Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

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

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. 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 27 October 2011

Pumpkin Fun

Today was busy for Windmill. One of the major messages that we want to pass on is about sustainability, and pumpkins are often a huge source of waste, so we were delighted to lure groups in with the promise of pumpkins to carve, and then use the chance to show them the fantastic food that can be made from these  versatile fruits.

Our morning group was the Young Carers - children who act as carers for members of their families. We started with a cooking session, and the children helped to make pumpkin pancakes.
The Young Carers team up to make pumpkin pancakes.

Mel and Dan take a turn cooking the pumpkin soup.

Then, the group got down to cleaning out and carving their pumpkins, whilst the regular volunteers created a pumpkin soup, and everyone tried pumpkin pudding (pumpkin pie without the crust).

Starting on the designs.

The finished pumpkin lanterns - ready to go home to be scraped out to make more pancakes!
The children had a great time, and really enjoyed trying out their carved pumpkins with a torch in the darkened shed. We hope we can see the Young Carers again - they were a lovely group and we had a lot of fun with them.

The Young Carers with their pumpkins.

We were due to have a group from Bilborough Family Centre visiting for the afternoon, but the forecast was for heavy rain, and the site was soaking after a night's heavy rain. If the polytunnel had been intact, we would have run the session, but since we've not had chance to re-cover it yet, we had nowhere for small children to warm up and dry out, so we reluctantly decided to move the session to the family centre instead.
Yum - pumpkin!

We still managed to run many of the planned activities, with pumpkin pudding and soup to taste, a trail of pumpkins to find and a chance to find out how huge the world's largest pumpkin really is (1818.5 pounds / 826.6 kg), by finding out how many times your weight would be needed to equal it.

 Lots of pumpkins were carved by keen children and parents, and many recipe sheets were taken away by eager folk who had enjoyed the food, and were now interested in scraping out the flesh of the pumpkins as well as using them as lanterns.

We finished off with a pumpkin story and a promise that next time we'll meet a Bilborough Family Centre group, it will be at Windmill.

Thursday 20 October 2011

When life hands you green tomatoes, fry them!

After yesterday's apple pressing, we had another very pleasant job to do. We collected all the green tomatoes because of the frost, and now we want to try out things to do with them. It just wouldn't be Windmill if we didn't try to eat everything we've harvested.

What shall we do with the green tomatoes?

One recipe that Tracey was keen to try is Fried Green Tomatoes. This is a popular dish in America, but not often seen here. We had a go at it, and had fun cooking in our fire pit for the first time, which makes this the first carbon-neutral food we've made, as all the wood used was grown here too, and comes from coppiced willow that is already growing again to replace the wood that was cut.

The cooking arrangements

We sliced the tomatoes thickly, tossed them in a mixture of flour with onion powder and paprika and then fried them in a little olive oil until they were crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. We then ate them with the chinese plum sauce Tracey made and some finely chopped onions mixed with a little light mayonnaise in Southern US style. They went down quite well, though we didn't manage to persuade Ellis to try them.

A first taste

Dan tries out the condiments

Helen braving the taste test.
There was another  harvest that needed to be gathered. We were quite excited to see what the Beauregard Sweet Potato had managed to produce. It had managed 3 reasonable sized tubers, which we will use in our cooking over the next few weeks. If you are thinking of trying to grow one, don't just plant one from a shop, ask the garden centre for a special plant instead. This is because sweet potatoes like an equal day to night length, and don't do well unless they've been specially developed to cope with local conditions.

Sweet potatoes! 
Sunflowers, blackcurrant sage and lavandula - last bouquet of the season? 

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Putting the squeeze on

We still had some apples left and got another chance to borrow the Dig In apple press, so we did some more apple squeezing today. It also meant that Windmill volunteers could really get to know how to run a press and how to prepare the fruit so they will be able to do the whole thing themselves if needed.

Ellis and Helen make a good team using the scratter to crush the apples

After pressing the juice, we essentially just gave it away to anyone who was passing or working on the other allotments. This seemed to go down well!

Pete enjoys a taste of our apple juice.

Hugh liked the juice so much he took some home for later.

Well done to Helen and Ellis, who basically did all the hard work as Tracey swanned around passing out the pressed juice. Jools wasn't able to come in today, so we saved her some.

Helen finds even more melons than we thought we had.

We also harvested all the shark's fin melons, as a frost was forecast. After the session, we took some of the best ones over to the Chinese Welfare Association. They were delighted to get them, but told us that the ones grown in China are 3 times the size of ours!

The Chinese Community were pleased with the melons and promise us the recipe for making them into soup.
Later this afternoon, Tracey went to the after-school group at the Nottingham University Samworth Academy (NUSA) to finish off pressing the apples and give them some more advice on their new fruit and vegetable plot. The pupils all did very well and although they immediately thought about how big industrial machines would be able to do the work, they were still very enthusiastic about juicing using good old-fashioned human muscle power. We also helped them try out safe cutting techniques, so lots of good learning went on.

NUSA pupils getting the juice going.
Thank you again to the Dig In Community Allotment for lending us the apple press and scratter.

Thursday 13 October 2011

A few more harvest surprises and a new face

Well, we thought that we'd had the bulk of the harvest at Windmill for the year, but the allotment has surprised us again, thanks to the Shark's Fin melons that Anton at the Garden Organic Sowing New Seeds Project sent us. Although these were only planted at the beginning of June, we arrived today to find that the cricket-ball sized melons had turned into, well, melon-sized melons! And we have around 7 or 8 of them. 

Look at that!

We're now thinking of what to do with them. Apparently Shark's fin melon is used in a soup in China and other countries in the region, in place of real shark's fin, as it has a similar texture when cooked, so we can keep sharks happy and enjoy something exotic as well. We're going to contact some local cooks and also the Chinese community to get some recipes and see if they can use some of them.


In other news... Dan and Ellis were delighted to find 2 ripe red chillies and a good crop of peppers, and new volunteer Mel loved the taste of our cherry tomatoes, but still managed to pick a lot more than she ate.

Dan and Ellis feeling a little chilli...

Mel gets yet another good crop from the cherry tomatoes

We also began an important new venture - preparing the area where our rhubarb patch will go. We want to really ensure this is weed free before we start, to give the crowns a good chance to establish. Of course this isn't an easy process because the site is full of bricks and topped off with an extra-strong fabric mulch that still wasn't strong enough to beat the couch grass! Still, the gang got on with it and made good progress despite the obstacles. We're looking forward to luscious rhubarb stems over a long season so we will be getting 3 crowns to give an early, a late and a mid-season crop. Yumm.

Banishing the couch grass from the rhubarb bed - or at least trying to!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Apple Pressing and a Trip to EcoWorks

Wednesdays at Windmill are often quite calm and a chance to get things organised. This week was a bit different, as we had a chance to go to a workshop day at EcoWorks in St. Anns, organised by the Federation of City Farms and Community Growers - (we're members, and it's a great organisation).

Ellis, Jools and Helen went to the get-together, whilst Tracey stayed behind as we had a group of children from Mellers Primary who were keen to come to find out about making apple juice.

The small group from Mellers had a great time, first tasting a variety of different apples, then learning useful knife skills in chopping the apples ready for processing to make sure they were clean with no blemishes. They found out that the machine used to cut up and squash the apples before pressing them is called a scratter, and quickly became a good team, working to get the apples through. We then put the press into action and made lots of lovely juice.

Preparing the apples helped pupils with their knife skills

Using the scratter to crush the apples - the pupils loved the name of the machine

The first juice appears

The pupils really enjoyed tasting the juice, and proudly carried off bottles of the extra juice to give their class mates a taste. Thank you to the Dig In Community Allotment who lent us their apple press and scratter.

Helen and Ellis have a go at bread-making at Ecoworks

Tracey then hurried off to EcoWorks to join the rest of the group. They had been finding out about engaging the community and veg box schemes, and after a wonderful home-cooked lunch, we then went on to do some bread making followed by a tour of the allotments which was fascinating and gave us lots of ideas. We had a great time - thanks to the Fed and to Ecoworks. If you'd like to find out more about the organisations, have a look at the links below.

Ecoworks - www.ecoworks.org.uk

The Federation of City Farms and Community Growers - www.farmgarden.org.uk

Dig In Community Allotment - http://www.diginstapleford.org.uk/

Thursday 6 October 2011

End of the Harvest

Things are winding down here at Windmill. We've still got a few crops in the ground - fennel, rainbow chard, kale, spinach, brussels and purple sprouting broccolli for spring, but the rest is pretty much done.

Having said that, we just planted our winter onions and garlic, with help from Robert Shaw Primary school, (though we had to shade them against drying out in the heat!), and we'll be putting the broad beans in soon too.

Our last big harvest of the year?

We did do quite a bit of picking and got a nice little crop of beans, mini corn, lettuce and a bumper crop of tomatoes of all kinds, but there won't be much more now, so we have to start thinking of getting the beds ready for the winter. I like putting on a top-dressing of compost and then leaving everything to freeze well, to kill off some of the pests, but then putting cloches and cardboard on the soil to warm it up in early spring, so we can get going early.

Of course, we aim to experiment too, so we may try a very late sowing of carrots to see if we can get away with a winter-growing crop, and the same with some of the hardier peas. We also hope to keep the salads going all winter but that is dependent on no-one else taking a shine to our polytunnel plastic...

And because of that, we've acquired another crop - of barbed wire. Sadly, faced with all the vandalism, we've had to really up the defences, because we need to have a working polytunnel, and we haven't got enough money in our budget to cope with repeated thefts or damage.

Thanks to Nick and the team for their hard work in helping us to make Windmill safer

One job we really enjoyed was taking some of our spare apples and pears to the Acorn Day Centre so that we could spread a little of the generosity which has been shown to us by everyone who donated fruit to us for our Harvest Celebration.

Fancy a pear?

Lots of different apple varieties to try at Acorn

We had enough different varieties to please all tastes, and people were able try before they chose which fruit to take. We also left some spare for anyone who came the following day, so we hope everyone got plenty.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Windmill Harvest Celebration

Today was Windmill's first Harvest Celebration for the Climate Friendly Gardeners project and we are delighted at how well it went. It was a lovely sunny day, and the temperature hit 28C, which was great for our visitors, but did kind of scupper our Autumnal plans to serve lots of hot soup and make popcorn using the fire-pit! Still, we adjusted to be more hot weather appropriate, everything seemed to work and over 50 people paid us a visit.

The Harvest Celebration begins. 

Visitors enjoying the food tasting table

Our huge Brandywine tomatoes delighted some of the visitors

We had all kinds of activities, including apple pressing with Rowan and Ash - (thanks to Framework for providing the apples and some of the labour for that), traditional and modern outdoor games with Matt, like apple bobbing and giant jenga, "pin the worm on the apple", making Japanese seed bombs with Khaled, apple tasting with 17 different varieties run by Helen and Ellis, lots of different foods to taste made using produce from the Gardens, and freshly made apple pancakes thanks to Jeremy.

The apple pressing was very popular

Matt entertains one of our younger visitors

Making Japanese-style seed bombs with Khaled

The well-stocked apple-tasting table, with 16 varieties
from  John Hempsall's Heritage Orchard at East Markham

Jeremy's apple pancakes disappeared as quickly as he could make them.

There was also a produce competition, with a good number of entries, especially in the jam section, other categories being longest marrow, heaviest marrow, best chutney or pickle, strangest vegetable and best display of fruit, veg, flowers and herbs. The winners were decided by Rukia and her young helpers, who particularly enjoyed tasting the jam!

Some of the entries for out produce competition

The "Best Display of Produce" entries

Visitors admire the entries

The Winner's role of honour

Best Jam - Kath Williams (runner up Gill Dickinson)
Best Chutney - Rose Perkins, (runner up Kath Williams)
Strangest fruit or veg - Sally White
Longest marrow - Dave and Pam Willey
Heaviest marrow - Framework
Best display of produce - Dave and Pam Willey (runner up Sally White)

Dave and Pam's prize-winning Produce Display

Sally collects her strangest vegetable prize for her many-legged carrot

Thanks go to everyone who took part in the competitions, and we were so pleased to see so many entries. And we were also delighted to see so many volunteers on the day - Claire, Ellis, Dan, Helen, Meirion, Matt, Khaled, Jeremy, Ash and Rowan all did a great job, and coped well with being ordered around by Tracey. Craig also stepped into the breach and took most of the photos you'll see here. Thanks also to the Keyworth Abundance Project for the loan of their apple press and scratter.

The tasting and apple-preparation table in full swing

We've had some lovely positive feedback from the day and we definitely hope to run it again next year - hopefully with an intact polytunnel!