Thursday, 27 June 2013

My brilliant cooking skills....

..normally leave a lot to be desired.

 After spending yesterday on the plot a lot of shifting heavy stuff, I've been so sore and tired that I've not been down there today (other than tend to the chooks).  So I decided to do some baking at home.

Now genuinely in my head I'm a cross between Delia and Nigella, in my head I am without a doubt the best reality I'm pretty crap.  I'm better at baking - but not much.  I have a tendency to burn stuff and really the problem is I dont read recipes! Today however, I've had a breakthrough!!

Chocolate cookies taken from the lovely Nigella, but actually not having all the ingredients!

Makes 18

150gms plain flour
30gms cocoa powder
1tsp of baking powder (no bicarb in the cupboard!)
75gms of butter (not enough as stated in the recipe)
125gms caster sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1tsp of vanilla extract
1 egg
a bit of chocolate cut up
2 tsp of golden syrup

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3
  2. In one bowl put the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a seperate bowl cream the sugar and butter and when it's looking a bit dry put a little bit of milk in to bind it together.
  4. Once it's nicely creamed together add the dry ingredients and continue to mix adding the egg cut up chocolate and golden syrup and a bit more milk if needed.
  5. On a large baking tray (covered with greaseproof paper) put 6 separate desert spoonfuls well spaced out (because these cookies grow), bake for 18 minutes and et voila!! 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

How high can a carrot fly, fly?

My computer had been hijacked!! By some advertising, I don't know what but Mr Husband had to sort it for me (he was in his element).

So how high can a carrot fly, fly? It a serious question.  I've recently found out if you plant your carrots in the ground they are likely to be attacked by carrot fly and therefore, unusable. 

(source: RHS)

What I didn't know up until now is that carrot fly also effects other root plants too like parsnips and celeriac (to name a couple)

If you have to/want to put your carrots in the ground then you can cover them carrot fly mesh which is one solution, but a carrot fly can only fly to height of two foot.  

I heard this a couple of years ago, on a tv programme about allotmenting,and the gentleman who has speaking had a good few hints and tips about owning an allotment (I wish I could remember the name of it) but one of those tips was plant your carrots higher than two foot!!

So this week, the carrots have been planted in a high sided container, next to the rhubarb.  Now I know what your thinking that isn't two foot high?  No its not but is all I had but i figure with the use of some cut up railway sleepers it'll be high enough, or I might just put some kind of plastic around the top to make it two foot.

(Now let me take this opportunity to say, don't take the above as sound advice we all know that I do not know what I'm doing!! So take it on board and research it for yourselves).

I've also had the chance this week to plant some tomatoes up.  I've decided to go for upside down planting this year seen as planting them the right way up only encouraged slugs last year! 

You can just see the potatoes underneath

This week also saw the first time all the chickens were out together.  The chicks are now 13 weeks old and when they reach 18 weeks they will be going in the big pen with the big hens so it's a good time for them to start getting used to each other when I'm there:

It went well for about 5 minutes!  The Brahmas and Penny seemed to accept them ok, the ex-batts on the other hand, they need a bout more encouragement to be nice - with a water pistol! We'll try again next week! 

Friday, 21 June 2013

April - Part 2 and May

I'm slowly coming to the point were I'll be able to write posts in 'real time'!   All this thinking back in time  isn't half confusing!!

So, the plot was ready to have the raised beds put in.  After buying the timber (treated 6x2) I got it delivered to work were the lads cut it to the right sizes for me and took it down to the allotment - thanks guys - again!! (I think by this point, they had enough of coming to the allotment and helping me!)

When I looking and deciding what wood to get I first thought I would get some scaffolding planks and use them and the advice I got was that these would be far cheaper than treated timber from a timber yard.  Honestly, after looking and budgeting it worked out about £15 - £20 cheaper than treated timber and the timber lasts longer than scaffolding planks.  I think back in the day maybe scaffolding planks were a lot cheaper but with more and more people turning to grow your own and wanting raised beds in the garden, scaffolding yards seem to have put their prices up.  I rang one company to enquire if they had any planks for sale and he said "if I had a pound for every phone call I got asking me this, I'd be rich".  So treated timber it was.

It was easier to get some treated 3x3 cut to about 8 inches long and screw the 6x2 into that rather than trying to screw the 6x2 together and it made them a bit sturdier.

The ground underneath the beds could probably have benefited from rotavating, but not only did I not want to end up catching the draining pipe underneath, more importantly, I genuinely could not be bothered.  The only problem was that the beds didn't sit flat on the ground.  And so began building up the bottoms of the beds, so that the soil etc... wont come out of the bottom.  I lined the beds with some really good quality weed control fabric I then ordered the top soil and because it was delivered that day I didnt have chance to put manure in the first two but the 4 after that, Ive put in about 1/3 coverage with manure, then the top soil will go in.

I got a tonne of top soil delivered straight to the allotment.  Now I'm totally useless when it comes to volume and measurements, I always have been and I'm not sure at what point when I was ordering a tonne of top soil that a, I could move it all myself and b, that it would only be a couple of wheelbarrows worth of soil!! When I pulled up at the allotment with my wheelbarrow in the back of the car (the wheelbarrow i borrowed from work because the wheel on mine has buckled and will only do for light jobs) I could have cried! I have never seen so much soil, we're not talking a couple of barrows full - I lost count at 45 barrows full, and it filled the first two beds.

Despite every muscle aching in my body...I could FINALLY plant something!!! Waaahooooo, so with my walking stick (the muscular pain was that bad!) I went veg plant shopping!  Looking back now i probably don't need 12 brussel sprout plants, because we don't eat brussel sprouts unless its Christmas...but we have them anyway.  We also have about 8 cauliflowers, a tonne of peas and onions from that shopping trip!  Minor problem - whilst I was planting the veg - the chickens were eating it!! So I've had net all the plants so the chickens cant get them.


The babies moved down to the allotment in May, their first night there I ended up down on the plot at 10:50pm terrified that something had eaten them.  As it happened poppy hen (the white one) wasn't in the hen house, so i put her in, but because there wasnt a lockable door on it im not sure how long she stayed in there.  The next day I was down there making adjustments to the old house so they could be shut in at night, which meant going down there every morning to let them out.  They got the idea though after a couple of days and took themselves off to bed.

Miss Bootsy planting pumpkins for halloween:

Miss Bootsy and Mum planting up Boo's raised bed, with runner beans, more pumpkins, strawberries and some flowers 

And I think we're now in June 2013!! Hooray!!

Monday, 10 June 2013

March and April 2013.

I've been thinking for a few weeks what to write about march because it was pretty much the same as february.  It was a bit of a rubbish month as it was all about letting the land dry out nothing could really be done.  I was continuing to get an egg or two a day, one from penny and one from martha brahma hen, but there was nothing new going on.  And what happens when nothing new is happening - well i got these two bundles of gorgeousness:

Originally, they were Meg (the yellow one) and Lois but they've since changed to Poppy (the yellow (sussex)) and Lulu (the blue ranger)

They had to live at home for about 8 weeks in a box in the back room with their heater, and they would come out at night and sit on the sofa and watch tele!!

April 2013.

April was the month that really made a difference the drainage system was completed with a tonne of pea gravel needing shifting into the trenches, then drainage piping and the whole thing being covered over again:

The chicken run was moved back to its original spot with an extra 6 x 6 foot put on the back to accommodate the new chicks moving down there.

However, the chicken run now was big enough for another two hens!! What to do, what to do?? Yep you guessed it!  I decided at this point ex battery hens were the way forward.  I found a lovely place in wigan called lucky hens rescue, arranged how many hens I wanted and picked them up at my designated time and date - honestly it couldn't have been simpler - and the added bonus is its makes your soul feel good!
I have to say, the staff and volunteers at lucky hens do an amazing, fantastic job,  if I ever get the opportunity to get more hens I would undoubtedly get ex-batts from lucky hens, and if you ever get the opportunity to keep hens really consider getting ex-batts.  They are so lovely, and like i said previously it makes you feel good that not only are you helping them, but seeing them improve day by day is amazing.

So here we are introducing (brace yourself they arent the prettiest in these pictures, but this is their first day out)

Babs - she was in the worst condition of the two she had no feathers on her chest or on her wings

And Betty, who had more clothes on.

It was a family day out collecting the hens and Mr husband developed a real soft spot for babs (though he called her, and still calls her frankenchicken), he sometimes goes to the allotment just to see how she is.

So we got them into there new pen and realised I hadnt bought them a house!! Thankfully with a good supply of wood, sleepers and a dab hand with a drill I managed to build them a temporary house until they were ready to go in with the other hens (it did also have a front on it, but not on this picture):

Three weeks after getting the ex batts this is how they were looking:

Babs might not look like much, but you can see her feathers coming back in on her chest.

And betty, well you can see what a difference three weeks can make!

By now with all the hens that would be going into one coop, the old house wasn't going to be good enough for them, so i bought them a new one that could be put on the outside of the coop giving them more run space:

April was also the month for putting the raised beds in....buts that another post for another day!!