FROM SEED TO FEED (OUR FRUIT, VEGETABLE AND FLOWER GARDEN DIARY) 2022
I can’t believe that this is my 3rd “From Seed to Feed” post! Well here we are another year and an exciting time as we get to plan our 2022 edible garden. We had a lot of success last year and we grew so many plants for the first time ever in 2021 including Loofah, Sweetcorn, Sweet Potatoes, Marrow, Chillies (many different varieties), Strawberries, and Giant Sunflowers that grew so tall they nearly kissed the fluffy white clouds. We also made lots of delicious recipes from our home grown organic produce: Chilli and Tomato pasta sauce, Orange marmalade, Fig jam, Vegetarian chilli stuffed marrow, Sweet potato, chickpea and red lentil soup and from our eggs our new Hens bless us with daily we make regular batches of Meringues, Lemon curd, Vanilla custard and many delicious cakes. I LOVE my little garden oasis so much, such simple pleasures bring so much joy. I will never ever get bored of the awesome tranquil views and outdoor office in summer time. I adore sitting outside hanging out with my naughty hens, eating Portuguese cakes and breads in moderation, celebrating with family parties and raising a glass of vinho in Vinhó (our village is called Vinhó which is so cool) better than Cansado! I love watching the cute sheep opposite grazing and the sensational sunsets at the end of a day just warm my heart. We are very blessed to live in such a wonderful country with friendly local people. Our compost is also looking epic I think all the bunny and chicken poop helps. Now we have the hard decision of what to plant for 2022.
What are we planting in 2022?
Hubby the chilli mad enthusiast has ordered seeds online and received the following chilli seeds: Big black mamma, Scotch bonnet orange, Ring of fire and Naga white. I am in charge of everything “Tomato” so chose Artisan pink bumblebee tomato seeds and we got send some free samples of Yellow pear and Moneymaker tomato seeds. It’s going to be a colourful event in the Casa Valhal garden this year if everything grows and I can’t wait! I definitely need to plant cabbages and squash for our hens. We are still finalising our seeds for 2022 and deciding what to grow. It’s so tempting to grow huge amounts of crops but I need to be sensible as it’s just the 2 of us so we need to prioritise what we eat regularly but I can’t help myself and always want to try something new. Last year the Loofah were our wild card and we had so much fun growing them for the first time. I need a little self control, something I’m not good at as I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Some people buy all the shoes, I buy all the seeds and don’t let me loose in a garden centre because I’m like a child in a candy store (ha ha).
When we first relocated here we bought a little lemon tree from the local market. It was small but already had 2 full size lemons on it so it looked promising. We planted it in the top garden but then had to move it to the lower garden when we renovated the old ruin into a chicken coop and decided to get our hens. I didn’t think it would survive the move and the winter frost and there was no sign of any new lemons growing. It got to the point where I thought the bloke at the market who sold us it must have superglued the 2 lemons onto it (ha ha). It certainly wasn’t looking too healthy for a long time but roll on 2 years and it is now thriving. We have about a dozen lemons growing which is fantastic. We are never short of lemons as our neighbour has a huge tree and we can help ourselves whenever we want to but it’s lovely to grow our own. Now where did I put the gin and tonic!
The Future’s Bright, The Future’s ORANGE
I heard a noise in the night but couldn’t be assed to investigate. Woke up to this! Half an orange tree down. Frugal me will pick them, peel and freeze for laranja marmelada throughout the year. I will keep a couple for citrus missiles to throw at hubby’s head when he annoys me senseless.
The “laranja” drama continues. When a small job becomes a big job! I’m truly exhausted but I’ve cut off all the oranges from the fallen branches and given them a quick bath. Nicely drying in the sun room in batches. I’ve left the branches for hubby to sort because sharing is caring. A lovely Portuguese man walked past whilst I was working on the tree and tried to have a conversation with me. I explained in Portuguese that I speak little Portuguese but he continued to speak to me. Completely and utterly lost in translation. In the end I resulted to charades and used my arms and body parts to try and explain what happened to the tree which confused him beyond belief. I think he thought I wanted to dance with him (ha ha). Enjoying a quick caffeine and sugar fix and psyching myself up for a trip to A & E, I think I broke my foot again! My running days are on hold, very sad.
“Mission Citrus” Well that was hard work and certainly challenging yet rather fun. I read in a gardening Facebook group that it’s easy to dry orange peels that haven’t been chemically sprayed then grind into a powder to use in multiple recipes including food, drink, cleaning and beauty products. Orange rinds are loaded with orange flavour, vitamins and fibre. The “Love food hate waste” frugal me am delighted at the fact that I have found another use for orange peel as previously I would just zest and use in cakes and toss the rest in the compost bin but this time there was way too many for the composter as too much citrus can be detrimental due to the acidity.I used a dehydrator and my blender to grind into a fine orange powder. I still have a lot to dry out. What a result and the whole house has the most epic aroma. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange. I peeled over 500 oranges! That must be some kind of record and far less painful than the bloke who broke a World record for shoving 6 full sized Cadbury cream eggs up his ass (ha ha). I have so many questions!
A Perfect Perch
Even our happy hens benefited from the orange tree collapsing under the weight of all the oranges. Hubby recycled the fallen tree branch into a perch for their coop. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – I LOVE it.
Pass the Vodka
We have frozen so much Orange Juice, we certainly won’t be getting scurvy anytime soon with all these oranges, now pass the Vodka!
Mr & Mrs Seed Sowing Sunday (20th February 2022)
Today Mr & Mrs seed sowing 2022. My motto for this year is less “Less is more” and to grow just enough for us 2, bunny Milo, my chickens and a few friendly neighbour swaps. Chilli obsessed hubby is growing a variety of different coloured chillies – Big black mamma, Scotch bonnet orange, Ring of fire and Naga white. I am in charge of everything “Tomato” so chose Artisan pink bumblebee and we got sent some free samples of Yellow pear and Moneymaker tomato seeds. It’s going to be a colourful event in the Casa Valhal garden this year if everything grows and I can’t wait! Cabbages, Lettuce, Pumpkin and Squash for our furry and feathered friends. Sunflowers and marigolds for companion planting and a few Melons. It’s so tempting to grow huge amounts of crops but I need to be sensible as it’s just the 2 of us so we need to prioritise what we eat regularly but I can’t help myself and always want to try something new. Last year the Loofah were our wild card and we had so much fun growing them as well as Corn for the first time. I need a little self control, something I’m not good at as I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Some people buy all the shoes, I buy all the seeds and don’t let me loose in a garden centre because I’m like a child in a candy store (ha ha). I’m recycling old wine corks as a labelling method for my seeds as I’m trying to reduce plastic use and I’m having a lot of fun consuming all the Portuguese wine (ha ha). I have just learnt that cork also repels some pests so that is an added bonus. Let’s keep our green fingers crossed for Helen’s Happy Harvest. Sowing my seeds today took my mind off the anniversary of mums death (7 years today) and it’s also hugely symbolic that on the day she left the world I am enjoying one of her favourite hobbies (gardening) and planting seeds, creating new life and hope. A seed needs love and tender care to grow and emerge from the darkness and so does my grief. How strange my life is reflected in nature.
Glorious Germination (9th March 2022)
Look at the progress already! I’m so happy as the weather at the moment is a bit pants with a lot of rain and I think it was windy in the night as the sheet of bubble wrap that I cover the seeds with overnight was MIA and found a few feet down the garden steps. I also discovered blood all over my garden chair cushion and I sent hubby on a Miss Marple investigation and he located an injured cat who was obviously taking refuge in our sunroom. I have cleaned and moved the cushions inside for now and although I don’t really like cats (I’m a dog lover) I do wish the kitty a speedy recovery.
Squeeze and Freeze – Man up an Orange Tree
I sent hubby up the orange tree for fruit to make freshly squeezed orange juice. Frugal me decided to squeeze and freeze a shed load of O.J. These self sealing ice cube bags work a treat. Then you can de frost a few cubes per day and enjoy juice and obtain your vitamin C throughout the whole year.
Squash and Saving Seed (23rd March 2022)
Our seeds are growing slowly at a snails pace. The weather was glorious in February when we sowed our seeds but March has been very cold and wet which has had an impact on our seedlings. So far the best progress has been with our squash. This I find funny as all the Squash seeds were saved seeds from last years crop which was originally gifted to us by our next door neighbour. It just goes to show that the Portuguese know what they are doing when it comes to gardening and we can learn a lot from the local villagers. I’m happy that our saved seeds have grown as saving seed = saving planet which makes smile.
Planting Gourds (27th March 2022)
This weekend we planted out our Pumpkin and Squash. All our Squash seeds were saved from our 2021 harvest. I love saving seed = saving planet. We dug in a lot of our own organic compost, some manure (not our own – ha ha) and used straw for mulch around the Squash. We also had one hell of an awesome straw fight (ha ha). It’s a good job we drink a lot of diet coke as the empty bottles recycle into great mini greenhouses.
Tiny Figs and Googly Eyed Oranges
I can’t believe we have tiny figs growing already. I am still figs daily from our 2021 harvest as I froze a shed load. Perfect in a protein smoothie. Our Oranges are so tasty and I am eating at least one every day. So beautiful picked straight from our tree. I am freezing a lot of orange flesh and grated grind for marmalade throughout the year. Hubby likes to find unusual shaped Oranges and stick googly eyes on them (ha ha).
Gardening with Chickens
Our chickens keep escaping to explore the lower garden areas. They have the whole top garden full of lush greenery and weeds to feast on but they prefer to help me garden and enjoy pooping all over my patio (ha ha).
The seeds have germinated nicely and will soon be ready to plant out into our raised beds. We are currently prioritising DIY and using the potting table for sanding down window frames so unfortunately all our plants are on the floor of the sun room for now but hopefully not for long.
Raised Beds – Easter Sunday (17th April 2022)
A full day of gardening today, raised beds completed. Wow, that was back breaking digging out all the old soil and replenishing with our own homemade compost, manure and soil using the lasagne layering technique. Digging is hard work so I’ve decided that if I want to murder hubby in the near future I’m not disposing of his body by burying it in my garden as that’s too much hard work. Instead I have a genius plan of pushing him off a mountain top during one of our nature hikes. Obviously joking he is my rock, I’d be lost without him. Not too shabby a job, before and after photos below. Tomatoes and chillies planted out with marigolds in the centre as they are a great companion plant and help protect the tomatoes. Just need to mulch then job done. Humans need a companion as well as plants and I had awesome fun on Easter Sunday in the sun with my hubby companion and partner in crime. Not very glamorous photos today but it’s hot and dirty so hubby is sweating like a badger and I’m glowing like a lady princess. I also garden braless like Charlie Dimmock because they need to be free and wild in nature (ha ha). I colour match with the orange tree, now it’s coffee, Portuguese cake and chicken therapy time.
Mulching in May
Today is the 1st May and we spent the day gardening and planted out most of our seedlings. We managed to buy straw so have mulched around the plants and added egg shells to prevent the slugs and snails. We previously were using beer traps but I felt a bit bad as we found a few drowned snails and I know they are a pest but they are still a living creature and beautiful nature. What a way to go, drowning in alcohol (ha ha). We have replaced the beer traps with egg shells and hubby goes out each night with his phone torch on “Snail Patrol” and picks them off the plants. We place them in a container and then set them free on the abandoned land next door. I think he likes this manly task mainly because he finds so many toads at night which and he gives each one a name (e.g. Tiago the Toad) then he takes their photo and a video to show me. Lets hope the snails don’t find their way back or I will have to send hubby in the car to drive them a km or two down the road (ha ha).
Garden to Table
I am making the most out of hubby’s muscles! Lots of DIY tasks done and dusted this weekend and although it’s not technically Seed to Feed and more Garden to Table I thought I would share my lovely table transformation. I am looking forward to sitting outside and eating many organic healthy meals prepared with our 2022 harvest. Our lettuces and Squash are thriving and growing so fast with all the scorching hot weather. Everything is mulched now and it’s just a waiting game with a lot of TLC. I caught hubby digging a body size hole around the back of the house. I think it’s my grave as it’s exactly the right size for my body but he insists it’s another fruit and veg garden for all my tomatoes as I planted way too many seeds this year. Only time will tell. There are easier ways to bump off your significant other. I’ve always said digging a body sized hole is an unnecessary effort. A slight nudge off the mountain top on one of our awesome hikes could be recorded as an accident as everyone knows how clumsy I am (ha ha). Look at the size of this schist slab we discovered hidden underground! I upcycled one previously into a coffee table. This will make a great garden bed edge or headstone. If I disappear please check the back of my house! (ha ha). Now time for a hot shower chicken therapy and a screwball. The 1970’s raspberry ripple ice cream with a bubblegum at the bottom, not the cocktail or sexual position (ha ha). I even had time to make a Pão do Lo to have with my coffee. Simple pleasures bring much joy.
Don’t Fence Me In!
It was a raised bed after all and not my pending grave (ha ha). Our chickens are not happy that I recycled an old palette to use as a door to keep them from entering the back of the house area. They are not content with having a whole top garden full of weeds they always want to explore. Well not this area any more it’s off limits as I am determined grow a shed load of tomatoes to freeze and make my special tomato and chilli pasta sauce to enjoy throughout the year.
Birds, Bees & Weeds
Why not let your garden go to seeds and weeds to feed the birds & bees. Our top garden might look like a huge mess to some folk but we are purposely letting our weeds go wild and doing our bit for biodiversity. Oh and our chickens love it too. Lets nurture nature and let it BEE.
Our 1st Marigold of 2022
Marigolds are great companion plants and I always plant one in the middle of our tomatoes. I grew a lot this year from seeds saved from last year. This is the first flower to bloom.
Sensational Squash & Melon Shagging
I am new to gardening and each year I am amazed at what we grow from seed. It’s a lot of trial and error but this year our squash and tomatoes are thriving. Totally 100% organic and we use our own homemade compost which is amazing. I think I have our bunny rabbit Milo and our chickens to thank as their poop is fabulous for making compost. Tomatoes love the marigolds as a companion plant. If all the squash and melon cross pollinate I’m gonna be a happy lady. The flowers only open for a day or so and rely on the birds and bees to pollinate them. Sometimes hubby will try and self hand pollinate by using the male flowers stamen and brushing it against the lady flowers stigma. I call it “Shagging the Melons”. Just don’t shout out at the top of your lungs to your hubby “Are you shagging the melons honey?” You will get a few strange looks from local villagers (ha ha). I am looking forward to Helen’s happy harvest of 2022. Let’s hope I don’t kill everything when I’m left alone for a week to fend for myself. Hubby has to return to Bristol and London soon.
Our 1st Harvest of 2022
Our first harvest of 2022: Lovely Lettuce. From seed to feed/garden to table. It is so satisfying growing our own organic fruit & veg. Tonight’s dinner: Tomato, chilli & cheese pasta with garlic bread. The sauce is homemade from last years tomatoes and chillies, we made a ton and froze the jars. I love my homesteading life and Milo is enjoying the lettuce too.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Look at the size of our oranges! For comparison I am holding it next to a large shop bought apple. They are sooooo BIG and juicy and pip free. I eat one every day to keep my Vitamin C levels high. It has thick skin but plenty of flesh, a bit like me! Size doesn’t matter but in my opinion bigger is better with most things in life (ha ha).
Our first Marrow is growing, Yippee!
First Raspberry of 2022
I gave it to Milo.
Plants V Blackbird
Whilst hubby was back in the U.K I decided to re-plant his chillies up into the pots as I ate all the lettuces so the pots were free. I planted them out on a boiling hot day and although I waited until evening it was just too hot and they wilted dramatically. Luckily for me they recovered the next day but it appears that our blackbird visitor has returned as each morning something has dug up the chillies and the tomatoes. Last year hubby put a little camera out and caught the culprit: A blackbird. I hunted high and low for the reflective tape which helps to deter the birds but I couldn’t find it so I made my own deterrent aids from some shiny reflective foil wrapper I recycled from an Easter egg. I found some string and I lost my scissors so had to use my nail scissors. I’m not too sure if it will have any positive impact and it kind of looks like we are crazy football fans, blue for Porto or my dads favourite team: Chelsea (ha ha). I call them my “Twinkly Twirlers”. I also found the bullseye blow up ball in the shed. I tried blowing it up but nearly passed out, everything went black so I will leave this task for hubby to do when he returns. I also have a great idea of covering the tubs with translucent umbrellas. At the moment it’s Plants Verses Blackbird and Blackbird is winning.
Rose of Sharon
Very BEAUTIFUL. It should be called Rose of Helen (ha ha).
First Sexy Sunflower
Can you spot Carol in the background?
Look at how big our Marrow’s are getting, WOW! We now have about 8 growing. Hubby makes a spectacular soya mince vegetarian spicy chilli and stuffs the marrow with it, so very yummy.
Strawberry & Raspberry.
Criaverde Garden Centre
We visited my favourite garden centre near Viseu. Don’t get excited these are definitely not my garden plants (ha ha). I just had to share because the flowers are very beautiful, like me (ha ha). A visit to Viseu always ends up with a trip to the Mall and a kebab. What can I say I’m a cheap dinner date (ha ha).
Not garden related at all (ha ha).
Mid June Update
We have encountered a period of scorching hot weather and I have noticed a few yellow patches on my Marrow. Hopefully this is just from excessive sun as I have watered them plenty but I’m keeping a watchful eye. I am super pleased with our couple of Pumpkins which are still tiny but have rapidly turned from yellow to a bright vivid orange. Just look at the colour! No editing or filters just naturally beautifully bright, like me (ha ha). We have 3 different varieties of Tomatoes growing nicely and today I spotted our first Melon of 2022! I can’t wait for our 2022 harvest.
A Pair of Yellow Pears
Our first harvest of 2022, a couple of Yellow Pear Tomatoes! Only 2 were ripe but they were delicious and 100% organic. Hubby even tried a bite of one and he hates fresh tomatoes. I can see why they are called Yellow Pear.
Mr Marrow Man
It is the first week of July and we have experienced some really hot weather (high 30’s-40’s) which made all our marrows ripen really quickly and get yellow patches on them. They stopped growing so we had to pick them all so they are not quite as big as last years. We have been enjoying a lot of veggie chilli stuffed marrow and the chickens love them too. The yellow pear and pink bumble bee tomatoes are also ripening nicely. Apologies for the quality of photos, the sun was setting.
Stuffed Marrow – From Seed to Table. How fabulous, our first proper meal from 2022 Harvest. Veggie Chilli Stuffed marrow. 100% Organic and absolutely delicious. Many thanks to hubby our resident chef.
I want to be like a Sunflower so that even on my darkest days I will stand tall and find the sunlight.I’ve always planted Sunflowers as they are so vibrant, pretty and bring me much joy. They also make great companion plants, cleanse and balance the soil, help with pest resistance and attract the birds and bees. Our chickens love the seeds too and they make the cutest party table decorations.This years Sunflowers are not as tall as last year but still so very pretty in my little garden haven. You don’t have to be the tallest to be awesome, my short hubby is proof of this (ha ha).
It is mid July and the tomatoes are ripening nicely. We also have a few chillies too. I am glad that the Moneymaker Tomatoes are eventually turning red. Lets hope they make us some money (ha ha).
The Tomato Taste Test
All 3 varieties of tomato are ripe now so we did a tomato taste test. I can’t believe I made hubby participate as he doesn’t like tomatoes (ha ha). He likes tomatoes in sauces and tinned tomatoes but not fresh ones. He suffered in silence and the results are in. We both agree that the overall winner for taste is definitely Moneymaker. Shortly followed in 2nd place: Yellow Pair and 3rd prize goes to Pink Bumblebee. Yellow Pear definitely won “Best Looking Tomato” as they really do resemble little yellow pears and are so cute and unique, a bit like hubby (ha ha).
Hubby is freezing lots of the Yellow Pear variety as he wants to make a yellow pasta sauce. Homemade pasta sauce tastes so much nicer than shop bought. This year we had the sense to remove the stalks first. Last year was a challenge as he had several kilo of frozen tomatoes which go quite mushy once defrosted. It was a nasty job having to remove all the stalks. You live and learn from experiences!
On average, a lemon weighs around 2-3 ounces (56-85 grams). Meanwhile a large lemon can weigh as much as 4 ounces (113 grams). Look at this whopper I just picked from our lemon tree to make a Pão do Lo (cake). It’s GIGANTIC!
We may have gigantic lemons but our squash, marrow, pumpkin and melon have all suffered with the crazy heatwave. They just gave up on life and stopped growing so we fed them all to the chickens who were elated. Hubby looks a little sad with his small veg (ha ha).
First Chillies of 2022
Today (28th July) I picked our first couple of Chillies (Ring of Fire). Hubby and I did a taste taste and sampled a little tiny nibble and they are HOT but not too CRAZY HOT. We added some to our Veggie chilli and rice for dinner. The other varieties are coming along nicely too.
Small but Perfectly Formed
More tiny Squash, small but perfectly formed, wish I could say the same about my saggy deflated airbags, I’m definitely a member the “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” (ha ha). Apologies for the state of me, I’ve literally just returned from a 5km evening walk and I’m very sweaty Betty as we are experiencing a heat wave and I’m also recovering from wisdom tooth extraction so feeling rough and not washed my hair in a week, TMI, I’m oversharing now (ha ha). Chickens will love these so not is all lost in the gardening world. I blame the heat for at first extreme rapid growth then a total stand still and turning soft.
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Yellow Mellow Pasta Sauce
23kg of Tomatoes = An awesome supply of 100% organic homemade tomato pasta sauce for the freezer which will last us up until Christmas! This is the first time I have ever grown yellow tomatoes and the sauce is so tasty and a huge success.
First Figs & Grapes of 2022 (21st August 2022)
I LOVE figs way more than I probably should (ha ha). I have a confession: The grapes were borrowed (stolen) from our neighbour. They were overhanging onto our garden and as my granny always used to say, Finders Keepers, losers, weepers (ha ha). Our neighbours who live behind us are rarely here as it’s their holiday home and not a permanent residence so I don’t think they will mind. We always share our delicious eggs with them when we see them. Sharing is caring!
Fabulous Fruit Fusion
What to do with an abundance of fresh fruit straight from our garden trees and vines? A fresh fruit salad of course topped with natural yogurt. Figs, grapes, orange and apple. The only fruit not straight from our garden is the apple, it was shop bought and in all honesty tasted like shit (ha ha). My fruit salad was massive and so very yummy. My daughter remarket how huge it was, I think she is fat shaming me because I’m Little Miss Greedy (ha ha). Carol, Michonne, Maggie and Judith love having a dirt bath underneath the shade of the fig tree. I’m equally as dirty as them after a full day of gardening in the Portuguese sunshine. You are what you eat so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!
Pilfering Pears, Airport Chaos & Savage Judith
Chilling and trying to de-stress from all the airport and cancelled flight chaos. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, you will know that Easyjet cancelled another of my daughter’s flights out here with 48 hrs notice due to a baggage handler strike at Porto Airport. So we changed flight to the following day but she had to travel from Bristol to Gatwick. Then the next day they messaged us to say that the flight cannot arrive at Porto Airport and it is going to Spain! At this point I have no clue if she will make it to Portugal or not. At least she speaks fluent Spanish (ha ha). To de-stress from the trauma we spent some time in the garden with much needed chicken therapy. Hubby is pilfering pears from the neighbours garden because he can and I told him to. Why stop at pears? I just spotted an apple tree. I was photographing the perfectly formed apple when Judith saw her opportunity and took it. I love my hilarious hens. I just ate 8 huge figs straight from our tree, I have a feeling I might regret it later when I’m IBS shitting through the eye of a needle! I never learn.