Friday, 31 August 2012

Day at the beach and tomato sauce

This beautiful beach is less than two miles from the farm. We spent the afternoon there today with the family and we had a barbeque. There was hardly a soul around.

This morning we managed to prepare 8 pounds of tomatoes to make tomato sauce. It took quite a while to thicken and had to be finished when we got home.

I am using my lovely Cath Kidston labels....another great birthday present.

I`ve been making a lot more fairy crowns. They seem quite popular. Here are the helichrysum flowers drying in our garden room.

We may be staying in the shepherd`s hut this weekend. Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A bright green toad and a massive harvest

We have been to the garden for a couple of hours today and collected the most enormous harvest of vegetables and flowers. Now we are a bit worried, as we are running out of freezer space, and that`s after buying a new one this time last year, for surplus veg.  It has taken us nearly an hour to prepare it all to eat, dry or freeze. We have guests for dinner tonight so that will use up some.
There are now enough tomatoes to make tomato sauce, a recipe that needs quite a few pounds of ripe tomatoes, but the sauce is soooo good (and we know what`s in it!!) There were 6 cucumbers....all from one plant, our first aubergine which will be in a moussaka this time tomorrow, several pounds of French Beans and runner beans, six sweetcorn and many courgettes.
Unfortunately Steve found 2 pumpkins going bad and they had to be composted. Luckily the biggest is still intact. William`s plant is looking good. Next time I will take a photo of the striation.
My main job today was to cut the grass round half the pond. There`s a fair number of brambles in it as well. As I was doing this, the most striking bright green toad hopped away from my shears. Thank goodness I had decided to leave long grass round one large side. I was undecided about the long grass roots dipping in the pond but I am leaving most as the pond skaters were hiding behind them. Anyway the toad stayed long enough to get a fairly decent photo....any closer and I would have toppled in. I am VERY happy to find it in our pond as it has only been established since spring.

 After a pretty ropey start when the asparagus got blown to smithereens in the wind, it now seems to be holding its own. Maybe it is building up the resistance as mentioned in my last post.
  I planted two more trays of well-rooted sedum plantlets and fed and watered the tomatoes. It is interesting to note that my tomatoes at home are nearly finished but in Freshwinds they have just started to get going....its only half a mile away.

Here is today`s harvest waiting to be sorted. One huge sunflower came down in the wind. It was a shame because it had a lot more flowers to come.

Lots of campers came through the garden today and I met several in the barn. 
One family was off to Bodiam Castle and yesterday one family had walked through Pannel Lane to Pett Level and said the countryside was just beautiful. (And I live here all the time!! Aren`t I lucky.) There are so many great places to visit from here.
I had to laugh when one father, on seeing all our vegetables, said to his children, "Now look carefully children, this is what vegetables look like before they get to the supermarket."

Monday, 27 August 2012

Hedgehogs, tomatoes and first video

 Well here is my first video. It has taken some time to download onto blogger. It was taken yesterday as campers were coming through to go on a long walk from Icklesham to Rye harbour. Now I know it works I can be a bit more adventurous next time.

 There`s an interesting story behind this helianthus and I nearly left it until there were more flowers. Last year this perenniel sunflower was blown to smithereens in the wind and had to be supported with all kinds of stakes. This year the growth is much stronger and darker green. The plant has adapted itself to the prevailing winds, has needed no staking which I think is amazing....all in the space of one year.

 I don`t think Cath Kidston expected her beautiful three tiered cake plate to be used to ripen tomatoes. It is so pretty I don`t want to store it away. It was a birthday present from my Jabbitt relations and I love it.

 Well I think my sister Paula looks lovely in her fairy crown, although I think
 it looks more as if she is on holiday in Hawaii.

And finally here are the little hedgehogs completed last night, photographed on the edge 
of my fairy garden at home. They will be on sale in the barn soon, if I can bear to let them go.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Torrential rain

We haven`t been able to get to the plot today due to torrential rain. I must say that our little bungalow needed some TLC. So its been good to get all those niggling little jobs done ...labels on pickled cucumbers, relish, more fairy crowns made and fabrics chosen for some tiny hedgehogs. We`ve also frozen a lot of 
beans and tomatoes. And a little bit of housework!!
On our last visit, we did two mixings of cob for our shed. I had forgotten what hard work it is. The worst thing was wearing wellies. I am not as brave as Anne with her bare feet. I had to clear a lot of growth from around the walls....brambles, grass and docks. When you are walking round with about an extra kg of mud on your boots, its easy to trip up.
Steve cleared the rest of the pea rows. Much as I love fresh peas, I`m not sure the harvest is worth the space. I pulled up some finished sunflowers but saved the seed for the birds for winter. The outdoor tomatoes are so badly affected by blight that we have pulled them out.
William`s pumpkin plant is going great guns and I am looking forward to seeing what the fruit will be like, seeing as the stems are striated.....(several stems have fused together.) 
Does this mean the pumpkins will be larger?
Everywhere I look there are jobs to do, but I try not to get over-whelmed by it all. The new hedge needs clearing of brambles and nettles, the strawberry patch needs clearing and runners rooted, the edges of the garden need clearing of nettles again, the herb garden needs weeding, the sedum plants need to be spread out a bit more. Oh well....they will all get done in the end.
Another thing I am researching is willow husbandry, with the idea of producing our own climber and plant supports. I`d also like to have another go at basketry using our own willow.

Hopefully we make a visit tomorrow as the weather should be better. I hope so since it is a bank holiday.

Only 3 apples left on our Katy tree. They are precious!

Hollie is keeping a watch on the dahlias and she is almost completely surrounded by pumpkin growth.

The cosmos are looking very pretty.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Fairy crowns and butterflies

Well its a long time since my last much going on.....such as visits to the beach at Pett Level!! I have also been making lavender bags for the yurts and the shepherd`s hut, using our own lavender. 
Catching up today as we`ve had a few showers. Its very muggy here, with showers after they promised us 30 degrees plus.
We`ve had 2 visits to the garden over the past few days so quite a few photos to share. It is taking at least half an hour to sort out everything we bring home. Its either to eat, to freeze, to dry or
 place in vases round the house. 

 Today I have frozen 5 x 12 oz bags of tomatoes and there will be French beans to do later.

I have experimented with the helichrysum flowers, making fairy crowns. I used a glue gun to stick them to a fairly thick pipe cleaner, adding artificial leaves in between. They are finished off with ribbons and glitter. Now I need a model. I can`t quite get away with looking like a fairy!!!

I have had to cut my lovely long nails which grew so well in Meganisi.  I can`t stand gardening with them like that. I like to get my hands in the dirt.

The butterflies are well and truly out and about. Hooray! They just love the buddliea.
 These are Small Tortoiseshells.

This is just one pepper plant in a growbag. I am very pleased with it.

We`ve had to stop the pumpkins as their growth is up to 15 feet or more in places. We want all the growth to go into the actual pumpkins. This one is a good size already.

The sweetpeas are amazing. Today we cut every flower off in order to keep them going, especially the seedheads. Those of you who follow Monty Don on Gardeners World would have seen 
him doing this last night.

The comfrey which we planted under the eaves of the barn is doing very well. It will make a welcome addition to the compost heaps.

Plenty of flowers on the 3rd bean row and plenty of beans so far. What a good job they were planted at different times. This will ensure that we have beans for a long period.

The cosmos are very pretty in pastel pinks and whites.

Finally it was lovely to talk to campers today who came last year. They were interested to see the changes. They showed particular interest in the cob shed and we looked at the sedum beds which are filling out so well. We really must get down to more work on the cobbing. Anne has been working on it and I felt quite guilty not helping.....there was soooo much to harvest and deadhead and that just can`t be put off.
It was nice to hear compliments about the garden too.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Heavenly morning with butterflies galore

Today we have visited the garden for the first time in a week and it was quite beautiful. Its a long time to leave a garden but on the whole all seems well. It has been a warm sunny day with some welcome rain this afternoon. The last few days have been very hot so the newly planted bellis daisies were droopy. It hasn`t stopped the rampant weeds from growing but I was determined not to get waylaid from the more 
urgent tasks. Mainly harvesting.
I set to with gathering armfuls of flowers and felt like I was in heaven with butterflies 
and bees all around and swallows overhead. There were 120 helichrysum heads. (I have dried the first ones and they are for sale in the barn.) They are such stunning colours, sunshine yellows, bright pinks, fiery oranges, reds and palest creams. I am having some rather crafty thoughts about those.....more later.....need to do some experimenting. 

Next it was statice which takes a little more drying off. I hang it in bunches in our garden room. We have a predominance of white in the seed mix. The helichrysum just need to be spread out on trays in the sunshine. I usually pick both just before they are fully opened as they will continue to open when picked.
 It captures them at their best.
I am still picking sweetpeas which is most unusual in mid-August. The heady perfume is even stronger.
Next I gathered the dahlias, mostly oranges and reds.
Steve was busy digging potatoes. Unfortunately we have blight as well. The diseased haulms will have to be burnt. He also collected the second half of the onion crop. Together we planted three rows of French beans which will give us a crop later, in the early autumn, albeit not such a heavy crop 
as the one we are harvesting now. We have covered them.

Something`s been at the peas. Is it those mice again? Whatever it is , it`s small enough to get through the rabbit wire. I did get a good picking but it will be the last.

Our sweetcorn is mutating. This "growth" is at the top of the plant. It happened last year. We`ve no idea what it is. I need to do some research.

These single dahlias are quite striking. I bought them, (as tubers,) because the butterflies find it easier to land and find nectar.

Several butterflies in the butterfly garden. At last they are venturing out. I think this is a Gatekeeper, on marjoram. The bees love marjoram too. They seem to be resting for longer.

Here is our harvest for today. From the top......dahlias, onions, potatoes and two beetroot, French beans, runner beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, poppy heads, statice, sweetpeas, helichrysum, courgettes and calabrese. When we got home, it took us quite a while to sort through it all. Some is drying, some is frozen, some is going to POPPS tomorrow and some is eaten. 
My sister Paula, walked down for her "dinner" .... a bag
of yummy vegetables.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Meganisi Island, Greece

We are back from our holiday on the beautiful Greek island of Meganisi. 
As a keen gardener, I just can`t help looking at, and taking photos of other people`s gardens and it is true to say that the Greeks have quite difficult conditions.....
the terrain, the soil, water and of course the heat (sometimes an advantage)
From me they get top marks for colour, recycling and the ability to squeeze a garden into the
 most unlikely places.

The owner of this garden obviously has pests of some kind to contend with.

Another tiny garden space in the hilltop town of Spartachori.

Geraniums and zinnias in pots even when there`s no soil.

Recycled oil cans for herbs and exotics.

Yet another use for old pallets.

 A good crop of peaches in Spartachori.

The insects are a bit bigger too.

This post is not really telling much about our garden but it is good to share what we have seen and what appeals to me. Tomorrow we will be visiting Freshwinds Garden to see how it has fared in a week.
Interesting photos to follow I hope.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Onion harvest, insects and cob

Today was our last visit to the garden before a week`s holiday in Greece. I was reluctant to leave, wondering how it will fare. There is so much to harvest and it needs picking regularly. Last week our excess courgettes went to POPPS, which stands for Pett Old People`s Project. The elderly people from the village gather for a meal and various activities such as singing and tai chi. They often make up vegetable packs to be taken home, so from now on our excess will go there on a Tuesday morning.
A few weeks ago I took a bucket full of sweetpeas to a coffee morning in aid of the village hall.
They made £10 towards the funds. Everyone loves sweetpeas.
We harvested the onions but only managed to bring half home. They need to dry out a bit.

I harvested the lavender. It will dry nicely in our garden room, spread out in the sunshine.

 Someone has been cobbing. Here is the evidence.

Maybe it will be finished by the time we return from Greece!!!?

The poppy heads are fantastic, even when the petals have blown away. Good for flower arrangers.

The lobelia is very beautiful in this range of colours.

The wild flowers are still going strong.

The bees love the sunflowers.

At last, a beautiful Comma butterfly, sunning itself on a dahlia leaf. The larval fruit plants are nettles and hops both of which are growing at the garden. There have been a lot more butterflies around, thank goodness.
I hope they are visiting the butterfly patch when I am not looking. There`s a lot of trust needed in gardening.

Other jobs done today are .....planting out the last 2 trays of Bellis daisies, cutting sweetpeas, disbudding dahlias, deadheading cornflowers and calendula, and planting the rest of the Romanesque and calabrese.
Forgot to say, we saw a wren in the garden for the first time and we heard the owl in the woods (daytime)
There are also swallows swooping overhead making the most of the many insects.

For great information about local birds and fantastic photos, visit Cliff Dean`s website