21 April, 2011

Ever seen a chicken sunbathing?

Well, I have now. Two very chilled chooks have become a permanent feature in our garden. It took them a while to find a good spot though. Their first choice was one of the raised beds with lovely fluffy soil and freshly sown seeds, but after a gentle nudge followed by a generous bribe of corn I managed to persuade the girls to do their sun worship by the asparagus bed, a safe distance away from the seeds.

How cute is that!

07 April, 2011

Comfrey patch

We've got a flower bed in the front garden, but haven't had much success with it. Nothing wants to grow there and to make matters worse the neighbours' cats love using it as their toilet. We've tried water bottles and citrus peel among other things to deter the cats with no luck, but it looks like we've finally found a solution... Chicken poo. And lots of it.

I realised that what was missing from our garden was a comfrey patch so that we could make our own tomato feed, and as the back garden will be stuffed to the brim with fruit and veg very soon, I thought I'd let my small comfrey plants (kindly donated to me via Freecycle) see what they will make out of the empty flower bed. The manure we shovelled onto the bed has rotted down nicely, so the comfrey plants will be moving into their new home very soon.

I know comfrey can be quite invasive and their leaves can be a bit prickly. What more could you want from a plant to help you re-claim your flower bed. The battle is on. Who will reign supreme, cats or comfrey?

05 April, 2011

The fruit are taking over!

I'm constantly complaining about the lack of space in my garden, but lately I've come to the conclusion that it can't be that bad. While I was doing some spring cleaning I was counting all the berry pots and was quite surprised how many (the usual suspects: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, red and black currants) I'd managed to cram in. To make sure no space is wasted I've moved the water butt slightly and ordered a Japanese wineberry to climb over the arch on the side of the house. Very exciting.

I found another excuse to sneak some more fruit in as we needed to replace two big lavender bushes that had sadly drowned (drainage, drainage!) in their pots during the winter. Off to the shops we went and as soon as I saw the tree section I refused to leave without at least one tiny fruit tree. In the end we dragged two apple trees (Fiesta and Cox's Orange Pippin) and a lovely cherry tree (Stella) to the checkout. Nuts, I know. I'm not convinced we'll be getting any apples of the now total of four small trees that we have (in pots scattered around the paved bits), but I love trees and I'm happy to give them some space if there is a possibility that we'll be getting some fruit.

I think I'm now officially banned from any gardening related shops for a while.

Nuts about biscotti

The egg glut continues, so I've been leafing through various cook books and magazines and trying new recipes. Here's the recipes for my two new favourite biscuits, they're both excellent with an afternoon cup of tea and they keep really well.

Pistacchio biscotti

1 1/2dl soft brown sugar
2dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
150g shelled pistacchio nuts

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Measure the sugar, flour and baking powder into an electric mixer and add the eggs. When the dough is nice and smooth, fold in the nuts. Shape the dough into a long and flat log, place on a baking tray and bake for 30 mins. Cool down and slice thinly into about 40 slices. Bake the slices 140°C/20 mins turning once so that both sides bake nicely. Let them cool down and store in an air tight container.

Almond biscotti

150g shelled whole almonds
10g fennel seeds
250g plain flour
a generous pinch of baking powder
150g caster sugar
3 medium eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C. Tip all the ingredients except the eggs into an electric mixer. Mix the eggs together, stir through the flour and nut mixture and shape into a large, flat log. Put it onto a baking tray and bake for around 20 mins or until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, lift the log onto a board and slice very thinly diagonally into 30-35 slices. Place the biscuits onto a baking tray and bake for another 10 mins or until pale brown and crisp. Let them cool down and store in an air tight container.