Monday, 29 October 2012

What now...?

So, now I have moved and I am living the reality of not having a proper garden, and having pulled up all my plants and left most of my produce behind. I've settled into the house and now I am getting very itchy fingers to be planting and growing things again.

So, what now.

My plan, up until just now, was to get some sprout seeds and grow them for Christmas, but it turns out they take about 24 weeks to grow and I'm not sure (looking at all the yule tide advertising going on already) that we have 24 weeks til Christmas. Though, thinking about it, I could be wrong; they advertise Christmas in the summer now huh.

This has prompted a burst of research into just what I can plant right now and it turns out that lettuce can still be planted, though it'll need to go under a cloche when the weather gets much colder, and I can also put out my sets of onions, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. I can also plant some potatoes in pots (though I may hold off on this as I think the lovely girlfriend may just have a word if I have to bring them inside over the winter in the nice new house.... hmmm....) but if you do that, you can apparently get some good new potatoes for Christmas time.

Anyway, this is going to be a very short update with no pictures, but I am giving you notice that there is going to be MUCH more activity on the blog over the next few days, and over the winter.

I'm going nowhere!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Eating the parsnips

As I have mentioned a couple of times, I have moved and this has meant that I had to close down my growing and bring as much as possible with me.

I was clever enough to pack and move all of my digging implements before I remembered that I had to go and dig up my parsnips so, on the cleaning day at the house I was out in the back garden unearthing them with my bare hands. I don't say this contributed to the amazing taste, but it was a very satisfying method and helped me feel really close to the food production process.

The pity was that I have had to harvest about a month or so early, so most of the parsnips were still quite small, but I had loads and I would say this is another massive success story and I would recommend growing parsnips to all of you - they taste so much better than the ones you buy in the shop, and are very easy to grow.

Anyway, to the photographs.

The harvest; cleaned and ready for roasting; it took J about half an hour to wash all the mud off these. Sadly I'd been too busy to get a picture of them pre-cleaning.

Just about to be roasted, just a little dash of olive oil and nothing else.

And roasted. One of the parsnips was big enough to have to slice in half, which I was pleased about :)

SOOOO tasty looking!

Parsnips piled up with the last of the home grown lettuce, and roast chicken and chips and cheese :) tasty!!!

The last parsnip, about to disappear down J's throat.

So there you have it, I will definitely be growing Parsnips again and look forward to the next time I can eat my own.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Making blackberries into jam

So, the move has happened. I am no longer living in the house with the big garden where I can harvest food that I have grown, nor gather fruits from the blackberry bushes that surrounded the place.

This is quite a sad time, but I hope to be able (as I have discussed before) grow food in the plentiful pots and growing containers that I have collected and, in this way, learn a lot more about different techniques for being self sufficient.

One of the last things that I did while at the house, however, was to use all the blackberries that I had harvested last year and this to make jam. For reasons unknown even to myself, the recipe that I used is actually for Blackcurrant Jam but it has worked very well and tastes incredible so I don't think any harm was done.

The link to the original source is

This was far less time consuming than the chutney, as I did not have to chop anything, and also didn't have to leave it to mature over night. It did, however, take several hours and involved stirring the pots quite often.

One other thing to quickly highlight; I'm pretty sure I used too much water when I made it, as I thought "surely that's too little" but, people, follow the ratios!! Quite a lot of my jam actually failed to set, so I'm going to have to work out what to do with super-runny jam now.

Anyway, to the photos and instructions.

All of the blackberries, still frozen and in the freezer drawer. There were about 3.5kg here I think.

First of all I separated the big frozen blocks of fruit, and then washed them over with cold water in the colander.

Sunlight on blackberries, waiting to be boiled down.

This is the amount of sugar that is needed to make this much jam...

... and this is what that sugar looks like when it is in the baking tray ready for heating up and adding to the mix.

Water and fruit simmering gently waiting for the fruit to soften. As the instructions say, the fruit should easily squash between your spoon and the side of the pan before you add the sugar as the sugar will stop the softening process.

Adding the sugar. It is amazing how much there was, and I actually ended up throwing in another 250g because I think I put too much water in for the softening process.

All the sugar added, all ready for turning the heat up and boiling them hard prior to bottling.

Starting to get a good roil going on during the boiling process (beat poetry there, did you see it?)

I'm sure THIS wasn't supposed to be in the jam - it bubbled to the top during boiling so i hoiked it out and discarded, obviously after taking a picture for you guys.

The final boil coming to an end.

I pulled the pans off the heat a couple of times, and did the little check that is suggested in the instructions, until it appeared that the jam was ready.

The finished batch of jam - there was a LOT more than I expected as it didn't really reduce down the same as the Green Tomato Chutney did.


So there you have it. About 1/3 of the jam was totally set, and the other 2/3 in differing stages of set to completely runny when I packed them for moving.

I will get round to counting the exact number of jars and may update you. Suffice to say, the taste test on bottling was a big thumbs up.

Thanks for reading, please do comment and I'll be back sooner (as I have interwebs at the homestead now) so will be able to update midweek again.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

The end of the chillis

What with moving house, I'm harvesting everything that I want from it's current location.

The other day it was the turn of the chilli plants so every fruit, in whatever stage of ripeness, was pulled off each plant.

While I was harvesting the outside plants I found that, in the previous week or so, something had got to a number of the chillis and eaten everything from inside them.

My poor hollowed out chilli. I have visions of a slug or something eating this, then bursting into flames, as these chillis do seem quite warm!

On the advice of a regular reader, I had been leaving the plants to "get stressed" as apparently this increases their heat.

The dried up remains of the bedroom window chilli plant.

I have been using the chillis regularly so the following picture doesn't reflect the total harvest (and as observed before, a good few actually got eaten just before my harvest) but anyway:

The chilli harvest.

There you are, a short update for now, but I'm preparing a longer one about the MASS of blackberry jam that I made yesterday.