Apples, and Growstuff

Our apple tree grew two whole apples this year*, and on Tuesday we ate one of them. It was, as that update mentions, very tasty. Tonight we will eat the second one.

That update link goes to Growstuff, an awesome open-source project I’m involved with. We’re aiming to build a platform to track, discuss, and learn about edible gardening. A kind of Ravelry for gardeners, if you’re a knitter/crocheter and therefore aware of Ravelry.

I’ve tried many different ways of tracking my gardening over the years, and none of them have worked particularly well. I’m really hopeful that Growstuff will turn into a solution to this. In particular I want to see an Android app so I can add things from my phone while sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea after a bit of planting or weeding or harvesting. It’s massively early days yet, but it’s a fun project to work on, and it’s visibly improving every development cycle. This morning I worked with pozorvlak on adding multiple gardens — so (once it’s accepted and pushed to the dev site) that will be working. I’m still feeling thrilled about Doing A Thing that is a visible step towards a properly usable site.

If you’re interested, we’re actively looking for developers. We’re doing pair-programming, so if you have limited or no experience, you can pair up (remotely or in person) with someone. You don’t need much time — I worked on the gardens thing with 2 x 1 hr sessions, because that’s all I have right now. If you’re not interested in coding, non-coders are also very welcome to help work out what wants to be on the site (you could start by joining the mailing list).

Now I want to go out and do some gardening. Shame it’s pitch dark and cold out there. My peas, broad beans, and winter lettuce are all coming along nicely, though. Alongside that apple (and some bread and hummous), we had a small garden salad, which, in midwinter, is pleasing.

The nights have nearly done drawing in. Roll on spring. Hopefully by March I’ll be tracking my spring plantings on Growstuff.

* It actually grew more, but I broke off all but two so as not to overload it in its early years — it was planted as a 3yo tree last winter so I thought it could handle a couple of apples, unlike a maiden.

New shelves

I have new shelves! Some months ago I decided I needed to replace the dark wood bookcase on my desk with something in white (to lighten up the corner), with space for taller things (to clear out the untidy heaps of file folders on my floor), that was fixed to the wall (to free up some desk space). Here is the Before shot:

Shot of left-hand side of desk, with dark wood bookcase standing on it against the wall)

Desk (out of shot: untidy heap of files on floor)

I didn’t want to buy new wood for this, so I was on the lookout for something to reuse. Plan A involved some scaffolding board (transported from Limehouse by trike), but when I got it home, it seemed a bit too thick. Plan B came about when I found a stack of 1″ thick wood abandoned beside a bin. Sanded down and cut to size, they did the job admirably. White paint we had already (a tester pot of Holkham Linseed white, which is lovely to use and non-toxic, but does take forever to dry), and we have a pot full of miscellaneous reclaimed/acquired screws from which I found sufficient for the brackets. I did have to buy the brackets themselves, and the rawlplugs were new.

In the process of putting them up I learnt something about measuring for mitred corners, specifically, that it pays to be a bit more careful when marking the position for the second set of boards. Getting someone else in to help hold the shelves while I marked up would have helped. The long and short boards are also very slightly different widths, but it’s not obvious, and I’m pleased with the outcome anyway.

Same desk, less stuff on the desk, white shelves fixed to the walls above the back left corner of the desk
Lighter and tidier

(The untidy area on the floor now houses a different set of miscellany, but one step at a time…)

Vegan lentil loaf

I have been making this at Xmas for well over 10 years, and every so often someone asks me for the recipe and I spend ages digging through my email for it. So here it is, for future reference. It is based on a Rose Elliot recipe, but hers had egg and cheese in, and fewer tasty things like garlic and Marmite.

Lentil loaf: serves 4-6 as part of big roast dinner

6oz split red lentils
8 fl oz water (may need to add more)
1 bay leaf
1 medium-sized onion, peeled & finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
2oz mushrooms, washed & finely chopped
1.5 oz fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
splash soy sauce (to taste)
herbs to taste – thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano are all nice, depends what you have on hand.
Marmite (to taste)
Nutritional yeast to taste (optional)
1 tbsp soy lecithin or egg replacer (optional)
Marg & dried crumbs (optional) for coating tin

Put the lentils, water, & bay leaf in a saucepan & simmer gently until lentils tender & liquid absorbed. Add more water if necessary, but only a little & as needed or the loaf will be sloppy. Remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, fry onions, mushrooms & garlic gently until onions are transparent.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Prepare 1lb loaf tin by putting long narrow strip of greaseproof paper on base & up narrow sides. Grease tin with marg, & sprinkle generously with dried crumbs if using.

Mix lentils, onions, mushrooms, garlic, & rest of ingredients. Spoon into tin & level top. Bake uncovered for 45-60min, until firm & golden-brown on top.


  1. Nutritional yeast has a nice cheesy taste, but is non-essential. Soya lecithin/egg replacer helps the stuff to bind together, but we don’t use it for anything else so don’t have it in the house, & I don’t bother. It just means it comes out a bit less sliceable.
  2. It’s a very forgiving recipe, generally.
  3. It keeps well in the fridge. You can also make it a day in advance & heat it in the microwave, or make it as far as ready-to-bake, leave it in the fridge overnight, & put it in the oven the next day (which is what we do at Xmas).