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.

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!

The Good Life

Meet one of our new hens. Yesterday we went to collect and rehome some more ex-battery hens via the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. This bunch were in quite good form with a bit of strength and 'perkiness' about them despite the sorrowful state of their bodies. We first rehomed 10 battery hens 2 years ago and I'm pleased to report that some of those are still with us and have enjoyed a good quality life with considerably extended life expectancy.

Lots of Lovely Compost

It didn't take long for the contents of our compost bins and the horse muck heap to be consumed by the raised beds and we were wondering where/how to get some more in order to grow veggies etc this year. Through Jane I discovered that Scottish Water can supply POD which is peat free compost/soil booster which has been created from composted green waste, 'sanitised' -whatever that means and is biologically active and environmentally friendly. Also it came with the recommendation of James, the owner of Damhead who grow organic veggies to supply throughout central and southern Scotland.
So, a couple of weeks ago, we had approx 19 tonnes delivered and dropped from the back of this very large lorry. Fabulous! The existing beds are now all filled and we'll have plenty to use in the next area where beds will be built (in due course!) and for topping up the areas for general planting of flowers, shrubs etc.
Today I finished planting the seedlings which have been grown in the house and the caravan, I also sewed some crops directly in the soil. The list of goodies in the ground is now as follows;
Potatoes - desiree, maris piper, ratte and pentland javelin
Broad beans - aquadulce claudia and sutton (the latter being good for windy sites - which this is)
Peas - kelvedon wonder
Courgette - all green bush
Dwarf beans - sonesta (a yellow variety)
Spinach - renegade and bordeaux
Baby carrots - ideal
Spring Onion - white lisbon
Radish - rougette
Chard - bright lights
Salads - a california leaf mix; and a few bits from 'leftover' packets

Spring Lambs & Other Creatures

The first phase of 5 raised beds took a bigger step forward this weekend with the final joinery and positions completed. Then followed the task of filling then wheeling lots (around 20 me thinks to fill the smallest bed) of barrows of well matured horse muck up the slope - Steve kept using the phrase 'the green gym' to keep me/us going! We popped a couple of hens into the first bed who worked diligently to create a finer till, the rest of the hens soon joined them in a frenzy to grab a few worms from the thousands wriggling in the muck. Later this week I'll be planting 3 blackcurrant bushes (Ben Lomond variety), 3 redcurrants (Jonkheer van Tets), 3 red gooseberrys (Red Dessert) and 3 green goosegogs ( Careless) in that particular bed. We'll also be putting a rabbit/hen proof wire around the perimeter to protect the crops. Next weekend will see a few more wheel barrows of muck shifting to fill the next beds

Raised Beds Under Construction

A mixed bag of weather this weekend but we have made progress on the veggie garden. On Friday (in sunshine) the ground was levelled and cleared of its rubble and general debris and then on Saturday the general preparation of the timbers for the edge of the beds was done. We are using the joists from the demolished house to create the frames; most of these are 5.5-6metres in length which works a treat for the space we have available for the raised beds. The joists themselves are 10inches in depth which is fine for the beds and once they were de-nailed have been placed approximately in position while we 'fine tune' the layout. The first phase should create 5 rectangular beds of approx 1.5m by 5.5m.
We've got lots of well rotted horse muck to fill the beds with - a job for another weekend!

Frosty Days

Its sunny and (relatively) mild today but we've had some great frosts, clear skies and low temps recently. When it sunny and dry its so nice to wrap up and get out for some fresh air. Its pretty good coming back to a warm house too! This time last year we were in the caravan and I now look at it and feel like crying, it was quite hard at times but you just soldier on. This weekend we're going to move the caravan out of the way into one of the barns and then in the Spring we'll make a good effort to sell it. The second caravan will be free to anyone who wants to collect it. Now that we're back to the normal routines after the wonderful frenzy of Christmas, Hogmanay and school holiday fun I'm very keen to get at least one of the veggie beds in place. We are just about to finish the last of our potato crop from last season and the prospect of becoming really productive with our own food this year is very exciting. In the house we're also just finishing the last of the elderflower cordial we created last summer and we had the last of the frozen rhubarb in a fool at New Year. This weekend I'm going to cover a few of the emerging rhubarb crowns so we can force some early pickings.

Catching up with our crops

Its a funny thing - as with conversations with friends when you haven't written your blog for ages you just don't know where to start..."what have you been up to?"..."ooh not much really, y'know just the usual".

Food production underway

The fruit is forming on this Golden Spire apple. We could really do with some rain as we've had around 7 weeks of significantly dry weather which is mighty unusual. I'm not expecting too many apples this year as the stock is only a year old and I'll need to learn the best way of pruning apple trees to ensure good healthy growth. In the border between the hen enclosure and the stone wall we've planted peas and broccolli amongst the cottage garden flowers and greenery.

One week to go?

Just one person on site to day, Billy the tiler has given the slate floor its final coat of sealant (Lithofin) so its looking quite smart. He's also sealed the showers so we'll test those out this weekend, after some serious cleaning as its pretty thick with dust inside the house.
There has been no action on the replacement chimney which is a shame as it has a knock-on effect for reslating that part of the roof, finishing the joinery in terms of boxing out the area in the bedroom and painting thereafter. As the builder is away on holiday we'll need to do the chasing. We received an invoice from the architect yesterday which is quite amusing/bemusing as we haven't seen them for some time now.
We're at the stage where there are a lot of small things to finish off but its all going very slowly. We're still moving in to a couple of rooms next Friday come what may!!!!

The cleared area where the huge dairy shed used to stand was originally going to be gravelled for car parking but we have realised how large this area is and how ridiculously expensive it would be to gravel. We really don't need such a big area just for vehicles so this is where we intend to start creating the raised beds for our veggies. We're going to use the remainder of the reclaimed roof joists from the original house (the 5m x 2m woodshed is utilising a few) to lay out the area and start filling it with last year's matured horse muck. We have presumed linear beds to follow the line of the wall but after seeing this evening's Gardener's World I quite fancy a more interesting layout, be that triangles, diamonds or some other such whimisie.

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