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 31 July 2014

Aubergines! And Thinking Ahead

Good session today, with lots of reasons to be pleased with ourselves.

The first is that we harvested the first aubergine of the year - and it was a beauty! Keep reading to find out what we did with it!

We picked a mega-harvest of currants and blackberries - thanks to Hassan, Mark and Guy.

Hassan finds where the red-currants were hiding

We also planted our Christmas potatoes - which may sound like we're doing it at the wrong time of year. If you haven't come across this before, it's a question of confusing the tubers into thinking they've had a very long Winter by keeping them in chill-storage until late Summer. When these are then brought out, they will very quickly begin to grow in the warm soil, and the result, in a good year, is a nice crop of new potatoes, which should taste wonderful at Christmas. It's a risk, as the amount growing season left can vary wildly, but we're always hopeful! We have been gifted some plastic dustbins with the bases removes, so we put some of the spuds in those to make it easy to cover them with straw if it's cold. They will also help keep the straw in place if it then gets windy.

Not Binning Them! Mark plants the Christmas Potatoes

Another good job that we've started is cutting back the meadow. Most of the flowers have set seed now, so we need to cut down the vegetation, leave it for a short while to drop the seeds, then remove it. If we leave it to rot down, it will make the ground too fertile, so we usually remove the cut material and stuff it under our dead-hedge to help create habitats for some of the local critters.

Lunch was a gourmet cheat treat - cream-cheese and saag-stuffed aubergine slices in a tomato sauce - quite quick to do on the stove top, and delicious with some crusty bread.

Stuffed Aubergine Slices in Tomato Sauce with Basil

Recipe -

1 large aubergine
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
healthy cooking oil, e.g. coconut, olive or rapeseed
10 large leaves or saag, or 20 leaves of spinach or chard.
1 pot of cream cheese or ricotta
2 - 4oz of extra mature cheese or 1oz of parmesan
Jar of ready made italian tomato sauce

First slice the aubergine down its length, and fry the slices in some olive or coconut oil until they become bendy.

A wok gives lots of room to fry aubergine slices.

Finely slice an onion, 1 clove of garlic and some saag, spinach, kale, cabbage or other leafy veg. We used about 10 large leaves. Drain the spare oil from the aubergines (you can squeeze them with a spatula) into the cooking pot and use it to fry off the veg until the onion looks see-through and the saag has wilted. Add the cream cheese / ricotta, and the strong cheese and mix together. 

Mixing the cheese into the vegetable mixture

Now take each slice of aubergine, place a spoonful of the mixture on it and roll it up to contain the filling.

The stuffed aubergine slices

Put the sauce into the cooking pot, then place the stuffed aubergine slices in the sauce, being careful to keep them rolled up. 

Heat the sauce through until it is bubbling, then scatter torn basil leaves on the surface and serve with crusty brown bread. Tastes amazing!

Thursday 17 July 2014

Heat wave and the risk of getting swallowed at Windmill...

When a school book a visit to Windmill, we try to provide a bespoke experience that relates to their curriculum work, and we love to throw in a little something that's weird but wonderful if we have the chance. Today we had a chance to help pupils revise their learning of the digestive system, through being swallowed!

Pupils exploring where plants we eat originated and
investigating food miles

Tracey realised that the pattern of the pathways and spaces in the orchard area could be used as a model of the human digestive system, so she mapped out a plan, and our student volunteer Komal got to work on creating the elements with some extra ingenious ideas from Joyce. The results seem to have gone down a treat with the pupils, especially when we sprayed them with water to show when the body releases different liquid chemicals to aid digestion.

Looking into the "mouth"...
We've now got a kit together, including all the relevant elements of the digestive system, even a tongue with taste-buds (great idea Joyce!), so if you know of a class that will be studying digestion and might enjoy a trip down the alimentary canal, just let us know! 

Pupils experiencing the "small intestine" with Komal

Despite the heat, everyone did a great job. Mark wrangled teams of pupils doing watering and weeding, and Kath (the artist who created our log), put her environmental educator hat back on to run, and improve, our food miles activity. Hassan, Martin, Guy and Chris got on with the jobs around the site, and we were also joined by a volunteer from a few years ago, Emma Grivicic who proved to be completely heat-proof and helped us pick the crop from the fruit cage.

Our crops are doing well!
Whilst some of us created a lunch of freshly gathered veg in a peanut sauce with rice, Kath got on with creating us a banner version of our logo. We also got a present from our allotment fairy godmother, Lynn, of more pond weed to help our pond stay clean, and volunteer Carrie turned up right on time to help us add that to the pond, and do a bit of extra watering to make sure that the crops survive the heatwave. Fab day!

Kath in mid creative mode

The finished banner

Thursday 10 July 2014

Fun in the Sun and Nepalese Cooking

 Windmill was a hive of activity today, with lots of happy volunteers, and some young visitors who also worked like mad. The aim of the day was to make sure we harvested all the crops that are ready, sowed some final root crops and got the potato bed ready for another go around with Autumn crops. We also hoped to do some tidying up in the shed, but the forecast suggested rain in the afternoon, so we settled for clearing up the area around the keyhole bed. We'll need to bite the bullet and sort out the shed soon though - it looks as if there was an explosion in there!

At the moment, the fruit cage seems to be doubling as the local ant disco, but Dean was wearing heavy boots and tight trousers, so he dived in and did a great job collecting the lovely ripe fruit that was waiting. Guy elected to pick strawberries, undeterred by the possible presence of the frog that was patrolling the bed on Monday, and which surprised Komal!

Dean braves the fruit cage, currently home to
the national collection of ants.
 Meanwhile, Brian was inducted into the select group that can use the scythe. He quickly got the hang of it, clearing the grass around the keyhole bed and the benches in strimmer-quick time. Joyce brought along her son Finlay to help out too, and he did a grand job moving Brian's clearings to the various compost piles.

Finlay also helped Guy with the watering, and they made a quick job of it. Just as well, since the blazing sun quickly made the polytunnel more like a sauna. Hassan tackled the potato bed job, so we now have a beautifully weeded and fertilised patch ready for the new spuds to go in.

Guy and Finlay after they survived
watering duty.

Dean had to leave early, but we made sure he took a good selection of fruit and veg. He's looking forward to his Mum making something delicious with it. We're looking forward to teaching him more recipes to so he can give her a night off next time.

Dean with his harvest
We planned a meal of Pakoras, so we were delighted when Komala arrived to help us harvest the Nepali Saag that she brought the seed for, and to show us how to cook it. She came with her two boys (off school due to the teachers' strike), and they quickly got involved.

Komala gets garlic ready to go in the Saag 

A lesson in slicing cucumber from big brother

We also got some fresh chutneys. Komal brought a Pakistani touch to her mint chutney, and Komala's eldest made sure we had a cucumber and cumin version. It all made for a really good meal that was much enjoyed by everyone. The Saag was simply cooked with garlic and tasted wonderful. Sitting in the sun enjoying tasty food. It's a hard life at Windmill!

Komal chops mint for a fresh chutney

Enjoying lunch!

What, the fox?!

Mystery holes...
A while back, we noticed there were some pin-holes in the polytunnel plastic. We decided that they must have been caused by locating a fire-bowl a little too close to the polytunnel during our Lohri Festival, and thought nothing more of it when we noticed a few more. Then, on Monday, Tracey realised that from the outside, there are lots of dents in the plastic, and scratches, as well as more holes.

CSI Windmill have been in action this week, and we think we may have an acrobatic fox visiting the site! If you look at the pictures, you'll see that the damage seems to be made by 2 or 3 sharp objects acting together, starting with scratches, and then sometimes eventually finishing with punctures. This looks to us like something jumping up, scrabbling to get a purchase, and then moving up further. It's probably mainly a summer thing, as in winter, the polytunnel plastic is very tight, and probably quite hard to grip. It's possible it's a cat, but the size and height of the scratches mean it would need to be a whopper. We've heard of foxes climbing polytunnels elsewhere, but not locally.

Sadly, it's not something we can allow to continue, because the plastic will be weakened, so we've come up with the solution below. Let's hope it works!

The AAI - "anti-fox art installation"
Multiple strings should stop the fox getting the jump up, and the cd's will alert it to the presence of the string, and maybe the flashing will annoy it.

Friday 4 July 2014

Wildflower plugs up for grabs!

Would you like to have some wildflowers to put in in an area near you? Arkwright Meadows have given us some left over from a project, and we're passing them on to local folk to help bees and other insects in the area.

First batched have gone out, including this batch which Paul, local plumber and bee-keeper is taking to plant on a verge near the River Leen.

Add caption

Thursday 3 July 2014

Biscuit tin charcoal and campfire cooking

Everyone is feeling really good after today at Windmill. We had a great session, with Jon from Gateway to Nature teaching us the art of making willow charcoal, followed by a cookout to use the remaining heat from the charcoaling fire.

We thought you might like to know how to make the charcoal yourself, especially because it's really easy, so here is the method. We used it to make willow charcoal for drawing, but the same principle can be used for barbecue charcoal, though you might need to cook it for longer.

Step 1 - Cut your fresh willow. For artist's charcoal, it needs to be almost finger thickness to be large enough and strong enough to use once cooked (as it gets thinner during the process, and really thin bits will just crumble). We also think that year-old wood may work better than this season's growth.

Step 2 - Peel the bark from the willow. At this point, clever people will make some string with it, but we kept it to dry to use for fire lighting. 

Step 3 - Cut the willow into rods about pencil length or a little less. The thinnest bits can still be used, but will probably fall apart, though any small bits can be used as a soil conditioner, so nothing is wasted.

Step 4 - Pack the willow into your chosen tin. It doesn't have to be really full, despite what you may have read. Ours was about 2/3rds full.

Step 5 - Make some nail holes in the lid of the tin - 5 - 8 should do it.

Step 6 - Place the tin in the fire, and leave it to start steaming with the heat. As you can see, a small fire is enough to do the job. Watch for steam to start to appear from the holes. As soon as the steam stops showing, take the tin from the fire (using a heat-proof glove) and put it aside to cool for a short while. 

Here's the completed charcoal, and here are some of the lovely drawings that the Gateway to Nature crowd did with it...

Volunteer Brian used his charcoal for a different

Whilst the charcoal was cooking, we got on with lunch, digging up some of our spuds. These suffered a bit in the drought, as they looked fine, but suddenly keeled over, so we were worried they would have a poor crop, but they did us proud, with white salad potatoes and apache (red with cream blotches) coming up like jewels in the ground - buried treasure!

Lunch was a pot of vine leaves stuffed with rice, roast almonds, garlic and herbs, and foil-baked new potatoes with different toppings and herbs. We finished with mini cheesecakes - made by topping a digestive with light cream cheese and blackcurrants - yum!

Most of the visitors went home with a good selection of our veg and herbs too.  If anyone else is interested, please come and see what we have available.

We have shed-loads of mint at the moment if you
want some!

Special thanks to Joyce, Lynn and David for doing most of
the washing up.