Allotment Adventures: Plant Sparta

It’s that time of the year when I plant all the things out and then worry. After last week’s great planting out, there where some plants that didn’t cope. I’m not sure about some of the cukes, two of the squash definitely aren’t going to make it but much to my surprise all of the summer squash seem to be ok and the celery is really happy!It was hot on Saturday and I had a funny turn with my breathing. So we watered, picked, pulled up some weeds and put a net over the blueberries.We’re at that point where all we have to do is water, maintain and wait for the food.

However, there was one ripe raspberry (on the autumn raspberries) that Ma ate, and there were broad beans, baby leaf salad, lemon verbena and mint to pick and we’re about a month away from it all happening. Meanwhile there are many beds to water, I did ten trips and that was about half the plot…There are more flowers this week, the verbena boneriesis, the lavender, chives and the peas are all flowering along with the ever present california poppies.

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Monday Miscellany: Family, Football and Bats

Saturday was the Champions League Final. We have a family draw and the family WhatsApp group looked a lot like this. Folks, this is my family and it explains so much.

In other news, I was in the winning work quiz team. and I bought a black currant bushIt was a pretty normal week!

This week I have three days in the office, a day at a conference and half a day off for a haircut and maybe some time with godchildren 2 and 3 and their grandfather.

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Sunday Music: Sally MacLennane – The Pogues

This was on the radio this morning and reminded me how much I like it..

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Friday Links: When the guy that smoked opium is a better bet than anyone else

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a good week. I’m fresh from being on the the work quiz’s winning team and Chelsea beat Arsenal in the Europa. So it’s been a good week for petty victories…

Here are this week’s links

Chelsea win Europa League after Eden Hazard inspires thrashing of Arsenal. I really, really love it when we beat Arsenal (I know it’s childish, but it’s my damage)

Britain is in the grip of an existential crisis that reaches far beyond Brexit

Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren’t paying attention. I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t wake up to a country I didn’t recognise. Britain is a country of contradictions, we pride ourselves on the ‘mother of all parliaments’ and have an unelected Head of State. We celebrate the Battle of Cable Street but forget that it happened because fascists wanted to march. Both defenders and antagonists were British. None of this is new. I would tend to look more at economic issues than just racism, but then I probably would, I’m white and not likely to be told to ‘go home’ but when people feel insecure economically, when they feel that they don’t have much and that’s being taken away from them, and yes when they go to places that they that’s generally when racism of the type we are talking about gets more of a foothold.

Here was Nigel unplugged. His narcissism and self-deceit exposed

Instead of kicking out Alastair Campbell, Labour should listen to him

Bigmouth strikes again and again: why Morrissey fans feel so betrayed. I was never really into The Smiths, and I never liked Morrissey, he’s really not as clever as he thinks he is and he’s a racist but Johnny Marr is a god…

Speaking of celebrities making racist statements – John Cleese isn’t alone in equating ‘English’ with white. Sadly, that view is mainstream

There Are Two Types of Airport People. Oh this is interesting. Although I have a reputation for lateness, I’m not generally a late airport person. I have only rushed through with the prospect of missing my flight, twice. Once was because the trains were screwed and the other because the transfer at Charles De Gaulle took a lot longer than they said it would. Both times to see Jo, so I’m going to blame her. However, there is a running family joke about how I struggle with transition, and yes “distract and procrastinate, and next thing you know, they can’t do what they need to do to get there on time” as a way to deal with stress is exactly my M.O.

Most of us feel sleepy in the afternoon. Why can’t work fit round that?

Chick-fil-A’s many controversies, explained

Cheap and cheerful: why there’s more to Primark’s success than you thought

Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert. Nice to know that I have achieved something. Society at large spends a lot of time telling me that without spouse or children I’m worthless! So I shall just remember how much happier I am than they are!

 

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Cooking from the Plot: Chard and Goat’s Pasties

Last weekend we pulled the chard up from its bed and with that there will be no more chard in the Dempsey household until August at the earliest. But over the last two months or so, those plants have been keeping us more than supplied with greens. So how to use it up. Mostly, I just stir fry it with garlic and a bit of olive oil but there was a week when faced with nearly a kilo of chard, I had to be a bit more inventive and these happened.This is based on a recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day, which is one of my favourite cook books for inspiration. The original recipe is spinach and ricotta, but says that you can use goats cheese instead. I find for putting greens in things, chard is better as it doesn’t need to have the water squeezed out of it when it’s cooked. The pastry for this is inspired, it’s stretchy to work with but once baked lovely and tender.

WHAT

For the pastry

  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g chilled butter cut into cubes
  • 75ml milk
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling

  • Olive oil
  • 350g chopped chard
  • 3 small red onions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Zest of one lemon
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 125g soft goats cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten

 

HOW

  1. Make the pastry. Put flour and butter in the food processor and blend until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add milk and blend again until it all comes together.
  2. Take it out of the processor and form into a disc. Wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge.
  3. Turn the oven on to ….
  4. In a large pan over a medium heat, heat about a tablespoon of oil and cook the chard.
  5. After about 10-15 minutes, it should have cooked through and reduced in size. Remove from pan and into largish bowl
  6. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onion is cooked through and translucent but not brown.  Add to the bowl with the chard.
  7. Add the goats cheese, lemon zest, a grating of nutmeg and salt and pepper to the bowl and set aside.
  8. Take the pastry and roll out to about 3mm, divide into six squares of roughly 13cm square.
  9. Add half of your beaten egg to the bowl of chard etc and mix it all together.
  10. Divide the mixture between the six pastry squares and fold over to make pasties. (I can’t do this tidily but my guess is that the pastry is stretchy for this reason!). Put on a baking tray
  11. Brush the pasties with the beaten egg and make a hole in the top for the steam.
  12. Place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasties are browned.

 

 

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Allotment Adventures: Planting out….

Two days on the plot, half the list done.

We did loads but there is so much more to do, isn’t there always….First up say hello to the summer squash! This is on Joe’s plot. Three yellow courgettes, four green courgettes, 3 crookneck squash. Yes, that’s a lot of squash. The first year I had the allotment, I had six courgette plants and one week an amazing 37 courgettes. I’ve never grown as many since and we’ve only ever sown one crookneck squash which has always been sufficient for our needs. So I am aware that we’re going to be swimming in summer squash. However, the plan is that Ma and I will water, feed and weed this area but Joe can take as many as he likes and there is a list of people willing to take on excess courgette, we can give some away for the produce sale and I quite like gluts. I want to make pickle, I can freeze grated squash for cakes and sauces and this is the world’s best use of courgettes (which I think I can adapt for frozen squash!). Also could I take a moment to recommend, DIY Diva, the blog that I found this recipe on, Kit is amazing, a country life is not my dream, (maybe if I could just do it in the city – Richmond Park or near Ham that would be fine) but Kit could convince me. She’s a builder and I love how much time she spends with her Mum, (although Ma and I know our limits and don’t mix power tools with wine – one of us would lose a finger!). All that to say we’ll cope with a glut.Something we don’t feel that we’ve ever had enough of is cucumbers. This is the cucumber bed five Boothbys Blonde, three Marketmore, the gherkins didn’t make it!

We also planted up the Uchiki Kuri, Butternut, Candy Roaster and Burgess Buttercup (in the three sisters bed). Then I noticed that one of the buttercups hadn’t make it and replaced with a spare uchiki kuri. Of course to get there, we had to dig up raspberries and fill the beds so it wasn’t as simple as it sounds.

We planted up the tomato beds too. The large bed is for the cherries. Red Pear and Yellow Delight. The two square beds are nine plants each, one full of San Marzano and one with five Marmande and four Cuor di Bue. We gave twelve plants to Joe and there are some spares and a mystery tomato that just came up and I’m planting in a bucket because I want to see which of the four five types it is! I sowed calendula in the two smaller tomato beds and I’ll plant out the basil in the larger bed in a couple of weeks.We also sowed the french beans and the sweetcorn and I’ll sow dill, coriander and marigolds next week. Finally I planted out the five surviving celery plants in the bed with the sweet peasWe weeded (obvs), topped up the potatoes cleared the chard bed, picked broad beans and watered loads. Then sat with a glass of wine and admired our little plot. So the trick is to freeze a bottle of wine and take the frozen wine to the plot in a rapid ice. By the time you’ve stopped work, you have some really cold defrosted wine. Seriously, best thing ever…Other good things are that another of lovely my allotment neighbours says that this year she’ll give me a boysenberry plant and some strawberry babies for next year. So my soft fruit empire plans have changed but will grow!

Finally, here is the updated task list….

  • fill new beds with compost
  • earth up potatoes
  • plant out courgettes, summer squash and some winter squash
  • sow french beans
  • sow sweetcorn
  • sort out some pea protection
  • trim grass paths
  • paint shed
  • sort out old compost bin
  • weed (the raspberries are appearing everywhere they shouldn’t!)
  • sow dill and coriander
  • sow marigolds and calendula
  • repot the small lavender

Next week, I have to get to everything else on the list and more weeding and all of the watering, I reckon it’s going to take me about an hour right now and an hour and a half by the end of June! I couldn’t wait for summer in February but now I’m wondering why I yearn for summer, so much work…

In addition, I need to do the following:

  • fill the last square bed with compost
  • plant out the leeks
  • re-sow the kale
  • pot on the rest of the cherry tomatoes
  • sow some courgettes for the plant sale
  • sow pak choi for after midsummer
  • prune the plum tree
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Tuesday Miscellany: It’s my Monday

Happy Tuesday! If you have a office job and are in the UK (or the US), you’ve had Monday off work and today is your Monday and it’s a four day week, so it’s the week that should feel shorten but you have to fit all your work into four days AND it’s half term here so the office is a ghost town as lots of parents are on leave to look after their offspring.

This week, I’m also looking after the CRO, as well as one of mine AND talking to/working out how I’m going to support the two new people that I’m going to be looking after, as the two I already support for transition out of the company. Friday was a day full of conference calls! In the time I’ve had this blog, I’ve had five jobs and two significant periods of unemployment, also during that time I had a job for seven years. It’s been stable and unstable, so it was a relief to know, when I found out that Mike and Sam were leaving at the the end of June, that my role was ok, I have apparently (without knowing that I was doing it) made a case for keeping me on and I’m likely to be much busier over the coming months, which is how I like it.

The rest of last week was fine, I got my gas reconnected on Monday (bloody Cadent), had a busy midweek because of unexpected meetings. I ended up minuting a meeting that I wasn’t expecting to and it involved moving between venues, I got my steps in but my boss was laughing very hard as I dashed into the meeting (on time but very red) for the meeting!

Ma and I bought 299 litres of compost and planted everything out! I also managed to bake a bit and read three and half books!

Because I’m busy this week, I’m working on washing all the plant pots, potting up the basil and tomatoes, walking more and generally being more in control (I pretty much say that every week I think), trying not to shout at the radio when Brexiteers are talking nonsense and trying not to be jealous about my brother and sis-in-law being on holiday this week. Look at these boys, so cute, so nice to each other, so unusual!

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