Saturday, 4 July 2020

Growing Loofahs (luffas)


Hello All
I wanted to share my experience with Luffas, or Loofahs, depending on what you know them as.
Last Christmas, my younger daughter bought me some Luffa seed. She, like me, is very keen on minimising her use of plastic and thought I might have a go at growing loofahs to replace plastic bathroom sponges. I am having so much pleasure from growing this crop, which is an entirely new venture for me.
Guessing it would need a long growing season I started the seeds in early  February in a heated propagator. Germination was not one hundred percent, but I ended up with three viable plants. The two strongest I planted in my large (tomato) greenhouse, while nurturing the weaker in the small (cucumber) greenhouse. The plants were slow to get started, but once a tendril or two took hold they raced along. What I wasn't prepared for was the beauty of the flowers! They are sort of Hibiscus -looking. It is easy, as with all cucurbits to tell the difference between the male and female flowers and I have been going to them daily with my soft paint brush to ensure pollination. I probably needn't have bothered as any flies, hoverflies or bees that have found their way into thee greenhouse have made a "bee-line" for them.
The early stem growths are very fine and look as though they wouldn't hold anything, but they soon strengthen up to hold what looks like being a generous crop of loofahs. One of those very fine stems has  wheedled its way through a small space in the apex of the greenhouse roof and escaped outside. I can see one thin tendril reaching for one off the wires that supports the hops. I wonder if it will catch on, and if so will we get outside luffas too.
 Here are the male flowers which are in bunches of six or so, which open and then die on different days
 Here is a female flower.
 I planted one lufffa either side of the greenhouse and they have grown towards each other to form an arch. I think I shall be knocking myself out on those luffas soon, the biggest are already a good six inches long
 Can you see that cheeky little tendril escaping from the greenhouse. You can just see the hops to the extreme right of the picture. one of the supporting wires stretches from those to the apex of the greenhouse and this is what the cheeky tendril is aiming for.

I am unsure how many fruits to allow before I stop them. So far I have 9 fruits over the two plants. I am also not sure how much to feed them. I know I mustn't  over water. If anybody wants to chip in with advice please feel free.
A quick word to bring you up to date with the bees, We have had six swarms this year and managed to box four of those so not too bad. A couple of the hives are very full of bees and we have had to give them extra room as bees were hanging out of the hive all the time. They often beard like this in extreme heat, but because they are short of room they are also short of breathing space. They now have another box of frames to move around and we will soon be taking homey off hive No 6. Hive No 1 was a swarm that landed in the blackberries this year. It is very strong, already having a super on and now it has two. Do you like my posh numbers? I cut up a couple of ice cream tubs and used sharpie pen for the numbers and fixed them with a drawing pin.

All for now. Back  soon with what we have been doing around the place and probably the odd opinion or two!
love Gill x

Monday, 25 May 2020

Life still going on

Hello folks.
That posting a couple of times a week didn't last long did it?!
  Busy here gardening mostly, trying to make up for two years of just managing while David was ill and letting stuff go that didn't seem essential at the time. Well it wasn't really as I felt that keeping the food production going as best I could was more important than weeding and pruning and tidying the "ordinary" garden at thr front of the house
  I just about kept the bees going too, managing to get them ready for winter, catching and boxing swarms, taking some honey off etc, but not going through them properly really and forgetting the mouse guards last year and other such sins!
 My kitchen has a tall stack of supers ready to go on the hives this week. The bees have been really busy and we captured a prime warm last week that might need a bit more space. I would love to put the honey signs out but don't really want to encourage strangers to the door, so will wait a little longer before taking the risk.
There is still quite a bit to plant up in the garden. I usually wait until 1st June before putting my frost tender plants out. However the weather forecast looks pretty good for a week or two really, so I am going to take a chance and put them out over the next few days. This will be outdoor tomatoes, sweet corn, beans, courgettes and the like, celery quinoa, sunflowers and dahlias. The frost a  couple of weeks ago blackened our potatoes and took all the leaves and shoots from our three walnuts, vines and sundry other trees. A bit of a disaster. The potatoes will come back but be set back a bit, but the trees stand no chance for this year. On a positive note the hardy veg and those in the greenhouse are coming along well. The only food coming out of the garden at the mo is Spring Cabbage, which is exceptional this year.
 Four weeks ago we took a cade lamb from someone we know, expecting to buy another one or two to keep it company. Hah! I have trawled just about every Facebook page and farming groups I know and have been unable to get one! So little Covid ( I know, I didn't name hime) is all on his own. He is now out in the paddock all day and in the office at night until he can completely fend for himself. Presently he thinks he's a chicken and usually gets along well grazing the paddock with them. They are less than impressed when he has boingy moment.
As David is sheilding he is super careful about not having anyone in the house and neither he nor I have left the holding for 10 weeks now. However, there have been occaisions when folk have had to come here to collect or bring heavy stuff and it has been quite difficult sorting everything from the front gate, which is approx 12 feet from the road. So we now have a system that works pretty well for us, especially as folk are now allowed to go to the park etc. We open the front gate and then further down the drive, the gate to the field and folk drive straight down into the field and park at a distance where we can shout at each other. Considering our field is bigger than the village park and there is only us in it we reckon it is pretty safe. This way I have also been able to see a couple of members of my family for a little while. Fortunately we have an outside loo, which I have had to fettle as it is usually the man's loo and we all know what that means!
 I think some things will be different for us when all this business is over and goodness knows when that will be. The other day we took delivery of animal food, David's medication and a small flagon of local  beer and I think we may carry on with these deliveries. We have always had our milk and newspapers delivered so no change there.
Talkng of deliveries, we have had all sorts of pressies delivered to the gate. Sometimes I know they are going to be there and other times I just come across them. That I can remember so far we have had several bottles of beer (some home made) bottles of wine and vodka, box of veg, loo paper and paracetemol, box of purple sprouting brocolli, veg plants and a bag of pork fat and chops!
 It is now time for babies' bottle he is now on 3 feeds a day and extremely unhappy about it. We have just seen a swarm come out of hive number 4 and it has settled high up in a large damson tree. There is absolutely no way we can capture it, so we have just set up a bait hive on an accessable roof nearby. Sometime that works, but usually not, but has to be worth a punt.
 Back soon
Gillx




Friday, 24 April 2020

Blossom and Baking in Lock down



I realise I have taken far too many pictures of our apple blossom. We have quite a lot of trees with the blossom (and subsequent apples!) spanning a few weeks. To help with the fertilisation we have two crab apples.
John Downie. almost finished here, there will be sudden drop of petals like snow, from this in the next couple of days.

Here is Golden Hornet, the buds started opening a couple of days ago. The very many small yellow apples making a great show later in the year.
 This is the blossom of Arthur Turner. This picture doesn't do it justice. I might try again for a better ;picture. This cooker is known for it's lovely blossom.
 Here is Grenadier, another cooker, with far too many blossoms really to produce good sized fruits for processing. Hopefully there will be a good June drop to reduce the number of fruits. If you think this pic is a little out of focus it is because the sprinkler is playing on it!
 Enough apple blossom for now methinks. Onto baking...
The neighbour who left me some fresh yeast ( I left a loaf on HER doorstep) asked if I needed any more and how was I doing for flour? Well I'm getting down my stocks pretty quickly and each week my personal shopper (grandson J.) looks to see if any is available, which so far it hasn't been. " I shall ask the baker at work" she says.
 Ta da!......16kg of Bread flour! (and 8 ounces of fresh yeast)

 A bake with just two ounces of the yeast this afternoon. Three different sized loaves, Tea cakes and jam doughnuts. I divided the yeast into individual ounce packets which are now in the freezer. The tea bread isn't a yeast mix. I made a pot of tea last night and then answered the phone. After 20 minutes it was not fit to drink so true to my handle I couldn't waste it and  made a tea loaf.
 This post is a little picture heavy but can't resist this pic of our front lawn. Yes lawn ! David says we can't possibly cut it until the dandelions have finished flowering as they are so useful to the bees. I can't argue with that, but the neighbours might!! Note four of our hives against the far wall.
That is more than enough for now. Lock down is still more than manageable here. I do worry about my eldest daughter who is isolated in her apartment in Jersey. It must be a lonely way to be.
I was going to finish with a few word about Donald Trump, but for once words fail me!
All for now, Back soon from a beautiful sunny Derbyshire
Gillx
PS I have a couple of new followers. but when I click on their photos I get no information whatsoever.  so cannot name them when I extend a  warm Derbyshire welcome .

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Even more random thoughts from isolation

 Hello Isolators!
Well, it is nearly five weeks since David and I went outside the homestead. If someone had told me that I would survive this amount of time with  just my husband and be perfectly happy I would have snorted in disbelief!  We have been absolutely fine! Mind you the weather has helped as we are outside most of the day, prepping the veggie plots, sawing/chopping wood, organising bee equipment and other sundry smallholdy stuff. I am almost hoping for rain so that I can attack the indoor jobs and projects. It's a good job that we can have no visitors because the house is ditched!
We are finding items left at the gate for us. So far there has been a bag of vegetables, some loo paper, a box of purple sprouting brocolli, three seperate deliveries of home made ale and yesterday some fresh yeast!! ( I can hear you getting excited )
Though we live in a village it is not the chocolate box type. with a village green, pretty church and thatched cottages. Our village is really a line of houses along a main road. That road is usually pretty busy as it is on the road to the Peak District one way and the M1 the other. It has been pretty quiet recently, which means we can shout across the road to each other. Our stretch of the road have been clapping for the NHS each Thursday and recently a guy from the other side of the road suggested we go into our front gardens at 3.00 last Sunday with a cup of tea (or beer) for a social social isolating. It was a great idea and we sat there chatting away for nearly two hours until tea. A little music was played and we sang along to a few old (cheesy) favourites.
 Anybody else playing having a nosey at the bookshelves in people's homes? While reporters, personalities etc are isolating and speaking from their homes they are usually in front of their bookshelves, which I much prefer to a bunch of flowers or a shelf full of ornaments. (Mind you I was impressed by Richard E Grant's dresser, which was full of interesting pieces of china and a couple of impressive candlesticks!) I find I am looking head to one side trying to read the titles and feeling ridiculously smug if I have the same book.
In my last post I spoke of finding parts for a couple of Edison Phonographs.  I was delighted to be contacted by someone we know to say she believes her husband could get the drive belts. He delivered said belts within a couple of days ! Thanks Rissa and Steve, We were able to play a cylinder that night... what a dreadful noise! My friend has many more cylinders and when we are able to meet up with him again we hope to listen to something a little less hurtful on the ears.
 On a similar subject, I have just realised that it is the Repair Shop followed by The Great British Sewing Bee tonight. Now that's what I call good viewing. Off to fetch some ice, back soon with some pics I have taken of the apples blossom, which is spectacular this year.
Back Soon
Gillx



Saturday, 28 March 2020

Random thoughts from Isolation

Hello everyone out there !
 We live on the route to the Peaks and Matlock Bath. Last weekend was RIDICULOUS. Hoards of people driving past us on their way to stand shoulder to shoulder in Matlock Bath and the pubs actually serving them only two days after being told to shut!!
Our local pub, which is already struggling, would love to stay open. David meets some friends there once a week' David didn't join them last week because we have been staying away for some time, but joined in via his mobile. This week one of his friends organised a video link and everyone joined in from  home on their phones. The screen on his mobile got a little crowded but it worked pretty well really.  David says he will get his tablet up and working for next week. I wrote his answers down while he held his phone, which was pretty civilised, as I sat by the fire with a cup of tea. The only down side is that I really dislike quizzes and can't avoid them under these circumstances!
 Has anyone tried to get groceries delivered from the supermarket ? Our grandson, J. organised a delivery for us online a couple of weeks ago. He chose Asda as Sainsburys was booked up for three weeks and Asda only one. We ordered 2 weeks supply,  thinking we would order another two weeks in a weeks time. Hah! Fat chance !!! All the supermarkets are fully booked for slots for the next four weeks, taking no orders  at the moment for after that. He and I have been trawling the sites looking for an empty slot as we have been told to do. This morning I thought I had one, which turned out to be a click and collect slot. Okay I thought J. will pick that up for us I am sure. Err it was for 6 o;clock on a Sunday morning 2 weeks away at a store a good 10 miles away! After a pow wow with J he tells me that by Monday he will have isolated himself for long enough since he was laid off from his job when he was in close contact with the public. So we have agreed that next Monday or Tuesday he will go with my list (and his own) and buy that which we need. I hear he may have to queue to get his car parked and then take his turn to go into the shop, but eventually he should get the deed done ( I wonder how his Aspergers will cope with it!)
 We have reorganised one of our veg plots this week, the weather being so good and us not going anywhere. I have to say the two plots we are working are looking pretty good (for us) and I might even take a pic as they look nearly as good as the tidy gardens fellow bloggers have.
 from early in the week here is a corner of the first garden. with Spring cabbage  "Durham Early" to the rear and (late) garlic to the fore of these.
 This next is a poor picture of the peach blossom. We had no peaches last year, but 40 the year before and they were absolutely lovely. The variety is  "Newhaven".  If the blessed birds will leave the buds alone we could get a good crop again in 2020
As we have pulled up the drawbridge we are not selling our eggs and honey from the door  the hens, of course are laying for England so we have trays building up. I have been trying to buy waterglass to preserve these eggs, knowing I will be extremely happy to have eggs for the slack times later in the year. I have struggled to find waterglass of food quality anywhere. I asked a smallholder facebook group I have just joined if they knew where to get it. One of the suggestions was that I look on Pinterest. I hadn't thought of that. So I dived into that cornucopia of interesting things to do. The only help that I could relate to was from Leigh at "5 acres and a Dream" who I follow  (and she me) Unfortunately I cannot get the make she suggests as they don't sell to the UK , but I do have somewhere to start looking over here now.
On a different issue (there she goes again at a tangent) one pursuit to interest me over the last week or two has been trawling the Net for parts to repair a couple of early Edison Phonographs for a friend of mine. He has two  early 1900s phonographs, both needing belts and needles and one needing a horn. I have found and bought a horn and some needles in an original tin but haven't had any luck with  the belts and I really would like to buy a couple of sapphire needles too. These machines are things of beauty. this one doesn't have a horn.

All for now
Anybody else missing their family ?
love Gillx

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

STILL Isolating

 Me again
Well at last our PM Has grown a pair and done the right thing
I thought I would start this post by giving the heads up on where the important people in my life are  while we settle into our self-isolation.
My elder daughter and her husband and daughter live in south Yorkshire where she has  a very senior management position in a statutory agency. She can work from home some of the time if needed. She did indeed  have to a while back after a conference  when she found she had been in contact with  someone who was being tested for Covid 19. She went home and self-isolated for a week, living and working from a bedroom, with her meals being left on the landing by her husband! Anyway she is clear and currently she is working every hour God sends ensuring the public gets a service and responding to changing directives. Her husband, an engineering manager who will no doubt now be working from home. Their daughter aged 14 has been studying from home via computer.This system seems to be well thought out and working presently. As her mum is a Keyworker she could go to school but is perfectly able to look after herself,
My younger daughter works on a large engineering project in Jersey. Most flights into /out of the Island are now closed and she doesn't feel she will be home before the end of June.at the earliest. If she leaves Jersey now she will not be allowed back in.
Her son is a resteraunt supervisor in a  popular local resort . He has been laid off now and like many others is unsure what happens next.
His sister, who you may remember had her surprise wedding at our yearly festival last July is 17 weeks pregnant ( I can't tell you how excited we all are about this!) she works for Fire and Rescue service and along with other pregnant woman has been sent home.  Her husband is a self employed Trees Surgeon,  they think he may have to stop work.

 I have been alternating gardening with sewing. One of the projects has been altering David's new bee suit. They say that women are pears and men are apples. It is fair to say this of David and he is definitely an apple and a Bramley at that! Apparently, according to his new suit,  with his girth he should also be 7 ft tall The legs are sooo long. I have taken 10 inches out of each leg and they should now do.
A Facebook post by our local Smallholders states that one of the committee has been approached by a newspaper for their views on recent thefts of chickens because of the shortage of eggs! I understand the shortage of eggs as we have had to take our signs in today and are supplying only our regular customers and those with specific needs. Anybody else heard about thefts of chickens?
All for now
lots more to share, but my posts get too long don't they?
Keep safe
Gillx

Friday, 20 March 2020

Isolating in Derbyshire III

 Hiya
 Here is a picture of the loaf I made yesterday. It really isn't bad for non-yeast loaf. It is quite moist , with a nice crust. It is a little sweet, possibly because there is no salt and sugar from the beer. It didn't taste beery in any way. This is deffo  something I shall make again.


 As I said the other day, David has spent much of his lock-down time cutting and splitting wood. Some of this wood came from our old apple tree that is in our front garden. This tree is huge and very old. We sent samples from this tree to Brogdale for identification. They do not recognise it and say it was probably grown from a pip and that we can name it ourselves. David calls it Gilly's Pippin. We had a branch shear off a couple of years ago and now see that it is going rotten in several places and have been fearful that it would break and fall into the house. H. our eldest granddaughter's husband, who is a tee surgeon, has stepped in to make it safe. He has cut away all the dead and split wood, leaving some that could still thrive. It looks a little odd but it is now safe and there is the bonus of fragrant apple wood for the fire. Here is David ( 6 foot tall)  standing next to the tree with the end of the house in the background.
And here is H. up the tree, having removed two large branches and now tidying up a smaller branch.
Since then H. has dropped off some more wood from a job he has been on this week and David's cup now runneth over!
 On a sadder (for us) note. We have sold eggs, honey, veggies etc from the gate for nearly 40 years, using an honesty box. This has worked well for us and more recently, being self isolated means that we keep away from our customers!. However in the last week we have had eggs and sticks taken without any money being left. This is a first for us and I admit to being upset by it. People have often called us naive for being so trusting , but we have never had reason not to be. It really isn't the money that bothers me.
 Anyway, on a positive note, the hens are starting to lay well now and are happy to have some sunshine.
Back soon
Love Gillx

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Isolated in Derbyshire - part II

 Me again,
Well, it's going a bit mad out there isn't it?
One of the things I am trying while confined to barracks is looking at different recipes for bread, using different ingredients.
Today I have made beer bread - Here is the recipe - one pound (454g) Self Raising Flour; I tablespoon sugar; 330mls beer.  yep that's it!
Mix together and put in a lined 9" x 5" loaf tin and place in an oven pre-heated to 180  for 50 to 55 mins. Allow to cool in tin.
Could anything be easier? I am sure that it wont be light as a feather bread, but if you are struggling with supplies and need a chunk of something to go with your soup I don't suppose you would turn it down would you?
I took a pic of before and after and will taste it later with some lentil soup.

Restricting visitors is challenging for us. We are a noisy busy household with the kettle always on, meetings held around our kitchen table, between 6 and 12 for tea each sunday and guys with special needs for respite and daycare. As we are particularly bothered about David's health (I'm as fit as a flea) I am meeting with those we need to see, but keeping a physical distance between us.  I really don't see how families can keep apart for 12 weeks. Obviously if they live a distance away and don't see each other very often anyway it might be easier. Our grandson who works at a well known Derbyshire attraction is keeping his distance from us while ever he is working with the public as he does. Mind you, he is more than likely out of work soon as they will undoubtedly shut the venue down and there will be another zero hours contracted young person out of work without money. he is currently contacting us daily and can run errands if we need. When he came to pick something up at the beginning of the week he didn't get out of the car and I just passed the stuff to him.
  One of the benefits of there being few "distractions" (Friends calling) is that we are getting on a pace clearing the gardens and greenhouses for planting. David is also getting a good pile of wood chopped, which is a very satisfying sight.
One of the things I am looking forward to is having a go at using some of my fabric and wool stash. While looking through some old pattern books I came across this knitting pattern for a swimming suit. I remember these well, when they got wet they sagged to the floor exposing your nippies and weighed a ton.. Anybody else remember these?

That's enough for today, I know you have other blogs to read.
Back Soon
Gillx






Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Isolating in Derbyshire

 Hello All
  Here I am again/at last. If you are reading this I thank you for still being around!
  Well, it's a funny old world out there isn't it?
We have been self-isolating for over a week now as David has heart failure and a couple of other things I won't bore you with and was told by "his" nurse to stay at home and that things are "getting very serious indeed". Actually he didn't really need telling after the awful time he had  health-wise only a few months ago.
So here we are in our little bit of Derbyshire with our loins girded and if honest rather looking forward to making do and managing.  I thought I would try to record  the way our lives may or may not change over the next few weeks.
  We are considered to be "Preppers" by those that know us, so you would not have found me panic buying at Sainsburys as I always have supplies in of dry essentials at anytime. However if we need stuff I am not going to the shops anyway at the mo. My grandson lives locally and went to the shops the other day, which he said was absolute madness and suggest that have stuff delivered which ensures we are safe  from crowds and that we get what we need not what may or not be on the shelves. He trawled the online shopping sites and found that Sainsburys have a three week waiting list  for home deliveries and Asda only a week, so he organised my list with Asda and the delivery will be here next  Monday morning between 8 and 10. He gave instructions for the goods to be left at the back door as the house was self isolating. Apparently I must leave boxes / bags for the provisions to be unpacked into. This is the norm as they no longer use single use bags for orders. (pleased with that!)
   When we looked into our whisky supplies we were pretty smug to realise that, counting Christmas and birthday presents and a thank you, we had five bottles of scotch in the cupboard. Now one of those pop up thingys have just informed me that alcohol can weaken your immune system. Come on! Now that is taking the biscuit!
B****r it I'm off to get some ice and I really will be back soon
Love Gill xx
PS Welcome to a couple of new followers. I'm afraid I can;t work out who you are but you are vwry welcome




Sunday, 16 February 2020

Hello


Hello All
Hope you in the UK are keeping safe and as dry as possible.
Another wild and windy night here with torrential rain falling on already sodden fields.  Folk down river from us have had water lapping at their back door.  Our land goes away from us and down to the river so our house is always safe.
I do wonder when we will get the veg gardens ready, every time we get some time outside it rains again and we cant walk on the soil. However, this is our way of life and not our living and I wonder how farmers are doing getting vital crops in, or indeed not having them washed away.
Mind you, I have been busy in the greenhouse starting seeds off in trays and propagators, so there are always reasons to feel hopeful here.

I had quite a few different subjects to discuss today but am going to go off piste to make a point about the possible outcomes from the sad suicide of Caroline Flack.  Too much to write here to explain, so if you don't know who she is and what has been happening please have a Google.

There are many facets to this story and who knows what might come to light over the next few days. I see that the CPS are coming in for much of the blame.  The CPS have been pursuing the case despite both Caroline and her partner saying they did not want it pursued. It is thought that this has contributed to Caroline's distress and I am sure that this is so.
 However, I have some experience of working with cases of domestic violence and know that the CPS pursuing cases against abusers has SAVED many lives. It is extremely common for victims of domestic violence to withdraw their complaints against their abusive partners. This can happen time and again, with abuse escalating and often leading to the victim being killed. My concern is that the CPS will be put under pressure not to pursue cases where victims are vulnerable to continued abuse. I understand that Caroline hit her partner  with a heavy object while he slept, which could have killed him I suppose, which is actually a serious offence as she was neither defending herself nor in fear of her own life. I suspect this poor woman has fragile mental health, which led to this offence of assault.

Away for a couple of months and here I am back again , sticking my head above the parapet, with a post that is in no way cosy nor frugal!

Back soon
Gillx