Blackberry wine, finally! #gdnbloggers

This is probably going to be the last home brew experiment of this year, but I have finally got around to making Blackberry wine.

I have used a recipe-a recipe that is henceforth know as Sister Sparrow’s fruit wine recipe-that is really easy to follow. A quantity of fruit is prepared and placed into a brewers bucket. You boil up a sugar syrup-say a couple of litres of water and a bag of sugar-add this to the bucket. When cool, pectolase, yeast and nutrient are added and stirred in. I then keep an eye on the mixture, it is kept covered and in a warm place; stirred twice daily. After about a week, I transfer the mixture into demi-johns. You can see the mixture brew up as real-life science experiment. I also tend to keep it covered, as otherwise you might get an interesting waft of brewing filling the house.

This time I have used all of the blackberries foraged from the plot. However, in something of a disclaimer, I have also added shop bought frozen berries. This is a mixture of additional blackberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and currants. The bulk of the wine is blackberry, and that was always the aim.To further play with the flavour, I did throw in some star anise and some cinnamon. We are unlikely to age the wine in oak barrels, so this flavouring with spices might make for an interesting experiment.

You can also view the video here.

There was quite a lot in the brewers bucket, enough to fill two demi-johns, making this batch the biggest batch I have made to date. This will either turn out okay or go drastically wrong! It is always an interesting experience transferring the ferment into the demi-johns as you try not keel over.

blackberrydemijohn

Two demi-johns are now placed aside to clear. There is a slight colour difference, as one demi-john was filled before the other. Red in colour, the wine does look rather pretty! The air-locks are deliberately green so I can see whether or not they are bubbling.

experiments

Over the course of the year, there has certainly been a number of home brew experiments. This latest batch and of blackberry wine carries the tally up to six different varieties. I’m not sure if that is a good thing, or that I should be a little worried as to how much has been made and whether or not it will all be consumed. One thing that is true and most certainly, is that it is all the product of the plot.

I will have to consider how long the wines are left in their containers before racking and putting into bottles. The first batch that I ever made was the strawberry wine, and that is the one inside the bottle beneath the brown paper.  I suspect friends and family are going to get some interesting gifts in the future, other than jams, jellies and chutneys. It has been fun making Petal plonk-as it were-it doesn’t half make you think of what goes into wine, how and why.

With everything stashed away, each batch will need a name-all the preserves have a name!-other than Petal’s Plonk…..

Preserving without a pan #gdnbloggers

For me, preserving plot produce without a pan, can only mean one thing. Homebrew. Over the last year or so, whilst the growing season has been a little hit and miss, I have been able to experiment beyond jams, jellies and chutneys.

Today’s experiment, involved blackberries that were foraged from the plot sometime ago.

There have been a number of experiments and with assorted plot produce.

experiments

I did double check, and the variety that we have are:

 

  • Rhubarb and currant
  • Blackberry and plum
  • Rhubarb, strawberry, currant and gooseberry
  • Apple
  • Strawberry

There isn’t actually a lot of sediment or lees in the bottles, so I will keep an eye on them and see when each one can be decanted into bottles.

Yes, make and drink responsibly, folks. Believe it or not, I do tend to have adult supervision😉

Mooli Pod mention

moolipods.JPG

When you have radishes that bolt, you get seed pods. Or Moongreh as they are known in our house. Moongreh, or Mooli pods as I call them, could also be dried and you might want to save the seeds for next year. You could also eat them.

Eating them is fun, and one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. In the back garden, my paternal grandmother would occasionally sow mooli-that’s the other name for Japanese radish-however, these would bolt given the rather erratic nature of British Summer. When they would bolt, you would get a flush of white flowers that would dry off and leave behind these short fat, sometimes pointy seedpods. Seeds pods, that a child could snap off as they played and munch on quite happily whilst giggling at their peppery flavour.

And boy are they peppery. Just like a radish, each bite is a burst that does rather blow away the cobwebs.

You can munch on them, straight from the plant; you can also curry them. Crushed mooli pods combined with potatoes are actually quite nice!

Gardening and Mental Health #gdnbloggers

That is me, and I am standing on my allotment plot. An allotment plot that I call the sukh-Shaanti Garden. Loosely translated this name means happiness/joy and peace. I deliberately chose that name as that is what I hoped to gain from my allotment. Given how my life can get busy with school, volunteering and study; trying to find sukh shaanti can sometimes be entirely necessary.

It is also reflection upon on how the allotment feeds into my mental health.

Seven year sago, I finished my initial teacher training and was about to be come a newly qualified teacher (even after your PGCE you still have to do another year of in school development). Only, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive about the process; the end of the academic year was nigh, I was feeling rather stressed with no job and not sure as to how I had made it through the course in one piece. One day, after getting fed up of having filled in yet another application form, I threw aside my CV and thought sod it; I want to do something that doesn’t stress me out, is something of a experiment, and might have a positive end result.

What did I do?

I went to Wilko’s, picked up some seeds, compost and some labels.

I decided to sow those seeds-in May, somewhere around a bank holiday-chillies, tomatoes runner beans. These were sat outside-I knew very little then-put back in side, to and fro; there was a lot of researching that happened; before there were a series of pots lining Dad’s garden. I was determined to make a success of this experiment and needed it to get a balance.

The seeds germinated, became plants; these flowered and cropped.

We had chillies! Not to mention tomatoes, runner beans, I forgot to say about courgettes. I had managed to grow things.

Plus, I didn’t feel quite so stressed out. There seemed to be a bit of balance, focus, and also some positivity. I wanted to teach, I would get a job and do what I trained to do; the gardening was useful; very useful.

That was the first time that I realised that gardening was good for you. In the  very least, it gave you hope, focus, something to achieve. There was one big change in my mental health as the summer term ended(finished my PGCE-woo-hoo!), I had a few bits of employment as the winter drew in.  I had also developed more than an interest, I now fancied having an allotment. After all, go big or go home, that was the motivation.

And so the allotment came along-or rather, I found it, and put myself on the waiting list and waited till November. Plot 2A was mine, it was my sukh-shaanti garden. It’s been mine ever since, and  has also grown a little.

It is only now with hindsight, that I can see how having an allotment and growing seeds in dad’s back garden all seemed to make sense. Least of all because what I had sown and grown was used by Mum in the kitchen. The effect of the allotment upon my mental health never ceases to amaze me.

See that second picture of me, with the roses? Well, if grow such beautiful things,you just have to hug them and be proud of them.

There have been times when teaching and studying has rather frazzled me; yet taking a walk down to the plot with my wellingtons on and clutching a cup of tea has helped rub away low mood and anxiety. I do believe in the effect and with that, aimed to share the idea. Last year, I carried out a workshop at the Annual Conference of  the Association of Teachers of Psychology where I presented how gardening and horticulture had a positive physical and psychological effects that could be used within teaching and learning. The workshop started off with delegates colouring garden related images and ended with everyone sowing sunflowers. I was also able to raise seeds for all 200 delegates to have an envelope of sunflowers to carry out some mindfulness/gardening therapy themselves. I was really glad to hear that some colleagues had actually sown sunflowers and were reporting back success.

With Mental Health now becoming more and more present in the public consciousness, this also lends itself to the deeper integration of gardening and horticulture as strategies to support mental health concerns. Charities such as Thrive already offer horticulture based support. Gardening Leave, a charity that is sadly no longer running, used to support Veterans using horticulture.  MIND has also carried out significant work and helped to influence policy making.There is clear evidence of how gardening-just pottering-as well as therapeutic horticulture can have a positive impact upon individuals who are experiencing mental health concerns. In cases where there have been communal allotment plots used by groups, there is increased interaction with client groups reporting reductions in instances of low mood. They have felt valued and part of a community; they have improved social and emotional statuses. The effect of gardening and horticulture has been both positive and therapeutic.

Note that I have deliberately used the word ‘concerns’. Using the word ‘problem’ rather raises my hackles and I feel it only contributes to the continued stigmatisation of Mental Health concerns.

As an allotmenteer, I can safely say that gardening is a good strategy in supporting my own mental health. It was a deliberate choice to also include it when writing the first book; there needs to be a better awareness of both mental health and strategies to help those experiencing concern.

I do however have a few other hats. As a Teacher of Psychology, I am only to aware that the students in my classroom, may be experiencing mental health concerns or supporting someone with mental health concerns. As a trainee counsellor being aware is just as crucial. Mental Health permeates through every day life; with every one and every where.

There are of course many mental health concerns; from mild anxiety, depression to severe psychosis. Gardening and horticulture may not be suitable for all aspects of these concerns, but it can certainly contribute to management of some signs and symptoms. I will continue to reflect upon gardening and mental health; for me personally, it has been valuable beyond words.

Chutney: Petal, the preserving pan and me #gdnblogger

Okay, the preserving pan has been sat idle for a while; the last batch of preserve was made in August. This close to Christmas, I might have made a few more bits and pieces. Alas, the mojo has been a bit adrift.

Until today.

The last batch that we made was ‘Oberon’s relish’ which involve apples, mint and green tomato. This has all now gone to loving homes, so  I thought about doing some experimenting. There were some plot grown scotch bonnets that need to be used, and I also harvested a fair bit of mint from the allotment. Home grown garlic was also used to form the base of the chutney.

 

You can see the youtube video here.

It does take time to prepare all of the ingredients; lots was chopped up before it could all get combined. Patience is required when cooking, to ensure that all of the flavours infuse and nothing burns. You really don’t want to be scrubbing the bottom of the preserving pan when burned stuff has welded itself there.

At the moment, the chutney is going to be very intense and quite fiery. Hopefully, it will mellow for a while before it can be tasted.

Over due intro to the plot #gdnbloggers

You can also view the video here.

Thought I should perhaps add a little context with where all of the fruit and veg that is grown comes from.

The allotment plot has been going through peaks ans troughs over the last six years, with some great successes and some rather wearing disasters. This is just brief overview of the plot. It is hoped that over the coming months, there will be some planning and preparation on the plot with it gradually being tidied up for the forth coming growing season. It is something of a mess at the moment, and turning it around will take some time and effort.

Cooking Allotment Squash #gdnbloggers

It will be soon that time of year again, where we cannot move for Pumpkins. There are two of our-well, Mama F’s-that are waiting in the wings to meet their merry end. In the mean time though,  you may have a few allotment squashes hanging around that need to meet their end.

There were a few round courgettes that were floating around looking rather sorry for themselves. Mama F has decided to make a curry type dish with them, and I just happen to be in the vicinity to catch it on film.

You can also view the clip here.

The recipe is simple enough. Onions, garlic and ginger were sauteed in a pan with some cumin. Ma then added spices to these, and cooked them through to infuse the flavour. She also added Punjabi Wadi-these are made of urid dahl and are effectively dried spiced dumplings-a bit like a bollywood oxo cube, just a bit grittier. These are spiced, and give a little more depth to the dish.

 

punjabiwadi

Once that base of the mixture is cooked through, chopped squashes were added. They were already in water, so there was no need to add extra. Allow this to all cook through, under cover so as to allow steam to cook the squashes through. The dish is done when the squash is tender, but not too squishy or mushy.

Depending on how coarse and stringy the squash is, this will influence how long you cook it for. Don’t forget to stir, otherwise it will burn. Keep it all on a moderate heat, just to make sure; this also allows the water to be soaked up.

You can also view the second clip here.

Not just a pot plant; She’s a lady. #gdnbloggers

tulsi

Her name is Tulsi and she lives on the kitchen window sill. Woe betide anyone who tries to move her. If you do, the chances are she will die.

Or so the legend has it.

And the myth.

Mum  has had a Tulsi-holy basil plant-on and off on the kitchen window sill for a number of years. On the odd occasion, that the plant has moved from one side of the sill to the other and unceremonisously died, Mum has been quick to replace it. She really wants a Tulsi plant on the kitchen sill.

To you and I, the image might just look like a pot plant; it’s a basil plant, just not the sort to make your pesto from. (Though you can dry her leaves and make tea; it’s supposed to be good for you with a number of ayurvedic properties.) According to different versions of Hindu Mythology, the pot plant Tulsi is actually a reincarnation of a female deity. I did try to read it through, make some sense of the narrative; I do have some vague knowledge of the theology. Sadly, it made my brain hurt; there were lots of different variations and convoluted plot holes. So I can’t tell you which version fits or how.

Tulsi has pride of place on the window sill. Dressed in red thread, she has prominence. Mum makes sure that the pot plant is comfortable, watered and fed-dare I say it-religiously. I have observed how the plant does indeed throw a strop if it is moved two feed to the left and to the other side of the sill. It takes time for her to recover and re-leaf in most cases.

 

Plotting allotment progress #gdnbloggers

Just got back from the plot, and a good thing to as the heavens had decided to open. The allotment rent has been paid, and I have been handed a potato order form for next year. It is definitely autumn.

plottophalf.JPG

I spent the first part of the morning doing school work, there are always lessons to plan. Then I decided to go down to the plot and get my hands a little dirty; not to mention get attacked by sprawling brambles and their thorns. What you see above, is the top half of the allotment-from the blueberries onwards-and this year, this part has been largely unloved and cultivated. So much so, Mama F has been persuading me, as mum’s do, to do something about it.

I won’t lie, its all a bit intimidating.Over grown, full of grass in places; there are suppose to be six discretely formed beds where I can plant things. Three areas are home to both raspberry and strawberry, so tidying up is going to take some time and effort in negotiating around these. The first hour or so was spent battling brambles that edge the plot. Some but not all have been chopped back so that they are not overhanging or trailing into beds.  This the type of plot activity that I have purple gauntlets for, this and roses that now need pruning back. Without the gauntlets, I look like a scream queen from a slasher movie.

The other activity involved digging. Trouble is, I don’t like digging. My mum does, and she will quite happily dig and give me a running commentary as to how many weeds she has pulled or how much grass there was in clumps all over the place. I did however try to have a go today. There was some clod smashing done and some of the heavy clay in one bed was turned over. I decided to dig and smash around a couple of dandelions. As much as I tried to lever them out with a fork, they are rather deep rooted, and are going to need a bit more welly than I had in the tank today. With the playlist on shuffle and earphones in my ears, the bed was half turned over whilst I decided to sing very, very loudly. (Adele’s one and only, for those who want to know. Though I am not averse to Bond theme’s or Maroon5 being belted out).

Then I got distracted.

fallgoldautumnbliss

A look over my shoulder told me that there were a handful of yellow and pink raspberries ready for the picking. These are fall gold and autumn bliss. I did pick them, and they were promptly eaten alongside the last falstaff apple that was hanging off the tree. Not bad when you need a sugar rush on the plot. As well as the last bits of soft fruit, there were also a few flowers left to pick as well.

lastblooms

It might be getting colder, darker, and even starting to rain, but I am hoping to sort out the plot and get it ready for the growing season. I’m not sure yet, as to whether I will be planting garlic soon; though this can be done right up to the end of November. The focus is making the plot manageable. With first half of the plot, this will be easier; raised beds can be tidied up and grass pulled out and away. The top half is going to be decidedly more labour intensive.

This growing season has felt different for one reason or another. Not only is there going to be plot preparation, but also some reflection on how this year wasn’t as good as previous years.  I know that part of it has been my own busy life, and there will increased efforts to potter on the ploy to get a better life/work/mental health balance.

I’m deliberately mentioning mental health again, as being on the plot today helped clear the cob webs that have been lingering. Simply walking away from done school work-and it was done, I would never walk away from a half planned lesson-picking up the purple gauntlets and going to the plot for a couple of hours was lovely. I was able to get some zen-like focus back. Though that might have also been down to the apple and raspberries. The rain was starting through, and it was time to go home.

 

Hello, Allotment and #Destinationstartrek #gdnbloggers

plotoctober.JPG

Hello, allotment, I have missed you.  I have missed the grapes getting ripe, and being plucked from the vine. I have missed cutting the last of the roses, all of the glads are now done. I have missed you and quite a bit.

Today, after what feels like an age, I have made it to the allotment to see what is happening and what I might do next. Ordinarily, as this time of year, I would be thinking about or will have planted garlic. I haven’t got that far yet.

Over the last few weeks, things have been a little unsettled. Time has been challenged, stretched, I have been battling against cramped head space with lots of things competing for my attention. I have had lots of reports from Mama F who has helped keep things in relative check on the plot. To be honest, not a lot has fruited this year, so she’s just been overseeing it all. I don’t think this years lack of productivity has made things easier.

Going today, was case of taking stock. Taking a moment, to breathe. And when your shoulder feels like it is going to fall off as does your arm as adrenaline and cortisol drag you through a stress response; that is quite difficult.

Why do I mention that?

Well, that’s my stress response. First thing first, I’m okay. If I wasn’t, I would say. It’s all a bit implicit, rather than explicit. There is some anxiety invoking issues that my brain and body don’t really like. Explicit, in that whilst I feel okay and am coming to terms with recent challenging events, there is something implicit that is not helping and would rather I had horrible pain from time to time. Not all the time, but occasionally and it’s rather irritating as you ordinarily take thing head on and do them to the best of your ability. But we have plan! The idea is to work through these concerns, get a balance; feel a little more congruent and use the allotment to do that. The allotment has always served an additional purpose beyond plot to plate food; it contributes greatly for me in terms of maintaining positive mental health. It is something that I have always promoted, that gardening, horticulture, pottering on the plot has a positive effect on mental health. I would be daft to not practice what I promote.

That is why I have a picture of a blank bed. I am aiming to sort the plot out over the autumn and winter months, change the second half of the plot; nothing was cultivated this year in that area and it has effectively become fallow.

We have had some produce to cheer me up. The above chillies and garlic have met their fate in the base for tonight’s dinner which is prawns in a masala. The  base is simple enough: garlic, onions, ginger with carom and cumin are sauteed. Tomatoes are added to this, as well as the contents of a masala box and both fresh and powdered coriander.

 

The video can also be viewed here

As well as liking the allotment, I am also a fan of star trek. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original series and it’s impact upon modern contemporary culture has been huge! As teenager, I remember watching ST: TNG as a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that was the height of my Thursday nights. Subsequently, voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise followed. I might even find myself watching the extension of the franchise with the new one pencilled in for next year.

There is the most tenuous of links between Star Trek and Horticulture. I remember watching Neelix growing tomatoes in a cargo bay, there was Keiko the botanist and at one point Janeway and Chakotay end up on a planet where they have to grown their own food. On a more contemporary level, we have had a certain British Astronaut growing seeds in space; so this whole thing is not entirely without foundation.

It’s funny, even though they were on the poster, I don’t remember seeing Picard, Janeway or Archer….

I did hear a certain George Takei; I heard  but did not see, as he was delivering one of the paid talks and I didn’t book any. He sounded lovely!

It was months ago, that I decided to put a star trek convention on my list of things to do. After all, I had already gone to an Angel/Buffy one, it made sense. Lo and behold, I saw this advertised! Naturally, I had to go along and see what it was all about.

The first part of my journey had mild fury as the trains from hobbitland to the centre of town were not running. In true persistent fashion, I hopped onto the rail replacement and made it to the NEC all ready to go. My first thought? “Wow, how many red shirts are there?” Some of which were in the queue for Costa, which rather amused me. If you are in Command, you may need a strong Americano.

As with the buffy/Angel con, there was loveliness in being with like minded people. For the record, I am a blue shirt. (Trainee counsellor, psych teacher, I think that qualifies….) The highlight for however, was this. Being sat in the Captain’s chair in a replica of the TNG enterprise.

Yes, it was as cool as it looked. (no, no one is trying to beam in to my right, it just looks like that…)

tngbridge

Sixth Form Savvy

Making the most of your time in sixth form

harley-quinn

"It's amazing whacha find in people's glove compartments!"

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

My Big Allotment Challenge

A fine WordPress.com site

The Incompetent Writer

Getting better at writing, the slow way.

The Write Edge

A writer's haven. A publishing solution. A reader's delight.--By Ekta R. Garg

rachelmankowitz

The Cricket Pages

digwithdorris.com

News from under the earth

allotmentinmygarden

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Dreamwalker's Garden

Growing Your Own Produce and Remedies

donquiblog

A Whimsical Food and Travel Blog

Allotmentals Plot 103

Allotment, garden and daytrips

FoodFrom4

Meat free recipes from number 4

forking belle

sow and scoff: allotmenteer meets baker

The Kitchen Table

News from the allotment & recipes from home.

could do worse

adventures in London

beansandtoast

allotment, cat, crafts, food, pens, etc.

%d bloggers like this: