Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ash

Its all very sad, the reports in the media if ash die back, something that so many are hoping that a solution can be arrived at as quickly as possible before our countryside is devastated.

When I was younger I wanted to plant a wild hedge. Three years back I was fortunate enough to do just that. The hedge is now getting established and we are gradually introducing a bit mire variety and diversity to its length.

Always wanting to be doing the next project, it was decided that planting a wood, would be my next project, sadly it will take time to get funds and land to do this. Im the meantime, i was fortunate to watch saplings being planted in the park opposite my house last year. Most survived last summer and our cold winter and all is looking great. I do however wonder how the wood when it establishes will look, many of the saplings are ash, and so may succumb to the die back pathogen, resulting in the wood looking rather different to what was envisaged at planting. Time will of course tell.




Monday, 29 July 2013

Fruit Vodka

Back in the day we used to make our own alcohol, firstly fermenting honey to make mede. We then progressed to making cider, and other concoctions, even fermenting sugar mixes to make alcoholic water that could be added to fruit juices.

Having one year suddenly harvested lots of fruit with no time to make jam etc, we decided to use the method we had used to make sloe gin to preserve other fruits.

I usually work out quantities by eye, but following a request from a colleague, I have made a batch that has some approximate measurements.

Here we go:

4 x 330cl bottles and corks
2 x 75ml bottles of vodka
Fruit of choice ( half a ramekin, approx )
Sugar, about 5 tbl spoons per bottle.

Add sugar to bottle, a funnel works easiest for this!
Add fruit, making sure it goes in easily (cut if large) if it goes in easy, it will come out easily and can be used on ice cream once the drink is drunk!
Fill with vodka ( use that funnel again ).
Cork and label with the date
Shake every day for a bit, until sugar is dissolved.
Leave for about 3 months to a year to infuse.
Drink and enjoy!!

Of course the same method can be used with pretty much any fruit, and can be made using whisky, rum, vodka or gin. Personally speaking I will drink whatever is available, it all tasted good!!









Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Jam recipe

I used to watch my nan make strawberry jam and plumb jam. She told me how to do this once, I tested it out for myself and it worked.

Heres the jam plan:

6lb fruit
6lb sugar (can use jam sugar, but nan says she prefers just granulated)
1 lemon

(12 jam jars)

Prepare fruit and add to pan.
Add sugar and juice of lemon.
Stir.
Add heat and stir more.
When jam mix is up to a steady boil, continue boiling for 20 mins.
Remove any scum from surface with a spoon.
Pour into cleaned jars (fill to the brim) and screw on lid
Allow to cool over night.
Eat!!





Thursday, 18 July 2013

Money money money

When I was in middle school, my sister and I both took cuttings of a money plant in the art department. Further cuttings lived with me for years and years. Sadly the one that I had left died, though I know that some friends still have the relatives on their window sills. 9 years ago I started a job (i still work there), it had a money plant, and still does. Over the years I have taken countless cuttings, the most recent are populating a long windowsill. Im hoping to generate a big stock of parent plants to further reproduce for a work related project in the future. I also need to take a cutting, so that I can repopulate my own windowsill at home.





Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Allotment

I have harvested so much fruit already on the allotment, and barely touched what is still there to harvest. This years crop is incredible. 

Strawberries are now passing, but other fruits are coming into their own. 

Meantime weeding is manageable and greatly reduced by my permaculture approach. 

I am of course still on bindweed patrol in all of our patches!!




House leeks

When I was small my dads dad showed me this plant he got from a holiday, where it grew babies, that could be planted and would root easily and have more babies. I loved this idea: plants for free! He showed me how when one flowers it dies and the babies take over the space. This was exciting to me.

Time passes, and i found myself buying a few of these plants about 9 years ago, potting them up and enjoying a memory from my childhood. I then in conversation with my dad discovered that he had started collecting them. We did a few swaps, to diversify our collections. Over the last few years my collection has diminished somewhat, I'm left with the more robust varieties. I do hope to start re-collecting these again at some point, to multiply and then use the babies to help set the planting for a green roof project.





Hop hop!

At one point over the last 7 years, when we first got into making home brew (mainly Meade) we thought about using the allotment to grow hops and barley, and attempt to make our own beer. We got as far as buying a dwarf golden hops plant, but never growing barley, other plants took over in our excitement at growing vegetables. The hops plant still lives on the allotment, covering the compost heap at this tine if year, its a great plant, one I adore, and, one that has given us seedlings that we have transplanted to the garden, which will in time get strong enough to scale a telegraph post. Who knows we may even one day attempt the beer making.





Sunday, 14 July 2013

Dusk

One of the many things that I enjoy at all times of the year is walking around the fields in mid Suffolk. At this time of year it is particularly good to walk at dusk, away from the heat of the sun, and bathing in the sweet scent of flowers. Its at this time of the year that my attention focuses on the start of seed collection. The cow and sheeps parsley is often one of the first seeds that I like to collect en mass as I go walking, to end up mixed with other wild flowers and plants, in what I know as 'weed seed'!! A great package of seeds that can turn a dull corner wild.





Wednesday, 10 July 2013

In the heart of...

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to live right on the edge of the town. A ten minute walk and I would be in the town centre, and 5 minutes the other way, in the middle of the countryside. I remember there being a very distinct difference to days approach. The town had manicured grass in its parks and gardens, hedges and shrubs would be neatly trimmed and sit in line. The countryside would have odd wild corners but be mainly covered in neat large fields of waving barley or wheat with tidy perimeters.

More recently the lines seem to have blurred, or become more wild! Neat roadsides in the country sit next to deliberate wild grasslands and wildflower meadows and in the town formal planting often is sat next to large areas of manicured grass that has been left to become wild habitat that has a natural beauty if its own. I for one live the wild look, and have been enjoying the diversity and contrast that this approach has. Whats more, living near the centre of a county town can still at times give the appearance of being in the middle of the Suffolk countryside.




Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Scorpions

Two summers ago we were out walking in the fields to the north of the village and came across a strip of wonderful blue flowers that were covered in bees. After asking about this in the village it was learned that our local farmers had planted this for bees as well as other plants to assist the local wildlife. We learned the common name (scorpion weed) and collected a couple of seed heads to plant in the garden. We have since grown several plants, which attract bees, look great around the clover lawn (also enjoyed by bees) and collected seeds and shared with friends.

Our local farmers in mid Suffolk are really inspirational in the way that they farm and manage the local wildlife.





Five today

I love fruit, I love grazing fruit when gardening, I love doing this even more on my allotment than anywhere else in the world. What better way to do this than with your parents on a warm (ish) evening, but also picking more than you can eat there and then and sending them away with five different varieties of what I've been tending to eat once home, freeze or make into Jam.





Conkers

I have always loved conkers, right since I can remember, their shining brown skin, and the way they root and shoot in spring, not to mention the games that we used to play with them. My first memory of conkers was collecting them in Christchurch park, Ipswich while out visiting another family in town, my pockets became filled with them. Last week while in the park Iwas walking in the very same area while working to support people maintain the same park. I noticed the amazing bark of one of the conker trees, I've walked past the same group of trees dozens upon dozens of times recently but only now it has caught my eye. I guess that with such diversity there is always something new to see even when looking at the same subjects.





Fruiting courtyard

The courtyard at work has always been a dumping ground, but with recent work on the building i have gotten rid of the rubbish and spent a bit of time getting it together so that we can grow plants in containers. Today we had a visit from a group of people from another one of our centres, who brought hanging baskets of cherry tomato and strawberry plants. Gradually it is starting to green up and become a pleasant place to spent a break during a busy working day.





What a bind

I didn't have a problem with bindweed three years ago, but since taking on the town yard garden there has been a stubborn patch that despite digging cutting spraying and getting cross remains, though weakened. I have also in this time developed an issue with the plant at the allotment, but with a more rampant variety. I think the solution is somewhere in managing it, rather than looking to irradiate. Certainly this year things are less of a problem, with removal being on a little and often basis. Although it frustrates its a very resilient plant, I like it for that, oh and the flowers are great, just don't let them go to seed!





Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cambridge Favourite

I remember that from a young age we used to drive up the road to the countryside and in the first village we came to (Nowton), pull up at the PYO farm. We would go to the cabin and collect a basket, and go to the strawberry field and fill it with swollen red fruit. As i got older, I realised that rows of planting were by variety, so set about deciding on my favourite one. I set myself on choosing Cambridge Favourite, and with my fold up scissors, cut runners to start my own stock in my own garden space to the side of dads vegetable plot. From there I moved a couple of plants to my patents rockery, they multiplied and fruited, when I got my allotment, again I was removing runners to make cuttings, which i have encouraged to spread and spread. This year with the rockery gone, and dad choosing to set a bed in his vegetable patch to fruit, runner have been taken to populate the garden once more. Sadly the PYO farm is gone, but I am still able to have a taste of my childhood.





Monday, 1 July 2013

Wildflower meadow

What a delightful Sunday lunchtime, spent in the grounds and gardens of Barton Grange. Although we went to view the wildflower meadow, which was bustling with colour amongst its snaking path, it must be said that the food and hospitality were equally superb. The gardens were a wonderful mix of cultivated immaculate, and engineered wild, and had some intense colour mixes in the borders. It was especially nice to meet a lady called Alison, a friend of a friend we were visiting with, who was selling some plants and who also works in the garden.







A work in progress

I have had my allotment for around 8 years. During that time there have been many phases, ideas and ways of working to produce fruit and vegetables. The lastest phase is that of fruit, lots of it at this time of year, which is great to graze on while working to suppress weeds and keep things tidy. Fruit trees featured in the original structure, a conference pear and Victoria plumb, my favourite of both varieties (linking back to my childhood in my grandparents garden). Gradually other fruit was introduced, with the last two years being used to multiply and divide existing plants to create a canopy, shrub and ground level to many of the beds to maximise production and minimise maintenance effort. Another year or two and the planting will be complete, however i suspect that this will lead into nee ideas and another phase of work on the plot. A garden is always growing and changing after all.








The wide sky

I have always had a fascination with the sky, that it is always there always everywhere i go, consistent but ever changing. I have for years taken photos of the blue, the clouds and the occasional bird, being careful to not capture anything below the horizon line. I have often thought if making a blog of just these photos alone, they amass to quite a collection, but so far have not managed a commitment to doing so, another project for the future possibly.