Friday, 30 July 2010

In the Greenhouse

It may only be a little greenhouse but we have managed some good healthy looking plants in there. Not many but enough to give us a flavour of what we would like to try and do once we get the bigger one.

Here in front of their mini greenhouse are a huge tomato plant (the only one that survived!) A pepper plant in the front. This is one of two, the other is being spoilt on the kitchen windowsill with a gifted Chilli Plant. And on the right a trailing tomato plant. There are several around the garden, I use them to bulk out hanging baskets and make everything in the garden useful.

In the greenhouse next door we have the courgette plant which was also a gift and is doing amazingly well. I would like to grow more of these next year so we can try a few deep fried stuffed courgette flowers.
This is the housemate of the courgette. It is a melon plant (another gift), I am not sure how melon will cope in the famous Scottish weather but so far it is doing well!!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

What a Difference the Sun Makes

It is amazing what a little sunshine can do to a vegetable patch. I went down just the other day and had a seat among the growings on. Everything looked so healthy, and HUGE! Everything had been trying its best to make the most of the sunshine. We are defiantly going to get a good crop of Runner Beans this year, much to my surprise as they were looking pretty unhappy for a while, what with the wind that whistles over the hill and across the garden.

The beans are growing crazy. One managed to produce two beans! Way ahead of the other plants, not sure why it chose to be so early!
The peas too are going mad. Check out the graph at the bottom to keep track of the farms produce this year.
Raspberry bushes are coming on a treat!
The last minute decision to plant carrots seems to be paying off!
We lost a couple of Brussel plants in the beginning but the remainder are looking SO healthy I think we are going to be inundated with Sprouts.
We have had a few potatoes from the garden but there are plenty more under there for us to find!
The strawberry patch is producing a few fruit but the main purpose is to get some nice runners off them so we can beef up the strawberry patch next year.

The garlic is also looking good. It has been through a lot in the past what with sheep and a strimmer attack but we hope that they have pulled through.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Mushrooms

I am a mushroom growing failure. It's true. No matter how hard I try or what kit or starter pack I buy and attempt I have never been able to get the silly things to grow.

But I still persevere and I attempted yet another pack (a gift from Farm Guy). This pack was to grow Button Mushrooms. I followed the instructions but I was worried that I was fighting yet another losing battle when it said to put the mushroom box into a warm dark place. The only place we had like that was the airing cupboard which is currently missing a wall... see here...

But I dutifully put it in there for the 8-10 days before removing and placing on a windowsill. I saw white tendils across the surface.... hurray!! Nope, not hurray, instructions said you don't want that, cover them up if you see any of them! Bye first ever sightings of mushroom growth...

I checked today however and would you believe it....

My first ever mushroom!! It isn't the world's biggest and I don't think it'll make a meal but it sure looks better than anything I have ever grown! Let's hear it for this little mushroom! Perhaps there will be more.... I shall keep an eye out for his mushroomy friends!

Perhaps the trick IS to let the cat sit on them.....

Monday, 19 July 2010

A Same Kind of Different As Me - Booksneeze

I have joined a book review website and this is my first review of the latest book:

A Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

This book tells the true life story of how an unlikely friendship between a White Texan Art dealer and a Black homeless man when this Texan Millionaire decides to help at a local homeless shelter. Denver Moore starts his life as a 'free' slave involved in the crop-sharing era in Louisianan. During this time, while Ron Hall was securing himself as a well known in the Art Dealing world, although not without his own difficulties, Denver is picking cotton for a Louisiana land owner, 'The Man'. The cotton is never enough to pay off the store where supplies are bought on credit and so the 'free' men are trapped in a continuing cycle. Denver eventually decides to make a new start and jumps on a passing train...

I hadn't heard of this book before and it wasn't one that I would normally choose, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't put it down. Written from the point of view of both men it allowed the reader to see the struggles of homelessness, and indeed slavery, in a whole new light. It also allowed the reader to question their own motives when 'doing good' or offering help to those less fortunate. Denver Moore's insightful and humbling opinions on life are inspiring.

Also get your hankies by your side, Ron Hall's discussions on his wife's battle with cancer will bring a tear to the eye of anyone. And again the strength of this unlikely friendship is shown with Denver Moore's unfaltering beliefs and strength, combined with Ron Hall's belief in this homeless man leave you feeling a warmth inside.

I would recommend this book to anyone, and I will. The way that both men describe some incidents in their own words allows a deeper understanding of the truth that there are always two sides to every story and that it is always what is on the inside that counts.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

If You Go Down to the Patch Today...

I went out today to have a go at being a farmer. Well, this is the point of the self-sufficiency plan isn't it? So down to the veggie garden I trooped. I haven't got a nice wicker basket yet to carry my findings so I am doing my bit for the environment and am using old plastic fruit trays from the supermarket instead!

I went specifically for potatoes as the time has come for my first earlies to be ready. I have noticed that things on top of our hill seem to be slower to 'do' than is listed in any book, so I have had to wait a little longer than the books advise for my early potatoes but I was not disappointed! We currently have nowhere to store a total haul of tatties so I am digging as needed so I managed to unearth 6 nice looking Red Dukes for tea. And my oh my how red they are once all that grub is washed off!!!

But I was surprised to find that my wind battered pea plants had come good in the end and had left me a few pods, with some still remaining! I don't think these plants will be seeing us through the bleak midwinter but I am glad that they have grown as well as the have and I think that I have learned much from this year about making next year a success!

As you can see the strawberry plants (of which 5 remain after the sheep/cat/rabbit attack) have managed to club together and produce 3 fruit for me. Not huge but very tasty. This year I am really just trying to get the plants nice and established and get them producing some nice runners to up the Strawberry Patch population!

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Ultimate in Chocolate Cake

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 200g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbl instant coffee granules
  • 125ml water
  • 85g plain flour
  • 85g self raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 200g light brown/muscovado sugar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 75ml buttermilk*

*Note - if you don't have buttermilk, add about 10ml of white vinegar to 65ml of milk and sit for 5 minutes.

For Ganache
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 285ml pouring cream
  • 2 Tbl caster sugar


Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 22cm springform tin.

In a heavy based saucepan over low heat, place the chocolate and butter. Mix the instant coffee into the water and add to the chocolate. Gently melt together and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

While chocolate is melting, sift in the two flours, bicarb, two sugars and cocoa powder and whisk it to remove lumps. In a separate bowl, gently beat the eggs with the buttermilk.

Pour into the flour bowl, the chocolate mix and the egg mix. Stir together until just combined and pour into cake tin.

Bake for 80 - 90 minutes (1.20 - 1.5 hr) until skewer comes out clean and the centre springs back when lightly touched.

Rest in tin for 5 minutes then remove springform ring cool completely on wire rack.

Break the chocolate into pieces in a bowl and set aside. Heat up the cream and sugar in a pot and bring it to just under a boil. Pour the cream into the chocolate pieces and sit aside for a couple of minutes. When chocolate has melted, stir gently to combine into a silky ganache. Refrigerate until it has thickened but still loose enough to pour.

To assemble cake

Divide cake into 3 even layers and use some ganache to sandwich the layers together. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake and use a palette knife to push it to the edges so it'd spill over and coat the sides. Use the palette knife to smooth ganache all over the cake and leave aside to set. Pour over another layer of ganache to smooth out the cake if it's still bumpy (you'll need a double batch of ganache for this) Decorate the top with chocolate curls (recipe to follow) or grated chocolate and dust with cocoa powder.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Rooms at the Top of the Stairs

Many of you have asked how the two rooms at the top of the stairs are coming along. And exactly what we are going to do with them. As you may remember the rooms at the top of the stairs used to be one large bedroom but, before we moved in, they had been separated into two smaller rooms and used as children's bedrooms. Our original plan was to remove the wall and return the room to its original size. However, upon rethinking we have realised that the two smaller rooms are of a decent size and so a new plan was hatched...

Left-hand room (to be bedroom) - Farm Mum can be seen standing in the room that will become the bathroom.

The wall was to remain and the left-hand room would become a bedroom, as it was before, and the right-hand room would become the family bathroom. This would save us walking all the way from top left hand corner to bottom right hand corner of the house in the middle of the night for a toilet trip! And also meant that all the bedrooms and bathroom would be at one end of the house with the living areas, and a toilet/shower room, at the other.

However the wall proved to be not sound proof, not sturdy and.. well... bendy. So it had to come down. Then it was discovered that the supports were wonky and would need replacing. So they came down as well and new ones went up to take their place.

The Dividing Wall - one door will continue along the line of the wall towards us and the other will go at right angles, heading to the right

However, it was then discovered that the wall (and the wall of the upstairs airing cupboard) appeared to have been put in before the two door frames had been put in and had been nailed into place. Farm Dad and Farm Guy couldn't get the remainder of the old wall out - so therefore couldn't get a new wall in... so out came the door frames! That was when it was discovered that the wall of the airing cupboard was also many of the same "quality" walling product, so out it came as well!

That was us ready to continue... until it was noticed that the two doors didn't match in either height or width so now was the perfect time to change them and make them match! So now the doors were missing, and have no replacement as yet, and the wall had no ummm... wall! And the airing cupboard was open into the "bathroom" with all my towels etc piled up on the landing behind - cats now have a great bed - sigh!

So our two rooms are only two by the separating grid (as modelled by farm mum) and have no doors any more. The airing cupboard is now "easy access" and all existing walls (and the ones to be put up) need to be plastered. Oh and yeah, several floorboards are broken so they need to be replaced; and soon as the cats think access to the underside of the floor is great fun!!!

But all that said it is looking good. It is so great to see the whole thing coming together and knowing that by the end we will have something to be proud of, something we can stand back and say "We made that!". This is definitely why we bought this place, so we could make our own mark on it!

PS. The "bathroom" window has no wooden surround anymore (dry rot and woodworm) so it is bare bricks all around apart from one spot where the brick has fallen away and so there's a hole to the outside wall..

"I'm fixin' a hole, where the rain gets in. To stop my mind from wandering....."