Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Busy Time

Well, it has been a long time since the last post but has most definitely been a busy time for us. Let's see if I can re-cap for you. It can be really split down into two sections: the garden and the house. The house first I think.
We went to a Home Building and Renovation Show to try and get both ideas and guidance. There were various seminars going on telling you how to make your house Eco friendly or how to self manage a project etc. Sitting in on these proved to be an eye-opener but has not discouraged us. We were slightly swayed by their estimated figures but we are thinking that if we can do much of the work ourselves then we should be able to keep costs down. The only trouble with doing it yourself is you need to have the time to do it!

In terms of the existing house we are currently in the process of (as in we stand at the door, saying "We need to do something about these rooms") converting the two smaller bedrooms into a bedroom (I know, not much of a conversion) and a bathroom. This means re-laying the floorboards that came up after the new Immersion Heater was put in, taking down the current dividing wall and putting up a better one, then getting the bathroom fitted, the walls plastered, the hole in the wall filled (which is nice and airy but not so great when it rains!) and carpets/flooring fitted.
We also need to paint the hall, this is a big job as it contains the stairs and, as our upstairs essentially goes into the attic (very tall ceilings upstairs and down stairs) the stairwell also is exceptionally high! We are probably just going to paint it something light and airy, it is quite a dark stair when it wants to be. I would love the floor to have some red tiles, proper farmhouse style, at the bottom as it leads directly to the front door, but I think that may be in the 'later job' pile! The carpet in there needs cleaning too, not to mention the fact that the plaster is STILL on the banisters, even after 2 washes... ah the joys!!!
After all the excitement in the house it is nice to just get out in the garden. We finally got the potato patch dug and the potatoes planted. I could show you a picture but a photo of a large stretch of bare earth is pretty boring, hence all the pretty flowers. The Brussel Sprouts went out and were joined by some carrots, mainly because there was enough room at the end of the bed and I hate seeing empty space!!
I finally got up the courage and cut back the raspberry canes. They seem to be happy enough in their plot that I didn't think the shock would be too much and we had some wonderful weather so no sneaky frosts. I hope they do ok! Don't die little canes!!!
In the pot in the photo above are three Lavender plants, just little 'uns at the moment but I am hoping to get them nice and strong for next year as they are all different varieties of culinary Lavender and after my Lavender scones and Lavender & Blueberry jam I had a few weekends ago, I am going to be making some of that!!
After all that excitement it is just best to kick back!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Tour of What's Emerging...

So much seems to have suddenly decided that the time is right for growing. My most encouraging sight is that the Raspberry canes, which were so ravaged by sheep and rabbit that I was worried that our new fruit garden would look a bit more like we were growing sticks for the fire, are now giving off life signs! However, (we have both Summer and Autumn types), this means that although all the books tell me "cut back your canes at the first sign of leaves" and "pull out the suckers" I am yet to bring myself to do it! I know I should, but I am going to leave it a bit longer, we have still been getting some frosts and rather nasty weather up here so with my luck if I did it we'd have another 3 weeks of snow and they'd all die, and these little things have been through so much!
There are plenty of other things around the garden that I can get excited about too! And here they are, on parade...

Sweetcorn, I have only done this once before and that was in a conservatory and there is some speculation as to whether sweetcorn is really cut out for some nice Scottish weather, but there is only one way to find out...

These little soldiers are Brussels Sprouts - everyone say "Ahhh". Except me, I'll say "Eugh" if you don't mind, I don't like sprouts, sorry sprout fans, I eat the obligatory sprouts on Christmas Day but that's it! Farm Guy however, loves his sprouts but only gets them at Christmas cos otherwise they go to waste, so I decided we can attempt to grow our own and hopefully get a nice load to keep him going! These guys will join the potatoes in the patch once it is ready and I am happy that these guys will make it. They are supposed to be planted directly into the ground, according to the packet, but once again I am never convinced that that is the right course of action for a cold, windy Scottish hill, so they have been brought up inside, and have now moved outdoors to harden up! - Hopefully they fair better than the tomatoes who took one look at the outside and keeled over! (Except one!)

Ah, the reliable Runner Bean. These came on much better, and much faster than they have for me in the past and so are almost at a stage they can head out to their Bean Tyre, again they have joined the Brussels to harden off a bit first after their lap of luxury upbringing in the living room!

Here is my prized and overly loved (spoiled) garden delight at the moment, the garlic! I have never grown garlic and I have been so impressed that it has grown. I keep going down and looking at it and thinking "I made that grow!" I am just hoping that when the time comes there is something worthwhile at the end of those stalks! I keep having to stop myself from digging one up to peek, but that would be cheating...
I saw, don't ask me where!, some smoked garlic and it appeared to be smoked just like anything else is, so I wondered whether to have a go with a few bulbs if these work. Farm Mum has a smoker and it looks a lot like our old portable BBQ, so the cogs have been turning as to whether or not a bit of conversion could take place!

And finally the Strawberry patch.... yes, there are a lot of spaces.

The first few succumbed to the harsh weather, dropping 15 down to 13.. we're still good!
The next lot got sheeped and bunnied - down to 11.. we're still good!
Then our delightful duo (the cat brothers) decided that this was nice and easy to dig litter tray - down to 9.. are we still good?

So most people put straw around strawberries to prevent slugs etc, we have it for kitty prevention! We have noticed that although the strawberries share the same patch with the garlic the cats haven't attempted to 'go' around the garlic, so we assume they don't like the smell. So Farm Mum's idea for next year was to plant the garlic between the strawberry rows. This seems like a reasonable idea (unless we get garlic flavoured strawberries!) so we may try this!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cinnamon Fruit Scones

Cinnamon Fruit Scones
I love making scones and on Sunday I suddenly go the urge upon me! I began in earnest until I realised I had no milk! Farm Guy had finished the last of the milk at breakfast! Oh no, half made scones and no milk, what was I to do? All I had was water, well, water is like milk... milk without the cow.... isn't it?

So I used water instead and the results are pictured! They tasted fine and did as they should, I will give you the recipe as it should have been but I admit these are with water instead of milk!

225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
25g/1oz caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp sultanas
1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and rub in the butter.
  3. Heat the milk for 20 secs and add the vanilla essence. Place a baking tray in the oven.
  4. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon and sultanas. Add the milk to get a soft dough.
  5. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
  6. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
If you have been missing the PapaCATzi posts, they will return, we had a 'camera dunking' and are in the process of drying it out!

My Recipe Features on Foodista

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Potato Patch

We finally managed to make a start on the potato patch! There isn't a 'completed' photo as we haven't managed to finish it! The going was heavy to say the least. As our vegetable garden is being 'reclaimed' from the Mother Nature, we are essentially having to dig out a field. This is the lat of the big beds this year. We hadn't meant to leave it so late - trying to do the digging when the weeds weren't present, but with so much other stuff to do it has been put off and put off and we are paying the price.

This picture shows it about half done (maybe a wee bitty less). It took us 5 hours to get to two thirds done! We may get it finished during the week, but work beckons, if not it will be added to the ever growing list of things to do this weekend!

Farm guy did most of the work as I was busy over here....

The pea tyre, in the background, was looking a bit sad, so it got some nice horse manure, yum yum. But the major project was to prepare the bean tyre. Mixing up some nice compost with a bit of horse manure.. do you see the theme? We have sacks and sacks of horse manure and no horse.... Farm Guy Dad has his own farm and lets out a few of the fields for livery, so he is always good for some bags of horse manure! This will get the runner beans and possibly some trailing cherry tomatoes - we are getting 9 plants from my mum (who deserves a blog name - Farm Mum! Ta Da!). Yes we like to for nice even numbers like 9! The tyre will need to wait until next weekend as the beans are hardening off at the moment in our little plastic greenhouse, they were spoiled beans, growing in the living room on a nice warm window sill, so they need to get used to real life!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Growing Guide - Garlic

Garlic is not everyone's favourite, we all know someone - or ARE someone - who says "Eugh, Garlic? No Thanks" but as many cooks out there know some garlic in a dish is a great way to bring out the flavours of the
other ingredients, and it doesn't need to stink out the kitchen! Others love the idea of the garlic hanging in their kitchen in the plaits or wreaths, never to be used just to decorate. So whatever your reason for growing Garlic I know you will find it an easy and rewarding plant to grow!

Time to Plant Out

Garlic is planted straight out into the garden, there is no need to start it off under glass or on that trusty window sill! You are best to plant out your garlic cloves in the Autumn as this allows the best chance of the bulbs being subjected to some cold weather and frost. Garlic likes to be made cold and this 'chill' will give a good bulb formation the following year.

If your soil is prone to becoming water-logged then you may decide that the best time to plant out is January or February, to catch the cold but miss the rain! Alternatively you can add some horticultural sand to your soil to try and aid drainage.

When you are ready to plant split the bulb into the individual cloves and ensure each one is planted with the pointed end upwards. Make sure that the cloves are planted 2.5-5cm (1-2inches) deep and around 15cm (6 inches apart). Bulbs can be bought from you garden centre or from online sellers or catalogues. Supermarket bought stuff... you can give it a go but success rates will vary as many supermarket types are not suitable for this climate. The bulbs from the garden centre are not expensive and you will be guaranteeing a good crop.

If you plant out in the Autumn you will begin to see growth by January and in Spring some high nitrogen feed can be beneficial. During its growing period garlic likes a good amount of water but you should tail this off around May as the foliage starts to die back and the plant finishes its growing.

Harvest Time

Once the foliage is almost completely withered, around May and June, it is time to lift the bulbs. Make sure this is done on a nice sunny day so you can leave the bulbs on the surface of the soil for a day to dry out. If rain is likely to be a problem them move the bulbs into a greenhouse or cold frame to dry for a couple of days.

After this the bulb is ready to store. If you wish to create a display from your Garlic then remember to keep the stems intact.

Problems and Issues

There isn't much that can disturb your garlic. Water logging and/or over watering at the wrong time can cause the bulbs to rot. Beware sheep, this was our only problem, sheep apparently like garlic plants, so if you have a bad case of sheep infestation then things may turn out bad!

Growing Guide at a Glance
Sow -In
Sow -Out

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Planting Out - Roses

There had been a sale on in one of Farm Mum's plant catalogues and she had decided that this was a great opportunity to increase her flower stock. I had a peruse through the catalogue myself and spotted a selection of climbing roses that I knew would come in very handy around the new garden - in particular around the new vegetable patch. I am calling it a vegetable patch but am hoping to make it a nice place to just go and sit, so some inspirational colours and scents can only enhance that!

I love roses and was unable to bring the ones from our previous house, the time of year when we moved I was too worried that the shock of digging them up would kill them and I would rather that they stayed and where enjoyed than risk them dying! So it was a perfect time to re-acquaint myself with some roses.

They were delivered bare rooted and were all ready for being planted out. There were four different ones in the pack, all the same "type" but a nice selection of colours and styles. Farm Guy Dad had brought down some bags of horse manure (he lets out some of his fields for livery) so the roses all got a nice dose of this in the newly dug hole and around them once they were in the ground.

Three headed to the vegetable garden but one was kept (the white one, called - Iceberg) and planted in a nice deep pot by the back door, perhaps I can convince it to grow up a cane and give a nice display to the visitors.

I am hoping that they have a good scent on them but there are so few roses now that do have a scent that I may be unlucky, guess I will have to wait and see!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Fencing - The Big Job...

So, you may be aware that we have a big ol' field out the back of the farm, extending to about 13 or so acres. The plan in the short term is to let this field out (probably to the local dairy farm) but we wanted a bit of space for ourselves for various possible projects, a favourite idea is a small orchard in at least part of it. So what was needed was a fence, right across the top of the field. And So Farm Guy and Farm Guy Dad (who is actually a Farm Guy too!) set out to put up a nice stock fence... I supplied the food...

First thing was to put the fence posts in all the way across the field, in a nice straight line, and bang the posts in with a variety of tools. They had a mel (large hammer) and "a metal thing with handles" (yes, that's the technical name) which you slot over the top of the post and kind of thump it down. The mel was needed as some of the posts proved just to wide to fit in the handled thingy!

About half way across we wanted a gate, this will line up with the gate that currently leads to the Farm and will allow us to get any machinery/animals/Santa's sleigh through into the main part of the field. As a result some nice 'stays' were needed to help support the gate posts, although we are not hanging the gate yet - we need something even sturdier to hang it but this will do for now.

And here is our completed fence with gate (tied) in situ. All the grass on this side is ours to play with and everything beyond is up for rental grabs! Hopefully this will have some nice calves on it soon and we can get all 'bovine'.