Recycling eggshells

I’ve known about sprinkling broken eggshells around young plants for a while, but until last year I wasn’t sure how to reuse my eggshells in such a way.

Last summer we spent a disastrous fortnight camping in Wales, the weather was awful. We did visit my Great Aunt in Swansea for the day however, who told me what she does with her eggshells. So simple and obvious really, but now I know it works I’m happy to make my own.

She keeps an old baking tin at the bottom of her oven and puts used shells in it. So when the oven is on, it bakes them.

I’ve found the smell of baking eggshells a little unpleasant, so I tend to keep the tray to bake in the other oven. When I remember, I put the tray in the hot oven after removing the cooked food so that the shells bake in the cooling oven. I usually do this twice, just to make sure they are brittle enough.

They then get crumbled and stored in a tub for use in the garden.

In terms of effectiveness against slugs and snails, well I wouldn’t rely on eggshells alone to prevent favourite young plants being eaten. But every barrier helps, and the eggshell pieces can always be dug into the soil after the season.

eggshells

This photo implies we eat A LOT of eggs :-) On the contrary, actually. We had omlette tonight for the first time since the start of lent. The broken shells are about 8 months worth of eggs.

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Fresh Focaccia

It’s a shame I can’t share the fabulous smell of freshly baking bread & rosemary with you. It’s filling the house and eliciting the anticipation of the summer months.

Focaccia dough with rosemary sprigs
Focaccia dough with rosemary sprigs

Damian put a batch of white dough on before work, and I’ve just prepared it by flouring the surface, shaping it and liberally pouring olive oil over it. I think it goes so well with rosemary, so have added a few sprigs from the plant I harvested over the weekend.

Rosemary does grow big and leggy, so rather than sticking with our 6 year old plant, I’ve cut off all usable sprigs, rinsed and put them in a freezer bag and into the freezer. Before using, I stand them in room temperature water.

We have a new rosemary plant in the edibles bed I planted yesterday.

The oil we are using at the moment is Equal Exchange Palestinian Extra Virgin Olive Oil which we found in a Fair Trade shop in a church in Oxford. I have have to look for some up here as it is lovely, quite peppery. And it’s nice to know that while we are enjoying it, we are benefiting a much needed community project in Palestine.

New veggie bed at home

When we had the house extension last year, we asked our builder to extend a small bed to the end of the path with the left-over stone bricks used for the house fascia. Over winter, this has been a trough for pots and garden stuff that we haven’t had a home for and has looked very messy.

The warm weather over Easter and last weekend has given us an opportunity to make headway on the front garden at home. This evening, I have finished the edibles bed and I’m very pleased with the results. Mum gave me some lettuce seedlings last week. Most of them are still growing in cells and bought in at night. But I took 4 Lollo Rosso and 2 of the strongest Mizuna and planted them. We had to buy a cloche to protect them (both frost and slugs), but I think it looks smart enough for a bed at the front of a house. I have also planted lavendar, rosemary and thyme and a pot of chives too.

The bed ready for planting
The bed ready for planting

In the next few weeks, we will plant out the rocket, herbs, more lettuce varieties, radishes and if we can squeeze some in, carrots.

Planting finished, just as it was getting dark
Planting finished, just as it was getting dark

Compost

We spend a good couple of hours at the allotment this weekend. Damian got the spuds in, and I harvested compost. We’ve been making great compost for a few years but this year, we also have also managed really nice loam too. Dad very kindly built a double sided compost bin early last year, and all the clumps of grass from the beds have been going in there. I must have shoveled out a ton of loam, and I think the other side will be ready soon too.

Home-made compost
Home-made compost

It was so nice being able to make our own mix of 1 part compost to 2 parts loam for the brassicas bed and a richer blend for the potatoes.

This will be our 4th summer working the allotment, and I think it’s going to be even more enjoyable, a bit more organised and a lot more productive than ever before!

My new favourite dish

Damian decided we needed a proper barbecue so we could best enjoy our newly reorganised space outside. After looking into the differences between gas and charcoal, we decided a charcoal model would probably work out best for us. We won’t have that many opportunities throughout the year as nice weather and weekends don’t often coincide in Yorkshire. We went for a Weber kettle drum, a classic design.

We noticed some rather nice accessories for the Weber barbecues, and we decided to get the pizza stone. It’s made from Danish blue granite, and it will be fine in our gas oven too.

Two nights ago, we fired up the barbecue, made some pizza dough and Damian crafted a pizza for us. It took a long time to cook, but that may have been down to the charcoal not burning evenly (I think we need to experiment with different types) but I have to say, it was worth the wait as it tasted phenomenal. It took me straight back to the open air restaurant in a Frascati piazza Dad took me and my sister to, where the pizzas were served straight from their outdoor wood fire ovens. It’s not just the smoky flavour to the dough, it somehow seems to accentuate the individual flavours in the topping too.

I can’t wait until the next time we have a warm evening to try it again.

Pizza barbecued on the pizza stone
Pizza barbecued on the pizza stone

It’s cheating a little bit posting this here as we haven’t grown any of these ingredients! We use organic stoneground bread flour to make our bread and dough, an organic tomato sauce, such as Seeds of Change (if we have no time to make our own), organic baby spinach, and Italian cherry tomatoes. We also dotted pieces of goat’s cheese on this one. We would normally use lashings of basil too, but they had sold out in town and we haven’t sown ours yet. We served with rocket.

Valentine’s Dinner 2009

These days we love to stay in and have dinner after the children have gone to bed. This year, we had a fabulous vegan dinner, cooked by Damian.

Asparagus Pithivier with Watercress Sauce
Asparagus Pithivier with Watercress Sauce

~Starter~

Asparagus Pithivier served with Watercress Sauce

~Main~

Artichoke, Green Bean & Pine Nut Risotto

~Dessert~

Chocolate Espresso and Roasted Pecan Torte

Dessert wine to complement the Chocolate Dessert
Dessert wine to complement the Chocolate Pudding

PITHIVIERS
225g/8oz ready rolled puff pastry sheet
15ml/1tbsp soya milk (to glaze)
25g/1oz sesame seeds

WATERCRESS SAUCE
25g/1oz soya margarine
3 spring onions
300ml/1/2pt vegetable stock
2 bunches of watercress
salt and freshly ground pepper

FILLING
1 clove of garlic, unpeeled
100g/4oz bunch asparagus, chopped into 5cm/2in pieces
4 baby sweetcorn, chopped into 5cm/2in pieces 25g/1oz soya margarine 25g/1oz unbleached flour 180ml/6floz soya milk
45ml/11/2 floz vegetarian white wine
50g/2oz pine nuts, roasted then ground
2.5ml/1tsp mustard
handful fresh, flat leaf parsley, chopped (reserve a few leaves for the garnish)

ARTICHOKE, GREEN BEAN & PINE NUT RISOTTO
600ml/ 1pt vegetable stock
50g/2oz fine green beans
15 ml/ 1tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
175g/6oz arborio rice
100-200ml bottle dry vegetarianĀ  white wine 2.5ml/ 1/2 tsp dried oregano 40g/ 1,1/2 oz pine nut kernels, toasted 200g/7oz canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped handful fresh basil, torn (optional 50g/2oz vegetarian Parmesan cheese), salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chocolate Espresso and Roasted Pecan Torte
200g/7oz creamed coconut
1.3l/21/4 pints boiling water
30ml/2tbsp of the boiling water
800g/1lb 12oz Self Raising flour
100g/4oz cocoa powder 10ml/2tsp baking powder 100g/4oz roasted pecans 300g/12oz light muscovado sugar 420ml/14floz vegetable oil 20ml/2tbsp brandy FUDGE ICING 100g/4oz vegan margarine 10ml/2tsp brandy 100g/4oz cocoa powder 90ml/6tbsp water 550g/18oz icing sugar few drops vanilla essence

The full recipes are available atĀ http://www.vegsoc.org/cordonvert/recipes

Sowing Seeds

Last weekend we got around to sowing the majority of our seeds (we have a shorter growing season in North Yorkshire than the south, so usually wait 1-2 weeks after the recommended times).

This year, I selected a few packets from the Laura Ashley range at Johnson’s. I know they are much more expensive, and I have literally have been sucked into their clever marketing, but I particularly like the varieties that I bought.

Gazania Packet

So I was very disappointed when I opened the Gazania Daybreak Bronze to discover that there were only 6 seeds inside.

The packet clearly states an average of 20.

Now I’m not very good with results from seeds, probably because I struggle to use slug pellets and I also hate thinning out seedlings, as I hate to cause death to anything. So the chance of seeing these fabulous bronzed blooms in my garden this year would be slim.

However, I found the landline number for Johnson’s and rang them this morning (01638 751161) and the very helpful lady said she would send a replacement packet for me. So hopefully I will receive them soon enough to get the Gazania’s going.

In my search to find their contact details, I read this post in hortweek.com regarding ways to increase sales of seeds in garden centers. Always good to know what additional challenges you are facing as a customer!

Flowers for direct sewing in a couple of weeks