Monday, 30 June 2008

High Wych Festival 12th July 2008

I will be at the High Wych Festival on the 12th July in High Wych School, near Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire from 10.30am to 5pm.  I visited the festival last year which was very busy and lots to see so i'm excited to be part of it this year, even if only for one day!

more details via  Facebook  High Wych Festival

Monday, 23 June 2008

Patter Cake, Patter Cake Baker's Man.....

"Pat a cake pat a cake baker's man
Make me a cake as fast as you can
Pat it and prick it and mark it with B
And put it in the oven for baby and me!

Not quite baked as fast as i could, in fact it took a lot longer than i thought but then the recipe i found/used and made up myself didn't have a time or temperature for baking! So that was guess work on my part, and even then i was still worried it wasn't cooked! I wanted to find a healthier recipe, so that hopefully i would/will feel able to eat some.

My only concern is if it will be sweet enough, as i used no added sugar apple juice to soak the dried fruit in. However there is so much dried fruit in it that i'm hoping that will give the sweetness, it should do. The batter tasted very bitter because there is no sugar added into the recipe i found, but once it was cooked it smelt a lot more like a dessert cake rather than some thing savoury!
you can really see the dried fruit here! I chose my own selection of dried fruit to go in rather than just plain old mixed dried fruit that you get in a bag that contains yucky bits like peel!
225g dried fruit (i used a 125g berry mix from Tesco, 50g dried apricots and 50g prunes)
330ml apple juice
225g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice (which i found we'd run out of so i made my own mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
120g low fat spread
2 eggs
  • Soak the fruit in the apple juice for 1 hour
  • Grease and Line a round baking tin (mine about 8" diameter i think)
  • Preheat the oven to 170C (again my estimation)
  • Crumb together the spread and flour, baking powder and mixed spice in a large bowl
  • beat in the eggs (i had to add a little of the apple juice the fruit was in to make it wet enough to be able to beat in)
  • add the apple juice and stir in the dried fruit
  • pour into prepared tin and bake for......

well i think in the end it took about an hour and a half (90 mins), but i'd cheque with a skewer however if it doesn't come out clean, check in anpther place because there is so much dried fruit in it the chance are you've stuck it in some of that. the prunes especially are very sticky and make the cake mixture stay soft and doughy round the edges of them.

So there we go. One super healthy cake, all that remains now is to taste it! Which will happen over the next week, so i shall let you know at the end of the week whether it is all gone due to be eating or due to being fed to the birds!

A Few First Harvests

Things are starting to grow and ripen now, other than just leaves (salad, chard and kale). The berries are ripening one at a time which although won't give me anywhere near enough for a pudding/meal (i can pop down to Cammas Hall for that!) i don't mind because they're mine, my work, i'm proud of them and that makes them taste even better! plus it's fun to just pick at them when you're passing if their ripe!
The strawberries on the patio are starting to ripen, but it wasn't anywhere near as sweet as the little ones from the basket out the front.
Just goes to show size isn't everything! And the yesterday morning i spotted one lone ripe raspberry. This was so so sweet, far sweeter than those we picked at Cammas Hall last week, and i can't wait for the rest to ripen.
And i left mum and D to enjoy the first french beans for dinner as they're not my fav veg in the world.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Rhubarb Crumble Squares with Orange Zest

Mum wanted to take some kind of dessert with us to the party on Saturday night, so i offfered to make something. After finding a selection of recipes which used ingredients that we already had, she selected this one. The recipe is from Waitrose and was perfectly simple to follow, although i think my tin was a slightly different size to the one they mentioned.The one i used was square and when i finally cut the squares, i cut more smaller portions than they suggested too.

But they went down well at home and at the party, although without completely killing off our rhubarb patch i couldn't put in the full amount of rhubarb in the recipe, so personally i don't think the flavour was strong enough - i think i should a cut back on some of the orange zest. But they were moist and cakey and sweet with a crunch from the oats on the topping. Mum liked them so much that not all of them made it to the party - the ones she kept were eaten last night with custard!

First Kale Harvest

It was 3 weeks ago now, but i just haven't got round to blogging it yet! 1st June saw the first Curly Kale harvest which i enjoyed steamed with my roast dinner that Sunday night.

Monday photos #13 - a brief update

Only a brief update today. I'm so behind on all the things i'd planned to blog about, plus i'm still shattered after a busy weekend so please excuse the lack of description in this update.
mini green house with tomatoes and onions and strawberry hanging basket.
One of the first fennel looked to have died, i thought maybe the heavy rain had battered it a couple of weeks back but on closer inspection this morning little maggots were the problem. So i removed them and hopefully all the soil containing any more bugs and have resown. While i was at it i put some more seeds in where those others didn't germinate. I am presuming some kind of root fly so have place a things of onions to maybe discourage bugs but if it's cabbage root fly then my efforts are pointless.
4 tomatoes, chard (which needs thinning - salad leaves for me then!) and beetroot
3 tomatoes and courgettes (plenty of flowers on both plants)
Kale, Beetroot and Blueberries
Sugar snaps, 3 tomatoes, strawberries, radishes and an abundance of herbs.
The rhubarb patch is looking a little sparse after some baking i did last week (hopefully blog that in a sec)
last 3 tomatoes by the back door
Parsnips, onions, carrots (need thinning), Kale (hopefully further blog post about that), runner beans, salad leaves (still going to seed), hanging cherry toms - and where mum thought she'd sown spinach, it seems it's rocket!!! which has also gone to seed so is being eaten as much as possible.
French beans (won't be long til harvest time), salad leaves (gone to seed - grrrr), cabbages, brocs and caulis, squash (starting to get bigger), more french beans and cherry tomatoes.
But there's excitment for me in this area at the moment because........................

We have Broccolis!!!!

So that made my day when i spotted them at the end of an exhausting day yesterday.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Hatfield Heath Festival Weekend - Day 1

Yesterday saw the first day of the Hatfield Heath Festival weekend, with the school fete from 12pm until 2.30pm, the church flower festival and a history exhibition in the URC Hall on postcards and pictures of Hatfield Heath both running all day (and all day today as well). But the bit i was involved in was in the Village hall from 11am to 5pm (and the same again today) - The Art exhibition and craft fair - although when i say craft fair there were only four of us who had book tables for crafts in the end. So we each took a corner of the room whilst the paintings and art work hung on boards in the centre and on the wall around us.

I set up on the friday night, so i could plan my table and it's layout which i was quite happy with eventually. I purposely chose a corner that had space where i could hang things behind me too. So yesterday morning i arrived at 10am to add to magnets to the board and lay things out with out too much stress. Adorned with my own 2 badges, a hair clip (not that people could see that unless i turned my back to them!) and a pair of earrings, i was ready to go.

The day started well with one of the other stall holder buying my largest cross stitch before we'd even opened to the public.

I had taken a cross stitch with me to do however i didn't seem to get much done, as with still feeling ill i spent most of the day picking at my lunch trying to slowly eat something, hiding behind my stall! good view for people watching though....

It was very quiet though and i think the door count my the end of the day was no more than 80 people, but then this was kind of expected as today is the main festival day on the Heath with much more going on, starting with a fun run at 10.30am. Other things include a classic car show, dog show, fancy dress, punch and judy, falconary, a little fun fair and other stands. The Salvation army is doing a song's of praise on the heath at 5pm and as i mentioned earlier the church flower festival and history exhibition are going on today as well. So there's a lot more to attract people.

However despite the quiet day yesterday, as well as the cross stitch i also sold 2 keyrings

and a bookmark.

so i had covered my £10 stall fee and thats even after i have donated 10% of my takings to the village pre school which is this years chosen charity.

So now to watch Casualty before mum and D wake up, which D kindly recorded for me last night as i ended up joining them at his friend's 50th birthday bash and we didn't get back until 11pm.

Finger's crossed for another good day, the sun is shining which always helps matters. I must just say a quick thankyou to some wonderful Swap-bot members who have been replying to my panicing and worrying posts about this event, Spinjeny and Mojo, you've been super support. Thank you.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

7am on a Saturday in a little village.

Maybe it's because its a quiet fairly small rural village, or maybe its because many of the residents are older generations but this morning on a walk to the shop at 7am all but one of the people i passed, i exchanged a "good morning" with and a smile. It really made a lovely start to my day. For 5/6 people, only one of whom i know by sight not even by name, to smile and greet me, has lifted my tired spirits and reminds me what a lovely village this is.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Smallest but Sweetest Strawberries

Just a little note to mention how delicious those first few strawberries were! as well as the one from the photo on the latest monday update, there were 2 other even smaller berries that were ripe. They were the sweetest, juiciest and most beautiful tasting berries i have tasted in a long while. D made the comment that it would fill a pudding bowl, but to be honest i would much rather have 3 tiny berries that taste that good to a bowl of bland, cultivated strawberries anyday!!

Last year's apprentice winner

It was mentioned last night that the winner of series 3 (the previous series) of the BBC programme, The Apprentice is currently working on a project near Stansted Airport.  Mum thought that it might be at CPL Aromas that was featured in the task of the final as that is just down the road from us and near the Airport, so i did a quick google search.  Lots of results simply stating what we heard last night, "a Hotel and Golf course near Stansted Airport"  but then i came across Sir Alan Sugar website for his property developing company, Amsprop. It seems he has bought some farm land on a route that i take almost every week.


Land at Takeley, Essex - Full Details



  The road layout there had been revamped over a year ago but nothing more has been done since.  Our assumption was simply more houses,  as there have been hundreds of houses built as an extension to the east of  Takeley.  But thats clearly not the case.  Not sure how happy the residents of the caravan/mobile home park opposite the site will be - or in fact the owners of the B & B on the edge of the land!

The other thing i found out was that the runner-up was going to be offered a job for Essex County Council.  Somehow i don't think the runner-up, which turned out to be Claire, would see that as much of a consolation prize compared to working for Sir Alan!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Monday photos #12

My first ripe strawberry! it may be small but its the taste that counts! I'd better get in quick tho before any little birdies take a fancy.

Fennel looking good although i will sow some more when those in the 2nd trough didn't germinate.

4 tomato plants, chard (which i thinned for salad leaves last night) and beetroot. The weeds are not there now either!

Kale in the front not quite big enough for picking yet, beetroot next to that in front of the blueberries. nothing in front of the grow bag with tomatoes yet but i still would like more beetroot and i still have onions in the greenhouse. courgettes have lots of flowers forming although mum's worried there are more male flowers than female and the raspberries are hiding round the back.

The 2nd sowing of beetroot.

Another few weeks before this little one will be ready for harvesting....

Lots of raspberries forming.

Tomatoes haven't reached the height of the shelf yet so the onions can build up their strength in the trays for a while yet.

Parsnips under the bean run are looking reasonable. not as good as last year but i don't think i've sown as many. At least you can see them now the weeds have gone! sometimes being small has its benefits although it was still a struggle to get in there, especially with the fear of 8 legged creatures from the shed!

We put one of the grow bags on the edge of the patio so the canes could go into the edge of the grass. Sugar snaps are growing strong. can't wait for them!

There don't seem as many strawberries on here as last year but maybe they will appear in time.

The leggy radishes are starting to form - funny shapes tho!

After a lot of trial and error the wormery is now positioned up by the compost heaps, standing in pots of water after putting vaseline round the legs failed to stop ants setting up camp in there. i think we have finally got rid of them and after putting lots of paper and card shreddings in to dry it out, the worms seem happier and don't seem to want to escape as much.

This is the growbag next to the back door by the rhubarb. With my interestingly constructed support frame. it's also attached to the fence higher up.

The back bed is looking healthy, although the salad is going to seed as much as i keep trying to cut it back. and the hanging baskets are reinstated after almost being destroyed by 2 squirrels who decided to go digging!

I'm pleased with the cabbages, brocs and caulis so far. i hope they heart up!

First french beans forming.

and a busy but productive looking patch by the shed!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Rachael Herbert - Sweet Nothings

I came across this blog via another, Cuteable. I love the way rachel adds little faces to things to tell stories, like when her TV died.

Rachael Herbert - Sweet Nothings: Wee carrot - this was the post that Lyndsey featured and lead to her flickr album here. Due to copyright i can't add the photos to my blog but they are certainly worth a look if you like something cute.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Monday Photos #10

Back after a weeks break, the garden is thriving after a lot of rain but still some warmer temperatures. I don't mind the lack of sun right now, as there are not too many things that need ripening - only a few strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I thought i'd try a different layout for this week. See if this looks any better and easier to read.

The Onions, Carrots, Kale, Spinach, Runner Beans and the Salad in this patch are growing well. I am still a little concerned with the germination of the first lots of parnsips, however i do have a few in loo rolls to fill the gaps. However i think that may be mainly my fault for not sowing enough in the first place. The parsnips underneath the bean run are looking a lot more promising, well, from what i can make out amongst the weeds - thats the smal problem with having them there - i can't get in there to weed! You might spot the addition of a hanging basket too! The cherry tomatoes needed to be put in the baskets as they were getting a little too big and they were starting to get flowers too.

I'm going to enter this photo in the latest Forum competition. The theme this round is simply "veg plot". i'm going to call it Close Quarters Gardening, where everyone has to get on. If only the world could be like that..... Anyway starting from the left are the french beans, then the brassicas and cabbages which all appear to be doing well. the smaller ones to the left are the ones planted out last, but hopefully with time they will grow stronger. The squash are all happily caged in and just need to get on and grow now. In front of them are the bean from the USA with the other 2 hanging baskets on the tree. And finally the salad round the front of that is growing so fast some of it has started going to seed! I'm going to look like a rabbit soon!!

On the patio, the sugar snap peas are blooming and the radishes in the middle are doing ok.

Its slightly chaotic on there right now as we have had a big move around in the greenhouses, as you will see later on. The trays in front of the sugar snaps are lettuce to use up and then throw away and also the parnsips to plant out. All the herbs are looking healthy, although there is a bird who has decided to dig in the latest ones that mum has sown, so i think there will be a few less of them! Apparently nan is bringing up some basil when they come up in a couple of weeks as she went a little mad with the sowing of the seeds! must be in the genes!

I'm not sure about this pot of radishes, they still seem a bit leggy. Just have to wait and see i guess.

The strawberry planted on the patio has fruit starting to form and plenty of other flowers.

These are the tomato plants that we didn't get round to planting out/up yesterday, sheltering amongst the patio jungle for now.

The three tier basket out the front still seems happy, although i might have to get a step ladder to have a look and see what the top layer is doing - or.... i could lean out my bedroom window and have a look!

The Raspberries are looking good. I might still have to devise some kind of cage/net tho to protect them from the birds, as the sparrows like to play in the bush next to them.

Exciting news from the courgettes - we have our first! All i need to do now is keep it off the ground, as last year the got damp and went mouldy and also keep those slugs and snails away!

These are 3 normal tomatoes with space in front to either put the onions i grew from seed or maybe some more beetroot.

Behind the beetroot is the mixed chard and then behind the chard are 3 beefsteak tomatoes. I will still have one spare tomato plant are i've planted up the other 2 grow bags and i think it might end up on the wall to the left of this photo.

The first lot of fennel is looking great, i'm so pleased, despite the mouldy slug pellets! but the germination of the second lot doesn't seems to good - only 3 at the right end, despite sowing 5 lots with 2 seeds in each. it may have been too damp in the bottom of the greenhouse. however they are now in the coldframe, so i will give them a week there before sowing some more.

There is only one shelf in the greenhouse now, the top shelf, which is home to the onions and a tray of Lollo Rosso which i put in last week, as although we have lots of oriental salad, we don't have any plain - i'm tempted to sow some tom thumb lettuce too. i think these might have to go in pots on the patio eventually!

This is why there are no longer shelves in the greenhouse - 3 beefsteak tomatoes!!

The Kale out the front is smaller than that out the back but still growing well nevertheless.

The Blueberries look like there are more than last year which is nice to see and this is still only it's second year!

My second sowing of beetroot has germinated well, so i'll give this a few weeks and then sow some more!!

Wow - i finally seemed to have got to the end! I think a big reason for the amount of photos is the fact that things are so spread out and its a case of grabbing space where ever i can. Mum says the garden seems to be getting smaller as things are growing - she says it as if its a bad thing and i know i've taken over, but when we start to harvest things i know she won't be complaining!