - and malt vinegar £1.00. Job Done.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Karen Reissman speaks at the Guildhall, Chester tonight, 7.30 p.m.

Several years since I heard Karen Reissman speak at the radical National Union of Journalists Conference at the Quaker Meeting House in Manchester. Now it seems even here in middle England there is an organised movement against the cuts.

Tonight's Meeting's focus:
"Defending the National Health Service" and it starts at 7.30 p.m. Guildhall Watergate Street, Chester CH1 2LA .

To see some background and footage of Karen visit the Parent's Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage Blog.

Cheshire West Against the Cuts: Public Meeting - TONIGHT - Wednesday April 20th, 2011 7.30 p.m. Guildhall, Watergate Street, Chester, England CH1 2LA.

For more information on the campaign initiated by Cheshire West Trades Council and the Facebook group click the links.

Friday, 11 March 2011

In which Questioner ponders Spring plantings on the allotment

For gardeners each Spring is like a new love affair. This time everything will be different. Better. More hopeful. Exciting. The land I work is rented - but after four years - we belong to each other and I think about it often even when I'm not physically there.

I hope I'm calmer this year. I'm not so worried about getting things started so quickly. More willing to wait until the air and the ground warms up properly. Although I still come up with completely unrealistic 'lists'. The one on the back of my door right now reads: "Aim to hoe once weekly for an hour to tackle weeds". HA.

The rhubarb is coming along nicely and we'll be able to start harvesting it for the first time this year. The asparagus will be along soon too. The potatoes are chitting in a cool place - I've lots of seeds left from last year which I've still to sort through.

Over the past few weeks I've concentrated on doing as much weeding as I can on the plot. I've bought six of those dalek compost containers and put them in strategic places on the plot so that I never need to walk far to put the weeds in. I don't turn my compost heaps - it isn't my idea of fun, so I need lots of them as I'll just leave the worms to do their stuff for two years.

Tending this allotment has been hard work that's very true, but it is amazing how much creativity it seems to spark off in other areas of your life. The "Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds" international petition was a great success - but there's more work to be done to make life better for young children - Glenda Jackson M.P has just signed the new Early Day Motion to Stop the Phonics Test for six (and five) year olds - see A Parent's Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage for more.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

Happy New Year to you all. A strange title for a post on an organic gardening blog - but I feel the international petition to "Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds" will be of interest to followers of this blog too. Please consider signing, we already have some huge names on board such as Dr. Penelope Leach and Caroline Lucas M.P. At this link: "Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds". We hope to feature in the national (and international?) press later this week. Watch this space.

On the ground - it's mid-January. I can't believe I hadn't posted on this blog since last October. Please accept my apologies readers, I've not been idle. I usually try to keep up with the allotment throughout the winter doing odd jobs every week - so that I'm not faced with a huge backlog of work come the Spring.

This year has been no different really, apart from during the period of very severe weather over Christmas when I really DID find moments to put my feet up, thank goodness.

Before the severe weather set in, I did a lot of weeding and ordered no less than SIX new compost containers (very large ones). They're the black plastic dalek types and although they don't look picturesque, I've resolved to place them in such a way that a compost container is never far away, wherever I am working.

I planted garlic and red onion sets in raised beds back in November which seem to have survived the snow
and the thaw more or less intact. We've plenty of leeks and parsnips on hand still which is great.

Back in November I even got hold of some Saffron Crocus, Delphiniums, Black Tulips and some white flowers to go in-between - the names of which escape me. This year will be the first year we can start harvesting asparagus and rhubarb properly. So not bad going, despite the fact that I haven't been writing about it here! I really haven't got much more to do before the Spring apart from sort the seeds and tidy the shed. There's lots to look forward to. I'm going to be really busy so might switch to updating this blog once a fortnight if that's okay for you readers...?

Here's that important international petition link again, hope you will join me in 'growing' the numbers. Ta.

Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds.