The Potager 2017

Months have yet again gone past without a post! In my defence I spent March in Australia for my little sisters wedding and then packing up and shipping the rest of stuff that we had in storage – it was a frantic, busy trip. When I got home it was straight into mad gardening season including playing catch up with all the seeds that should have gone in or got started in March!

We had wonderful peas but they all got wiped out a couple of weeks ago when we had a heatwave come through:

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I’ve also extended my growing area into the space under the hoop house, a new round garden, a potato bed and a soft fruit bed. I’m growing butternuts, decorative gourds and baby watermelons on the edges of the hoop house and will train them up over the hoops. Tomatoes run down the centre with ropes hanging down to support them, I’m hoping it works really well, we are also going to install a drip system to help with the huge watering job.

We have so much in: beans, melons, tomatoes, 19 strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, 3 types of basil, courgette (zucchini) – both normal green ones and a climbing yellow variety, potatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflowers, kale, rainbow swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, radishes. Lots of companion plants in too – nasturtiums, calundula, marigolds and borage. The grapes look amazing this year and the plums, peaches, apples, walnuts, hazelnuts and figs seem to be no worse for wear even though we had a late frost that sent a lot of the new budding leaves black.

I’ll get some up to date pics shortly!

Chemical free DIY rosemary and lemon kitchen cleaner.

I’m slowly moving us away from harsh chemical cleaners etc in the home. The more you look at the ingredients in a lot of store bought products the less you want to subject yourself and your children to the toxic mix that most of them have! I’ve been buying more natural ones but realised that it is very easy and much cheaper to make your own. There are recipes all over the net for everything you could possibly want to make

This recipe is soooo easy if you have rosemary growing in your garden like I do.

Ingredients:

10 springs of rosemary

The outside of lemon (I just roughly chop off the skin – some recipes I read say not to leave any of the flesh but I’ve not had an issue)

White vinegar

A big jar

Instructions:

I hope you can cope with this people! Put the rosemary and lemon in the jar and fill about 2/3 with white vinegar and leave to sit for a minimum of 3 days and up to a couple of weeks. That is it pretty much!

This is what it will look like after about 2 weeks:

imag5042.jpgDrain out the liquid into a bowl – isn’t the colour amazing!? I couldn’t believe how yellow it went the first time I made this – is is from all the natural oils in the lemon I think (although I guess the rosemary probably gives some of the colour too)

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I then used a cloth to strain it back into the jar – there were a few little floaties and I was worried they’d clog the spray bottle if I left them in:

imag5044.jpgI then filled my spray bottle with just over 1/2 of the mixture and topped it up with water – job done – and in good time – my stove was desperate for a spray!

imag5045.jpgWhite vinegar is amazing stuff, it is naturally anti bacterial and degreasing. Lemon and rosemary add to the antibacterial properties of this cleaner as well as making it smell yummy. This is totally safe to use in the kitchen on cooking surfaces and if you have a toddler who likes to grab on run off with things (or is that just me!?) you don’t need to worry that he will come to any harm spraying this around!

If you have been thinking about trying some natural cleaners then this is a great place to start – quick, cheap, easy and it works really, really well. Let me know if you try it!

 

Raclette for dinner!

It was my birthday earlier in the month and J and the boys got me a raclette machine – we’ve wanted one for ages and I was thrilled with it as it is an 8 person one (most are only 6), it also has a stone top for doing meat / veg etc and 2 teflon tops for crepes etc. Through a combination of forgetting to get the ingredients and us all being unwell on and off we only tried it out last night – yum!

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Wintery Winter!

We’ve had some really cold weather this winter. In January we had a couple of weeks with down to about -10c each night! Some of the frosts were so pretty. Sadly the predicted snow never arrived – even if I did rush out and buy sleds at one point.

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I have enjoyed the cold and crisp but looking forward to spring around the corner. The bulbs are starting to push up and my veggie garden plans are well on the way for this year!

 

Quick round up of the end of 2016!

The months have just got away from me and blogging has sadly been what has suffered most!

I thought I’d do a quick catch up of the end of the year and then try to carry on in a more regular manner with my posts!

Summer

Mum spent most of the summer with us so it was pretty busy with lots of visitors around. She headed off via the UK mid September and Rémy and I went across with her so we could catch up with the family and see Dad.

I never posted pics of my 40.5th birthday party in early August – was a great weekend with friends and family from all over the world (mum came from Oz, god-mother and her husband from the UK). I really enjoyed the planning and the night! I may make it a yearly thing to have a big summer garden party – so much fun!

Autumn

I love Autumn – the colours just get me! I wanted to take a picture of the amazing colours on the way to Bergerac (we are now picking Josh and another boy up there every afternoon as he has started Lycée (senior high) there) but sadly the night before I was planning on taking my camera and stopping to take photos there was a big wind storm and all the leaves came down! I will make sure I get some this year!

The Hazelnut crop was fantastic after a very poor crop the year before!

Very sadly my lovely Dad passed away in early October. I am eternally grateful that I went over and saw him less than 2 weeks before he went into hospital. RIP Dad xx

2 of my gorgeous boys!

Winter

We finally got Rémy a créche place in November so the weeks flew by as we have had lots of settling in sessions and I have a 10km drive each way so I spend much of my day in the car it feels like! It has been hard going as he isn’t keen on being away from me but we have now settled on a 4 mornings a week routine and we’ll see if we can get a longer day at some point if he can cope with it.

There was one seriously excited little boy this Christmas – he just loved it and has only stopped singing ‘Jingle Bells’ the last week or so!

Louis almost as excited!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a Happy (belated) New Year to all xx

We’ve been adopted!

A few weeks ago we had a lovely black and white cat start hanging about. He was really sweet so after some discussion (read begging from Louis!) we decided if he didn’t have a home that we would keep him. I texted all the neighbours and found out he had shown up earlier in the summer and stayed for a while at one of our friends and that they couldn’t keep him but were sure he was homeless. Off we went to buy some food, a collar and some flea treatment. Louis has been fantastic and is looking after him really well while Remy has been fairly gentle with him so far! He has fitted nicely into the family and we have called him Oscar! How could we have resisted this face:

Medieval costumes and fun!

Wow how has it been a month since I posted – it has just flown by in a flurry of intense activity!

At the end of July our village had a weekend medieval festival in the village with everyone (well not everyone but lots of people!) dressing up for the festivities. I had read about it on the village website months ago and spent quite a lot of time researching all things medieval (so fascinating) and decided I was going to make our costumes, including a 12th century bliaut for myself! Needless to say much of the 2nd half of July was spent madly sewing, I got my hem finished at 6.30 pm the evening of the start of the festival! I would have loved to have added more detailing / trim to mine and even to hubby’s and Josh’s but alas ran out of time and was just happy to have them finished! We managed a quick photo shoot between the hem being sewn and going out, handily the centre part of our house includes a medieval building and staircase. I was pretty pleased with the results!

The shield on Remy’s tunic is the Irish version of our sirname – too cute!

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Louis’ chainmail was kindly knitted by my mother-in-law and looked pretty cool!

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One of the troupe of ‘medieval’ people (they go around festivals all over France all summer!) congratulated me on the correctness of Josh’s costume with the big central slits. Would have loved to have had more time for details like a proper non-modern belt and embroidery or ribbon around the edges.

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My costume was a much researched 12th century bliaut. I’ll do a post later when things calm down a bit detailing how I made it and the resources I used for anyone who is interested!

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Ta Da the house!

I have just realised after looking back through my blog posts that while there are lots of garden and children photos I haven’t actually posted any pictures of the house! So to remedy that here we go with some from the front!

This is the northern end where we live:

The big French doors go into what is currently an unconverted double height entry with the far left end downstairs being the kitchen / living, the wall separating these two areas will be knocked down to make a huge open space. There will be a new floor put in above where the French doors are to make another bedroom. Above the kitchen / living is a huge room which the boys currently share (this will be split in two as it is 30m2 so plenty of room). The lintel that you can just see behind the car is the window the the office / guestroom that is half renovated that I posted about a little while ago and the room above that is currently our bedroom and was renovated by the previous owners, we have replaced the window with double glazing but not much else needs doing (until we split it to make the new upstairs bathroom that is!). So once the boys room is split and the new room above the entry done we’ll have 5 rooms (bed or study) with four upstairs and one downstairs, downstairs shower room, upstairs bathroom (we have recently managed to find a stunning old cast iron bath tub that will be going in!) and big living space / kitchen in this section of the house.

This central section of the building is what we think would have been the original building (there are exterior windows giving onto the big barn) and the stone stairs at the front and some other details like the stone sink suggest a very old building (14th or15th C perhaps – I need to do more research). This area is totally unrenovated at present but the plan is to make the room through the door at the bottom of the stairs into a big kitchen (giving out onto the garden on the other side of the building) with a bedroom above and a small mezzanine (child’s bedroom / study) over that. The small room under the stairs is currently where we keep the bins / bikes etc but may possibly end up having our boiler in it as well and above will be the ensuite giving onto the master bedroom.

This is what we call the big barn and little barn (they are a bit separated inside by the old cow feeders). It is a bit hard to get the full impression of just how big the big barn doors are – the smaller door is around normal door height (but much wider) and I think normal person height is about where the wood line is on the door! These are currently used as storage / workspace but there is massive potential!

The photos I did of the back the other day when I took these didn’t work out because of the sun so I’ll redo them and post again soon!

Peas!

The peas were my first thing to really grow and produce and they were oh so yummy!

This is how they were looking when they first started producing in early June:

Sadly by last week I had to pull them out as they were covered in powdery mildew and really past it! I have learnt some lessons though – they really do mean it when they tell you to thin them – I’m sure I had them too close which made my powdery mildew worse and harder to treat (I tried the natural milk method and copper but did it too late I think). The very wet spring I don’t think helped either then I think I may not have given them enough water over the last month where we have had nearly no rain. Ahh well we live and learn and I was still really pleased with what we did get.

We had my lovely friend Emily and her family visit from Oz a couple of weeks ago – it was so lovely to see them and Em took the time to get Remy to eat peas from the pod (I’m sure if I’d tried he’d have refused!!). Ever since then at least twice a day he yells ‘peeeeaas’ and either goes and picks some or if he can’t reach any drags one of us down the garden to get him some. It is so cute!

He snaps them in half then somehow picks them out one by one and says ‘mmmmm’ very loudly for each one he eats!

I think the last (according to Louis – I’ll have to go and check) were picked yesterday so I’m hoping the beans will soon be ready and he’ll love them as much!

Chicken and courgetti with lardons, garlic, shallots and lime.

So after months (years?) of reading about spiralizing veggies and a year or more of carefully cutting my zucchinis into tiny slices I finally bought myself a spiralizer! I was totally inspired to by the gorgeous zucchinis I’m growing in my garden.

I’m so pleased I did, I’ve used it so many times already – the taste and texture of just picked courgetti is just amazing! I’m starting to experiment with what I can do with it to make healthy, quick, yummy meals.This is what I came up with for the first two picked from my garden:

Pan fried chicken and courgetti with lardons, garlic, shallots and lime.

Ingredients:

  • 100-150 grams of chicken breast per person
  • 1-2 courgettes / zucchinis (depending where you come from and how big they are!) per person
  • 50 grams of lardons (chopped streaky bacon) per person
  • Garlic and shallots (eshallots) finely cut – I used 2 cloves of garlic and 2 shallots for 2 people but just adjust to your taste. You can also use onion if you don’t have shallots
  • Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper to finish

Method:

  1. Fry your lardons, garlic and shallots in a non stick pan until cooked and just starting to brown
  2. Remove from the pan and set aside (or push to the side of your pan)
  3. Add the chicken breasts and cook then remove from pan
  4. Mix in the courgetti with the lardons, garlic and shallots and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over it all
  5. Place a lid over the pan allowing the courgetti to cook until just al dente
  6. Serve into bowls and top with the chicken – I also added an extra squeeze of lime onto the chicken
  7. Sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan and black pepper to serve
  8. Enjoy your delicious low carb dinner!

I’m so glad I used the lime – it really freshened the whole meal making it a fantastic summer dish!