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?

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!


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


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!

Thursday 10 October 2013

Hard work and lovely grub

We had a great session at windmill today. Lots of hard work from lots of volunteers meant that we managed to clear the annuals (and yes, we admit it, a fair few weeds), from the sensory bed in the orchard.

Hassan plants wild strawberries along the edge of the bed

It's the perfect time to do this work. It lets us spot weed out unwanted stuff and opens up the ground for the annual wildflowers that like disturbed ground. Then we add in extra wildflower bulbs, and more annual seeds from plants like poppies and marigolds. These can often get a great head start by sowing at this time of year while the soil is still warm. It's worth sowing now, then sowing again in Spring, so that you get a longer flowering season, and even happier bees. We've also added to the lavender hedge and the wild strawberries that we edge the paths with. Add to that our gorgeous tuned wind chimes, and all five senses are well catered for.

Chris enjoys a well-earned cup of tea in the
Speaking of catering, we managed to serve up a 3 course lunch today! Lots of things are coming to an end, but that helped us to make a delicious Spanish omelette with a little of everything thrown in. We added fried green tomatoes to that, after the rave reviews they got last week, and finished off the meal with some of our Autumn raspberries which are really getting going this year.

Fried green tomatoes anyone?

Are they good? Carrie thinks so!

Thanks to Hassan, Chris, Carrie, Guy, Anna and Annette for all your hard work. See you next week!