Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Bridges of Bourton

I mentioned in yesterday's post that we were going away overnight to visit 'The Venice of the Cotswolds'. Bourton on the Water is only 30 miles from where we live, but there is so much to see and do. In fact, we've only been back home for just over an hour, and we have already planned to go back in three weeks time for a few more days in order to fit in everything that we missed out this time.

If you haven't been to Bourton, then you really should go. The buildings are made of the most georgeous Cotswold Stone and it really is the most pituresque town.

The reason it gets the name 'The Venice of the Cotswolds' is due to the beautiful river that runs through the middle of the town. The only way to get from one side of the river to the other, is via a gorgeous series of stone bridges. I absolutely love the river in Bourton. We stumbled upon Bourton by accident last year and spent an hour or so there and we couldn't believe how beautiful the place was, and this sort of place needs at least  a day's devotion to even cover the surface of the town. The water is so clear, and the quantity of different species of wild waterfowl is amazing. You can also see the trout swimming in the water, and apparently the Christmas tree is placed in the middle of the river each year.

This picture shows a) Amy posing b) how clear the water is c) how beautiful the houses are and d)how you get from one side of the town to the other...

If you look closely you can just about make out the trout...

Just a tip, for if you do go to Bourton. Go for a walk by the riverside at 9am. It gives you ample amount of time to walk along the river (and even time to dip your toes in or just feed the ducks if your prefer), also it's not too long before all the shops open, but because the shops don't open until 10am, you will be some of the only people out and about. The atmosphere was so tranquil and relaxing.

Here are a collection of photos of the river and those bridges..

We saw some horses crossing the river this morning, it was quite a sight. We just about managed to capture some photos...

I decided to paddle my feet in the water this morning, and we soon attracted a group of ducks. What an idealic location this spot is..

The number of ducks was getting bigger and bigger, so we gave in and bought some duck food. Here is Amy lobbing the food at the ducks(and pigeons, and starlings, and blue tits and crows)

There are so many birds around, not only in Birldand (one of Bourton's main attractions) but on the river. So many, that for the first time in ages I saw one of these signs. BEWARE OF THE DUCKS!

The BEWARE OF THE DUCKS sign is the red triangle in the background, the sign in the foreground is for the Model Village, another one of Bourton's attractions. We visited the Model Village, which was quite expensive for the short amount of time it takes to view it, but nonetheless it was very pretty and very cleverly done too.

Look at the minature bridge..

The Church was the centerpiece of the exhibit..

I thought, it wouldn't be suitable for us to make a blog post without a hint of grow your own or do it yourself. Here is the minmal contribution (but still a contribution). The minature village was equipped with a small vegetable plot at the back of somebody's house..

There was an observation... bridge. (You guessed it) Therefore, you could view the whole minature village from a more aerial perspective...

The picture of the river and bridge in the minature village shows how accurate it really was. But for further comparison here is a picture of the town's war memorial..

Minature version....

Even all of the really small details encapsulated in the model village.

The next tourist attraction was definately up our street. It was called 'The Living Green' it was a lovely show garden with a shop which was 100% self supporting with it's water, energy etc. It had lots of nice bits and bobs in there, and when we get paid in a few weeks and revisit we will definately pop back in. It even had a grass roof! Amazing!

It even sold some nice beeswax candles..

If we hadn't just made our own, I definately would have bought some.

Bourton can definately rival anywhere for cream teas... Delicious!!

We had such an enjoyable time, and like I have said we are going again in three weeks time to fit in the other attractions and nearby attractions such as Cotswold Wildlife Park, The Bourton Motor Museum and a chilli and herb farm we had never heard of. The campsite itself was really nice, and the camping and walking write up will appear on the blog tomorrow morning.

I've just notcied how long this post is, so if you've read it all I can only appologise.

Have a great day and thanks for reading,


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Plot to plate..

In just under 30 minutes. We picked our own veg to accompany our dinner tonight. We are pleased to say that the mange tout is now ready for picking, and they looked extremly scrumptious last night. Such a divine tasting vegetable..

The mange tout seeds were the first seeds we planted this year. We planted out the courgettes on the same day, but we bought those from plants. In fact one of the first posts on this blog outlines what we did. (click here)

To see how far we've come when we simply look back on blog posts from a couple of months ago is very exciting! This whole journey started with a few pots and seeds and now we have tons of stuff that is growing at a rapid pace.

Mange tout alone would have been a dissapointing side to go with our lovely pork loin, so a few courgettes freshly picked from the flourishing bushes was a bonus too. They were delicious too, so both were a real success.

We had to cheat with the potatoes by buying them, our first 'harvest' resulted in a solitary potato but we are optimistic about the next lot of bags nonetheless.

Finally..We are going camping today! I cleaned out the car last night, and loaded in all of the things we needed such as sleeping bags,food, stove, folding chairs etc.

We are staying in Bourton on the Water for a single night tonight, and returning later tomorrow because Amy has work in the evening. Bourton is a gorgeous place to visit, and almost two full days will give us plenty of time to explore the quiet village.

Have a good day and happy harvesting!


Monday, 27 June 2011

It's all growing mad

 With the lush sunshine and nice sprinkle of rain that we have had during the last few days the whole vegetable garden is growing mad.

Everything is coming on so well.

We've seen ....

plenty more of these.....

the first tomato fruits appear...

(but the picture won't load, I will edit it in later!!)

the first pods on the manage tout...

the ripening of our own raspberries...

the flowers are appearing on the potatoes...

the cabbages are outgrowing their pots...

the first sign of a marrow....

and finally germination galore for the winter veg in the greenhouse....

This is the best time of year when you grow your own vegetables and fruit. To see all your hard work beginning to pay off, and the prospect of home grown meals are suddenly on the horizon. We've been harvesting courgettes for a long time now, but not much else, that will be changing in the next few days and weeks of course..

We both really enjoy reading every blog post that people put on (If we follow you). If you haven't already checked out some of the blogs that I follow on the right hand side of my blog then please do. If you enjoy reading my blog, then you will enjoy reading these too. They have many similarities to mine, but major differences which make it all so relevant and interesting.

Thanks for calling in on us again.

I hope your vegetables grow and grow and grow,

Martin and Amy x

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Summer is here!

Well, today has been absolutely delightful. The sun has been beaming down on us all afternoon and the temperature has reached 29 celcius.
I was unsure whether the good weather we had been promised all week would actually reach us when the sky was filled with grey all throughout Saturday. There was quite a blowing wind too, which added to our doubts.
We had been searching for somewhere to go strawberry picking in the local vicinity. Like I said in a previous post, the biggest ones in the area had shut down, so we were less than optimistic of finding somewhere really local. However, it was nice to see a sign for a ‘PYO’ in Dunnington, a very small village about 3 miles from us. We went yesterday and picked a bucket load of delicious, juicy strawberries. We enjoyed some yesterday with some scones and cream, and we are going to have some tonight after a barbeque at Amy’s house. The rest will be frozen for use at a later date.
You can see in this picture why I was quite doubtful about the gorgeous weather reaching us..

The wind was ripping through the open field!
Here is Amy with her ‘champion’ strawberry...

It was massive, and the perfect shape too!

Here is the final pickings...

Cost us £9 in total. But compared to buying the supermarket you can’t beat the flavour, freshness and the support to the local producers. When you work it out that Marks and Spencer’s strawberries cost £4.40 a kilogram, these were a bargain because we got almost 4 kilos.
The afternoon was very pleasant despite the grey skies. Picking your own is great fun, and gives you a real sense of getting back to nature.
I’m off now to enjoy the rest of this baking heat , and fill my face with some lovely barbeque food.
Enjoy the rest of your day, please think of me when I start work at 5am.


Friday, 24 June 2011

Let there be light..

On the 17th June, we removed two old brood frames from the bee hive. These frames were quite old, and were currently not being used. The wax in the frames was really off coloured, it was a very dark brown, almost black.

I had read about candle making, but had thought it would be really hard to do. But let me tell you this, it is the easy thing in the world to do.

First of all we cut the wax comb out of the frames, and popped the frames in the sink for a good wash and disinfect.

Then we needed to take the wax and break it up in to bits. The original foundation was wired and therefore we needed to take the metal wire out of the wax before it could be heated.

We broke the way in to small square pieces which were about an inch in size. We then put them in to a jug. The beekeeper at Gardener's World told us to use a microwave safe plastic bowl, but we didn't have any of those so a glass jug had to suffice...

It's all then so easy.

We put the wax in to the microwave for 30 second sessions at a time. Each time we would give the wax a prod (early stages) and when it was starting to melt we gave it a stir. The liquid was black, and I started to envisage the worst candles ever created, and then have to face the humility on here.

You can make wax sheets to roll up in to old fashioned candles, but the easy way to do it is to pour the liquid in to those rubber cake moulds. We had some heart shaped cake moulds to use.

For the first one we cut the wick down to size and then I dangled the wick in to the mould whilst Amy poured the mixture in, and we reversed roles for the second attempt. I then stood like a lemon holding the wick in place until it began to set slightly.

We filled two moulds with our 2 frames worth of wax. We did think we would get a couple more with so much wax, but I suppose that it is hollow and looked like there was more than there really was. Never mind.

When both moulds were filled and beggining to set, we popped them in to the fridge to speed up the process.

It then came to the time to remove them from the moulds and we were pleasantly surprised. With the frame that used to contain stores of honey, the candle had set to a georgeous deep honey colour. Whereas the brood wax candle was much darker and almost an olive oil colour on the sides and at the bottom.

The only problem we encountered was that some debri and bits that weren't removed from the wax seemed to burn in the microwave and sank to the bottom of the melted wax, so the bottoms of the candles is black. However, this does not bother us at all. But in the future we may use a more precise filtration/debri removal technique.

Amy is so thrilled with the end product that she says that we can never, ever burn them. Which of course slightly defeats the object of the whole task. They are nicely sat on the bedroom windowsil now and are nice decorative ornaments.

Has anybody else tried making their own candles? We would love to hear about what you found good/bad and easy/hard.

Thanks everyone for reading, if you have access to your own wax, or know someone who keeps bees then this is definately worth a try. Good luck if you do try it!

I hope you have a nice weekend!


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hedgerow Heaven

Well. My grandma and grandad have lived in their current home for almost twenty years, and yesterday I saw something for the first time that I had previously failed to notice.

Across the road, is a hedgerow with a mixture of different bushes, and in the middle were...


What a delightful find. I am used to helping myself to plentiful blackberries and elderflowers but I have never come across Raspberries like this before. I am always keen to make the most of free food wherever I can.

Why not?

We are going to tuck in to these ones tonight, we also had one off our measly raspberry bushes/canes.

Talking of elderflowers I picked over 20 heads, to make some elderflower cordial. It's quite late in to the elderflower season, in fact I struggled to find 20 good quality, healthy heads. But I did. I've made elderflower cordial before and it was absolutely delicious. I read on the River Cottage forum that the best way to store it is in plastic water bottles (we have plenty of these lying around) and then you should keep 1 in the fridge for current use, and then pop the rest in the freezer until they are required, then you don't have any odd tasting stuff in a couple of weeks. We bought some cordial at Gardener's World/ The Good Food Show, if it tastes anything like it then I will be very, very pleased.

I'll update you with how it went as soon as possible. I know I still haven't posted about the candles we made, but be sure to find it here in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

It's all down hill from here..

Well, today marks the beginning of summer.

Every day now until the 23rd December we will gradually get less and less sunlight. I've really been enjoying the long late nights in the garden, I recon we've still got a month or so of late nights though. It's not going to get really dark, really quickly now is it!

I don't think vegetables get the credit they deserve, they are much cleverer than you think. The 21st June is a significant day for the likes of leeks, beetroot and many other root carrots. Apparently, these delicious vegetables clock on to the fact that the amount of daylight is gradually reducing and therefore they begin to in take more and more water and nutrients in order to prepare themselves for winter. (Obviously, they won't see the winter in the garden, but they don't know that) With the increased intake of goodness the vegetables begin to swell up and then when they are at their prime we take them in to the kitchen to eat.

Following yesterday's post about the lack of strawberries, we've been searching for locations to go and pick our own from local strawberry fields. I remember that when I was a kid we used to pick our own all the time. But these days it is difficult to find any where to do it. It seems that the health and safety brigade have forced many small businesses to shut up shop. The strawberries still grow, but you can't pick your own. It's very sad really. I am going to do a bit of search tonight and see what I can find, but in the meantime I've found something that is equally delicious and free in the hedgerows, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw them. I'll tell you a bit more about them tomorrow.

I couldn't post a blog post without a picture.

So I thought this picture sums up my day...


I took this picture at the Royal Show in 2007. Why did they have to cancel it, it was such good fun.

Have a great day one and all. I still have the candle post and hedgerow post to go up in the next few days so be sure to check back.

Thanks for visiting,


Monday, 20 June 2011

Just in time!

It's that time of year again.The time of year I absolutely love which I inherited from my Grandma Margaret. It's Wimbledon! For two whole weeks we ask for bright, sunny days, bucket loads of strawberries and gallons of champagne.

People all across the country will be getting in to the spirit of things with the consumption of Tesco, Waitrose, and Morrisson's strawberries and the cheapest single cream they could find. Well, I almost was one of them people.

I've read blogs, where people have been picking punnets upon punnets  full of the juciest and most delicious strawberries around. I have been so green with envy for weeks, but with just over an hour to go before the first racket hits the ball, we have been saved by not just one strawberry...

but our first raspberry too.

They look delicious don't they. Ok, that isn't the most uniform strawberry that you've ever seen. But nonetheless it is red.

I'm not sure how we are going to go about this. Half a strawberry and raspberry each? Maybe Amy will have the raspberry and I'll have the strawberry?

I'll let you know how it turns out. (and who wins!)

Have a wimbledon-tastic day.

I wish you full punnets of strawberries.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Green is the old... Green?

When growing your own fruit and vegetables you can end up with a period on your plot where there is a lot of green, green and more green. The only things ripening fast enough are courgettes and they are well.. green this year. We did buy some yellow courgette seeds for next year though. Then there's the lettuce which is.. green. Tomato plants are.. green, although the yellow flowers are dwarfed by mountainous amounts of.. green.

Following our visit to Gardener's World on Wednesday, I was inspired by some of the show gardens where there is less.. green... and more... purple, yellow, orange, red and blue. I'll remind you of a couple of the 'Grow your own' style show gardens. Look at them closely..


I've learnt my lesson this year. When you are in a small garden you need a bit more colour. We did buy some seeds for yellow courgettes, purple runner beans and purple sprouting.There is the Fillius Blue pepper plant too with the georgeous purple flowers. But what can I do immediately to brighten the place up a bit?

No... flowers?!?!

I am no flower expert. I won't pretend to be one either. Ask me about fruit and veg and I have had the input from my grandparents, I've read all the books, and I've read your blogs, and I've been experimenting with varying degrees of success and failure all my life. So I may be able to answer your questions. However, look at those photos again if you need to. What can you see? Yes, flowers. Look at the bizzy lizzies planted in the children's wellington boots in the second picture. Look at the rows of marigolds inbetween the tomato plants. Sunflowers too!

Amy was keen to get flowers but I consistently said to her 'they waste valuable growing space' which I suppose is still true. But she has twisted my arm, with the help of the endless amounts of green fly sat on our tomato plants.

We took a visit to that garden centre in our town that Amy didn't know existed two or three months ago (she is a regular now). They have a great choice of flowers. We didn't want too many, just a few.

So we bought 84 marigolds, two trays of labelia and two trays of something which I  can't remember the name of (and two cheeky pepper plants of course!!). The marigolds are an ideal companion plants for tomatoes as they deter the ever persistent green fly. On sunny evenings at the moment, Amy only needs to go over to the vegetable patch to get swarmed with them, and then have to pick them out of her hair afterwards. I'm sure they get in my hair too, but Amy's hair is a really light blonde so they show up easily.

Well, you know that blue tubtrug we bought on Wednesday. Well we decided we would use it to store our tools. Until today....

We filled it 3/4way with compost. Before placing a tomato plant in the middle. Then we placed 16 marigolds around the edge. This tomato plant won't be touched by green fly that is for sure. We've now put the planted tubtrug next to the tomatoes in the grow bags so hopefully this will work out well in fending off the invasion.

The one blot on our veg plot was the ghastly old hanging wall baskets that had been untouched for well over a year. So using some more of the marigolds and the labelia. The veg plot has had a bit of a much needed face lift.

We had a few left over marigolds so I have planted these strategically in the garden. I've just sown some wild flower seeds and we have 3 sunflowers that are ready to go in to their final positions.
The raised squash bed which I have mentioned before. Is now a seprated area of the garden. Last month I made a post called 'Windy' where I said that the old water feature had fell over thanks to the rapid winds and the top of it had smashed in to bits. Although there were many small bits that were not useable, I saved the large bits because I knew they would come in useful at some point. Well, they have and they are now the edging around the raised area which is the squash bed. I planted some more marigolds next to the edging to give it even more colour. There is also the giant yellow tubtrug and the Rhubarb in the blue pot.

Look at the sweetcorn in the yellow tubtrug. Because it is in the tubtrug it doesn't compete for root space with the squash and (soon to be planted) pumkin. Therefore because the squash plants should swallow the majority of the area and need the root system to support it, we are ensuring that the squashes, pumpkin and sweetcorn get their fair share of needed nutrients.

The green has definately been brushed over with the flower power and the introduction of the new brightly coloured tubtrugs and the yellow plant labels. Here is the new and refreshed view..

I'm hoping for a bit more colour soon when all of those fruit and veg start to ripen up nicely, ready for harvesting.

We are making the homemade beeswax candles tonight, so that's something to look forward to.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Saturday, 18 June 2011


It's strange to think that on a lovely, sunny June day the topic on my mind is the hard months of winter.

We're going to have a go at growing a range of brasicas including cabbage, brocolli and purple sprouting to name a few of the seed varieties we bought at Gardener's World.
We also need to get a move on with some of the root crops including parsnips and turnips, otherwise we really will have missed them for this year...

Don't worry, we're not only confined to the doom and gloom of the 'hunger months' but we are still preparing and sowing for summer and early through to mid autumn.

I transfered the lettuce seedlings in to the ground directly next to the leeks and then  planted a row of beetroot too. The beetroot looks great, it's been sat in a pot up until now and they have come on great in the short time we've had the greenhouse. Amy doens't like beetroot, so it's only done a small row for myself. We can plant a row of lettuce each week now for a few weeks time so that we have a continuous crop in to the autumn.

The broad beans look really good, seeing as we only bought 12 plug plants that were a bit battered and starved and thus reduced at a local garden centre, we are both amazed how well they have come on. They are all flowering and we watched the bees hard at work on them. I noticed the first mange tout flowers today aswell which is fantastic. Here are a couple of pictures of the bees doing their business..

There are plenty of tomato flowers on the tomato plants, and the first sign on peppers on the pepper plants. It was great to have Amy back in the garden now she has finally finished her own exams. She helped me move the sunflowers on to larger pots, and they will be moved over to my Grandma and Grandad's house next week or just after. We are keeping a few for our own garden and I plan to save the seeds. She also got her infamous pink watering can out and gave all the plants a little sprinkle this evening. Everything seems to be thriving, even the scorched runner beans are coming along really well...

Have a good day!


Friday, 17 June 2011

Royal Sighting

You'd have thought I'd met the Queen, I was so happy. Well, it was not her majesty as such, but Mrs.Queen bee!

It's the first time I've tracked her down since we got bees again. I am useless at spotting queen bees, there are so many bees in the hive and they are all jiggling about so it is very difficult to spot her for more than a few seconds.

As soon as I saw her I reached for my queen marking pen, only to realise my pockets were empty and the pen was in a drawer inside the house. How frustrating..

You can see why it can be difficult to spot her, I don't think I even managed to capture her in this shot!

An iphone is the beekeepers must have tool for the 21st century.

I took a couple of frames out of the brood chamber that were full of old wax which is currently not being used. I have some new foundation to put in them and they will go in tomorrow morning. We are going to be making our own beeswax candles with the wax, which is obviously very special and exciting.

We will keep you updated.

Wish me full supers!


Gardener's World Live Report - Best of the Rest

Welcome to the final installment of our 'Gardener's World Live Report'. Don't forget that the show highlights are aired on BBC2 tonight (Friday) at 8pm.

These are the final photos we took of the event including the bits and bobs that didn't really fit in the other parts of the report.

To start off, probably the weirdest of all the gardens was the 'Honey, I've shrunk the garden' which featured a giant sculpted worm, and a lego character gardener. Being the proud owners of a wormery and fully appreciating all worms in our garden for soil fertility and chicken snack food, we thought this garden should feature in the report somewhere. So here it is...

After we saw this garden we spotted the GW team doing a bit of filming for tonight's show.

Over on the edible patches were some tasty looking cucumbers....

 There was a big presence of the UK Cucumbers growers society (genuine society) who were on hand following the e-coli outbreak in mainland Europe. There was also the UK Tomato Growers association, who were running a competition to name a new variety of tomato which was shaped like a love heart. It was very cute. We tasted it and it was very sweet, just like the concept, and we entered the name 'Bingham' after Amy's surname. It's quite a bouncy name and sounds like a variety of tomato or soft fruit.

We are always trying to make the garden more approachable to living wildlife. This display by the RSPB showed how easy it was to make a multi-storey hedgehog/insect hide using everyday bits and bobs..

To finally conclude our whole report. We are going to revisit the show gardens where two more really caught our eye.

This hobbit hole style garden called 'Naturally Playful' was quite innovative and interesting...

This garden called 'Remember the Dream' by MacMillan Cancer Research was rather inspiring. It had beautiful pink obelisks which reminded us of Rapunzel's tower and a small pool too...

The garden was a real nice touch, and deserved it's high accolades. It wouldn't be fair not to include this garden following the support we got when Amy's mum was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. Any mention, large or small will hopefully spread the underlining message...

Well, that pretty much rounds up our four part report. Remember, that parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found directly beneath this post on the homepage.

We had such a great time and we hope you enjoyed reading about it.

Martin and Amy