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We have finally found some time to spend in our garden and on our allotment.  Being there is one of the most peaceful times, I find myself with an empty, calm mind and it’s blissful.

We are trying to do little by little at the moment rather than our usual tendency to over-exert ourselves one day and not come back for weeks.  We have got some bark chippings down to mark out four beds and have started to plant in some seedlings.

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These peas I’ve grown from seed – I’m just hoping the bunnies or slugs don’t munch on them.

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I am very proud of my homegrown tomatoes, even if I did buy them as tiny plants rather than grow them from seed.  I decided to pick quite a lot of the red ones before the slugs and rain did too much damage – I was holding out for a couple of green ones to ripen more, but decided this would likely leave me with half munched on tomatoes if I left it much longer.

I’m pretty impressed with this haul of tomatoes, and there are still plenty of greens ones on the plant, so we’ll see what happens with them.

This is what my vegetable patch is looking like at the moment.  All a bit overgrown and jungle-like. 

Last week Mr Rigg and I cleared out some of the raised beds – a row of flowering radish, pea plants that had finished podding, some gangly borage plants growing from the pathways, and lettuce that was beginning to go to seed. 

You can see in the back corner my raspberry bushes…from the photo they look like a huge sagging mess.  Well they are, but they are laden with huge juicy raspberries so I’m not complaing too much – not even about their suckers that are coming up everywhere!

I also had to show off a couple of pictures of my ‘loganberry arch’.  Mr Rigg’s parents have a gorgeous loganberry plant growing over a pergola – so I copied them, just on a smaller scale.  Loganberries are a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry and grow very vigorously. 

Mine is growing up over the arch from our garden into the vegetable patch.  I’m also growing a purple clematis up the otherside – you can see the first flower in the picture below – so exciting!

Yesterday we finished off my new herb beds at the allotment.  We have created two L-shaped raised beds with timber planks left on our allotment by the previous owner.  In the bare patch of soil between the beds we are going to put some turf and create a small grassy spot on which we can sit and eat our lunches.

So far in my new herb beds I have planted: 2 lavender, 2 sage of different varieties and a French tarragon.  I am planning to make a trip to Kenyon Hall Farm to source the rest of the herbs to fill these beds as they have a truly wonderful selection – at least 20 varieties of thyme (which is possibly my favourite herb).

We also started digging on the next section of the allotment – I plan to divide it into four beds and plant potatoes into two of those – they have chitted well and I am behind in getting them in the ground.  Work for this week.

Tonight we enjoyed a picnic dinner at our allotment after an hour or two of raised bed construction.  This is what we managed to achieve – one half of my new herb bed:

We ate Majorcan new potatoes boiled then smothered hot in goat’s butter and lots of salt and pepper … grilled blackened sausages from Little Heath Farm in Dunham Massey dunked in Wilkin & Son’s tomato ketchup …

sliced tomatoes sprinkled liberally with salt and garnished with torn basil leaves (totally unseasonal but irresistable as the weather starts to warm) …

and slices of coffee coloured seeded bread from Red House Farm smeared with Oxford Blue cheese …

Sitting on an old rug looking out over our allotment eating good grub – what a blissful way to spend a weekday evening.  Buddy peered down at us from the boot of the car, his nose twitching as the smell of sausages wafted up his nostrils.

Two little robins hopped around the allotments, perched on the spade…

then a tub of chicken manure pellets…

and finally an orange plastic bottle balanced atop a bamboo cane…

Heavenly.

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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)…

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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…

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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…

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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!

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

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This is Lovage’s new den…

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

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Mr Robin has returned to my garden!  Maybe it is a new Mr Robin, but whichever, I am delighted to see him back again.  He sits on a post at the end of our garden, just about the time we get home from work, and sings a cheerful song.

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I am so hopefully that he will find a nice Mrs Robin (or already has one!) and that they will consider my garden as a place to bring up a nestful of babies in the spring.  This time I am prepared with a selection of nest boxes that I’m going to get N to put up round the garden, so that this doesn’t happen again…

I have also seen a wren in the garden!!  How lovely 🙂

Other news – my vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden is a jungle.  There are nasturtiums trailing and twisting over everything, the raspberries have gone mad and are about 2m tall, the poor little crab apple is groaning under the weight of its orange fruit, and the buckler leaved sorrel has, well – taken over!

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Tips on how to sort out the raspberries would be good, I’m never very good at reading a book and working out what I need to do!

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I have always grown cucumbers, ever since I first had a garden of my own even though it was just a little yard.  I lovingly tended the cucumber seedlings on our bedroom windowsill, but that lot didn’t survive our two weeks away in France…unsurprisingly.

Again, last year I lovingly tended another batch of seedlings, this time with a perfect growing space – our funny little glass lean-to at the back of our house.  It’s perfect for starting seedlings off as it’s like a greenhouse.  I thought I would finally grow cucumbers and enjoy the fruits of my labour…that lot grew huge, long tendrils that reached the roof, curling up the string that I’d provided for them…but I’m not great at nurturing, and I didn’t water them enough.  All the cucumbers that started to develop just dried out.

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So this year I have tried again.  This year I decided I would plant them outside, and if they survived and bore fruit great, if they didn’t, oh well.  I like plants that just get on with growing, I’m not really great with needy plants.

This is a photo of my cucumber and nasturtium bed.  I have planted three cucumber plants into one of N’s beautifully built troughs.  Along with them are two Banana Split nasturtium plants, and some odd calendula’s and white daisies that have popped up from somewhere. 

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And hidden beneath this mass of leaves and jolly orange flowers is this…

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It looks like a well toned manly green thigh.  Maybe a rugby players thigh….Anyway, I hope it tastes good.  I will be so disappointed if it doesn’t.

Any suggestions on how to eat it – other than just taking a big bite of it :O)

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Over the last 24 hours I have seen my energy levels slowly creeping back up.  I was so fed-up of being stuck in bed all week, and felt completely starved of fresh air, that I took advantage of a spell of sunny weather yesterday afternoon and headed to the bottom of the garden.

My goal: clear the pea bed.  I have been very pleased with my peas this year.  They are undoubtedly my favourite vegetable and I have enjoyed podding the sweet peas from their crisp pods for the last couple of months.  Finally, they have come to an end.  I have been holding off clearing the bed to allow the remaining peas who had started to wrinkle to dry out.  My intention: to save them for planting next year.

So yesterday I spent about half an hour pulling out all the old pea plants and saving any remaining pods that I popped in my basket. 

Below are four pictures taken at different stages of clearing the pea bed:

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1. happy peas growing earlier in the summer
2. peas dying back and me starting to fill the wheelbarrow with the old plants
3. the bed emptied and almost a basket full of dried pods
4. newly prepared bed planted with some late summer crops

N finishes at lunchtime on a Friday, so we have spent some time this afternoon finishing off the pea bed.  We raked it over, added a couple of bags of donated soil that we had left over, dug it in (there were loads of big fat worms!), and raked it again. 

Once the bed was prepared, we planted seven rows of late summer crops – we shall see what grows and what doesn’t: rocket; wild rocket; oriental saladini; spring onion guardsman; lettuce marvel of four seasons; spinach matador; and lovage.

We have covered the whole bed with some pea netting in a bid to keep the nasty fat cats off it.  Last time I prepared a bed and carefully planted a neat row of carrot and basil fino seeds a fat cat used it as his toilet the following night.  I was not impressed!

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I am currently holed up in bed, for what looks like the week, with suspected swine flu – oh joy!  N is picking up my dose of Tamiflu on his way home from work, and hopefully I will be back to good health in no time.  So, after spending the night sleeping upright on the sofa and not getting to sleep until about 3.30am I am trying to cheer myself up by sharing the latest from the allotment.

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Last week N and I lifted all the onions and shallots growing on the allotment.  I have never grown onions or shallots, but grown from sets they are pretty hassle-free, apart from the odd weeding session.  I’d noticed the last time I’d been to the allotment that their green spiky tops had started to wither and fade, so pulled out my Grow Your Own Veg book by Carol Klein to find out how to harvest them.

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N used a fork to carefully lift the clusters of shallots and onions out of the soil, and I followed behind breaking up the shallots, rubbing off large clods of earth and popping them into my basket.  It was that simple.

Once we got home, we set about putting them out to dry.  Rather conveniently we were away over the weekend at a friend’s wedding, so we cleared the draining board and counter top next to the sink – the sink has a large window that lets in lots of light, which I thought would be the best place in our house for the onions to dry out.  We lay down a couple of tea towels and used the wire stand from inside the grill tray to allow air to circulate around the onions – which is what the book had recommended as ideal.

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They look really beautiful, these soil encrusted orbs which glow a brilliant amber where the papery outside layer has been removed.  Now we just need to store them properly in order to keep them as long as possible into the autumn – that’s if we can resist making a meal from them.

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One of my favourite onion recipes is Pasta with Lemon and Onion.  Simply saute an onion (any kind will do, ordinary, white or red) in some olive oil and a knob of butter until soft.  You can pop a couple of sprigs of thyme in to impart its flavour if you like.  Add in the zest of a lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Remove the thyme sprig before tipping into your drained pasta.  Loosen it up a little with some extra virgin olive oil, squeeze in lemon juice to taste, and add a good handful of finely chopped parsley.  Eat with a sprinkling of Parmesan.  We had this for tea last night and it is just so homely – like a big hug.  Perfect for people suffering from swine flu or other flu-like bugs!

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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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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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