Microwave Quinoa Mug Cake

Yes, I know that’s a bowl.

Dear Reader there are two types of microwave cakes. These are, of course, the Stay-ins and the Fall-outs, the former are these mug cakes made without egg, the latter are made with eggs and are more akin to bread. They’re all under the microwave tag so have a look. There are breads that are better than some loaves I’ve made in those recipes. These are al based on a recipe for a commercial mug cake that I took one look at and smugly proclaimed that I could make that. Three different flours later and it’s turns out I was right. Buckwheat, Sorghum and the ultimate flour for light and airy goods: Quinoa.

It’s so fluffy.

Therein lies the saddest part of quinoa’s lack of structural integrity: It would make amazing cakes, but they’d fall apart if made this light. Though, I will contradict myself and say that the egg version of the microwave cakes is very similar to sponge, but not very cake like. That’s where the mug, bowl whatever, comes in. Since there’s no need to take it out you can add more to give it a light crumb. The butter and sugar here are the key elements. You might have to up the sugar, or do like I do and top it with a loose icing, if your quinoa flour is very strong. There isn’t much to this, but it tastes just so light and sweet. It’s a great way to have a treat without going all out. It just crumbles away, but isn’t at all dry. I’m not sure if this is unique to the site or if anyone else is making these like this. The recipe is my own creation so if nothing else you have a guarantee I will try it with as many flours as I deem suitable. That’s it for now, Dear Reader. See you again soon.

It stays hot for a long time.


45g Quinoa Flour
30g Butter
65ml Milk
15g Sugar
1/2 Tsp GF Baking Powder
Dash Vanilla Extract


1. Melt the Butter, in a mug, on a low heat and when cooled slightly mix in the Sugar, with a fork, until dissolved.

2. Add in the Milk and Vanilla Extract and stir until everything has combined. Finaly add in the Quinoa Flour and Baking Powder and mix until smooth.

3. Microwave on full heat for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Cake should be dry and springy to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.


Baps, Bulbs and Breads

Original Quinoa Flour Bread Recipe here.

For the low low price of: FREE!

Neener Neener my bread is golden hued and delicious.

A Dear Reader, yes, there are a few of you, happened to name me as part of their inspiration for a wonderful recipe, which you can see for yourself here. They also set my brain in motion. See, one of the things that I’ve found in my style of cooking and baking is that I’m very much out of the norm. I’m not getting into this in a big way, but I have often wondered what it would’ve taken for me to, well, fit in. I honestly think it would’ve been detrimental to my recipes, my readership and just generally to the blog. See, if I had followed the idea, erroneous idea, don’t care too long at this, that all free-from baking requires gums and starches, well, I’d have starved, end of. See, I also thought that that was the “correct” way, having learned in time it’s the common way. Is it correct? Depends, nutritionally lacking foods made from bits and pieces that photograph well or can be sold commercially are so ubiquitous that I can take a shot at them and hit everyone. They’re bad, but there are so many shades of grey that it would take a lifetime to go through them all. But what’s important is that if you made Jack’s style a brand say. Jack’s Diet! From Fat To Jack! Etc. Then you’d see it differently, no longer an aberration, but actually a contender. But, that’d entail gatekeeping, lying, sponsorships, shady ones, some are fine, not complaining here just saying, because that’s why the gum and starch side is seen as the only side. It’s not that good, but a starving coeliac isn’t fussy and brand loyalty builds a great defensive line of buyers. I’m hitting the tinfoil hat threshold here, but it’s backed up simply by the blog here. You see recipes made with skill and craft that no one else has. I’m not bragging, if I was I’d be doing a much better job. I’m just reiterating for what feels like the millionth time that there are many kinds of free-from baking and cooking. Try different things out, write posts differently, be yourself, Dear Reader. I no longer care about acclaim or glory. With my scar came a sense of freedom. The free-from world is a mess, the fact I struggle to find recipes, to find ingredients to just find clear information speaks to that. What can be done? Yeah, that’s a huge order, just be open-minded and really look at what you’re eating. I’m not going to wreck my good mood breaking this down again and again. Nor do I want to attack anyone. Let’s talk bread. Let’s enjoy these posts, what more needs to be done?

Pain my my…whoops! Family friendly blog.

I went half again to get a third bap.

Baps are here.

Fluffy, light and so good.

You know I can never understand why quinoa flour is so ridiculously expensive. I keep an eye out on Amazon hoping for a new start-up, which is what this was, that has a cheaper bag of flour in stock, marked as Gluten Free, not naturally gluten free, containing no gluten ingredients or any of those sneaky terms. Not to say that it’s that cheap, but by comparison to a bag less than half the size for more I’d say it was okay. It’s actually a really nice flour, not paid for this, but I have to mention it for anyone struggling to find any. Oh, it’s gone. Sorry. It lasted a few days at least. See? I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s difficult. I’ve found that free-from flours can vary, but rarely by a great deal. Sometimes you get one that’s off colour or just doesn’t work as well. This one is, as I’ve said, a really good quality flour, no bitterness coming through either. Grinding your own leads to a very uneven texture without a very good grinder. So, once every few months I splurge and then bake up a storm. The reason I have so many of these recipes is that I bought a batch of six bags for a pittance that were going out of date very quickly.

Fried in butter with a poached egg…which is invisible.

You know what irks me? Every bags says how it replaces wheat flour, no, no, NO! And that they have a lot of recipes, which they never do. Seriously, how daunting is that to someone trying these out for the first time. You know, way back in the beginning, when I bought quinoa for the first time it had no clear instruction on how to cook it. Ditto amaranth, kaniwa and, I think buckwheat was rough too. Even rice tells you to boil and drain and that’s just wrong. Steam it, always perfect. But complacency is a dangerous thing, Dear Reader, I was miserable in the beginning and I was damned if I was going to eat terrible food forever. Yes, I too ate gummy loaves and loved them, more fool all of us, Dear Reader. Here I am, with crispy quinoa loaves and springy buckwheat baps. See? What the companies rely on is the idea that you can really only get this kind of bread with some kind of special ingredient or by buying their brands. I figured out all of this myself, through stubborn determination and by eating a lot of nasty bread. I’ve talked about the breads in numerous posts so I won’t rethread old ground again. These turned out really, really well.

I’ll just re-pot this and oh…

It turned out to be a rather pleasant day, hence my buoyant mood, I am so buoyant , you shut up! So I went out filling potato pots, getting them ready in advance and decided I should move my poor exposed Canna Indica to a larger pot as it really needs the space. A bulb that cost a Euro and thirty nine cents, yes, I remember, I rooted through a bulb bin and found it in amongst tiny plants, should’ve been easy to move. As you can see the solid mass of roots and new growth argued otherwise. So, I re-potted it by literally placing the whole mass, moved by those nigh unbreakable stems, they’re like ropes, into a pot lined with a little soil which I filled in. Tedious and will be repeated for other established plants like the strawberries. Still, it’s amazing what can be grown in a pot. You’ve seen the sunchokes. You just have to try, I suppose, Dear Reader, you really never know what you can accomplish if you never start. Okay, I’ll pop off to hope for good weather, there are still pots to fill, empty and work to be done. Until later.

Give Jack A Seed

And he’ll grow anything to an absurd degree.

Twenty Four Pounds.

A refresher on this monster crop.

I sure hope I don’t choke…WHAT AM I DOING WITH TEN KILOGRAMS OF SUNCHOKES?! Yeeaahh, Dear Reader, I have to admit that I did think these were artichokes when I started and that I really wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing with them, I was going to leave them in the pot, but curiosity got the better of me and, well, here we are. If nothing else I’ve enjoyed growing these, there’s no way I’ll put any down again, they’re really thirsty plants and if they get into the soil that’s that because they’re extremely invasive. But, see, here’s the thing: We’re often told to go out there and try everything, which usually means go cause trouble, go be a nuisance, be selfish and be abled bodied enough to actually do what you want. To those who can’t do a lot for various reasons, well, we tend to get left behind. So, here I am, living, not the life I’d have asked for, but an interesting one none the less. While I’m here I’ll tell you how to store your sunchokes, they don’t last long out of the ground, these might be wasted, but I treated them properly, they deserve that. First is to make sure not one single bulb stays in the soil, seriously they’re fiddly, but one nub will regrow an entire plant. Imagine if they were potatoes, a shame. Then wash them, I used saved rainwater, dividing and cleaning in the ever cooling weather. Then pop them in a mesh bag and let them dry out somewhere. I have mine in the shed. I think they last a few weeks, maybe more, some aren’t so hot, but the majority are fine for storing.

I’ll skip eating them. I have enough stomach issues.

Potatoes are starting too.

Should be a good crop.

I think these are something of a gourmet tuber. Hah. Prolific as they are I guess the limited storage time would make them harder to sell cheaply. I do really hope that someone will take a few at least. They make a great privacy fence for the Summer, dying back for the Winter and letting in light. I don’t know what made them grow so much, I had about ten or so to start, if even that. They were fed with comfrey tea, but I think they just grow like this. They can reach ten feet, mine were about seven in a pot. They actually only go so deep and leave a space at the bottom for rooting, rather like potatoes. Which, as you can see above, are starting to sprout. This year’s weather has been terrible, but I hope by the time they’re ready for planting it’ll be better. Who knows? I’ll see you again later, Dear Reader.

The Bluetit came back.

Why blue when it’s mostly yellow?

Banana, Almond and Apple Curry

Our extraction fan always casts a shadow which makes these photos a pain to take.

This is very loosely adapted from here, the original seems to have enough sauce for four or more serving so check everything if you’re using that and shame on you for not using mine! Dear Reader, the magician that is your pal Jack has somehow managed to create a new recipe from the same ingredients he uses all the time. Again. Seriously, I could do with something new, but for now I’ll work with what I have. I have quinoa flour coming so hopefully I’ll get some better photos of the Bread and Baps. Not to sound arrogant, but I’ve done as much as I can with quinoa flour, there really isn’t much I can think of making with it, still you never know what I’ll pull out of my hat. Today I’m either tantalising your taste-buds with my banana curry or I’m making you feel ill. There are two sides to the use of banana in savoury applications: Those who like it and those who are wrong.

Just before adding banana.

Now, I do have a similar recipe, but since citrus is out that’s no longer an option for me. So instead of just re-workng that recipe I instead decided to work with the idea of almost raw banana, they’re just gently heated in the sauce here. It gives this incredibly sweet hit that works wonderfully alongside the warming spices and slightly sweet almond butter. The apples provide a crunch and a slight tartness. I just used an eating apple. The banana was a ripe one, I think ripe is best for the inherent sweetness. The sauce is different as the coconut milk starts to reduce right away, the almond thickening, but not too much or it’d make the whole thing stodgy. Almond butter is the least effective as a thickener of the three nut butter I use frequently. Cashew is first, then peanut and finally almond. I find almond butter can be oily which works well when used in conjunction with Indian spices, a lot of Indian gravies seem to favour the separation of oil so it might not be that strange. Coconut milk in a pot and pan is very different, I find it richer in the pan, but if it’s let split it’s unpleasant. It also doesn’t work well with too much additional oil, it makes the whole feel too slippery and gives an unpleasant mouthfeel. You like that, Dear Reader? See, Jack can cook you know, he might be a self-taught idiot, but he knows a lot more than his flippancy would hint at. Arrogance is never a spice used in Jack’s kitchen mind, truth is the only acceptable addition. If I say it’s good then it really must be, because you know if you’ve been here a while I’ll gladly run down my own recipes when warranted.

Always served with fluffy steamed rice.

The cooking times can vary a bit here, depends on how firm your onions are, how set your coconut is, I let mine heat a little to melt it before adding. You can take it early for more, but lighter sauce, or you can let it reduce for longer for a thicker sauce, be careful of over cooking though. The banana is the star here, I’m torn between leaving he amount as is or adding more, too much would overpower, but I really enjoyed the firm, yielding texture. It might be a strange addition if you’re unused to fruit in curries, but when on a restricted diet you can’t afford to be hesitant, eat everything once, twice, three times a…sorry. Just try and unless you hate it completely with the very fibre of your being try it again. I would’ve baulked at the idea of apple alone in curry once, but when you start to lose flavours due to dietary restrictions then you suddenly find yourself much more open to new ideas. There isn’t much to this recipe, you will notice that I add the almond butter with the chicken and apple, this coats everything slightly, but avoids you smashing the apple in order to help it blend with the coconut were it added then. Of course you can omit the chicken, but if you’re adding vegetables you might want to make sure they’re tender before adding the coconut milk. It will cook everything further but as it’s at a simmer, and not for long, it won’t cook things that much more.

I really enjoyed this. I like getting fruit into my diet as much as possible. Eating it as part of a meal helps you avoid overeating to get it in there. You can play with these recipes to suit yourself, but maybe try it as is first so you can see what the changes you’re making have brought to the dish. If you’re curious about how I find these recipe, well, I go to Google, combine two words, in this case chicken and banana, and look through dozens of images hoping to see something. That’s it. I’m pretty limited so new recipes aren’t going to be as frequent as they once were. Still, when it comes out like this the wait is worth it. Take care, Dear Reader.


1 Chicken Breast, Chopped
160ml Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Almond Butter
1/2 Yellow Onion, Chopped Fine
2 Cloves Garlic, Diced
1/2 Tsp Minced Ginger
1/2 Tsp Turmeric
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Half An Apple, Cored, Peeled and Cubed
1/2 Ripe Banana, Sliced into Rounds


1. Heat Olive Oil in a large non-stick pan and when hot add Onion, Garlic and Ginger mix and let cook for 5-10 minutes, on a medium heat, or until soft and just starting to brown.

2. Add Chicken, Apple, Almond Butter, Turmeric, Cumin, Salt, Garam Masala and then stir together, increase heat slightly and let cook for 10 minutes or until Chicken is no longer pink.

3. When 10 minutes is up add Coconut Milk, don’t let it boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Increase heat if a thicker Sauce is desired, but be careful of burning. For final 5 minutes add Banana and let it heat through.

The View Not Taken

Yo, Dear Reader. I have been thinking about free from food, shocking I know, but there are a lot of different sides to the preparation of foods for different diets. It’s why you’ll baulk at some very popular recipes where many others are widely enamoured. We all have different tastes, different requirements, both dietary and mental. I know, you’re thinking I’m talking about food addiction again, but it’s a slighter lighter side of that. See when we talk food, in this case free from food, there are a few common themes that I’ve found don’t fit for me now. They once did, but I’ll get to that in a moment. This is in no way an attack on anyone’s recipes, methods, but I’ve always said everything we do can become too narrow if we don’t look outside the comfortable niche we’ve carved out for ourselves. Let’s run through this quick, bearing in mind I’m not talking absolutes, just common themes. I’m also a big fathead if that helps.

Emulation: Look! I’ve replaced the flour with sawdust, but the photos look so pretty! Okay, I’m mocking, but I’ve eaten my share of starch and gum ridden lumps of supposed bread. Appearances aren’t everything.

Recreation: The better side of familiar recipes being reworked. Again, this is within the framework of the original recipe, you try to recreate the same flavours and texture, but with different ingredients. It gets fuzzy at times because it’s obvious that at times it’s vastly overstated how effect it is. Like the sawdust example above, this is you being told that the lump of sawdust isn’t pretty, but it tastes just like cake!

Substitution: The roughest, but sometimes the best. Taking out ingredients and trying to keep everything the same is interesting it can teach you a lot too, but at times it’s obviously not going to be the same. How much is subbed can vastly change what you’re making. Think of he absurd sawdust example, this time it’s just a pinch an everything else is fine.

I’m less and less into the sweet side. Partly because I know I can only derive so much pleasure from it now, and stepping back into the mire of addiction and sugar isn’t an option, but also because I’m growing as a person. I’ll never full extradite myself from the mess that was the fat-days, but I’m getting better, even if it is tinged with a sadness born of the knowledge that what I enjoyed was often enjoyed for all the wrong reasons. Sweets to feed addiction and to plug a void are very different from sweetness solely for the saccharine pleasure they can bring in moderation. Look, it’s a little dark, but that’s Jack, I’m just letting it show now to save myself the hurt of hiding. Besides, I’m in a good place with food and want to help others see there are other ways to eat.

Okay, so the above examples are extreme and I’m not offering some perfect solution. The ideal rests in the mixing of all of the above. Take anything to an extreme and you’ll lose out. I’ve always said that the best free-from recipes are the ones that celebrate the uniqueness of their ingredients instead of burying them, but also the ones that utilize the strength of those ingredients. So, if like me you’re in an odd relationship with food, the best thing to remember is that there is no one way to cook or bake. There are popular ways, again look above, which one is the mostly likely to win you followers? Yeah. See, you will see that constantly, but if you dig through thousands of recipes you’ll start to see the really great ones. The cooks who celebrate their ingredients, balance everything for taste and health and generally will stand you better over time.

So, for me, I’ve found that playing with food, ignoring the desire to force my new food to it with what was and just taking everything as far as it will go has stood me well. There’s no great ah-ha moment in this, but if you look at my recipes you’ll find so much of my story within them. There are many I can’t eat now, there are others I’ve made once, made certain they were okay to share and then moved on. Others I make again and again. I crafted recipes for myself primarily, but I look at all the ways I could use the ingredients I had, I never said I won’t eat this or that out of stubbornness. I’ve made so many failures in my time that have been blessedly forgotten, but I learned from each. The times that stick with me are the ones where I tried too hard to fit the idea of what I should be eating, when I made complicated cakes and intricate meals, not out of enjoyment, but because I felt as if what I was making wasn’t good enough. Which is silly in retrospect. But in those early days, when I was newly stripped of my old diet I was scared of food, terrified of everything going wrong and had no choice but to follow the crowd. In time I realised I still didn’t fit and gradually drifted away. It’s why there are so many unique recipes here, it’s why I push so hard to educate about eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.

I will always aver that food is complex, how it affects us is something we need to discover and rediscover again and again throughout out life. Look, I’m a weight-loss success story, a hundred and forty seven pounds lost. Eight years at this and yet, have you ever seen me try to push anything on you? Have I ever oversimplified any part of this? No, because it’s too common that that’s the case. The place I’m learning to stay in isn’t the weight-loss story, nor the super healthy lifestyle, it’s in the knowledgable about food niche. It’s complex, daunting and vital. There s just too much pseudo-science, too much lies, too many trendy foods and devious brands. I’ll keep voicing my understanding like this, if ever there is an aspect of my journey you want to talk about or have me talk about in greater detail then ask. Ask yourself this one question, again and again: Why do people fail at losing weight if there are so many options and solutions out there?

It’s because, Dear Reader, weight-loss is too often linked to self-hate. When the weight is lost that’s the end, no matter how much praise you’ve had you’ll lose it by degrees. Even if you keep it off when the focus is on weight-loss then you’ll always hate what you see because you imagine it could be better. I look at myself at times, the scar doesn’t bother me, but the idea that I could put on weight does. Not that I’m doing anything different, but the dangerous idea of weight-loss hovers over me. It’s where eating disorders come from, we push all the wrong ideas about health and food because we don’t know enough and refuse to admit to that. So, instead of the self-hate of weight-loss, the desire for unobtainable perfection of form we should strive for self-love and a healthy body and mind. That’s much more difficult than yo-yo dieting, less dramatic, less “Made For TV”, but it’s the right path. Loving yourself means giving yourself all you need in life, be it food, exercise or joy. Whatever, the hard part is that dark place in us and others that will draw us down the wrong paths to supposed joy. Losing weight won’t make you happy for long, but being healthy will help you fight for your joy, it will make it easier to live your life. Take it from me, when I look not at the scar, not at what was, but at what I’ve given myself. The garden, almost no pain, a much better life on the whole, then I realise I’m right. When you work on the right things it’ll start clicking together, slowly but surely, but it’ll keep going. The shortcuts cut deeply, you just don’t realise it until the damage is done. Jack will never stop being here to spread this, it’ll refine in time, reiterated countless times in the hopes it’ll save someone from the pains I’ve been through. Okay, that’s it dear Reader. Take care.

War Potatoes

Pre-snow. Back when there was joy in the world.

Hope died here.

Stupid snow.

Okay, I’m partly joking, though the snow has dampened my mood, I’m still your forever friend Jack, ever ebullient and effervescent! Or, you know, jaded and snarky, but earnest. Freak weather is hardy new to my gardening routine, if anything it’s a tradition. Heat waves, hail in May, you name it I’ve faced it. Now we have a snowy start which will sadly delay my gardening, but as it’s a freak occurrence it may mean the fine weather may start up soon. I’ve been stocking up on cheap onions and potatoes so it better. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. The worms and bokashi are on hold until this passes, but I will do a write up on each, have no fear, Jack is forgetful, Dear Reader, but he always remembers his promises.

I was out, but I’m not getting my camera wet!

Just before the snow I matted the compost area.

It’s a little over zero out, maybe at zero, I only have a thermometer in the greenhouse which was at about five. So I’m going to bend your ear about potatoes. Not that I’m a great potato wrangler, I only grew them last year, oh, the year before too. Wow, I’m amazing. Heh. Sorry, yeah, I know a little worth sharing at least. This is the best way to learn, get a little tried and true sharing of experience and fill in the gaps in your knowledge gradually. So, I bought some seed potatoes, saved potatoes for planting, that turned out to be Home Guard an old Irish potato widely grown during the war. They were two fifty for a kilo and a half, why not? I do want to grow blue ones again, but it’ll depend on availability. First step is chitting, which is getting the seed potatoes to sprout ahead of planting. If this were the average article this is where I’d bail after filling your heads with generic advice about potatoes. I have mine near the window, in egg cartons as it’s easier to move them. You do not want to break the sprouts as they’re delicate if they get large. Yeah, yeah, it happened to me and it might have affected the harvest.

No rush, I ain’t putting you down until the snow goes.

So, I’ll make this fast because it’s mostly up to you and this is just opinion. I grew in pots last year, easy to empty, to mound up and to make sure that no potatoes get left behind. Bar one tiny one actually. I found it last week. When in the ground they are prone to getting stabbed by the shovel, they can get lost in the soil and tend to pop up unexpectedly next year. Soil is great for huge harvests, but for small scale harvests, still decent, I got 18 Pounds of Potatoes from two large pots. So, whatever you choose make sure you know what you’re getting. Pots might yield less, but they can prevent a lot of issues, including disease from the spuds staying in the soil. You can replace and reuse the soil in the pots.

So, once they sprout you’ll know it, trust me. You have to divide them up. Want want to separate all the eyes, the places it’s sprouted. You might cut them in half, maybe thirds, it can be tricky. Just be careful and them leave them facing cut side up to dry. If you put them down freshly cut they’ll possibly rot. Now, prepare the pots, or soil, basically you fill the pot a third full, sounds like a lot, but the roots will grow here and you’ll be pressing the seed potatoes into the soil. Amend this sol with either potato fertilizer or compost, both if possible. Once ready place the potatoes cut side down, spacing them a few inches apart, it’s partly guess work here, but aim not to crowd. Then cover with a layer of compost. You’ll gradually top them up as they sprout, let the leaves grow a few inches so they really get going before you cover them again, I added some more feed as they grew too. Once you reach the top and have no more left to pile on. Let them grow, keep them watered and that’s it. Be warned that in heavy rain they will fall and be awkward. They won’t die, but hey won’t right themselves and  you shouldn’t either. I put poles either side and tie string to keep them up. Eventually all going well the tops will yellow and fall and you’ll have a harvest of potatoes.

Last year’s Desiree potatoes.

I don’t eat them, but I like growing them.

Now, I’m not going to talk varieties, there are just too many, all planted at different times for different harvest dates. I’m just giving you a basic rundown of the process pulled from my own experience. You can’t do too much wrong with potatoes. I’ve been warned about blight, but never sprayed them myself. You might have to depending on where you are. I might look into organic sprays for blight just in case I’m not so lucky this year. Potatoes are fun to grow and pretty low maintenance. If you’ve ever wanted to grow something onions and potatoes are some of the easiest. A little care and research will go a long way to ensuring a good, healthy harvest. Okay, that’s that. See you later, Dear Reader.

Construction Of A Tee-hee

Thrilling photos! – You, probably not.

I’m a bad Jack, Dear Reader, I’m almost certain that I promised when this year rolled around I’d get photos for a guide on constructing a teepee frame for peas, yes, yes, I know the title is wrong, it’s a gag!, and here I am, shamefaced. I set up the frames and completely forgot to take a photograph of each stage. Honestly, I’m just typing this without even having the photos you’ll see when I finally get around to publishing this post. It’s all deception, Dear Reader! Everything is a lie! Oh, yeah, it’s my three year anniversary for the blog, just putting it out there, you can donate here, no pressure on that score. The site, recipes, everything will always be free, it has taken a knock thanks to the Photobucket mess, but I’m even trying to fix that, albeit slowly and patchily. So, if you have the luxury of a little spare cash, I’d giggle like a madman at even a Euro, Jack is easily made grateful, maybe spare a thought for the work I do here. It might not look like much, but I really do put everything I have into the site, each post is carefully put together, given a lot more thought and careful consideration that my flippant style makes it look like. Still, money isn’t everything, if you want, a share, a comment a like also works really well. Now, onto the teehees.

Lower knot for strength.

I will say that in all these years of running the site I have learned absolutely nothing. Hah! Sorry, that’s a stock joke, but it’s always funny.  Like my teepees I’m recycling jokes a bit too, I like to say that I grow my peas on teepees and that tee-hees are for school girls. Any younger Dear Readers shouldn’t laugh at Jack, he’s very tender hearted. This year I’m just thinking of the frames as tee-hees. Anything to drown out the dissatisfaction of promised poor weather. I was gathering up my old poles, I dismantle these at the year’s end to save space, and just decided I’d go for it. They came together a lot faster than last year as I actually had an idea of what I was doing, I even had to walk myself through it step by step. You don’t need much to make these. It takes eleven bamboo poles of equal length, some jute, an elastic band, optional really, but very handy, some ground pegs, as always I use bent wire, save them after too!, and some mesh, more jute would work, but it’d be very tiresome trying to make a grid from scratch.

Too cold to attach the mesh to the other.

They’re not wholly original, but I couldn’t find a guide when I was putting them together last year. Thankfully knowing the steps and being able to improve on last years has been really great. I added another band of wound jute lower down and kept the thickest pole for the centre. They can get bowed due to the weight of the peas. I’m doing two different sizes because one is for a larger peas that’ll drape over, the smaller one, the larger is for sugar-snaps and runner beans. They might overlap at the top, but probably not too much.

Simple, but effective.

So, first steps.  Take five poles and spike them into the ground, fairly deep, they need a god support at the base, arranged in a very rough pentagram, too precise and you’ll summon a demon, this seems to give the best support. Less than five might work, but as it going to be there for months more is best. I also threw a brick in between them so the weeds will have a  harder time growing in the centre and I can add slug pellets bellow the brick too. So, yeah, do that or both sides, you can measure the distance with the eleventh pole, that’ll be the centre support, give it about half a foot to stick out or it might slip from the grip of the teepees.

A few pins to hold it down.

So, you’ve got a bunch of sticks sticking out of the ground, all wobbly and you’re thinking Jack has been having you on as there’s no way this could stand upright never mind hold weight. Have no fear, I felt the same way you’ll see it all come to a strong support with each additional step, it’s actually rather fun. Next up grab the elastic band, double it up if it’s not taut enough and gather all the poles together, they’ll overlap, sticking out which way, the gap in the middle is where the centre pole will go, Then get the jute and cut a good three foot, more if you can spare it. Tie a loop around the poles, leaving a little tail for later retying, where the band is then start winding it around the poles, tugging it tight as you loop around. You’ll see it n the photos, just keep it tight, keep those poles together and you’ll be fine. Then tie both tails up and double the knot to stop any loosening. See, the elastic will break over time so you can rely solely on that, but it helps hold the poles in place while you work.

That mesh is older than I am.

You know there are so many guides for everything online, but I’ve found that in-spite of their vast size and self-assured certainty that they’ll help they’re often useless reiterations of common information that can be found everywhere. It can range from irritating to down right dangerous. It’s why I write these in this style, they’re anecdotal and backed up by actual experience. Rough around the edges, sure, but I can’t fill in all the gaps and I’m not going to start covering everything with a thin veneer of appealing deception to make it present better. You take this guide, run with what you need and then after doing, even given a little help, you’ve figured out things and actually understood the process. See? Told you this all had a little more depth than first glances would suggest. Okay, back to the frames.

The new try out.

So, you should have two teepees, both tied and fairly sturdy. Just check the poles are as deep as they’ll go to be sure. Add the centre pole, just push it into the gaps of the others and then repeat the jute step. Winding any which way, you want to to secure the pole so the more convoluted a wrap the better. Do this for both sides. The whole frame is starting to get really firm now, right? I’ve added an extra step, just for certainty. Wind another band of jute lower down to really pull the poles tight, I didn’t do it last year, but they were looking a little shaky this year. Probably warped with age. Once that’s done you could kick them, but don’t! Now, you can drape a mesh over, I double up to let both plants climb on each side with ease. Try not to leave too much of a gap between each side, I did last year and weeds prospered in the gap, impossible to pull through the mesh. Pull it somewhat tight, you don’t need to have it stretched, but if it sags the plants might fall, then pin it at the base so it won’t just slip off. There you are! A pea frame fit for anything. If you were growing something heavier, maybe squash?, you could add a third teepee in the centre to really support everything. Now, you will question why bother with the centre and why not just use the teepees? Well, Dear Reader, because Jack has tried that. You end up with peas growing clumped in the centre, near inaccessible and hungry for light. You could widen them and really waste a lot of space in the centre, yeah, I’ve though about this a lot in the Winter months.

So, when you have to plant just dig a trench along, fill it with peas, you can thin them later, and let them run over. I have extra onion sets to fill in gaps so I’ll most likely stick a few in among the peas and poles. I have heirloom dwarf broad beans too, so they’ll find a gap somewhere. It’s all rather easy when you know what will work, but I tell you it can be nerve-wracking the first time you have a strong wind push against your peas. I remember watching them sway, thankfully with so many gaps it’ll mostly pass through while the strength of the frame will help keep it all up. I’ll add photos and publish this so if it creates any inconsistencies in posts then you’ll know why. Until later, Dear Reader.

P.S I was going to end it there, but I figured that if you’d put up with this long a little more on supports might not be out of the question. I know, Dear Reader, Jack is the rock that you all lean on, but you can’t tie plants to Jack. They might start growing out of my pockets if I forget to empty them out, but, no, we’re talking theory here. I’m trying something new in the greenhouse. I always seem to struggle to get the right support for growing plants. You know the basic idea: You put poles all around and tie the plants as they grow. They then exceed the poles, expand beyond them, the poles being singular bend and twist. It’s a pain, so what I’m going to try, I’ll hopefully take a photo for illustrative purposes, I’m under no illusion that this is that interesting, is I’m going to take three poles, I could use more but it’d be wasteful, if it works three should suffice, and place them like a teepee, but like the peas bunching within the large ones I’d have the same problem so instead I’m making it almost a straight column. I need them slanting a little for support, I’m also pushing right to the bottom of the pot so though they won’t be that tall they’ll stay firm. The idea here is that if I tie the base of the plant to the centre they should stay steadier unlike last years that just dragged the poles down with them, by putting the poles in first I’ll also avoid damaging roots. I’ll plant in a circle since the pots are very large. Whether it’ll be tomatoes remains uncertain. Chillies are a given. I was thinking of a bunch all just stuck together like a thick shaft, but they’d still suffer the same issue when they lean. Each point being in a different corner, of a circle?! You know what I mean!, they should push against the pot and hold. It’s all theory, but as I’m trying it you’ll see it in practice in time. If it works, great and if it fails we try again. Okay, now I’ll leave it at this. Seriously, thanks for these three years, they’ve meant a lot.