Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lazy Potatoes and Carrot Cake

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago then found myself needing emergency surgery. A few permanent scars later and I am on the road to recovery. No digging, lifting or carrying for me for the next 4 weeks, so it's a good thing was had been investigating other ways.

One thing we have done is research the no dig potato method also known as lazy potatoes. The technique involves placing the potato on the ground and then covering with a good layer of mulch up to 18 inches on top. When the top plants have died off just move away the mulch and pick up the potatoes. Bonuses to using this method, despite the obvious: because the potatoes have not been in he soil, they do not need need to be scrubbed in the same way. The drainage is better so there is a reduced risk of blight. As the potatoes are not dug into the soil, you can keep growing them in the same spot. There's a lot of information out there. I suggest googling lazy potato beds and see where the search takes you.

The lazy potato method says to use straw, leaf mulch or pine needles. I also found research using wood chips that had worked well, which is what we are using.

I cleared the area of weeds (not that there was a great number, the thick layer of bark did it's job.) I then raked the wood chips back to reveal the soil. The initial lazy potato method said place the sed potatoes straight on the surface. The revised method states to dig a shallow trench then heap an inch of soil on top of the potato, just enough to fully cover the potato and the roots. I followed the revised method and dug a shallow trench, covering the potatoes with the soil I had dug out to form the trench. I then heaped a 6 inch layer of wood chips on the top. The plan is to add to the layer as the potatoes begin to sprout, finishing with mounds 18 inches high. The bonus with using the bark is that unlike straw and leaf mulch, the wood chips don't blow away as easily so don't need to be meshed.

The mounds merge in with the wood chips at this angle!

We have planted one and a half  rows Winston potatoes this time, but I have Charlotte's and Desiree to go in next time. I've not planted Winston's before so am keen to see how they turn out. Given the fact it will be a while before I can do any heavy digging, I'm grateful for the no dig method!

What surprised me and always surprises me, is how well the wood chips had rotted down over the winter. There was a good 6 inch layer in September, now there's only a few inches. so that was topped up.

As we were clearing the weeds we came across several carrots buried in the bark. The tops were no good but each carrot had half a dozen legs coming off them each around 1 and 1/2 inch thick and 3-6 inches long

Having a good soak and a scrub ready for use

Having a sink full of carrots, I did what I normally do and started googling recipes for carrots, then it dawned on me, I have never made carrot cake!!!  I also realised that I have never eaten carrot cake as I have not found an egg free cake, so as you an imagine I was very excited to start experimenting.

I found a few recipes I liked the look of and used this one as my starting point: 

As regular readers of my blog will expect, I did my usual and added my own twist to suit dietary needs and made changes according to what we had in the cupboards. I find when I bake a cake the younger Little P's are always close by to lend a hand and this time was no exception. They had great fun working together to weigh out the ingredients and helped out where ever they could.

Egg free Carrot Cake:


200g Carrots peeled and grated
100g chopped walnuts
100g raisins
120ml oil (I used light olive oil as that was all we had in the cupboard)
50 ml soya milk
150g soft light brown sugar
3tsp Organ egg substitute prepared as per the instructions
200g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
zest of 1 orange

For the Icing:
150g cream cheese
50g light brown 

All ingredients carefully weighed out by CP and JJ

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and grease sides and line the removal base of 2 round cake tins with grease proof paper.
2. Whisk the egg substitute and sugar together.

The little P's working together to beat the egg substitute and sugar,
before calling Mr P to break out the electric whisk

3. Sift together the flour, bicarb of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
4. Fold the flour etc into the egg substitute and sugar mixture, then add the carrots, nuts and fruit.
5. Add the oil and soya milk and fold into the mixture until smooth.
6. Divide between the 2 tins and bake for 30 minutes until firm to touch and using skewer to check they are cooked through thoroughly.

7. While the cake is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the icing, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
8. Turn the cakes out once completely cooled. Ice the cake by sandwiching half the icing between the two layers and covering the top with the remaining half of the icing.
9. Slice and enjoy.

Not having anything to compare the cake to, I have to say this was a very good cake. I'm going to experiment with the amount of oil and possibly substituting the soya milk for orange juice, but that's just me being a perfectionist.

Either way, I am now well and truly hooked on carrot cake and I look forward to experimenting and making the ultimate carrot cake (Of course I'll share the best result) I just need to grow some more carrots! ;)

Thanks for reading and happy digging ;)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Easter arrives and with it the start of Spring

Easter holidays have been and gone and with them came some sunny and dry days. The best part of being on holiday at home is that all hands are available to help out including Dad W who came for a couple of hours. 

The best part of Spring for me is watching the transformation that occurs each day as the weather warms up and everything comes back to life.

Sigh! Enough watching the flowers blooming, on with work.

Having finally recovered to a point where he can finally do some high work, Mr P set to clearing behind the shed on 47.

He also cleared the cut flowerbed at the back of 47. The Delphiniums are coming through strongly as are the other self seeding plants staring to put in an appearance. 6 weeks time and it will be well covered again giving us fresh flowers June-September.

As usual I like to share something a little unusual. Whilst clearing the flower bed Mr P came across this foam nest buried underneath a large tuft of grass. We are presuming it is of toad origin but if anyone can tell us otherwise then please feel free to comment.

So that's Mr P's hard work, what about the the Little P's?

The Little P's started by digging up the leeks (yes any excuse for fresh homegrown leek and potato soup) and investigating some carrots that had been missed. No they weren't edible but I was impressed the Little Ps recognised them by the leaves.

I set the Little P's the task of planting seeds. I was again impressed  they remembered the process and I could leave them to get on with it. They planted numerous seeds including courgettes, the last of the sweet peas, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes and chillis, oh and not to mention our Princess of the Ps, not being content planting the 30 plants in her bed, planted 30 peas in nodules to go out in the big bed when big enough. (We will let her plant another 20-30 every fortnight for the next couple of months)

JJ is becoming very serious about her growing skills and has taken on her own bed. She has dug it, raked it and started planting. She started with 4 onion sets after very carefully setting out a straight line to follow. Next she moved her line and planted leek seeds (she has recently decided that she likes the taste of leeks and wanted to eat her own, don't know where she got that idea from????!) and finally she planted zinnia seeds to add colour to her bed.


She decided she couldn't wait for the Zinnia's and chose this pretty dianthus. The soil in her bed drains well but is possibly not as sandy as the plant would prefer so she made sure to dig in some fresh compost first so fingers crossed. She also picked up a clump of narcissus for 50p which has yet to bloom. Well Done JJ on a job well done. :D

It's not just JJ who has been busy on her own bed, CP also chose a flower to plant in her bed, she chose this pretty pink kisses dianthus. The soil in her bed is quite sandy so it should do well. She also pinched a clump of JJ's narcissus.

CP planted peas and coriander a couple of weeks ago. I am proud to say her efforts paid off and they are both starting to shoot. Well done CP the Princess of the Ps earns her crown again. :)

So while Mr P and the Little P's were busy what was I doing? Surely you didn't just stand around taking pictures? I hear you ask. No I have also been busy,  I have been digging! I cleared 2 raised beds this main bed over the course of 2 days, quite literally single handedly!

When I finished I planted Solent garlic and 2 and a half rows of shallots sets (with help from Dad W, I was done in by this point. Note to self pace yourself!) While Dad W was digging trenches I started hauling buckets of wood chips. I need to invest in a one handed wheelbarrow I can pull along as I was well and truly done in by the time the final trench was dug. I think I will leave the woodchip moving to Mr P and the Little Ps from now on.

JJ and I set off more shallots in trays from seeds and look forward to seeing what results we get from seed compared to the sets. We are growing all our onions from seed this year to compare with previous results from sets. We have a large area in front of the shallots ready for the onions once they are ready.

So what's next?

The priority over the next couple of weeks are the potato and asparagus beds and removing the encroaching grass from the flower beds.

The little P's are happy to keep planting seeds as needed and moving bark. CP has a Supertato she has chitted so will be giving it a bucket of it's own.

Following a tip I've invested in some chalk pens and I'm sure the Little P's will take great delight using them to decorate buckets, pots, signs..... anything they can get their hands on really.

Finally we've been given permission to plant a fig tree, so that will be going in at the first opportunity too.

Many thanks for reading. I will share a recipe next time ;)

Keep digging :)