Tag Archives: vegetables

Tarragon and veg frittata

This is a favourite recipe of mine. Frittata is an easy stand-by supper, which tarragon adds a robusy, almost meaty flavour to.

Most of this meal was prepared using stuff grown in our garden.

Most of this meal was prepared using stuff grown in our garden.

It’s easy enough to cook. The default recipe involves lightly frying some chopped onion, then adding half a kilo of cubed potato and frying for 10-15 minutes longer, then finally add a chopped courgette and fry for a few minutes more. On this occasion I substituted some spinach, of which we currently have a glut, for the courgette. I wilted it in the pan and then chopped. I reckon this would work ok with lots of different green veggies – kale, cabbage, chard, peas even.

Add eggy goodness.

Add eggy goodness.

Once the veg is done, add half a dozen eggs that have been beaten together with chopped tarragon. A good amount of chopped tarragon is needed, say a couple of tablespoons.

Top with cheese and bake in the oven for 30 mins at 180 C.

Feeling hungry now.

Feeling hungry now.

The result is delicious, filling, healthy and easy to transport for picknicking. Indeed, this is exactly what we did with it – an afternoon walk in a local wood munching on frittata (and Becky’s home-made chocolate cake) was a very pleasant way to pass the time. T Rex was particularly impressed and got quite upset when there wasn’t any left!

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Bank Holiday Work

So moving up here is a lifestyle choice – which means that instead of going away for the bank holiday weekend we were desperately finishing the new pig pen and doing lots of gardening. But it was all great fun!

Our 3 new Berkshire Weaners are happily installed in their huge pen.  They are so tiny it is really easy to lose them in the pen/pig hutch, so I keep thinking they have escaped… only they haven’t, they are just tiny.

After that it was back to more vegetable gardening.

I have planted out all the squashes now (6 butternut and 1 blue banana), a couple of cabbages (Duncan) and the only 3 sweetcorn that made it.  I think sweetcorn in the North will be a bit of a pipe dream from now on but we will see. The rest of the cabbage and about 5-6 cavelo nero need hardening off over the next week before they go in.

I also caught a couple of beans which had germinated which I missed the first time and chucked them in where I could.

The other big job was banking up the potatoes.  Since we have clay soil here I’m trying a new technique of using grass clipping, they rot down over time so you have to bank them up more regularly but it is a million times easier than trying to hill up our soil. Josh worked hard on mowing the lawn so I’d have enough grass clippings for the job.  So far so good.

The win/lose tally is dipping into nature’s favour though:

Lost 1/2 the last salad planting, 1/2 the purslane and the best looking courgette plant to the slugs.  Pass the beer traps please.

I’ve also had cat trouble – my lovely permaculture circle beds are purrfect litter trays.  I’ll be bringing out the rubber snakes soon! In the meantime I lost a good chuck of carrot seedling.  Maybe I’ll replace with a couple of radishes?

We did get our first tiny pea pod of the year – very exciting!

Transmute mud to earth

We’ve spent the last week or so frenziedly working on turning a chunk of our former pigpen into a vegetable patch. The pigs did an incredible job of removing the thick, meadow-like layer of turf from their pen. They also (with ample help from weeks of heavy rain) turned the earth underneath into thick, squelching mud covered in large puddles of standing water.

It's like a pig sty in here. Seriously.

It’s like a pig sty in here. Seriously.

We’re not sure if this is the pigs’ doing, actually. Our area has heavy clay soil, and if you dig down a foot or so you’ll hit a layer of solid orange clay. So drainage isn’t exactly great to start with, and it may be that the turf was absorbing the rain before the pigs went in. Maybe if we’d taken off the turf by hand the same thing would have happened. However, looking at the earth in the pigpen, it seems the pigs may have destroyed the soil structure and mixed the clay into it, making a bad situation worse. Either way, our hope that the pigs would effectively rotavate the land for free were dashed.

So last weekend, we got our spades and a rotavator (the latter courtesy of Becky’s dad Mark) out and set to work fixing the situation. We wanted to do two things: improve the drainage, and break up the surface to increase evaporation. Both would help to dry the patch out.

My first attempts to drain the puddles had limited success.

My first attempts to drain the puddles had limited success.

I had already attempted to do a little of both on an earlier weekend. I had decided that with the soil so waterlogged it would be very difficult to dig over, but that I could perhaps drain some of the larger puddles by digging channels for the water to run off into. This was almost entirely unsuccessful; the water ran off but then when it rained the puddles filled up again and so did the channels I had dug. Nevertheless on my dad’s advice (we make a lot of use of paternal input, as both our fathers are keen gardeners), and with his help, we dug a ditch about a spades width and depth, on all sides of the plot, which together with a larger channel linking the ditch to the biggest puddle got rid of most of the standing water.

Stage two was rotavation. Frankly we weren’t sure this was going to work at all. The earth was so muddy that we feared it would just clog up the rotavator. But in fact the machine cut through the earth quite nicely, albeit mostly churning up the top couple of inches rather than getting deeper than that.

What an improvement!

What an improvement!

As an aside to this: rotavation is hard work. The machine is constantly trying to pull forward, its blades acting like a wheel to drag it along. To get it to tear up the earth instead, you have to pull back hard, yanking the spinning blades into the soil. We took it in shifts to avoid anyone getting too knackered.

With both jobs done, the plot started to look like real cultivated earth instead of the mudpit it had become. We’ve started improving the soil with manure from our neighbours’ horses, which will no doubt help move things along still further.

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Our first vegetables are in the ground. Left to right: garlic, shallots, potatoes, peas.

We had begun to fear that we wouldn’t be able to plant anything in it at all, but we now have three rows (14 feet each) of potatoes, two of garlic and shallots, and have started planting out peas and beans too. Below the first few inches the ground is still difficult to dig and it may yet turn out not to be hospitable enough for some of the vegetables we’ve planted, but for now we’re feeling optimistic.