Archive for August, 2009

Fishin’

There are fewer pursuits better than spending an afternoon on a boat with beer, friends and a fishing rod.

Especially when not only do you catch a fish, you actually catch the only fish of the voyage.

Followed by more beer on the shore at the local pub, followed by scampi and chips.  mmmm.

I was lucky to get the invite out – my friend Ben has been working hard with his family to restore this old boat (a snip at £6,000!?) which he assures me is slowly sinking off its moorings on the River Deben.  It was the first time I’d used my fishing gear since around 2000, since then it’s been sitting in my parents garage awaiting liberation.  As Ben and his brothers fancy themselves as amateur fishermen I’ve left my rods and line for them on the boat – this’ll mean they won’t need to rush off to buy some (bit more eco friendly) and as it’s a proper sailing yacht they can sneak up on that sea bass!  Hopefully it won’t be my last fishing session with them.

My next step is to do the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall thing and go properly out to see to catch myself some eatin’ fish.

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Thieving little…

Our shed last year was broken into.  It wasn’t much of a pain because they actually left more than they took – I gained a really good spade and fork from the experience.  I did ask around whose they might be, but the rightful owner was never found.

Now it’s not powertools they’re after, it’s food.  I’m assuming that the credit crunch really has started to bite around our area – it’s a very poor area and a lot of families are on benefits.  It’s difficult to describe how annoying it is to pop down the allotment to pick something up to find some blighter has been there first and pinched the one surviving spagetti squash you were looking forward to…

I hope they’re really in need and are the sort of people with children to support and aren’t spending their money on drink, drugs and cigarettes or just see my plot as an easy meal.  I’ll never know of course, but I can hope karma keeps an eye on them.

Similarly if you’re feeling particulously generous today, why not give a visit to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/4equalsides/the-square-project and donate a bit of spare cash.  The reason I sponsored her (and her team) is many sided.  First of all I have absolutely no interest in fashion what so ever.  In fact I’m a poor ethical consumer on this front, I’ve generally bought cheap and cheerful probably employing a small child labour force to satisfy my capitalistic urges.  The reason for this is because I’m 6ft 5ins and nothing fits me.  The ethical brands usually stop short of my particular sizes because I’m not average.  I have to buy whatever I can find when I find it.  Take shoes for example.  Last year I needed a pair of steel toecap shoes to wear out in my ambulance.

How many shops did I visit? 17.  How many pairs of shoes did I find that were a) steel toecapped and b) fit me? Answer: one.  All were specialist shops for industrial use, but only one actually bothered to get something in size 13.  Even normal shoes I walk into 95% of shops and they stop at size 12.  Occasionally I get a choice, last time it was ‘blue or white’.  I can’t buy online because sometimes I’m a size 13, sometimes I’m a size 14.

It’s not disimilar with trousers or shorts, if I find something that fits, regardless of its ethical background I have no choice other than to buy it.  Get it from a charity shop? Nope, that’s a joke too, anyone my height never throws out clothes, you have to wear them till they drop off.

A while back I found a ethical producer of shoes using american labour and recycled materials.  Other than they went bankcrupt before I got to their website again they stopped at size 12.  I’ve tried and failed.

So whilst I want to buy hemp shirts, bamboo shoes etc, I can’t.  Meantime I’ll support ethical clothing how I can.

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What it’s all about

For some it’s about putting food on your plate, some it’s so they know where their food comes from, for some it’s being able to eat organic, some the social, some for the fitness and others it’s just having that little retreat away from daily life.

For me, it’s definately all about the eating.  My wife has made loads of jam this year – it’s her first attempt and whilst a large amount hasn’t set she’s finally excelled herself with a (pictured) raspberry and gooseberry jam.

I’d love to say the gooseberries and raspberries came from the plot, but they didn’t – mainly from the inlaws back garden, but it’s still only got a couple of food miles at best and the jars are reused from our daily routine.

The other picture shows an evening vegetarian meal we made – the centerpiece was processed Quorn (quorn steaks with a goats cheese and cranberry topping breadcrumbed!), but the rest was from the allotment (carrots, potatoes and courgette).

It should be noted that often you’ll end up digging up potatoes to find a lot of very, very small potatoes.  I like to boil them and mash them with a bit of milk, butter, salt n’ pepper.  No need to bother with this peeling m’larky – the skin is full of nutrients and I’ve never seen the point of spending endless hours peeling just to get silky smooth mash.  Give your mash some texture!

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Harvest harvest harvest…

Well we’ve been pretty lucky with the warm weather – the tomatoes are ripening nicely and I’ve been harvesting for a few days now.

Courgettes and squash seem to be dying off a little now, but the raspberries and loganberries are going mad.  This morning I harvested quite a few soft fruit and tomatoes (though technically I guess tomatoes are a soft fruit…) and some lettuce for this evening.

I’ll be cycling down again this evening to take in the pleasant warm evening air, if the rain keeps off that is.

Last night I made a particularly good aquisition at the local pub.  A 1960’s Kenwood Chef with a couple of attachments for a rather reasonable £20 that’s going to Rwandan orphans.  Now I just need a breadmaking hook and have been trawling the charity shops.

Which reminds me, don’t forget your local charity shops – why not drop some stuff off this weekend and pick up a few bargins as well?

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Cycling down the lottie

 

At the weekend I dusted off my bike and made my first trip down the allotment on saddleback since about the same time last year.  I realised that actually it roughly takes the same time to cycle as drive, but is somewhat more rewarding.

Last night I repeated the experience.  I’d bought eight cauliflower plants and eight purple sprouting broccoli plants.  I don’t make a habbit of buying grown plants if I can help it, but then again my cold frame isn’t living upto its suspiciously inaccurate name (I discovered the plastic tops of my seed propigators had actually melted!) and anything left out on the allotment seems to suffer slug/snail attack.

You have to work on an economy of scale on bought plants and ask what am I going to get in return?  Purple sprouting brocolli is dead easy to grow.  You stick in the ground, ignore it for six months and you’ve then got so much brocolli you’ll be sick of it for another six months.  In the shops a small packet costs about £2 for about eight shoots.  For £1 investment, I’ll soon have what would equate to hundreds of pounds worth in the shops.  I’ll also be giving it away by the carrier bag, so don’t expect to make money.

Calliflowers however aren’t so great.  Like the brocoli they take a while to really beef up and when they finally get to eating, one chop and it’s gone.  Brocoli however you can cut and come again over months.  But even so, I’ll save money over eight of those for £1.  What I don’t get however are the people who buy eight lettuce for £1.  Lettuce is dead easy to grow and not worth buying pre germinated.  What really got my goat a few months ago was someone on ebay selling radishes, 6 for £1 plus £1.95 packaging.  Call me a mug, but can’t you get a pack of about 20 for 65p in tescos?  and you don’t have to wait for your plug plants to grow for six months.

Crazy.

After cycling down and poodling about, I decided to go to my St John Ambulance group which turned out to be a silly idea, as I had no lights for the return journey.  I’ve never had a more terrifying ride crossing a tidal river, woods and fields in pitch black where I’ve had to use my phone screen because I literally couldn’t see my feet it was so dark.

The above crazy cucumbers were a couple I’ve given away to the office this week as I can’t keep up with them.  They have grown into many interesting shapes as you can see.  I have no idea why my assistant has such a smile on her face (the quiz is which one is my assistant? no prizes so no SAEs please.)

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Cheap roast?

Last night we attempted to have a cheap roast.  On saturday we’d been down the lottie and done a bit of tidying and a bit of harvesting.  We brought back several courgettes, cucumbers, baby carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, chillis, runner beans (given to us, mine have failed a bit) and beetroot.

The chillis went on the windowsill as soon as I got home – they’ll hopefully dry over the next few weeks and I can put them in a pot to use as required.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and courgettes went straight in the fridge, but the potatoes, beans, carrots and runner beans stayed out.  Suplimented with whole sweetcorn and chicken we made a semi-roasted feast.

The sweetcorn and beetroot went in first, the sweetcorn rubbed with butter, salt and pepper and smartly dressed in tin foil.   The beetroot was cut into strips about 1.5″ thick and were put in hot oil and butter and tossed in it.  The spuds were put on to boil and once cooked smacked around a bit in the saucepan to fluffen them a bit.  They were then added to hot oil and butter and tossed in it and stuck in the oven half an hour after the beetroot went in.

Because there was no fat on the chicken (skinless free range breasts) and breasts on their own could be a bit bland, we made up some garlic butter using unsuprisingly garlic (crushed), butter and dried mixed mediteranian herbs as nothing else was available.  I sliced off the little breast wings to use as filling material, sliced the breast along the thick side and stuffed with garlic butter.  The breast wings (the little bits usually found tucked under a chicken breast) is then used to fill up the cavity.  The whole thing is then dipped in egg and rolled in breadcrumbs and stuffed in the oven. 

30 minutes later beans and carrots were sliced and boiled and after ten minutes the whole lot was served on a plate.

We were stuffed.  Plenty of food to feed the five thousand!  Total cost each, probably no more than about £4.50, but then again this was a big meal and could have done two days worth if we’d been more sensible.  The veg we used would probably have added a couple of extra quid on top of that.

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Office Gardening

I live in a flat and unfortunately any attempt to grow anything in it seems to be a disaster – mainly due to whitefly or green fly or just plain dying on me.  The windowsill is south facing and gets really quite tropical in there.  I might try growing bananas or pineapples.  I’m sure I’ll have more success.

The office is a different beast entirely.  It’s airconditioned (badly) and has an interesting range of temperatures depending on the time of year.  Often in summer the airconditioning goes onto heat mode or snow mode (there is no inbetween apparently, like ‘off’) and we face a brick wall meaning we get only a couple of hours of sunshine a day.

Two of us however have started growing chillis on the windowsill.  So far my bounty of harvest has blessed me with err… three chillis.   Geoff has many, many more, but he has been pumping his up with a particularly non-organic fertiliser and is three times the size of mine.

Office gardening is obviously where it’s at however and I’m considering getting another chilli in on the act.

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Preparing for the big push…

The last week or so I’ve been out with my scout troop at summer camp.

The allotment has continued to suffer.

Our main problem is our social standing during the summer months, just a few busy weekends and suddenly we’ve not been down the allotment for a month.

In preperation for this weekend I’ve charged the strimmers battery ready for an all out assault on the overgrown grass and weeds.

Today I’ve made what I consider a good find in Wilkinsons – an energy monitor which fixes to the mains cable.  It then wirelessly reports to a little handheld wireless box which we can use to see how much electricity is being used in the whole house.

Before now, I’ve used an appliance one which allowed me to see how much electricty was used through various appliances we have.  The biggest user was the one socket we power the fridge, freezer and washer/drier on.  Whilst they’re A rated, around £20 a month is used through these appliances (though the drier is only used for towels and underwear).

We can’t air dry our clothes because the communal drying area outside is open to an alleyway and is a main walkway for the local kids.  The indoor one is better, but we use about 50% of it, god knows how everyone else does, I’m sure their houses must be full of drying washing.

It does confuse me though, because I do try to keep the amount of washing down.  Whilst I advocate the changing of underwear on a daily basis, work shirts get changed every other day, trousers once a week and I generally try to only wear one pair of social clothes over the weekend and one pair during the evenings after work.  I have a scout and st john uniform, the scout one being used once or twice a week and washed perhaps once a month.  The st john uniform due to my lack of commitment is probably only worn once a month and therefore is only washed one month in two.

Having a super kingsize bed is necessary for my wife and I – we’re both over 6ft 5ins and when I’ve had a normal double my feet have been substantially over the end.  Even now my feet stick about 4″ off the end due to the headboard.  The amount of washing it creates however, is somewhat obscene.

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