Monday, 8 October 2012

Something for a Winter's night in

This time two years I was telling a friend over the phone about the little blue berries that I had found growing on a few old gnarled and moss covered bushes, down by the shores of Lough Sillan.
Myself and the boys had been on an 'adventure' walk down a hidden lane not far from the house we were renting at the time.
I didnt know what they were; she thought they may be Sloes and if they were we could make Sloe Gin with them. I had heard of Sloe Gin before but it was one of those obscure things that you hear of but dont really know how it is made and I had no idea what a Sloe was.
So I did a bit of research on Sloes and after the first frost (its recommended to leave them until then)we hit off down the lane again, armed this time with plastic bags to collect these wee blue berries. As it turned out I didnt get much help from my offspring as these wee berries were on very thorny bushes, they are not called Blackthorn for nothing!
Armed with a bag full of them I made over a litre of Sloe Gin.

And that was the start of my love of fruit flavoured Vodka/Gin making. Last year we tried Plum and Sloe vodka (we prefered the vodka to the gin), both delightful liquers to drink and they came in handy as extra wee gifts to family and friends last Christmas.

This year because we have no Plums and there are very little Sloes in the hedgerows I decided to try out other fruits.

I halved our harvest of Blackcurrants (the rest will be made into jam when winter starts) and put them in a sterilised Kilner Jar, added some caster sugar...

Then the vodka..


Closed the lid tight and gave a nice shake from side to side.

Next fruit is Blackberries (idea courtesy of a fellow blogger, @edibleireland, who made Blackberry Whiskey last year ).

Have to give them a shake twice a day until the sugar has completely dissolved, then a quick shake once a week.
I will store them in a dark cupboard for about 6 - 8 weeks. After that I will strain the fruit (using muslin) and put the liquer into sterilised bottles for the Christmas. The wonderful thing about these fruit liquers is they can be left to mature for a year (or more if you can leave them that long).

Cant wait to try them out. I will post an update later on in the year to give my verdict on these particular fruit liquers.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Wooden Gates finished

A couple of posts ago I blogged about making a wooden fence, but without its gate.

Finally getting to blog about the finished product.

After a little bit of research I figured out how to put it together so that it wouldnt fall apart (well heres hoping anyway).

I put the frame together first before adding the fence posts.

Then put the hinges on and stuck it up!

 As you can sorta make out from the photo above I did place the hinges in the wrong place (left gate)on first attempt.

Next thing a latch, a drop bolt and a bolt for locking them.

I have to put another drop bolt on the left gate as there is still a bit of movement when it is very windy out (spotted it yesterday during a torrential downpour).

After that I have to dig out where the dropbolts are entering the ground (just a hole in the gravel at present) and put in a small rectangle of concrete to give the drop bolts a nice new solid home.

And thats it finished! no more goats entering the veg garden this way! and alot more privacy and security this side of the house.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Garden reflection

I love Spring, and the Summer isnt too bad either, both full of colour and growth.

I love all new things regardless of what they are.

But Autumn is different, its about harvesting and easing into the hibernation that is Winter.

Its also a time of reflection, looking back at what I did grow, or tried to grow, how it did and what I might do differently next year.

This year was a bit tough for growing vegetables and not just for us, for all gardeners from what I have read in blogs and on twitter - it has been such a wet year that the slugs took over, they came and destroyed nearly everything in their path.

In our garden they started at the Rhubarb in the Spring, and every evening I went out on 'slug patrol' picking them off the leaves and putting down beer traps.

Thankfully the Rhubarb survived and I have been harvesting it since (and baking plenty of Tarts).
Yummiest in a Tart

Then the slugs turned their attention to the Carrot seedlings.......they ate everything, not a carrot survived.

After that it was the Onions turn, they didnt do so well either. It seems that Onion greenery was this years delicacy in the slug world and so the beer traps and my evenings of 'de-slugging' were needed again. I think I lost that battle.

I do believe the slugs had more beer this year than myself!

We have lovely Onions (albeit small) but because they have no green stems left they wont store very well unfortunately.
Sarpo Mira spuds/wee Onions

The Homeguard potatoes got blight and the slugs helped 'clean up' so the harvest was very small.

But the Sarpo Mira potatoes which are blight resistent did very well (as well as expected considering how wet the soil remained all summer) and I havent found any signs of slug attack either.

We are still harvesting them, but I must harvest them all this week and harden them off in the polytunnel so they store better.
I pulled this mutant one the other day, gorgeous isnt it? not.

Mutant spud (size of tablespoon)
The Parsnips are actually doing very well, (slug free) but I think the soil has been a little too fertile for them so they are all very leggy. I am learning, slowly.

Spindly Parsnips
We also tried growing Beetroot this year but they failed miserabley.

Have to start planning next years crop soon. Think its time to start ordering seeds.