Saturday, 5 October 2013

Life?! Don't Talk To Me About Life!

Okay, so Winter didn't end until the middle of May, Spring ran by at full tilt, Summer was glorious but I'm not quite sure how we got to October SO quickly. Where has this year gone? I can't believe that it's over 3 months since my last post...really not sure how time has flown by at such a lick - maybe there's a hole in the space-time continuum again?!

Actually, I think it's because despite the very late start, we've actually had a fabulous summer and actually done lots of 'stuff - unlike last year where we constantly getting rained off!.One thing we have done is finally completed one side of the front garden project that we began way back in March 2010....yes, that does say 2010! Things happen slowly around here  :-P

Anyway, the front garden has gone from this - the laurels were taken out by our Tree Surgeon, his lads and their Land Rover you do!
Then I brought in a bit of hired in teenage muscle from the school where I'm a Governor. They cleared some smaller roots, weeded the whole area and dug a trench to reduce the pressure on our old and somewhat wonky dry stone wall...a trench which I promptly began filling in with stones from the cleared area to help with drainage...yeah, right! Nothing to do with not being prepared to slog barrowloads for stones uphill to the stone come everywhere is uphill in our garden?!

To this in Autumn of 2012 after Himself had rotivated it:

And in April this year after re-weeding, much raking and rolling to levelling:

With this - Himself's lastest invention!

To this! A glorious, lush, green open space of approximately 220sq metres.......that is currently being covered in Autumn leaves! 

So all I need to do to do now (HAH- ALL!!!) is to finish clearing the other side of the drive - which is only about half the size, sort out/ fill in the huge holes where the laurel stumps were, get it something like level despite the rapidly changing gradiant of the slope and then get Himself in to finish the job and seed it. Simples! Should be done in time for Spring seeding...should be!

We've also finished the bottom pond up in the Japanese garden - but as that is several blog posts in its own right you'll have to hang on a bit!

We've had a superb year with the fruit and vegetables. You may remember that last year my vegetable garden looked like this:

So many of my vegetables drowned, rotted or just didn't bother poking their heads above ground because it was so cold and wet for so much of the summer...seriously depressing after all the work I'd put into getting everything ready in spring and we got very little that was edible as even the stuff that did manage to grow ended up woody and tasteless. You can read about last year's garden disaster here if you plough through past the trip to the Lake District, the wedding and the Olympics! 

This year has been a different matter altogether :-D The long, long winter meant I didn't even plant any seeds until April when the light started to improve and nothing was planted out until early June when the weather started getting better and better. the result? A lush green verdant vegetable garden!

Carrots - taken me SEVEN years to get decent carrots!, parsnips, 3 sorts of cabbages, spinach, rainbow chard, kale, French beans, runner beans......

....leeks, peas, raspberries, eating apples, cooking apples, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb and my first ever blueberries.The bare soil is where the potatoes, onions and garlic had been - which is soon to be planted with broad beans to overwinter. The overwintering onions and garlic are going in where the carrots are about to come out!

 The greenhouse was equally productive, with 5 different types of tomatoes, cucumbers and my first aubergine to ever get to an edible size!

The 4 varieties of chillies and the 2 types of peppers cropped superbly and most are now nestled happily in my freezer.

We did have some anomolies amongst the 'Costulo Fiorentino' tomatoes - but I ate the red parts and am still here to tell the tale!

'Fort Sweetcorn' protected our best ever sweetcorn crop from the ravaging attacks of the foxes and badgers, allowing us to finally enjoy our full crop of sweetcorn rather than just getting the oddments the animals had kindly left behind! We've had roughly 50 corn cobs - all delicious so far :-)

Because I had interplanted, 'Fort Sweetcorn' had the added bonus of protecting the squashes as well. These 3 varieties cropped well but the Butternut squashes didn't and I have NO idea why.

A recent and decent hour's work!
...and the next day's pickings!

All of which lead to a flurry of cooking...this is the early stages of 'Old Dowerhouse Chutney' - a recipe from the Blessed Delia which has become a family favourite! :-)

This was one afternoon's work (it's a phone photo, so not as good a quality)

My grand total so far is:
8 jars of raspberry jam
8 jars of plum jam
8 jars of blackcurrant jam (with lbs and lbs of extra fruit in the freezer)
2 jars of Spitfire Sauce
4 jars of pickled cucumber
4 jars of pickled onions
3 jars of green tomato ketchup
3 jars of chilli oil
11 jars of green tomato chutney
14 jars of Old Dowerhouse chutney and
after my first ever experiment with American canning
5 jars of pickled French beans

The cooking apples are almost ready...but I'll need to stew and freeze most of them which may lead to a freezer crisis as both my freezers are full to bursting point. I'll just have to eat a lot in order to make the space then *sigh* .... a tough job, but I'm sure Himself won't be averse to helping out!

The only things that didn't work were the salad crops and herbs ...because the slugs and snails feasted on them :-(  I did plant some salad crops in trays in the greenhouse, which worked quite well but we didn't have the big crop I was hoping to get out of the ground.

That didn't bother me too much, but one event broke my heart!

My much loved (by me anyway!) 21 year old Land Rover finally failed its M.O.T., needing over £2k's worth of work on its chassis ... maybe I'd driven him through too many rivers and through too much deep mud over the years? - aaah, happy times!

Anyway, Himself sold him to the owner of the panel shop nextdoor to the garage and he's going to strip him down, rebuild him and then use him, so at least he will carry on being loved by someone else. I don't think I could have stood it if he's gone for scrap!

The final journey - and, yes dear readers, I wept!

He's been replaced by an eco-friendly, fuel efficient really girlie Kia Picanto...just not in the same league really. It's SO girlie that I couldn't even bring myself to put up a photo of it! Himself has promised me that I can have another Land Rover when we get rich......! Ho hum!