april showers

Seedlings

My desire to feed the family – even just a member of the family – every day in the year has hit the hungry gap.  As I knew it would.  The only produce I have left from last year is garlic and a lonely bottle of hot chilli jam…. and even I’m not prepared to make them eat that every day to achieve my growing/feeding goal!  So there will be a few gaps, hopefully filled next year with brassicas and some early leaves.

My forced rhubarb is looking glorious – so that is soon to come – but aside from that, the very cold spring that we have experienced so far (aside from 5 or so days of glorious sunshine) has been fairly challenging for the seedlings.  Each night this week has been below freezing – which means no slug nematodes have gone in, no hardening-off has started and I’ve held off sowing lots of the veg and salad crops that I fear won’t survive the wild temperature fluctuations.  As I sit writing this the sun is shining… and snow is falling.  Even for Buxton these are extreme conditions.

On a positive note, the annual flower seeds that have been sown seem to be doing ok.  The cooler weather has kept their growth in check and none have yet grown too leggy.  As the open garden draws ever closer I hope this good luck will continue and there will be flowers in the garden for the summer.  Sweet peas in particular.  At the moment, that certainly seems a long way off!

The cooler weather has been a bonus for the wildlife hedge that we have planted to form a separation between the front and back gardens.  With 50% Blackthorn (sloes, lovely) and the remainder split between Bird Cherry, Hazel, Dog Rose, Hawthorn and Field Maple – there should be lots of lovely protection and food for the birds for many, many years to come.

 

beautiful Cornwall

DaffField

I have been lucky enough to spend the Easter holidays in Cornwall. Home to fabulous beaches, wonderful food, sunshine, body-boarding, inspirational gardens, daffodil fields. I love the relaxed vibe of the place.

The small one and I spent a very nice day at The Eden Project – Biomes, spring bulbs, bees, a really good education centre and a great café – it was the perfect day out.

I’ve come home with a plan to plant lots more spring bulbs – last year I didn’t plant any as I was ‘gardened out’ by the time spring bulb planting time came round.  This year will be different….  I have two beds earmarked for bulbs – muscari, scilla, snowdrops, tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, bluebells.  They give so much beauty for very little work.  Unfortunately I need to remove a lot of invasive rhododendron before I can plant them – why is it that every lovely job has a not so nice job first?

It’s 9 weeks until our first open garden private visit – 50 people, who also want cake – I’ve woken in a sweat about the baking, not the garden!  So, for now, the spring-bulb planting plans need to go on hold as I dedicate many hours to the more seasonal tasks needed.  Hedges (yes, I’m late), mulching, feeding, sowing, staking.  It seems a race against time to get everything ready, my perfectionist self needs to settle down and let nature run it’s beautiful course.

 

leek and bacon pie

leekpie

Finally, the leek crop for 2015 has been devoured.  Along with a leek and bacon pie!  I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but it now holds a permanent spot in my cooking folder.  Here it is (minus pastry element as most people have their own way of making pastry and I’m sure all of them will work, personally, I make a rough shortcrust which I think goes nicely with this.  And sometimes I cheat and buy ready-made which is almost as good!  Whatever your fancy, you need about 750g of pastry).

For the filling:

  1. 3-4 well grown or about 750g young leeks, rinsed and chunked
  2. 2 large potatoes (about 500g), peeled and sliced
  3. 100 g diced lean bacon
  4. 250g cream cheese
  5. 1 medium egg, forked to blend

To make:

  1. Put the leeks, potato and diced bacon with a knob of butter in a lidded pan and shake over medium heat for 15-18 minutes until the potato is just soft.  Leave to cool in its juices.
  2. Fold the leek, potato and bacon into the cream cheese forked up with the egg.  Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper.
  3. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C (180 fan oven, gas mark 6).  Divide the pastry in two pieces, one a little larger than the other.  Roll out the larger piece and use it to line a pie dish.  Pile the filling in the middle, leaving a generous edge.  Dampen the edge with a wet finger.  Roll out the remaining pastry and lay it over the filling, enclosing it completely.  Mark the edge with a fork and prick the top in a few places to let out the steam.
  4. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the pastry is crisp and brown – check after 30 minutes and lower the heat if it’s browning too quickly.  Serve hot or warm with a handful of radishes or a salad to cut the richness.

Happy eating!