Friday, 24 April 2009

Today I bought an aubergine plant, a Stevia, and a beefsteak tomato plant. I moved some chard seedlings together - no idea how big they'll get, but it was taking them so long and I decided to use one square for radishes, which I soaked and sprouted beforehand. The spinach is coming on well, and so are the red cabbages. My cocktail tomatoes look very happy, as do the cucumber, pepper and pepperoni plants. The sugar peas are dong well too. And every day I can already harvest a bit of lettuce. I use a few beetroot leaves in salads as well. I read somewhere that they're good to eat, and they are, at least I've only tried the baby leaves. I only have two kohlrabis but they're very boisterous and taking up more and more room in their square. I now also have four celariac on the go. I can't wait to get harvesting.

Started another cheddar three days ago. The last one was made in a hurry and I didn't put enough salt in the curds, plus the milk had gone off just a bit, so it was rather sour tasting. I used it grated on pizzas though, and it was fine. 4.5l of raw milk from the farm around the corner costs 2,80 Euro. That makes 720g of cheese, which would probably cost three times the amount in a shop. Even grated cheese costs quite a bit, even though one is also paying for the air in the packet, so I reckon that even if the cheese is a bit of an experiment, and doesn't necessarily always taste brilliant the first few tries, you can always cook with it, so nothing's wasted and one's probably saved money. I don't HAVE to use mozzarella. She's too fat anyway. ;)

I've been experimenting with different forms. This time I decided not to use the old biscuit tin. The cheese turned out rather flat, and took up too much room in the fridge. So this time I used a large yoghurt pot (the ones which contain firm Greek yoghurt and have a handle - bought expressly for the purpose of cheese-making and not for the yoghurt, of course) - and stuck holes in the bottom to let the whey run out. It works perfectly, the shape is fatter and more compact and will look better once it's cut, I trust. Better for putting on bread too.

I've ordered some cheese wax (yellow) which will prevent the cheese from drying out and growing unwanted mold. It'll ripen longer that way, I hope. Also ordered a berry picker which will be jolly useful for blueberries, bilberries in the woods, and hopefully our own jostaberries, this summer.

Drove my better half down to G. this afternoon for a meeting (so he could work in the back of the car to meet an important deadline) and while I was waiting for him I picked a trug full of dandelion heads.
I've got some preserving sugar left over from last year, and H. inspired me to make dandelion jelly again. We haven't had any for a long time and have run out. So they've been boiling in water in a large saucepan and tomorrow I'll get jelly-making.
I would really love to try making dandelion wine, which my mother used to make (turned out like a rich sweet sherry - yummy), but I haven't plucked up the courage yet. A very kind friend (he's quite experienced at it already) gave me a booklet on wine making, so I'm going to have to try it out.

Actually we're not eating jelly or cows' milk cheese at the moment. We're doing the 'Maker's Diet' again - started 5 days ago. So, no carbs for 2 weeks, loads of berry fruits, veggies, clean meat, seeds, sprouts, goats and sheep cheese - (my next experiment is to try goats cheese). Feeling better already.
Oh yes, and our potatoes are sprouting! Very exciting.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Introducing Square Foot Gardening

Nettle Soup

These are stinging nettle tops and garlic mustard (in the trug) from the woods next to the garden, dandelions, (obviously) and lime tree leaves.

I made the garlic mustard pesto in the above-linked recipe, this afternoon. Tastes delicious.

The nettles made a great soup, (mixed with left-over peelings of white asparagus, celery and chicken stock. ) What I couldn't whizz up with the liquidiser, I strained, mixed with a beaten egg and made nettle burgers in an omelette pan. They really tasted good.
The dandelions are from the fields above our home and are primarily for Tessie, who has woken up after hibernation and has a ferocious appetite. She loves dandelions. I wash them and keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag ready for when she needs more.

The lime tree leaves are for a salad Nicoise tonight. I'll mix them with rocket and lettuce.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

This afternoon I put up a trellis for cucumbers and squash. It went up far more easily than I thought it would and looks pretty neat. (I am so thrilled with the SFG method - it's so comprehensive, simple and effective. God bless Mel Bartholemew.) I used green plastic covered metal stakes ( 2,79 Euro each) and green plastic netting for beans (4,75 Euro) also at the local DIY. The stakes went into the ground without any trouble. They are pointed at one end and at the other there are grooves to hold the netting in place.They're also ridged so that the netting can be attached to the pole with cable ties without slipping up and down.
I've planted a cucmber plant already - I hope it's not too early - but if there's any danger of frost I can cover the wire cage with plastic. The cucumber plant is not yet taller than the top of the cage. When it becomes too tall I'll cover it with a tomato plant sheet.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Latest on the Garden

Thank God for spring! I really do. The SFG beds are beginning to sprout with the seeds I planted two weeks ago. I finished constructing wire cages for the beds in March to keep off the deer, which came into the garden a lot last year, and to provide a structure to cover the beds with plastic, should the weather be too cold. We often get heavy hail-storms in April but I think the cages plus plastic will protect the plants underneath. They also don't look too bad.

I've planted small seedlings from the garden centre, just to get a head start on the seeds. We now have spinach, chard (normal, rhubarb and Bright Lights), beetroot, (red cabbage and broccoli - thanks, Angelika!), leeks, spring onions, red and white onion sets, lettuce (four varieties) garlic, nasturtians, carrots, mangetout, and two small bush tomato plants which are hardy enough to be planted before the last spring frost in the middle of May. When the 'Eis Heiligen' (Icy Saints) come around 12-15th May I'll cover the wire cages up at night. I also have chives, sage, lavender, and have sown marigold seeds in the hope of getting a few flowers to keep off the snails. I have a few beer snail traps, to be on the safe side.