Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Things in Unusual Places #19: Cricket

A cricket on our bedroom wall

Do you find August is the grasshopper and cricket month? They're the musical accompaniment to my allotment visits, with plenty of buzzing but not seeing going on. I even heard a familiar buzz at our bedroom window one morning last week, but thought no more about it.

Then a couple of days later I found this little chap on our way to bed. He seemed quite content, simply gently waving his antennae from time to time.

I haven't quite nailed the ID, but the long antennae shows it's a cricket rather than a grasshopper. I'm favouring the oak bush-cricket from Orthoptera's online ID sheet, as it says they can be nocturnal and may be attracted to light and found indoors.

I've also submitted my sighting to their recording scheme as they are looking to see how the populations of grasshoppers and related insects are changing in the UK. It seems my dahlia's earwig populations are also useful for this scheme!

Have you found anything unusual or unexpected lately?

Update 25th August: I felt something odd crawling up my leg last night. I switched on the light to find the cricket was gently waving its antennae at me. It's been returned outside.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Allotment Folk: Suffolk Style

The Great Escape scarecrow at Mr Fothergill's - apologies if I've given you an earworm

Here's my favourite scarecrow from the fun staff competition held at Mr Fothergill's trials field* last week. I've spared you the picture of Incy, the huge spider lurking in the opposite corner of the field, as I know some of you are of a nervous disposition. It couldn't be missed no matter where you were standing at the time.

When I posted my first Allotment Folk from Chippenham in early June, I had no idea I'd find some more in Yorkshire whilst we were on holiday. I'm on the look out for more now, as this is developing into a fun series.

* = OK, I know I'm stretching the concept of allotment by including a trials field, but you'll spot the similarities in a later post.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Salad Days: This summer's salad hits

It's a while since I've blogged about salad, so I've jotted down a quick post about some of our favourite discoveries this year for future reference.

The book

Leon Happy Salads book cover
It's a treat when I go to London to eat at Leon as their salads and wraps are fantastic. It's been great to bring their salad ideas closer to home via their latest book. I'm particularly pleased to see their superfood salad featured as it's one of my regular choices.

There are five chapters which feature classic recipes, fast, lunchbox (recipes for 1), friends, and family; plus sections for adding crunch to your salad, and ideas for dressings.

Most of the ingredients are readily available, but be prepared to improvise if some of the more unusual ingredients - I'm looking at you sumac and pomegranate molasses - aren't for you.

Our regular favourite this summer is Chicken Caesar Salad (without the anchovies or bacon) from the classic recipes chapter, which brings me on to...

Making it crunchy

Crispy croutons
Good croutons are a vital ingredient for a great Caesar salad. My approach is to use a non-stick frying pan to make them instead of the usual oven method. It's a great alternative for making a small batch of fresh croutons as and when needed, and much quicker too.

I drizzle over some olive oil over the chopped up bread in the pan, then add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper, whack the heat up high and then keep the bread pieces moving until they're browned and crispy.

Then I take them off the heat and sprinkle over freshly grated parmesan to taste. The knack here is to keep the croutons moving so they're kept separate whilst taking on their cheesy coating.

My regular variations are to add dried herbs to taste, and/or a few garlic leaves snipped small to the mix, along with the freshly ground pepper.

Food yards, not miles

Lemon balm running riot on my patio
One of our favourite lunches currently is a classic Greek Salad (this recipe is the closest to my ad hoc assemblage, minus the red onion).

The patio is awash with self-seeded lemon balm, which I use chopped up finely instead of lemon juice for a quick salad dressing.

As you can see, there's still plenty left over for the bees to love!

My simple salad dressing consists of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, around a tablespoon of finely chopped lemon balm leaves, plus a few snipped green garlic leaves (when available) also sourced from my 'food yard' patio.

What are your summer favourites this year?

You may also like: My 52 Week Salad Challenge Page with plenty of GYO salad inspiration, including my simple 4-Step Salad Guide to help you make lots of different salads.
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