FYI

Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

9 days hols, plot plans, chillis are coming up, more homebrew news, and homemade bread!

 Well, today we start our last batch of hols for the financial year, Lee is off for 5 days and Im off for 9 days, time to relax, put our feet up and chill out..... not! Lol!

The actual plans for the week are to get on top of sorting the plots out, ready for the coming growing season, so we've got the greenhouses to empty, clean and some compost / manure to add to the greenhouse borders, the grapevine to prune, the raspberry canes to prune,the compost bins to turn over, onion sets and garlic to plant, beds to clear and muck, planting areas to sort out (I want to move the pea and bean supports into place so they will be ready for use in a few months time), the dual plum tree to plant, the early sown broad beans to plant out, the shed to clear and tidy, paths to weed and remulch with bark chippings, and finally have a big bonfire to take care of the prunnings (and give us a good source of potash for putting on the crops), all of which is going to be very much weather permitting! Sounds like a relaxing holiday huh? Lol!

Our planting plans are already in place, the widget below shows the new layout for the forthcoming growing year, use the right and left arows to switch between the plots!

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Planting Update

The chillies, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers are starting to come up, so today Im going to be potting on some of them from the heated propagators, we've got Chocolate Habanero's, Scotch Bonnet, Dorset Naga, Naga Jolokia, Cayenne, De Cayenne, Tokyo Hot, Mohawk, Jalapeno chillies all up, plus a fair number of toms, aubergines and peppers, so they all need to come out of the heated propogators and be planted on! Once they are out of the propogators I can plant a batch of the later chillies and peppers in a week or so!

Dorset Naga, Scotch Bonnet and 2 Chocoltae Habaneros, the first of my fiery hot chillies!

Peppers and chillies, ready to be pricked out from the heated propagator!

3 trays of onions (on the windowsil) and the broad beans (next to the homebrew)

Aubergines and peppers, lots of them!

The Bored Beans, we'll be planting these unddr cover at the plto this week methinks!

Homebrew Update

On another front, our homebrew experiments have been going well, with batches of Elderflower (2 batches), Bored Bean, Summer Fruits, Elderberry, Celtic Druids Mead, Gewurtztramminer (Grape from the plot) all finished and bottled (and a fair bit drunk or given away as Yule prezzies), with a batch of chardonnay (from kit), a batch of red berry and the large batch of 5 gallons of mead all still on the go, with another batch of Mead due to be started this week!

I have to say that most of the wines we've made have been very good, some of them I wouldnt have minded paying £5 to £10 a bottle for them (especially the first batch of Elderflower (lovely and crisp and light), the Elderberry (very fruity and dry) and the Bored Bean (slightly sparkling, very crisp and refreshing)). The wine we made from the grapes from the plot we are a little less pleased with atm, it is quite sharp, tho hopefully a good 6 months to let it age will make it much more pallateable, but only time will tell!

In total we've already bottled 48 bottles of wine and mead, with another 42 bottles worth still fermenting, definitely a good way to use up excess produce and provide a lot of extra value to the produce! Hopefully this year we will be able to make even more, I especially cant wait to try making some of the rhubarb rose wine that Dave (on the plot) makes!

Beekeeping Update

We were fortunate enough to have a lovely dry and warm day last Thursday, so we took the opportunity to do the winter bee inspections (and varroa treatment with Oxyalic Acid) with Pat and Colin, the bees were busy, with plenty flying, and every hive had good levels of stores and a large amount of bees in them! Looks like (so far at least) all 6 of the hives are faring well, though only time will tell how well they come through the winter (but we are hopeful that they should all make it through!) On checking back a few days later, the Varroa mite drop was actually small, with between 50 and 120 mites per hive, which is a very light infestation, so it looks like the icing sugar treatment is helping to keep the Varroa levels low within the colonies, definitely a good thing!


Breadmaking

In October last year (whilst we were on our autumn hols) we had a major problem with our old cooker, we'd already been struggling with an oven door that wouldnt properly seal, then the main oven totally died, leaving us unable to cook anything in it, after looking round we were fortunate to drop on this Leisure 90cm Range cooker (dual fuel), which we knew was not only perfectly proportioned to fit where our old (and cheap) 90cm range had been (a Beko one that was impossible to get spares for), but is also one that spares will be available for, so we took the plunge and treated ourselves to it. Since then not only have we been able to cook up some fab food, but I've also started to make all our own bread!

This is todays batch of bread, just prior to being baked, 2 x lb tin loaves (cooked in the wonderful silicon loaf tins), a 1lb farmhouse loaf and 8 barm cakes. Lee found an online food retailer (www.bigbrandsforless.com) who does some amazing deals, so we've been buying their 3.5kg bread mixes, which is enough to make 7 loaves, for £1.23 each, making each loaf less than 20p each (even better when they did a 'buy one get one for free' offer)! Having seen the ridiculous prices that supermarket bread has now risen to, making a batch of 4 loaves and then freezing 3 of them (to keep fresh until we are ready to use them) has proved not only an  exceptionally cheap way of getting our bread, but also has proven to us both just how much nicer homemade bread actually is!

The 1lb wholemeal farmhouse loaf and 2 breadcakes, the bread mixes that bigbrandsforless sell include white (which rises the best), granary and wholemeal, needless to say, we've got 6 months of bread mixes stored in the back bedroom!

The 2 x 1lb white loaves, before baking! The white bread mix seems to rise the best, and the flavour is great too! I tend to do the bread dough in 2lb batches, just pop the right amount of bread mix into the mixxer, and add the correct amount of warm water, let it mix for 7 mins or so, then turn out, knead it a bit, shape the loaves, pop iinto the baking tray and pop into the oven for 1/2 hour to rise! After that a quick bake and you get fantastic homemade bread!

 So, after 15 mins baking at 220C for the buns, and a further 15 mins baking at 200c for the loaves, this is what you get! Crusty, tasty, homemade breads, enough to last us for 4 days or so!

All this for less than 20p a loaf? Compared with over £1 for plastic supermarket bread, crazy! Lol!

The homemade bread has been sooo tasty that it even inspired me to write a poem about it!

Freshly Baked Bread - a poem (of sorts!)

There's nothing so fine as homemade bread,
A daily staple to keep us all so well fed,
Nothing more than flour, water and yeast,
Yet once cooked it becomes a veritable feast!

Supermarket bread seems made of plastic,
All so soft and white and so elastic,
Once sold in bulk so very cheap,
But now the prices could make you weep!

Now its cheaper to make your own,
Nothing gives such a sense of home,
As that delicious fresh bread smell,
That from your childhood you recall so well!

Tis so simple and easy to make,
Not as complex as a cake,
Mix it all then knead the dough,
It has to be done, like just so!


Then for a time you have to wait,
Give it a while for yeast to create,
As almost before your very eyes,
Your loaf does now so proudly rise!

Now in the oven its time to bake,
Dont let it burn for goodness sake,
Wont take long and then its done,
Barm cake, loaf, roll or bun!

Let it cool, just a bit,
Then its time to cut into it,
Real butter spread on fresh hot bread,
For it there's truly a lot to be said!

Suzanne Read
11th December 2010

Anyhows, thanks for reading, more updates and plot piccies to follow htis week as we (hopefully) get some sorting out done in the allotments! Hope your prep and clearing is going well, and that you will also be ready for another great growing year!

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