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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Things do go wrong......

Although we are loving our new life here in beautiful BG, it is not all perfect, nothing ever is.

I am really enjoying the preserving side of life, though there is far too much stuff. Next year, if we have too much, I would like to find out if there are any charities or other ways we can give our excesses to rather than letting them rot or using them in an way which wastes not only fuel and time, but sugar and other ingredients when we know we are never going to use the resulting mess. I have two loads of chutney in this category. One is cucumber and the other is a spiced courgette. They are both revolting with baaad texture. The recipes were recommended by unknown people on-line. The cucumber used up some of my precious soft brown sugar, which we have yet to find over here, and a lot of spices. The texture is slimy and the spices weird. Waste of everything and it will go on the compost heap when we get one.

The courgette chutney I made last week might improve, but the smell of overcooked vegetables when I was bottling it made me gag. It smelt like a very over cooked curry, due to the curry powder in the mix, but tasted exceptioally sweet. Ugh! This was recommended by someone who has made three lots this year and is finding it gets eaten before it is ready. It is supposed to be left for the flavours to mature, so this is what I have done. We'll see. There are plenty of other chutneys which are nice.

Lovely neighbour asked us, the other day, if we would like to buy some peaches a friend was selling for one lev (44p) a kilo. I asked for two kilos and they duly arrived next day. I say they arrived, they were actually nectarines, but never mind.
 My intention was to halve them and bottle in syrup. So all excited I got the pan of water on to blanch and skin, and another of sugar syrup to which I was going to add a splash of brandy. Then I tried to get the stones out. Well, you have never seen such a mess. They were the type who won't give up their stones without a fight! Unfortunately, instead of bottling them whole, I tried to persevere and ended up with enough quarters for one litre bottle and the rest of the bits I intended to make into a compote to put over rice pudding, ice cream or yogurt. On the fortunate side, three had boogies in the centre which I would have been mortified about if I had opened the jar for a special occasion. Tried using a smaller pan to simmer the jar of quarters in brandy syrup, but turned the heat up too high when it went off the boil, to restart it, and the contents must have got too hot and the lid blew off! What a mess. I managed to save some fruit and added it to the compote fruit, which luckily I hadn't started as I was waiting for sugar. So we will have to wait and see how it turns out. I now have five jars of the stuff. You live and learn and what I learned is you can't cut corners or take your eye off the ball (or pan).

Poor Bella had an accident yesterday. The girls were playing ball. This usually means Bonnie gets the ball as Bella is not interested in catch, Bella takes the ball from Bonnie (who gives it to her, whereas we have a major tugging match to get it) then tries to get Bonnie to chase her by wafting it in front of her nose or putting it on the ground and picking it up before Bonnie can and running off with it. Bonnie will chase her for a while, but sensibly gives up when she gets hot. The disappointment on Bella's face is rather sad, she just wants to play. This time Dave picked it up and both dogs went for it, resulting in collision and Bella ending up with a couple of cuts on her nose. Bonnie completely ignored Bella's yell and her desire for the ball didn't waver, but Bella couldn't understand what happened and is now wary of games. She'll get over it, but no doubt she will not try to catch the ball for a while. Bless her, she is very subdued today, and has a swollen nose, she must have a headache!

We are now having major problems with insect bites. For a few reasons really. One is that we forget to spray before leaving the house. The house is relatively fly free, we have two electric socket thingies which take a pad of fly killer, a sticky strip, a Bella to catch them, and plenty of house centipedes which also keep the spiders down. W also have an electric zapper, but the dogs can't cope with the noise when a fly gets in there so we don't use it. In the bedroom we have a mozzie plug-in and screens at the windows....and more centipedes.Luckily they are harmless to us and the dogs.
We have found that a raw onion rubbed on the really vicious sings/bites calms them down, but what a pong! We have to go into the garden at the end of the day, not just to put the chooks away, but also to water and plant seedlings as it is too hot during the day. This seems to be when we are our most tasty.

The shower rooms continue to pong occasionally, but not nearly as badly as they were. You can control it by putting water into overflows, with a drop of our precious Zoflora added. It seems so much worse when they dry up.

On the up side, Dave has finished cutting the wood for winter. He is growing a bit of a six pack from all the physical work and has lost a lot of weight. We have ordered another half load of wood, just in case we have a bad winter, but this time we are getting it already chopped, and for less money than the last lot. You live and learn, and we have learned that we took down the wrong telephone number last time!

Dave cleared a bit more ground ready for Kale and psb, which are coming on well despite the late start. The first sowing failed completely but we are hoping these will catch up. I transplanted the seedlings into their own modules last week, thinking they would have a couple of weeks to grow on before planting out, but the neighbours had other ideas! Trenches were dug and the tiny seedlings, with a small ball of compost carefully shaped around the root, were carefully handled into holes dug by Dave with a trowel. The trowel was so admired as a new and exciting tool that I dug out another, luckily new stainless steel one to give as a thank-you for helping. The tiny seedlings are now living under fleece or fine green netting to keep the sun off, but doing ok. I don't know who is going to eat all the purple sprouting broccoli if it does well though. I will eat it every day, but it can't be bottled so no good for lovely neighbours. They won't have seen it before either and I can imagine the puzzlement on their faces when they see that it only grows tiny flower heads but masses of them. And the kale is the Tuscan black stuff, so that should be interesting too.

The beans are coming along, with the climbing French beans growing three inch fine beans, something else they don't grow here.

 I think we can safely say our peas have failed. Most of the few plants which have survived five attempts at sowing are only a few inches high and have produced a pod of peas and decided their job is done. Next year we will take a completely different approach and grow them early, in pots, to a good size before planting out. No point trying now, the ground is very dry and dusty.
We are being bombarded with melons now. The big yellow ones are a bit floury for our taste, but the chickens love them. We have had a lovely water melon, but Bonnie took a dislike to it. We have a video of her giving it a good telling off. The chicken like the skins of those too, and tomatoes. It's a good way of making sure they get moisture.

 We had chilled tomato soup the other day. It was delicious. The huge tomatoes, weighing up to a pound at the moment, are so juicy and sweet all they need is a bit of garlic and onion, salt and pepper to make a very nice lunch.

Well, here's hoping Bella is soon back to her usual self, the flies leave us alone and the bottled goodies all keep well!

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