The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: October 2008

It’s Cold Out There

I have just come in from the garden. The duck pond is completely frozen over. Same goes for all the bunnies water bottles and the outside tap. Winter seems to have arrived suddenly with the rooves and the ground white with frost and ice. My fingers are still frozen. I think its time to dig out those gloves and scarves. On the bright side the sky is clear and blue this morning and the previously muddy lawn is frozen and easier to walk on. Yesterday was wet and windy with hail and snow showers which the ducks seemed to love as it makes it easier for them to dabble and find worms. I had a right game getting them to go to bed last night. The chickens however hate it and were on their perches before I went out to lock their shed.

We used Rob’s week off well and worked hard on both of the plots. All the onion sets are in and there are several beds cleared and dug ready for Spring. We made a gigantic contribution to the comunal compost heap as our bins are all full. The lean to is now empty and we are planning to get plenty of organic matter on the beds to rot down over Winter. There is a lot of mint in there and though we have pulled it up as best we can I think there are still lots of roots that may cause problems. This is a problem that we inherited with the lean to and at first we thought it was good to have a bit if mint in there but it is a very invasive plant and I think may have been the reason that the cucumber Carmen struggled to get going this season. I put the Rhubarb to bed by clearing out all old stalks and covering with a good layer of straw and a chicken wire cover to hold it in place. Next visit I shall have to give the same treatment to the Dahlia bed as we have had a couple of hard frosts this week that I would imagine will have finished them off.

Libbie will be here soon so I will have to stop but at least the typing has thawed my fingers.

Overwintering Onion Sets

Rob has next week off work and we have so much to do. We have to plant the overwintering onion sets. Onion Troy, a brown onion from Marshalls, Onion Red Cross also from Marshalls, Onion Snowball and Electric Red both from Focus. It’s back breaking work putting them in and there are a lot of them.

Onion TroyOnion Red ElectricOnion SnowballOnion Red Cross

The other big job is to make a start on the new fruit cage. I doubt that it will get finished next week however. We dismantled the old one and plan to make the new one half as big again. We also have to finish the first tunnel as the door end is still not permanent. The last of the pumpkins should be ready to cut. Matthew and Libbie have already had the two biggest ones ready for Halloween. The last time we visited the plots the Butternut Squash Avalon was still producing fruit and although the frost had taken a few leaves they still looked rampant. They have been one of our successes this year. The rest of the work will be digging beds and tidying up. There is a skip on site at this time of the year and also a bonfire so we can get rid of any clutter.

Tomato Soup

I hadn’t made made soup since I was at school. Whenever we wanted soup we bought a tin from the supermarket. However as we had rather a lot of tomatoes and they were ending up being thrown to the chickens I had a look how to make it. Simple. Why hadn’t I done it before? We are a family of stew lovers and over the winter I usually make one at least once a week. On Monday I decided to have a go with a few tomatoes that would be past their best the next day and we were pleasantly surprised by the lovely taste of the end result. Today I had a go with just yellow tomatoes and got a beautiful golden soup. There will be no stopping me now, until I run out of ingredients that is. The next experiment will be butternut squash soup as we have a few of those in store and then pumpkin. I will know better next season. I haven’t worked out yet how to keep it so we are eating it as I make it.

Chop the tomatoes and put into a saucepan. Add a little olive oil and cook the tomatoes for about five minutes. Use very ripe tomatoes for a better taste. Pass the soup through a seive with the back of a wooden spoon to get rid of the skin and pips. Season to your own taste. If the soup is too thick for you add a little water or vegetable stock. Carry on cooking the soup for a little longer stirring all the time. Serve with crusty bread. I know a lot of recipes suggest adding onion, potato etc but I prefer just the tomatoes. I have tried this method with other vegetables, whatever I have to use up and it always turns out to be very tasty.

Top Scorer

libbieWe had a bit of a darts match on Saturday night and after Jan had shown the boys how to do it by winning the first run, Rob turned out to be top scorer by winning the final match. We had a very good night with plenty of eating, drinking and laughing. Libbie stayed the night which was lovely as she hasn’t stayed for ages.

Sean and Deb couldn’t make Saturday so they came to dinner on Sunday with Jem. They always come loaded with presents and this time I got loads of flowers, a book to read. a sensitive plant, and a lovely chocolate cake chosen by Jemima. So all in all we had a busy but happy weekend.

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Rob and I popped to the allotment at dinner time today to take the poo buckets etc and came home with a bag of beans the last of the tomatoes and the first of our new cauliflowers out of the tunnel on plot 8.

cauli