Sunday, 27 January 2013

After the snow has melted....

When I went to bed last night the snow was still several inches thick everywhere but, as was forecast, over night the rain came down and this morning all the snow was melted.

Including most of my snow man:

This is all that is left of my gardening snow man; oh well.

Anyway, the exciting part is that I have been out to check on my little seedlings and they (appear) to have survived that icy blast just fine.

The lettuce is looking the worst of the lot; I appear to have lost a couple of the seedlings which had originally sprouted, but I still have 4 little green things sticking out so fingers crossed they will now flourish and I can start eating freshly picked lettuce again - god I miss that taste!

The onions look a little sickly but I am most impressed to see that it seems like one of the plants which missed out on protection from the cloche even survived!!! wow!

The broccoli is the most healthy looking, but it hasn't really changed much in the last 3 weeks. I suppose that is hardly surprising though, considering it has been buried under several inches of snow all that time.

So there you have it, the cloches seem to have done their job (and one seedling survived even without a cloche).  I think I may start another set of each of these off in the next month or so, just see about timings. My feeling at the moment is yes, they have survived, but no they are not far enough along to have justified the expense of cloching them over.

To round this update off, I have pictures of my inside plants.

The Coriander. I have now moved this from the front room up onto the windowsill next to the Citrus tree. I like this picture because it shows how the slightly wonky growth is attempting to grow back towards the light. Incredible.

Citrus tree, complete with very nice looking oranges. I really must try eating them one of these days :) The new growth is really obvious in this picture too. I just hope we can manage to pack this and transport it successfully when we finally emigrate.

Last but not least, the mint. We normally have the blinds drawn behind this and you can again see the imperative that a plant has for the light, as the growth is extending so it can reach the gap between the blinds. This will have to put situated outside as soon as the weather improves. It smells amazing when you just brush a leaf too.

So there you are, the snow does not appear to have killed my outdoor plants, and my indoor ones are going very well indeed.

I hope you enjoyed my update.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snowy snow man

I built myself a snow man!!!

As you can see it's a gardening snow man, with handy tools for hands. He also supports the Sale Sharks and is wear a communist fur hat because he can tell the direction this country is going on (hehe < /politics>)

Me with my snow man!

I had a lot of fun building this, but I struggled with making the head cos the snow kept sticking to my gloves, and I couldn't really roll the head into a nice round shape.

Oh well.

Anyway, remembering this is a gardening blog, I also took some pictures of the outside plants again.

Oooops I think the cloche isn't really meant to be under THIS much snow (the lettuces are probably growing under there somewhere)

More snow on cloches...

I am glad that I repositioned this cloche over the onions. There is a chance the plants (about 5 or 6) which managed to hide under the cloche will be ok. I very much doubt the seedlings which are now totally covered with snow will survive.

Anyway, that was my attempt to pretend this update is about gardening, and nothing to do with my SNOW MAN!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Icy Update

As we withstand this icy blast I figured I'd pop outside and see how my little plants are doing.

Today is snowy, but it's not as cold as before but everything is still frozen, including the soil which the seedlings are attempting to thrive in. It was so frozen that I could not even put the tent pegs back in to hold down the cloches, so I'll have to hope there is no high winds before the thaw.

Anyway, let's get to the pictures.

The lettuce cloche, doing it's job and keeping the snow and cold off the seedlings.

Little lettuce seedlings; these are struggling particularly if you consider that we would have been eating these by this stage, if they had been planted in summer. They are still going though, bless them.

Broccoli cloche, less snowed on after I moved it to attempt to hang the thai boxing bag.

The Broccoli seems to be doing OK so far; the cloche is perfectly sized for the pot and has really sealed well to keep cold away.

Unfortunately you cannot say the same for the smaller cloche on the Onions, in the triangular pot. This picture was taken after I poured a little bit of water over the frozen soil to try and loosen it a bit.

The Broccoli on the left, and Onion on the right. You can see how the cloche on the onions is too small for the planter. One lesson learned there.

My watering can, totally frozen solid.

The nozzle of the watering can frozen right to the very end. Suffice to say I had to use a receptacle from inside for pouring water on my onions.

Just in case this update has left you feeling cold and icy, I have also seen that the Citrus tree has had a sudden spurt of growth.

Top left is a large amount of new growth from the Citrus Tree. It also has three oranges on it, which I will probably eat this weekend and report back on next time.

So there you have it, the seedlings are not dead (yet) and the cloches appear to be doing their jobs.

Keep growing.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Whisky Part 3 - Ardbeg and others

Seeing as the weather (snowy) is not conducive really to gardening, and I have a free weekday night, AND finally tomorrow is my next whisky night I decided to do another blog this evening with some more of my bottles of whisky.

I know how fascinated you all are about this part of my life.

As you will know if you are a regular reader, I am a massive fan of Islay whiskies. Today I am focusing on Ardbeg, probably my favourite of all the Islays to drink. I am also introducing a couple of bottles bought very cheap from Lidl or some such shop. Finally I have a collectors bottle, and the crown in my collection, which will be opened on the day my emigration plans come to full fruition.

So, without any further ado, here is the whisky.

 Ardbeg Almost There. Part of the brilliant concept Ardbeg came up with to build towards the first release of their new 10 year spirit. Ardbeg had been shut down for a long time before the distillery was brought back to life and these new expressions were started. This bottle was bought me by my best mate many years ago, and is so close to being finished. I can't bring myself to bottom it out though.

Ardbeg We've Arrived "Renaissance". This is the final part of the series mentioned above. This was also bought me by my best mate, and is lovely. I should drink this more but I have too many and forget about it. I will put that mistake right though soon.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan. This is the most recent Ardbeg that I have bought, picked up at a Whisky Lounge event a few months ago. This is an excellent dram and I would highly recommend it to any and all of you. If you are not aware, Ardbeg is one of the most heavily peated of all whiskies (ignoring crazy/special expressions produced by Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich like Octamore) but they manage to bring the peat, while retaining complexity and interest. This is not a harshly peated aggressive drink. It is wonderfully tasty.

Glen Marnoch 18 year. This was a bargain picked up purely down to price. Sadly (in my opinion at least) it lives up to that price and is a very disappointing drink. I like a whisky which I can savor, which when I drink has a start, a middle and (possibly 2-3 mins after the first taste) a satisfying and long end. This has a relatively promising start, but just disappears and never comes back. Oh well, one for the shelf and to give to people I don't like very much.

Glen Marnoch 24 year. This was bought with the previous bottle, but I have not tried it yet. Again, it was bought purely on price (£24 for a 24 year malt is not to be ignored) but I have very low hopes. Suppose that just means I won't be disappointed (I hope).

Clynelish Cask Strength. This is one of my "never to be drunk" bottles as this is signed by everyone who worked at the distillery at the time I visited. Clynelish is built on the same location as the legendary Brora distillery and what I wouldn't give for a bottle of Brora 25. Oh well, one can dream :)

Royal Lochnagar Special Reserve. This is the cherry on top of my whisky collection cake. When we visited the distillery we tried each of their bottles and this, by far the most expensive, was so outstanding and tasty we both bought a bottle. I am quite excited about tasting it again and hope my plans to get the f*ck out of this horrible country comes together very soon so I can.

There you are, another brief foray into my whisky collection.

I hope you enjoyed it, and I promise I'll be back to gardening updates next time.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Coriander and Mint progress, garden plan and ideas for the future

So, it looks like winter may be arriving, now we are into January. This morning we woke to a slight frosting of snow, no more than a couple of millimeters but still, this is going to be an interesting period where I find out how successfully the Cloches I have put over the winter growth will enable them to survive a cold snap.

Inside the house, where the central heating is helping out, I have seen a sudden burst of growth from my coriander I am growing from seed, and my supermarket bought mint plant has also started flourishing, causing an emergency re-potting and staking as it fell over in it's tiny shop pot.

The coriander looking quite healthy, just over 2 weeks since first sight of shoots. They are sitting on a 50p plate bought from the second hand shop next door - classy :)

The mint, still looking slightly lop-sided but better than it was. Again sitting on a 50p plate from next door and yes, on the bin in the background you can see our light dusting of snow.

I have nearly finished my plan of the garden, currently without any new growth in it; it is just to help me plan where things will go etc. As you can see, it is a much smaller space than I used to have; each square is one metre

My attempt to hang the thai boxing punch/kick bag failed, however, as the bricks our house is made from appear to have been fashioned from titanium! My hammer drill made about a 2mm dent, and then the chuck slipped. No chance. Oh well.

At least that will leave me more space for growing stuff ;)

Another awesome thing, I got some more cool pressies at Christmas which I will be making a start on this week I think. The cup is most useful as I am clumsy (apparently) and it won't break if I kick it across the garden :D

This little watering can comes with lavender - I cannot wait for this to be flowering - I love the smell of lavender!

A nice pair of small pots, with (as you can see) orgenao and basil to attempt to grow.

Yes, I AM the head gardener, and don't you forget it ;)

Finally, this year I am not only going to be growing food, but also picking out some flowering plants that I can grow which will encourage bees and butterflies to visit. My current thoughts are:

  • Globe Artichoke (as I can also try eating these)
  • Foxglove (because they are gorgeous)
  • Thistles (because surely they are easy to grow!)
  • Honeysuckle (well, one's got to try!)
  • Geranium
  • Forget-me-not
I am going to try and put a load of hanging baskets up (I can drill into the mortar, and avoid the diamond-hard bricks) and also plant in the lower light areas below the trees.

Anyway, I thought this was going to be a short update but it doesn't appear to have been!


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Chilli Oil, Garlic Mayo and Winter Growth Update

Well, I have not updated this as regularly as I expected, as there has not been as much progress in the onions, lettuce and broccoli.

In the intervening period I have been considering the growing plans for the coming year and getting frustrated at the length of the winter; it feels like I have been unable to grow anything for about two years now!

My lovely other half has, however, had a fruitful winter making use of the remaining chillis and some of the garlic (I have SO much garlic I hope to not have to buy any this year, and will definitely be growing more, but that's another blog) to make Chilli Oil and Garlic Mayo.

Starting to slice up the lovely red chillis

One split chilli, look at all those lovely hot seeds

Chop chop chop chop....

... and dropping the chopped chilli into the olve oil.

Chillis nestled in the bottom of the bottle.

My dried garlic, ready for preparation

Mmmm garlicy goodness

Peeling them under water as they are very strong and made her eyes water :D

Shaving the garlic into very thin slices...

... and mixing it into the, already garlic, mayo to make even MORE garlic mayo

So there you are, a couple of ways to make use of your produce.

A couple of final things to say about it; I did try and dry the chillis out by spreading them out on an oven tray and then putting them in with the oven on very low (about 50 degrees) but I don't think I left them in for long enough as they still got a bit moldy, which is why we decided to put them into oil to preserve them. I will try again with drying some shop bought ones, and report back on what I have learned.

The garlic I also dried in this way and it appears to have been done for long enough; I left it in for about two hours or so...

Anyway, to the MOST exciting part of my update; all the seeds that I planted before christmas have started showing! I am so very very excited. I thought I'd lost the lettuce at least, as in the summer months it sprouts very quickly indeed, but when I went to take pics for this blog of the broccoli, I noticed that both the red onion and the lettuce are showing.

So, here are the pictures:

Lettuce showing tiny seedlings; four out of the five seeds are showing :)

Onion spikes; it looks like a lot of the onions seeds have sprouted which is excellent news. It will be interesting when they develop as I may need to re-pot them to ensure a large harvest.

Last but not least the broccoli. This started showing before Christmas but I didn't get my camera out because I am a lazy sod. It looks like most of the seeds that I planted have also sprouted with these as well.

So, as you can see, my year has started with some very heartening success. I am now champing at the bit to get into the rest of my planting.

As you will know (if you are a regular reader of this blog) I have moved to a house with a small yard and no earth based garden to speak of. Today I also took a tape measure into this yard so I can make a plan of how many pots and planters I can fit in, while allowing space for the punch bag, and a space to eat outside in the summer.

I also plan on planting some flowers to encourage bees to visit so they can work hard for me to pollenise all my my plants.

So there you are, I'm back in the saddle and more excited even than last year.

With the way food prices are going to go this year, why don't you get a couple of planters and throw some seeds into some soil; you could find it saves you loads of money, and also provides you fun throughout the year.

Get involved.