Friday, 31 October 2008

Focus on PUMPKINS

Well what other choice was there but the Halloween Pumpkin to focus on this week. Unfortunately we had a spectacular failure with ours this year, so no pictures from the lottie, but by gum, next year, I want my own pumpkins and butter nut squashes. So good in risotto or just roasted - yum.

Today's information comes from the trusty people at:



In Ireland (and many other countries which have their variations) the carved out pumpkin with candle inside is meant to represent the Ignus Fatuus or Fool's fire. Stemming from the wonderful folklore story of Will o' the Wisp. There's a great write up on this on http://irelandsown.net/willothewisps.html, a story that is well known to many here in Ireland, though we never had pumpkins - we used turnips. Believe me carving and hollowing out a turnip, is not the most fun, at least pumpkins are soft!

Anyway back to the humble pumpkin. It is a squash-type vegetable but there are some differences between the two. To get technical the squash has a softer, rounder, flared stem as opposed to the pumpkins hard,rigid, prickly, square-ish stem. There's so little in it at times, that the names are interchangeable. They're both in the Cucurbita family (which also contains cucumbers). A pumpkin can be many varying shapes, textures and colours, we usually think of them as orange but blue, grey, green, white and red are also found, some are a mixture of the above like a beautiful painting that has run in the rain.

Most parts of the pumpkins can be eaten, the flowers (of which there are male and female on the same plant), the seeds and of course that gorgeous flesh - the orange-ness of which is a perfect indicator of it's antioxidant properties and presence of Vitamin C. Again, the science part ; this colouring is due to lutein, aplha-carotene and beta-catotene which convert to Vitamin A in the body.

But did you know that the seeds are also extremely good for you not to mention, very tasty indeed, especially when roasted (though this lessens the benefits a little). Apart from the cartoenoids, they also contain healthy fats and zinc which is great for bone strength and protein and fibre too. In its oil form (available from health food shops), it has been known to ease the pain of arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties, being a humble seed, there are no nasty side effects. Hoorah.

But never mind all that - basically it tastes great, it's good for you and there are hardly any calories (it's 90% water) or fat. So eat as much as you want - yummy.

I give you Pumpkins Ladies and Gentlemen. Grow, harvest, eat, enjoy!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Gardening Books

It's a lovely day today, very cold but quite bright. However, the kids (who are off school) are also finding that the weather suits them down to the ground as well. Hence they are outside doing what 3 brothers and their friends do best - making a lot of noise and arguing with each other. So, I'm inside; my nerves are fragile (as they used to say in Jane Austin's time).

So instead of being out there I'm in here with my books about out there. Makes sense? Andrew bought some 2nd hand gardening books yesterday (books are our downfall, oh and chocolate and red wine) and I am looking through them. One in particular has me gripped, its 'The Pocket Garden Troubles Expert' by Dr. D.G. Hessayon and it's pretty icky. Loads of photos and pictures of maggots and aphids and all sorts of diseases. Gross, but like road kill - I can't stop looking. It's a great wee book and one that we'll get a lot of use out of for years to come - that £1 fee will be worth it! I looked it up on Amazon and it's currently unavailable, but there are some 'used and new ones' for sale on the site. Starting from £0.01!!!!!! Ridiculous

I really like Dr, D.G. Hessayon's books, there are loads of them, about every aspect of gardening and they all say 'Expert' on them for a reason, is far as I can tell. I love Mr Titchmarsh (that's why we called our ironic gnome Alan - actually he's Alan II, the first one had a terrible, fatal accident) but sometimes you just want a good old fashioned encyclopedia of all things leafy, fruity, grassy and flowery etc. Alan is like asking a trusted friend for advice - the Dr, well it's like asking a Doctor for advice. I'm not making much sense am I. Time to lie down and look at more gross pictures, my brain is fried.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A public declaration

Andrew

Live is worth living with you in it.
I truly love and I am loved.
I don't tell you enough.

Carrie

Caterpillars

When it comes to caterpillars, I know that I am meant to hate the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae, if you will), as it does so much damage, however I heard recently on the news that some species of butterfly are becoming rare and I don't want to be part of a mass extinction movement. I have thought about finding info on caterpillars, though I haven't really tried that hard, I mean I haven't 'Googled' it, looked for a book or anything, but last night on the BBC Gardening message board there was the answer, just waiting for me.

Kindly, a certain 'David K' had passed on this website, which helps to identify caterpillars and has plates which shows them and the plants they are usually found on, good info to have I thought. So I too shall share.....
http://www.whatsthiscaterpillar.co.uk/plates.htm

By actually taking the time, I have now found (by myself) The Butterfly Conservation Website
http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/
so by checking what caterpillars we have and looking them up we can save the rare ones. Thus allowing us to get up on that high moral seat and feel smug. Lovely.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Little Poly tunnels

It has just been brought to my attention that I haven't put up any photos of our lovely, great value poly tunnels. My apologies to Andrew. I shall, henceforth correct this oversight.....


I did talk about them, after buying the first one, from B&Q, back on the 22nd October. But here they are in all their glory. They fit our beds absolutely perfectly and with the weather the way it is, they will probably prove themselves very valuable.

Nosey-ing around

I'm waiting for a phone call, I've been waiting for 2 hours already and I need to do something to keep me occupied, or distracted more like.

I'll tell you about the dander we took around the fields before we came home that Saturday afternoon. When there's no one else there, it's too tempting to have a good nosey at other plots, especially for me - I don't have to make small talk to people and Saturday had been fun but the old self-esteem wasn't exactly overflowing.
I forgot my camera when we dandered round our own Field (A) but ran back for it when I learnt we were venturing into Field B. It's not often we go in to the other fields, we generally have work to keep us going and lots of friendly neighbours, who act as great distractions (eh Andrew?!) My first thought on Field B was how poor their drainage is. It's worse than ours; you just sink into the ground (and I can't afford that, I'm only 5ft 1 to begin with) and there's that sucking sound when you pull your welly back out.

A couple of people have put in their own drainage systems, done very professionally and under ground level over to the shuck. It really seems to have paid off, but if the land around you is soaking, it's got to be disheartening. As we walked on there was the unmistakable smell of glorious cow poo again, (another big pile in this field) and I saw some plots that obviously get a lot of time spent on them. On the way out we met Ricky. He has a fantastic set up way over the far side of B, with the cutest shed ever - he had his guitar with him and was off over to the shed for a sing-a-long with friends round the fire pit. He invited us over but the rain had started again and remember we stunk of cow poo! We gracefully declined this time round. (We heard them later, on the wind as we walked back to collect our stuff before going home). It sounds so odd, but it is nice to put a face to a plot.

We walked back to A via Field C, even though it was raining, when you're soaked already, what does it really matter? We saw the last of the Blackberries (not very good this year) and some beautiful, shiny rose hips. (And NO, I did not make Alys' rose hip tea off GW, it looked stinky - to make and to drink!)

Field C is pretty impressive all round. There are only a few plots were not much is happening but the rest really do same to get care. I confess, I don't take the time to give it a good looking at, though we pass through it every time we go down to our plot. My mind must be on other things - either 'I want to get to my lottie' or 'I want to go home, now'. I don't know whose these plants belong to, but whatever they are going in Field C it is working! Magic green fingers, ahoy! These were truly the biggest cabbages and beetroots ever. And they didn't seem to have any real pest damage. Well done you, however you are.

Cow Poo

It's snowing outside, can you believe it! Hopefully it will make the parsnips really tasty - I've heard they're best after the 1st frosts, but what about everything else?

Anyway, from one day of stinky weather, to another, namely Saturday past. It was so cold and rainy in the morning that we thought a trip to a garden centre would be good - maybe the weather would clear up later (hahaha!). When we arrived there, it seemed we had entered a different place in time - it was CHRISTMAS and the shop was laid out in a way that you felt so confined and like Christmas was coming to get you. I felt claustrophobic (not a fan of Christmas at the best of times) with strange Santa Claus' singing at me etc. I just hate all that stuff - save it for December for goodness sake, and why does it seem to be Garden Centres that go SO mad over it all.
We went looking (oh, shock horror) for plants and seeds etc - hardly any there. We had a coffee, in the now essential gardening centre coffee shop and left. Where are all the good nurseries you see on TV?
One good thing I did notice was this sign above a greenhouse display. It was light relief in an otherwise scary and disappointing visit......

So, after that we went straight to the lottie. In was still raining, but crazy kids that we are, we decided to stay. This is my 'I'm so cold and it's raining pin pricks' face. In the end it was quite fun and we were pretty much there alone, funnily enough. Once our new (2nd) cloche was put in place over the small scallions and carrots we set to work on the gloriously stinky cow manure pile. After speaking to Bobby, Bill's dad, on Friday we were advised to take some off the pile and let it rot down on our own plot for a while. I suppose ideally it should all stay in one big lump but the feeling was people would want to make sure they have some of their own and thus the pile would be attacked soon enough. We took some and put it our empty compost bin. It's still relatively fresh so we'll leave it there til spring. It was hard, smelly work getting it those few 100 metres from pile to plot but I'm sure it will be worth it!

Once that was done, I was, cold, soaked, smelly and wrecked and put myself on coffee making duty. Thank goodness for little gas camping stoves - we'd freeze to death without our wee warm drinks. I sat on the massive bag of paper shreddings (like a bean bag) that we have for composting and waited for the kettle to whistle away at me. Luckily, when that time came, Andrew had taken refuge in the shed too - I couldn't get myself up out of the bag, haha.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Argh! The weather

I don't have that much to tell you about our weekend because the weather was SO absolutely foul! So I'll spread out what I do have over the next couple of days.

Andrew was lucky enough to get home at little bit earlier from work on Friday night and we used the time to see our lottie on a week night, in the light!! It was terribly mucky (too mucky for precious Maggie) and had been quite gale-y over the week so we were a bit nervous about what we might find. Our site is an absolute wind tunnel.

Luckily the only problem was a blown over bench and (empty) compost bin which had very kindly controlled its trip down our path, avoiding all beds. Clever bin! Our wee cloches were still firmly in place and there was no damage to the plants (save some wind burn on the very tips of some leaves). We got off very lightly. Close to us a half erected shed was looking the worse for wear and in Field B, a half erected greenhouse was quite sad looking too.

In fact we had much to smile about. There was a very large delivery of cow manure, left (in our field) by the port-a-loo, lovely; sort of apt, no?. Billy sorted that out with a farmer friend of his. Hopefully the council will pay him back for the money he handed over, but if not, there will be no problem in collecting a little off everyone who wants to use it. More on that tomorrow. We also had another ripe raspberry, which again, we shared (ah, young love). Then lastly we picked some of our very own Spinach and some Scallions to add to our dinner.

As we were leaving, I took a photo of the sunset, lovely red sky at night (allotmenteers' delight?) we'll see.....

Friday, 24 October 2008

Back Garden

The sun is shinning and I thought I'd go out and tidy the back garden a bit. Maggie came with me and guarded the leaves as I bushed them up, bless her. The colours are, of course, beautiful and this period passes a little too quickly. Or it could be the fact that we hardly get out to appreciate the trees at the moment because of the terrible weather? That's a rhetorical question by the way.

I was feeling a bit better doing some work outside but then the blasted kids - who are off school now for Halloween, started playing up. (Our house is close to quite a few schools.) The one thing that finally put paid to my time out there (and Maggie's) was the setting off of Fireworks. Why?!! Why?, I ask do children insist on lighting them when it is the middle of the day - they can't see the display and all we get is the noise, which SCARES MY DOG. I do like the odd fireworks show and would never want them to be stopped (our Council does them, making great use of the Norman Castle by the seafront - lovely) but these kids are just silly. Rant over.


Now we're inside again, not that Maggie seems to mind, as she's gone straight to sleep. She is so much better today, we spent ages playing this morning and I was so pleased to see her full of excitement and vigour again. She also ran up and down the stairs about 15 times, as fast as possible (exhausting just to watch!) and ate a good portion of her lunch. Hoorah. Me, I am better than I have been for about a week - long may it last!!!

Focus on GARLIC

Garlic has long been a favourite in the Gault household, it just adds that little something to a dish. Though both of you have to eat it, you know, cause of the smell, which lingers in the mouth and can be smelt through the pores in the skin if you eat too much.

Today's info comes from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic and
http://www.garlic.mistral.co.uk/ (otherwise known as 'The Garlic Information Center', how apt).

Firstly what we all know - Garlic keeps away Vampires! But it also seems to be considerably able in the fight against such things as - bacteria, fungal infections, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, impotence, diabetes, stomach complaints and the Cold. Not to mention recent research on its action against Cancer!

Not known as traditionally English; Garlic was highly revered in the Ancient Egyptian and Greek worlds. Eaten by those constructing the pyramids, by Roman and Greek soldiers, sailors, Olympians and it is still used by the Cherokee Indians as an expectorant for coughs and croup. In Religious terms it has been key to the appeasement and creation of Ancient Greek/Roman Gods. A Christian myth tells of it growing in the ground where Satan's left footprint was to be found and in Taoism, 6 cloved black garlic endows immortality and intensifies Chi. It's association with the fight against evil spirits (e.g. Vampires, Werewolves) could have some basis in fact - in that Garlic does have the ability to fight infections that may lead to mental health problems (or 'going mad'). In both Hinduism and Jainism it is thought to increase ones sexual desires; Jainists avoid it (and the Onion family) because of this.

Unwelcome side effects of (particularly overly modest amounts of ) Garlic are quite wide ranging. It can interact with blood thinning and hypoglycemic medications as it has these proprieties itself; bad breath, nausea and indigestion are also known to occur. During Pregnancy caution is needed (in very high doses) it can lead to excessive bleeding during pregnancy and child birth. However it is also said to possibly reduce the chances of pre-eclampsia and baby-growth retardation.

So the key is (as with most things in life - but not laughing) moderation as the key. If you are like me, have garlic regularly but don't over do it, especially if you take supplements too. And have a chat with your Doctor if you have any fears. This is only a wee fun write up on some of the vast quantites of info out there - remember, Garlic has many good qualities and it tastes yummy!

I give you Garlic ladies and gentlemen. Grow, harvest, eat and enjoy.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Update on Maggie

We visited the vets this morning and Maggie got the all clear! Her wee bunty is healing up well. Back home she had a bath and has just been her usual lounging-about self. But with that glint in her eyes again. It will take a couple more days before she is eating properly but she certainly has a heck of a lot more bounce to her step. Hoorah!

I on the other hand want to hide under a blanket today. The weather is horrendous, so dull windy and raining hard all the time. I can't even get out for a walk or go into the back garden - I already have the beginnings of yet another cold coming. I can't get warm today at all. I was comforted by the left over Pumpkin (and OUR runner beans) Risotto which Andrew kindly left me.

See you tomorrow for a 'Focus on Garlic'.
Oh and don't forget River Cottage Autumn is on Channel 4 tonight. Brill.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Composting and Pumpkins

Looking back at the weekend's photos, I was reminded that Andrew turned the compost. It looks great - seems the mix is prefect and is rotting down extremely well. We'll have to get more seaweed soon, I think. Andrew is giving it a good sniff here and a rub through his fingers - he loves his compost. There were loads of worms in it too; remember always put the bins right onto the grass/soil so our wormy friends get good access! The other bin was also emptied (completely now) into the beds before the Spring Cabbages were planted and into the area where the Asparagus will - eventually - go, when we get some. As much as I love Sunnybank, our local nursery, it feels so good to not have to buy soil conditioner of this quality.

Unfortunately the same can not be said about our recent pumpkin dinner. We had to buy that beauty (from bloomin' Tesco, argh!) since all our pumpkins and squashes failed this year. There is still half of it left in the fridge to be used tonight; it hurts me to say, it is gorgeous. On Monday night we had it simply roasted with a little seasoning and some chicken - divine. Tonight there is a lovely pumpkin risotto coming my way and I can't wait. So comforting. There isn't any label on this one so I have no idea where it's from or of course which variety it is....

Sunday was a bloody horrible day, in my head. Andrew made me go out though and fair play to him, it was better than sitting in the house all mopey. We visited B&Q and finally got a long (raised bed length) plastic cloche. It was £8.99 but there was 25% off on Sunday - yippee! Then we got caught in the evil seeds section, it just gets us all confused, we want to grow everything and they have a lot to offer us, never mind all the catalogues here at home. We left with only our cloche and took it straight to the lottie. Andrew took it down, I only got as far as the car park - panic attack hit me over the head like a mallet.


Look at our lovely, picturesque power station in the background.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Spring Cabbage and Garlic

Andrew planted some Spring Cabbage seeds in a seeds tray a good while ago (July), and on Saturday their big day came - they graduated from the cold frame to the plot proper. They're looking good, although Cabbage is not one of my favourite things. Again, we have the same problem with the variety name, but I'll find out and update this blog when I do. They've been planted in the bed that had the carrots in, and looking at the background you will be able to see the Strawberry plants that were recently moved into the permenant bed. Hopefully we'll get some fruit off them next year!

As well as the cabbage, Andrew planted out his beloved Garlic cloves 'Solent Wight', which I spoke of a few weeks back as being the first crop we bought off the internet. The bulbs were huge and the individual cloves, plump, firm and large in themselves. They were planted in 2 rows about 15cm apart and each clove was planted (shallowly) about 10cm apart, or the width of the trowel. We have cats on the allotment quite often, 2 in particular, and not being a cat fan at the best of times, I get rather annoyed when I see them - and even more annoyed when I see their pesky paw prints in our soil. So, as a perventative measure I cut some of the overgrown bramble stems by our plot and laid them across the garlic rows. I know from experience that they are mighty prickily and therefore no cat will want to be anywhere near OUR garlic cloves. They should be safe til harvest time now, which I think is around July.



(My next 'Focus on...' will be on the humble Garlic. I'll write it up later this week.)

Monday, 20 October 2008

First Leek and Parsnip harvests

After much weeding and tidying up on the plot on Saturday I got bored. Thus the 1st Leek was harvested - just because I wanted to. I wouldn't have won any prizes for its size, I didn't give it a chance, but it was beautifully formed and smelt very Leek-y. Sorry I can't give you the name of it - I've gone and lost my bit of paper with all the names of everything!! 'Carlton F1' sounds about right, but I'll try and find out for sure; 'Musselburgh' also rings a bell.....

**Okay, it's a few hours later now - Maggie had to go to the vets for an emergency, poor darling as had an anal gland abscess that burst, she never makes a sound, never plays up, so you don't know about these things till they've happened. She'll be okay though.**

I have found out now that it was/is Musselburgh', Andrew has admitted that he took my list and now it's gone. Hummmph.

Well, after I lifted something new, Andrew had to too. He has wanted to lift a Parsnip for ages and so he got his wish. Within an hour we had the tasty-est of dinners; mashed potato and parsnip with leek - kind of like a very bastardised champ. It was so good, and very comforting to eat. I did take a photo of it but it doesn't do it justice, you'll just have to grow your own and make it yourself!

Allotment Dream

I just remembered this morning that on Friday night I had a dream about my plot. There were other people there doing MY weeding and trying to tell us where OUR new crops should go. I was so angry. And then the plot beside us had a trampoline on it, the whole size of the plot. It wasn't being used as a place to grow wonderful fruit and veg, but a child care facility with constant, annoying bouncing going on. (Which actually sounds great, but I had unshakable principles in this dream). I complained and was shouted down! Can you believe it.

Worse than that, why the heck am I dreaming about the plot - am I obsessed? Surely that can't be good.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Easy like a Sunday Morning?

It's 6am, I'm up in the cold inky darkness of a new day and already I can't cope. I have the shakes - so pent up and VERY depressed. I need to keep myself occupied until the Valium kicks in or I think I may just lose it altogether.

Is it wrong to have chocolates with breakfast, there are some mighty fine Belgian Truffles sitting here. God, who am I kidding? Of course I've already eaten one.

Wow, it's taken 20 mins to just get that much out on the page. Does the flashing cursor ever totally piss you off too - it's like the computer is just thirsty for your words and bloody impatient to boot.

Yesterday was actually a good day. We slept in really bad; shockingly, embarrassingly, woken by Geoff (our friend Paul's Dad) at 11.45 am, with presents (said choccies and a bottle of whiskey)! Worse, Andrew came back to bed and we didn't get up til after 12pm. It was also Mamma G's Birthday and we raced to get out in time for a lovely lunch in Carrick. The conversation was good, the food- tasty and we were all in fine fettle. Oh, and Mamma liked her present which is all important. After lunch (which took 2 hours, as all good lunches should) Andrew and I went to our beloved Lottie. I just put the head down and got on with stuff, I wouldn't say I enjoyed myself but it was a good way to spend the afternoon.

Later the same day we went to our good friend Gary's 30th Birthday Party. We are starting to feel the passage time now - it's not great. Though looking at you mate's childhood photos stuck up around the house is bloomin good fun. I can't deny it - I had a good time; I had a really good time. But, I haven't been able to sleep properly since going to bed at 2 and I think the fact that I did yesterday without any sedatives or indeed, alcohol is hitting home. I'm a belated nervous wreck. And I can't wake up my darling, he is totally out for the count and deserves to sleep - there's nothing he could do to help - that's the total pissy bit about being mentally unwell, there is no visible wound to tend to. You can't put a plaster on this and kiss it better.

God I really feel I may explode. I can't even run away from myself and I'm so annoyed at my weakness and pathetic-ness, I'd love to get away from me. I can totally understand how people get caught up in drink and drugs, I can't think of any other way to get out of your own head. This is were the blogging comes in for me, I guess - my release, my vent.

I feel like I'm being bullied, like back in primary school, but this time it's me who doesn't like me. And me who is saying the hurtful things to myself. I'm back in my childhood/adolescence, crowded out by thoughts I can't deal with. When am I ever going to get on top of this?

It's 7.10am and the shaking has stopped - I'm off to immerse myself in the lives of other people; celebrities I don't know and all their problems.

It's now 8.30am and the panic attack is back already - bum :(

Friday, 17 October 2008

Focus on BEETROOT

Last night I watched River Cottage Autumn which I think is a great programme, with a lot packed into each episode so far. I was particularly interested in the segment about Beetroot, my new favourite vegetable. Hugh quite rightly pointed out the same issue as I have discussed in the past - Pickled Beetroot is evil and ruins the discovery, the glory of tasty fresh beetroot.

He did mention some of its benefits to the body but unfortunately my memory isn't that good, so I have spent a little while looking up info in this most humble yet wonderful veg. The following facts come from
Believe me, there are many more..

Beetroot is rich in magnesium, iron, antioxidants, Vitamin C (in the root) and A (in the leaves) and fibre - yet contains no fat and hardly any calories, hoorah! A superfood indeed. It also has been linked to those most wondrous of foods - the Aphrodisiacs and there is evidence of reverence to it on the brothel walls of Pompeii - worth a try anyway, haha. It is also a laxative and can help lower blood pressure. Unfortunately it can also be seen as a cure all and recently was prescribed by the South African Health Minister (Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) as a treatment for AIDS, over 'toxic' anti-retroviral AIDS medicines. (Not too sure about that one)

Lastly (for me anyway, the websites are bursting with loads of info on history, biology and recipes galore), I was pleased to read that I am not a freak and Beeturia (or Pink pee to you and me) is quite common in relation to the digestion of beetroot; about 10-14% of people have this - I'm one of them and I can tell you, it's a little unnerving the 1st time you notice it.

I give you the Beetroot, ladies and gentlemen. Grow, harvest, eat and enjoy.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ripe for the eating

Again, back to Monday.

The main carrot crop was lifted, they are so good, we've been eating them all week. On the whole the crop was very good indeed, especially for the first time in a freshly dug raised bed - they say newly created plots often produce only forked carrots. But most of ours were wonderful specimens if I do say so myself. No prizes for their girth or length but very tasty. We did have a laugh at these 2 (on the right) and last night I had to peel them?! Luckily the new babies are growing very well and we should have more for Christmas dinner, yum.




Another exciting event was the full riping of our last 2 apples - 'Elstar'. For the first time I got to eat one of our own apples, straight off the tree, warm from the sun and dripping with juice - it was running down my sleeve at one point. They were lovely, and required a quiet moment on the bench to truly appreciate them. Elstar's, I was pleased to find out, are a little like Brae Burn apples only in our case, sweeter and as I said juicier than any I have had before. So now we know (please remember patience is a virtue Andrew) that they take a while to get to their best, all those other ones Andrew picked in the past were stinky.




Lastly, I noticed these lettuces in Field B. I had never seen blotted lettuce before - they're really quite sculptural and wouldn't look out of place in a flower border, which is where I'll be growing lettuce from now on . However, I think these may be a little over-ripe for the eating. Better luck next time.

Cabbages and Caterpillars

Fluency evades my fingertips - I have been (and still am) in the throes of a panic attack today. I've been doing so well the past few days that it seems to hurt me all the more and the sun is out too. Forgive my ramblings but I need to occupy myself with something and blogging is what I have chosen; the TV is too annoying and I can't think well enough to read - housework?, well it can go to hell.

So, when we got home from our wonderful wedding trip to Leuven, Andrew took a couple of days off. We, of course, went straight to the plot at the earliest convenience. Damn Caterpillars had been at it again while we were away. Our lovely young cabbages had been attacked; well the battle had begun but I think we'll win the war! Both the Pak Choi and the Cabbages had some damage, only a little but the culprits were there and look what can happen....
The one on the right isn't ours (they have yet to get anywhere near that size), but that of another tenant in our field; it's just been destroyed.
I have no mercy now when it's between us and them - we grew the food, it's ours, therefore I shall not put up with caterpillars (except those on 'chrysalis watch') or indeed slugs anymore! War has been declared. And thus after the blighters had been picked and squished by Andrew I also added slug pellets - tactics; prevention is the key.
As for 'Chrysalis Watch', well, I'm afraid we have lost 'too', he's gone. However that pain soon died when I discovered 4 new ones in the shed. They are different than the first two, in that they were green, these are black and yellow. Some of them are still there but believe me, they are going - I have a phobia of butterflies for goodness sake and don't want a whole load of them attacking me one day when I open the shed up. So from now on it will just be the one, the original Chrysalis that gets to live and be appreciated. I did take a photo but to be honest it looks exactly the same as the last one I took - I'm beginning to think this isn't a interesting sideline at all!


Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Bonjour!

Back from lovely Leuven in Belgium, where our friends just got married. Love it there; the colours of the changing trees seem more pronounced and the sky was so blue. Life takes on a more relaxed pace there; everywhere you look, people are strolling, riding by on bikes or in groups at the outdoor cafes. They have beautiful architecture, the best chocolate, the glorious Waffle, not to mention the beers! What's not to love?

Aside from this, ordinary ingredients are treated with respect - the meat is tender and fat-less, vegetables are ripe and full of flavour, wine needs no additives. Seasonality seems to be the key.

I love domestic train journeys, getting to see into the life of a place from a different angle- even your town and surrounding area seems to take on a different, secret face. In foreign countries, once the nervousness of getting on the right train is over, you see the real country - that which is not tidied up for tourists. It is wonderful to see peoples' back gardens and somehow it's as though you have called to a friends house unannounced. Between Brussels and Lueven we saw many gardens split into 2, part flowers and lawn, part allotment. It was great to see. (Is it sad though that it made me miss our plot?)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Ministry of Food

I watched 'Jamie's Ministry of Food' last night on Channel 4 and it got me thinking about the war years. People were encouraged/forced out of necessity to eat seasonal home grown food stuffs and 'waste not, want not'. Many had their own back gardens turned into allotments and from what little I have read so far, they seemed generally slimmer and healthier. Were did it all go wrong?

In the recent years of cheap imports, ready made meals and a culture of eating out (especially fast food), we have lost the joy of waiting for our food to be in season, of being creative with what we have. We all know it tastes best ripe and ready, rather than packed up somewhere on the other side of the world, before it's left to ripen on container ship. On top of that, here in Carrickfergus at least, there are NO Greengrocers, you end up forced to go to one of the major Supermarkets (which seem to be taking over the world), or attending farmers' markets which are lovely, but it has to be said, can be a bit of a rip off. I don't believe this phenomena can be isolated to my home town alone.

I personally want to get back to savvy eating. There are tens of cookery books in this house, but mostly they contain ingredient lists from another world - gorgeous and appetising though they are. One book we do have is the 'River Cottage Cookbook', it's great - celebrating seasonal, climate-appropriate (if somewhat odd at times) produce. Another is Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries' (which to be honest I haven't even looked at once - I'm at fault here too!)

Also, maybe it's just me, but the close knit families who pass down recipes through the generations seem to have disappeared. I have been watching more programmes about vegetable growing and of course taking part in it and I have realised, I don't know what to do with it all. I have no knowledge about preserving things, making jams or the proper way to store food so it lasts longer. Looking on the Internet, there are a cacophony of wonderful, truly wonderful, books out there, still in print, from the Ministry of Food, to guide me. I know what I'll be asking Santa for this Christmas.

Think of the opportunity we have. What is more important to our health (and under our control) than that which we consume; we have choice. There are too many in the world who would die for our privileges, indeed innumerable amounts of people do, though lack of them. Maybe we should all Grow (some of) Our Own.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A wee dander and nosey

I saw Bill talking to Andrew as he made his way to the van. My goodness the produce he had to take home was eye-popping. He has a whole plot, not like our half and I reassure myself with that. Took his picture, he didn't mind - proud of his veggies.


After that I thought I'd take a little dander round our field. To be honest I didn't get very far as I ended up chatting to Bobby, Bill's Dad. But got a few photos of different plants from other peoples plots. We'd rather like to grow sunflowers and chard next year, Brussel Sprout 'trees' make me laugh and we have Calendula seeds for next year instead of Nasturtiums.



Bugs, Chilli and Parsley

The weather was bright and cold on Sunday, our favourite, even though we both had the cold. We took lunch with us and after a good looking at, we started to work on the plot. Andrew did more composting - our 2nd bin is now full to the brim, I guess that means the 3rd one (that's in the back garden) will have to brought round soon.

I 'worked' on weeding and general poking about (did you know 1 hour of weeding burns off 300 calories!) . I noticed that there were a few interesting bugs about and with my trusty camera, I took photos. Firstly, Chrysalis watch! Plus 'Chrysalis Watch Too'. This second one is obviously very new, he is up on the shed door lintel too (popular place) and is still technically a caterpillar. Not sure what those yellow egg things are - they better not be evil Spider babies; all Buddhist tendencies will go out the window, I will squish them (or get Andrew to do it; that's more realistic)! Look at that lovely sky as well.


Then I saw this beauty. I've been informed that it' a 'STINK BUG', a horrible name for something so pretty. I can't believe I think that, in the past I would have run a mile in the opposite direction when confronted with bugs, now, with camera in hand (and Maggie near by - she's got my back!) I find them wonderful. Which is just right, they are wonderful and look how colourful and shiny this one is... But why, why Stink Bug, who names these things?

So apart from that I dismantled the mini greenhouse over the chilli plants. (NB. Rusty water isn't the easiest thing to get off your fingers and nails.) The Jalapeano wasn't doing anything and had a fungus just developing at the very base. The Hungarian Hot Wax has quite a few fruits and I just lifted the whole plant and now it's hanging up-side-down in the shed. The ground under the chillies was then dug over and improved with our own compost. The circle of life.
All that's left in this bed is the lovely Spinach, one lonely lettuce and Robert's windmill.



Lastly there is our Parsley, not necessarily the most exciting of plants on the plot but it is doing very well indeed. Any success makes me proud and is therefore worthy of note. Two of them have their own Cloches made from old Water bottles - big ones from Andrew's office in work.




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