Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Little Bird Told Me...

Looking up today (prompted by the honking noises) there was a sure sign that winter is on the way:

Skein of Geese

And  then arriving at the allotment there was an unusual "guest" hotfooting it. 

Plucky Pheasant

Never seen one "in town" before

I'm told that the Augurs interpreted bird behaviour as a way of divining the future. I could do with one just now.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Harvest Monday - Reports of Their Demise Have Bean Greatly Exaggerated

Surprised to find that although the cold nights have frazzled the outer courgette leaves the runner beans are still producing some new flowers and pods.  The Joan J raspberries continue to astound! (Today I've taken the nets off the fruit cage to allow the birds the last pickings.)

Monday, 17 October 2016

How Green Is My.... Greenhouse?

Yes I've given up on my outdoor tomatoes, now granted refuge from the elements indoors



Less than a week ago I picked the last of the runner beans and (nearly) the last of the raspberries:

September 2016 has been the warmest on record (globally) but the sweetcorn doesn't seem to have got the message:

Perfectly formed ,,, but immature, as you can see from the one I've picked and stripped. Maybe next year...  maybe not.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

How Long.... Can This Be Going On

It is October and the greenhouse tomatoes (grown rather late from seed) have started ripening ...

...and some are still flowering.

(There are over twenty pairs on some of the Sungold trusses)

There's even a chance that the outdoor San Mazarno might yet ripen.


Well maybe once they are harvested and brought into the warmth of the kitchen. Otherwise it will be green tomato chutney time.

I just can't believe how long they (and summer) are hanging on for.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Last June I sunk a plastic half barrel into the ground

By July the water had cleared and I added a waterlily.  (Foolhardy perhaps as it wasn't a dwarf waterlily)

The neighbourhood rabbit ate the first few leaves, but now the pond looks like this:

There is a balance between the 6 plants (including the floating oxygenator)  which I suspect will be harder to maintain in future years. Still all would be forgiven if the lily were to produce a flower next year! 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Hanging on In There

It's the last week in September and the nights are getting colder (and longer).  The runner beans are still flowering and podding.

Time is running out for the sweetcorn:

The Kabocha  squash in the the foreground never really got going.  But going like clappers still  this row of courgettes

The Brassica patch is coming into it's own

In the background the autumn raspberries (Joan J) have responded to frequent picking by producing more and more fruit throughout September. They have been great. The blueberries have taken fright at the colder nights and stopped in their tracks.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Runner Bean Slicers

With a bumper crop this year I have rooted out my bean slicing devices:

The larger "auto bean slicer" is an homage to the wind turbines now dotted across our countryside. Who can resist the thrill of high speed rotating razor sharp blades?

The smaller "Bean Slicer and Stringer" is actually a more complex engineering feat both de-stringing and slicing in one action.  

Both cut thin slices one diagonally and the other lengthways.

I'm not recommending either as I always revert to using a small sharp knife.

The downsides of these gadgets are that the "auto bean slicer" requires you to trim (top and tail and if necessary de-string) the beans in advance. Any beanpods larger than the twin apertures need to be cut down to size too.  On feeding the trimmed beans through the device while turning the handle it spits out slices of varying sizes in a scatter pattern across 180 degrees. A circular bowl deployed at the receiving end will only catch a small portion of the output and is easily dislodged as you try to angle it for maximum capture. The result of my experimentation was so shamefully and comically messy I couldn't bring myself to record it. Cleaning should be carried out with extreme caution as those blades are sharp and unprotected. One is left with the question: Where is the "auto" in this manual device. If you had two people operating this together and a suitable capture system I guess you could produce a freezer full of beans in record time...

The "Bean Slicer and Stringer" has a better design, incorporating a separate blade for topping and tailing, four parallel slicing blades and two for stringing which self adjust courtesy of one of them being on a spring loaded arm. All blades are to some degree recessed within the plastic frame. The thing is that it strings the beans regardless, and it delivers a lengthways cut rather than lateral or diagonal. Nowadays it could be marketed as bean tagliatelle, but it is unconventional.  If you have long beans you are best to cut them into smaller lengths before feeding through the device. And the feeding is a dilema too. Do you push the length through or resort to pulling from the already sliced side with the risk of breaking them off? Probably a bit of both.

Having had to deploy your favourite sharp stubby kitchen knife you will, I assure you resort to conventional manual processing with it.  While topping and tailing you establish whether there is any string to be strung then cut at whatever angle takes your fancy straight into the pan. Job done! If you really like the idea of bean tagliatelle get the "Bean Slicer and Stringer".