Sunday, December 31, 2006

Solstice Solace

'The Hemulen woke up slowly and recognized himself and wished he had been someone he didn't know... He crept under the bedcover and buried his nose in the pillow, then he shifted his stomach to the edge of the bed where the sheets were cool. He took possession of the whole bed with outstretched arms and legs, he was waiting for a nice dream that wouldn't come. He curled up and made himself small but it didn't help a bit... He tried to find something pleasant to think about that would drive away his morning melancholy, he tried and tried and gradually a friendly and distant memory of summer came to him...'
I've been reading Tove Janson's Moomin books lately. When I was little I remember getting them out of the library but I think I only looked at the pictures. Well they are chalk full of warmth and wisdom.
So today (yet another grey one) I will curl up comfortably with some seed catalogues and console myself with the thought that it's only four weeks until Potato Day/Seedy Sunday and the days are getting longer...

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Here is what's on view right now on my allotment neighbour Luigi's plot. They looked just a bit festive. Radicchio I'm guessing.
This season generally triggers my gag reflex, and judging from the piles of sick that I tiptoe past on the way to work in Soho, it has the same effect on others. But on the plus side there is more time with friends and lots of good eating to be done. Which is why Thanksgiving gets it right - no present giving or papal waffle.
I'm just back from from celebrating Weihnacht in NordrheinWestfalen, near Münster. Along with all the Christmas markets, glüwein drinking and general bellringing I was initiated into the seasonal/regional 'grünkohlessen' experience. It is harvested after a few frosts from December through February. The kale is cooked with potatoes, onions and regional würsts, served up in a steaming mound and washed down with Weissen beer. I grew a lot of kale this year - cottagers and cavalo nero - and it's good to find new ways to cook it.
It's praises are sung on Here is a web translated exerpt...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Saint Ambrosius Day

Wrap yourself around a cup of mead and toast the patron saint of bees, beekeepers, candle-makers and anybody else with a hairy eyeball. It's time for me to reflect upon this past summer in our bee-loud glade. I won't say that everything that could possibly go wrong did, because next year is bound to prove me wrong. Our bees were very swarmy and twice beflummoxed us before we mastered the art of bee wrangling. Once the third swarm was re-housed, the bees decided to build comb on the other side of the dummy board rather than on the frames provided. So, when next we lifted the roof, all we could do was watch in horror as their wild comb collapsed in on itself. Then, in August, the varroa mites moved in (quicker than we ever thought possible) and all but decimated the first hive's population.
Well, we've tucked them up for the winter now and, fingers crossed, we'll still have two colonies come spring. On the plus side there was this -