Thursday, 3 December 2009

Best winter Thai pumpkin soup and acid fried blues

WTA's winter wonderland

Winter is glorious primordial time of the year on WTA. There's time to rest soil, rest the bones, go inward, contemplate, rejuvenate the soul...and write a Master's thesis! There have been 'gutsy' frosts and snow round these parts (it's snowing as I write this post) and the ground is rock solid. Summer's hard work is still paying dividends in the form of parsnips curly kale, and there's even some good feeds of carrots to be had.

Leeks and Jerusalem Artichokes destined

for the Christmas table.

WTA managed to provide more than enough parsnips, carrots, Romanescu broccoli, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes, Brussel sprouts pumpkin and runner beans to feed nine at this year's Christmas table. Digging the parsnips and carrots out of the snow was a little problematic but definitely worth it when to came to eating them.

WTA's fresh, 'naturally frozen' sprouts and broccoli

WTA's Crown Prince pumpkins have been a roaring success this year. The Brits have finally caught onto what a eating vegetable pumpkin is (something the Aussies knew yor years!). I've come up with the following recipe for a brilliant Thai-style pumpkin soup I've been enjoying over the last month so. So here it is...

WTA's Best Thai Pumpkin Soup.

1kg of raw pumpkin (peeled)

1tbsp of Thai fish sauce.

Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (grated)

1 tbsp Schwartz Fragrant Thai Hot crushed curry spices

3 tbsps Schwartz 'Cook art' green chili, lemongrass & cardamom spice blend

2 medium red onions

1 litre of light coconut milk

1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock

Preheat oven to about 190 degrees c.
Peel the pumpkin and cut into small chunks. Cut the onions into quarters. Place pumpkin and onions in a baking tray and coat with couple of glugs of olive or rapeseed/canola oil. Sprinkle all the spices over the pumpkin and onion Place tray in the oven and bake pumpkin and onions until both are beginning to soften.
Remove baked pumpkins and onions from oven when soft. Transfer to large heavy-based pot. Add chicken stock and simmer on cook top for half an hour. Liquidise stock, pumpkin and onion mixture. Slowly stir in coconut milk and grated fresh ginger. Add fish sauce. Season with sea salt or freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve garnished with basil or corriander leaves.

Steve's 'Acid Fried Blues'

The dark evenings have also given me time to catch with some of the music that inspires my depth psychology and gardening. Western Australian Steve Tallis - - is one such musician whose music has been feeding me over the dark months. Steve is playing around Paris right now and is definitely worth seeing play if you're in that neck of the woods or indeed anywhere the man happens to performing his 'acid fried blues'.
Listen and grow well!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Invocation and the ritual dance of the young pumpkin and cider making

Normal service has been resumed from WTA ...Still harvesting some good feeds off WTA...not too much work on the blog or WTA due to the 'day job 'and thesis...but things are under control ... don't panic! Winter green seedlings (cabbages, sprouting broccoli) have gone in along with over three hundred winter onion sets... The last runner beans and summer carrots are also being picked.

Visitors and noteable absences

Mart the chief of staff and Author Jan have swung through and had their first full tour of WTA this morning. Mart the chief of staff picked a massive Orbit pumpkin that had been sitting proudly in the pumpkin patch ready for harvest and I also picked my first 'crown prince' pumpkin this morning. It's been the highlight of the WTA year to have them here. I also butter nut squash over the past few days and made the squash into stonking butter nut squash soup that has gone down a treat in this breezy and darkening autumn days of late. My own exclusive WTA butter nut squash soup recipe will go up on the blog soon!

I as wondering where my mate Johnny Bridgmeister had got to after long noteable absence from WTA this year. I was a little perplexed by his no-shows until but finally got a letter from one of his 'handlers' - one Howard Bigot Johnson this week informing me that Johnny was too busy to help out with weeding due to his commitments to contributing to one which has had now taken on the mantle of the blogosphere's NO.1 satirical bridge playing sites!

Old Sleningford farm

Went one of my annual off-allotment forays into the North Yorkshire wilds today with Mart the Chief of Staff, Author Jan and the Hearing Scientist today and visited the folks at Old Sleningford farm (see WTA links)to press my own apple/cider juic gathered from apples from Annie's place adjoining WTA. The Sleningford farm crew are a brilliant lot and have set up community apple juice pressing operation that is inspirational in it's social vision and community inclusivity. We maged to get about 18 litres of the most fragrant and luscious apple juice from the 37 kgs we brought with us. The hearing scientist brought along some apple wine we made last year which was generally considered a rather ribald little number, so much so I have been asked to up the apple wine recipe we used by one particularly keen punter of Norther origin. At this stage I must acknowledge the apple wine recipe's source which comes from the legendary C. J. J. Berry's First Steps in Wine Making (Standard Press -Andover).
So here it goes!
WTA's Apple wine recipe
10 kgs of mixed apples (windfalls)
1.5kgs of Sugar (to the gallon of liquor)
4.5 litres of water
Method: Chop the apples into small pieces an put into a bowl. Add the yeast an waters(water will not cover the apples). Cover with fine netting (to prevent vinegar flies getting in). Leave for a wee k, stirring vigorously several times a day to bring the apples from the bottom to the top. Kep the bowl covered and in a fairly warm place. Then strain the juice from the apple 'pulp'. Press the juice from the apples and add to the rest of the liquor. To every gallon add 3lbs of sugar.. put into a cask or glass fermenting vessel (demijohn) and fit an airlock, racking when it has cleared. TGhe win willb ready for drinking within six months,but improves being kept for a year.
Grow and drink well.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

And the winner is...WTA!

Great excitement last week as WTA picked up three first prizes in three classes and a third at the local village show. The hearing scientist also got in on the act successfully showing some runner beans from the kitchen garden.
This vegetable show virgin got so excited that he ended up actually arriving at the village hall sans produce and cake a day before the event and had to return home and keep his veg as pristine and fresh as possible until the next day. I had to admit I was totally sucked in by the whole event, running around WTA at 7am in the morning looking for the best examples of courgettes, carrots, salsify, broccoli that I could find. Pre-show preparation involved carefully washing and drying my entries, deciding how `i would display them and then of course making my 'Favourite Cake' entry - which took two attempts!
The irony of the whole affair wasn't lost on me as I made my show perapratiions while 'listening' on an episode of The Archers on BBC radio 4 in which the characters where doing the same thing? me thinks ' old foggeydom' could be closer that I think!
In the end WTA took out the following categories:
  • Box of seasonal vegetables - 6 varieties. (Pic above)

  • Onions (Button's Show Stoppers)

  • Courgettes (Soliel)
WTA was also might happy to fight off some stiff country baking competition and pick up a third place for it courgette and pecan loaf in the 'favourite cake' class (see previous post to get WTA's the prize-winning recipe)

The hearing scientist's runner beans (White ladies) (pic above) from the kitchen garden impressed the judges and also picked up first prize in their class - something we know Norm the Vet and Captain Ken would have been proud of! Many thanks must go to the hearing scientist for properly making the onions suitable for show by tying raffia around their stalks and then using some dynamic arranging skills to organise the box of veg.

WTA's success even tore Johnny Bridgmeister away from writing now his highly influential Bizarre World of Bridge blog and had him phoning for updates for on how WTA had fared at the hands of the judges. In the end however It was great and a privilege to just be a part of what I reckon is an vital and important part of English country cultural life. The word's of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem 'If' :
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same...

were also enough to help me take a valuable check on the old ego. In the end it's about getting the hands in the earth and staying grounded! Talking of which, my over wintering onion sets and garlic (purple wight) arrived last week and I've arrived home today to find two small boxes of live 'spring greens' seedlings (Mr Fothergills) I ordered a little while back. Author Jan and Mart the chief of staff are also scheduled for a visit soon so I'm keen to have the 'autumn plot' well and truelly in and starting to grow before their arrival.
Show and grow well!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Dinning at St Nigel of Slater's table and "Getting back" to Apple

It's been mainly weeding and caterpillar control on WTA this week. There's this plenty of produce to be had but it's clear some the massive bounty of seasonal summer crops is starting to slow.
Two apple trees that have somehow found their way over the years into a hedge bordering WTA have produced a small but well formed crop of large cooking apples. The appearance of the apples and the start of the blackberry season prompted me to get stuck in and make a blackberry and apple crumble. Getting the blackberries meant a bit of off-allotment foraging in some nearby farm hedgerows which have bountiful blackberry brambles producing some of the best free soft fruit you'll ever taste. The thing I love about making a crumble the WTA way is that it can be used for a great dessert but also a great breakfast with its rolled oats-based topping!
So here it is...

WTA's Blackberry and Apple Crumble
Approx 1 kg of apples

500-600gm of Blackberries

For the crumble topping

1 cup olive oil

3 cups whole grain rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

1 cup of pine nuts or chopped walnuts or almonds

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into 'bite-size pieces and place on a microwave-proof dish. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes until apples soften. Wash blackberries, drain and then mix with apples. Sprinkle lovely mixture with about 3 table spoons of demerara sugar.

To make the crumble topping, combine flower, oats and nuts. Add the olive oil and stir until the mixture begins to form into thick clusters. Spread evenly, on top of apple and blackberry mixture. Bake in an 180C oven for 45 minutes or until topping is lightly brown. Serve hot or allow to cool overnight for a fabulous rustic breakfast.

Digging in the Dirt
Harvesting the last crop of onions for the year has left some space on the upper bed. After digging over the bed I sowed 120 over wintering broad beans (The Sutton) and then sowed another 40 in an adjacent bed which has been left fallow over summer. The Sutton is a shorter variety and supposedly less susceptible to being blown over by winds.

With next year's onion crop in mind , I'm experimenting with growing some of my crop from seed instead of just using sets and have sown about 120 Senshyu Semi-Glob Yellow Onions (Suttons Seeds) in cellular seed trays. The success of the cauliflower crops has also prompted me to sow about 50 'Snowball' cauli's (Suttons Seeds) in individual seed cells. The latest dry spell has left my beans needed some additional watering.

'St Nigel'

Great to see Nigel Slater championing vegetables and sharing more of his great cooking via television this week. Nigel and Jamie Oliver are two of WTA's patron saints of cooking vegetables, and are often called on via their respective publications for advice and prophetic guidance. 'St Nigel's intervention was sort again this week after I picked my first pumpkin - a smallish but beautiful 'Orbit' variety. I didn't want to go down the usual soup or baked pumpkin route so after devling back into some of St Nigel's ancient epistles that are have appeared in the Observer (UK) newspaper's brilliant magazine, I stumbled across one of Britain's national cooking treasure's superb pronouncements:

Chickpeas with Pumpkin, Lemon Grass and Coriander

200g chickpeas ( I used a can)
2 medium sized onions
2 tbsp ground nut oil (I used virgin olive oil)
4 garlic cloves,peled and thinly sliced
a thumb-sized piece of ginger
3 large stalks of lemon grass (I used 3 tbs of lemon grass past from a jar)
2 tsp ground coriander
2tsp ground tumeric
ground seeds of six cardamom pods
2 hot, red chillies
500g peeled and seeded pumpkin
250ml vegetable stocks
400ml coconut milk
1tbsp of yellow mustard seed
a large handful of coriander leaves
Drain the canned chickpeas. Peel and finely chop onions. Pour oil into a deep casserole and add the onions. Cook the onions on a low heat until they are translucent. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and ginger and cut relatively finely and mix. Add three to four tablespoons of grass paste. and then make all three into a rough paste in a food processor. Stir into softened onion and continue to cook. Add ground coriander and turmeric. Peel and lightly crush cardamom seed pods. Add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. Keep the heat fairly low and don't let the ingredients brown.
Chop the pumpkin into large mouth-sized chunks. and ad to the pan with the chickpeas and stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle bubble till the pumpkin is tender. Stop as soon as the flesh can yield to the point of a knife..
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a little oil in a non-stick pan and ad the yellow mustard seeds.. When they start to pop add them to the pumpkin, together with the coriander leaves. Serve with rice and limes, halved ready to squeeze over at the last Minute. Give thanks to St Nigel and eat!

Well done the Rossdorf crew!
A big congratulations to one of WTA's favourite blogs. the Rossdorf Allotment on their recent show wins. Rossdorf's success has motivated me to enter some of WTA's produce in a nearby village show scheduled for next weekend. The experience of actually putting vege into a show and helping bolster a great rural tradition of exhibiting produce should be a hoot. Entries close this Friday and I plan to enter some onions, courgettes, french and runner beans and possibly some calabrese that's look set to harvest. I'm not sure if WTA's produce will measure up to the exacting standards of the horticultural judges - my beans need a little straightening and I'm not sure if my onions (Bunton show stoppers) have perfectly matching circumferences. Still, the entry form goes in tomorrow and the produce fronts the judges on Saturday morning. Exhibit and grow well!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

It's later than I think! Time for old cook books and Thai Cauliflower!

The English bank holiday weekend is like a gigantic signpost pointing toward autumn for me. It's a great time of the year - as is each of the transitional cusps between seasons. WTA is looking fine, although there are odd gaps of bare earth beginning to show where crops have been harvested and autumn seeds sown. The last of the cauliflowers were picked today and it won't be long before the second broad bean sowing will have had its day, stripped of any remaining pods and pulled out. It's gratifying to grow your own but it comes as a bit of shock when you realise how quickly some things get used and the gaps they leave. It's always later than I think on WTA! Still, WTA's pumpkins are pulsating and continue to grow and set fruit unabated. The rough ball onion seeds planted a few weeks ago are beginning to raise their heads above ground.

Francaise Jo, made a guest appearance on WTA last Saturday morning and helped pick French climbing beans, courgettes, gladioli and gather the last of the potatoes still in the ground. It's always a great to have Jo around and I get feeling allotments and 'growing your own' is beginning to get under her skin.
WTA Cooking...
WTA's Cauliflowers have been a revelation this year I adapted this recipe from one found in an old Ken Hom 1996 book - Ken Hom's Hot Wok - a is gem. The book was brought charity shop about 4 years ago for £3.50 on a whim and has become a bit of a foundation for some of my Thai/Vietnamese cooking. I've tended to 'pimp' and some of Ken's recipes to give them an even bigger South East Asian taste - the recipes themselves area brilliant base for some experimental fusion cooking.

Thai Cauliflower a la Hom
1 medium cauliflower head divided into small florets
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
6 crushed garlic cloves
1or 2 medium red chillies seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of finely shredded spring onions (or one finely cut small red onion)
1 tablespoon of lemon grass paste
2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil or coriander
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
1 teaspoon of palm or caster sugar
1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
450ml water
2 teaspoons sesame sesame oil.

Heat up your wok or large frying pan until extremely hot. Gently pour in the vegetable oil. When the oil starts to smoke, toss in the chili, garlic, spring onions and lemon grass paste, moving them quickly around the pan for about 30 seconds. Toss in the cauliflower and stir fry for 1 minute. Add your basil or coriander, soy sauce, sugar turmeric water and fish sauce. Reduce the heat of your cooker, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the sesame oil and sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

What's been ordered...
Maybe I'm a sucker for punishment but in a triumph of hope over experience I've decided to sow some garlic on WTA. Autumn orders have been placed, with respective seed and set suppliers and I girding my loins for some planting and sowing over the next few weeks.
  • Garlic Vallelado (Chase Organics)

  • Winter Cress (Chase Organics)

  • White Lisbon winter hardy (Chase organics)

  • Radar Onion sets (Chase organics)

  • Early purple wight garlic (Thompson and Morgan)

Whats going in...
Kale seedlings - Calvanero

Winter Broad Beans (the Sutton)

What's gone in...
Onions - white Lisbon.
What's my scene?
Browsing through a magazine, which claims to be the "UK's No1 for allotment holders" I came across a column by one Edwin Oxlade, in which Ed bemoans the fact that the "Popular Media" have "lost sight of what kitchen gardeners and prospective kitchen gardeners are really into" and in doing so "have put superficial short-lived appeal before reality". Ed goes onto claim much of the media coverage of growing-your-own is no more than "self indulgent lifestyle froth". I'm no fan of the popular media, but Ed's assertion knows what all kitchen gardeners are "really into" seems rather grandiose. And even if the media's preoccupation about writing on growing your own is self indulgent "lifestyle froth" (another subjective generalisation made by Ed), by my reckoning if it attracts more people to experience or at least try to experience veg gardening then it's fine by me! Short-lived or long-lived the experience of growing-your-own is just that, an experience!
Anyone who spends a month working on allotment/kitchen garden realises it's not always than some halcyon garden of paradise... but isn't that the whole point? Carl Jung in the Transcendent Function said: "Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health". For me the processes involved in having an allotment is more about having my hands in the earth - remaining psychologically grounded. Difficulties in the allotment, as they are in life are numerous, but so are the joys and no one has a mortgage the subjective nature of human experience or how they experience growing-their-own. Grow Well!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Last pickings and vege regenerations

WTA's first cucumber!

WTA's first cucumber (Marketmore) was picked amid much celebration yesterday. I hate to boast, but it was a taste sensation - crisp, succulent and cool! This gorgeous green gem will be used to make a Japanese-style cucumber salad.
Operation Red Hot Chili pepper continues to go well - The savaged Romenescu look like they might even recover yet, and look to be sprouting again. Caterpillar numbers have dwindled dramatically and now appear to be under control, with little further leaf damage.

This week Autumn's cool fingers felt like they were beginning to edge closer and gently wrap themselves around WTA of a morning. The weekend brought some hot weather that seemed set back the onset of chilly winds and turning leaves - it's strange to think I'll be planting my onion sets for next year's crop in the net few months.

I managed to harvest another lot of broad beans from a late crop of about a dozen plants that are still standing but looking a bit worse for wear due to chocolate spot infection. Foraging bits and pieces left over at the end of the crop can be really rewarding and provide some excellent and unexpected meals.

Part of the tail end of this year's broad beans

Saturday saw the last of the Parmex carrots and some of the first broad bean planting being pulled out and the ground they were in turned. Both have produced excellent crops and will be definite starters next year. The broad beans were a particular revelation, and I plant to try and double the amount of plants I had this year - broad bean bruschetta has me in its grip!

The carrots below were pulled yesterday and needing a quick salad for dinner, I came up with the following 'recipe'...

WTA's Carrot and sesame salad
3-4 large carrots

1.5 tblspns Sesame oil

2 tblspns black sesame seeds

Grate three to four largish carrots into a bowl. Add one and a half tablespoons of sesame oil and mix through the grated carrot. Sprinkle with two table spoons of black sesame seeds. Mix the black sesame seeds into the carrot and sesame seed oil.

Passers-by steam in for WTA's Carrot and sesame salad
Grow well!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Operation Red Hot Chili Pepper: organic pesticide fight back!

Operation Red Hot Chili Pepper is in full swing on WTA after waves of marauding caterpillars marched into town and began laying brassica crops, including my Romanescu broccoli (see above pic), to waste. These Romanescu were under horticultural fleece but I obviously hadn't sealed the cloche properly allowing some bloody devious cabbage white butterflies a way in. The rest, as the say, 'is history'. Artisan Tracie reckons some organic gardeners often need a 'sacrifice' crop - a crop you let pests eat so they (in theory) eat less of your other crops - so I suppose this is my yearly sacrifice. In the mean time, I wanted to save the rest of my calabrese, sprouting broccoli, sprout and kale crops from devastation so it was time to spray - organic and home made spray of course! I used the following general organic pesticide recipe adopted from an ABC TV, Gardening Australia formulation (see links) to strike back and strike back hard! I love the smell of chili, onion and garlic in the morning! It smells like...victory!

Organic Pesticide Recipe

4 Red hot chillies
2 Cloves of garlic
4 Onions (red or white)
2 tblspns of eco-friendly washing up liquid

Brewing Up!
Chop up chillies, garlic and onions and place in a medium sized mixing bowl...

Add two tablespoons of an eco/enviro-brand dish washing liquid.

Pour in water so it just covers the contents of the bowl and then stir.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and then set aside for 24 hours.

The following day pour the contents of the bowl through a fine sieve and reserve the liquid.
Discard the onions, chillies and garlic.

Dilute the reserved liquid in 5 litres of water...

Organic, effective... red hot!
I've use an old, clean, hand pump sprayer to deliver the fiery liquid, which I've been doing most mornings and again in the evening. The results have been impressive... the caterpillars definitely don't like it up em! But I've needed to consistently apply the spray to keep on top of newly hatching 'pillars, whose eggs I haven't managed to squash in the mean time...

Without the good old 'Red Hot Chili Pepper' spray I'm fairly sure things like the brassicas pictured above would now be little more than skeletal stalks.

Missing..presumed having a good time

Johnny Bridgemeister's absence has been noted on WTA. He's yet to make one of his several annual pilgrimages to WTA this year to carry out his fierce attack on all manner of weeds and nettles. Perhaps his failure to show can be put down to him starting up his own blog: where he and the crowd primordial archetypes he writes and runs with reflect on the more quirky side of the game of bridge. The Bridgmeister's site is already garnering some impressive reviews amongst the on-line bridge world and building a sizeable and dedicated following in the UK and abroad.

DIY queen and vege chef Sandy has also been fairly quiet lately. This vegetarian cordon blue has also been much missed on WTA and needs to get on that two wheeled stallion of hers and get up here quick!

In the meantime...protect your crops and grow well!

Monday, 17 August 2009

WTA's courgette and pecan bread success!

Got an early start this morning determined to fit in cooking some WTA produce into my MA thesis writing schedule. Inspired by fellow bloggers Allotment 2 Kitchen, A girl named Go and Rossdorf allotment , I thought I'd have a crack at making some Courgette and Pecan bread. The idea of using courgettes for making something other than savoury dishes and that could be eaten with cuppa or used as a dessert when still warm (this could be good with ice cream, yoghurt or sour cream) had me baking. The result was delicious!

Courgette and Pecan Bread

3 eggs
2 cups of caster sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 cup of olive/canola oil
2 cups of grated courgette
3 cups of plain flour
1/4 of teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 cup of chopped pecan nuts


Butter and flower two loaf tins or deep muffin tins.
Beat eggs until foaming, add sugar, vanilla and oil and beat until thick.
Stir in grated courgette.
Sift all dry ingredients and fold into courgette mixture with chopped pecans.
Pour into prepared tins and bake in a 180C oven for about 1 hour for the loaf tins or 25-30 minutes for deep muffin tins, or until a skewer inserted in the bread comes out clean.
Remove from oven; allow to sit in the tins for about ten minutes and then cool on a cake rack. Slice and butter or eat by itself when warm...

Growing Update...


The climbing French beans (Cobra) are really hitting their straps. About 2.3kg of their slender green pods have been harvested in the last week or so and eaten raw or blanched and frozen. Having climbing beans on an allotment makes good sense - they are great source of instant, super-healthy 'green snacks' while working away. I often find myself devouring a couple of beans straight off the vines when the hunger pangs hit mid-weeding or digging.

WTA's cucumbers (Marketmore) are producing some handsome fruit. which should be able to be picked soon. You could have knocked me down with a feather a few years ago if you told me cucumbers could be grown outdoors in the UK - but here they are! Perhaps having some cucumber sandwiches and a glass of Pimms under the walnut tree next week might be a very English way to mark the summer success of WTA this year!

Eat and grow well!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Complete Gestalts and Strange Brews.

Fred the Chemist's gladioli

Veg aren't the only things growing onWTA. Earlier in the year about 2 dozen gladioli bulbs were planted, alongside edible crops, to provide the cottage with cut flowers. This week the gladi's began to bloom and the stems were cut (see pic above). WTA is proud of these beauties as they have a strong link to forebear and Anglo-Aussie - Fred The Chemist - who also grew and loved gladioli. The generational gestalt is complete!

Organic Pest Control

WTA's brassica's are under attack from caterpillars. Little do those caterpillars know WTA has the trump card to end their orgy of WTA eating. The ante dote is brewing away in the kitchen as I write. I've used one of the organic pesticide recipes on Gardening Australia's (The Aussie version of BBC's Garden's World) website and started producing an potent concoction of 4 onions, 2 garlic cloves, 4 chillies and eco-friendly dish washing liquid. The liquid produced from the mix pictured below is being applied tomorrow.

Organic pesticide in the making

This morning was spent lifting the last lot of potatoes, weeding the broccoli bed and physically squashing a variety of ravenous caterpillars swarming over some leaves.
There was also a chance to use some of the organic liquid fertiliser (pictured below) from the worm can on my leeks (another great product of worm can composting).

Worm casting liquid - black gold!

WTA mates... still helping out on the plot 10,000 miles away!

Many thanks to Jeremiah Bullfrog, proofreading savant, for his time earlier this week. The Bullfrog spotted and helped iron-out a variety of errors appearing in previous WTA postings - not bad from a vantage point on the other side of the world in Western Australia...

The Bullfrog: Language errors can run but they can't hide!
Grow well!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

A quick Saturday pick.

Just a short post. Lots going on and lots of produce from WTA right now. I picked this lot this morning. The Adelaide carrots are really sweet, while I'll use the yellow courgette to make an amazing Nigella Lawson recipe I've found and linked for 'Happiness, soup. Grow well!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Let 'em roll!

Downing a well-earned 'coldie' after a big seed planting and lifting a 5kg+ haul of potatoes this afternoon. I hate to say the 'B' word when mentioning my spuds, but after reading a couple of other blogs , I think some of my potato crops might have blight! As a result I'm getting rid of all affected leaves/stems and in a couple of cases have lifted part of the crops in case I'm too late and left with nothing.

In the mean time, I've 'Kept Calm and Carried On' with the autumn seed planting regime. I've also decided to have a bit of a gamble by sowing some seeds that should have been planted in June and July. These seeds - including parsnips and carrots - are probably going to lose much of their viability by next year if I don't plant them now, so in they go!

The following have been sown:
Parsnip-Hollow Crown (Country Value)
Good quality seeds (I sowed Country Value, Sweet Corn-Incredible -F1 which are doing brilliantly) but I'm throwing these in, in case they become unviable next year.

Baby Chinese Cabbage - WA Wa Sai (Marshalls)

Fresh seeds - that arrived last week and will be planted at the prescribed time. I'm planting these in the hope of getting some great veg for SE Asian-style stir fries.

Carrot Ideal (Dobies of Devon)
Fresh seed to be planted at the prescribed time. I've have already sown three rows of these but still have some left after ordering two packets!

Chinese Broccoli - Kailaan (Marshalls).

I liked the look of these as an easy-grow, 'in between crop' of broccoli. They look suitable for some cool fusion and SE Asian cooking that goes on after getting off WTA

Parsnip Panache F1 Hybrid (Thompson and Morgan)

Great seeds! I've had some outstanding success with these - but like all parsnip seed have a fairly limited viability. I planted some this time last year and managed to lift some lovely parsnips for Christmas dinner. Here's hoping I can manage the same feat this year.

Bunching Onion - Shimonita (Marshalls)
Fresh and planted at the prescribed time. Going by the description these beauties - a sort of cross between a leek and a spring onion;they may be a good seasonal spring onion substitute.

Broccoli-Rudolph (Thompson and Morgan)
Once again, will be a 'triumph of hope over experience' if these grow in the way they were intended but I'd rather have a go than not put them in.

Borecole (Kale) F1 Reflex (Dobies of Devon)
Kale was a winter staple of WTA in the early days and helped keep a variety of people fed with greens in the dark winter of 2007.

Carrot - Resistatfly F1 Hybrid (Thompson and Morgan)
A bit late again I know but I found this packet of seeds from last year, after losing them and would rather give them a go than have them lose their viability and lie useless in my seed box.

Spinach - Toscane F1 Hybrid (Unwins)
Always fantastic for salads and a variety of hot dishes. Spinach is an 'essential' on WTA. It's a first run for this variety so it will be interesting to see the results.

Onion - Toga (Johnsons)
A bit late, I know, but just consider it my way of betting on an Indian summer this year!

Onions - Toughball (Marshalls)
I really liked the look and the name of these onions and they let me continue to indulge in my continued fascination with growing this edible variety of alium.

More WTA weeding is scheduled for today along with some cooking with three more cauliflowers harvested yesterday. Grow well!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Lazy Sunday Afternoon, got no mind to worry...

A 'Day of Rest' on WTA . A quick inspection of the plot this morning to pick some carrots, check on my previous day's weeding and take the shots on this post was about all that was done.

Took some time off to visit friend of WTA, Johnny Bridgemeister, and Wonder Pam. It was satisfying to be able to take some fresh lifted spuds, carrots and red onions from WTA to these two legendary mates.

A Shout Out to WTA Friends
Some good friends of WTA are a bit poorly right now or struggling with some big work loads. They are being held in mind as I work away on the plot.

Mart The Chief of Staff . Get that dicky chest cleared up Mart - there's some work to do in October buddy!

Dorset Dave...Instrumental in helping clear the leek bed of weeds last year. The second of Dorset Dave's creaking and cracking knees was ditched and replaced by some good old titanium this week. I for one won't miss the 'orrible bone-on-bone grating noises as he bends down to some weeding next time he's on the plot! Hope your back on your feet soon Dave!

Mariner Tim.. The turf excavator and onion planter extraordinaire has been working his bum off on the good Yacht 'Conspicuous Consumption' with some rather difficult clientele...hang in there mate, all this will pass...

The cleared bed above is all that remains of the up turned turf, cow manure and cardboard after planting and lifting good crop of potatoes within the space of a couple of months.

These leeks are looking good but will have to be soiled up to ensure they have good long, white shanks.

The Jerusalem artichokes are going great guns. They've provided an effective windbreak and visual screen to the entrance of the allotment and just keep getting taller and taller.
Grow well!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Summer Saturday Update

A classic sunny English summer's day at WTA. Leek and onion beds were weeded and 'test plot' potatoes lifted. Reluctantly dragged myself off the plot at 7.30pm this evening but pleased with what had been achieved.
The potatoes had been planted in a non-dig bed of cardboard, up-turned turf and Dairy farmer Tom's cow poo and straw. The cunning plan was to see if the spuds could break up the turf and accelerate the process of creating a new bed in matter of months - and it looks like it has worked! Stay tuned for further updates. Right now however it looks like I've ended up with a big bag of potatoes and a cleared bed! It will be interesting to see if the late potatoes planted under overturned turf last week can do same things.

WTA's pumpkin patch has hit its straps in the last few weeks. It didn't look good for a couple of the seedlings I'd put into a pile of straw, cow poo and soil a few months ago, but rising night time temperatures have kicked in and what seemed like a potential disaster, averted. One of the miriad of bumblebees (above pic) is enjoying the pumpkin flowers - take a look at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website under WTA's 'Hot Topics' listing - and helping produce this beauty below which was discovered this week under the foliage. (A WTA " bee posting" is in the offing.)

More veg postings to come tomorrow... Grow well!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Life, the universe, religious experience, bodily functions and compost heaps!

"My whole life had been spent
waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence,
the kind of transcendental, magical
experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And
that is what I had with my first compost heap."

Bette Midler

WTA loves its compost, heaps! Both compost bins were constructed pretty soon after taking on the plot almost two years ago and have produced some mighty fine 'black gold' from a combination of veg scraps, lawn clippings, garden waste, cardboard, paper and cow manure thrown on them.

WTA kitchen waste (above) headed for the temple of compost.

Being pro-recycling, WTA's compost bins have been constructed from old wooden pallets for free and 10 wooden stakes - no fuss and effective.

A black plastic composting bin - used to solely compost weeds and nettles - has also joined the crew and has converted kilos of weeds and nettles - I try to keep the two open bins as weed-free as I can.

The Inspiration
'Grand' forebears of WTA, 'Technical Tom' and 'Fred the Chemist' were mad keen composters, both of them having their own techniques and apparatus to produce the 'black gold'. Technical Tom was a fan of the 'Compost Tumbler' - a commercially made drum mounted on a frame (see pic below) on which is could be turned. Fred the chemist favoured the big multi bin approach, constructing four huge adjoining squares made out of old corrugated iron and fence posts.

Whatever the shape or size - commercial or non-commercial - it's important to get a compost heap and find composting style to suit your garden/allotment and the type of materials you are composting.

Accelerators- keeping your heap in hyper drive.
Creating a 'Formula One heap' is a mix of art and science. WTA recommends a few inexpensive components to keep the bacterial engine of the your heap throbbing:
  • Bone meal/pelletised poutry manure - nitrogenous bacterial stimulant that feeds the microscopic buds doing the hard yards to break down the waste.

  • Gardener's Lime - great to cool things down and 'sweeten your heap' if things get to acidic in your rotting matter.
  • A good peace of thick carpet - vital for covering your compost heap warm and keeping bacteria working when the temperature drops.
  • Human urine! - even the beer or cuppa you have after a hard day's graft on the allotment can be recycled! Ensure no one is in vicinity (We don't want Allotment holders getting done for indecent exposure!) and have a good old wee (probably easier for blokes) on your heap.

Worm bins/cans
Wormeries are also an incredibly dynamic way of composting and also producing your own super quality . Wta has a an "off site" worm bin which to produce . One worm bin is far too small to handle the amount and variety of matter composted by the bins on WTA but I was lucky enough to pick a worm can similar to the one picture below on sale at a local supermarket chain. I use this little beauty to breakdown large quantities of paper waste (think of it as an enviro- shredder!) and a source of liquid fertiliser- an odourless, nutrient-rich liquid by-product, superb for fertilisng your crops.

Top Shelf composting material (But proceed with caution!)

Some of WTA's Jersey Girls - compost makers extraordinaire

WTA's custodiancan often be see roaming around the adjacent fields awith wheel barrow and shovel, followed closely by a small herd of inquisitive Jersey Cows, in search of quality cow pats. The occasional barrow load of cowpats on the compost heap does a world of wonders
for the end product. But be wary! You've got to know your shit! Problems with herbicide in some animal manure used on allotments was well publicised last year. Ask the owners of the land, on which the animals you get you poo from graze, what sort of pesticides and herbicides are used on the pasture. When in doubt leave it out! If you're new to the allotment game or missed the whole herbicide and animalmanure debarcle take a look at the relevant links and No. 10 petition listed under 'Hot Topics' on this site.

Get composting and grow really well!