Category Archives: chillies

Soul revival: Hello, Spring

It’s half through the week off, and I’m pottering around, practising some much needed self care. I say I’m pottering, I’m pacing around til the new book goes live and have a distinct lack of writing mojo. Writing other than the blog, that is.

I find it really hard to wander around aimlessly; generally, I have lists and plans as to what to, when, and will be diligent in doing what I have to. What I need to do, sort of gets jettisoned out of the nearest air lock.

Until this week, that is and I’m making a conscious effort to stop.

Sowing of seeds was definitely on the agenda for this week. I’ve been keeping an eye on the chilli seeds; with two more little green babies fished out of the propagator. These were the recently re-sown batch of Cayennes. I do have a few slow growing habaneros in there, I think. I may well find myself rescuing chilli plant from garden centres at some point, by way of experimenting.  I wasn’t originally going to sow cucumbers, it’s been a while since I have. These are Marketmore, and we shall see if these germinate. I don’t tend to have much luck with home sown, home grown cucumbers. They are however wonderfully delicious to eat and do make a nice raita or a good side salad. I might have a a look at other varieties, with a few crystal lemon ones knocking about.

The first batch of tomatoes have been sown, I say first batch as I will probably end up sowing more. I’ve sown four different varieties. The ever present Roma and Marmande, with a sun-blush orange variety and another, which I think is called Indigo. The latter is a blue/black tomato, so we shall see. Roma and Marmand have proved to be reliable varieties. They are heavy croppers and tend to get used up really quickly.

There is a whole list of other things to sow. I will hanging fire yet, before sowing squashes, for example. These grow quickly and the frost window here in Birmingham doesn’t close til the end of May. I will have a think about Runner Beans and Climbing French Beans, The latter will definitely be used across different dishes.

My plan is to continue pottering for the rest of the working week. The weekend is reserved for the allotment, provided that the weather stays stable.

 

Today and yesterday, I decided to take a walk around Middle Earth. Within walking distance, there is Sarehole Mill. A place, said to be the childhood haunt of J.R.R Tolkien and something of a local heritage treasure.  This morning, I donned my walking boots, took a thermo-mug of tea and off I went. I wanted to do this as slowly and as serenely as I could. Yesterday, I thoroughly enjoyed just ambling along, listening to the birds, being a green space and feeling my heart rate slow down. This was about being, taking time, absorbing the universe and being at peace. I think I might do the same again, and make the most of my down time.

 

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

cayennes

The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

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Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

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I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.

Taking stock of April #gdnbloggers

As we near the mid point of April during Holy Week, we also get to Vaisakhi.  This is a harvest festival within Hinduism and within Sikhism, the start of  new year. For me, I guess this triggers  a process of reflection as to what I might experience with the coming growing season as everything starts to bloom and blossom with a new cycle. Vaisakhi and Holy week therefore both carry a sense of renewal, potential and also progress. Perhaps universe is shifting and changing as seeds are sown and nurtured and this is slightly tapping into unconscious ESP of some kind.

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The plot might look a bit stagnant, but there are plans. I have succumbed a little, and I am waiting for the green glass to wither away so that it might be taken up and away. There was just too much on the far side behind the grapevines to be dug out and by hand. We have had some sunshine and hopefully that will mean that grass killing stuff works. Once I have a canvas, I will be able to sow further seeds and plug them in eventually. I may even broadcast sow carrots and turnips, just to see what happens.

There are a few seedlings at home, the seed sowing mojo is still a bit sparse. Tomatoes, aubergine and chillies are being coddled on the window sill. On my list, there are squashes, runner beans and climbing french beans to be located and sown. I am mindful, that the beans and squashes-if they are quick off the mark-will grow like triffids, and will need to be looked after until the frost window closes in Birmingham at the end of May. Mum has already plugged in potatoes, and the weekly saag sowing will soon be underway. I should probably also look into sweetcorn!

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It is only in the last few weeks that I have had a chance to stop, take a few moments and fully take stock of the tornadoes that have become the busy state of being that is life. Much of this has been self inflicted and working on writing projects whilst juggling work and training. Whilst the deadlines for writing have largely been self inflicted, there have been a few other things that were so far beyond my control there wasn’t an awful lot I could do but wait for the tornadoes to to settle. Now that there is a sense of calm and settling, I wanted to share the three affirmations that are above. I have no idea who wrote them, when or for what their motivations were; they are however three very powerful slips of paper.

The first-‘you are strong…’ I picked out of a box as I was getting to the end of prepping fragments for publication and the end of term was happening. Sheer grit and resolve were taking a battering, and this slip of paper put a spring into my step. The second-‘well done, beautiful’ I found just as  Fragments hit the air and term was changing and I was finding my feet, my plot and universe again. Number three, well that is from today. That heralds a great deal of movement in so many different spheres.

As I mentioned before, I have no idea who wrote them. But these have been powerful vibrations from the universe and whatever Powers That Be.

I am hoping that the third is relevant to every aspect of being, the plot included. The plot is after all, a huge part of me and brings more colour to my life than I could possibly say. I am looking forward to the roses blooming, the glads coming up. There will probably be a sunflower sowing at some point, I have rather missed those.  Then there is the preserving; it has been such a long time since I have made any preserves, I might have to revise the methods. With the plot very firmly back as part of my world after a lot of swirliness, I am looking forwards with lots of lessons learned.  I am also looking for a rest over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and adventures.

I shall report back forthwith.

It’s all kicking off #gdnbloggers

Hold the front page! We have blossom on the Apricot! (Yes, my nail varnish is also chipped)

moorparkapricot

For the first time since it was plugged in, the Moor Park Apricot is in blossom. I did check, and there were all of three delicate looking white blooms. Three!

Alas, I am not holding my breath. Last year, the peach tree also blossomed-it’s getting leafier as I type-only for the frost to nip at it. Therefore, I am not holding out too much hope that the Apricot will set fruit; I probably should drape it in fleece. Only I end up having a full scale heated debate with Mama F as to the why’s and wherefores. That, and it looks as though Casper and friends are floating through the plot. I will keep an eye on the Apricot and see whether additional blooms burst and then make a decision about draping the tree in fleece.

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The pear tree is also looking a bit frilly with blossom, the stella and morello cherry trees aren’t too far behind. In contrast, the apple-falstaff and braeburn-appear to be behind and are only just starting to get leafier. As with Apricot, there has been limited success with the pear. Last year, we had all of two pears; they met their end in a chutney. I am therefore, a little surprised by the arrival of blossom.  I might find myself fleecing things sooner rather than later.

In other news, Mama F has sunk this years spuds on her allotment plot; leaving me to fiddle with the raised beds and plot this year’s course of development. At the moment, I have seedlings on the window sills.

At the moment I have clara and money maker aubergines. (My thanks to Gifts You Grow for the money maker). As well as Roma and Marmande tomatoes and an assortment of Cayenne. These are precariously leggy in some cases; sown when light levels were at bit rubbish, this was always going to happen. I am hoping that moving them from one side of the house will help the plants fill out and become robust.

So what is going to happen next?

There a plans; the sort that change and with reflection.

In the long term, I would like to fix my poly tunnel and get some more raised beds. Having one half of the plot, that is open ground and not very productive doesn’t feel right. So before the end of the year, the second half the plot-the one where we have the roses and trees should have some raised beds on it. This will mean negotiating with the raspberries and strawberries that are are currently ‘up there’ someplace.

I am looking into a new cover; though I might have to borrow Mama F’s poly for this growing season. She likes aubergines, I do not; so she can play with them…and my chillies…I will  of course babysit them accordingly. I do get rather precious about my chillies.

On the seed sowing  front, I would like to sow some more tomatoes. There was an rather conservative sowing at first, so more Roma and Marmade are on the cards. I would also like to sow runner beans and climbing French beans; it is too early yet, I made that mistake last year. I might even try peas, though that is debatable.

Before long, it will be May and I will nervously eyeing the closing of the frost window.  I will be deciding on this years squashes; we have yet to sacrifice a pumpkin from last year, so there will be seed selection.

I have had a good look at the current raised beds. One third of them are cleared, with the others full of stubborn grass that will need an aggressive intervention for removal. It is simply not the sort to be pulled out by hand.  Over all, there does feel a more systematic and organised approach to doing things this year. It would be easy to be defeated, and I think for me personally I need to take a step back and take time to do things slowly but surely. It will all get done, just not at break neck speed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me; I have counselling key terms to generate-spiral notebook, ink pen-and maybe some Buffy season seven to put on in the background.

I might even re-paint my nails.

And yes, if anyone knows of allotment proof nail varnish, send it my way….seriously!

Chillies on the Sill #gdnbloggers

Bit of an update for you. I have just potted up four additional baby chillies.

You can also find the video here.

As you can see there are quite a few pots and not an awful lot of window sill space. These will no doubt find themselves shuffling around the house before settling into the poly tunnel sometime during June/July. There are three varieties of chilli that have been sown; jalepeno, cayenne and purple haze.

I will keeping an eye on these on the coming weeks as it is still rather cold and light levels are yet to increase. For now, the seedlings are growing slowly, and I don’t mind that. Taking their time, the seedlings can establish in their pots and gradually become stronger. Chillies need a long growing season and the early stages of development are important for the growing season to eventually be productive.

With the chillies now on the window sill, the next job is it sow aubergines and tomatoes. I am likely to sow the aubergines first and then tomatoes a few weeks later. They are part of the same family, and neither should be sown too early. I really don’t fancy gangly, leggy seedlings that keel over and another set have to be sown. Mama F did actually ask this morning if I had baby aubergine varieties, and pootled off to check the seed catalogues. I’ve not had much success with home sown and grown aubergines. I have got the odd flower, but not fruit. Every year, I debate as to whether or not I will sow them, this year was no different. I suspect Mama F and I will end up competing, trying to grow them in two different plots. With Mama F then competing with her sister-last year, my aunt managed to grow an aubergine, and there was excitement-so you can imagine the drama.

There is half a plan now as to how the growing season might start this year. Before long,  I will be thinking about beans, squashes and things. There are so many things that I need to double check before things kick off and properly.

In the meantime, I will be keeping an eye on the seedlings, and hoping that they don’t keel over!

Magic Squares and Chillies #gdnbloggers

The chillies have had something of a spurt; with the low light levels and lack of direct heat, they have become leggy. When leggy, seedlings stretch towards a source of heat and light, stretching upwards and being at risk of keeling over. This can be quite disheartening when you really want seedlings to grow.

Of the forty something seeds grown-scotch bonnet yellow, purple haze, cayenne, jalapeno and purple haze-we have approximately 15 seedlings that are some wiry, tall and gangly. I would rather they didn’t keel over. so I have decided to pot them up today. Using multi-purpose compost and some 7cm pots, chillies are being made a little more comfortable.

 

You can also find the video here

For me, this is the first transplanting. There may be another pot change, before they end up in their final pots in a at least three months time-ish. After that, any surviving plants will live-hopefully-in the poly tunnel. As you can imagine, this is something of a lengthy process, and we are only at the very start of the growing season.

Currently. the weather-in Britain, at least-is fairly hit and miss; it is cold outside. I, like many other Britons, scraped frost off the car windscreen this morning. This directly impacts upon all the tiny, dainty seedlings that might have already taken up space upon the window sill. I am keeping my chilli seedling away from the window pane. They will still get light, they-hopefully-will have some protection against the drop in night time temperatures.

With the heated prop empty, I have sown an emergency batch of about a dozen cayennes; it all felt a little thin on the ground. I shall monitor these over the next week to see what happens with them

So, seeds have been sown, they have germinated and grown. I like that feeling of new beginnings, as we look forward to the new growing season. I have written before, that allotmenteering and GYO both impact upon mental health; for me, that is really important. Least of all, because I teach about it, I am a trained listener and currently enrolled on a Diploma for Humanistic Counselling; the plot has a profound effect on me, my wholeness and the way I view the world. It all helps me to obtain mindfulness and improves my mental health.

You may have seen that I rather like colouring. I also knit.

Couldn’t be more different from gardening, could it?

For the last year, a knitting project has been on pause.

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With the chillies adjusting to their new pots, I quite fancy a couple of hours revisiting knit one, purl one.

 

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Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

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“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hello 2017! #Gdnbloggers

Hello, 2017, it is nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting for you to arrive with the hope that I might reclaim my allotmenteering mojo and once more feel the fresh dirt beneath my finger nails. With keen anticipation and lots of hope, I decided to sow chillies today. It is still far too early to sow other things, yet the sowing of chillies heralds a new start and a new growing season. Truth be told, I have very few plans beyond this session of sowing. My seedbox needs an overhaul, I don’t think I have bought seeds ‘properly’ and for a while. I will be looking through the seed box, to see what I can dispatch by way of being too old to be viable and what it is that I might bolster my seed box with. Naturally, this means searching through pages of seed catalogues. I do have a stash, Mum rather like to coo over the pictures and window shop. This years tomato and aubergines are the next to be considered, with Roma VF tomatoes like to fill out the line up in another thinned out parade.

But anyway, New Year!

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I had a rifle through the seed box, to see what chillies I might like to grow. I have grown lots of different varieties over the years; some have been really successful, others less so. This year, I have rather scaled back the varieties. There  are still five varieties being sown, but I am choosing not to go over board and complicate things when I want to keep things straightforward and productive.

You can also view the video here.

(Is that video any good? I did try to make myself look a little more presentable…)

The varieties sown are:

  • Jalapeno
  • Scotch bonnet yellow
  • Purple Haze
  • Cayenne Chilli
  • Nigel’s Outdoor chilli.

As you can see, the list is shorter-much-shorter than it has has been in previous years. However, I have sown at least nine of each variety, and there is always a bit of a steep incline as to which ones actually germinate. It is still very early, and I don’t use grow lights to accelerate plant growth. This lends itself to a fair bit of risk, and the possibility that the seeds will rot, germinate get leggy and then keel over. The seeds were sown into moist jiffy pellets, which in turn are now in the heated propagator. When the seedcase has cracked, the seedling germinated, I will then fish out and pamper the little darling with the aim that it doesn’t keel over and cease to exist. You’d be surprised how well looked after these things become.

Sowing chillies was only part of the plan today; the other thing on the to-do list involves racking and bottling home brew. Last year, much of the plot’s soft fruit found itself being fermented and shoved into demi-johns. Today, blackberry wine is to be racked, as well as another batch of blackberry being bottled (and likely stowed away to see if it does get better) and I think Rhubarb and gooseberry is to be bottled as well; in the case of the latter, we will see just how tart it is.

 

Incidentally, remember all those strawberries that we harvested last year? Don’t suppose you can spot them in this photo?

strawberry-wine

And the book got finished too….It is all handwritten, so that is the first phase.