Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saturday was a cold but sunny day, perfect for a stroll down to the lottie, with plenty of rubbish to chuck on the compost.
The garden is decomposing I suppose you could say. The physalis has been killed off by the frost : the leeks are still in the ground but need rapidly pulling as they are getting past their best: the rhubarb has died back: the parsnips are in the ground and liking the cold weather but their tops are disappearing.
So I pottered, weeding a little, pulling down two barrowloads of leaf waste that is still hanging around the site and spreading it over various parts of the garden. I heaved up a few huge parsnips, gave some to my neighbour and cooked the others in honey and thyme (delicious, they are becoming mild and sweet with the cold weather), and picked at least a pound of sprouts.
And as I almost never leave the garden without a surprise, my neighbour said "your romanesco broccoli is coming on a treat". My what? and lo and behold, the things I had thought were broccoli mistaken as cow cabbage (kale) have turned out to be those pointy light green broccoli. A veg that I didn't realise I had :-D Maybe they will be ready for Christmas dinner...

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just a quick update on my bread making efforts. The first loaf was OK, I must say a bit tastier than the normal loaf I would make. But it is still a dense cake-like crumb which I am not too happy with. If it doesn't tear off like a loaf then it is not real bread.
And the crust is 'orrible. Not dark enough, no chew, a bit crumbly. So I come to the conclusion that I didn't get the proportions right so I am making another batch :-D
Also I realised afterwards that they say to make some steam in the oven when you bake bread, so I will try that too.
But on the whole the starter seems to have been successful and the taste is improved so I will persevere until I get it right (might have to nip down to the organic shop for more flour soon though!!!!!). I know that Mel did it a lot of times till she got it right so I will not lose faith yet!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Breadmaking! Yes I have been known to indulge in that most humble of cooking activities, bread baking, especially once I had been bought a bread machine.
Melanie over at beansprouts sparked an idea about making sourdough bread. This basically means bread that you make via natural fermentation, making a yeast starter that you leave out in the open till it starts to ferment, then keeping that starter and nursing it along to make bread batch after batch. This seemed quite interesting, so I thought I would have a go.
I read Melanie's articles: beansprouts
then found quite a good article on the net: Sourdough Bread: how to begin
I mixed together the flour and water as specified and kept it in a warm place and lo and behold, the next day it has bubbles!! (so I started it Friday night and on Sunday morning I fed it with 1/2 cup each of flour and warm water.) This morning (Monday) it had "hooch" (an alcoholic liquid) so I decided to make up a "sponge" with more flour and tonight I will try making a loaf. Maybe it was easy here because 1 I make a lot of yeast based stuff in the house as a rule and 2 in France people do eat a lot of bacteria-laden food like smelly cheeses etc, so maybe the air here is quite rich in that kind of micro-organisms. I am sure it won't look as nice as Melanie's loaves, made with much trial and error. If it's edible, I will be happy :-D

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Well now I know exactly what really hard frosts do to your garden. Something that I had not really experienced before.
The first victim is the physalis. Laden with unripen fruit, it is now brownish green and flopped over to near ground level. Evidently it really needs much more hot weather than it got this year. All the unripen strawberries also got frozen so have turned to mush. I left them on, maybe they will feed some very hungry bird. I took off the netting from the strawbs to let them do their winter "thang".
Curiously enough the rest seems OK, I dug up some small beets and carrots, which had grown much better than I had expected, and an enormous parsnip, the tip of which broke off in the ground :-( Curried parsnip soup tonight I think.
Biggest One and I set up a wire container for all the leaf mulch I have been collecting. It is about a metre high and about 80 cm wide and we filled it with leaves and the various bits of grass and weed that had dreid up on the paths. I have realized that if I leave all the other things on the ground, the dead grass, dead weeds etc, then the soil underneath seems well protected and crumbly, so I think I will let that all rot over the winter and maybe my ground will be easier to dig up in spring. We also cloched the salads.
cabbages are getting along brolliantly and even the small curly ones seem to have perked up (they got a bit scoffed by birds at one stage).

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Monday, November 12, 2007

After a long break I managed to spend a bit of time in the garden this weekend. Everything is really dry so number one job was watering everything.
I had an excellent harvest yesterday, a lot of which went into a big veg stir fry with coconut milk yesterday lunchtime:

I am very proud of the cabbages which are compact, beautifully white and yellow on the inside and a nice sweet flavour.
Otherwise it was down to a bit of hard work. I didn't have much time, so I did the most urgent, chopped down the green manure and the butter bean plants, which I left on the ground to rot. Pulled out the last tomato plant and chopped up the dying pea plants, but left them in the ground. Then I did a bit of digging, to open up the earth in the bare patches so that the cold could get to it.
Another nice surprise was a delivery of mulched leaf, that was for everyone to take some, I guess it must have come from the council. I took away a big garbage bag full that I will compost as soon as I get a cylinder of chicken wire up on the ground.
It is interesting to see the effect of this season, which I didn't see last year. The rhubarb is dying back, and so are the weeds. I did a little weeding of the edges, to keep it tidy (and stay in well with my neighbour - he actually congratulated me on Saturday for all the stuff I had managed to grow. He's one of the pleasant crowd on our site. He also told me that I had bought the wrong leeks, confirming what Tee Gee told me on the Allotments4All forum. I must have bought an autumn variety as they really need eating urgently, they are starting to yellow. Next year I will be more careful, or sow my own from seed perhaps. )
The broad beans are starting to flower! I don't know what this means, must ask on the A4A forum.
All in all it was a pleasant afternoon spent surveying the year's work and planning in my mind what next year's lot might look like :-D

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yes I know I have been a bit slack but it is mostly because for a fortnight family commitments have stopped me getting down the lottie :-(
Yesterday I popped down, to give the lettuce some water as it still hasn't rained here. I harvested the last strawberries, some rocket that is growing EVERYWHERE and some physalis.
The raspberries are finished, they need pruning, as do the gooseberries. The last tomato plant is done for. The fruit bed needs weeding and digging over. The beans are finished, I think I will cut them down and leave them to rot on the ground. The rhubarb is starting to die off. The mustard needs cutting too. And I desperately need to get some horse poo but don't know when or how I will transport it. sigh. There is so much to do.
I have collected a bit more cardboard for my paths so I will be able to do that soon, with a bit of luck. I also was given a whole lot of pretty stones that I will use to put round the fruit bed so I can cut back weeds and fill the bed with manure and compost in the spring. And some friends are giving me leaves so I can make a big leaf mold container with leaves and all the grassy bits that are lying around the plot.
Must take more pics soon to show how everything is dying off.

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