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River Cottage

Living in Cheshire, Devon is a long way away, but the opportunity to meet one of my favourite people and go to River Cottage made the drive worthwhile. We used my parents in the Cotswolds as a base, and travelled down the rest of the way this past Saturday to go to the Autumn Fair held at Park Farm.

River Cottage autumn fair

The whole weekend was scorching hot, both in Devon and the Cotswolds – what a treat!  After parking, we wandered down the track towards River Cottage HQ.  Park Farm is set in the bowl of a very beautiful valley, with rolling hills rising up around it.  A pop-up hotel of bell tents had been set up, and other clusters of cream coloured tipis and tents surrounded the farm house.

River Cottage Devon

Having got up early, not eaten breakfast, and a long drive later (I SO hate those 40mph sections that seem to plague our motorways at the moment!) I was in a bit of “Charlie flap”, as it’s probably known, when we finally arrived.  I am ashamed to admit I’m not that used to, or a huge fan of crowds of people – I live a sheltered life working on my own at home with the dog!  So Mr Rigg quickly steered me towards the BBQ to get something to eat.

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Washing line at sunset

Whilst this blog was mainly started to share my love of food, I did enjoy it more when I shared snippets of our life as well as just what we’re eating.  In a brief return to that, here’s what we’ve been up to recently (it makes me realise perhaps I haven’t shared general life happenings as much because they’re a bit unglamorous)…

Messy garden

We don’t look at the bottom of the garden and what is supposed to be my vegetable beds – it is a jungle and a mess.  Misery making.  It never used to be like this, when did life get so complicated and busy that I couldn’t grow tasty things to eat?

Overgrown vegetable beds

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lovage

After a long week with the little sister (who’s been staying with us while on work experience) things are finally getting back to normal in our house.  The weather is surprisingly mild and you might even describe it as sunny! 

N and I spent the day in the garden doing a number of jobs.  N has been re-filling, re-sanding and re-painting our ‘new’ old front door which has been a nightmare (it’s a long story…) – this is what it will look like one day (but not left white – we’re going to paint it a lovely dark sea blue)…

frontdoor

I tidied my vegetable beds a bit and started to sand my new desk top which has been fashioned out of an old ledge-and-brace door. 

I have been trimming the raspberry canes, cutting down sprawling mint (which is all over my garden), and digging up the remaining carrots and spring onions.  Just look at those carrots – slightly overgrown and unloved…

carrots

And these are the Paris Silverskin onions I planted back in the spring, that have been utterly neglected with our manic summer – I’m going to try using them as normal onions, or perhaps in a salad, we’ll just have to see if they taste of anything…

springonions

The bunnies were both out and about today.  Borage was in the run and Lovage had free reign of the garden…he was discovered in one of the raised beds amongst the carrots.  Rather than munching on the carrot tops from those that I had dug up, he was sampling those on the small carrots that are still growing – grr!

naughtylovage

And here is Lovage flying through the air as he leaps across a hedge of garden cuttings and a tangle of nasturiums!

flyingbunny

This is Lovage’s new den…

lovagesden

Back tomorrow with a recipe – not sure which one yet!

A quick hello at the end of long day.  N and I have had a lovely week of cooking and eating – we’ve made fairy cakes with butter icing and raspberry jam…pink gooseberry and nettle fool…pasta with homemade fresh tomato sauce and basil dressing…and pea, mint and taleggio risotto. 

I’ve spent hours stood in my vegetable patch munching on so many peas that I couldn’t eat anymore….picked juicy strawberries that have never reached the kitchen…tidied the allotment and watched ladybird larvee turn into ladybirds…and been to a lovely garden party in Walton Lea’s walled garden.

ladybirds

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You know it’s a good start to the day, when wondering to the bottom of the garden to harvest a lettuce for lunch you can stop to snack on freshly podded peas and the odd alpine strawberry.

My vegetable garden is really starting to produce now.  This week I have pulled the first spring onions and the first proper harvest of carrots. 

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The spring onions are Paris Silverskin onions, which bulb up for pickling, and are I have discovered quite mild in taste.  They are so beautiful and perfectly formed.

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The carrots are Paris Market Baron’s which are (like the spring onions) bulbous.  Rather than growing downwards they plump up into tubby round orange roots.  They are beautifully sweet and have matured much quicker than my Rainbow carrots which are still developing.

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Here are the first thinnings of the Rainbow carrots.  I was them under the outside tap and munch on the tiny sweet roots.  The carrot tops and any carrots too tiny for me are given to the lucky bunnies.

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And here is Lovage wondering why I keep trying to take his picture…

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This past weekend has been largely spent outside in the garden.  The weather has gone unusually warm for this small wet island, not that I’m complaining, so I welcomed the opportunity to get outside and into my garden.

cherry blossom about to burst

cherry blossom about to burst

Last spring N built me four raised beds at the end of our garden for growing vegetables.  Because they were built so soon before the growing season, we literally built them and that was it.  All the grass between the beds got really long and difficult to cut during the summer and was a haven for slugs and snails!  Then over the winter it just got patchy and muddy from us walking on it.

before and after of raised beds - April 08

before and after of raised beds - April 08

So over the winter we decided that this year we would lay some anti-weed membrane and cover it with bark chippings to tidy it up a bit.  The weekend before last we managed to dig over all the grass around the raised beds, and this past weekend we successfully laid the membrane and covered it with bark chippings.  The layer of bark chippings is pretty thin due to our funds drying up, but soon we should be able to buy a couple more bags and finish the job off.  It looks so smart and completely changes the shape of how our garden feels – wider rather than long and narrow.

raised beds - March 09

raised beds - March 09

Just before Christmas I saw a beautiful picture in a book of a weathered picket fence covered in purple flowers and small orange pumpkins and knew that it would be a perfect way to keep my naughty bunnies out of the vegetable bed.  It was fine last summer once everything had got going and the plants were abundant because the bunnies could chomp their way through the parsley or hide in the pea plants and no one would notice a few bits missing here and there.

Borage eating veggies from the garden...

Borage eating veggies from the garden...

But at the moment when there are tiny seedlings and shoots are starting to emerge they are a nuisance!  They just decimate everything.  The poor chives – these vibrant green juicy blades that are poking out of the rich brown soil – they just get mown down leaving only an inch or so remaining.  I’m sure it’s very good for my bunnies digestion but not for my tiny plants.  So now I am saving for a picket fence, have saved in my Ebay list seeds for the Cup & Saucer plant which was the one in the picture with the large purple flowers and am armed with a packet of ‘Jack Be Little’ pumpkin seeds.

some of my indoor seedlings

some of my indoor seedlings

The other success from the weekend was sowing lots more seeds.  I feel so much happier now that I have planted another set of seeds, just knowing that with a little bit of water and tender loving care tiny shoots will soon appear.  In the garden I put straight into the ground a row of rainbow carrots (yellow it turns out are even sweeter than orange carrots), a row of ‘Guardsman’ spring onion, a row of ‘Paris Market Baron’ carrots (round and stumpy), and a row of ‘Paris Silverskin’ onions (perfect for pickling).

broad bean plants

broad bean plants

At the back of our house we have what can only be described as a sort of lean-to, badly constructed conservatory type boot room.  The previous owner had his washing machine plumbed in which took up most of the space, but we use it to store anything and everything, and during the spring and summer it becomes Seedling Central.  One-third is brick, and two-thirds is windows, a back door and a plastic roof.  It’s perfect for starting off seeds as it gets so warm, much like a greenhouse.

the beautiful plant after which naughty bunny 1 is named

the beautiful plant after which naughty bunny 1 is named

So in an assortment of trays and pots, I have planted from seed peas, broad beans, leeks, and a selection of lettuces.  I have also started off some dwarf sunflowers, borage, cosmos, and some special blue sweetpeas called ‘Charlie’s Angel’ from N’s mom.

newly planted dwarf sunflower seeds

newly planted dwarf sunflower seeds

I am so excited to see the tiny seedlings from my sowing session a couple of weeks ago springing up, and the broad bean plants are doing incredibly well – there is something so satisfying about their sturdy green leaves unfolding.  More updates to follow on how my seeds do.  Happy planting!

tiny lettuce seedlings

tiny lettuce seedlings

Hidden at the bottom of the garden, these beautiful beetroot (Chioggia Candy Stripe and Golden) have been plumping up nicely all summer.  A last minute salad was needed for a shared lunch at work, so after a wet walk to the bottom of the garden I settled on these.  I just had to take a photo, in spite of the rain, because of those fantastic colours.  I spent half an hour in a rush before work madly peeling them into wafer thin curls – we had them for lunch, simply dressed with a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon – lovely.

candy stripe and golden beetroot from the bottom of the garden

candy stripe and golden beetroot from the bottom of the garden

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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