Thursday, 29 April 2010

Growing Guide - Runner Beans

Growing From Seed – Indoors

Runner Beans beans are not hardy plants so it is always best to start them off indoors, be this a greenhouse or a sunny window ledge. You are best to start planting between March and May. Seeds should be planted one seed per cell, if using a divided tray and four seeds to a 9cm (3 1/2inch) pot. Plant your seeds around 2.5cm (1 inch) deep and ensure they are covered in compost. Water well and place them in your chosen sprouting location. Sprouting will take 7-10 days.

If using a propagator remove the seedlings as soon as the seedlings emerge and place them on a windowsill or greenhouse bench to avoid them going leggy.

Time to Plant Out

Runner beans do best in a nice sunny spot, if you are going for the full sized climbing varieties you may wish to take into account the wind factor as well. Runner beans like a nice rich soil so prepare with some nicely, well-rotted garden compost, fertiliser or farmyard manure.

By Mid May seedlings should be strong enough to be moved into a cold frame or just a sheltered part of your garden. By the end of May and towards the beginning of June the plants should be well acclimatised and ready for planting into their final position. If they are a climbing variety they may be quite large by now.

Plant about 15cm (6 inches) apart and space the rows around 45cm (18 inches) apart. For the climbing beans provide a cane of approximately 6 feet. You can plant one or two plants per cane successfully.

Plants should be watered well and ensure they receive enough water during any dry spells.

Harvest Time

Once the pods are around 8cm (3 inches) long they are ready to harvest. Ideally it is best to check the plants every couple of days to remove any that are the right size. When they start to produce they will do so quickly, and as a result if beans are left on the plant they will not produce as many flowers or pods.

Growing Guide at a Glance
Sow -In
Sow -Out

Monday, 26 April 2010

Lemon Squares

My Recipe is Featured on The Trendy Treehouse

If you love lemony cakes then you'll LOVE these Lemon Squares! The topping is reminisant of Lemon Curd or the lemony bit of Lemon Meringue Pie - soft, squidgy and nice and tangy! And they are nice and easy and quick to rustle up!!

For Base
250g self-raising flour
70g icing sugar
175g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

For Topping
2 large Lemons
4 large eggs
230g caster sugar
45g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder


Make Base
Put the flour and icing sugar in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Dice the butter and add to the flour mixture with the vanilla essence. Rub with fingers to form fine breadcrumbs.
Tip the crumbs into a 28x23x4cm greased baking tray and put in the oven (180oC) for 15 - 20 minutes until pale golden.

Make Topping
Zest Lemons and juice. Add zest and juice to all other topping ingredients and mix to form a thin batter. Pour the topping over the cooked base and return to the oven for 15 minutes, or until spongy to the touch.
Remove from the oven, cool, cut into square and remove from the tin.

You can dust them with more icing sugar before serving if you wish.

These seemed best when they were still slightly warm, just out of the oven, so you may wish to heat them slightly if there is a gap between making and serving!

Spongy Lemon Squares on FoodistaSpongy Lemon Squares
My Recipe is Featured on Foodista

Friday, 23 April 2010

Got Rabbits?...

This is a bit past due but better late than never. We have Bunnies! Not through choice, through location. For bunny lovers close your eyes while you read the next bit... ?.. Our cat Rocco, of Cat In Flowers fame, has started doing his bit and can often be seen bringing home a bunny shaped dinner, but his little efforts (an adult rabbit is about the same size as him!) are unfortunately not enough. (Bunny lovers can open their eyes now!) The veggie patch was being very much bunny munch city. Our garlic plants were getting a daily hair cut and the raspberry canes proving too enticing! (I cannot just blame the bunnies, there is a sheep problem.. but that's another story and one that will be solved by the bunny fix!) So bunny proofing was needed, so last weekend Farm Guy and Farm Dad set to work. Unfortunately bunny proofing requires digging the wire into the ground so it was a long tiring couple of days.

What has this photo to do with bunny proof fencing? Nothing. But it shows what happens in old houses when you pull on that light cord in the bathroom just one too many times! It didn't just snap it came completely out of the holder, so the whole fitting had to come off. That put back the "Bunny Barricaders" behind by about an hour before they even started!

One of the main jobs for the Bunny Busters was pulling out the old, completely useless older fence and putting in a new one. Problem with this fence is it runs along the bottom of a slope that has, over the years, slowly collapsed, so this needed to be built up and secured before fencing began.

But once it was done the fence looked great, now just the rest of the veggie patch to go! The red thing in the picture is Farm Dad's jacket on a 'bench' they constructed out of some old bricks they had found and stone which must have once formed the front step to one of the farm buildings. Even together they couldn't lift it. It was a case of two to lift up one end then two to lift up the other! It is not very sturdy at the moment, but I really like the placement of the bench so we are hoping to make it a more permanent feature. A throne from where we can view our veggie kingdom!

Here is the finished product, well almost finished all that was left at this point was to sort out the gate at the far side. The black blob in the middle there is an old tractor tyre. We have filled it with soil, stuck in some sticks, planted the peas and wrapped it all in netting. Ahhh.... a Pea Pyramid..

Over towards the gate things are getting fencey. The old gate post got to stay but everything else had to be replaced.

All that was left was some kind of gate so we can get in and out! Time was short by then, Farm Dad has quite a drive to get home, so a 'lift 'n' place' frame was fashioned from some wood lying around and some of the left over chicken wire... I think it looks pretty alright!!

Yes, that is a big farm gate on the right, but it is also not hung so you don't open it, you just haul it out of the way, we decided a smaller version was needed! And even once the biggun' is hung a smaller gate is much nicer to deal with on a day to day basis!

PS. Not sure what I did to make the photos so small this time, apologies.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Growing Guide - Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is a great addition to the table and can only be more attractive if you have grown it yourself. Whether it is corn on the cob or popped for a movie night if you grow your own you are going to get the best results. I have tried to find the best information I can for you regarding the growing of sweetcorn to try and help you get the best you can this year.

Growing From Seed - Indoors

When growing from seed it is important to remember that sweetcorn likes a nice deep root bed so make sure you pick deep trays or pods to start them off, or be prepared to ‘upgrade’ the pots once they begin to appear.

Seeds can be planted indoors in April and May which will allow them to be well established for planting out once the frosts have passed around June. It is best to start the seeds off individually, one seed to a pot or seed tray pod at a depth of around 1cm (1/2inch). Make sure you water them well and then leave to sprout. They will need a temperature of around 13-15oC (55-60oF) which you can achieve from a heated propagator, greenhouse or just on your kitchen window sill.

Growing From Seed – Outdoors

It is possible to sow your seeds outdoors, directly into situ in your vegetable patch. This is best done during May and June once the frosts have passed. When planting directly outside it is important to note that the success rate can be hindered by colder weather, birds and pests. When planting in this way you may wish to take precautions to protect the seedlings.

Outdoor propagated seeds need to be planted 45 cm (18inches) apart at a depth of 2.5cm (1inch). Sow two seeds in each hole and once the seedlings are established, remove the weaker plant.

Time to Plant Out

Sweetcorn is a hungry crop so ground that has been prepared with well rotted manure the previous year is perfect. It is not vital however, and preparing the ground a week before planting with fertiliser or chicken manure pellets will work wonders.

Young plants are ready to be planted out by June. You should choose a sheltered, sunny spot to give the best results. Plant in a block formation rather than rows but still leave 38-45cm (15-18inches) between each plant. The block formation allows increased pollination, corn is wind pollinated so this allows and increase in pollination success.

You may which, at this time, to protect the young plants from slugs and snails with a sprinkling of slug pellets or installing slug-traps. Young plants may also benefit from wire to protect them from birds.

Sweetcorn can be grown with many low lying crops, most usually squashes, as the corn grows tall so does not block the light. Lettuces also do well below corn. Climbing beans can also be grown alongside as the corn provides the perfect support.

Harvest Time

Once the green tassels begin to turn black the corn is nearing harvest time. Once the tassels have turned completely black peel back the protective sheath and press your nail into one of the kernels. If the liquid appears creamy then the corn is ripe, if it runs clear then leave for a few more days and try again.

Corn is removed by gently twisting the entire cob or by cutting. It is best for the corn to be peeled and cooked immediately in order to make the most of the freshness and sweetness.

Problems and Issues

Badly placed corn can result in low yields. Ensure the corn is grown in blocks to allow maximum pollination. Birds are a threat to young plants so protecting them with wire or netting is important. Slugs and snails will eat the young plants and leaves, protection through pellets or traps will help decrease this problem.

Sweetcorn is susceptible to a disease called Smut which will cause the cobs to become distorted and sometimes affects the leaves and stalks too. It shows as a soot-like covering and can easily be passed from plant to plant. Try to limit this by choosing smut resistant types and should a lot become infected leave for 5 years before replanting corn there.
Growing Guide at a Glance
Sow -In                      
Sow -Out                      

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Pledge Your Veg...

On one of my trips to the supermarket I was again drawn to the magazine aisle and towards the gardening magazines... do I need more? Nope. Will I buy more? Yep!
Well, whilst I perused this particular magazine i saw an advert for a scheme that the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is currently running. The Veg Pledge.
The basic concept is to encourage people to get growing by asking people to make a pledge on which veg they will grow. If you are already growing then just pick the stuff that you are already growing, or are going to be growing! Your details will be placed on a Pledge Map - although you can opt out of this - and your veg pledged is added to the nationwide totals.
There are no expectations - no crazed RHS Heavy will call demanding to see the veg you pledged, nor do you have to send in photos or anything else, it is just a chance to get together and see how much veg (and fruit) is being grown in the country!
There is the option to sign up for a newsletter, to get gardening advice and competitions etc, but you can opt out of this without worry.
The list of vegetables and fruit is limited (in fact it is only the top ten in Britain) so for seasoned gardeners out there many of your tasties will need to be missed, but it is a nice way to get a feeling of 'group growing' particularly for those non-allotment growers who rarely see another veggie grower face to face!
If you are interested or want to know more get on over to the RHS Website and see who in your area has already signed up then decide if you want to Pledge Your Veg!!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Realising the Dream Gets An Award... or Two!

Realising the Dream has been given two lovely awards from Mamma Kerr - check out her site for all things Family Frugal and Fun!

As always I am going to pass these awards onto the blogs that I am most enjoying at the moment and ones that I think you just HAVE to take a look at! But first there are further rules, I have to tell you 7 random things about me..... hmmmm..... prepare to be AMAZED...

  1. I can wiggle my nose (not side to side! Up and down!!)
  2. I was born in Dundee, Scotland
  3. I have flown a helicopter
  4. I am NO GOOD at abseiling!
  5. I have a Psychology degree (specialising in Animal Behaviour!)
  6. I once worked in a Hairdressers!
  7. I.... umm ... Wish I Could Be, Under the Sea, in an Octopus' Garden, In the Shade... ?

Now down to the good stuff, handing out of the awards...

Cold Antler Farm - I have only recently found this blog and I am hooked. This blog covers so much from the author's moving to a new farm and raising her animals to her music. What I love most is the style of the posts, her way with words is captivating.

Crosswinds Farm - Another lovely farm blog who is currently in the middle of lambing season! Always plenty of cute pictures and interesting stories.

On the Way to Critter Farm - One of my favourite blogs for inspiration! Every post written makes me think 'One day! One day that will be me!' Always plenty of posts and photos and her love of her animals shines through every one!

Life at Cobblehill Farm - Another wonderful inspirational blog here but if you want another great reason to go there.... the recipes.... say no more!!!

Life on a Southern Farm - there are always so many videos on this blog! You can imagine, as I do, living in these wide open spaces.. definitely another for my inspiration list!

Allotments for You - As always I have to include Allotments 4 You. This is a never miss on my blog reading list. For anyone out there who wants an allotment, and can't, then get some voyeurism in with this blog - great!!

The Good Life - this blogger left us for a while, but now they are back... and with a new twist.. These posts always make me laugh, a brilliant way of writing - always entertaining!

Thanks to everyone for their great blogs and for making my lunchtimes very amusing!
See other Awards

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - PaparCatzi

This is a not-so-wordless-Wednesday to introduce you to the latest in the Blogging team. From now on our wordless Wednesday's will be brought to you by our very own team of Papar-CAT-zis. As you can see, expertly modelled by our own Monty, is the Cat Cam. This is a lightweight stills camera that our boys will take shots with around the farm. They will photograph where humans do not dare to tread, and perhaps we will see something we never knew existed.

Our first few Wednesdays will be mainly around the house and barns so I can ensure that the camera
a) works
and, most importantly,
b) the cats are happy and comfortable with the camera.

So far our little pap-cats have been perfectly happy with their equipment, they don't seem to notice it is there.

There is a nice handy banner now which you can click for the latest PaparCATzi photos if you miss our Wednesday posts! See the example below... now on with Wordless -ed Wednesday!!

So here is our Papar-CAT-zi first attempts. Please excuse the blurriness - they are still getting the hang of the camera settings and tripod!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Plants of the Farm

There has be little blogging going on, as you know, due to our fascinating Broadband Extravaganza, but that doesn't mean life has stopped here at the farm. I have been planting seeds, only a few as we are trying to concentrate on the house not the garden, but I couldn't not resist having a few around the place. The living room window has become my little greenhouse and (as you can see) the little seedlings are doing well.

The big bruisers in the middle are my Peas, I will grow a few more of them so I get a bit of succession peas going on, but these grew SO fast I was unprepared!

Closest to us are Peppers. I am impressed that they grew at all as they sat there a long time and then proceeded to go mouldy! I tried a desperate attempt to dry them out by sitting them on the radiator then giving a little water and low and behold up they came! Three cheers for the Pepper plants!!

Right at the back, looking straggly are the Tomatoes. I have never tried growing tomatoes from seed so we will have to see what comes of that!

The other plants that deserve some recognition are the Fig Tree (which is on the left here) and the Kiwi Plant. These guys went through some hard times when we moved, Kiwi in particular got squished by a box. The pair of them decided the best thing to do was to shed all their leaves and look like sticks in pots for the past 3 months or so. But being left to their own devices (except the Kiwi seems to attract the cats who try to dig it up ??) they have both recovered and are trying their best.
The Kiwi was supposed to give fruit in its first year, but I am not sure if it will with all the drama it has had in its short little life. Again, another one to watch!!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Weekend - Hot Cross Buns

  • 450g strong white flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 2 x 7g sachets easy-blend yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 1 , beaten
  • 50g unsalted butter , melted, plus extra for greasing
  • oil , for greasing
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 100g currants
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  1. Put the flour, yeast, caster sugar and 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl with the spices and dried fruit and mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk, 50ml warm water, the beaten egg and the melted butter. Mix everything together to form a dough - start with a wooden spoon and finish with your hands. If the dough is too dry, add a little more warm water; if it's too wet, add more flour.
  2. Knead in the bowl or on a floured surface until the dough becomes smooth and springy. Transfer to a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with a clean, damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise until roughly doubled in size - this will take about 1 hr depending on how warm the room is.
  3. Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few secs, then divide into 12 even portions - I roll my dough into a long sausage shape, then quarter and divide each quarter into 3 pieces. Shape each portion into a smooth round and place on a baking sheet greased with butter, leaving some room between each bun for it to rise.
  4. Use a small, sharp knife to score a cross on the top of each bun, then cover with the damp tea towel again and leave in a warm place to prove for 20 mins until almost doubled in size again. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  5. When the buns are ready to bake, mix the plain flour with just enough water to give you a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag (or into a plastic food bag and snip the corner off) and pipe a white cross into the crosses you cut earlier. Bake for 12-15 mins until the buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. While still warm, melt the granulated sugar with 1 tbsp water in a small pan, then brush over the buns.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Finishing of the Living Room Floor

With Christmas out of the way we decided that the time had come to get the living room floor finished. We had decided that to keep things simple, and because we liked the finish of the Dining Room, we were going to do the Living Room floor as treated boards.

First things first, we needed to do was to lift the old carpet. It was exceedingly grubby and smelled pretty bad. The only thing for it was to take it down to the skip. This proved a bit of a laugh as the gap in the top of the skip was smaller than the carpet was wide. We tried pushing folding and even tried Farm Dad in the skip pulling!! Eventually we tried jumping on it, that got it in... kind of.... just walk away.. act casual.... casual... now RUN!!

The floor underneath, as you can see, is two shades, the lighter stuff are the new boards that Farm Dad had to replace because of dry rot, wet rot, woodworm, you name it they had it. The darker boards are he old floor boards. We were seriously hoping that after Farm Guy got the floor sander on them they would come up the same.

PHEW!! They did! The floor looked pretty good after the sanding and so it was my turn to get in there with the varnish. We used the same stuff as in the Dining Room.

And I don't know what you think but I think it looks pretty good!!