Welcome to the Secret Garden behind Bobber's Mill in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, helped by Groundwork Greater Nottingham, who are resurrecting a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us at the South end of Ascot Road, near Collins Cash and Carry. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Windmill Christmas Fuddle

Thanks to everyone who came to our wonderful Christmas Fuddle today. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

We need to thank the Gateway to Nature folk who arrived at10am to help get the clay oven lit and the  polytunnel decorated. Well done to our main cooks - Paul for amazing spinach bajis, Joyce for her lentil burgers, Lynn and Karen for the biscuits, Tracey for her pumpkin brûlée and pear frangipani and last but not least, Shona for the pumpkin risotto. Thanks to everyone who chipped in to make a pizza too, and to Mark who did sterling work in keeping the oven cooking nicely (in fact better than ever before!). Mustn't forget everyone who took a turn keeping the rocket stove going too, under the guidance of Chris who is now an expert in handling this tempramental beast. Volunteers Mark, Guy and Lizzy (returning now her ankle is mended) all supported us wonderfully too, and it was great to get visits from friends old and new. We even learned how to say "cheeky" in French!

We wish everyone a great Christmas, and look forward to seeing you at the Lohri Festival in the New Year on Saturday 11th January from 1pm. NB our Wednesday and Thursday sessions will go on as usual! restarting on 8th and 9th January.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Wild, windy and wonderful!

That was a bit windy! Fortunately I was there when we buried the footings for the polytunnel, so I had every confidence it would stay up, but some of the other volunteers were a bit nervous as gusts tried to lift the canopy off. Further up the road, a 10 foot tree snapped off at its base, so we were probably quite lucky being a little bit sheltered.

It did mean we had to abandon our cooking plan, as rocket stoves don't work well in swirling gusts, and you risk cooking your knees as the flame can come out of the fuel loading tube at the base! However, Paul, who was delighted to take over the cooking duties again, did a wonderful job in the relative shelter of the polytunnel, delivering a delicious lunch of indian-style omlettes and spiced rice.


Paul, our chef for all weathers!
 
Before that, we managed to get a surprising amount done, given how much stuff was blowing sideways across the site. Paul did double duty, first helping Hassan to give the herb beds a good tidy up. Mark took the sage that we clipped from there and hung it up to dry in the loo, so that now smells amazingly nice! Hassan also got to grips with the parsnip patch which has produced some whoppers this year. Tracey has promised to turn them into something delicious for Thursday food soon!
 
Hassan vs. mega parsnip

Elsewhere on the site, new volunteer Lawrence joined Joyce in giving the area outside the poly a really good weeding, as it had turned into a couch-grass growing factory. Mark and Guy helped to pot up the strawberries we didn't manage to do last time, so we should have a really good set of plants for events next year.
New volunteer Lawrence helps Mark
to de-couch the path.

Next week we will be getting ready for our Christmas fuddle. If you are in Nottingham, and fancy coming along, it will be on Thursday 19th December, from 12noon to 2pm, with lots of lovely grub to enjoy and decorations provided by Robert Shaw Primary and Gateway to Nature, so the place will look amazing. Hope to see you there!
 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Lanterns for Lohri


Anyone for willow lanterns?


We had a great session today with the lovely folk from Gateway to Nature, who came to help us create really impressive lanterns, ready for the Lohri festival in January.

The basic design is made from 2 willow triangular pyramids, so it's easier than it looks.


Starting the pyramid
Masking tape is enough to stick the
corners together
If you fancy making one yourself, Tracey can show you how. Give us a call and she can arrange a workshop for you.

Many thanks to the volunteers who did a brilliant job with the last of the winter bed preparation, and to the DISO boys who worked with Maxine to de-weed the bark paths and mulch all the orchard trees.


Add caption

 



 

 
DISO guys doing great work
path revamping
Max gets to grips with the
landscaping fabric
Getting the strawberry bed under
control

Volunteers working hard

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Preparing for Winter and Another Break-in!

We are getting pretty fed up of the two-legged rats that run around our area. We had yet another break in over the weekend! As usual, only a few things disappeared, but we'd just tidied the shed, so it was a real come-down to see the stuff all moved about in there. We think we've managed to solve the problem, so hopefully we are secure again, but it's still not the best way to start a week.

The good news was that our volunteers did another great session's work, and the result is a nicely weeded and mulched path around the keyhole bed, one set of polytunnel doors with their Winter plastic  neatly tacked on, cleared polytunnel beds and a new roller-vent system in place at the side of the tunnel.

We also discovered when we lifted it, that the horned cucumber had been hiding a very healthy crop, so various volunteers are taking them home to try. Tracey has the original one ripening in a fruit bowl at home, so we'll soon find out if they really do taste of melon and banana when they are ripe.

Tracey turned up with a pan of soup made from our sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions and carrots which went down a treat. Now we just need to hope we can finish battening down the hatches before the promised "big freeze" really sets in!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Another clever way to keep warm!

Maybe the sun decided that Thursday was a good day to shine, because we got lucky with the weather, despite the wet week, so our band of happy helpers got lots done.

De-roofing!

The first job was to get the net off the top of the fruit cage - always important at this time of year so that we can make sure the weather doesn't damage it when it starts to get icy. Another great benefit is that it allows birds into the cage to seek out insects around the fruit bushes, and hopefully they will help us to get rid of any pests that are hiding there. Having a quick look at the bushes, we realised that we'd missed picking loads of redcurrants! They were still edible, so look out for them appearing on the menu at the Christmas!

Hassan picks the surprise
crop of redcurrants.

We also took the chance to tie in all the new growth of the raspberry - blackberry hybrids along the walls of the cage. They are all doing well and we ended up having to prune some of them, so we've taken cuttings. If they take, we'll let you know!

Joyce makes the cuttings


The cuttings in position

More work went on to finish clearing beds, and to mulch with compost. With such good weather, we had a bit of a clear out in the shed because the cooking kit got a bit disorganised in the last month and we needed to know where everything had gone!

We also had a clever wheeze. Because we use tyres to warm up the ground and air around our pumpkins, marrows and squashes, at this time of year, we end up with lots of spare tyres as we take them off. Last year we noticed that the pile of wood chips and leaves, that is delivered for mulch on the allotments, heats up really nicely. Regular readers may remember that we used this to heat up the cold toes of a class from Robert Shaw Primary who were planting trees for us! So - why not use the effect in the polytunnel to keep it a bit warmer? We decided to try it, and we've put the wood chips into towers made from the tyres. These have then been covered over, so we don't get lots of mould spores flying about. They've been christened "tyre batteries" and we'll monitor them to see how warm they get.

Carrie and Annette start making
the tyre batteries.

A plastic base stops the wood chip
from mixing into the soil
Filling the tyres with woodchip

In the middle of all the activity, Hassan organised rice and a nice "end of season veg" meal with lots of the last pick veg from the beds as we cleared them. It was warm enough to sit on the benches outside - so November hasn't yet lived up to the dire warnings about an early freeze. Actually, a bit more cold would be nice, because it looks like we'll need to cut the lawn again...

We'll see what we get next week!

Enjoying lunch in the sun!







Monday, 28 October 2013

Pumpkin Carving by Candlelight

We're still grinning from ear to ear, after hosting a fun session this evening for the delightful youngsters from "Go Wild in the Woods" who visited us from their regular base in Killisick.

We had a brilliant evening of pumpkin carving by candlelight, with everyone managing to carve at least one excellent face into their pumpkin, and a few even managing 2.

Soaking up the spooky atmospher

We also invented something rather clever. To safely light the polytunnel, we hang candles in jars from the central pole. This year, we hung them lower than usual, to help put the light close to the carvers, but still slightly above them. We then realised that this makes the perfect system for testing out how your pumpkin will look. Simply place the pumpkin directly under a lit jar, then slide it up until the jar is inside the pumpkin!

Tyler shows how the "windmill
pumpkin testing kit "works

Everyone tried Tracey's famous pumpkin pancakes, and most people had a go at making their own too. Several of the children demanded to take home some pumpkin to cook at home so they could help their families to have fresh pancakes too. We're also helping a church lunch club as the spare pumpkin flesh has been passed on to be used to make soup for them. Seeds will be collected and used for roasting or growing next year.

One last discovery - the "superfreak" knobbly pumpkins on sale at Sainsbury are very, very hard, and one of them was so hard, we literally couldn't carve it, even with a wood-carving chisel! So don't buy one of those if you are hoping to do a clever design. Maybe you could use a drill on it?!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pumpkins - Carve Them, Eat Them!

Let the pumpkin carving commence!


We're still on a high after a fabulous session carving pumpkins with our volunteers and Gateway to Nature today. The weather was lovely too - perfect for an outdoor cooking session. With heavy rain yesterday and the tail end of a hurricane forecast in the next few days, we definitely got lucky!

A great day for outdoor cooking!

Every year, we try our hardest to push the message that pumpkins are delicious as well as a convenient lantern for Halloween. Tracey thinks they are great. During her youth in Scotland, turnips were still being used as lanterns during the festival, and she much prefers pumpkins - they smell vastly better when you put a candle in them, and they are much, much easier to carve.

In this season of pumpkin abundance, we invited Gateway to Nature to find out some new, and safer techniques for carving pumpkins and then helped some of them to turn the innards into a delicious pumpkin risotto. First we took the tops off and pulled out the seeds and stringy centre of these huge fruit. Then we carefully scraped out as much of the flesh as we could, to leave a shell around 1cm thick all round. That left them ready to carve.

Non-spooky designs can look great!

A happy monster design

A great DIY design - can you spot
Tahu from Lego Bionicles!
Pumpkin carving with a knife is pretty dangerous. It's extremely easy to let the knife slip and cut yourself, even for skilled cooks, so we mainly use pumpkin saws. These are brilliant because they aren't sharp, but they have blunt teeth on the blade that still cut through pumpkin flesh. The only problem is that people don't realise they need to use a sawing action, rather than cutting like they would with a knife. Most of the big supermarkets seem to have these special saws this year, so look out for them. 

Wonderful witch design

The best way to get a good result is to choose a pattern, stick it to the pumpkin with masking tape and then use a drawing pin to prick holes through it which transfers the design to the pumpkin itself. If the design doesn't show up well, you can rub a little flour or cinnamon into the holes so that they show up better. You could also use a wipe-off marker to go over the lines. Then you can use the saw to follow the lines to get a really artistic finish. There's a useful "how to" guide here from Zombie Pumpkins to give a bit more detail.

Even Mia got a good result
though Dad may have helped a bit

Some of the techniques we used don't actually cut pieces out of the pumpkin. Instead the pumpkin is peeled to reveal the design. For those, we use mini wood carving chisels and lino cutters. There is a bit more risk of cutting yourself, but they are far safer than craft knives or scalpels. To see this technique in action - have a look at this great Instructable - it doesn't have to be that detailed to be effective, but you can see how the process works.

A beautiful peeled design
Combining peeling and cutting out holes can also look great

We hope you'll agree that the results were pretty good. Now we hope that they will last until Halloween. The way to get them to last is to rub a little vaseline on all the cut surfaces. This is to keep in the moisture and keep out the air, to reduce the chance of mould developing. They also need to be kept somewhere cool but not cold, and should not have a candle lit in them until Halloween itself, because the heated spots will often mould afterwards.

Mark's fabulous Welsh dragon

As the carving was being finished, we started the risotto. This is quick to make, and really quite an easy recipe. Like last week, the amounts of ingredients aren't very exact, but we always get great results, so we will share it with you and let you try it with different variations on the amounts.

Ingredients (feeds 4 - 6 depending on how hungry they are!)

1 medium onion chopped finely
1 pint jug packed with pumpkin scrapings or pumpkin chopped into cm square dice
1/2 oz (15g) butter
1/2 pint 1/4 litre volume of basmati or risotto rice
1 pint / 1/2 litre of vegetable stock
handful of fresh sage (around 10 leaves), finely chopped
Mature or vintage cheddar grated - to taste

Easy to make and delicious!

Cook onion in the butter until it goes see-through. Add the pumpkin and cook for about 5 minutes until the pumpkin starts to soften a little. Break up any large bits of pumpkin as you do this. Add the rice and mix, then the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, and boil for 1 - 2 minutes, then take it off the heat, wrap it in a towel or two and leave it for 15 minutes. It should be perfectly cooked and still hot, and you will have saved 8 minutes of gas! Now stir in the finely chopped sage and then some really good mature cheddar. Feel free to add plenty of both - we probably add about 2oz / 50g of cheese per person. Eat and enjoy!

The risotto could only make use of a small amount of the pumpkin that we cut out, but the rest will go to make soup for different community events and pancakes, so it won't be wasted.


Some happy pumpkin carvers

More please!

If you're not already a pumpkin fan, we hope you'll try this and agree with the person who said, "I don't like pumpkin, but I like this!" Have a good pumpkin season!!



Friday, 18 October 2013

Autumn Recipes - Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pumpkin gnocchi are easy but time consuming to make, so it's a great excuse to get some friends together to speed things up! These ones are really tasty and especially delicious with anything sage flavoured or with a plain tomato sauce.


Working with pumpkin is a bit of a problem when it comes to recipes, as the amounts of ingredients needed vary depending on how much moisture is in the pumpkin. For this recipe we used quite a dry-fleshed Hubbard pumpkin, gutted and baked it, covered in foil, without water for about 1 hour (Oven 180 / gas 5). We then scraped out the flesh and pureed it. Even with that treatment, one pumpkin produced almost 1 litre of pumpkin juice when allowed to sit in a sieve for an hour, and it was still a bit wet when we started to use it! This means the recipe is a bit less exact than normal, but we encourage you to have a play and see what comes out!


Ingredients

Pureed pumpkin flesh, with as little moisture as possible
Grated extra mature or parmesan cheese
Plain or self-raising flour
Eggs

Method


Add 1 egg for every 1/2 pint  / 280ml of pumpkin and whisk
(We had 1 1/2 pints)

Add finely grated cheese to taste (we used 250g for this)
Then start to add flour.

Keep adding flour until you need to use your hands to kneed
the mixture lightly. Do the minimum work to get it firm
enough to make into discs about 4cm in diameter (use lots
of flour on your hands to avoid overworking the mixture).

The mix is right when the gnocchi can hold the indentation
of the prongs of a fork.

Gnocchi ready to cook. The traditional shape comes from
squeezing in the sides of the circle.

Boil the gnocchi in batches. If made with plain flour, they
will be done as soon as they rise to the surface of the water.
If using self-raising flour, they rise sooner, so let them cook
for a few minutes after that, or they may be under-done.

Best enjoyed with a sage-flavoured sauce & good company.
We ate ours with flash-fried sage, tomato sauce & extra cheese.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Lovely weather, great company and another use for pumpkins!

 We managed to sneak our Windmill session into a patch of good weather today - well deserved after yesterday's rain (and well done to Guy and Chris for all their hard work in the polytunnel during the deluge!)

Annette tackles the weeds.



Our main aim was to get the Summer raspberries other related soft fruit tidied up ready for the Winter today. The fruiting stems from this year needed to be cut down to the ground, and more importantly because the leaves are still on the plants with the warm weather, we needed to get the new growth tied up to the supports before the stems get damaged by Autumn storms. We quickly discovered that the supports weren't actually doing much supporting, so that we had to add some bracing struts. It also gave some of us the chance to get our biceps working, tamping bricks down around the posts to firm them in! A good weed round revealed the suckers that are sneaking into the path. Once the leaves do finally come off, we'll remove those and use them to thicken up other areas of planting.



Hassan gets the black raspberry under control

Joyce and Mark make a brace for the dodgy raspberry supports
Lunch meant us learning a new technique from Tracey, who turned up with a big box of fabulously orange pumpkin flesh from the Hubbard squash. We'll put the full instructions in another post, but you'll get an idea of what we did from the photos, as we used the pumpkin pulp to make gnocchi. If you follow us on Facebook, you may remember that this was the pumpkin that was stolen and discovered stashed outside the fence together with some other bits of our produce!


Tracey shows us how to make pumpkin gnocchi


The gnocchi cooking

Tracey also introduced us to something we'd not tried before - pumpkin juice! It's not just something in Harry Potter, and we all agreed it was pretty good, though the lemon juice, cinnamon and brown sugar certainly helped the flavour...


Taste testing!

Several friends of Windmill joined us for lunch, so the recipe got a good testing. A fitting end for the Hubbard, we all agreed!