Sunday, 30 May 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

It was on 25th May 2009 that I posted my inaugural message on Norfolk Kitchen. Of course all month I've been furiously trying to remember all month to post on 25th May 2010 but obviously I had to go and forget so - Happy 370 days Norfolk Kitchen.

My personal blogging philosophy is not one that revolves around getting high numbers of followers or a desire to be listed in the Times most influential bloggers or anything like that. I get a lot of personal satisfaction from writing and taking photos plus there's a very practical use in recording what I've done in the garden or made in the kitchen. I also use to turn my blog into a vanity published book which I keep in a drawer in the hope that one day, in about 30 years time, the children will look at each other and say "Remember that Cyder Jelly Mum used to make when we were kids? Shall we make some now?" and the recipe will be there for them to use. I think I'll explain my expectations when they're 14 and shall eagerly await their (cough) enthusiasm ......

Thank you to everyone who follows, reads and contributes to the blog, I've really enjoyed 'meeting' everyone here and on Twitter and big thanks to those who've shared their expertise and given me a much needed helping hand. Here's to the 2010 season.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Composting queries

This post is basically a shameless plea for help! As our garden at home is so small we've never had the space for a compost bin, now we've got the plot and more space I need to get the compost bin going so I've got some nice organic material to dig into our horribly dry clay soil for next year. The problem is that I have no access to green leafy material as yet as nothing has actually grown on the plot and we're not allowed to bring kitchen or garden waste from home.

So, the organic material I can get my hands on at the moment is:

Chicken manure mixed with hemcore/aubiose
Stuff from the Bokashi bin
Some grass clippings but not loads (our grass is mostly eaten by the chickens)

That's about it, and some of that is stretching the definition of 'kitchen and garden waste'. I'm also trying to source some horse manure but haven't had any success yet. I'm digging up vast quantities of weeds still (see picture for impressive looking root of something or other, that's about 10" long in real life) but obviously won't be adding those. Later in the year we'll have waste green things from the plot itself.

So will I be able to get a usable compost from the above? I've Googled a little bit but am getting confused with green/brown material, hot composting, dire warnings about too many grass clippings, slimy compost etc. Am I over thinking this? Should I just shove it all in together and stop worrying??

Any advice would be gratefully received!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

About time .....

2010 seems to have finally realised what 'spring' means so I find myself having fretted about frost only a week or so ago, now fretting about wilted plants and rock hard soil. On the plus side my seedlings have suddenly sprung into life, sweetcorn, borlotti beans and pumpkins have all jolted upwards which is a relief as I wasn't sure if they'd been destroyed by the frost.

On the allotment I'm beginning to think that the main skill in gardening is prompt identification and effective elimination of pests.

My broad beans are being eaten by something or other. Lord knows what, there's nothing visible on them, I've put slug pellets down but no signs of dead slugs, I've put slug collars on them (the plants, not the slugs. Maybe tethering the slugs would be a better idea) but no improvement so I resorted to spraying them with a catch all 'Kill Stuff' type of spray which seems to have helped as they're looking much healthier now. My burgeoning broccoli plants have attracted the attentions of weird tiny, black, flea like things which are leaving tiny holes all over the place.

At least in the garden I know my enemies, they tend to be larger and furrier with only 4 feet. The neighbourhood cats are driving me demented, they climb on top of the mini greenhouse, they try and sit in my hanging baskets of tumbling toms (talking of which, pictured is my first mini tomato!) they jump into the sweetcorn seedlings and they dig up the runner bean seeds.

It's kind of like being under siege from all sides, suffice to say I've invested in miles and miles of protective netting which is slowly going up in various locations.

At this time of year the chickens have their annual holiday to the front garden, the back lawn is out of bounds for a month or two to give it a chance to grow again. Pictured below is one of the disconcerting consequences of this. I'm sitting in the living room, minding my own business, tapping away quietly on the laptop, have that 'being watched' feeling and spying beady eyes staring unblinking through the living room window .....

Monday, 17 May 2010

It's all gone a bit Blair Witch ....

We decided to go for a luvverly Family Walk in the woods yesterday, or the "Deep, dark woods" as Xanthe the Gruffalo fan insisted on calling them. Our favourite spot is Tyrrel's Wood just off the A140 near Long Stratton. It makes a great day out when combined with a visit to the tea room at Goodies Farm Shop and sometimes, if you're really lucky, you can observe a lesser spotted Rick Wakeman enjoying a tea cake in there. Good luck though, in navigating the arcane rules on what constitutes 'hot' and 'cold' food and the serving times of the afore mentioned food groups. (cold sandwiches are 'hot' and hot sausage rolls are 'cold'. It makes my head ache)

I find navigating Tyrrel's Wood quite hard, it's a smallish wood but disorientating, though that's probably a characteristic of most woodlands with their restricted visibility and plethora of small creatures content to occupy themselves with flitting through your peripheral vision before scuttling and scratching in the undergrowth in an alarming fashion. Superstitious? Moi?

We somehow or other managed to get on the wrong path, we were anticipating a walk of about half an hour but ended up trudging in a depressed and slightly panicky sort of way for three times as long. All sense of direction vanished and we actively repressed memories of the Blair Witch project, especially after stumbling across a number of hastily assembled little shelters made of fallen branches and haven't we passed that log before???

It really didn't help matters when we stumbled across this grisly artefact, a neatly severed hare's (or possibly rabbit's) head, wedged into a tree at a height of about 6'. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has the vaguest clue as to how or why it may have come to be here. There was no trace of the rest of the body and it was a very neat job which made me wonder if it had been done by human hand. I've previously seen dead animals festooned on forest gates, rats and the like, nailed neatly into rows so maybe this is something similar though I've no idea why anyone would nail rats to a gate either (that's not a phrase you use every day).

Fortunately the children were fascinated rather than alarmed though they were moaning like crazy about wanting to get back to the car. Obviously we made it home in the end, thanks largely to the fact that we were in a small wood in otherwise open countryside so we stuck to the outside edge and slowly made our way round in a huge circle. I think Xanthe picked up on our panic as she tearfully told Adam "I'm only coming back here when there are no trees any more!"

Monday, 10 May 2010

Beer Bomb.

I think I've mentioned previously that we've had our first harvest from the Allotment. Sadly not a crop we've grown but a large bagful of nettles I picked before the rough ground got zizzed by a helpful lawnmower. As free alcohol always piques my interest I decided to try my hand at Nettle Beer.

I used the River Cottage recipe which was really easy. I fancied a fizzy drink so I consulted the oracle of all things home brew aka my husband who once made some fizzy lager back when the Conservatives were last in power. He advised putting a couple of teaspoons of sugar in each bottle as I was bottling it.

Technically then, the mess in my larder is his fault. I opened the larder door on Saturday morning to make breakfast and a bottle top rolled out.....

Then I spied a funny sticky patch on the floor.

Then the splash marks.

Then the wreckage of a 2litre plastic bottle.

So no, husband dearest, that mysterious bang you heard at midnight wasn't someone trying to break in as you first thought and neither was it the fault of the neighbours as you later thought. It was, in fact, our nettle beer exploding and taking out the hand held mini vac in the process.

Luckily we only lost one bottle, but the others were alarmingly mis-shapen and blown and they fizzed and farted for what felt like an age as we let the excess gas out.

The first tasting was last night. It bears no resemblance to beer as I'd recognise it but it's very close to elderflower champagne. Perhaps not quite so sophisticated with it's strangely swampy sweetness but very pleasant and summery nonetheless and, most importantly, it's free!

Friday, 7 May 2010


Apologies for the lack of posts this week, all my time seems to have been taken up with ridiculous politics in the Allotment Association which has soured the whole Allotment experience somewhat but I'm firmly backing away from the situation in an effort to control my blood pressure.

On the plus side it's distracted me from the playroom dwarf peas who, upon closer examination yesterday, revealed they've been quietly cropping (that's cropping, the other one is what the cat does in the playroom) and are now festooned with pea pods, although they appear to be a mange tout/snow pea type thing which is a double surprise as I was expecting normal peas. But hey, the children are thrilled nonetheless.

On the allotment I find myself peering anxiously at the seed beds, waiting for seeds to pop up. They seem to be taking ages this year, maybe it's to do with the late spring or maybe I'm just a bit more hyper aware this year than in previous years. I'm finding growing on an allotment scarily public, it just invites direct comparison and competition doesn't it? Maybe it affects the psyche and makes a gardener more combative. Hmmm, just a theory.