Wednesday, June 25, 2008
There is one tiny zucchini on one of the zucchini plants. The summer onions are oh-so nearly ready. And everything in the greenhouses is growing.
Won't be long before we won't have to buy much in the way of vegetables at all!
(I have run out of carrot and mesclun seeds. Looks like a trip to Dunstan Hall is called for this weekend)
The Builder has made a start on putting up the new greenhouse. It's going where the volcano was. The volcano remains have been moved up to where all that rubbish was. Eventually the ashy remnants will be spread over the garden and new veg beds will take their place
Monday, June 23, 2008
It wasn't me, after all. The last packet must have been duff. Only about half of them are up, but that is a very vast improvement on none!
I had noticed that most of the radishes had gone very woody, even though they were not yet full grown. Then I noticed that the orange carrots were also woody, though not the purple ones. A little investigation suggests that carrots go woody when their growing conditions are too cold. This would makes sense. The white radishes are fine; they came from seeds which were to be sown late winter or early spring. Likewise the purple carrots. The other seeds were from a collection which didn't give sowing instructions. I think they were planted too early. I think that next year I might put the first boxes in the greenhouse. It's been lovely and warm in there since the beginning of March!
Last night for supper we had new potatoes, which were not yet from the allotment. Still a bit early. But with them we had steamed peas, broad beans, carrots (purple!) and tarragon all from the garden. Eaten about 7 minutes after I picked them!
I made some elderflower "champagne" last weekend with elderflowers from the track down to the sewage farm. I bottled it this weekend. It smalls fantastic. The recipe says to leave it for at least a week before drinking. Most other recipes say to leave it for several months :-S I've never done it before so I don't rightly know what I'm doing! If I had any more bottles I'd try making some more. I wonder if The Builder could be persuaded to drink more beer from bottles with the resealable lids.
We haven't had all that much rain. There is a bit more water in the water butt up by the house. We might have to set up a watering programme!
The intention for this last weekend had been to go to Cambridge to have lunch with Peter and Joan and to stay with Taffa and Gaz for playing purposes. Alas, Peter is not well, so lunch had to be abandoned. Playing, however, did not have to be and was not abandoned. We went down to Cambridge on Saturday afternoon.
We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, for there were things to do before we could go. The Builder went up to water the greenhouses on the allotment. Bang on 8 o'clock as forecast, it started to rain. He came back. It didn't really rain for very long, though. We passed the morning doing useful domestic things, had lunch, then took ourselves off to Cambridge, asking Jenny to take us avoiding motorways. It was quite a pleasant drive down. Not much traffic. No rain to speak of.
We arrived and found Gareth at home. A quick drink to fortify ourselves, then off we went to Tabitha's shop to meet her for a night out on the town. The area around Tabitha's shop is well serviced by nice pubs. We started out at the Cricketers' Arms and had intended to go on and have another drink in another pub - but the Cricketers' Arms is quite pleasant so we stayed there. And then meandered into town for a rather nice Greek/Turkish/Mediterranean meal in a new-ish restaurant opposite King's College. My lamb was wonderful. Then we went back to the house, via The Boathouse for a pit stop and another pint. Was a good evening. And only a little rain.
The Builder and I slept soundly, and even slept in, by our standards. I put this down to not having slept at all well (me, not The Builder ) on Friday night and having nothing at all to do with the amount of alcohol we had consumed!
It was a lovely day.
We had chocolate chip brioche with raspberry jam for breakfast.
We were pondering what to do for the rest of the day. There was the midsummer fair to go and play with. And where should we go for lunch? While we were pondering all this, Tabitha was watching an odd series of programmes where the characters kept shouting at each other. Eventually, I asked if we couldn't perhaps watch something slightly less yellsome. What to watch. I know - let's watch this programme about baby zoo animals. Which reminds me; Tabitha and Gareth must come up one weekend and we'll all go and check out Twycross Zoo, which we found on one trip to Salisbury. This reminded Tabitha that she and Gaz had found another Wildlife Park not far away. She was telling me all about it, when the thought crossed my mind: Why are we sitting here watching zoo animals on television when we could go out to a real zoo and watch animals in the real.
So we did. Shepreth Wildlife Park. It's rather cute and has loads of animals. I would give you the link to their website, only it seems to be down today. But there are loads of things. We went into the nocturnal house where large bats were flying about. I was a bit worried that one might decided to hang from the brim of my hat. Fortunately, none did. We went into the tropical house where there were two marmosets also wandering about at will. One of them ran across the top of the head of a small boy. Scared him witless, I think! I stroked the ears of a small deer - which got quite cross when I stopped. Gareth held a corn snake. I stroked it but didn't hold it. We were *this* close to a tiger. *THIS* close. Fortunately, it was behind a solid plate of glass. And it was asleep. But nevertheless - *THIS* close!!! There were bunnies and wallabies and black swans and emus and lots of things. So much better than watching a zoo on the television.
Lunch time. We had driven pat several pubs on our way to the zoo and stopped at the first one we came across on the way back. The Queen's Head in Harston. The food was absolutely fantastic. Really, really lovely. Mind you, it would have been very, very much cheaper for Tabitha and me to have bought a bottle of wine rather than having two separate glasses each!!
We took Taffa and Gaz back to their place and then made our way in a leisurely manner back to ours. Marlo was really quite pleased to see us. Especially since we had picked up some cat food for him in the morning.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Peacefully sleeping, I was, when I was woken at around 2 this morning by a scrabbling sound.
At first I thought it was the cat. He made the discovery last summer that if he brings a mouse into the house and tries to play with it, it escapes and hides and we catch it and put it out again. If, on the other hand, he takes the mouse to the bath, it can’t escape and we don’t interfere and he gets hours of mouse playing entertainment. It is not uncommon for him to do this in the middle of the night. However, he doesn’t usually make quite so much noise. We seldom know anything about it until we get up in the morning. Must be something considerably bigger than a mouse.
The scrabbling sound continued. Perhaps it was burglars – though how burglars would have got in without alerting us or the dog next door was a mystery.
The Builder got up to investigate. He didn’t think it was burglars. He came back suggesting that something was playing in the recycling boxes. He couldn’t see anything, but perhaps a hedgehog had got into one of the boxes and couldn’t get out again. Well, if it was a hedgehog, it was quite a big one – but neither of us felt much inclined to go and rescue wildlife that had got into the recycling boxes at that time of night. In the morning would do. And if it were a rat it would be able to get itself out.
I got up extra specially early this morning. We were out of bread and I thought I would make some cheesy damper for The Builder’s lunch (I had a bit for breakfast – tastes remarkably like a cheese scone!). Plus, I had some washing to put out (I know I’ve been hoping for rain all week – but not today, all right?!?!?!). As I made my way down the garden, I found cream pots scattered about the lawn, licked nice and clean. There was a margarine pot, likewise licked nice and clean. There was all sorts of stuff scattered about, chewed and licked. Has to have been a fox, then, that woke us up. And explains why the scrabbling was intermittent and why we couldn’t see anything when we went to investigate. S/he had been collecting a pot and taking it down the garden to investigate before coming back for another one.
I shall have to start washing the recycling properly, rather than just rinsing it out!
Our new neighbours are almost entirely silent and completely invisible. Since they moved in, I have seen Joanne once, through a window, dimly. I have seen lights on once. And we have once or twice heard a door close. I wonder if they're actually there. If Darius is there, he's a remarkably silent 8 year old
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The top of the allotment is looking wonderful, like a really, proper allotment. There are rows of potatoes growing nicely, rows and rows of onions, rows and rows of peas, now with wire mesh to grow up. The beans are struggling along (they could really do with some rain) - and the good news is that I *think* the seeds from the new packet of soya beans might actually be germinating; if so, I'll be able to fill the bean bed right up. Everything in the greenhouses is going well. I'm very pleased. The potatoes in the bed at the very bottom are also growing well. As is the rhubarb. We have digging plans for the autumn and the winter, and the thought that we might put in a proper bed for the rhubarb to grow in.
Back in the kitchen garden, things are also going quite well. We have had our first, very light pickings of the peas and the broad beans (interestingly, in the case of the broad beans, not from the overwintered plants, which are still too early to pick, but from the early spring planting). And I now have a ratatouille bed - I had a few extra tomatoes and have planted them in with the zucchini plants and the spare onions. I've now mulched that bed with newspaper and dried grass. Over the weekend we planted out more beetroot seeds, some scarlet amaranth seeds and I put some Chinese cabbage and pak choi seeds in the propagating tent (though they may not do all that well - I think I watered them in a bit vigorously! Still, there's time yet to do it again.) We've also planted up another carrot box, a parsnip and radish box and a mesclun box. The Builder has been mowing and clipping and whippersnipping with enthusiasm, so the kitchen garden and the orchard look very tidy. He's also lit another bonfire to get rid of as much of what's left of the garden rubbish as possible. Then, when that's burned out and we've moved the ash for later use on the garden, we're going to level it out and put the new greenhouse up where the bonfire is (When I say "we", I mean that I am going to supervise!).
The flower garden is just looking beautiful. And it smells wonderful. Oh - and the fish pond is finally beginning to clear.
We had a lovely weekend, spent mostly in the garden or on the allotment. We ate and drank and pottered about. The sun shone, with very occasional rain showers (although – we could do with some sustained rain). It was all very peaceful and restful.
So you might wonder quite why I have been oh-so-sleepy today?!?!?!?!?!?
We had lunch in The Peacock in Bakewell on Saturday. It’s where we nearly always go when we have lunch in Bakewell. I don’t know that we will go again – it might be time to sample some of the other pubs. I think the standard of the food has been going noticeably downhill over the past little while. Their menu says that they serve freshly prepared, fresh local produce. It doesn’t tell you that they use frozen chips! (I really don’t like commercially frozen chips; they always seem a bit floury and a bit dry). I don’t think we can afford to eat at The Rutland Arms, except for very occasionally – though their menu does say that they serve twice cooked chips. I assume they are not twice cooked frozen chips! We might have a mosey around some of the other pubs though.
On Saturday evening I made a version of the monkfish wrapped in bacon that I had last Saturday evening at The Swan which was, alas, not properly cooked in the middle. Mine was! I can’t remember what sauce they put on it at The Swan, but we had ours with new potatoes, asparagus, peas and broad beans with butter and mint. It was lovely.
Actually, it was a very foodie weekend. I’ve made some vanilla ice cream and the rhubarb puree ready for a rhubarb and ginger ice cream. I made bread. I decided it was very wasteful to throw the egg whites away when making ice cream and have been making meringues. I must remember that egg whites can be frozen in future. Too much meringue isn’t good for our teeth! We’ve been eating home grown lettuce and radish and have just had our first wandering-around-the-garden nibble on peas and broad beans from the plants. And we are starting to eat the carrot thinnings. It’s all quite exciting.
I had a phone call from Peter yesterday afternoon. He has had a recurrence of his chest infection. It seems that he started to feel a bit better and took to Rushing About Like a Mad Thing. His doctors say that this was ill- advised! They also said that it would take time before he was properly better and that rushing about is not to happen until then. In the meantime, we are not taking them out to lunch next weekend. We will wait until he is better and then take them out. We’ll have lunch on Sunday with Tabitha and Gareth instead!
And Peter must be dissuaded from dashing about – it would be nice were he to live long enough to *have* lunch with us! Though I suppose it is a reasonably hopeful sign that he is not in hospital and that he was laughing over the phone yesterday.
What else is there? Tabitha and Gareth have been in Brighton for the weekend. Freyja has been in London at a convention. Austin had a long weekend in Japan. Marlo has been lying about in the sunshine. It’s all been quite jolly really.
Still doesn’t explain quite why I am soooooooo tired today, though!
Monday, June 09, 2008
Time for a pleasant stroll across the Stoford Bridge to Great Wishford and a potter about the village. It is a lovely little village. There’s a thatched cottage with a stunning garden up for rent. Alas – it would be too far for us both to commute.
We collected Gwen and went through the New Forest to Lymington, where we had roast beef in the Ship Inn by the harbour, watching the boats bobbing in the sunshine. Then we went to Milford on Sea so she could sit for a bit in the sunshine, watching the sea and the Isle of Wight across the water. It was a truly beautiful day. It is unfortunate that she can’t walk far these days (she says that she never imagined that an inability to walk would come to her!) but that is no reason not to sit and look at things. We went back through the Forest as well. On both trips there were loads of ponies with foals, and quite a few cows – though not so many calves.
The elusive Peter was about when we got back to Gwen’s. We are, I think, plotting the possibility of re-laying and extending the patio by her back door. Well, Gwen and I are plotting. We are not planning to do any of the re-laying or extending; that's what The Builder and Peter are for! But it would mean she could sit outside on sunny days and the people who wave as they walk along the pavement would be able to talk to her.
We came home along the Fosse Way. It was very pretty, very green, and surprisingly quiet.
I never did get onto the wi-fi network at The Swan, though I do now have the password. I wonder if it was a Mac thing, or if their network was being dodgy. Will try again in July.
And I now have an ice cream maker. We bought it in John Lewis/Waitrose. The bowl is now in the freezer, awaiting its first ice cream adventure.
We had our first fresh peas and broad beans last evening. Not, alas, from the garden, not yet– but they were the first English or Scottish peas and broad beans I’ve seen in the shops this season.
Right. Off to organise my teaching sessions for the Malaysian cohort of students. They need to know how to use the databases. I am not planning to tell them, mind you – I have a series of cunning exercises so they can find out for themselves!! Who me? Cruel? Surely not? :-P
I take it that Joanne and Darius moved in over the weekend. There are curtains up at the windows now, and ornamental things on the window sills
The roads were VERY light on traffic!
We stopped at the Air Balloon for lunch. It’s on that road that the Highwayman is on. Leaves us one more pub to try (the Golden Heart, between the two). I had always idly assumed that the Air Balloon was a chain restaurant pub, something like Brewers Fayre. It’s not. It’s two old, old pubs joined together with lovely, fresh cooked food. The Builder and I shared a platter with a half pint of prawns, a bowl of crumbed whitebait, bread, dips and chips and salad. It was lovely.
Then we made our way into Salisbury. I wanted to go to Lakeland (Ian should never, ever go into Lakeland. We’ll never get him out again!) for a spice rack thingy and to inspect their ice cream makers. I had been pondering, as we were getting out of the car, that we could really do with a car bin. They sell those in Lakeland too. They had them by the front door as we went in!
We called at the Wilton House garden centre for a melon seedling, amongst other things (well, we called for a melon seedling - other things attached themselves to us as we were wandering around!) and then made our way to Barb’s place to deliver several rhubarb related things, for The Builder to plane her back door which is sticking and to indulge in scones, jam, cream and white wine (except for The Builder who was driving and had a cup of tea). Barb has staying with her the chef and his girl friend from the Black Dog. She had also, yesterday afternoon, managed to kidnap a passing visitor and had set him to work mowing her lawns. We had our scones and stuff sat outside in the sunshine. It was a lovely afternoon for sitting out.
We are not staying at Bridge Farm this trip (or even next :-( ) Norma has no free weekends until the autumn. So we are staying at The Swan in Stoford in the Wylye valley. It’s a lovely hotel with a grassed area across the road, by the side of the Wylye. We sat outside by the river yesterday evening with a bottle of wine and watched the river flowing and the traffic passing. We wandered up the road and admired the beautiful bridge. We came in and had a lovely dinner in the pub (well, it was all lovely apart from my fish which wasn’t entirely perfectly cooked. I mentioned this when they came to clear the plates - and they deducted it from our bill. I wasn't expecting them to do that - I was just telling them. I’d eaten the bulk of it, which was cooked. It was just the middle which wasn’t!) and then retired to bed.
Waiting for it to be breakfast time now. It’s another beautiful day. A good day for taking Gwen for a trip out. But before we go - I want the password for the pub’s wi-fi network!
I have to tell you - it’s lovely. It took some hunting to find a melon seedling, but when I did --- there were Cape Gooseberry seedlings there as well!!!!!!! And well advanced Cape Gooseberry seedlings. I bought three. I looked for soya bean seedlings but there weren’t any. Or none that I could find. There were, however, loads of different sorts of capsicum seedlings and a huge variety of tomatoes.
And the seed selection is amazing. So many different sorts of things from all over the world. I bought some asparagus pea seeds and another packet of soya bean seeds. I planted, on Thursday, a final sowing of soya beans with the plan that if they didn’t germinate inside ten days I would abandon soya beans for this year and buy a fresh packet for next. So far I’ve had a 100 % failure rate with the present packet spread over two years. I begin to think it might be the seeds rather than me! Now that I’ve run across a packet in a garden centre (has never happened in or around Chesterfield!) I might try a fresh sowing when we get home. And I will buy a small electric propagator for next year. They’re only £25 and would advance things by quite a way.
So my three Cape Gooseberries, 2 melons (there are two seedlings in the pot) and two packets of seeds cost me £9. I don’t think that’s too bad, especially when you consider how advanced the Cape Gooseberries are :-)
Thursday, June 05, 2008
The only solution I have thought of is to treat every shift as though it might be my last. And make sure that I come up in the week of its final closure for a proper farewell.
I was awake when it was time to talk to Tony last evening. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but I was. I am VERY sleepy today, though!
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I assume it was slugs, though there is no slug evidence.
No cape gooseberries for us this year. It's too late now to try again, I think. They take 3-4 weeks to germinate and I don't think there would be time to ripen the fruit if I start again now.
Definitely buying an inside propagator for next year!!!
I was woken at just before four this morning (which is perhaps a tad on the early side!) by sunshine and very cheery birdsong.
I did not get up!
I was woken again just before five by more birdsong, more sunshine and The Builder coming back from a trip to the bathroom with the cat.
I still didn't get up, but I did put the radio on.
The Builder went down at just after five, rather than around half past, to make the tea.
We were all up before 6 (Marlo came down when I went downstairs to get something at about half past five, demanding his breakfast).
This gave me time to go down and pick some salad leaves for lunch and to heat some (homemade!!!) bread rolls for breakfast bacon sandwiches and to have a ten minute potter in the garden and to have a lovely, slow, sunny start to the day. No rush, no panic, just happy pottering about.
And we left a couple of minutes earlier than usual and encountered almost no traffic on our way into Sheffield.
Perhaps we should do that more often!
The downside, of course, is that today is Wednesday and I am supposed to be meeting Tony online this evening at 10:00 for our weekly chat. I'm not bothering to take bets as to whether I'll still be awake at that time. I shall set an alarm instead!!!
The Builder and I spent quite a lot of time on Saturday out in the garden. He went and had a hair cut. I pootled about. The postman brought me a package of 60 small cabbage-family plants – they were due sometime in May and lobbed in on the very last day of that month. I am expecting another 60 in June. I hope they don’t come in the first week. That would be an awful lot of cabbage family items to eat at more or less the same time in winter and they’re supposed to cover late autumn to early spring!
Anyway. After a tiny jaunt out in the morning, we were back outside in the garden when there was a yoohoo yodelling from up by the house. I looked up. There were two women up there waving. I went to find out what they wanted. It seems that the yodelling one has applied to rent the empty house next door. Joanne, her name is. She had told her uncle-up-the-road of this, and that she had paid a month’s rent as a deposit. Her uncle was less than impressed. Ooooooooooh nooooooooooo was more or less his response. What did we think of the place?
I told her that I thought it was a lovely place to live. This is true. I do think it’s lovely. She says that her uncle says that Bridge Street is full of nothing but louty yobs who will make her life miserable.
Louty yobs? I ask you. Do I look like a louty yob? Louty yobs don’t spend their afternoons making pretty gardens and growing vegetables. They’re too busy out, throwing stones at people’s windows. I think I’m quite offended!
Do we have teenagers in the street. Well yes, we do. But there’s nothing wrong with them. One of them feeds the cat when we’re away. Children? Yes. Across the road. Nice, well behaved, happy children. People sitting on our wall, drinking smoking and swearing at 3am? Absolutely not (though in truth, we wouldn’t know if there were people thus engaged – we’re usually sound asleep at the back of the house at that time!). It’s a nice, quiet, peaceful street with people you hardly ever see and seldom hear but who engage in pleasantries when you do run across them and take in each other’s parcels when necessary.
I hope it stays that way. Joanne has an 8 year old boy called Darius. Which doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence.
(Well, if she can be worried about the presence of teenagers and kids, I can be equally unreasonably prejudiced against an 8 year old called Darius. Though I’m sure he’s very pleasant, really.)
They’re (probably!) moving in next weekend. We shall be in Salisbury.
We had lunch in the Three Merry Lads on Sunday. I had tagliatelle with seafood sauce, not wishing to have a proper Sunday lunch. I was intending to have a proper Sunday dinner – roast lamb and everything – and I can’t manage two full proper Sunday meals on the same day. I wouldn’t have had the tagliatelle had I read the specials board properly. What it really was, was chargrilled tuna, sat on a bed of tagliatelle and seafood sauce. And excellent meal. But rather more than I really wanted if there was to be roast lamb, roast Jersey Royals, carrots, broccoli and Yorkies at 7:30. Tabitha and Gareth were calling for dinner on their way home from attending Art’s wedding on Saturday. Though Art’s name is really Alex. And it was Megan’s wedding too. I’ve met Megan. Once. In The Peacock in Bakewell one Saturday lunchtime. Anyway, Taffa and Gaz were coming for dinner after the happy event and a day recuperating. By the cunning plan of not eating all my lunch, I managed to find room for my roast lamb. Taffa, Gaz and The Builder seemed to have no trouble with theirs :-)
Peter rang while T and G were with us. He seems to be getting better. We’re going to see them in a couple of weeks. Peter and Joan. And, as it happens, Tabitha and Gareth.
Monday very nearly saw me recaptured by the 1950s. The Builder went off to work, leaving me at home in my slippers and dressing gown. I escaped from the 1950s briefly to SKYPE Stella and Tony. Then I went and cleaned the kitchen. I moved everything off the benches and cleaned underneath. I washed things. I cleaned the toaster (why it hadn’t burst into flames is a mystery to me – there were SOOOO many crumbs in it!). I even cleaned the tiles. I made another stew, though this was not for The Builder on his return from work. We had pork steaks instead. I pottered in the garden. The Builder came home and we went to the allotment and planted out the sweet potato slips, and two pumpkins and cucumbers. And then we went home, watched telly, had dinner and I went to bed at half past nine. Cleaning is VERY tiring and obviously shouldn’t be indulged in all that often. I shall avoid all cleaning next weekend! Though I might have a hair cut on Saturday morning before we go.