Tag Archives: cape gooseberry

Sitting in the Garden

I spent a while sitting in the MENCAP GardeThere was a distinct nip in the air but it was still very pleasant. Julia provided the coffee and the Tunnocks teacakes. They aren’t really teacakes, they are chocolate coated confectionary with a marshmallow filling and a biscuit base. Somehow I managed to get over my concern about the accuracy of the name…

There’s plenty of colour in the garden at the moment, with fucsias and sedums doing well and the sumac trees changing colour.

It’s also time for the final picking of cape gooseberries – the crop with more names than it really needs.

Cape gooseberry, physalis, goldenberry, pichuberry, ground cherries and inca berries – take your pick.

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Cape Gooseberries

We’ve had our first frost this weekend so it’s going to be medlar time in the garden this week.

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Nottingham Medlars

We missed most of them them last year – either because of the birds or because of medlar rustlers.

 

The Promise of Future Fruit

Here are some pictures of the fruit trees from last week. The Magpies seem quite keen on the big yellow cherries, which are ripe despite being yellow. We are going to have to research the variety. The smaller, more prolific yellow cherries are not yet edible. Even the Magpie, which is happy to eat a dead badger from the gutter, won’t eat them.

The strawberries are doing well, and this particular punnet was going to the school caretaker, on the grounds that cooperation is a good thing. They are one of the few things Julia is able to sell from the site, and they will be paying for some of the materials needed for shed repairs before winter kicks in.

There is a good selection of apples, pears and plums around the garden, though Julia has given me (in my capacity as a non-volunteer) responsibility for drawing up a pruning plan for the winter. They are generally in good order but a few are growing water shoots, and most are congested. It’s easily done, as people tend to concentrate on pruning for fruit and neglect to open up the centres of the trees.

There are also several apple trees that were obviously pruned as step-overs but have grown into hedges over the years. Being the owner of a plum tree that started life as a minarette I know all about this sort of thing, and have no moral high ground to take.

There are vines and figs in the polytunnel, a hazel with nuts and, in one corner of the garden,  we havea group of Nottingham medlars. They are a “traditional” tree which means they have no practical use  these days and are grown as a curiosity.  At one time they were handy for late crops but we have imports and chillers to fill thst gap these days. You have to blet the fruit before eating, which means letting it ripen to within moments of it rotting. They dress it up in most articles on medlars, but that is what it means in practical terms.

It will be interesting to see how they go, and to try some recipes with them.

Plans include raspberries and gooseberries, because we can get free cuttings, and finding what is known as “the special plum tree”. I think we’ve probably found it, but we just don’t know it’s special yet. We also need Cape Gooseberries, because we’ve always done well with them and visitors like to try them.

Compared to the farm garden, which was lumpy clay and rubble when we got there, this is luxury.

You also have the bonus that people don’t steal your fruit when you aren’t there.

It rained, we made pom-poms and played balloon ball

It’s rained all day, we don’t feel like using the kitchen because of the internal politics and I’m not eating biscuits.

So what do we do?

Well, we have to feed and water the chickens whatever the weather.

We also had a good moan about various things (centre left in a mess, one of the new toilets out of order, someone has thrown some of our stuff out of the kitchen).

We did a stock take of what we have left in the kitchen.

We picked the last of the chillies and the cape gooseberries

We made pom-poms. I managed 14 today. I explored a method I found on the internet – using a fork to wrap the wool round. I hope these photos explain it. It’s tricky getting it tied tight enough and fitting the scissors in, but it seems to work OK for producing small pom-poms.

A fork with longer tines may have been better (as would sharper scissors) and I’m just wondering how much wool you’d need to wrap a garden fork…

Then we played indoor balloon volleyball/tennis. It’s a game  we invented last year using a large balloon. The rules are not fixed, the umpiring is abysmal and the scoring is random, but it seems to work. So far nobody has died playing, we’ve had no tears, and we haven’t damaged the building (though as we’re under notice to quit I’m not sure I’m bothered).

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Indoor Balloonball – just look at the speed of that serve!

 

As we told the group – only boring people get bored.

 

Worms, Cookery and Bread

For tea on Wednesday we had chicken, mushroom and bacon pie with tarragon. Yes, we’re in “tea” territory here, and even if we weren’t I spent my early years in Lancashire, so it will be “tea” wherever I go. On the side we had baked potato and sauteed kale. (It’s stir fried really but people always seem to call it sauteed). Of course, those people know how to access the French accents on their keyboard; I don’t and on my screen the word is underlined in red. We had a proper meal because we left work as early as we could and got home in time to do some proper cooking.

That’s what we’ve been missing recently, time.

We did a bit of easy cooking with the group -jam tarts using ready-made pastry and the jam we made on Tuesday from the blackberries we picked on  Monday. It’s known as Any Berry Jam. I would include a link, but I can’t find it. I’ll try later. There was very little washing up and we had very little inclination to stay longer, so we went home, where I cooked again.

Joy.

Tonight, we will be having soup and a sandwich because we tested sausage rolls for the food blog. I am putting weight on in my capacity of pie tester.

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Quick blackberry jam tarts

It was a very pleasant day, and there were several butterflies on the wing as I drove down the lane. I snapped the two Red Admirals just behind the centre and the very tatty white on the verbena is by the polytunnel.

The marigolds are having one last hurrah, whilst the Cape Gooseberries (or physalis, ground cherries or Inca berries if you prefer) are still struggling to ripen. The ones that were left from the vicious attack last year are a little behind the ones we grew from seed.

The last wheatsheaf loaf broke. This year they all seem to have deformed as they dried out and have actually broken instead of cracking as they normally do. I think it may be because I should let the dough rest more before use.

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Sad fate for Wheatsheaf Loaf

The wormery is going well, though we will probably release them after tomorrow’s session. They have produced tunnels, they have dragged bits of grass down and they have even moved a paper triangle, though not as impressively as in Darwin’s original experiment. In their defence, my worms are smaller. 😉

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Wormery, with paper triangle showing

 

 

Progress, phythalis and pizza

The weather is returning to spring after a short diversion back into winter and things are looking up.

Teachers seem to be springing into life too and we have quite a few bookings in the pipeline, though it’s never quite as simple as it should be, as they all think that we have unlimited days available at their convenience. Having already had to wave goodbye to one booking I don’t want to see any more disappear, particularly as they are all schools who haven’t visited before. We have a 95% rebooking rate so it’s important to get people down here, both for the experience and for the repeat business. I may be in a touchy-feely profession at the moment but it doesn’t mean I can ignore business reality.

Just checked my figures – it’s actually 94.4%. Better be accurate when there’s teachers about.

Even the Cape Gooseberry (which has so many other names) seeds have finally started to break through after a worryingly long germination. The three year old plants are coming back to life too, with a few flowers already showing.

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The kiwi berries are looking full of fruit after a three year wait so this year could be a really good year for odd fruit.

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I’m starting a proper cuttings diary after last year’s debacle. It was my own fault for not paying attention so simply keeping a diary should help by making me focus properly.

Finally, a picture of pizza. It’s like cats, people always seem to like pictures of cats and pizza. I’m working on getting the two together but in the meantime here’s a picture of pizza – lovingly crafted by a group of 6-year-olds.

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More lambs and visitors

It was a busy day today, with people coming to see the lambs. We had about 30 people through, which isn’t bad when you consider the lack of advertising and the fact that we aren’t really a tourist destination.

I was a bit disheartened, on counting my surviving cuttings, to find that I don’t have many survivors. In the case of the periwinkle and cape gooseberry none have made it through the winter. In the case of the curry plant I have 100% survival. I only took them to see what would happen because, apart from smelling like curry, they are pretty useless. Even the mallow and buddleia have done badly, and they grow like weeds if you leave them alone. I’m beginning to suspect that I have the opposite of green fingers. I couldn’t have done worse if I’d replaced the rooting hormone with Agent Orange.

Things looked up a bit as we visited my dad in Peterborough with the first butterfly sighting of the year – a Small Tortoiseshell.

In the evening we took the longer way home and spotted a kite in a tree on top of the hill just before Elton, with it’s forked tail prominently displayed. There were two more wheeling over the edge of the village, and just before Corby, two more. One of the second pair obliged by formating on the car for a few moments – about ten feet away and a couple of feet above.

However, good as it was, it’s now time to start planning the 2015 cuttings campaign. An idiot, a knife and a pot of rooting compound…

…what could possibly go wrong?

Not a boring day

Now that the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo have passed over we have blue skies again. It’s almost shirt sleeve weather at the moment, though that will pass by tonight I’m told. It’s October so this is a bonus. I usually associate this time of year with mist and drizzle rather than crisp clear days.

We haven’t suffered too badly from the hurricane. Some chairs in the outdoor area were blown over, door mats moved and the doors in the fruit cage blew open.They tend to blow open in anything stronger than a stiff breeze so it’s not surprise. What we’re looking at there is badly fitting doors rather than a high wind. Considering that the fruit cage is built from a polytunnel frame that was donated after it blew down in its original site it has stood up well.

The guinea fowl had disappeared when we arrived to see how they had coped with the storm, but we found them later. They have flown back into the chicken field where there is plenty of shelter and people bring them food every day. Maybe they aren’t as stupid as they look.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between days on the farm and this will be remembered as the day we had to pick the chairs up.

Meanwhile we have polytunnels to clear out and Cape Gooseberry  to cut back. We will be trying to keep the plants for a third year. All the articles talk about them only lasting 3-4 years so we have taken cuttings this year to give us a new group of plants. We are also talking about growing some from seed again, which was how we got the first lot. I’ve also been throwing squashy fruit into the hedgerows in case they seed naturally. It’s worth a try.

They have been good croppers though the size of the berries has dropped off. Not sure if this is due to the weather or the age of the plants. We have been able to eat the berries, give some away and use them to decorate frangipane tarts. If we get a decent crop next year I will try something more ambitious.

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This is one ready for the oven – cutting the fruit in half makes it go further and gives a better effect after cooking. When you use whole fruit the frangipane seems to rise to cover them.

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The one on the left was made with halved fruit. The one on the right used whole fruit.

Later: I should have kept my thoughts to myself. The weather turned grey and the day will probably be known as the day the pigs got out.

At least it won’t be known as a boring day.

And yes, this might be a good time to admit what some of you with sharp eyes may have noticed – I do use ready made pastry cases. Given the choice between paying 98 pence or wrestling with a sheet of pastry, shrinkage and baking beans it’s not a difficult decision for a lazy man.