Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The September garden

After neglecting the garden a bit recently I put in some hours out there yesterday, cutting out old raspberry canes and tying in the new ones and mowing the grass.  It always amazes me how mowing the grass makes it all suddenly look neater.  I carefully avoided the many frogs that live here now, they are mostly in a "wild" strip down the edge of the garden.  There are lots this year, in all sorts of sizes.  The tiny ones are incredible, a whole perfectly formed frogling the size of a fingernail.

The best crop in the garden this year has been the pears.  They've never really set before now, but this year there are dozens of both varieties, Doyenne du Comice and Beurre Hardy.   The Beurre Hardy are a really good size and very heavy.

Another good crop this year has been these yellow tomatoes.  I've never grown them before, they are Golden Sunrise, from seeds given to me by my blogging friend Flighty.  We've been having them for lunch every day for a while now, and there are still plenty more ripening in this beautiful sunshine that we've been having.

The little Sungolds are still going strong too.  I pop out first thing every morning in the week to get some for the biggest boy's packed lunch.  I love sending them off to school with some homegrown things.  There are allotment cucumbers every day at the moment as well.

We usually have salad for lunch at home, along with bread and cheese, it's always something simple.  At the moment there is oak leaf lettuce, green and red, which never lets me down.

And something that the two littler boys and I really enjoy, French sorrel.

The leaves are always described as having a lemony tang to them.  They are really different and delicious.  I love them with tomatoes and a little salt and I'm hoping they keep going into the autumn.  They are certainly still growing at the moment.  In fact the plant is perennial, so it should keep going next year as well.

This is the salad bed, although there's not as much there as I would have liked.  My last sowing of rocket bolted, so I'm left with spinach, basil, marjoram and more sorrel.

These are a few late carrots.  I've no idea whether they will amount to anything, but no doubt the piggie will like the tops.  I must have sown about eight thousand carrot seeds this year, and I've yet to eat a single carrot.  In the triumph of hope over experience I shall be trying again next year though.

Elsewhere there's chard, which the snails are enjoying, and some spring cabbage, which the caterpillars are enjoying, and winter cabbages (no picture - they're really not very inspiring) that look so tough that nothing has attacked them yet.  Could be a winner.

There are still plenty of the bee friendly flowers that the boys sowed, and in this warm dry weather there are still plenty of bees.  Next year I want to grow a fluffy grey plant that I saw on television the other day that carder bees like.  I can't remember what it was called though.  Something about lambs or elephants I think.  Anybody know?  I can't remember what the programme was either, but the person with the plant was Brigit Strawbridge of "It's Not Easy Being Green" fame.  Anyway, the bee was there combing all the fluff off the plant and protecting it from bumble bees so that his girl bee friend would love him.  I need this sort of thing going on in my garden I do.

I'm still enjoying the pale pinks and whites of summer.  All too soon it will be the yellows and oranges of autumn.

See, they're creeping in already.

Does anyone know what the correct etiquette is when it comes to fruit hanging over your fence, but when the roots are actually in your neighbour's garden?

My next door neighbour is very nice actually and I'm sure he would be happy for us to have these grapes.  No doubt there are masses on his side of the fence too.  I'm thinking grape jelly.  Dare I risk straining something again though..?  I've had two spillages out of three attempts.  I wonder if I could put pears in with the grapes, I've got plenty of windfalls that need using.  If I don't hurry I know the blackbirds will take the grapes.

The last thing in my garden at the moment is this little piggie.

Once the night time temperatures start dropping below ten degrees (fifty in fahrenheit) she'll come inside, although she'll still go out on the grass most days if it's dry enough.  Today felt like a summer's day though, so no need to go anywhere just yet.  I hope the weather's lovely where you are too.  Enjoy the rest of your week.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pictures and writing

I really wish I was one of those people with planned blog posts, a clear idea of what I'm going to say and complete organisation in every area of everything.  I've got lots of notebooks, so I do feel I'm on the right track.  Just need to fill them with stuff.

Today I felt like writing a blog post.  But what to say?  I dug out my cameras and had a look to see what photos there were.  First up, one of those little libraries in a 'phone box.

I took the two younger boys for a bike ride on Saturday afternoon.  Just about a minute down the road and you're in the countryside.  It was beautiful.  I was on the lookout for plums.  Lots of people sell produce at their gates, and I found some damson jam almost straight away.  While I dug around for my purse the middle boy tried to reach a blackberry and fell into the hedge, which was pretty much just stinging nettles and brambles.  I was on the other side of the road, so I told him to hang on until a passing car had gone and I'd rescue him (he was tangled up in his bike as well as mashed into the hedge).  When I turned to look at the car it turned out to be a police car.  The policeman was very nice and stopped to see if we needed any help.  With as much grace as we could muster we sorted ourselves out.  I did get the jam.  Also some eggs further on as well.  (On a bike, I know, madness!)

We stopped later on to pick blackberries too, there were some really superb ones.  I've always loved cycling, it's such a lovely way to see the countryside.  A great way to travel a reasonable distance, but you're still very much connected with everything.  Including a good smell of cow which followed us for quite a big part of the way.

There was a little bit of salt sea air on Sunday.  Even though the biggest boy can't walk very far we like to take him out for an airing every now and again.

This week I've got lots on my to-do list.  Lots and lots.  In fact one week won't be nearly enough.  I started with a trip to the allotment which has been a bit neglected lately.  The middle part of it isn't too bad, but the bottom and top ends are scary.  The bottom is the bit with the shed.  Behind it is thick grass and underneath the grass there used to be rhubarb.  Who knows if it's there any more.  There are  out-of-control compost bins and nettles as well, it's all quite daunting.  A job for another day.

Today I tackled the top bit, which is out-of-control fruit.  Blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries, with a rogue bramble coiling round it all.

The raspberries have had a couple of years to prove themselves, but I've had almost no fruit so I think I'll take them out.  In preparation for digging out the roots I lopped off the tops, along with bits of gooseberry, blackcurrant and as much of the bramble as I could get.  My arms look like I've had a fight with ten cats.  But the plot looks a little more orderly.

There's a huge pile of stuff in the middle of it now though.  I'm hoping it dries out enough to burn.

I scored a bit of a bargain while I was at the site today.  A Can-o-Worms wormery for just £2.  I've put it in the shed for now.  Come spring I'll sort it out with some worms.  Worm compost is the gold standard when it comes to compost.  So it made me particularly happy to find such a thing.  I appreciate that a bargain wormery isn't everyone's idea of delight, but what can I say, I'm quite low maintenance.

This is some of the middle bit of the plot.  The bit I'm less scared of.  I threw away a load of blighted tomatoes today while I was there.  There are a handful left along with the odd cucumber, some yellow courgettes and a few squashes.

On the way out I passed this plot.

I loved the bright orange against the bluish purple of the cabbages.  I do love looking at other people's plots.  Every one unique, and so many really pretty.

In the garden there are still apples.  These are Egremont Russets.  They grew really big this year.  The skins are quite thick so I quite often peel them, but inside they are absolutely delicious.

I've been looking at wool online this week.  A sure sign that the temperatures are dropping slightly.  It's how I know that autumn is on the way.  I've already got some yarn, but it's nice to browse the patterns sometimes and see what I might make to keep me snug in the winter.  Of course, at the rate that I knit it'll be winter 2016.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A bit of company

I kept the biggest boy home from school this week.  It was his Year 6 camp, and everyone in his class has been off having a big adventure, while he is stuck with his leg in plaster.  Sending him to school to sit in the Year 5 class and read all week seemed like adding insult to injury.  So we've been at home and round and about.  I've tried to give him a few treats, although of course it doesn't make up for missing camp.  I've really been quite upset that he's missed out, there was so much that he was looking forward to.  He's been such a star though, no complaining at all, no sulking.

We went to Bath for a little light wandering.  On Pulteney Bridge there's a lovely little stamp shop, so I bought him some bird stamps for his collection.  We popped up to the American Museum as well, and spent some time sitting on the grass in beautiful late summer sunshine.

We went for a sit down in Bath library.  They were holding a competition to see what people could make out of old library books.

Look at this turtle, isn't he amazing.

Yesterday we went to Slimbridge, the biggest boy's favourite place.  We saw three new-to-him birds, which made him happy.  We ate chips outside the cafe, a bit of a treat, not something we normally do.  When we got home he got an ice-cream as well.  I can't say no to anything this week.

Today he was a bit tired so we stayed close to home.  We did have a short trip down to the community orchard for a few more windfalls.  Then we made this windfall jelly.  I got rid of the grotty bits, and he did the chopping.  We were quite the team.  I threw in a few pears and a handful of strawberries that I happened to have.  The strawberries turned it a nice pink colour.  I had a bit of an incident when I was straining it, honestly, I'm hopeless.  Juice all over the counter and dripping down the side onto the floor.  (Caro, I haven't forgotten the jelly bag, it's on my wish list).  What was left looks and tastes pretty good, although I say so myself.  Hurray for windfalls.

Tomorrow there are chores to do, but we'll make a little time to sit down together and play games and chat.  He's good company, this biggest boy of mine, and it's a pleasure to be with him.  Next week will be hard for him when he goes back to school and hears tales of all he has missed.  My heart hurts for him, although of course it will pass and things will move on as they always do.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A walled garden and an orchard

Some of the nicest things for us grow-your-own gardeners - a lovely sheltered walled garden for salads and vegetables and fruit trained against the walls and an orchard for apples, plums, pears and bees.

Inside those walls there's a perfect microclimate for vegetables and fruit.  The walled garden at this local country park is a really good size, and split into four quarters.  Two of the quarters are given over to visitors - there are benches and tables in one and trampolines, deckchairs and playhouses in the other.  The other two quarters have fruit and vegetables respectively, the walls have fruit trained against them.

This is the vegetable quarter.

This is the gold standard for carrots I think.  I shall aim for something similar next year.  No rabbits in the walled garden though, it does help.

Some of the fruit was good, but some of it was suffering similar problems to mine at home, maybe four miles away.

The biggest boy spotted this comma butterfly with its distinctively shaped wing edges.  They used to be rare, but there are far more about now.  They overwinter as butterflies, and their shape allows them to camouflage themselves as a dead leaf.  If you look closely you can just make out the white comma-shaped mark on its wing that gives it its name.

Beyond the walled garden is the orchard.  I was after some plums.  I made a little plum jam the other day, and it was so divine I'm feeling the need to make more.  There were none to be had though.

We found plenty of apples, all of them different varieties.

We made an interesting discovery.  You can buy fruit pickers, long sticks with a special cage type thing on the end, for picking high up apples and pears.  We don't have one.  But, we do have crutches.

As it happens, they work perfectly.  I've made a note to pick all of our home fruit in the next ten days before the crutches are returned (hopefully) to the hospital.  In case you were wondering, you're not really supposed to pick the country park fruit in large quantities.  It's okay to pick up windfalls, and we only picked a handful of apples that had been left high in the trees.  I shall be looking up apple recipes this week.  Any suggestions?

There's always lots of inspiration at the country park.  I love it there.  All of that space, not too much plastic or artificial stuff.  Animals, food production, views, walks.  It never disappoints.

All in all it's been a quiet weekend here.  A hint of football, a bit of baking, a smattering of homework.  The middle boy had to write about six emotions he had had this week.  He got stuck after the first two, "I was angry when my brother kicked me in the neck", and "I was annoyed when I had to do my homework".  I suggested "I was sad when I was not allowed to go out as I hadn't finished my homework" and "I was happy because my mum is so very wonderful".  He looked at me as if I was ridiculous and said very emphatically, "Happy and sad are rubbish words, Mr F says they are".  Who knew?  When I was at school I was told never to use "got" and "a lot of".  Maybe there's a list somewhere.

So I was going to wish you all a happy week, but instead I'll plump for interesting, joyous and exhilarating.  Unless that's more stimulation than you're after, in which case maybe you'd prefer satisfying, peaceful and content.  Have a good one anyway.  I can say that can't I?