The Village Flower Show

Friday evening and Saturday morning were a flurry of village show preparation activity. We're pretty last minute and certainly in the rush I suspected that I'd forgotton to put baking powder into the banana loaf , sure enough when the judges sliced the loaf in half it was obviously veeerrryyy dense. So no prizes there then! Although it has all been eaten, tasted great and was very popular at home. Thanks KC for your comment on the last post. I happily managed to get a third prize for the Victoria Sponge. Most of all I was excited to get the first prize for my 'basket of plenty' as shown above. 18 months ago we didn't even have anywhere to grow veg and, currently, we're close to self-sufficient in veggies.

First Day of Winter

The first proper chill of the season, -5 last night after a glorious sunny day. Its a great start to December. The frost provided a great view as the vivid pink sunrise spread across the sky. The brussel sprouts apparently become sweeter with the cold. I used to hate this veg but recently we've been stirfrying them with chilli and ginger or alternatively sesame oil, almonds and onions - gorgeous. We're planning to have some left for Christmas. Last weekend we finally saw the departure of our 'number two' caravan - aka our guest van, Tommy Boy's caravan, also the laundry and overflow storage. Its taken us ages to give this van away but at long last the space has been cleared. We've still got the caravan we lived in during the house build but hopefully that one will move in the Spring.

Storms, the garden, the heat pump - bit of a catch up

Sunday morning was gloriously sunny so a couple of hours in the garden was fun. With work during the week and a wet n windy day on Saturday I've barely looked at the garden.
Behold - the ravaged spring greens aka caterpillar central. I've tried picking off the caterpillars and feeding them to the hens but in all honesty I don't think the hens like them; the hens easily demolish slugs and worms but perhaps these hairy black and yellow (cabbage whites) caterpillars aren't awfully tasty.

The ravages of Autumn....we've had some proper wild seasonal weather now; this is Loch Lomond on Saturday, looking more like the sea than an inland water. The changing stormy skyline looks impressive and its great having a refreshing walk by the Loch; but also nice to get home to a roaring woodburning stove and the cosiness of the house. Last night the heat pump switched itself to winter mode which essentially means its been consistently cooler outside now (ie the average outdoor temp including nighttime is below 10degC) so if the internal temp drops then the heating will come on in the house. For us we've set the internal temp to 20deg, although its usually 2 or 3 deg cooler upstairs where we have no heating.
Not sure if I'm pushing my luck by trying to sow a few seeds this late but 2 weeks ago I carved out three mini-plots with some old Aberfoyle slate and distributed spinach, sorrel and mispoona. The latter is a combination of mizuna and tatsoi; essentially an oriental style green which should work well as a salad or cooking vegetable. I tasted a few leaves today, it has a full buzzy vibrant taste like peppery rocket. So long as we get a bit more sunshine I think we'll get some pickings through October. Nothing ventured....

Other parts of the veggie garden are still in great vigour; we've just finished the courgettes and cauliflower but have recently started harvesting savoy cabbage. Brussel sprouts are forming nicely, the leeks are growing and of course the ever exuberant chard. Plenty of iron rich greens!

There's still plenty of colour in the robust calendula which seem to have survived the early Autumn storms. I do like this flower, its so simple, so happy. When I remember I pick a few heads and pluck then dry the petals; they make a good addition to a bath for relieving excema and dry skin. Even better when placed in a muslin type bag with organic porridge under a running tap - it really works.

Apple Juice Pressing

Sunshine abounds, such a nice day for a change. Lots of solar warmth in the house too. So after work had ended for the day we spent time outside. Then we roughly hosed off a load of apples we'd picked at a friend's house last weekend and crushed and pressed them for apple juice. We used lots of cookers so the result is a rather tart sharp juice in flavour; we've frozen half unsweetened and added a bit of sugar to the other half - I think the lack of sweetness indicates the lack of sunshine here recently. The crushing is done in a big bucket with a drill bit which is like a paddle mashing the apples to bits and then the pressing takes place with the lovely Vigo press we've had for a few years now. The resulting apple juice has that cloudy homemadeness about it - doesn't look that appetising really! Tastes good though..and its an exclusive limited edition 'single estate' cold pressing.....

Veg Heaven!

We're giving away lots of broccoli at the moment as it is in great abundance. The freezer is a bit full otherwise I'd maybe make some soup....need a bigger freezer!

This cauliflower however is the only one looking as fabulous as this; the others are much much smaller. This is the first time I've grown caulies and the baby plants were passed on by a friend so thanks to them I've grown something new to me.

Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook is one of my favourites for veg oriented inspiration and this week I think I've tried a new recipe every day. Its not a veggie book as such but is terrific for new ideas when you're just about to present the family with another plate of steamed/boiled veg.

Top three recipe tips for your summer glut from Sarah's book - courgette and lemon salad, a fresh raw dish, v easy to make and tastes fab; grated beetroot salad with orange which is refreshing in both taste and the fact that usually I hate beetroot but actually really like this recipe with bbq food; and the lovely halloumi, mint, coriander and dill pittas which are great for lunch.

Chard - one of the easiest vegs to grow and more versatile than I first thought - the stems take a few minutes longer to cook than the leaves so its best to seperate them. Beyond steaming it I wasn't sure what else to do with the stuff -

so after consulting Sarah I picked an armful of varying coloured chards and prepared...
Chard Gratin.......which was gorgeous, I was quite surprised it tasted so good, and that is the test of a good recipe for me. Doesn't work for vegetarians as the recipe contains anchovies but the flavour was wonderful and I guess we had way over 10 'govt approved' portions of veg that day

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