No gold medal for my runners

Runner beans in a big tub
Runner beans in a big tub

I don’t have much to compare them with and I’m no runner bean expert but I get the feeling that my runner beans are lagging behind a bit. August is just a weekend away but there doesn’t seem to be as much growth as I had expected.

There has been up to 3 feet of growth winding up the poles but none of that growth has anything much in the way of side growth (leaves, etc). First job would seem to be some research into runner bean development to gauge the performance so far.

I think an important lesson has already been learnt because I realise that if the growth I was expecting had materialised then they were obviously planted far too close together!

The tub was filled with brand new compost so perhaps that had some negative impact on things? The other aspect could be watering as I know that tubs need regular attention but with all the rain lately I assumed that side of things was dealt with.

If I knew what I was talking about I might suspect that the excessive rainfall has washed away the nutrients in the pot so I should add feed occasionally.  Of course I have no idea and I’m just guessing but I might do that anyway.

Leaf damage on runner beans
Suspicious leaf damage on runner beans

One thing seems certain though as the picture shows, there is some wildlife taking chunks from the leaves. I’ll need to keep checking the plants to find out the exact cause though but I’m not interested in spraying chemicals and such like.

It’s not that I’m a great organic fan or a staunch non-chemical gardener, it’s just that at this stage I’d like to know more about what is going on and the typical problems that can arise.

Later on I can look into the various solutions available and pick a suitable line of attack at that time.

There’s still plenty of time left for everything to come good and I’m too much of an optimist to lose hope at this stage.

If all else fails there are some seedlings in what was the potato patch and these are a month or so behind these so all is not lost.

Another step closer to the move

The deed is done

House for sale!So our current house is on the market with a local estate agent now even though the decorator is still finishing off some painting in the kitchen. As seems common in this situation we have high hopes of early interest but don’t know whether buyers are out there and we can  expect any serious offers.

It would be nice to have a couple of acceptable offers to choose from but in the current UK housing market I’d probably settle for just one that came somewhere close to a reasonable figure.

Luckily we are in a great position and it doesn’t look like we will be completely dependent on a specific sale figure to buy somewhere with land. Obviously that may change according to the offers we receive but the more money we can get on the sale the better!

Potential Shortlist

We have managed to build up a list of around 5 places which meet many of our original requirements but sadly (and unsurprisingly) none of them meet all the points! Now is the time for some serious property viewing, detailed note taking and extensive internet research so that we’re ready to make our move when a buyer is found for our house!

Without giving too much away, here is a brief summary of our current favourites but this list changes regularly according to our mood:

  1. A “real” smallholding with all facilities in place but only 3 acres
  2. A small farm (5-10 acres) with easier holiday let potential
  3. Another small farm (under 5 acres) with possible holiday let to develop
  4. A rural bungalow with land (under 5 acres) with some facilities in place
  5. An “ordinary” house with 2-3 acres on the edge of a village

We’ve already seen and rejected quite a few cheaper fixer-uppers on the internet as we’re not quite brave enough for that. However this quote that I came across in many places on the web still seems very apt:

It is an exciting time where the only limits you have are the size of your ideas and the degree of your dedication

However perhaps the more obvious quote I should use is this (see

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero
(Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future)

Farewell to the new potatoes

With a final flourish of flavour and texture this year’s harvest of new potatoes has now been completed. There were a few leftovers from the last meal but they won’t last long as I plan to fry them up soon unless they get eaten by someone else before then!

Overall the yields from the handful of plants were quite impressive and if I’m honest probably better than I expected. The plants managed fairly well but it wasn’t an ideal location due to some overhanging growth from next door. The occasional heavy rain also didn’t help and some plants were quite badly beaten into submission in the end.

Half of their veg bed is already taken up with some runner beans and some more of the hand-me-down broccoli seedlings because I’m trying to make the best of my limited space. I’m sure there will be a couple of potatoes that turn up when I dig over the remaining part of the bed before putting in something else.

The most likely candidates to fill this space are some extra carrots which could be ready for planting out by early August. These are a fast growing variety so they should be ready for a harvest before the northern autumn weather sets in (I hope).

More eggs than at Easter!

From time to time our fridge fills up with eggs even though we only have 3 chickens and there are 3 grown adults in our house. Some days we open the fridge door and there are eggs wedged in almost every available space – in fact it’s amazing they don’t fall out!

I know we could probably pass some on to No.1 or No.2 daughter and they would be glad of some free food but somehow that doesn’t always happen. It might be a lack of egg cartons or just simple forgetfulness but the result is 3 more eggs in the morning and the fridge soon fills up.

Obviously we must be more efficient in our egg handouts I guess and we  should  palm them off  give some to work colleagues, friends and neighbours as well. However my first reaction when this glut appears is to wonder what other options are available for cooking with eggs.

On many occasions we have an excess of eggs simply because we’re bored with scrambled, poached or boiled!

This led me to  and an interesting recipe for Ham And Egg Cobbler which looks very quick and simple to prepare although perhaps a little plain. I like “quick and simple” as much as the next person but when I attempt this recipe I will probably be adding some extra ingredients to add “interest”.

Ideally I would like to work with something from the garden but I’m not sure that carrots would go with this and I don’t have time to wait for the leeks to get bigger. However I could try an early harvest of some garlic and even an onion perhaps to liven things up.

Some other good general links I found were the Good Food Channel from UKTV and the BBC Good Food site but  something I’ve definitely noted for future reference is this Scotch Egg recipe from The Guardian website.

Please let me know about any other good egg recipe ideas and watch this space…

Baking better bread

Last night I had another go a bread baking with a few minor tweaks to the basic recipe and I managed to turn out a couple of truly majestic tasting but diminutive white loaves. Each of my attempts at bread making yield slightly different results, some of which are better than others  but this most recent effort was generally considered an excellent batch.

Each time I like to vary the approach slightly to get a better understanding of how that affects the results so this time I decided to split the resulting dough between two loaf tins not using a single tin as normal.

Another variation was the use of Allinson Premium White Very Strong Bread Flour which I hadn’t tried before. Maybe this explains the good results but I’m not giving up all the credit just yet.

Also while leaving the dough to prove for an hour or so in the tins before baking, I decided to put them in the oven which had  retained a little heat from use earlier in the evening.

The oven wasn’t by any means hot but just warmer than the kitchen and I believe this also influenced the results. I can’t let Allinson’s get all the glory!

If there is a downside to this batch of bread I would have to say it was the loaf size. I know we should value quality rather  than quantity but I would have prefered both in equal amounts!

Next time I think I will increase the quantities used by about 50% so that each loaf is visually just that little more impressive.

Another planned future variation will be to experiment with adding seeds (e.g. pumpkin, poppy etc) or other flavourings before baking.

I’m always on the look out for  good  bread recipes though so please pass them on to me!


Second helpings of cabbage

I knew I had read about this somewhere but I couldn’t remember where until I checked just now. When I first harvested some of the over wintered cabbages some weeks ago I just went ahead and left the plant in the ground with just a short stem showing.

I couldn’t remember the exact recommended procedure but it seemed to be worth a try. After a bit of searching on the web this evening I think that I must have got this from the RHS website originally because I found the following extract on their cabbage page:

Cabbages are harvested by cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife. Cut a 13mm (1/2in) deep cross in the stump of spring and summer cabbages and you’ll be rewarded with a second crop of much smaller cabbages.

via Cabbages / RHS Gardening.

Cabbage stump with new growth

Slightly to my surprise I have now found out that this actually works but I realise now that I didn’t do things exactly as recommended.

As can be seen in this picture, I forgot about cutting a cross into the stump but even my incompetence didn’t stop this from working.

Obviously in future I will always do exactly what the RHS tell me just in case the vegetable police come around to check !


Uncertain about the (unplanned) broccoli

Back in the spring I “inherited” a few pots which contained what were described at the time as broccoli seedlings. There were no plans to grow broccoli as I only had limited space but I’m unable to resist a few seedlings and I was curious to see how they would turn out.

Eventually I potted them on when they needed it and then planted them out in the garden. However I have no idea whether they really are broccoli, how/what I should do to encourage them nor is it clear how I can tell when it’s harvest time!

At the moment I quite like the dainty yellow flowers  but I have a nasty feeling that perhaps they are  a bad sign? In reality these seedlings were only planted in some spare flower bed space so it doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things but I’d still like to understand this a little better.

As far as I can tell this might be either broccoli or calabrese but none of the online information I’ve read so far tells me when it should be harvested. I think I read somewhere that one of the two is an over-wintering crop while the other isn’t so maybe I’ll just leave them alone for a while and see what happens towards the end of summer.

Here is a picture of a couple of the plants in case anyone can provide some better information to clear up my confusion…


Late Update:

Oh dear… After another quick search around the web just before posting this  I think I’ve missed a trick with this broccoli. Oh well, at least the flowers look nice!

The time to cut your first `spear` or flower shoot is when they are well formed but the tiny flower buds have not yet opened. Letting them flower will render the spear tasteless.

via Growing Broccoli For Best Results – Vegetable Growing Tips and Pictures.

Reviewing: A Farmers Life for Me – Jimmy Doherty

A Farmer’s Life for Me: How to live sustainably, Jimmy’s way (from Amazon)

This book caught my eye in the local library while I was looking for something about chickens or pigs. Needless to say there wasn’t much in a small suburban library that suited my original needs but I decided to give this book a try anyway.

My first reaction was that this would be just another one of “those” books that just skim the surface of the subject without giving enough detail. Despite this it seemed a good idea to give it a go because the recent TV programs showed that his approach and opinions are not so far from my own.

In some ways this does skim the surface exactly as expected because it just isn’t possible to cover the range of topics in detail without producing a multi-volume epic.

However this book also manages to give better information (or perhaps the same information in a better way) so that I felt I was getting more out of it. As a result this has turned out to be one of the few books that I am able to reread and get more out each time.

There is a wealth of useful information on both growing produce and rearing livestock but the inclusion of the recipes add a little something extra which I think helps to tie the whole book together.

This will certainly be purchased in the near future so that I have it available for future reference at all times. It will be placed up on the book shelf next to the other smallholding books I’ve gathered so far – the obvious book by John Seymour plus one by Dick / James Strawbridge (as discussed elsewhere) and the Haynes Smallholding Manual which is the most recent addition.

Each of these books contribute something to my overall knowledge and together they will hopefully ease my passage while preventing any costly or painful mistakes!

Another chaotic week or two…

Just lately things have been overtaken by the preparations for the recent wedding for No.2 daughter so the blog has suffered quite a bit. This situation was not helped by a crashed disk drive with lots of fairly important data which has now proved to be unrecoverable (hardware failure).

On top of all that we had some proper monsoon conditions here in the North East last Thursday (28 June) but I’m very conscious that some other people had a worse time with houses flooded and power outages.

Here is a picture of the garden at about the worst point last Thursday evening (the day before the wedding!)…image


And less than a week later here is roughly the same view now:image


Luckily the wedding was generally unaffected by all this chaos and everything went very smoothly on the day. Normal life can now be resumed!