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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Webby Wednesday

There I was yesterday morning, both marvelling at and cursing the 11 webs that had appeared on the outside of my large living room window just two days after cleaning it, when suddenly the sun broke through the light mist, lighting up webs galore amongst my Bronze Fennel, Verbena bonariensis and other plants. I just had to grab my camera and go outside and try to capture some of this.

I was ducking under silks galore running from one plant to another, and whilst it hadn't appeared to be particularly damp or dewy, it was amazing how many webs were suddenly visible - and even more amazing was that through my macro lens I could actually see moisture falling in the mist!

This first shot shows a pumpkin ripening on my living room windowsill. A bit Halloweeny - just a shame about the sofa in the background but I'm not going to rearrange my living room just for one shot! 

Here hidden in amongst the rose petals you can just see a little spider. I can't tell what it is so don't know if it is responsible for the web here.

No webs here but had to try to capture the rose with some dew on it. The little blob at the bottom is exuviae from an aphid - that is, the shed exoskeleton after a moult. 

Many of the orb webs here with a v-shaped missing section are built by a species known as the Missing Sector Orb Weaver (Zygiella x-notata), many of whom live around human habitation and build their webs around windows.

This will be my last post this month as I'm away soon and no time for any more blogging. Potential burglars forget it because as usual, there will be housesitters here looking after the menagerie! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Preserving frenzy and veg patch update

In between swanning about playing with butterflies, I've been spending time in the kitchen dealing with monstrous amounts of fruit and veg. No really, actually this year everything has been pretty well under control; I have managed to keep up with nearly all the veggies, and the fruit that can be frozen for later use has been bunged into my freezers until I had the time to do something with it all.

Raspberry jam. It was supposed to be seedless and I spent ages pushing
all the pulp through my mouli thing to get rid of the seeds!
Never mind, it's an acceptable level of pippiness.

The orchard is brimming with fruit and nuts. It's mostly an autumn type of orchard with pears, apples and walnuts planted, as well as wild hazels and elderberries. My two newish plum trees are about as rubbish as the other ones in the main garden though, but I've found over the years that plums and peaches are dodgy fruit to grow and succumb to disease very easily; that's if they ever get pollinated and produce any fruit in the first place. Apples and soft fruit are much easier! This year is probably the best ever for pears though (also a bit hit and miss) so we've been making the most of it!

Three different kinds of pears ripening at different times, thankfully.
On the left are Conference and the other two are unknowns.

Just to give you an idea of what I've been harvesting on a regular basis as far as veggies and soft fruit go..... this photo was taken at the end of August but the French beans have only recently finished, there's little left in the way of lettuce and the cucumbers are history now, but only yesterday I picked a load more strawberries and tomatoes, the courgettes are still producing and there's tons more beetroot. And we are so sick of raspberries because we've been eating them non-stop since mid June!

Note the two greengages!

Elderberries, different apples and Pear Clafouti,
which is one of my favourite desserts.

The next two photos (this is all rather random and in no particular order, date, fruit or anything else-wise) show me having a blitz on every courgette clogging up the fridge by making two savoury courgette cakes (recipe here from last year), a vat of courgette, basil and parmesan soup, with blackberries dripping through muslin in the background to make bramble jelly. 

The pic below that is yet more courgettes in a sort-of-ratatouille using the tomato sauce which I've already bottled, cooking down loads of frozen tomatoes to make said tomato sauce (method here from ages ago) and a spicy mixed fruit chutney which I usually add damsons to but this year just used tomatoes and apples. The recipe for the chutney is here but this time I used 2kg of tomatoes instead of 1.5kg damsons and 500g tomatoes - it's fairly easy and safe to adapt different kinds of fresh or dried fruits in a chutney recipe, so long as you keep to the same quantities.

I will get through these courgettes if it kills me!

Ditto the tomatoes!!

I have to mention something regarding the photo below of beetroot and apple relish from a recipe never tried before and elderberry syrup. I spent hours picking the elderberries off the stalks and my hands turned black. I duly made the syrup, the recipe for which I'd got from the great Greenside Up blog (later to find I already had that cookery book here!). So, bottled up the relish and left the syrup to cool because I was going to freeze it, then went off to do other things. 

A little while later a very sheepish husband came to find me and said "oops". He'd only gone and thought my syrup was the beetroot boiling water and tipped it all down the sink! And if that wasn't funny enough, I had to remind him that actually, I had boiled the beetroot the day before, and he had already washed up that pan! I guess I should just be grateful that I have a hubby who clears up my mess and regularly washes up my preserving pans..... but oh, I've just remembered, there was also the time he chucked my Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour prawn soup) down the sink because it looked like 'dirty dish water' in the pan.... hmmmm. :-)

Beetroot Relish and Elderberry Syrup.

Back in the veggie patch for a few more pics. There's still plenty to eat and loads of colour from my various strips of flowers for pollinators or butterflies. I'll do a report on my Pollinator Meadow Year 2 at some point, because it's been a huge success both visually and for the bugs.

Various veggies with various flowers in the background.

I found a third, much larger Swallowtail caterpillar which I put on the same plant as the other two. Since then the smallest has disappeared and the middle sized one is the same size as the big one now, and they have chomped through most of a plant and I've moved them to another one. They have a tendency to just sit on a stem which they've eaten all the leaves off. Maybe I should leave them to it but I like to mollycoddle my 'babies'!

Swallowtail caterpillar, tomatoes, a strawberry and a late squash which I don't know if
it'll have time to ripen (I've already picked the two that had turned orange).

Physalis, a fruit I have never grown before. The jury is out really as I've
only eaten a few and I'm not sure this is something I would regularly grow.

I've decided to take out the peach tree that grows in the veg patch. I've kept that one because peaches need so much water that it has to be irrigated with a seep hose, and whilst it's got a bit too big despite pruning, it does provide some much needed shade for lettuce in summer. But two years in a row and no fruit at all due to brown rot setting in (which affects our plums some years too), and all the fruit has scab anyway. I already buy peaches and nectarines all through the summer season and if mine were good, they'd all come at once in a big glut at the end of September and I can't freeze them, and they are no good for bottling due to the scab. And the biggest problem with brown rot is that you don't know you've got it until the fruit is almost ripe.... so you can spend all summer nurturing and watering your fruit, and then the whole crop is lost, just like that. It's just not worth it.

Brown Rot or Monilinia on a peach. Not pretty.
The black freckles are scab.

Not my hairy arm.
This tatty old Peacock really did just land on my OH's arm
whilst we were standing in the veg patch!

You may have to look hard, but you never know
who is sheltering under your cherry tomatoes!

"Holy Cow Bertie, what on earth is THAT?!"

We had a good amount of rain yesterday and the weather forecast shows mostly sunny and still very mild for the next week, and my tomatoes continue to ripen. If only autumn was always like this!