Saturday, 31 October 2015

From Vines to Wine

 About 10 years ago during our honeymoon we visited Three Choirs Vineyard they had some surplus vines for sale. So I decided to purchase one the one I chose was a Sauvignon Blanc variety it grew well in our old house. So when we moved to where we are now I did not want to leave it behind it had been left to scramble up the fence so was difficult to dig up. Cuttings was the only way of bringing it with us so I took several hard wood cuttings they all rooted this was 5 years ago. As soon as they where big enough to plant out in the new house I set up a frame for them to grow up. But for the last few year they have been all leaf and no fruit until this year when they where covered in lots of bunches of shiny green grapes.
So we decided that we would have to go into wine production now I have never made wine before so had not got a clue. How to get from shiny green berries to the best wine in the county (or at least that is the plan) So after many hours searching on the for recipes and £35.00 on equipment. I looked and sounded like a seasoned wine maker I now own a hydrometer and use words like oxidation and fermentation which I never would have before.

 After several hours of crushing, testing and adding sulphates and sugar we had what looks and smells like wine. I had to leave it about 10 days in the fermentation bucket testing the sugar levels several times towards the end to see if it has stopped fermenting. Once it had stopped fermenting we had to decant it into a demijohn with a air lock on to prevent any bacteria getting in the wine but any oxygen can get out. Now we just have to wait several months before we can sample our hard work and see how good or may be not so good our first attempt of making wine has been.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Time to plant the Garlic out again

The nights are getting longer and the temperature is plummeting so a lot of folk would not consider it a good time to be planting in the garden. But now is the time to get your garlic in if you want a good crop next year as the bulbs need a certain amount of frost to encourage the bulb formation under ground.
I am going to grow two variety's this year the first is Elephant Garlic although it is technically a leek but it will always be know as garlic. The other variety is Red Duke from Marshalls Seeds I grew this one last year and it produced a really good crop with good flavour as well. It is a hard neck variety which is ideal for planting now if you have any soft neck variety's you are best waiting till February before you plant them out.
Plant them out 15cm apart about 3cm under the soil this will stop the birds pulling them up and the bulbs tuning green in the sun.
Don't forget you can also plant out your over wintering onion sets in over the next couple of weeks so you get an early crop next year.

Pallets the gardeners new best friend

Pallets have become one of the gardeners new friends in the garden and every allotmenter will go week at the knees at the sight of a pile of pallets. Pallet wood can be turned in to so many products and the best bit is they are freely available and most end up in skips so are free. You just have to get them home then the fun begins taking them apart to get some nice planks.
But the whole pallet can be to some great uses as well put four together forming a square and you have a great compost bin. They make great vertical gardens just fill in some of the gaps so the compost dose not fall out bolt to the wall and plant up there are loads of great ideas to be found on the internet. It is amazing what folk have turned old pallets into from sun loungers to houses there is not a day when some one posts a picture on Facebook of something they have made from pallets. After all once you have taken the pallets apart it is just a plank of wood that can be turned into almost any product your imagination can up with.
I have been searching the internet a lot recently looking for pallet inspiration and there are some amazing constructions out there. I have a new project I am just about to start and it is all about pallets i am going to construct a new potting shed in the garden. I have been collecting and raiding skips for the last couple of months and hopefully I should have enough wood now to start construction. The aim is to produce a shed made from all recycled wood and cost as little as possible hopefully just the cost of the screws. Another main part of the shed is going to be a green roof or I should say an edible roof as I want to grow vegetables on it so none of the garden is lost to the new shed.

As soon as I start construction I will keep up to date with how I am getting on with the building of it.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Self Sufficient - wild food foraging

It was a lovely day to day so we decided to go for a walk and forage some wild autumn fruit. We headed down to the canal I always like to come hear at this time of year as there is always loads of fruit to be foraged. Learning to forage in the wild for food is an essential part of living a self sufficient lifestyle as once you know what you are looking for. There is almost a unlimited supply of food out there just waiting t be picked and of cause it's all free just the time it takes to pick it. But best of all you can get to be out in the countryside for a walk with the family.
Blackberry's are always the first one that most folk go for and I must admit that there juicy black shiny fruits are hard to resist. We always do bring back lots of them as they are such a good fruit as they make such good pies, jelly's and puddings. They are also great for freezing so you can make use of them all year round just wash them clean let them dry and pop them on a tray in the freezer them bag up once frozen. But there are so many other delights to be had out of the hedge rows at this time of the year.
Elderberry's everyone is keen on Elder flower and there is always a rush to get the best flowers in there short season in June. But the berry's tend to be ignored and left to the birds but they are just as versatile as blackberry's in the kitchen I don't know why they are not as popular.
Rose hips are hardly picked these days but during the war they where picked by the sack load to turn into rose hip syrup. Which is high in vitamin C and was used to make up for the lack of fresh fruit as we have plentiful supply's of fresh fruit the need for the rose hip syrup had diminished.
Hawthorn berry's again are not that popular and I can understand why they are fiddly little things to pick that is without having to navigate all the thorns. Plus you do need an awful lot of them to get a kilo but they do make great haw jelly so they are worth the time.
Slows every gin drinker will know these slow gin is a traditional British winter drink they are a bit like a small plum. They are easy to spot with there shiny purple fruit about the size of a grape so I feel a good batch of slow gin is going to be made this week for Christmas.  
We did manage to get a few Hazel nuts the squirrels always seem to get most of the good ones first so they where gone by the time we had got back to the car.
But even if you don't find anything to pick it is always good to go out for a nice walk on a nice sunny autumn day.
Just bare in mind if you have never been foraging before and are not sure what to pick get your self a good book to help you know what you are picking. Or go on a organised foraging course there are lots of them going on around county all the time so there will be one near you. But the best rule is if you are not sure what it is do not pick and certainly do not eat.
Happy Foraging

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Malvern Autumn Show 2015

It was the Malvern Autumn Show last weekend so I had to go and have a look to me it is one of the highlights of the Horticultural calendar. Especially for the amateur vegetable grower this has one of the best shows in the country and always attracts growers from all over the country.

It was another great show as always there was rows and rows or perfect vegetables and flowers as far as the eye could see. In the Harvest Pavilion this is where amateur growers from all over the country come together under one roof to battle it out to see who wins the sort after red cards.

 One of the bests exhibits for me was the British Trug Championship it is amazing how many vegetables you can squeeze in to a trug and defiantly deserved the title of reserve best in show.
The National Vegetable Society's championships was also taking place in the Harvest Pavilion and the collections of vegetables where superb and showed some almost perfect vegetables.
Over in the good life pavilion not only was there lots of great talks and demonstrations through out the day. It was also where the 20th giant vegetable championships where taking place and there was certainly some big vegetables on display. Three new world records where broken the heaviest leek weighing in at a staggering 10.6kg that's a lot of leek soup grown by Paul Rochester from Sunderland. A 12.9kg cucumber the Queen would only need one of these to feed her guests cucumber sandwiches at her garden party and still have cucumber left over.

But the world record I do not understand is the longest beetroot in the world 7.21m long the reason I do not understand it is that only the first 2 foot is actually beetroot and the rest is just fine root hair. But putting that aside it is very impressive to grow a root to such a length and get it out the ground with out breaking it. 
There was also a few flowers too but it is the vegetables that I am really interested in but there was lots of fantastic flowers on display.

 As well as lots of great fruit it would not be Malvern without the fruit and hops on show.
Can not wait till next years Malvern Autumn Show 24th - 25th September 2016.