Perfect poachers

perfect poached eggsThese 2 eggs were laid just this morning by our chickens and they seemed the perfect thing to have for lunch! I love poached eggs, but used to have terrible trouble stopping the eggs from disintegrating in the pan. I tried swirling the water, vinegar in the water, both, and anything else anyone suggested. If nothing else, it felt so wasteful having half the egg white splitting off and floating around in the pan. Then we got our chickens and I realised just how ‘not fresh’ supermarket eggs are! Even when I stopped buying supermarket eggs and bought them from a local farm through our village shop, these were still probably sitting around for quite a few days before being sold. REALLY fresh eggs hold together perfectly in the pan, as you can see! I think I’ll forever be a ‘chicken keeper’ now, as I don’t think I can go back to supermarket eggs!

Green cleaning

Ashley and I have long tried to limit the use of chemical filled cleaners in our home. They are expensive, each one is supposed to be better than anything else (and they tend not to fulfil that promise) and most of us are becoming more and more aware of the detrimental effects that they are having on us and our environment. I have so far managed quite well in choosing chemical free cleaning solutions for the home – you’ve seen my love of bicarbonate of soda! This along with lavender and home made citrus oil based sprays clean my house from top to bottom. I do sometimes get seduced by marketing and end up with a bottle of Flash under the kitchen sink, but this usually gets offered out to friends or family or sits there for a year or two before being binned. I use Ecover products for washing up and the dishwasher and some ‘eco balls’ that were a birthday present a while back for laundry. I’ll get to these in another post but I don’t think that these are long term products for me – Ecover products are a bit on the pricey side and the eco balls need quite a hot wash to be really effective. I have tried soap nuts and I would like to try them again with a bit more knowledge.

My thoughts turned more recently to personal cleaning products; shampoo, body wash, hand soap etc. I have had a bottle of ‘Dr Bronners Organic Liquid Castile Soap’ under the sink for quite a while now. I forget what I originally bought it for (probably something I saw on Pintrest!) but it’s nearly all gone. I had seen that people use this stuff for all sorts of things so I thought I’d give it a go. I love, love, love all things lavender scented and it has antibacterial properties (very useful around the home and bathroom!) so I bought a ltr of the lavender fragrance Dr BrDr Bronners Castile soap for making shampooonners (there are other makes out there) and couldn’t wait to get started!

I found a simple ‘recipe’ for a shampoo here at Premeditated Leftovers. It requires very little and I had everything I needed for it. I used slightly less of the coconut oil than suggested as my hair tends to be on the greasy side anyway. The measurements are in cups (as with most american recipes) and at Christmas when I was making many Pintrest inspired gifts, found this quite frustrating trying to get accurate measurements. My (sometimes!) wonderful husband gave me these sweet measuring cupslittle measuring cups as a Christmas present. I think they were from Lakeland and I use them all the time now. Anyway, the ‘recipe’ was incredibly easy and in no time I had a jar of ‘shampoo’! I was going to put the liquid into a plastic bottle but have read that the essential oils can degrade the bottle, leaching chemicals into your chemical free product, so I have left it in the glass jar for now. I’ll do some more reading on that one. The shampoo mixture smells great and I’m looking forward to using it – I’ll update on how it worked later.

 

 

 

Whilst I had the soap and essential oils out, I thought I’d make a super simple handwash for the kitchen. Just a little of the castile soap (the old, unscented one I had under the sink) in a bottle topped up with water and a few drops of tea tree essential oil added. foaming hand wash We bought one of these foaming dispensers a while back (about £12 from Lakeland I think – I’m honestly not promoting Lakeland or anything!) and it’s very good. We had bought cheap foaming dispensers for making our own handwash in the past, but they broke really quickly. This one works reliably and foams up well, I only wish that the base was more stable – it wobbles about a bit when you press the top down and if it hasn’t got proper suction on the bottom it slides about. It has a little line on the back where you’re supposed to fill up to with normal handwash and another to fill up to with water. I only filled up halfway to the handwash line with the castile soap as it is quite concentrated and so you don’t need as much.

Now to find out more ‘recipes’ for other uses! I’ll keep you updated!

Thanks for reading!

 

One potato…

Allotment Potato This little potato is the first produce from the allotment! Ashley and I spent the day there yesterday, the sun shone but the wind was a bit chilly – result = sunburn! Some of the first earlies are flowering so I had a little dig around in the soil with my hand and this little guy was there! I’m sure that there’s lots more but I decided not to dig them up as I don’t need them right away. Ashley strimmed some of the long grass and weeds, those threatening to spread seed all over our supply of rotted manure and those impeding the route into the potting shed area. In the tool shed, Ashley spotted a Swallow nesting which is lovely, but I’m a bit worried that we’ll be disturbing it going in and out for tools. We decided to sacrifice the beetroot that we’d put in a while ago as the weeds over took them early on and even though I’ve kept clearing the weeds, they don’t seem to have recovered well at all. We could do with the planting space so decided to scrap them for this year. We still have some beetroot pickled from what we grew last year anyway. In it’s place we put several brussel sprout plants; I’ve never grown them before but wanted to give them a go now we have more room. I think I will plant some lettuce and maybe some spring onions around them for the summer. The beans are still looking a little washed out, I think it’s the constant wind up there. We may have to look at putting up some sort of wind break. The newer growth looks OK though so we’ll see how they get on in the coming weeks. The peas are being munched by the birds though! Seeing other people’s plots online, it feels like ours is a bit behind – maybe because we didn’t have the greenhouse earlier in the season to get things started. But it’s good to see the potatoes and onions coming on well and I’m sure everything else will catch up.

A quick allotment tour…

Last night I headed down to our allotment to check on things and give the greenhouse a water. I thought I’d show you what we have going on so far. We started making the beds in February of this year and planting commenced in April. We have just 5 beds so far (the raised beds in the top left of the photo are someone else’s) but have fenced off a patch the same size again which will be filled with beds quite soon. As you can see, the central bed here is full of first early potatoes and doing well. I expect we can harvest some soon, as a few plants are showing flowers. Peas, beans and Swiss chard have gone in the bed to the left of that. The chard is looking great,  swiss chard but the beans are looking a little washed out.runner beans

I’m not sure why, possibly as it’s quite exposed at our allotment so are feeling the elements or maybe the soil conditions aren’t completely suitable.

On the right hand side of the allotment are onions, beetroot, parsnips and a few more potatoes that over spilled the first bed! We are incredibly lucky that the wonderful friends that allow us to use this field also keep horses (as you can see), so we have a ready supply of rotted horse manure to hand which has formed the main structure of the vegetable beds. Unfortunately, some of it is rather too well rotted and has collected a lot of seeds where it was sitting, which have now burst into life! On the plus side, we believe the weeds to be edible but they have out competed a lot of my beetroot seeds. The parsnip seem to have managed quite well though, and now everything’s a little bigger, it’s much easier to distinguish between the weeds and intended crop. I hope that with some constant weeding this year we will see much less of them next year! I’ve never grown parsnip before, so any words of wisdom are greatly appreciated!

The bed at the bottom of the first picture has a bit of a mixture in at the moment. I started with 2 raspberry bushes, one summer and one autumn fruiting variety. On the opposite side of that bed is a new rhubarb plant. We seem to be suffering quite badly in this bed with dock so have mulched part of it with cardboard. There is a courgette plant and a couple of small lavender plants. I don’t intend for the lavender to stay in the veg bed, but it needed a home! I want lavender dotted around the allotment because a) I love it, and b) we love bees! There doesn’t seem to be a particular shortage of bees around us but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to encourage them. Ashley would like to get a bee hive set up at some point… I like the idea in theory but w certainly need to do some research before jumping into that one. Do you have any experience in bee keeping? Does a bee hive need daily attention?

There is another smaller bed just out of view in the first photo, that has blackcurrant and redcurrant in. It is also acting as a nursery bed for a few more lavender plants. We have a fairly established bed of blackcurrant bushes at home, we will move them down to the allotment this autumn I think. They are getting on well and it would be daft to move them now and lose what will hopefully be our best crop to date!

In the greenhouse at the moment I have several tomato varieties, some broccoli and Brussels sprouts that are waiting for a home on the plot, and some chilli and sweet pepper plants. One of Ashley’s next jobs is to build me some benches to go in there! For now, an old vertical grower (the mini greenhouse type) that has lost its cover and an old pallet or two are serving as shelving.

Well, that’s our little allotment! I hope you have enjoyed the little tour!

Fresh eggs

When we first talked about getting a couple of chickens for the purpose of getting eggs from them, I was a bit put off at the thought of having to scrub chicken poo off of them before use. As you can see from these beauties (collected today), that’s not always the case! In fact, it’s hardly ever an issue for us. Maybe with larger groups of chooks it’s more of a problem, but with just the two it’s rare that we get heavily soiled eggs. I haven’t done anything to the eggs in the photo and they’re just as clean on the other side. And fresh eggs from your own chickens are just about the tastiest things in the world!

Bicarb cleaning!

Bicarbonate of soda – I love this stuff so much! I try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products and hate the cost of these branded cleaning ‘super products’ (each one being better than everything else and will change your life, apparently). In my opinion, you can’t beat bicarb for cleaning! One of Ashley’s favourite meals is a chicken and rice concoction with cumin and turmeric and the resulting sauce stains the worktops like nothing else! I used to think that the only thing that would shift it was bleach – enter bicarb! A sprinkle of that directly on the work surface, wipe with a damp cloth and boom! it’s gone. It makes light work of cleaning the oven too, mixed into a paste with water, smeared over the dirty oven and left overnight then you only need to wipe it with a cloth in the morning. It does need a good rinse though; the first time I did this I ended up with white specks appearing when I next used the oven. It looked messy, but at least I knew that it wasn’t releasing fumes into my kitchen and tainting the food! There are probably hundreds of uses for bicarb, I won’t list them all! Oh, and check out this tiny Kilner jar that I found – it has a twist top to select different sized pouring holes, perfect for dispensing bicarb! (You might laugh at me, but you know you want one too – I got this in The Range… Go on, treat yourself!) 
 

My first blog post!

Well hello to you! Thank you for visiting my blog! Today has been a dreary day here in Cornwall so I haven’t been down on the allotment and the chickens are hiding from the wind and rain. They are good girls though, 2 eggs provided today. So I’ve spent today making some plans for this blog – I do like lists and notebooks so I’ve been in my element! And pretty coloured pens of course!