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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Crickets and fireflies

The stormy but warm weather is continuing and the weeds keep growing, but also the unusually damp spring has contributed to the growth of the veggies without watering effort from us. The cucumbers are sulking still but everything else seems to be doing OK. I transplanted the sprouts from their seed bed as they had suddenly put on a spurt of growth and they are now sulking in their new trench, I have put in another row of parsnips as one row only produced half a dozen seedlings and it was a waste of space. I can't believe we are running out of space. I really want to get some more roots in while growing conditions are so good but not sure where.

We are getting more and more from the garden, and if it wasn't for having to buy carrots for cake I would need very little from the market. We had the first of this year's beetroot the other day and are still gorging on baby carrots, peas and courgettes, as well as freezing peas. I have had to resort to chucking posh salad leaves over to the chickens (they are not overly impressed after the initial excitement) as the weather conditions are perfect for salad growth. I made some land cress soup one day and it was could taste the vitamins! I have pulled up the last lot of garlic I planted as the leaves were yellowing and I might just be able to squeeze some carrots in there. I didn't expect there to be much in the way of usable bulb as they were only put in recently when I was going to throw the last of it away when it sprouted and tasted musty. But I was surprised to find a good few very nice sized bulbs, mostly single, like an onion, but very usable and worth putting in. We have lost the last three iceberg to the weather and we just have too much salad, but where I cut a couple off there have sprouted a few more crispy leaves which add texture to salads.
First beetroot

Dave had a furtle (technical term) and found some nice taters

New leaves coming on the lettuce stump


Land cress soup Yum

Looking back at the photos we took when we arrived last year our tomatoes and peppers are not far behind despite the cooler weather. But it is certainly tidier out there. We have had very little sign of the hops which covered all the walls and chicken pen last year. In fact nothing dare sprout in the chicken pen except a lonely nettle! Brcause of the tidier garden we have not had the mass of insects we had this time last year and have only just started to hear crickets at night. I don't usually go out when the dogs have their last wee at night, but I did last night and there were fireflies everywhere. This is the only time of the year we see them, any later and we are in bed before the sun.

A friend had her 50th birthday this week and her OH asked if I would make a carrot cake for her birthday do at one of the village bars. After past failures with soft rollable icing I was going to use buttercream for the top, but I tried making a recipe for roll out buttercream icing which I have tried before but which uses golden syrup, but used corn syrup instead and it tasted much better. It was a bit of a dark colour and went darker when the colour of the cake came through so maybe would be better coloured or thicker. It had a better texture than last time too and held together better. I still wish I could afford to buy British fine icing sugar though. It looked fine decorated anyway and went down well at the party. So well that I now have orders for Christmas goodies.

We did another boot sale the other day, the first one at the venue which was a beautiful setting and sellers parked around the village square. But it was a long way and we hit some of the roughest roads in the area. We only took cards and paintings but hopefully there will be at least one commission for a painting and sold quite a few cards, but not enough to cover diesel. Unfortunately, most buyers were Bulgarian and the cards were just too expensive for them though they did like them. But I am selling as cheaply as I can with most under a quid, which after materials leaves very little and I felt bad about that. Much as we like the venue, it is unlikely we will go again, which is a shame.

We stopped off on the way home to see their local reservoir and dam, which must be lovely on a nicer day. Dave got stung on his neck by what must have been a bee as the sting was left in his skin. At least he knows that a sting is not as bad as the thought, so when (if) we get the bees it will not be so worrying. A swarm went over the other day and we heard it over the TV it was so loud. Unfortunately it didn't stop!

The sting

A herd of water buffalo resting on common ground. Not something you see every day

We had three stretches of road where the potholes were dreadful and we feared for the car!

Dave turned the compost heap over and tidied it up so we have some nice home made compost from the bottom of the heap which is great. It is all coming together.
And finally, our first californian poppy has flowered. They grow well here but you usually only see the orange ones. Baba Danka gave us some after noticing the border was a bit bare, but actually it was only because the plants were just seedlings. Now they are being pushed out by thuggish new growth from this and other strong plants.
Our seed grown poppy


  1. I just started reading your blog and I'm fascinated. What an adventure! I'm starting at the beginning and catching up. I retired 9 months ago and raise most of my own food, well fruit and veg anyway. It's so rewarding, isn't it?

    1. Thank you Cynthia. It has been our dream to do what we are doing here back in the UK, but there is no way we could have done it without us both working full time which would have been pointless and totally exhausting! However, we do not for one moment regret moving out here, it is the best thing we have ever done despite hiccups. It is, as you say, incredibly rewarding, but challenging too. This morning we found Colorado beetle on the taters!

  2. Would love your recipe for the land cress soup. Have only used it in salads before. It grows and spreads so quickly it would be good to use it in a soup, nice and hot and nutty!
    Also the recipe for the cheese you made, please. It inspired me to try my own with buttermilk. The first two turned out lovely. Also tried it with goats milk which was good. Last two times it just wasn't the same and I don't know what I did differently.
    Love reading your blog, please keep it up.

    1. Hi Sue. I got the recipe for the cheese on YouTube
      but there are plenty on the internet. I just used cow's milk instead. As we are a lot busier this year with more in the garden and the pesky car boot sales, I don't plan on making it this year. Also, it is cheaper to buy it at just a couple of quid a kilo from the milk lady. I must admit I like to make my own, but time is an issue this year so far. As for the soup, I just sweated onion and garlic in a little olive oil, added a couple of small diced potatoes and water and salt and pepper, simmered till tender, added the cress till wilted and whizzed, adding a bit of top of the milk to serve. Lovely. One thing I will say though, if you aren't going to sieve it (what a faff!) make sure you de-stem any older bits of cress or you get fibres in your teeth!