Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pot 8 Toes

I bagged myself 58 seed potatoes at the fair, of 7 different varieties. Sharpe's Express (1st Earlies), Yukon Gold & Royal Kidney (2nd Early), Charlotte (Salad), Ratte, Highland Burgundy & Arran Victory (Maincrop). All labeled now and quietly chitting.
If you've never heard this classic bit of radio quiz show regarding spuds, enjoy. I hope the link works.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Missing Neeps

190 Years on and still no lead -

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Potato Fair '08

This coming Sunday is Potato Fair/Seedy Sunday in South East London and I am going to be there with bells on. I've dug a big new patch at the back of the yard and plan to double my potato harvest this year. I already anticipate the need to invest in some 'Tater Mitts' (as seen on TV!) which allow one to scrub the skin off a potato in only 8 seconds of actual time!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our Daily Bread

'Our Daily Bread' is getting a cinematic release in Britain finally. It begins an extended run at the ICA on the 25th. While it's not terribly informative - no voice over at all - it casts an unblinkered eyeball on European farming in the 21st century. And it's not a pretty picture. This will put an end to any romantic notion you may still have about how your food is grown.
Meanwhile with the temperature at 15° this weekend, the bees came out to relieve themselves (it's called a defecation flight). They've been sitting with their legs crossed for the past couple of months.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Beetle mania

If you've never seen E.O.Wilson in action, enthusing about the abundance and diversity of life on earth, then take a look at his TED acceptance speech last year. His inquisitiveness is infectious. Without getting into numbers, which are big and speculative, there is a lot out there that we don't know about and haven't yet named. But that's what he wants to do in 'The Encyclopedia of Life'.
Like, there are lots of beetles - apparently 1 in 4 animals is one. And they keep finding more. As I mentioned before, one was discovered by Michael's cousin Werner. Very often they can only be differentiated by their unique genitalia. Hmm, well I don't know what I was doing (darning my socks?) but I missed hearing that one day back in 2005, Quentin Walker, chief entomologist at the Natural History Museum sorted through some goolies and discovered three new species. Of slime-mould consuming beetles. So he named them for his three favourite Republicans - Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi, and A. rumsfeldi. So I've just taken the trouble to update this handy diagram.

The Correct Method of Pinning Common Insects

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Oranje Boom

This week I've read a little book on the subject of oranges by John McPhee called (not too surprisingly) 'Oranges'. Written in 1967 his investigation of the fruit is centred in Florida - the first trees planted there by the Spaniards (oranges had reached Spain with the Muslim invaders) up to the boom of frozen concentrate. But it is packed with curious details of the fruit's origins and botany. In the middle of the 12th century Tunisian doctor Abu Abdullah Mohammed ben Mohammed el-Huseiny el-Ali Billah wrote 'to combat poison of a cold nature drink wine to which the powdered root hairs of orange trees have been added.' Cardinal Wolsey used to carry a hollowed out orange in which he kept a bit of sponge saturated with vinegar. He held it to his nose to insulate himself from the noxious airs of London. Before 1500 Europeans grew mainly bitter oranges because they were more aromatic and were chiefly used as seasoning and perfume. Once the antiscorbutic value of citrus had been noted, sailors established scurvy prevention groves on far flung islands like St.Helena, the Azores, the Madieras and in South Africa.
Wednesday the studio's Christmas gift from the LA executive producers finally cleared customs - a crate of organic oranges (several hundred) from their own orchard. The flavour brought back the taste of the Mandarins that we used to get in our stockings at Christmas - spicy, sweet and tangy all at once. And it's got me thinking that as there is next to no frost here (today was 12°) maybe I will attempt to grow an orange tree in a big pot. Maybe a Valencia grafted on sour orange stock. Anybody out there got any nursery recommendations or experience?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Creature Curious

Monday my second favourite radio programme came back on air for a new season - Creature Curious on Resonance FM. Host Bridget Nicholls spoke with a behavioral scientist touching on topics including imprinting between mother and offspring and very early development. Some of which is relevant to plant growth as well. We've all seen the way that a check in the growth of a seedling (sudden cold or forgot to water) will have on it's later growth.
On the subject of animals adapting to urban life he referred to the large population of stray dogs in Moscow which now scoot under barriers and ride the tube out to suburban destinations with markets, chow down and head back into the centre at night. I 'googled' and found a first hand account on this blog. This story reminded me of Neville's cousin's dog Ratty up in Dunnington who got his 15 minutes of fame last year on breakfast TV. Unbeknownst to his owner Ratty was taking the bus to his local where he had (before the mangement change) been invited in for food and drink. If you can stomach the buffoons that present the piece, you'll get some idea of Ratty's shrewd and resourceful character.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Some Beans

It's been another one of those mornings. Oh, and I forgot to give a link for the wonderful 'Teasmade' illustrating that entry. Yes, it really existed.
But look what the postman brought me - the beans and peas that I ordered from the Heritage Seed Library. The peas (Champion of England, Uncle Fred's and Hugh's Huge) are just wrinkly and pale green as you would expect. But feast your eyes on these beauties. Click on the picture for close inspection.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

'Risk' of Snow

'Heavy snow THREAT'! If you get your weather forecast from the Metoffice you would think that we all lived in fear of snow. Quite the contrary, most everybody that I know would like for a thick blanket of snow to fall. Take our bin liners and tea trays to Primrose Hill and toboggan. Everything goes quiet, traffic shuts down, no one can get to work. Happy days.

Back when our dad would flood the back yard for all the street urchins to skate on.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cold. Mainly Dry Tonight.

"A musca domestica, by the warmth of my parlor has lengthened out his life; & existence to this time: he usually basks on the jams of the chimney within the influence of the fire after dinner, & settles on the table, where he sips the wine & tastes the sugar & baked apples. If there comes a very severe day he withdraws & is not seen."
Gilbert White, December 27th 1780
Today I tapped a greeting on the beehive and heard a "Buz-uzz" in reply. The Natural History Museum has a live Beecast, but they must have all been huddled together off camera when I looked. Brrr.

A post card from Glenn.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Black Heart, Dimple, Tipburn, Soft Rot, Skin Scurf, Pitting, Root Knot, Watery Pink Rot, Corky Ring Spot, Blackleg, Purple-Top and Black Dot. Giant Hill, Glassy End, Elephant Hide, Hollow Heart, Witches'Broom, Yellow Dwarf, Early, Late and Southern Blight, Wart, Wilt, Tuber and Ring, Calico, Crinkle, Scab, Scald, Hopperburn, Psyllid Yellows and Mahogany Browning.

The rather poetic sounding maladies that might attack your potatoes.