£1 grog: How to make wine on the cheap (using fruit juice!)

The world needs more cheap booze.  Wine and beer are damn expensive. Clearly, the answer is to make your own.

I’ll come clean, to start with:  I am not a winemaker.  I am a total amateur.  BUT, you can use ingredients from the supermarket, equipment from a car-boot sale and be up and running this weekend for the same price as a bottle or two of wine from Asda… and after about 3 weeks you’ll end up with 15 bottles of the good stuff.

So how do you do it with no prior knowledge without it tasting flippin’ awful?

Like this… Continue reading

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Jobs for December on the Allotment

The cold, dark nights are ace for a glass or two of something warming and a few seed catalogues, but surely we need a little more excitement than that, don’t we?

So, what can we actually do on the plot in this weather?  When it’s not waterlogged, here’s what I’m working through.

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Paper pots, toilet rolls and parsnip germination

To start with, I used 3″ round plastic pots.

That’s what you do when you get an allotment or start gardening, isn’t it? After all, you can buy them in B&Q, Poundland, Homebase — anywhere!

Well, I’ve been trying out a better way… Continue reading

Free download: ‘Budget planner’ spreadsheet

We’ve been getting our finances in order recently – closing old, unused accounts, paying the overdraft (a hangover from the wedding) and cancelling unused or unwanted standing orders and direct debits and trying to set some aside each month for rainy days.  It’s thrilling (and terrifying) stuff, I can tell you!

As part of this I wanted a decent spreadsheet to get some sort of idea of all of our regular income and expenses and show “running totals” of the balance of our current and savings accounts.

Sadly there were very few to download for free that were actually any use for what I wanted, so I made my own, and thought I’d offer a blank version for other people as well in the ‘Google Template’ archive. Continue reading

Our top-secret plant food trials… Sssshh!

This year, tipped off on Twitter, I carried out a bit of an experiment with a new plant food; one that is completely free and in plentiful supply.  No, not my much-loved comfrey tea — something far easier to acquire that that. Continue reading

A little fishy on a little dishy

My turn to cook?  Oh, that means there’s only one thing comin’!

My favourite dish to cook (certainly one of my favourites to eat) is the ever-simple, fairly cheap and very tasty seasoned Basa (or cod if you’re feeling flush) with rice and vinegary-veggies.

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I have spuds that just won’t quit

Really! They just don’t know when to stop.

After pulling my potatoes for an early harvest (we have a busy September coming up) I chucked the haulms, along with my peas, into a heap on some cleared ground. I would deal with it later, honest.

Well, now is later, and moving the rubbish heap to the compost bins I found that several of the almost-intact potato plants were happily forming new, tiny spudlets.

I’ve never know that to happen – they were in the sun, drying out, and they’re producing a little harvest of new potatoes.

Now that’s productive!

Dry as a bone but new potatoes forming

Thanks, Morrison’s

One of the most (over-) used things on my plot in the last year has been a freebie: banana boxes from Morrisons.

They’re just the right width to lay down as weed-suppressing allotment paths, and make a good, cheap ground cover for the hard to weed spaces.

One of those problem areas, of course, is anywhere that you net to protect against pests. Removing and re-fixing the net can be tiresome and can tear the net over time.

The spring cabbages, inspected one-by-one for caterpillars and eggs as they went in, are now happily planted through a layer of banana boxes and netted with scaffold net.

Here’s to a good harvest after the winter.

Debris netting and banana boxes. A good labour saving combination.

Start ’em young – Family gardening fun

There’s no real direction to this post, just a few photos of our lovely daughter Amelia enjoying her favourite thing in the world – getting outside and getting muddy! Continue reading

What if an onion had a potato’s babies?

You would get “Potato Onions,” which is what I grew for the first time this year. Apparently they’re also called “Multiplier Onions,” but that name doesn’t evoke any of the wonderful Frankensteinian images of a half-spud-half-onion hybrid.

For what it’s worth they were pretty decent, though they may not overtake my beloved shallots in the ‘What to Grow’ league table.

They take up the same amount of space as the shallots, and work in the same way – that is, for every set you plant, you get several small onions when you harvest. Continue reading