Friday 31 March 2023

Treacle (aka golden syrup) sponge pudding

Using the weight of one egg for all the Victoria sponge ingredients, halving the sugar as usual, it made enough for two ramekin sized puddings:

The golden syrup was way out of date but tasted fine (checked before using). We cooked them in the microwave on 3/4 power for just 2 1/2 minutes and served it with custard:
Haven't had treacle pudding since school and it was delicious.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Air fryer lunch

Onions were sliced and gently cooked in one fryer drawer whilst chips were started in the other. 

Once the onions were softened, sliced liver was added along with a few diced fresh tomatoes. As that was cooking, I made some gravy and added it to the liver once it was cooked, along with a tin of carrots and peas. It continued to cook on low whilst the chips finished:

It wasn’t as dark as the picture and was very yummy. It took just 18 minutes from start to finish. Unfortunately, I had to kill a duck to make the chips - ha:


Tuesday 28 March 2023

Greenhouse up!

We began at 08:30 and finished at 16:30, taking a short lunch and two tea breaks. The temperature when we started was barely 1C. Our hands got cold very quickly making the task harder. At one stage, my feet were so painful with the cold, I had to go inside and put on thicker socks and shoes!

Whilst the instructions were good there were a few decisions we could have done with their help, such as whether to centre things or put to one side. We centred them and at the end, realised we should have had them to the sides to get the downpipes and decorative fixings on. Too late by then so there are a few mini air gaps that will need sealant to stop wind forcing its way inside. Other than that, it went okay. 

Herewith the erected greenhouse. We still have downpipes to buy and add and whatever we want the water to go into. We need to put a few extra bolts on the window pane just to be safe and help keep down any rattling. Inside needs digging over at the sides and a path down the middle laying and the roof window will need an extra locks to stop it being ripped open in gales:

I am very happy with it (providing it doesn't keep me awake at night) and looking forward to growing things in it.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Vegetable sowing lift off!

Vegetables that needed a heated base were sown on Tuesday and started to pop through on Friday:

These are a few of the 9 varieties of tomatoes! More are coming through now as well as peppers. Those sown in a tray are showing no signs of life yet but I am sure will pop through maybe next week.

The metal base of the greenhouse is now down, and weather permitting (a gentle breeze forecast), we hope to erect it tomorrow. It needs a still day and we think will take us quite a few hours to do so:

It is small at 6' x 4' deep but will give me 5 times more space than I had before and that will enable me to grow peppers, chillies and other items that previously needed a summer like last year to get good crops. 

We have adapted an old piece of greenhouse staging we had in the garden to give me both soil and a pot area to grow in one half. A few tomatoes especially beefsteak, in soil in the other half. The following year, the staging will move to the other side to rotate crops in the soil. I also hope to be able to sow winter salads etc.

Once the greenhouse is up, we shall remove any rubbish from the soil, add leaf mould and compost and give it a good dig (except for the mini path which is yet to go in).

The way food prices and the world is going at the moment, I think it very important to be growing as much as possible. Hence two extra raised beds put in last year and the extension of our rainwater collection system.

Watch this space!

Thursday 23 March 2023

A thoughtful Mother's Day gift

 I never have any idea what I will receive for this special day, but it couldn't have been a better gift:

Loads of seeds. Tomatoes, peppers, chillies, greens, salad items, aubergine, carrots, beetroot, herbs etc. One hessian bag plus a sachet of similar items. Perfect. Some of them are new varieties to me. The greens will all be used as micro seedlings as we don't have room for them. They won't be wasted!

Quite a lot have been sown in micro pots and are in my heated propagator. Most of the rest will be sown into small pots to get them started, others direct sown when the soil temperature is right.

My potatoes are also growing firm green sprout leaves so all is well there. Hopefully, if the weather plays ball, (frosts forecast Sunday and Monday), and we can get the greenhouse erected, the tender plants will transfer out into it eventually.

We have also bought 2 more black dustbins to extend our rainwater butt system, giving us a total of 1500 litres of storage. It won't be enough if we have another hot summer but will help.

Monday 20 March 2023

Yorkshire Puddings in the air fryer

I made my mixture using my new method discovered on Butlers Empire YouTube. 

Select two identical glasses, the right size to take the amount of eggs you wish to use, I used just one egg. 

Crack the egg/eggs into one. Measure plain flour to the same level in the other glass and tip it into a bowl/jug. Measure milk in the flour glass to the same level as the egg/eggs and tip into the flour. Finally add the eggs into the flour/milk mixture, plus a pinch of salt and beat together.

Leave to thicken and come up to room temperature.

I used 2 x 6" sandwich cake tins and added a dessertspoon of oil to each. These were placed into each drawer of the air fryer. Set to air fry for 25 minutes at 200C and heat the pans for 4 - 5 minutes. 

Carefully open the drawers and pour/divide mixture into both. Close drawers and air fry for another 15 minutes when mine were done. Next time I will set the temperature to 190C to see how that goes and maybe I will get the full 20 minutes on that occasion:

They were a smidge too brown on the top hence reducing the temperature to 190C next time. The outsides were crispy and the middle slightly soft, just how we like them. We had ours as a pudding with maple syrup. Delicious!

Sunday 19 March 2023

Finally, the greenhouse wooden base is laid!

 It has only taken 2 weeks for the weather to play ball and be dry enough for us to lay down the sleepers that the greenhouse base will sit on:

This is almost the lowest point in our garden. As such, it gets a bit wet and DB just couldn't get the soil remotely level due to excess rain. Eventually, we decided to mark the area that needed firming and tamped in no end of gravel. That seemed to work (we had two weeks to stare at it and check).

Once the wood had been painted (twice by me), he used a giant set square thing to get 90 degree angles, before screwing brackets into each corner. This giant frame was then lifted up and dry post mortar was laid, gently watered and the frame replaced on top of it.

We sat the already assembled greenhouse metal base on top to check everything before it was put once more into the back bedroom. Weather forecast seems to show at least another week will pass before it is dry enough, and far less windy, for us to attempt to construct the greenhouse.

Wish us luck!

Monday 13 March 2023

No longer willing to shop at Tesco

Sometimes we have to vote with our feet. 

As if they aren’t raking in enough profit, now they plan on penalising farmers and suppliers further by introducing a 'fulfilment fee' for online shopping and Booker wholesale. See this article here.

Needless to say, despite only shopping there occasionally, I won't be shopping with them anymore! 

Hopefully, other supermarkets won't try the same thing.

Sunday 12 March 2023

This weather

 Is not conducive to planning and erecting our greenhouse! The wooden beams for the base were delivered in heavy rain but being ‘pressure treated’, the surface was dry for its first coat of black paint today. DB cut them to size yesterday.

They will need two coats each side and ends, and a third coat on each base just to be sure as they will be sitting directly on the ground. Once squared up, the base of the greenhouse will need building and fixing into place with bolts. After that who knows. This wet and windy weather seems to be around for the next two weeks and we need a still day to erect it.

We decided to use black wood for the base to fit in with the rest of the garden. Also, it is 8” high, the base itself is another 2”, both of which give me extra head room as the door is only 5’ tall. I decided it would to safer to step into the greenhouse rather than keep bowing and risking hitting my head!

Thursday 9 March 2023


 I am trying to find an alternative tea to my usual black. One that doesn’t use milk, sugar or sweetener’s. I have just made some green tea, astringent gnats pee springs to mind. Added 1/2 a slice of lemon, astringent lemon gnats pee. Dipped half a teaspoon in honey to barely coat it and stirred it in. Still as bad but slightly sweetener:(

I am not a fan of fruit or herbal teas so was not expecting much. I shall buy some root ginger and try lemon and ginger with a smidge of honey, see how that goes.

Sunday 5 March 2023

New gardeners

If the news is anything to go by (plus bloggers etc), many new people are going to start gardening this year. I wish them well but they need to realise it isn't as simple as sowing things and hey presto, great vegetables and fruit grow. They need food and water, possibly staking etc. 

It is always best to only grow what you will eat. Start with a few simple things and see how you go. There is tons of help, especially on You Tube, as well as books, tv, friends etc.

Many will unfortunately sow too early, not realising about frost (or plants getting too tall and spindly indoors because they need to go out but can't). They may have a bit more knowledge and sow later but haven't got around to frost protection such as simple greenhouses/fleece. Tender plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and certain other vegetables, fruit and flowers, need protection until the last frost dates for their own area. The weather has changed so much in recent decades, that sow by dates, dates of last frosts may well have shifted backwards.

Bugs will have a feast, animals will dig up, pee or poo over them, that's if they don't eat them down to the ground. Only perfect items are usually available in the supermarkets and home grown are all shapes and sizes with various problems. Things take a long time to grow and I feel many will just give up. Please don't!

I have been gardening close on 45 years and still have failures due to pests or adverse weather conditions. The heat wave last year was such an example and if it happens again, I will need to shade my raised beds.

I once made the mistake of saving seeds from supermarket tomatoes not realising they were F1 hybrids and often don't come true from their seeds. They were fine to eat just not the good flavour of the original. Also they were grown in greenhouses and I didn't have one. I used to sow tomatoes in February, now I don't start until the end of March. Our last frost dates have shifted backwards over the years we have been here. I used to be able to put the resulting plants out beginning of May, last year it was the beginning of June!

If you want to seed save, look for non F1 hybrid seeds, or heritage seeds, they usually come true from saved seeds and saving your seeds, where possible, will save money the following year.

Know your garden, where does the sun rise/set. Where does the shade move to and from. How will you water it, can you set up water butts/old dustbins or other large containers to collect rainwater, to save using the hose pipe. We currently have 5 large water butts and one old black dustbin. We ran out of water last year so are adding two more black bins to our water saving area.

Soft fruit is a particularly difficult thing to grow here. They always do well for a couple of years then start to die, despite testing the soil and adjusting the nutrients where possible. The exception is the blackberry, a real trouper!

Read, watch and listen, then read and watch some more. Weed, feed and water. The first year may not save you much money but if you have success, it will taste so good you will realise what you have been missing. After the first year, adjust your mistakes, feed the soil, keep going and you will enjoy the harvest and it will get cheaper.

Be brave, get going but don't give up at the first hurdle. Babies take an age to turn into adults, vegetables and fruit are the same but on a shorter time scale.

Friday 3 March 2023

Composting directly into the garden

The design of our back garden has changed as we have aged, and no longer allows room for compost bins. We used to have them but as we got older, found them more and more difficult to turn the contents from one into the other, or empty them and distribute the compost.

After trialling large containers inside the raised beds to compost in, these too were dispatched to the great compost bin in the sky. As they sat in the middle of each bed, they were quite a stretch to get to and we would often tweak our backs doing so:(

Two years ago, we began trialling trench composting directly inside the beds. Other than a few volunteers that grew from parsnip and carrot tops and potato peelings, it was successful.

A deep trench (the full depth of a spade) so about 8", is dug and semi composted leaves added to the bottom in a layer about 1" deep:

Our kitchen composting bin is emptied on top of these, to a depth of about 3" or so:

Then the trench is covered over with soil from the next trench and onward it goes. We normally begin this as soon as each bed becomes empty so by the end of March, all raised beds have been done.

Once every few years, we may add bought in farmyard manure to give the soil an extra boost. This new system worked very well last year and our worm population has increased. 

The two new raised beds didn't have time to have it done and the difference was huge. They both struggled to feed the plants in them despite the addition of blood, fish and bonemeal and liquid feeds.

The rest of the garden tends to have bought in compost/blood, fish and bonemeal, sprinkled on the top each year or when needed.

Thursday 2 March 2023

Expanding our growing area

Our back garden needs to be useful and as pretty as possible. Whilst we don't sit out there all the time in the summer months, we do have meals/snacks and tea/coffee out there.

Something I have always wanted and actually needed, is a greenhouse. Again, it has taken an age to find one we can afford, practical but not so large as to overwhelm the garden.

After saving up, I have chosen it and put the order in. I mistakenly ordered green without thinking, but we got in touch with the company within the hour and explained we actually wanted a grey one - doh!

Seeds are usually started off indoors, often in the small conservatory. However, once the weather starts warming up, it gets way too hot in there. So begins the daily back and forth with seed trays, out, in, out and in again etc.

Where we live, I don't start sowing until towards the end of March otherwise they get too leggy before the weather outside is suitable. Hopefully, the green house (which has a roof vent), will help. 

It comes with a base but we plan to put its base on another heavier one to help prevent it getting blown over. It’s not got glass panels, too expensive, this makes it a bit light. Time will tell.

I'll show it when we get it and its up:) I hope it will be finished for the end of March.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

A quick 500 piece jigsaw this time

This took us two days:

Now we have temporarily moved the dining table into the back room, we have natural daylight to work with, so much better than an overhead light blinding us!