Saturday, 29 August 2009


This is my usual Saturday morning. I go to Manningtree town. This morning I visited The Wholefood store to get my bottles of Ecover washing up liquid and fabric conditioner topped up. Also bought some Kingfisher toothpaste, humus and olives.
On to the library to take some books back.
And then to the market. Fruit and Veg from Darren, today I bought some potatoes, nectarines, sweetcorn, carrots, onions and a cucumber. Not much but we are still eating from the garden.

Lastly my favourite stall. I call it the "Food Stall" They sell all sorts of packets and jars of food, like cake, biscuits, crisps, nuts, sweets and tins and jars. Some items are nearly up to their sell by date, some are well known brands and others I have never heard of. Some is very good quality and some not so. I always have a look to see what bargains there. This week they had Tesco finest teabags - mint, lemon and ginger and chamomile for just 50p for 25 bags, and there is a year until they reach sell by date. The boxes are a bit squashed, but as I am not giving them away I don't mind.

While out this morning I met up with 3 friends had a chat with them all, catching up on what they have been doing.
On the way back picked up a bag of hay for the guinea pigs and home for a well deserved cup of tea and put it all away.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Today I decided to make some bread. I had a packet of "Wrights" Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia bread mix in the cupboard, and decided to make it. This was very easy, just add water and olive oil and mix, then let it rise and cook.
After that I thought that I would make a loaf by hand and not in the breadmaker as usual. I just followed the recipe on the back of the yeast packet. It was quite hard work kneading it for 10 whole minutes!! I made two loaves.

As there was no cake left and I wanted something for Alice to take for her snack tomorrow I decided to get a "sausage roll" of biscuit mixture out of the freezer and cook. Some time ago and made some orange and cranberry biscuits, there was quite a lot so froze half of it in a roll. When it had thawed a bit, I just sliced it up and cooked the biscuits.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


The weekend is almost over, a few short days until Alice goes off on her travels and a week until I go back to work.

Alice will leave on Thursday morning to do a six month work placement in Germany. She is so excited and so am I, but I am going to miss her so much.

This is a photo of some annual climbing plants, called Blackeye Susan that I have grown for the first time this year. I planted them in tubs and grown them up some canes.

This weekend I went to the market and they had a good price for plums so I bought 6 pounds to make into wine. I started it off this morning by cutting each one in half, removing the stone and then squashing them by hand - that was fun. Then they were covered with boiling water and left for 48 hours.

Someone I know said he had some Elderberry bushes and that I could go and pick. They were laden with ripe fruit. We picked two large carrier bags full, and after spending hours taking them off the stalks ended up with 7 pounds, which is great. I will be able to make 4 different lots of wine with them. I have put them in the freezer for now, as I don't have the right sort of yeast.

This morning I also racked the strawberry wine and made some fishcakes and froze them. They will be ready for quick dinners when I get back to work

Friday, 21 August 2009

garden changes

This was my back garden taken on a winter day earlier this year. The garden is long and narrow, about 80 foot long. At the bottom is a large sycamore tree which shades a large are. There is an apple tree and a small wildlife pond. By the house is a small patio and the rest is laid to grass.
For the last few years we have tried to grow some vegetables in pots and tubs, with a little success. Last year we dug over a patch of the grass to create a tiny vegetable plot, this was soon filled and we were running out of space to put the pots.

So this year we planned to build some raised beds. We decided that we couldn't move the apple tree so they would have to be built around it.

I wanted this area divided off from the rest of the garden with arches and a flower bed. The first arch was built on an angle to met up with the shed.

The other are was built on an angle on the other side, both of these were lined up with the paths between the raised beds.

Lukey dug the beds quite deeply and pulled out as many roots and weeds as he could.

We then took a trip to Capel st Mary armed with wellies, spades and plastic sacks to get some spent organic mushroom compost. I didn't think that it would smell quite as bad as it did and since then have always given my mushrooms an extra scrub. We went to a place along the Harwich Road that sells wood chips and bagged up our own. This was laid on the paths between the bed. I think that it looks lovely and have spent a lot of time in my "vegetable garden".

Soon they were planted, growing and now we are harvesting. For the last 3 weeks I have been picking a handful of runner beans each day. I grew them with some borage and sweet peas

This is a picture of the cabbages, sweetcorn and beetroot.

We have grown: potatoes, onion, cabbages, carrots, spring onions, beetroot, swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers, sweetcorn, runner beans, courgettes, butternut squash, coriander, peas and tomatoes.

I have also got french beans growing, these were put in late, in a gap I had to see what will happen. We have planted some winter vegetables- purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and brussel sprouts. They are covered with netting to keep the butterflies off as they lay eggs which turn in to caterpillars who eat the leaves. Our butterflies are very clever as they have managed to get in and we are picking off the caterpillars!

I still don't think that I have enough room to grow what we need so have put my name down for an allotment, I am number 10 on the waiting list. I think that I may be waiting some time.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


This year we have grown a few tomatoes. I planted some seeds in the heated propagator at the end of March, although they germinated quite quickly, they didn't grow much.

One day, outside a house on the way to Manningtree, there was a box of tomato plants with a sign saying please help yourself to one or two plants. So I did ( I left a note saying thank you). These plants were much bigger and stronger than mine.

A few weeks later it was my birthday and I was given some more plants, all different varieties, then my Mum gave me some plants. A couple more weeks and my plants started to grow - so we ended up with loads more than planned.

We decided to grow them in grow bags, placed along the path beside the garage where they would get full sun. As grow bags are not very attractive I persuaded Lukey to build some wood surrounds and then cover the bags with wood chips to hide them. I think that this worked very well.

Many leaves and green tomatoes later we actually picked the first two.

Lukey is in charge of the tomatoes, he picks off the side shoots and leaves, puts up the supports and ties them up with string. He also waters them most days and feeds them with tomato feed when he remembers. Alice advises on all of this as she is the expert (!) as she has spent 7 summers picking in the greenhouses.

This week I picked a whole bowl full and today there are more to pick.

I hope to make some more tomato ketchup. Make some sauce for cooking and freeze it, maybe make some chutney and some more dried tomatoes. I already have lots of green tomato chutney left from last year so don't really want to make any more of it this year. Lets hope that they all ripen.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A very productive day

I woke up early this morning and did some knitting and drank a cup of tea. I then checked on the bucket of cider that I started on Friday, it is bubbling away nicely.

I had picked some ruhbarb in the spring and put it in the freezer. I got it out on Friday and started some wine. This morning I had to hand crush the fruit and add the yeast.

I then washed and sterilised some wine bottles

I had a bit of help with the bottleling - it is always a two man job!

This is the sweet raisen dessert wine. I started it back in February and nurtured it for weeks adding sugar syrup and checking the sg reading every week. It tastes like sherry, I think it is ready to drink now, but will save some for Christmas.

We also bottled the Apple and Elderflower wine that was started in June, this seems to have been done quickly and is almost ready to drink.
I also racked some orange and apple wine that I started last October, it should have been ready in a few weeks. I don't know what went wrong, but will keep it a bit longer to see if it will improve with age!

Later we set off for a walk with scissors and carrier bags to some Elder bushes. This is where I picked the elderflowers in June and we went to see if the berries were ready. They were ripening and some were ready, we picked what we could. We also found some blackberries. We stopped off for coffee at our friends house on the way home.

Back home I stripped the elderberries off the stalks with a fork, it was quite a long and boring job. The whole carrier bag that we had collected only yeilded 2 and half pounds of berries. I froze 2 pounds ready to make some wine and used the rest to make some "Elderberry Rob" this is supposed to help with coughs, colds and flu. Thought that I had better be prepared for the swine flu!. The elderberries were simmered with sugar, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. This can be diluted in hot water to help relieve a cold.

I made a blackberry and apple crumble with the berries that we had picked and apples from the garden.

I also made some flapjacks for this weeks lunch boxes.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Yesterday I went to McLauchlans Pick your own farm in Boxted to get some Raspberries and black currents. I picked quite a few!

I made
some raspberry jam. Which is dead easy. Just put one and three quarter pounds of raspberries, one bag of jam sugar (this already has the pectin in it) and the juice of a lemon in a pan, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for 4 minutes - done!

I then made some Raspberry Cordial. Again very easy. 600g of Raspberries, 300 g of caster sugar, the juice of half a lemon and 1 litre of water are bought to the boil and then simmered for 6 minutes. This is then sieved to get rid of the pips and bottled. Keeps in the fridge. Very nice with fizzy water.

After picking the fruit I stopped at the butchers in Langham for a chicken, went on to Tesco's for groceries and petrol it is about 5p a litre cheaper there than the petrol station up the road.

For dinner I did roast chicken, roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding, carrots, broccoli, runner beans, stuffing and bread sauce. Both the potato's and runner beans from the garden.
Raspberries and creme freche for pudding.
Didn't have time to do anything with the blackcurrents.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Scrapbook day! Once a month I meet up with my friends Nicky, Sue and Kim. I met them about 3 years ago at a crop club. The club closed but we carried on meeting in Kims' house.

This was the first time that I had been able to meet up since April due to many things happening on Saturdays. So we had lots to catch up on, all the news about our lives and families, photos to look at. Each month we do a scrap page pack from the shop, so I had 4 packs waiting for me.

Also, as we had not met in May, we had missed my birthday, so Nicky made a lovely coconut and lime cake.....mmmmm...... very nice.

They also bought me a beautiful orchid and flowers.

After we had eaten cake, drunk coffee and oh yes completed our scrapbook pages, we went out to lunch. We went to the cafe at Poplar Nursery in Marks Tey. After lunch we had a quick look around the garden centre, looking at the plants and in the gift area. I bought some very pretty paper bun cases!

Looking forward to our September get together.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Toamto ketchup

I was given a load of beef tomatoes, yellow and red ones so decided to have a go at making some ketchup. After much hard work I ended up with one and a half small bottles. I followed the Jamie Oliver recipie from his book "jamie at home".

Gently cook the following chopped vegetables: 1 large red onion, 1 stick of celery, half a bulb of fennel with a piece of ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, half a red chilli, some basil, including the stalks, 1 tbs of corriander seeds, 2 cloves, salt and pepper for about 15 mins.
Then add 1kg of chopped tomotoes and 350 ml of water, simmer until reduced by half.

Then the fun: blend until smooth and then push through a sieve twice - chuck out ( or rather put on the compost) the mush in the sieve

Then put the liquid back in the saucepan with 200 ml of red wine vinigar and 70g soft brown sugar and cook until thick - like ketchup. Watch that it doesn't burn, as mine almost did.

Then bottle in strerilised bottles.

MMMMMmmmm....... lovely but a lot of work, took me most of the morning on and off. If I get some more tomatoes will make at least double, as much as I can in one go.

So we had to have chips for tea.....

Monday, 3 August 2009


I have been trying to change the way I live for a couple of years now, maybe more for somethings. I think I have been taking glass bottles to the bottle bank for nearly 20 years.

It all started when I watched a tv programme about the amount of chemicals in cosmetics and what they could do to you. The said that some women could use around 40 different products in the morning just getting ready to go out to work.

This got me thinking and researching a bit. I think what I found was although most of these chemicals are probably safe, but there have been no tests on the cocktail of different things that we use each day.

So from then on I decided to try and replace everything I use. I could not afford just to throw everything away and buy new all in one go, so I decided to find a replacement as each thing ran out.

Other changes we have made are recyling, composting, saving electric and trying to find "green" cleaners. This is all work in progress, trying out new products, seeing what works for me and what doesn't. Still can't find a good mascara, but have changed toothpaste. We now use Kingfisher fennel toothpaste. When we ran out we used some "normal" aquafresh or something that was lurking in the back of the cupboard and it was dreadful, stung my gums and tasted so strong that I couldn't use it. I now keep stocked up on Kingfisher. I am trying out all sorts of cleaning products using borax and vinigar, will put the recipies on here when I get them sorted out.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Hot tub weekend

What a weekend!

We hired a hot tub and had a spa weekend. Mark bought it on Thursday morning and set it up. By Friday afternoon it was hot, as soon as Alice got home from work we jumped in!

In again Friday night. On Saturday Alice had her friends round for a spa party, handmade face masks, healthy barbeque - vegeburger, pita bread, dips and veges, fruit kebabs. Jugs of strawberry cordial and Pimms. What a mess when they had all finished! It poured with rain all afternoon and evening, but they moved the gazebo over the pool and carried on.

The sun shone on Sunday, and we were back in. Another barbeque. Jared had his friends round in the evening.

Mark will come and take it away on Monday evening, so looking forward to one last go in it tomorrow afternoon.

This has been the most un- green, un- eco thing to do - using lots of water and electricity, but I have justified it by saying that this is our holiday and we haven't flown anywhere. And all for £99!