The last few days have seen a return of the wet weather, but before that the autumnal cold showed itself and reminded me that the birds at the allotment, and garden, needed a bit of extra help with food. Our allotment, squeezed in between houses, shops and schools like an urban oases, has a pretty varied bird life. In recent months I’ve seen everything from blue-tits and sparrows, to goldfinches and spotted woodpeckers. We usually put out some food at this point, to supplement the natural sources and the drying seedheads of the sunflowers and other flowers.
Last year I made seed cakes which, hung from the apple tree, were very popular with the feathered visitors to the plot. As was the peanut wreath which we hung on the shed door. Our own homemade food sources were always supplemented by bought bird feeders filled with seeds and nuts. However, the winds of early autumn have destroyed or completely removed these feeders, sending them across the allotment and into mangled heaps or oblivion. Despite the fact that I can buy a new one from a supermarket for a few quid I decided to make my own replacement. I may not be able to buy seed for tuppence a bag, but its pretty cheap from discount stores, so a homemade feeder cost me very little really.
You will need
A juice bottle or similar
Stick or twig of suitable size
Drill with drill bit matching diameter of stick
String or thin wire
Wash and dry the bottle, as its important to ensure that its as free of moisture to start with (too much moisture will promote seed growth which birds aren’t keen). Use the needle to pierce a few holes in the base; this allows any water to drain out too. About 1/3 of the way up from the base, drill 2 holes the diameter of your chosen stick, and then thread the stick across so it forms a perch on both sides. On either side of the bottle, use a craft knife to cut out an opening just above the perch. Tie the wire or string around the neck of the bottle to form a hanger, before using the opening by the perch to fill the feeder with seeds. The seeds should reach the level of the perch, so that initially the birds don’t need to reach too far into the feeder. Hang on a branch with easy access for yourself (to refill) and the birds (easy to land etc.).
I like to not spend much money on the allotment. It’s not that I’m not committed to the plot; if we were ever to lose our little bit of land over the other side of the railway lines, I’d be devastated. I just feel that allotments are all about getting the best from very little. Allotmenteering should be about reusing, repurposing, recycling. So, when in need of hooks in the shed recently I was reluctant to nip down to Homebase and buy a hook or two. On a trip to the allotment I noticed some cutlery was being thrown out by a neighbour and procured a spoon or two, setting about making them into a couple of bespoke hooks. Indeed, on closer inspection (they were very dirty, so needed a clean) they revealed themselves as silver spoons!
The process of turning these unwanted spoons into hooks was very simple. After cleaning the cutlery, I drilled a couple of holes through the spoon part. They need two holes to ensure the spoon doesn’t spin round when heavy items are hooked on. Next step was to form the spoon into a hook shape. These spoons bent easily, so I just used my hands to form the correct shape; I suppose stronger metal might need the use of a vice or something similar. The final step was to screw the spoons into the shed wall and hang stuff up.
My friends, Little Button Diaries, are always making amazing things; whether its cakes, food like the rocket pest0 they guest posted last year, or super craft projects. All this, with children to look after too. I’m really pleased to be hosting one of their great crafty ideas, and with a raft of birthdays in the summer months, wrapping paper is always needed.
Vegetable Print Wrapping Paper
This is a quick and easy craft to which can add a personalised touch to wrapping and use up vegetables. We steered away from the potato to try different garden vegetables so we could experiment with design and texture. You can also get your little ones involved in the printing too.
For this project you will need:
- Vegetables (we used an onion, peppers and carrots)
- Acrylic Paint
- Brown packing paper
For Kids printing:
1. Begin by cutting a large piece of packing paper. We made ours a lot bigger than our present in case we made any mistakes.
2. Chop your vegetables leaving enough of a handle so you can stamp with it. We sliced the onion, carrot and pepper horizontally near the top.
3. Using the sponge, dab the paint onto the vegetable to coat it. Then get stamping. We did one row of stamping then reapplied more paint. We experimented with different colours and veg to create a repeating pattern.
4. To get your little ones involve swap acrylic paint for baby-friendly paint and let them get stuck in. Their design may be more abstract but they’ll enjoy getting messy!
5. When you’re paper is full up leave to dry. We then wrapped our present with string and used a few sprigs of lavender from the garden to finish.
For more craft and baking ideas visit our blog Little Button Diaries. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
~ Laura & Tia xx ~
March has been a bit of a mixed bag at the allotment. We’ve had barmy, sunny, spring days; but also frost nipping at the young shoots of growth. I’ve started sowing then had to wrap things up as it became colder and colder. Its been a stop start spring. All this has meant that I’ve not really got myself sorted in terms of planning where I will plant everything, and even now I’m a bit behind the digging. On the plus side, after 9 years of having the allotment I have finally finished creating a fence around it all. The wonderful and free resource that is pallets has been my supporter in this task, and I’ve even used pallets to create a vertical salad planter.
The plot is still producing, though only a few of the vegetables from last year are ready for harvest at the moment. There is still Swiss chard of course, and we’ve used the last of the root vegetable supply recently to make some super delicious Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps. Perhaps the star of the show has been the increasingly frequent emergence of the ‘Allotment Salad’ on our plates. Its been a delight to sit down at lunch (once or twice outside even) to a vibrant salad of fresh leaves from the allotment. Teamed with a mustard dressing, they have really given this month a lift and convinced us it really is spring.
As I mentioned above I’ve been sowing with earnest and the tomatoes in particular are really developing well; they’ve been pricked out to one plant per module and I’m looking forward to potting them on during the month ahead. I’ve already sown a few peas, but the majority of them have been snaffled by some small rodent visitors to the greenhouse. I decided to grow them in the greenhouse in order to avoid mice digging them up outside, but it seems I’ve been thwarted and they have followed the seeds into the glazed warmth. Not to be deterred, I’ll re-sow this month; and will do so in raised lengths of guttering to add a further obstacle into the path of my rodent friends. Whilst at the fabulous Weald Allotment shop I picked up some new 6ft tall climbing peas (a heritage variety called Telephone) to give a go. It will be interesting to see if we get many of the harvest peas home this year, they’re usually grabbed and devoured at the plot by the family before they get a chance to be put in the pot. April is also the time to start to sow winter squashes. They’re hungry crops, so need a good amount of manure and other organic matter to be put on the bed before they’re planted out later in the year. We’re going to sow Crown Prince again this year; but also a couple of Italian varieties, Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia and Pumpkin Padana. This selection should keep us going into the winter months. What winter squashes do you grow?
One of the big jobs last month was to finish the fence around the plot, but it does leave me with the task of painting it and also tying in the blackberry so that it is easily managed when the fruits form in the months to come. One of the last construction jobs to do is to create another cover to prevent birds eating the brassicas. I’ve got some old blue piping and I’m going to be constructing a hooped design to hang netting on. Hopefully the birds will then not compete with the mice for the amount of crops they can eat! As the soil warms up, so do the weeds and so one of the big jobs over the next few weeks is to give the plot a good weed and try to keep on top of those perennials which I don’t really want reappearing. The potatoes will go in to, although I think I’ll wait until the end of April for the majority of them, planting them in 15cm deep trenches about 5-6cm apart.
This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.
As the sown seed trays mount, knowing what is likely to emerge from them becomes increasingly useful. I’ve always used the standard white plastic type, writing on them with a Sharpie and cleaning it off each time I need to change the plant it marks. When clearing out a cupboard recently I found some old wooden clothes pegs. So, I decided to use some of my blackboard paint to convert them into plant markers. I like using natural materials, rather than plastic, whenever possible; the fact that I can move a marker to a different pot easily, or wash off the chalk writing is a bonus.
To make these plant markers is an easy process. Just paint the pegs with blackboard paint (I used a mix of dipping them in the paint and using a paintbrush), allow to dry, then write on them with a chalk pen.
There’s also still time to nominate the blog for Best Food Blog in the MAD parent blogger awards. To do so please go to http://www.the-mads.com/vote/
vote for a Best Blog of your choosing and then vote for Spade Fork Spoon as Best Food Blog. Thank you!
Recently my friend of the fabulous Little Button Diaries recommended I check out one of her friends’ blogs. Amy blogs about her life; you’ll find recipes, craft projects, tips on gardening, and design inspiration. Amy and I met the other week and we decided to swap posts and write for each others blogs.
Here is Amy’ guest post. It looks delicious Amy. I’ll be giving it a go with the last of my Jerusalem artichokes.
Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Cauliflower Soup
The sun might be shining but let’s not forget it is only march and deceptively chilly in the shade… enough so to enjoy a hearty soup of a lunchtime. Especially when its harvest season for some of the most delicious root veg! I love cooking this recipe because not only is it jam packed with cold fighting ingredients, but yields enough for a dinner for the family or to fridge and last for 3 or 4 lunches. Fresh and creamy but totally vegan and gluten free!
Roasting the vegetables traps in their goodness and gives the most wonderful caramelised flavour. Do not be put off the slightly porridge look of the blended soup for what it lacks in visuals it makes up in abundant flavours!
You will need:
5/6 medium Jerusalem artichokes
A medium head of cauliflower (or half a giant one like the one pictured!)
1 bulb of garlic
1 red onion
1 white onion
A couple of good sprigs of rosemary
100ml rapeseed oil
2 litres of wheat free vege stock such as Kallo or Marigold
A food processor or good stick blender is essential!
To make the soup…
Pre heat your oven at 180 degrees. Chop the veg into medium sized chunks and muddle together in a large roasting tray. Break up your garlic bulb and throw it in with skins on. Fear not, roasting whole takes the edge of that zingy garlic flavour. Season with salt & pepper then drizzle all over with the rapeseed oil. The lemon really compliments caramel flavours of the roasted veg and livens up the whole recipe.
Roast for an hour turning veg occasionally until edges start to crisp and go brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes or so.
Discard lemon pieces and remove the garlic cloves to peel their skins off before placing into your soup pan with the rest of your veg.
Make 2/3 litres of stock and pour over the veg before blending thoroughly in a large pan. If your artichokes are too big to blitz with stick blender you might need to whizz them separately in a food processor! Re-heat and serve.
My post for Amy’s blog about salad grown in a Pallet Planter can be found here.
According to the weather sites, Britain is due to have a really cold winter this year; and as the temperatures lower, my thoughts turn to the birds at the allotment. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that the feeders I have there are needing refilling regularly. So I decided to increase the number of sources of food for our avian friends, and as we entered Advent last weekend the allotment clearly needed a wreath.
You will need
Thin galvanized wire, enough to make a wreath sized ring (about 40cm long)
Cutting tool for wire
Fresh unshelled peanuts, lots
Make a small loop at one end of the wire to prevent the peanuts from sliding off. Either do this by hand or use round-nosed pliers. Thread the unshelled peanuts onto the wire. Aim for the middle of each unshelled peanut, the thinnest part of it and also the best place to ensure balance and ease of access for the birds. Once you have threaded on enough peanuts, shape the wire into a circle. Thread the end piece of the wire through the loop made in the second step and bend around to secure. At this point you can use the end of the wire to form a hook, or tie some twine around the top of the wreath to create a hanger. Hang in a spot of the garden where you’re able to see the birds enjoy their peanut feast.