Painting Baby Pumpkins

I don’t suppose many people will actually need a tutorial in how to paint a pumpkin for Halloween but it might be of interest to see the finish achieved using Annie Sloan Chalk paint. The little pumpkins are available from our pumpkin farm shop www.BigPumpkins.co.uk

Select a nice baby pumpkin for painting
Select a nice baby pumpkin for painting

I selected the Annie Sloan ‘Graphite’ chalk paint as I wanted a dark, soft, velvet finish.

A tin of Annie Sloan Graphite Chalk Paint
A tin of Annie Sloan Graphite Chalk Paint

The difference between wet and dry is significant so don’t be disheartened by the gloss of the paint when wet.

Painting baby pumpkins for Halloween
Painting baby pumpkins with Chalk Paint

The dried paint was exactly the texture I had imagined but perhaps a bit lighter than I had hoped for.

A baby pumpkin with one coat of Chalk Paint
A baby pumpkin with one coat of Chalk Paint

One coat was probably not enough but the effect was close to what I had been seeking. Perhaps I will try another with some blackboard paint…

 

 

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Harvesting Mini Pumpkins

The 2016 season mini pumpkins are now available.

They make perfect autumnal table decorations for restaurants, events and weddings either as they are (they are very tactile) or can be used hollowed out as tea light candle holders. We have even sold them for use as soup bowls.

Tiny pumpkins for table decorations
Tiny pumpkins for table decorations

We are harvesting them to order at the moment at just £1 each.

Our making a table tea light tutorial can be found here

For more information please visit or website www.bigpumpkins.co.uk

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New range of smokehouse wood chips added

Our little Wood Chunks website has been selling our home grown wood for some time now to the point where our regular customers kindly bring samples of their fare which is very much appreciated (hint, hint) .

Food smoking is an art and from my experience, each ‘artist’ likes to understandably select the materials that they have found gives the best results for them.

Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke
Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke

Some want small wood chips, others want large lumps or even big logs. Then there is the debate about whether the bark should be on or off and the difference branchwood or heartwood makes to the flavour of the food.

To supplement our home produced wood chunks we have today added a range of wood chips which come in 2ltr re-sealable packs.

Graded to a size between 6mm and 12mm chip size, Apple, Alder, Cherry and Oak chips are now in stock.

Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock
Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock

Along with all our speciality wood chunks they are available to collect (by appointment – we don’t have a shop) from Hesketh Bank (PR4 6) in West Lancashire but these packs are especially suitable for mail order so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

For more info please visit www.WoodChunks/woodchips.html

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Busy day in the sun

A very busy day making the most of the sunshine to get caught up with all the field and footpath mowing but the highlight was cutting our first pumpkins of the season. It usually gets to September before the PR people remember to think about Halloween but quite a few have been making enquiries already.

The first order was just for a few pumpkins and quite on odd mix but ours is not to reason why. I look forward to seeing the finished piece.

Cutting pumpkins in August for a photoshoot
Cutting pumpkins in August for a photoshoot

We always grow a few pumpkins under glass so they are ready for sale that bit sooner. Due to the poor weather, the outdoor pumpkins are only just beginning to set but hopefully they will be ready for the mid October harvest.

For more information on our pumpkins please visit our www.BigPumpkins.co.uk website.

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Roast Tomato and Pepper Soup

As we hit ‘peak tomato’ in the polytunnel we try and prepare as many portions of our favourite soup; freezing portions of our delicious roast tomato and pepper soup for a hearty warming meal later in the autumn.

In fact every time the oven goes on, a tray of roughly chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions will be in the bottom.

Roast tomato and pepper soup ingredients
Roast tomato and pepper soup ingredients

Ingredients (Makes 3 big bowls) :
1kg of ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
4 green or red peppers
6 peeled whole cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
600 millilitres vegetable stock
Worcestershire (three shakes)
Tabasco (two shakes)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200C
Cut up larger tomatoes to the size of a whole cherry tomato. Deseed the peppers and then cut up the peppers and onion to a similar size as the tomatoes.

Place the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic into a roasting dish or baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Pour on the olive oil then vigorously mix all the ingredients by hand to ensure that the oil has coated everything.

Chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers
Chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers

Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the tomatoes and peppers are just beginning to char.

Roasted onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes
Roasted onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes

Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and add the Worcestershire and tabasco sauce. Add the roasted vegetables and puree using a hand blender to the texture you prefer.

Allow to cool then freeze in portions. Ideal for a warm welcome on a winters evening. The quantities will make three big bowls of hearty, homemade soup.

Three big bowls will serve 1 – 2 Lancashire farmers or at least 6 southern jessies.

Bowl of roasted tomato and pepper soup
Bowl of roasted tomato and pepper soup garnished with Parmesan and parsley
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Rosemary Twigs for flavour on the BBQ or Smoker

In response to a Wood Chunks Customer request I have been today been bundling Rosemary twigs for use in the smoker or on the BBQ.

Rosemary Twigs for Smoker or BBQ
Rosemary Twigs for Smoker or BBQ

As a rule resinous woods are not favoured for use in smokers but as these burn so quickly they are used to provide an instant hit of the herbs distinctive pungent flavour as soon as the meat is added.

If used on a BBQ the twigs are dropped a couple at a time onto the charcoal for a short burst of flavour.

In the past the waste from pruning our Rosemary plants had been collected by our bee keepers as it apparently makes for a very good smoke to distract the bess when going into the hive.

 

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July Poly Tunnel Update

A few snapshots of the more interesting crops growing in the polytunnel.

First tomato of the season ripening
First tomato of the season ripening

 

Our heritage Italian Cucumbers are doing well
Our heritage Italian Cucumbers are doing well

 

A mix of small squash varieties grown vertically up wire mesh
A mix of small squash varieties grown vertically up wire mesh

 

First crop of Gherkins nearly ready
First crop of Gherkins nearly ready

 

The first seed stock pumpkin 'Muscade De Provence'
The first seed stock pumpkin ‘Muscade De Provence’

 

The polytunnel grown Sweetcorn is nearly ready for harvest
The polytunnel grown Sweetcorn is nearly ready for harvest

 

Sweet peppers 'Corno di Toro rosso' are beginning to form
Sweet peppers ‘Corno di Toro rosso’ are beginning to form

 

Our 2016 harvest of garlic is complete
Our 2016 harvest of garlic is complete

 

Our Clive Bevan Giant Tomato Competition plants are doing well
Our Clive Bevan Giant Tomato Competition plants are doing well

 

Spectacular pumpkin flowers on a 'Knucklehead' plant
Spectacular pumpkin flowers on a ‘Knucklehead’ plant
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NFT and Aeroponic Hydroponic Trials

A new greenhouse with an electric supply has allowed us to trial growing lemongrass plants in some NFT and Aeroponic hydroponic systems.

We now have Lemongrass plants in a Nutriculture NFT hydroponic grow tank, some Fennel in a smaller NFT system and some ‘mother’ lemongrass plants in an aeroponics tank.

Fennel plants in an NFT hydroponic system
Fennel plants in an NFT hydroponic system

I have no idea if Fennel will grow successfully in a pot let alone in a hydroponic system but am giving it a go. I will hopefully trail some in the same system but outside as ‘bolting’ might be an issue for the fennel plants if they are kept in a greenhouse.

I also wanted to trial some hydroponic Celeriac which will definitely need to be outside but have possibly left it too late for getting seeds started for this growing season.

Lemongrass plants growing in a NFT hydroponic system
Lemongrass plants growing in a NFT hydroponic system

The bigger lemongrass plants sat in the NFT system have started to put roots beyond the pot and onto the spreader mat.

Lemongrass roots after one week in the NFT hydroponic tank
Lemongrass roots after one week in the NFT hydroponic tank

The Lemongrass in the aeroponics system has been in for a week now and the root growth through the net pots is most impressive.

Trialling Lemongrass plants in a aeroponics tank
Trialling Lemongrass plants in a aeroponics tank
Lemongrass 'mother' plant after 1 week in an Aeroponics system
Lemongrass ‘mother’ plant after 1 week in an Aeroponics system

 

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The great Chuck masacre

Two attacks over three days have seen our much loved hens have suffered badly at the hands of one or more foxes.

On both occasions, the attacks were made early evening well before dusk. Whilst the hens have enjoyed spending the days roaming around the woodland the down side is not being able to offer them 100% protection before they go indoors to roost and once Mr fox has worked this out there is very little we can do.

Our little flock has been devastated with just a handful of old girls remaining who, I suspect, had already gone to bed.

Our woodland hens - a wonderful life but vulnerable to fox attack
Our woodland hens – a wonderful life but vulnerable to fox attack

I really can’t face clearing up such a scene again so, unless we can find a cast iron method of protecting them, I think that is it. Very sad.

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