Sunday, 6 October 2013

Growing Tomatoes - store bought grow bags or greener self-filled reusable ones?

Look at those tomatoes.  They're all different colours, shapes, sizes and flavours and THAT is why I grow heritage.

In previous years I got my tomato plants from my father in law, but this year I decided to grow my own from seed and compare two different growing methods - using a pre-filled grow bag, and using a self-filled reusable grow bag.  You will see the pre-filled ones in the front in the picture below, and the reusable ones behind them.
I put our own compost in the reusable bags, along with various fertilizers.  The theory was that I would grow the same plants in the back (reusable) and front (pre-filled) and compare their progress.  On the other side of the greenhouse I planted (in reusable bags) my father in law's choice of tomatoes.

From the start, the plants in the reusable bags took off.  The soil was deeper so they got better root growth and didn't dry out as quickly.  Over time, though, the pre-filled plants caught up. 

In terms of yield, this is where my experiment fell down.  I couldn't be bothered to weigh out the yields of each method, though I think from eyeing it the pre-filled bags produced more tomatoes.  This could also quite possibly have been down to the fact that they got more TLC due to being easier to access than the reusable row in the back.

*note to self, don't plant two rows of tomato plants

What is MOST interesting is that my father in law's plants didn't produce nearly as much as my heritage plants.  If you go back to the picture at the top of this image you will see quite a few Black Russians (the ones with a bit of green on them), a couple of Brandywine, and some Tigerella.  There may be a few of the FIL's hybrid tomatoes there, but not many.

So, while the jury's still out on which grow bag method to use, I know I'll definitely be sticking to heritage tomatoes in the future. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

DIY wedding reception on the cheap - part 2

In between cleaning and decorating the house, I got on making the food.  We were 22 people in total and I reckon we could hace accomodated 30 with the amount of food we had.  

My girlfriends provided the salads and desserts, and I spent my time baking breads and meats.

I made:
Paul Hollywood's garlic baguette ( so doesn't look like a baguette, but tastes great)
Jamie Oliver's rolled bread (though it was just the inspiration, in one I put salami, basil, cheese, olives and peppers, and in the other I left otu the salami and swapped tomatoes for peppers).  If you only want one bread, or enough food for about 5 decent sized portions, half the recipe.  The first time I made this I used the suggested olive oil and ended up with a greasy mess.  Now, I skip that part.
Smitten Kitchen's brisket - which I cooked for 10 hours in my warming oven, and seved with the reduced sauce.
Finally, I cooked up some pork loin with a marinade recipe that my mom gave me and which people go mental for.  They say it's the best pork they've ever had. 

Pork Loin Marinade
1/4 C soy
2 T red wine ( I used Pinot Noir because it's what I had in the house and it was too thin.  You want a merlot or some other kind of deep flavoured wine)
1 T Br Sugar
1 T honey
1/2 t cinnamon
1 garlic
1 green onion sliced
mix all together - pour over pork loin - turning pork occasionally let sit in sauce for at least 2 - 3 hrs 
This recipe is seriously amazing.  I have no idea where it's from, but it's like omg never need another pork marinade ever again kind of amazing.  

We served homebrew exclusively.  I made 4 brews and we had a friend who made a keg.  Homebrew is a revelation.  It's easy and CHEAP and amazing.  And no, it's not super strong.  Why do people just assume it's super strong?  Most of my brews are betwen 3.5 and 4.5%.  I like to drink my beer, not get wasted from it, thanks.  

I *love* the new Festival range of homebrews, available from several different retailers but I buy from BrewUK because they have sales quite a lot which makes them often the cheapest. 
Trust me, this beer is amazing. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

DIY wedding reception on the cheap - part 1

We got married in April of 2012.  We were meant to have our reception in California in December, but then my visa didn't come through in time and we were stuck in the UK over Christmas.  Then we were going to celebrate in the States in September, and my brother went and got himself engaged.  So, we sacked the US celebration idea and focused on the UK.

We decided to plan the reception to coincide with the work on our house being more or less done.  Well, even building in lag time the work was NOT more or less done, but we went ahead anyway because I knew it was now or never.

We lost a lot of money on the failed US reception and honeymoon plan of 2012 so this party was on a pretty tight budget.  We originally talked about marquees, portable toilets and the works but scaled it right back and, honestly, had a better time for it.

I had some decorations that I bought for the US reception that I was able to use for this.  My favourite purchase was fabric flowers from Jane Joss on Etsy - they're not your grannie's fake flowers, they're creative and colourful and look fantastic, and of course the best part is that they can be kept forever.  I got a friend to bring me some of his empty swing top beer bottles, put a bit of sand in the bottle to bring the level up a bit, and voila!  I scattered my funky vases and flowers around the house.
(note how construction-tastic our house is)

Felt balls and felt ball garlands are all the rage these days (on Pinterest and Etsy, anyway) and I thought it looked like a fun project, so got myself an assortment of felt balls on Ebay, some twine, a big needleand a friend and had at it.  Our husbands referred to our crafting as "kids' corner" but we had a blast and created some really pretty super easy to make felt garlands.  As with so many of my pictures these days, ignore the construction going on in the background...

Food and drink coming soon in part 2...