Thursday, 14 August 2014

Using the Tomatoes part I

 Kev at An English Homestead... (check him out if you haven't done so already) asks how I make tomato paste. This has inspired me to do a "Tomato Post"
 I sow my first tomato seed in January, the same time that I sow my maincrop onion seed. These tomatoes are Shirleys. We used to grow Triton tomatoes, but can no longer get these seed.. Over the next few weeks I sow more Shirley, a plum tomato, a beefsteak and outdoor girl as a minimum . I try a new variety each year as well, there are so many to choose from nowadays, which I find interesting. I grow 50 to 60 plants in greenhouses and others dotted around the garden, at some distance from the potatoes and not where potatoes were grown last year.
 The staggered sowing ensures a continuous crop from mid July until October and with luck the odd one in November
As you can see we plan for a glut!
 I pick every couple of days. I put a few bags outside for sale, plan for meals that star tomatoes and process any left. These will include small, misshapen, split, overripe... rejects.

Tomato paste
Wash tomatoes, place in a glass or plastic bowl and put in microwave until soft. Push the tomatoes through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Put this on a low heat, stirring occasionally until the water is cooked out. When it gets thick keep your eye on it, stirring more often so that it doesn't burn. Pour into containers and freeze (or into the fridge and use within the week)
 The process for making this is the same as for the paste until the reduction process. Just a quick boil is needed to ensure any spores are killed and it is ready to go. Sometimes I just skin tomatoes and blitz in the Willy Wizzer, seeds and all, boil and freeze when cold. You can add peppers, courgettes, garlic, onions, herbs -  whatever you want to really to the mix.
Tomato Soup
Pour boiling water over the toms to help remove the skins. (if you want to you can remove the seeds at this stage, but I don't bother) Put the tomatoes in the slow cooker (or saucepan if you haven't got a slow cooker) with onion, celery, carrot and garlic as a minimum. This is where I also add pumpkin , squash or marrow, swede or sweet potato if I have them. pour over a couple of pints of veggie stock (oxo in my case) pepper, salt and a spoonfull of sugar. Cook all until soft and then liquidise, taste and re-season . Adding basil to this soup is good and for a heartier one I add red lentils to the veg at the onset.
Dried tomates in oil
 Halve your tomatoes, plum and beefsteak ones are particularly good for this. place on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. I use coarse sea salt, but that is just a preference. Place in a cool oven or if you are lucky enough to have a Rayburn in the slow part and leave for as long as it takes for them to feel rubbery (not crisp). When this is achieved, place on a wire rack to cool . Pack into  jars and cover with olive oil (Aldi and Lidl both do reasonably priced Oil). At this stage you could place a couple of garlic cloves or  a sprig of thyme or rosemary to the jar if you wish.

 Later in the year (or when the dreaded blight strikes) I use up the green tomatoes in chutney.
In my next post I will give my recipe for chutney - NOT Green tomato chutney! using other gluts and misshapes.
I thought you might also be interested in a couple of my favourite recipes using tomatoes.
 Until next time


Friday, 8 August 2014

More Wild Life Problems and more pleasant things

Hello All
A warm Derbyshire welcome to Knittynutter and Leisha on Blog lovin
   Here I am again, after another week of not blogging. Though I have been reading other folk's blogs.
 I had a post sort of organised in my mind for today. Then this morning I went to feed the chickens and found that we had had another visit from the fox !! He had managed to move a slat in the orchard fence and squeeze  through. He had had to eat the birds in the orchard as the gap was so small that he couldn't get them out, So four hens and two chicks slaughtered, After going back in for a cup of tea and a little sniffle. I went out into the paddock with my daughter's dog, who is  currently on holiday with us, in time to see  a fully grown rabbit coming out of the paddock garden. More peas gone I suppose. I sat on a bench to "looker" the sheep. I noticed that Adam was rubbing against a wall... You guessed it ...Fly strike!!! So today has been about firming up fences and tending to Adam ( fortunately we have caught it early)
 Our honey and tomato sales have been pretty good this week, which is good. We have made enough money to buy the Apisan we need to treat the bees over winter for the dreadful varroa mite that causes them distress and death.
 We have had many courgettes, windfall and misshapen tomatoes... time for a chutney !!!! That's the first few jars down for the winter. woo hoo. Anybody else making chutney ?
  Our eldest granddaughter has not been at work this week and has spent a couple of days with me, cooking and sewing. As the blackberries are so prolific and there are many windfalls on the lawn, she has made smooth apple and blackberry jam. These jars are the first items she has made towards the hampers she makes for Christmas presents. We had a go at pineapple jam too as pineapples are so cheap at the moment. So far we have struggled to get a set that we are happy with so we will re-boil it this weekend.
As for the sewing. her partner "tidied" (put in the bin) away the pattern instructions and a couple of pattern pieces! So I've been helping her to cobble something together to make sense of what she has. We made great inroads today and she is feeling as though progress has been made.

 On two sides of our house and across the front of the barn we have a couple of beautiful wisteria. They flower just as the leaves are bursting and are magnificent. Later in the year we have a second bloom which is a generous term for a few little blooms among the heavily leaved branches. Here is a picture of the end of the house early in the year. The other plants are climbing roses, not in bloom yet.
Here is the front of the house last week, with the wisteria (sorry about the apple tree in the way) in its' second bloom.
And a close up of a bedroom window.. Look at those blooms. The best second bloom we have ever had.

When it has finished flowering we will cut it hard back, to ensure blooms next year. (and to let light into the room!)

  I have just re-read this and it really is  a random post even for me!
  Oh well.. To bed...

Friday, 1 August 2014

A peek at the garden

Hello All !
 And a warm English welcome to Dolly Sarrio from Hibiscus House and Gaynor Hodson on Blog Lovin.

We continue to be busy with he gardens and the bees. We took a super of honey off hive No 7  last night,   it yielded 24 lb of honey...not bad for a hive that was a small swarm in late April of this year. So far we have 97 lb f honey and three more hives to go. We have sold a few jars this week which has given us enough money to go to the "Bee Shop" for a gross of new jars with lids.
 Even though it is only August I am thinking of winter as I start to put stores away. Buckets of honey and frozen processed tomatoes are the start, We are hopeful of the potatoes and I will soon be making jam and chutney with the misshapen or overgrown marrows, windfalls, tomatoes and onions.
I thought you might like to see a few of the corners of our garden and some of the veg we are growing this year.
Indoor Tomatoes - that is not a huge slug at the top, it is my finger!
 Chillis - several plants dotted amongst other veg around the greenhouses and gardens
 This doesn't actually show too many veg,  just a peek at some beans, potatoes and courgettes but does highlight my favourite Dahlia -- Bishop of Landaff
 Onions, leeks, parsnips, corn salad, courgettes and herbs
 The Pumpkin patch
 Some winter Brassicas - January King cabbage, Black Kale and Cauliflower
 Sunburst squash, Florence fennel, herbs, with Moonlight Runner beans at the back
 Hops - Fuggle, an old English hop
 Sweet Corn, Lark with Butternut squash running underneath Outdoor Girl Tomatoes at the back and Castandel French Beans to the fore (out if shot!)

  I will post some more next time. If nothing else these pictures will give heart to those who think their gardens are untidy! We grow some fine weeds here and I used to worry about them as I saw the wonderful tidy gardens on the TV or in books. But we don't have half a dozen gardeners helping and we are also pushing 70 and have to decide what to beat ourselves up about.

  The next three days will be a bit of  social whirl for us. Friday sees our granddaughter's actual 9th birthday. Unusually for us we are heading for the city of Derby to meet her and a few friends at a Grill no-less. We will call in at the local beekeeping shop for the new jars and lids while we are at the Great metropolis that is Derby!
  On Saturday we go to a wedding for much of the day, though we will have to run home half way through to put the chickens to bed as our YD is away  for the day and can't step in for us. We will then go to pick up our grandson from his job as bartender in a small Derbyshire village. I suppose we will be forced to stay for a drink before we come home!. On Sunday we have the said Grandson's birthday meal at the pub he works in. This will be for close family, last year when he was 21 he had to work so he was determined to celebrate his 22 birthday this year. Everyone but me seems to have chosen steak. I will be having Homity pie.
I am trying to feel positive about this weekend, but I'm not too keen on eating out in restaurants !

  Back Soon dear Frugellers.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Party Girl

Another hello to Karan and Shona on bloglovin, welcome on board
Been a while hasn't it? here is a quick post to remind you who I am !
We have been really busy with the bees and gardens. Honey is being spun, veggies and fruit are starting to come in and we didn't grow it to waste it.

We have also been getting the field ready for a little event. 
"Grandma" wheedled our youngest granddaughter (soon to be nine) "Can I have a camping sleepover party for my birthday? "Of course you can"  She has a nice little group of friends, so no problem. As often happens in this family the thing evolved and it transpired that each child would be accompanied by her parents and siblings! Well the weather has been glorious and we know all the parents so why not!
 Over the next couple of weeks an odd (!) auntie or two invited themselves along, so we ended up having a bit of a bash last night!!!
The classic combination of a hot day, children, sundry dogs and a river meant that the bouncy castle was almost superfluous. In the evening the children used it a sort of clubhouse while the adults discussed the attributes of different wines, beers and spirits. Purely in the line of market research you understand. ?
 Games of rounders and frizbee were played, but mostly it was swimming and sitting on the raft that we keep in the river (as we are big kids at heart)
 Here she is with her mum...

And guess who else came to the party and yet again didn't understand what it was all about !?

Hopefully I will be back to my blog soon, as I have nearly finished the most pressing Civic Society Issues and will take a break from them for a couple of weeks, which will give me a little computer time.

Has anyone else got a bumper crop of Blackberries, which are already ripening ? Picked a couple of pound today in a few minutes, Mmmmm what to do with them/ Any ideas folks?

Off to do some watering, apart from the thunder storm last weekend we have had no rain for weeks here and there are cracks in the garden that you could fall down.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Adam the Dog-Sheep

This is a first for me .. A Video !!
My daughter and her daughter are throwing a ball for their dogs, Sammie and Coda. Adam the sheep always comes up for a fuss and to have his bottom and face licked by the dogs ... Yes I know it's gross, especially as they usually do it in that order!. Coda often drops the ball at Adam's feet and Adam just looks at it, sniffs it and loses interest as it isn't food. On this occasion he decided to join in fun.. but really didn't get it !
 "What is the attraction in those round inedible objects?" he says.

Another boiling hot day today, still no rain, but promised for tomorrow.
Back Soon
Gill x

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hen Fostering and Honey

Hello Fellow Frugellers

Been another busy week. Quite a lot of bee work, dog sitting, weeding, pricking out, gathering and processing of veggies, honey spinning...............

  It is still hot here and we would like some rain or we will have to do another shed-load of watering. I believe that rain is forecast and we might even get some thunder storms. I LOVE a good thunder storm.

 We are picking tomatoes and cucumbers in earnest now. I am processing some into passata or paste to put  in the freezer for winter, eating some fresh and selling some
 Here are some chicken pics (Hello Stu in Scotland and Sandie in Leicester!) of the fostering arrangements in the nursery house.

First up is Manny Mummy. She bought off the black chick (now nearly a hen) some weeks ago and then proceeded to sit again. The black chick stayed sitting next to her all the time until the little yellow chick was hatched. They are now sharing the care of the chick.
 Next is Sister Buff with two stolen chicks. She has gradually steered these two chicks ( from different mums) into her cosy, chickless bed and they are now HERS!!!
And finally, here is Foster Mum. These are the chicks that she gathered behind her when the fox took Flump, Mummy Buff and Black Mummy. Only one is hers, she hid them in a corner until the fox had gone.

The bees are as busy as ever. I thought would put up these pictures of their favourite flowers that grow in our garden.
 and of course..Buddleia (this one is "Black Prince")
There a couple more plants they love, but I ran out of time to take photos.

As I mentioned earlier, we have started the Honey Harvest. We took honey from Hive No.5 yesterday , which yielded 38lb honey. Not bad really. I now have the signs out so hopefully we can recoup some of the beekeeping expenses. We will be looking at the other hives that we know have some honey in, in the next couple of days. As some of the hives have newly collected swarms they won't have any honey for us until next year, providing they are strong enough to make it through the winter.

  I realised today that if my mother were alive it would have been her 100th birthday. Now that would have been a good party, she was some lady and I miss her still !!!

  With help from my youngest daughter... who am I kidding, she did it all!... I have loaded a video of Adam the sheep with his doggie friends. It will be in my next post. Hope you pop in to see it.. it's a classic!

 Off for a shower. I have just finished burning a mountain of bush and tree clippings and I smell of smoke.

Back Soon

Friday, 11 July 2014

Granddaughters, bees and the dog

Hello All
Gosh it's been hot around here lately. We were told it would probably rain today and it didn't, it's been another scorcher. We have had very little rain and that we have had has soon been dried up by the heat.

 It's been a granddaughter sort of day today. Our youngest granddaughter stayed overnight last night and all today until her dad picked her up this evening, which was a lovely surprise.(teachers are on strike at her school) Before tea her cousin arrived to collect her dog (we provide doggy day care two or three days a week, and to do some sewing. So we all had tea - Fish (caught last weekend) cougons, tomatoes and cucumber and broccoli from the garden and jacket potatoes.
When the little one went home we set about some sewing. EGD is very competent with a sewing machine, but less so with patterns. Tonight she was able to make sense of it so she is all systems go now with her latest project which is a a present for a young relative.
I am SO lucky to have the grandchildren nearby and to see them often.

 Here is another bee story warning!
 We had ANOTHER swarm this week , which we boxed and placed on a an old table under the tree from which we collected the swarm. We have completely run out of equipment and are cobbling hives together from  everything and anything. The box n the table hasn't got a roof even, just a sheet of cardborad covered in a plastic bag and held down by an empty brood box. (As I write D. is in his man-cave finishing a lid for these bees)The front garden no longer resembles a garden, more a bee field, with the grass uncut and the weeds growing rampant and hives everywhere. Fortunately our bees are extremely friendly and even though we have fifteen hives in the front garden we have had no complaints from the neighbours and received no stings ourselves. We often sit in this garden and my three washing lines are here too.
Here is a pic of part of this garden. I would show you more but I am too ashamed at the state of it!!

 While we haven't been stung our eldest granddaughter's dog was yesterday. We noticed him going too close to the hives, so called him back. He gave a little jump and my daughter said " I think he has just been stung" We looked him over and he seemed okay. A couple of hours later I noticed that he had a rash on his tummy and wondered if it might be something he has brushed against in the paddock. However his face started to swell and the blotches on his tummy  started to meet up so it was a dash to the vets, who when he arrived said "Oooh that's a classic allergic reaction" and promptly gave him a shot of steroids. He is looking much better today and I have strung a line of the mesh I use to deter butterflies from my cabbages, across the garden so that he has to stay away from  the hives. Other routes to the hives you can't see in this picture have been blocked off too.
  We noticed that the hive he was close to had actually been moved slightly, so he must have given it a bit of a push!
  Hanging washing is going to be a challenge negotiating the barriers I think.

That was written yesterday. I couldn't quite get the energy to proof read and publish last night.

Back soon