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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Produce

To those regular readers, you will remember that. due to having the space, I have gone mad and planted too much this year and so have ended up with a glut of....well....almost everything. I have a large chest freezer full, loads of bottles in the cellar, made jams and chutneys every week and given piles of stuff away. I have even, dare I say it, shoved some on the compost heap and given masses away to feed pigs and calf. The geese and chooks are not amused when they see me coming armed with an assortment of goodies (they would much rather have junk food!)

So although the weather hasn't been great, for some things the wet has made them grow out of their strength. The tomato plants look grim, but in fact I have used masses for chutney, frozen some for later use, bottled and bottled, pickled and sauced, and given loads away, even sold some and bartered some. And, you know, I try hard to be grateful when we are given them by the carrier bag (three already this last week) but all I see is more work with nowhere to store what I might produce. The jar man at the market has run out of cheap jars and has started to buy them in, and passes the cost on making them rather expensive so I am trying not to buy them unless I plan to make chutney...which I didn't this week. As I've said, the freezer is full and I have enough bottled for a couple of years. When our lovely neighbour looks over the wall all she sees are poorly, dying plants, she doesn't notice that there are masses of fruits on most of the fifty plants....so she sends me whoppers, as do the other neighbours.


Cucumbers. I worried about mine earlier. We had a cold spell just after I planted them out and they sulked (mentioned somewhere) But they came on late as I knew they would. Really, we only need about two or three plants, but just in case any fail, which they do for no real reason, I have six plants. Far too many but the geese like them and the chooks will eat them on hot days. I made lots of pickle, which sells. But (sorry if I sound ungrateful again) we don't need carrier bags of the things given. We like tzatziki, and the local soup...which is in effect watered down tzatziki, and we quite like the pickled cucumber I make with a recipe given by a friend. But I am afraid the compost heap is beckoning again, I hate to do it........

Peppers. We have planted far too many. We have long red ones, yellow bell ones, squat ones and chillis. They are doing OK after a slow start, again because of the weather. But there are masses of peppers on, including red ones earlier than the neighbours. We don't actually use a lot of peppers, maybe should use more with their healthy benefits. But the neighbour is worried in case the forty odd plants are not enough and is sending big, juicy green ones over by the bag full. We don't use much chilli either, not quite sure why Dave wanted to plant so many....maybe it's a man thing. I hope the neighbours don't grow them. The squat peppers are for pickling after we were given some pickled last year and enjoyed them....oh dear.

Thank goodness their courgettes were a bit sad and we have been able to give them many overgrown fruits. We have a lot in the freezer, they are not bad shoved in the woodburner oven with onion and left to roast. We are using them as babies and the rest go to the animals. Sorted (I hope)

Aubergines. We didn't put many in, a small variety as we only use them in dips or battered when we are feeling the need for naughty food. Dave likes moussaka. Our neighbour gives us many long, pointy ones. I don't know what to do with them. We still have roasted puree from last year clogging up freezer space and lutinitza in the cellar also from last year. The geese don't like them.

Sweetcorn. I have mentioned these on previous posts. The chooks are enjoying a little of the neighbour's gift as an afternoon treat, stored in the freezer. I grew plenty for our own use and it is frozen and ready. Today a friend has kindly given me two carriers full which I will dry for the chooks over winter, though too much is seemingly bad for them.

The sunflower is a swap, large yellow in return for some of our bronze ones

Beans...or bop. It may be remembered that I grew several types of beans and they take up a lot of freezer space. I have had two sorts of runners, climbing French, borlotti and broad beans. I also grew some local yellow beans which I am not mad keen on, but froze a few anyway and pickled some sweet and sour. The rest went to a friend for her pigs. We have also given masses of the other beans away and dried and frozen borlotti. But they keep coming by the bag load and I have no idea what to do with them. I will not bottle them, it will be a waste of bottles, fuel and time. The geese are not interested.............heck!

The melon season has just started. As mentioned earlier, the neighbours were surprised that we gave them the first melon of the season before their's were ready. Our's are just the right size for two, and any which go soft are eagerly eaten by the fowl. If last year is anything to go by we will soon be inundated with yellow and water melons from both sides. We can see from the bathroom window that the rear neighbours, an elderly couple, have dozens.......................

Pumkins are a while away yet, but we have hundreds of butternuts and other squash. Maybe we can get in first! How did they happen? Very few plants and so many fruits.

So, while I realise that it is their culture to give stuff away, and I really am grateful that they are making sure we don't want for anything, I am at a loss to know what to do with it all.

Did I mention the two bags of pears a friend brought round, from their tree?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

We promised ourselves a day off

We have had a busy time one way or another. Dave is forever building and repairing, doing all the heavy work in the garden, looking after the neighbours (he loves his Babas) next door's cats, dogs, geese, me. He has done more painting and is forever messing with the pool, keeping it clean and cool for me (I'm fussy where my sweaty body goes!) Though I think that is an excuse to play in cold water! And, of course, he has the bees which look after themselves mostly.

Myself, I am still having to make jams and chutney, harvesting and processing the goodies from the garden, making cakes (not for us....I'm so off cake these days) Trying to keep the flowers dead headed and tidy. Keeping up with dust and washing. All the usual things.

Last Sunday was busy for us. The car boot sale opens at 8am so it is a good idea to be there well before that. I keep saying I will not be making any more of this or that, but then it sells and I have to top up. Then the plums are ready so jam to be made from them. I froze the rhubarb for another day but I need more jam so........ Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of crates of jams and chutneys, as well as cards and paintings filling the car. Then there is a table, umbrella, two chairs, cool bags, one with perishable and one with cold drinks. This time Dave took along a new painting he has started recently, this time for himself, and planned to do a bit to it while we waited for customers. He is trying a new technique on a clouded leopard and is very pleased with the results, and so he should be as it's looking lovely.
As it was at the sale

Sale day started slowly though there were more stalls than usual. It was a bit sluggish all day but there was a lot of interest in what Dave was doing and it makes people realise that painting a picture actually takes time as well as skill. All those people who think that the equivelent of £20 is a lot for an original one off don't realise the time and materials that go into creating the picture, never mind the skill. They are often quite scathing even though initially they like a picture enough to ask how much it is. It's a bit the same with cards, the largest and most worked card costs just over a pound, which barely covers materials, I only make them because I like to and it's a handy hobby to have when stuck indoors in winter. But to a lot of people that is too expensive. Not complaining, just explaining. Anyway, we did OK in the end and had a few quid to spend on food in the supermarket on the way home.

WE got home around three and sorted the shopping, car and dogs and fowl, chatted with a friend who called in and Dave went off to feed the cats so that we could sit and relax for a while. He was hailed by Venka and she told him it was her birthday and we were invited round for a family get together that evening....9pm, our bed time. Cup of coffee and Skype session with my sister and we were off again.

There were a lot of places set around two tables but no-one else was there. Dave had looked up 'Happy Birthday' in Bulgarian and sang to Venka which delighted her and made her giggle (she is 69) We embarked on a language lesson with the aid of a book Dave bought which is for teaching English to children, so well illustrated. Still no guests. Then there was a scuffle at the gate and Baba Danke from across the lane and her daughter turned up. By ten o'clock there was anxiety about the non-appearance of the family and whoever the other two places were set for. But a phone call from the daughter assured them that they were on the way.

Meanwhile two kittens had followed Baba Danke over from her place. They were gorgeous but then the company was split into two camps...those who like kittens and Jordan who thinks they are a nuisance. Hilarity followed and filled a gap before their daughter, son-in-law, his brother, and their son arrived at about 10.30. After explaining with the son's help, it seems they had been to a funeral in Italy where they spend a couple of months grape picking every year. Their second home. The holiday traffic and weather had been very bad on the way back and it had taken 24 hours to drive, so they were all looking shattered. And they still had a forty minute drive home.

So it was out with the salad and rakia, which the drivers didn't drink of course. Venka then opened the card we had taken round and everyone had a go at reading it, though it was written in larger letters in Bulgarian. It has joined all the other cards we have made them on the table by the TV. Out came a huge plate of stuffed peppers, potatoes and meat for the others, luckily no fried eggs for me this time. Then there were four huge bowls of sweet melon and watermelon, and great hilarity and admiration when Venka explained that we had given her one of our melons before their's were ready. We left at midnight. We had been up since 5 so a very long day.

So that is why we decided to have a 'day off' on Monday. But before we slummed out we wanted to move the hens before they started the important job of laying. Their shed is a bit small for them with cracked walls and uneven floor so ideal for hiding mites. Since the young cockerels went there are only three youngsters in the nursery so we had decided that as we are not intending to raise any more chicks it would be better for all of them, including the Shumen who can move over for the winter. It should be warmer and better insulated and ventilated which will hopefully stop any of them getting frostbitten combs.
A much larger room for all the chooks, with electricity and heating if needed

A piece of glass removed to make way for weldmesh ventilation

Because we have a huge battle with red mite in the old shed, it made sense to clear the nursery out, give it and the nest boxes a good spray, fit more air flow in the door and dust everyone in mite powder before letting them all in. Not  tiny job but we didn't think it would take too long. Of course it was then a race to get it done before anyone wanted to lay. They were all keen to get in there..until they wanted to lay and then they had to complain VERY loudly that the GATE was SHUT and how were they to GET IN to LAY. Such  commotion. To be fair, Chubba and Cagney have never known anywhere else, but the biggest shouter, Pearl, used to live in the nursery. The layers for that day did get their heads round it eventually, and after a bit of SHOUTING from Pearl and Chubba peace reigns again. So morning gone. Just bread to make and washing to do...Then Dave started strimming and I started weeding, then it was thundering so Dave collected the cuttings from outside us and the neighbours...and then it was tea time.day gone!

Last night's thunderstorm was as bad as any we have had in terms of thunder and lightening, though the rain was more steady than torrential. But Bonnie was panting heavily all through and after. It was a very long storm, not just here and gone, and it was very close. So another night when I have been short of sleep.

Today we decided to have that day off. The chooks have laid under protest. I only spent half an hour weeding then dug up a bucket full of carrots, some stuff for the chooks, pulled and cooked beetroot. The carrots needed cooking and mashing for the freezer, except the small ones which are frozen whole.Need to do some more sweetcorn but waiting for the mud to form a crust...but now thunder has started again. Dave has spent time on his painting and is organising some photos of a Westie from the UK, his latest commission. That is why I am doing this, it makes me sit down!
I wish you could see this in real life, it really doesn't do it justice on here...and it is not black and white! It is stunning

I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Buzzzy...............

So exciting, we have had our first honey from our hive. The bees have been very busy since they were moved to the new hive, building wax comb, making honey, so Dave decided to grab a couple of capped frames and with a bit of cutting, crushing and straining we have had one large and three small jars of honey and it is still coming through. I know I'm biased but it tastes delicious.



A capped fram ready to harvest
This was a new frame put in a week ago and is already nearly full of wax cells. How amazing is that? It looks like it was made in a factory
Bonnie is feeling left out

Poor old dear

Being eyeballed by the gander, he is not keen on me and we have had to put up some horse electric tape along a new bit of garden they have been given. Given that they have to nibble on everything it has been a bit shocking for him!!!!

Bella always goes under the fence to get closer. She is a bit more wary of the geese these days
Cutting the caps off

Straining through muslin

Our first honey


Happy bee man

Only one sting, but it was a good one!

So we are going to have to think about what we are going to do with it. The three small jars are for the neighbours, Venka and Jordan and Baba Danke have had a jar already and they were very impressed with it, lots of 'super's and 'bravo's. I have made a honey cake today to try at the car boot sale, though I didn't use my honey, I used a friend's, our's is still too precious.

It's been a busy week for jam and chutney too. I seem to have made dozens of bottles and unless everyone goes mad buying, that should be enough for this year. Any which don't quite work, like one batch which tastes a bit overcooked, goes into the cellar for us to use, and we have a cupboard full of pickles from friends (dill pickles, peppers and cucumbers) as well as the beets, onions and cucumbers I have done myself. I have bottled yet more tomatoes and tried pickled ones too, no idea what they will be like. We have enough really as I have also frozen some in case we need more chutney.
Yet anothe carrier of tomatoes and cucumbers from the neighbours

Today we also picked the first of our sweetcorn, and after all the worry that it might be the same variety that Venka gave us, we were delighted to find that it is not only delicious, but also easy to process, not as tough and sticky. Happy, should have enough to last us till next year.


The first of our butternuts and a bowwl of veg for roasting

We had another massive storm this week, incredible lightening and crashing thunder which went on and on. I would have enjoyed it, I love a storm, but poor Bonnie was a wreck, bless her. The rain didn't go on too long but was heavy enough to make a muddy mess of peppers and aubergines, and jolt the weeds back into growth. Some of the sunflowers are listing again, but we had taken photos before the storm and they were very tall. They crept up on us really, when you see them all the time you hardly notice their size.
Dave is 6'2'' so this is a very tall sunflower, being supported by the apricot tree


We have managed to home six of our young cockerels to one home. They were wanted to clear the yard of weeds so are going to be working for their living. They could have had another one but someone else wanted one, then at the last minute changed her mind so we have one bewildered boy and two little girls wondering where everyone is. We will mis the antics of the 'gang' and I hope they settle well where they are. There are no hens so fighting should not be a problem.
This young man has found himself with nine laying ladies and two young girls all to himself!
Dave has started another large painting, this time of a clouded leopard. He is planning on taking it to the car boot sale to see if working on it there will generate any interest in people wanting paintings for Christmas presents. Everything is worth a go.

The car went for it's MOT this week so that is out of the way for a year, and insurance paid. That is the last big (ish) bill for the year. Nothing failed though I don't know how thorough it was compared to the very strict ones in the UK. As long as the brakes are OK and the chassis sound that is most important.

There is no good news from my friend regarding the horses. We saw her on Wednesday when she came over to check out our local market which was a harrowing experience for her. They are not nice places with nice horses mixed with total wrecks and they do not get good treatment. I wouldn't go in unless I had to. She is beside herself, poor thing, and is attending sales all over the country with her husband as are other facebook friends. Someone knows what has happened to them, but no-one s saying. Poor Suzy.

Milka
Maya



Monday, 21 July 2014

In the garden



Well, after all the panic over diseased tomatoes we have done OK. The plants may not have been as tall and pristine as our neighbours’ specimens but they have yielded well for their size. The leaves are all brown and crisp on the plum tomatoes but the fruit, apart from the early rotten ones, have been beautiful, mostly large which is good for chutney, and blemish free. Today I picked a bucket load and there were no rotten ones, just one with a bug hole. There is just one more pick and they will be done and can be pulled out. There is no sign of black stem so happy enough that whatever ailed them is down to weather conditions and not a lurgy The one fault is that they are too large for bottling really as you can only get a few in a large bottle, but I have been using the smaller ones for that. Next year we will choose a smaller fruiting variety.

The cherry tomatoes are still producing well and it looks as if they will for a while yet.  I am pressing them on anyone who will take them (I know how the Bulgarians feel when they have a glut!) The large pink ones have not done badly at all. They are very delicate with thin skins and few pips but we don’t need many as they do not store well. The other large (red) variety have not done brilliantly. There are plenty for sauces etc but I would not grow them again.
Mixed bucket

Some of the 'pink' ones are huge

We are still picking a lot of cucumbers so more pickle will be made today and maybe tomorrow, but it will have to go in big jars as we have no jam jars left. If it doesn’t sell we will not be downhearted, we like it ourselves. Venka has just given us a carrier full of green peppers so some ot them can go in too, she is worried that our’s are not doing well, but actually we will soon be swamped in spite of the geese trying to eat all the plants. She also sent over some freshly cooked giant corn cobs, but I have to say they are not delicious! I am presuming they are what are grown for the chickens and the actual kernels are small, tough and almost bitter. Will have to think what to do with them. If our’s are the same (Bulgarian variety) the chooks will be happy.


Most of the courgettes we are allowing to grow to marrow size and passing them to Venka for her animals, just using tiny ones for ourselves. Again, anyone who comes and don’t have their own are going away with more than they want. The melons are still doing OK and the butternuts are still producing more fruit. Thank goodness we didn’t feed them!
Small and fragrant

On the bean front I am letting the runners grow beans for next year. I will try again with them but be a bit more careful with preparing the ground. They have done OK considering there were pumpkins and weeds last year where they are and we didn’t dig in any compost. The French beans are still producing like mad but I am letting some go to seed for the baked beans in winter. They are also being given away regularly. I love to give things. The borlotti beans are pulled and drying in the sun. Most have dried pods but we don’t want to wait for the stragglers as  we don’t want the first ones to shed their beans or get too wet in the heavy rain we are still getting occasionally.

The borlotti have to be amongst the most beautiful veg ever

Such a shame they go brown when cooked

Dry on the right, not quite ready on the left.
We are still battling whitefly on the brassicas and now the cabbage white butterflies have made an appearance and there are masses of them hovering. The chickens will soon be getting extra protein with their lacy leaves!

The raspberries are at last giving us more tasty little berries but as they are usually eaten in the garden there are no photos. The black plums are being collected from the ground every day and frozen ready for jam making when I get some jars. We have been luckier than some with our grapes and should have some to dry into raisins and some for Jordan for his rakia or Dave if he wants to continue trying to make wine. Jordan can definitely have the cornels which are ripening nicely and starting to drop. I must pick rhubarb too as it is taking over one end of the border....so much to do, lovely. The figs and peaches are growing slowly.



We have processed most of the brown onions now, some into pickles, some frozen in wedges and slices and some are drying. It won't really make much difference when we want to use them as we only ever use red ones raw and they have all been transferred to the back bedroom, the coolest, rather than the cellar which I hate. 

Our ‘herbaceous’ border is looking good thanks to gifts from the neighbours and the presence of Morgan’s Plants at the car boot sales. I try not to look at plants as I chat with Graham and his helper, Helen, but Dave is not as strong. The trouble is they are such healthy plants and very cheap....just begging to be bought! The nicotiana are not running out of steam yet and continue to perfume the air later in the day. Unfortunately they are the first thing people see when they walk down tha path and during the day look dead. Ah well, you can’t have it all ways.
Crocosmia starting to flower

Echinops

They were late getting going, but the flowers on the morning glory are huge

Ending with a bug