Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Six Days off Work...

Five Hens NOT-Laying...

Four Pigeons Poaching (the chard and kale)...

Three Magpies Watching...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Swans A'Fighting...

I witnessed a tremendous mud wrestling match at low tide last week with two swans trying their darnedest to kill each other. They spent a long while between sodden flapflapping locked beak to pinion as illustrated above. Finally after having been nearly drowned head first in the Thames ooze, the weaker one escaped upriver.

... and a heron hunched amongst the reeds.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold Front

Fierce frost. It's not yet December and they've just salted the road for the third time. The ice was an inch and a half thick on the water butt this afternoon and tonight we fired up the wood stove.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caper Substitute

The climbing (clambering, sprawling) nasturtiums I sowed in June were a long time getting any ambition to go anywhere. But from sometime in late August until now they have been blooming continuously. I've been adding them to salads and now there is a small jar's worth of seeds to pickle for which I have found the following recipe -

Gather the nasturtium seeds immediately after the blossoms have faded and put them to soak in cold salt water for 2 days, stirring them twice each day. Peel and slice 1 shallot, 1 horse-radish, 2 red peppers, and quarter 1 nutmeg. Place these in a glass jar with white wine or simply vinegar, adding salt, pepper, and a few cloves. Put in the drained nasturtium seeds, then cork and seal.

They Can't Ration These by Vicomte de Mauduit, 1940
("All those possessing a roof in the country together with the necessary sticks of furniture and apparels of clothing will be able, if armed with a copy of this book, to live in comfort, in plenty, and in health even if all banks, all shops, and all markets be closed for indefinite periods.")

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dug-Up Potatoes

A splendid day today. Above, passing through the Horniman Gardens after retrieving the last of the potato crop from the allotment. Below, my beast of burden, saddled with the Aran Victories, pauses for breath.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vote for Cabbage

Graphics from the Philippines general election via designKULTUR

Monday, November 01, 2010

Bubble & Squeak

Take of Beef, Mutton, or Lamb, or Veal, or any other meat, two Pounds and an half, or any other Quantity; let it lay in Salt, till the saline Particles have lock'd up all the Juices of the Animal, and render'd the Fibres too hard to be digested; then boil it over a Turf or Peat Fire, in a Brass Kettle cover'd with a Copper Lid, till it is much done. Then take Cabbage (that which is most windy, and capable of producing the greatest Report) and boil it in a Bell-Metal Pot till it is done enough, or if you think it proper, till it is done too much. Then slice the beef, and souse that and the Cabbage both in a Frying-Pan together, and let it bubble and squeak over a Charcoal Fire, for half an Hour, three Minutes, and two Seconds. Then eat a Quantum sufficit, or two Pounds and a half, and after it drink sixteen Pints of fat Ale, smoak, sleep, snoar, belch, and forget your Book.
A Lecture In Cookery in The Mid-Wife: or, the old woman's magazine
Christopher Smart, 1753

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Squash Harvest '10

Two hens invigilating. (We had to buy eggs this week. They've begun their annual shutdown.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Further Adventures with Potato Seed

This weekend I exhumed the rest of the spuds from Tom Wagner's TPS. And I think that they hold great promise not least because, although it's been dry this summer, it is now late October and there's still no blight. I am most excited by the tiny round daughters of No.11 as they look very like 'Kuntur warmi' which is Andean for 'Like a Woman with the Colours of a Condor's Neck'. Note, one of the purple offspring of No.6 was a victim of the fork and it's interior is on view.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Between 1826 and 1833, Katsushika Hokusai published his 'Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji'. While back for Thanksgiving (Cdn.) last week I resolved to make a series of views of the omnipresent CN tower. Yes, well, below are 15, and now that I've published them I can move on. (If you have any interest at all, click on the image for enlargement)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Adventures with Potato Seed

This year I've been growing some potatoes from true seed obtained from breeder Tom Wagner via Patrick. Although I got started a little late they have now developed into large healthy looking plants. But, what with all this rain and cooler weather around the corner, I'm getting increasingly anxious about disease, pestilence and the like. So as not to have all my potatoes lost in the same basket of blight, I unearthed the above yesterday. The still small but perfectly formed tubers of No.16 (French Fingerling x Magic Molly) and No.21 (John Tom Kaighin x Negro y Azul). Yet to harvest are No.25 (Wild Species x Thumbertime) and No.6 (F2 Pam Wagner) & No.11 (Pirampo x Khuchi Akita) which are just now flowering and setting fruit. I'll leave them for another couple of weeks with fingers crossed. Now, how best to store? I've read 5-10°C and 95% humidity. Is packing in wet sand as you would carrots and beets a good idea? Or perhaps the refrigerator? The plan is to chit and set out next spring for a full crop with taste testing a year from now.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Late Runner

I pushed a few seeds of Runner Bean 'Streamline' in the ground in late July and we're eating them now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2012 (Peasant) Olympics

I've been in training all summer for the 'Water Carrying To Protect The Seedlings Amidst Drought' event at the next Peasant Olympics. Now that the ceiling has lowered and everything is sodden I think I'll work on some '60-metre Snatch the Grain and Get It Into Storage' drills.

Monday, September 27, 2010


According to 'Science and Lore of the Kitchen' by Harold McGee, researchers have isolated five capsaicinoid components that have different effects on the mouth. Three give 'rapid bite sensations' in the back of the palate and throat, and the other two a long, low intensity bite on the tongue and mid-palate. Capsaicin accumulates in the fruit concurrently with the pigment during ripening and is primarily found in the white placental tissue to which the seeds are attached. So you can moderate the heat by scraping away all the white bits.
This year my peppers have grown really well, much better than anything else. The two smallest are the most fiery - Gelbe Kirschen & Pretty in Purple. These are really very attractive plants, small and bushy and covered with fruit, but they are fiddly to prepare. Doe Hill is sweet and the other two are mildly spicy. (The slate is ruled in one inch squares.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Equinoctial Entries

Aah, the majesty of summer now fades...(click here for the rest)

Myriads of Insects sporting in the sunbeams. September 21 1789
Showers, rainbow, bright. Barley in a sad condition about Basingstoke. Rams begin to pay court to the ewes. September 21 1775
One little starveling wasp. September 20 1782

Gilbert White Natural History of Selbourne

Here in London 2010, the weather stays warm, 25° expected tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010


F for Fall that is. Time to draw a line under this rubbish summer. Too little rain - not enough time to water, tomatoes that grew taller and taller without fruiting, early kale and beets that ran to flower, squash that sat looking miserable and refused to swell...

Sunday, September 12, 2010


A picture of my garden's soil structure is beginning to emerge based on the shape of these recently unearthed beetroots (Medwyn's Extra Long Selection of Cheltenham Green Top).

Sunday, August 15, 2010


If you haven't seen it already, click here, watch and marvel. Pictured above the pheasant(?) at the end.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

In The Castle Keep

... I assemble my stores; everything over and above my daily wants that I capture inside the burrow, and everything I bring back with me from my hunting expeditions outside, I pile up here. The place is so spacious that food for half a year scarce fills it. Consequently I can divide up my stores, walk about among them, play with them, enjoy their plenty and their various smells, and reckon up exactly how much they represent. That done, I can always arrange accordingly, and make my calculations and hunting plans for the future, taking into account the season of the year. There are times when I am so well provided for that in my indifference to food I never even touch the smaller fry that scuttle about the burrow, which, however, is probably imprudent of me... I find a certain comfort in having all the passages and rooms free, in seeing my stores growing in the Castle Keep and emitting their variegated and mingled smells, each of which delights me in its own fashion, and every one of which I can distinguish even at a distance, as far as the remotest passages. Then I usually enjoy periods of particular tranquility, in which I change my sleeping place by stages, always working in toward the centre of the burrow, always steeping myself more profoundly in the mingled smells, until at last I can no longer restrain myself and one night rush into the Castle Keep, mightily fling myself upon my stores, and glut myself with the best that I can seize until I am completely gorged.

The Burrow Kafka

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Signs of BonkerDom

Packets of sugar and mustard from the hotel breakfast room. As usual, click on image to make readable.
P.S. I'm not the only one that reads the fine print. More allergy advice here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Squash Map

TKK - Thai Kang Kob, FU - Futsu, BB - Bush ButterCup, LWP - Luxury Winter Pie, TSSP - Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato, CWH - Chicago Warted Hubbard

Monday, July 05, 2010

Key to the Cabbage Patch

Four out of the six 'Couvé Tronchada' have run to flower prematurely and were removed, unceremoniously, by me this weekend. Apart from that the brassicas are all looking rather picturesque (see below). The cabbage white hasn't found her way into the netting yet.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Midsummer Update

Cucumber 'Kaiser Alexander', Squash 'Buttercup', Sweet Pepper 'Doe Hill', Cucumber 'Bianco Longo' and Squash 'Winter Luxury'. Meanwhile the weather remains very hot and dry just like last year at this time. Phew!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This week Doris squoze out an extra big egg, with two yolks! Here it is next to a normal sized egg.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

'Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo' coming to a cinema near you?

Found this one loitering around the back door.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Indolent Piles & Incipient Quinsy

"A Capsicum ointment, or Chilli paste, will almost invariably serve to mitigate the painful stiffness of chronic rheumatism if rubbed in topically for ten minutes at a time with a gloved hand. This paste is to be made with 'capsicin', the oleo-resin of the pods (half an ounce), and sheep's-wool (lanoline), five ounces, melting the latter, and after adding the capsicin letting them be stirred together until cold. Indolent piles which have extruded, and the circulation in which is stagnant, can be stimulated to reduction by the use of this ointment when so diluted as to cause only moderate smarting.
For incipient quinsy, before the tonsillar abscess breaks, a basin of hot gruel well seasoned with Cayenne Pepper, if taken soon enough, will often give ease, and resolve the swelling."
Meals Medicinal W.T.Fernie, M.D.

First chili peppers (Black Hungarian and Jemez) are already forming! Relief is at (gloved) hand.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dead as a Dodo

I found him/her(?) on the way home. A baby pigeon but you can see the family resemblance.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Committing To The Seedplot

"When you sow your peas, when you sow your beans, when you sow your potatoes, when you sow your carrots, your turnips, your parsnips and other root vegetables, do you do so with punctilio?...

...No, but rapidly you open a trench, a rough and ready line, not quite straight, nor yet quite crooked, or a series of holes, at intervals that do not offend, or offend only for a moment, while the holes are still open, your tired old eye, and let fall the seed, absent in mind, as the priest dust, or ashes, into the grave, and cover it with earth, with the edge of your boot in all probability, knowing that if the seed is to prosper and multiply, ten-fold, fifteen-fold, twenty-fold, twenty-five-fold, thirty-fold, thirty-five-fold, forty-fold, forty-five-fold and even fifty-fold, it will do so, and that if it is not, it will not."

Watt Samuel Beckett

Friday, April 30, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010


Just eating the last of last year's.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"In preparation for planting, we first sprouted the seed. I cut out a piece of tanned buffalo robe about two and a half feet long and eighteen inches wide, and spread it on the floor of the lodge, fur side up.
I took red-grass leaves, wetted them, and spread them out flat, matted together in a thin layer on the fur. Then I opened my bag of squash seeds, and having set a bowl of water beside me, I wet the seeds in the water- not soaking them, just wetting - and put them on the matted grass leaves until I had a little pile heaped up, in quantity about two double-handfuls.
I next took broad leaved sage, the kind we use in a sweat lodge, and buck brush leaves, and mixed them together. At squash planting time, the sage is about four inches high.
Into the mass of mixed sage-and-buck-brush leaves, I worked the wetted squash seeds, until they were distributed well through it. The mass I then laid on the grass matting, which I folded over and around it. Finally I folded the buffalo skin over that, making a package about fifteen by eighteen inches. We call this package kaku'i kida'kci, squash-thing-bound, or squash bundle."

Advice from Buffalo Bird Woman

Squash germination has been very poor (see above), I guess due to the cold weather in our back room. I've started some more seeds in the airing cupboard. If that fails I'll be looking for a tanned buffalo robe.

Monday, April 12, 2010


We went along to the Barbican yesterday to see the zebra finch installation. Great fun, see it if you can. Click on the link and there's a little film that will give some idea of what to expect.
And another ornithological sighting here - Owl Hats !!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fluffing Out

Everything is finally leafing out, a little later than usual. I know that the apples and pear have been in blossom before now in past years, but they look to have another week until they blow this year. Peas 'Uncle Fred' are about an inch and a half out of the ground and 'Egyptian Turnip Rooted' beets have just germinated. Inside though, the peppers and aubergines are about half a foot tall and ready to be potted into something bigger.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

This Year's Beans

"I was determined to know beans."
Henry David Thoreau who went on to sow 7 miles of bean rows

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Sticky End

Well, our bees didn't survive the winter after all. They expired sometime between January 17th and the end of February. I suspect their numbers were not great enough to generate the necessary warmth. The queen was not a good layer and it was still quite a small colony in the autumn so I left them all the honey they had made and put in an extra dummy board to decrease the area that they would need to warm. Maybe in a normal winter they would have managed. Anyway, we weren't the only ones. I'm cleaning the hive, putting in fresh brood foundation and getting my name on a list for a swarm.
Meanwhile there is some bee-inspired art to see at the Contemporary Applied Arts. (sample below)