Tag Archives: fruit

GWM – Not doing it by the book :-)

February is hard on gardeners and the garden. It can be freezing or it can be warm and sunny – I’ve got a sunburn in the February sunshine a few years back. This year we’ve got wind … so far. Lots of wind, 80mph at times, knocking the electricity out, blowing down the chimney and generally sounding just like the wind in Hans Anderson’s wonderful story, “The Wind’s Tale”.

One thing that is no good at all is to sow seeds, or plant out plug plants, into cold, wet soil with a harsh wind and little sunshine. Sowing is definitely for indoors, or the polytunnel, or greenhouse, or under cloches. I’m doing all of those. I’ve got turnips, early lettuces and cabbages Premier and Derby Day. I’m just about to sow tomatoes, aubergines, sweet pepper Jumbo, Feltham First peas and broad beans Aquadulce. They’ll start life in the propagator with bottom heat to encourage them.

I’m going outside the box here, biodynamically. For various cat-reasons sowing didn’t happen on the fruit days during the last northern planting time. To stay strictly in the rules I would have to wait 4 whole weeks for the next fruit planting time with all three factors right. Three factors? They are …

  • Northern Planting Time
  • Afternoon
  • Fruit Day

These three things mean the Earth is “breathing in” … i.e. the energy is being pulled down from the stars into the soil – that’s the NPT, northern planting time. Afternoon – that’s also when the Earth is breathing in, energising the soil with the star energy the Moon collects. And fruit day – that’s when the Moon is collecting and focusing the energy from one of the “fire” constellations, Aries (Ram), Leo (Lion) and Sagittarius (Archer).

Well, I’m not going to be able to get all three lined up, but I can get two of them together. As I said, if I wait for the next NPT it’ll be too long away so I’m going to go for it on the next Fruit Days, Wed & Thu the 9th and 10th of Feb. If I wait I won’t be able to sow until Fri 18th, over a week later. And a week is a long time in gardening, many seeds will have sprouted in that time.

Sowing the tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, peas and beans this coming Wednesday and Thursday I’ll have two out of the three lined up … I’ll be sowing on Fruit Days and in the afternoon. That way, the energy will be pulling down into the soil (afternoon) and the Moon will be focusing energy from the fire constellation Aries (Fruit days). Two out of three is a lot better than nothing. Planting in good time, not waiting another week, is good too. I’ll then cultivate the seedlings on fruit days in the NPT to help them establish good roots which will work fine.

Biodynamics is a process that helps plants do their very best. It is NOT a religion where you will be blasted to hell if you don’t do it exactly by the book! Do take that to heart, don’t be put off doing it just because you can’t always be perfect. Honestly, good enough is fine, is very good. Always just try to do your best and know that plants want to grow, even in the most adverse conditions they’ll have a go. A friend of mine had to keep her lovely hosta stacked between a couple of concrete blocks for 2+ years … and she lives in snow-stricken Scotland! It’s fine, it grows its leaves beautifully and flowers like mad. That’s an extreme example but it really does goes to show that plants want to grow and will give it their best shot all the time. Biodynamics helps them.

So go for it with your biodynamics even if sometimes you can’t do it perzactly right every time. I do … and it works.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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Biodynamic Course

I’m running a biodynamic course over 6 Saturdays in 2011 – Working with the Moon & Stars

1.      16 April – Using the Calendar. This first Saturday gets you going with understanding the basics of biodynamic gardening, what it is, what it does and how to work it.

2.      21 May – Prep 500. Using the horn manure preparation. We make the preparation today, bring a jam jar with lid and you can take some home for your garden

3.      18 June – Prep 501. Using the horn silica preparation

4.      23 July – Cow-Pat-Pit. Making and using this starter preparation

5.      1 October – Horn Stuffing. Making horn manure, preparation 500

6.      12 November – Composting. Using the compost preparations
Cost: £45/day or £250 if you book all 6 days together

Venue: Archenland – details of how to get here sent when you book

Time: 1030-1600

Lunch: bring a dish to share with everyone

Contact us to reserve a place for the series – get going with biodynamics, it’s organics with Oomph !!!

Wye’s Women

Elen Sentier & Jennie Russell-Smith

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Compost in the early winter

Paul beginning the leaf mould process

Paul is composting like there’s no tomorrow! And doing leaf mould. At present it’s just about getting the heaps together. We’re using Mausdorfer to each layer for now, when the heaps are big enough we’ll put the preps in and leave them to cook until March/April.

Again, we’re a bit behind – due to my shoulder op, Paul’s got to do all the other work until Midwinter as I’m not even allowed to push a mop around the kitchen floor. However, we’ll get there and we know we can rely on the preps to speed the compost along.

With leaf mould, if you run the lawnmower over them, chop them up and, at the same time, add a bit of grass in with them, the leaves go a hell of a lot faster. If you then add cow-pat-pit or Mausdorfer, then the compost preps, the whole thing can be ready by next autumn which is pretty good for leaves. As we’re putting both starters and preps on the leaf mould this year we wonder if it might even be ready before then – we’ll keep you posted here.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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Veg Beds in November

Stirring 500 with a friend

I’m a bit stymied on this work this year because of the shoulder operation. It was very successful but it means I can’t do any heavy gardening – like turning over the veg beds – until February. I’ll just have to manage! It will mean the beds will have to be done all of a rush in the late winter though.

I managed to get some winter crops sown before I went into hospital and am allowed to do light weeding so I can keep the beds clean, no competition for my precious veg. the chinese greens are doing well, wonderful, tough plants they are that get going and keep going very well. The perpetual spinach will be sine too and the overwintering sprouting, broccoli, caulis et al are doing OK. The swedes and parsnips are amazing size already. As we’ve had a couple of frosts now they’re all very good to eat – winter stews are being added to the cookathons!

I didn’t get much winter salad into the poly tunnel before I went into hospital so I hope to get some going indoors and then gradually put it out for the spring. It’s far too cold to germinate out there now! As we’ve got leaf days in the NPT on Thu/Fri I hope to use them to sow some winter salad. I’ve been collecting old plastic boxes that the supermarket veg comes in for planting tubs, they’re very good and often already have holes in them, all I need now is something to stand them in to catch the water … a good hunt round the kitchen and scullery should find me something.

I also use the cardboard inners from toilet rolls as root-trainers – they come with the loo-roll and will decompose in the soil when the plants are transplanted so there’s no need to disturb the roots. Or to spend pounds on posh plastic (which won’t decompose and cost loads in energy to produce as well!) root-trainers from magazines and garden centres. I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to the spendaholic method of getting us out of recession!

I intend to sow some very early tomatoes, peas, beans – as I didn’t get the outside ones in the ground before hospital either! – for cropping in the polytunnel and greenhouse early next year. Not having had a greenhouse before I’ve not been able to do this for a long while, this year will be a bit of an experiment to see how it goes – have high hopes.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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New Strawberry Plants

Strawberry Albion

Gardening with the Moon and Stars still involves all the ordinary work J.

This month I’m catching up with the soft fruit. We needed new strawberry plants so I decided to go for a new breed – Albion ever-bearer – rather than just taking runners from the old plants as I have been doing. The originals came from a friend, and to him from his Dad, and so on down the historical line. They’re good strawberries, and I still have them in a side bed, but they’re the old style that just fruit Albion and have the fruit for 3+ months every year.

The plug plants have just arrived and been stored in a bucket of earth through the cold weather we’ve just had here. It’s still cold but the sun’s come out so I’ll be out there doing over the strawberry beds preparing to plant up the plugs over the next couple of days – making the best of the weather.

As part of this I’ll be giving the beds a dollop of prep 500, horn manure, along with compost, some well-rotted cow manure, rock dust and wood ash. There’s not a root day between now and the weekend but we begin the Northern Planting Time (NPT) today which means the Earth is again drawing energy down into the soil for the roots. Doing 500 in the afternoon, in the NPT even if not a root day means I get 2 out of 3 right and will help the beds and the plants along.

Today is a flower day, as is tomorrow, then it’s leaf until Saturday when It’s fruit from the afternoon on, and through Sunday. I won’t be planting up the strawberries until the weekend as I want to do them on a fruit day to enhance conditions for the new plug plants, give them the best chance of doing well. But I can certainly get their bed ready for them.

As we go into the NPT today I can do the work in the right season. What I’m aiming for here is to get as many things on the side of the new plants as possible so I’m going to

  • Plant them on their own day, fruit day
  • In the afternoon
  • In the Northern Planting Time

o   The last two are both when the Earth is pulling energy down into the soil which will help the roots establish well – vital for you plants being transplanted

I’m very much looking forward to eating the strawberries next year! Planting them now, in November, in the late autumn/early winter means they have six months to establish themselves and get to good fruiting size for next summer. You can plant strawberries, all soft fruit, in the spring but don’t expect much of a harvest from them in their first year if you do, they haven’t had time to get going. Planting now gives a better harvest next summer.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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Rose Hip update …

I’ve just got the mush into the muslin, draining overnight into the bucket, tomorrow I’ll make the juice into the jelly.

It’s now Apple, Rose Hip & Hawthorn jelly. I went out for a walk this afternoon, onto Honeymoor Common, and was greeted by more rose hips and lots and lots of haws – the hawthorn berries. The trees on the common are loaded with berries, dark tree-limbs jewelled with bright garnets that glow in the autumn sun. I couldn’t get all the way I wanted to, along the footpath across the common to come into the village behind the church, the stiles were too high, I would need to pull myself up onto them and having only one working arm doesn’t make this a good idea to try! So, I turned back and walked around the common past the smaller pool, then back to the big pool and to the lane home. It was a good walk.

Coming near to the big pool there was this exquisite hawthorn tree. She had lost all her leaves and stood at the edge of the water glowing with her garnets. She called to me. I asked again when I got to her – never take anything for granted. A robin – again, like yesterday – sang to me. I said that I would only take a few, what my big coat pocket could hold, and leave the rest for the critters and birds. Both tree and bird seemed satisfied and the slight pressure I’d felt, a sort of wariness, wanting me to have some of the fruit but hoping I wasn’t going to be greedy, slipped away. I took some fruit from all the branches I could reach, it quickly half-filled the pocket, weighing the coat down on the shoulder that side. Not my operated shoulder. When I’d finished I thanked the tree, and the land and the beasties and moorhens I could hear in the long grass and reeds, and went on homewards.

In the lane,m before I got our drive, the sun caught the fruit on a lovely apple tree. bright greens and reds, and the tree herself had a lovely shape. I stopped to admire. No-one had picked the fruit although it was well ripe and the tree stood right by the gate – but outside – of one of the houses in the lane. It called too. I looked at the fruit but I couldn’t take it, not without asking the people, but there were a lots of windfalls, many of them good, lying in the grass. I felt I could take those. Again, I asked the tree. “Please! Please!” she said. “I want my fruit eaten.” So I did, filling both the big pockets in my coat with the gorgeous apples. The scent was delicious.

So I got home with all the makings for the jelly, and all wild-harvested. The rose hips from yesterday are in my wild hedge although they get the biodynamic treatment. I love this, asking Mother Nature for food and being given it. It’s always worth watching the things that happen to you, the apparent “accidents” like me not being able to do the walk I had intended. If I had done I may well not have gone anywhere near the hawthorn tree, nor would the sun have necessarily been in the right place to show me the apple tree, and nor might I have been in the right frame of mind to see any of it either. I don’t subscribe to accidents and coincidences as many do. I try to always listen and hear and see the little gifts the Mother showers on me every day, and to return gifts of my own whenever I can. the little everyday magics are amazing :-).

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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Apple & Rose Hip Jelly

Rosehip and Apple Jelly Recipe

* Comments(91)

My thanks to The cottage Smallholder for this recipe Smile

Rosehips in our gardenRosehips are ripening and perfect for picking now. Some people wait until after the first frost, when the rosehips will be soft. We start picking from the first week in September. They need to cook for longer but we know that they’re really fresh. They’re high in vitamin C and a great asset for the self sufficient smallholder. As a child, I remember my Mother giving us rosehip syrup (a dessert spoon daily). It was rather good. Nowadays, we make apple and rosehip jelly.

The rosehip flavour combines well with the apple. This is a delicate jelly with a fuller taste than plain apple jelly; good with toast for breakfast and excellent served with chicken, pork or a mild cheese.

Incidentally, I recently heard that rosehip concoctions are good for sore throats. Perhaps we should all toy with a spoonful when we’re next in bed with a bug.

Rosehip and Apple Jelly recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb/900g rosehips
  • 4 lb/1800g of sweet eating apples. We use windfalls as they won’t keep
  • Zest of half a lemon (add to the apples)
  • Juice of half a lemon (strained). Half a medium lemon equates to one tablespoon of juice.
  • Sugar – 1pt/600ml of strained juice to 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar
  • This recipe makes 14 half pound jars. So adjust accordingly.

Method:
As the rosehips can take longer than the apple to soften I always cook them separately. In this way both are cooked for their individual optimum time. I cook the rosehips on one evening, straining it overnight, and then cook the apples on the next evening. The juice will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, in covered containers. Split over three evenings, the jelly is not a palaver and can be easily fitted into a busy routine.

  1. Remove stalks from the rosehips and place in a large pan. Don’t use an iron or aluminium pan as this will strip away the vitamin C. A large glass or enamelled saucepan is ideal. I use a large non stick or stainless steel stock pot. Barely cover the hips with water and bring to the boil and simmer gently until the hips are soft. This can take quite a while if the hips are still firm (when I was making this jelly, the hips took a good hour and a half to soften). Keep an eye on them, stirring from time to time. Top up with water if necessary. (I mashed them gently with a plastic potato masher to hurry them along). If you are using my three evening method, strain the rosehips through sterilised muslin (see points 3 and 4 below)
  2. Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples. Add water to coverc of the fruit. Add the lemon zest. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and squishy. (This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how ripe the fruit is.)
  3. Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl (how do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag? See tips and tricks below). The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between the legs of an upturned stool) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.
  4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  5. Measure the juice the next day.
  6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.
  7. Add the lemon juice.
  8. Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  9. As there are apples (high in pectin) in this recipe only continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below).
  10. Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
  11. When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. (How do I sterilise jars? See tips and tricks below).
  12. Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band.
  13. If you don’t think that the jelly has set properly, you can reboil jelly the next day. The boiling reduces the water in the jelly. I have done this in the past. Ideally you should try for the right set the first time.
  14. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.

Tips and tricks:

  • What is a jelly bag?
    A jelly bag is traditionally a piece of muslin but it can be cheesecloth, an old thin tea cloth or even a pillowcase. The piece needs to be about 18 inches square. When your fruit is cooked and ready to be put in the jelly bag, lay your cloth over a large bowl. Pour the fruit into the centre of the cloth and tie the four corners together so that they can be slung on a stick to drip over the bowl. Traditionally a stool is turned upside down, the stick is rested on the wood between the legs and the jelly bag hangs over the bowl. We experimented and now line a sieve with muslin, place it over a bucket and cover the lot with clean tea cloths (against the flies).
  • How do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag?
    Iron the clean jelly bag with a hot iron. This method will also sterilise tea cloths.
  • Jelly “set” or “setting point”?
    Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method.
    Before you start to make the jelly, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). Return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too liquid, continue to boil the jelly, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jelly is far more delicious if it is slightly runny. It does get firmer after a few months.
  • How do I sterilise the jars and lids?
    We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c (140c fan-assisted). When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

Read more: The Cottage Smallholder » Rosehip and Apple Jelly Recipe http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/rosehip-and-apple-jelly-recipe-60#ixzz13GPwVd6v

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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