Dried Beans and a recipe

I grow a couple of different varieties of bean to dry.  Borlotti and ying yang (or known in our house as moo cow beans).  Drying couldn’t be simpler, I leave ours on the plant until they start to die off and if the weather is good I just leave them, if rain is forecast I cut them and bring them inside.  I pod them onto trays which I put in the pantry until I am sure they are dry and then put them in a jar on the shelf.



I love the taste of these beans, slightly nutty and a good texture.  I do use them in chilli instead of kidney beans along with the borlotti beans or in a bean casserole or our favourite Beany Pot Pasta.  Love the fact it is all store cupboard ingredients.

Beany Pot Pasta

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large apple, cored and chopped
750ml passata
1 tin tomatoes or about 600g of skinned and deseeded tomatoes
2 tins of kidney or borlotti beans or about 4 handfuls of dried beans, cooked
3 tbsp red pesto
500g penne pasta

Heat oil and gently fry the onion for about 3 mins, stir n the apple and cook for a further 2-3 mins until both have softened.  Stir in the tomatoes, passata and beans.

Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 mins (unless you are using fresh tomatoes then increase to about 30 mins).  Whilst this is cooking, boil the pasta.

Stir in the pesto and pasta, mixing well until the pasta is heated through.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.




Polytunnel Growing

We got the polytunnel last year from First Tunnels.  Can’t fault their service or their product.  If we were to buy again I would definitely go back to them.  Our main reason for buying a polytunnel was the blinking blight that we got pretty much every year. Our potatoes are fine as a rule but the tomatoes get devastated, the year before the polytunnel we only got about 10% of the crop and that was mostly what we grew at home.  Much debating went on, but finally the decision was made and the poly tunnel was purchased.


Health and Safety may want to be informed of man attempting dangerous netting application!

We had a fantastic summer growing in there, learned a lot.  Mostly do not plant so much because they really do grow better in there!  Didn’t plant much out over the winter, partly lack of organisation as we had a lot going on at the time of sowing the new plantings and partly because it was hard to imagine ever having space in there again.



However today is a good polytunnel day, look what I found and there are quite a few.  We may get our very own first strawberyy by the end of April!  If for no other reason, I would highly recommend a polytunnel.

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organisation, a must

krMy fabric cupboard had become my nemesis, fabric stuffed in where I could and the rest stored (ashamed face) in bags on the floor, or worse. Working became a challenge and clogged up my brain as much as my work space.

So I prioritised it, sorted it to whole pieces of fabric, smaller pieces and patchwork pieces. Then into types of fabric, all lined up like books. Found some bits I had forgotten I had!

Just need a few plastic boxes to organise my projects and make it easier to switch between projects.

I seem to spend more time organising and trying to promote my new business than I do sewing.  However that is going to change I have my first order for bridesmaid dresses!!!   I have some other projects in the works to put on my Etsy page.  Exciting.

A good allotment day

Spent a good few hours at the allotment today, even needed some suncream!

the cherry tree is in full blossom. So beautiful.  Never get many cherries from it but I wonder if it needs a pollinator.  The black and red currants are flowering, the rhubarb is starting to take over and the asparagus is up.  So much to do, so little time.


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End of March and it’s glorious again

A bit of child free time and I head on down to the allotment.  Milk for my coffee – check, bag of seeds – check, excel spreadsheet – check.  What I am the only one?  How else do you keep track of crop rotation, planning what to plant next?  Yes the old boy allotmenteers mock me too.  Well it serves me well, mostly, and I get to see when to plant and make sure I try and cover all the growing season and successional planting.  To be honest it works well in the early part of the season, then I find in the midst of the crazy glut stages that I forget I need to sow more seed for the next stage.  Every year so far!  This year will be different Rodney.

I am pretty caught up on the allotment (she says smugly), the beds are weed free and other than a bit of manure on top of the potatoes once planted and the trench for the green beans needs a little more kitchen peelings, that is pretty much it.  Never happened before so it is slightly unnerving.  Checked spreadsheet but, no I appear to be on top of things.  Cue falling down a ladder and breaking leg!

I am impressed with the strawberries in the guttering, they look so health and are flowering.  Need to take a small brush up to ensure they get pollinated evenly.  However a strawberry is a strawberry no matter what shape it takes.


I didn’t put things in place for overwintering in the polytunnel.  See above!  The polytunnel was packed full to bursting last year and the last thing on my mind was packing it further.

I got about 200lbs plus of tomatoes from the polytunnel last year but it was insane.  I did not appreciate how effective a polytunnel would be.  This year I shall be taking it a bit easier and not needing to employ a scythe to just get in the door.


I get a shiver down my spine seeing all the life bursting forth, I believe spring is here.


At the allotment March 2014

At the allotment March 2014





Brrrr so cold – again

Went to the allotment in the blazing sun, only someone clearly hadn’t turned the heater on.  Managed only a couple of hours and got some onions in and a bit of watering in the polytunnel (really needed to have more to do in there it was warm) but my fingers really weren’t feeling like they wanted to carry on.

Just been into the greenhouse and it is down to 5 degrees so the heater has had to come on.  Eon’s shareholders will be happy!

How did I live without an overlocker?

I have heard about overlockers and they seemed like something you could do without.  One of those appliances, like a teas maid, that sounded good at the time but gets put in a cupboard never to be used again.  Well, I have thought about it, looked on the net, pushed the thought to the back of my head, net decides that since I have looked at them it would show me lots of ads for them.  Looked again, checked loads of reviews, closed down the computer for fear of making a rash decision, you get the picture.

Since I have started my sewing business I really need to find ways of being able to create items without it taking me an age to do so otherwise I price myself out of the market.  I love doing my couture course where pretty much everything is hand stitched and beautifully finished, which is wonderful, but no one is going to pay for me to do that for an item of clothing for them, it would just not be cost effective (unless it is a wedding dress with its fine detail).

I found this  Brother overlocker pretty much everywhere but bought it from Ebay.  I read so many reviews that were overwhelmingly positive and the general consensus seemed to be that only someone who has never used an overlocker would not need an overlocker.


The only issue that came up was threading it and the advice was to look at youtube for clips.  It arrived on Friday but due to a migraine followed by ‘the fear’ I didn’t start using it until yesterday.  I was hoping that since it came ready threaded that would be ok but unfortunately the threads had become dislodged and immediately broke. Doh, booklet out, tried to follow it but my goodness it is like no other sewing machine I have ever seen.  I found a lovely lady on youtube that explained perfectly how to thread it and off I went.  The beauty of an overlocker is that you can sew without any fabric in it, all it does is chain a lovely mix of threads.  Got some scraps of jersey fabric, lowered the foot and off I went.  I think it was instant love!  It is now named George after a certain sexy Mr Clooney.

Today I decided to put it to the test and make a top.  I have had the pattern and material for a while but have never been impressed with the finish via a normal machine and had been disappointed with a previous attempt.  But today, oh my, it was a joy.

The ease with which it sews, it just feels so strong and capable.  At one point it is sewing, cutting and finishing 6 layers of fabric and I could not notice a change in tone or that it even felt challenged.  The end result is superior to anything I could have done on a regular machine.  You still need a regular sewing machine to accompany your overlocker.  I needed to put some gather lines in and this model does not do the twin stitch top stitching

There are some many other features it has, gathering, blind hemming, piping to name but a few and I shall definitely be giving this machine a work out with all of them.  All in all, really impressed.

Todays to do list


Must prick out and sow some more seeds (must order a few that I am missing like Ferline tomatoes) but I must also get on with my sewing.


I have finally negotiated the joys of the Etsy site.  It really is not that ‘friendly’ a site to the uninitiated to set up an account.  First you need a name, not that easy to choose, you want a name that says what you are about but there are only so many SEW you can put in a name.  After much deliberation and some great input from some friends,  May-Hem was born.  Checked to make sure that was not a used name and started the process.  Turns out you cannot have a hypen in a name and mayhem was taken by someone who appears to have never used it.  So May-HemUK is the name I use on Etsy which actually is probably a good thing because it is a predominately American site and it is good to be identified as UK based.

Photographs, pricing up, listing, writing, more writing, trying to work out postage (no calculator on there like Ebay) try not to be too shocked at commission on Etsy, trying harder not to be shocked at commission card company charges.  And hey presto, up and running. Just like that. (said like the best Tommy Cooper I can do – showing my age).

Just need to get more things on there, priced up and really need to set up my own website but my brain feels like it might just explode with that thought.  Little steps, one at a time.

So if you know anyone that wants wedding items made, bridesmaid dresses, table runners etc.  … :-)


Now off to create a shabby chic woodland fairy outfit for a photographer.   Any suggestions?

Cooking with vegetables

Not sure where all my time goes at the moment.  Perhaps trying to juggle too many things as usual.  However today is a good veggie day as we are having Vegetable Biryani with all our veggies.   It always feels good to be able to use what I grow, knowing what has been sprayed on it (nothing), how it has been stored (various) and how good they taste (very).  So in case anyone wants to try it (would highly recommend it too):

Spiced Vegetable Biryani

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small cauliflower (North Foreland at the moment) broken into small florets
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (I have substituted butternut squash instead)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1.2ltr hot vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons Balti curry paste
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (I used my dried ones and 1 tablespoon boiling water)
  • Large pinch of saffron stems (must try growing some)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds (black or white)
  • 500g basmati rice
  • 140g trimmed green beans halved (I have defrosted some peas and broad beans)
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves (just picked from the garden, amazed how hardy they are!
  • 50g packet salted roasted cashew nuts.

Preheat oven to fan 200, pour the oil into a large stock pot and put in the oven for a couple of mins to heat through.  Add all the vegetables except the beans to the tin and stir to coat in oil.  Return to the oven for 15 mins or until beginning to brown (really brings out the cauliflower).

While the vegetables are roasting, stir together to stock, curry paste, chill, saffron and mustard seeds.

Mix the rice and green beans (or peas/broad beans) with the vegetables in the stock pot then pour over the stock mixtrure. Lower the oven to fan 190, cover the dish and bake for 30 mins unilt the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the lemon juice and scatter over the coriander and cashew nuts.

I like to serve it with naan (which I usually make but not enough time today) and fresh raita made with cucumber, yoghurt, red onion, mint sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

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Once cooked it will look something like this:


Stir in the lemon juice (I like lots) and nuts and a sprinkle of lovely cut coriander (6 year old let loose with scissors and herbs, kept her amused for ages)

Serves about 6 and it does have some spice to it but you can lessen it if you want by adding less chilli peppers/balti sauce.  My 6 year old was shovelling it in like it was going out of style, 1 shovelful, one drink of water.  Mum my tongue is tingling, I love it!!