24 Dec 2009

Happy Holidays!

 Happy Christmas!

The Veg Patch has spent much of the last week under snow and ice so there's little to report. Instead I shall wish all my friends in blogland a very Happy Holidays - see you in the New Year!

19 Dec 2009

Warming Weekend Watercress Soup …

D'ya like the snowfall effect I've added to my page?  We've had flurries of snow for real from midweek here in North London - causing L and I to dash out on a mercy mission and buy horticultural fleece for the VegPatch winter produce - and we've been promised heavy snowfall tonight.  (Oh how the readers in the North must be laughing!  We're lucky if we get 3 inches of snow; they have to find a spade to even leave the house.)

Last weekend, I added a bag of watercress to my shopping and made soup as soon as I got home.  This wonderful emerald soup is so nourishing and just the thing when brrrr-baby-it's-cold-outside.  Gleaned from my tried and trusted Leith's Cookery Bible, why don't you give it a try?

For 2 hearty bowls you will need:

1 bag of watercress (I remove the bigger stalks)
1 medium onion, sliced and chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 pint of white stock (or use a bouillon powder)
1 oz butter
Optional: a few sprigs of basil and coriander; 1/2 pint milk

What you do:

Melt the butter and cook the onions over a low heat until soft but  not coloured.  Add the diced potatoes and white stock.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Let it cool slightly before chucking into a blender with the watercress (and any other herbs) and blitzing.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg (if liked).  Reheat in the cooking pot and serve. 

Leith says to add up to half a pint of warmed creamy milk to get the consistency that you want - this would stretch the soup to 4 small bowls.  I didn't do this because to me it was lovely as it was and the addition of milk would detract from the beautiful vibrant green of the soup.

17 Dec 2009

Blueberry buds …

Loving the colours in this photo.

Here's one of our blueberry bushes, waiting to be planted on, but braving the December cold with a few little buds.  Photo snapped on Sunday evening as we put our tools away and an unexpected ray of late afternoon sunshine hit the allotments.

16 Dec 2009

Another milestone reached …

(Photo: The Veg Patch in  February 2009)
… from this,
to this…
(Photo: The Veg Patch in December 2009)

I eagerly await the time when gardening will be a question of doing what you can, when you can.  But for the York Rise group, still in our first year of battling with years of garden neglect, it's about crossing off tasks from our 'To Do' list.  And remember what the big one was?  Yep, the ivy.  But I have great news!  The Orchard Border has been cleared!  The sense of achievement (not to mention relief) in the aftermath of the weekend is huge

With forecasts of an imminent freeze, and a miraculous window appearing in the work schedule of a neighbour with well-honed gardening muscles (heh heh)*, my plans to deck the halls indoors were shelved in favour of a weekend of ivy clearance.  L's text alerted me that she'd made a start at midday on Saturday.  I joined her (…eventually - I didn't see the text straightaway, oops) and by dusk, we'd just about hacked and chopped our way through to the soil …

(Photo: Ivy debris at dusk.  A bit blurry, not really enough light.)

leaving the debris to be transported down to the recycling centre to be made into organic compost on Sunday - which we will, no doubt, be buying back in its transformed state.

(Photo: first trip of 5.  In this pic, back seat down and boot only half full!)

Sunday dawned bright but very cold and the team worked on through overcast skies, bitter winds, large mugs of tea, scrumptious bacon butties (heaven sent from L's kitchen) and neglected families until all was done - bar one last trip to recycling.

So now to the big reveal…!  We proudly present the York Rise Mini Orchard, consisting of 2 pear trees (Conference), 2 apple trees (Braeburn), 2 plum trees (Victoria), 2 cherry trees (Morello) - and a little bit of the ivy left in place for decorative effect:

Now for the blueberries and raspberries!

* I really shouldn't be dwelling on the muscles of our digging neighbour - I just remembered my mother is an occasional reader of this blog!

11 Dec 2009

Show off your garden photos! 2010 calendars

Here's one I made earlier … (fits into CD case)

For me, one of the many benefits of writing this blog is being able to indulge my love of photography - there's so much to photograph in nature and it's just great to have a showcase for my pics.  It's more a question of luck than judgment with me but occasionally I get a photo I'm really pleased with.  In a moment of madness, I toyed with the idea of designing my own 2010 calendar to show off my prize pics - yikes! can you imagine the work, copying all those dates! - but, luckily, a timely email reminded me of the Canon Creative Park website where some lovely people have already done that and uploaded their work to share.  If, like me, you have more creative thoughts than time, I'm happy to share my finds with you.

First up, the Photoframe calendar 0013.  This downloads as an A4 (or US letter, you choose) page-per-month calendar.  Print onto card or photo paper and glue on your photos (it will take up to 7"x 5"). Better still, open in Photoshop (or similar) and drag your photo from another file onto the calendar and print.  I did the latter, changing the black border for a cheerier colour and also put a white fill over the Canon logo to erase it (ooh, cheeky!) and replaced with my blog address. Here's a screen grab of my work-in-progress:

I like this one because there's room to write in reminders and birthdays.  Once printed, hold together with a bulldog clip and hang on a hook - or use a magnetic bulldog clip and display on your fridge, filing cabinet or wall if you have magnetic paint!  (Not as silly as it sounds, believe me!)  Another option would be to hole punch two holes through all 12 sheets, tie with ribbon or string and hang.  If you use a big bulldog clip and stuff a pencil through the top, you could hang this one in your allotment shed and note down when you sowed your seeds, planted stuff out, or list jobs to be done.

If you have access to an empty CD jewel case, this next one would make a nice stocking filler: again from Canon, the Photoframe Calendar 016.  This time, you download a folder of 6 pages as there are 2 months to each printed page; you crop the edges and cut in two - once you've added your photos as above.  The photo size needed here is 4.75" x 2.75".  I also added some stripes at the side of my photos - a) because I like stripes and b) I was then able to keep the proportion of my images.

Here's my January and February ready for the chop:

And here's the finished calendar, sitting prettily next to my kitchen Sage:

With this one, I like that it's economical with paper.  But if you want this size with a cover page, and don't mind printing out 12 pages and wasting half of them cropping down to size (you will keep the offcuts for lists, etc, won't you…!), the first calendar (shown right at the top) is one I made after finding a template from the Shutter Sisters blog. (Click here to check this one out.) Their design scores a gold star for looks by using a clean and uncluttered font; maybe I'll combine the two.  Yeh, right … if only I had the time!

P.S.  If you groan at the thought of trawling back through your digital photo archives, here's how I do it:  I have a separate folder sitting on my computer desktop.  When I get a photo I really like, I make a copy of the original and pop the copy into the "specials" folder.  That way all my best gardening photos are kept to hand.  Same goes for family snaps. Simple.

I hope to be putting up my tree and dragging out the baubles this weekend - and enjoying plenty of mince pies and Bailey's as a reward.  Wishing you all a great weekend friends!

9 Dec 2009

Moss Milkshake …

There's something deeply adorable about moss - vibrant colour, velvety texture, strokeable and somewhat spooky - what's not to love?  I was, therefore, thrilled and inspired to find the blog of Emma Bond, who is a fellow member of the Blotanist online community and Landscape Designer (therefore eminently more experienced than li'l novice me) - and a pretty good photographer to boot!   Through her own love of moss, she's working hard to bring this little paragon of persistence back into popularity and written inspiringly on the subject (click here to read more on Emma's blog, The Orchard Studio - also found in my sidebar).  I'm especially taken with the idea of Moss Graffiti; Emma has sourced a 'recipe' from Guerilla Gardening blog Heavy Petal (link here) for a moss mix which can be used to encourage moss growth wherever your fancy takes you.  It was even seen in carpet form at the 2009 Milan Furniture Fair!

Hmm… I'm thinking about huggable moss walls for the Urban Veg Patch … I think this could be a project that the kids would really get behind!  Check out this look from Moss Acres via Emma Bond:

Love it!

8 Dec 2009

An elegance of lemons …

Still enthralled by my fine dining experience, I had to share this little bit of table elegance as it's something I haven't come across before. (I realise that I may be proving exactly how far removed my wellies really are from the rarefied kingdom of Martha Stewart devotees!)

Whenever the option of a squeeze of lemon has been presented to me, it's usually in the form of a slab of lemon on the side of my plate. At Fortnum's on Sunday, those who ordered smoked salmon as a starter received, as a garnish, half a lemon wrapped in muslin cloth and tied with an olive organza ribbon. Not only did this look very beautiful - and so refined! - turns out it's also enormously practical. The pips stay within the muslin and only you get the juice, as the muslin directs it to drip  onto your plate, rather than into the eyes of your fellow diners! Plus you can grip the lemon more easily and you get less lemon oil from the rind over your hands (however pleasant it may smell). The cost of the meal was probably worth that top tip alone. So obvious, but, wow, I just love that.  Oh, and by the way, that funny shaped bread at the back of the photo?  Reindeer's antlers, of course …! (Before being eaten - too yummy to ignore.) 
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