Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Turnip Prize

Last year's winner was the (then) topical 'Chilli'n'Minors' (pictured below) by Doug Pitt.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Group Of Seven

We went today with a few friends to see 'Painting Canada' - a good selection of Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven's output on show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It's made me a little homesick which is good as I'm heading back for a visit on Tuesday. However the fall colours are long gone and the predicted weather for Fredericton is 1° and snow flurries. Urghh!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'Wineskins of Brown Morbidity'

I harvested medlars today and set 125 of them, bottoms uppermost, in the greenhouse to blett. And then? Another round of sticky brown glorps?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another Ho Hum Harvest

For pottage and puddings and custard and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

Pilgrim verse circa 1630

Saturday, October 22, 2011

TPS No.16 & 25

No.16 French Fingerling x Magic Molly and No.25 Thumbertime x wild species

TPS No.11

Bolivian landraces Pirampo x Khuchi Akita

TPS No.6

F2 Pam Wagner

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Women With Cows

I've just been to see a great film - Women With Cows. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teapots of Note - No.1

"The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration, - all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals. The seventh cup - ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither."
Lotung Tang poet

The ingenious patented SYP (Simple Yet Perfect) teapot - with a little perforated shelf for the leaves and two little teats that allow for steeping in a supine position. Once the required strength is reached, the pot is righted and the leaves are held on the shelf out of the brew.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Green Sort of Complete White

'I saw colours often on eggs,' I observed, 'colours which have no names. Some birds lay eggs that are shaded in a way too delicate to be noticeable to any instrument but the eye, the tongue could not be troubled to find a noise for anything so nearly not-there. What I would call a green sort of complete white. Now would that be the colour?'
The Third Policeman Flann O'Brien

Alice laid her first egg today (middle), Brunhilde (right) started last week!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Henry II R.I.P.

Yesterday's alarm clock... tomorrow's Coq Au Vin.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Red, White and Blue

Last year I saved all of the tubers that I grew from true seed. This year I get to taste them. I dug a couple that were just starting to die back - No.16 French Fingerling x Magic Molly - and cut and cooked the ones that got damaged with the fork. The white fleshed ones are much more floury and prone to fall apart than the ones with coloured flesh, but all taste superb. Most of the plants are huge, still very green, some still flowering and I will leave them in as long as I can stand the suspense.
Carol Deppe has posted about living on a steady diet of potatoes here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adventures with Potato Seed Continued

I've selected some fruits from the potato plants growing from last year's TPS harvest from which to save seed to grow on next year. Coloured yarn kept with the seed corresponds to bits that are tied around each of the plants so that once dug, I can record the colour and qualities of the mother potatoes. As the bee hive is right next to the experimental potato plot, the results will be anyone's guess. Maybe as quirky as those pictured on Home of the Potato (via ABW)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"Autumn is Near..."

"... Autumn is here. Sing shed sing."
Listen here to this seasonal song. (You might have to put up with an ad first)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Saint Fiacre's Day

... Patron saint of gardeners. And taxi drivers. And sufferers of fistula and venereal disease.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Mammal's Notebook

"My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coco-nuts, chicken cooked in white water, mouldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin).
I breathe carefully (a little at a time) and dance very rarely. When walking I hold my ribs and look steadily behind me.
I sleep with only one eye closed, very profoundly."

Erik Satie 'A Mammal's Notebook'

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slim Pickings

It's a disappointing year for tomatoes in my back yard. They started looking sorry for themselves quite early on and that caused me to get cross with them. So I punished them by cutting short their water rations... Anyway, very few fruited in the greenhouse (yellowhouse) before I removed them completely but some of the outdoor ones are beginning to produce now so all is not lost. It's a mystery because under the same conditions in the same soil the peppers have flourished (and continue to) and yielded bumper harvests. Possibly the pot size?

Monday, August 08, 2011

I Heard an Owl...

Walking back from the pub last night through the remains of the Great North Wood we saw two short-eared owls - about 30 feet above us, mesmerized by M.'s bright torch. The calls that we initially heard were the squawking sounds that follow the hooting on this RSPB webpage. I notice that the Wildlife Trust runs a night time 'nature prowl' there on August 26th. But for great owl watching go HERE.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


"Sow the principal spring crops this month. Cabbages and endive are best sown early in the month, and cauliflower and lettuce towards the end. Sow giant rocca and tripoli onions (to stand the winter), hardy green-top stone and orange jelly turnip, and a final sowing of winter spinach."
The Horticultural Notebook J.C.Newsham 1914

Outside I've just sown Purple Top Milan, Japanese Hinona Kabu and Golden Ball turnips and Green Meat Daikon radish.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Name That Nutrient Deficiency

Certain of my dwarf beans are looking a bit peak-ed and yellow round the gills. Please lend your help by participating in the poll below so that I can nurse them back to tip-top condition.

Identify the Nutrient Deficiency
Manganese free polls

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three Months On

Portraits of the five that have reached adolescence - two elegantly bouffanted Cream Legbars, one Rhode Island Red Soup Rooster, one Barnevelder and one Buff Orpington. They have outgrown their cradle and their three big ugly stepsisters still won't let them roost in the loft so they are sleeping in the nest boxes for now. Click to enlarge.

Sunday Peppers

A - Pasillo Bajio, B - Chinese Five Colour (just like it says on the pack), C - Paradicson Alaky Sarga Szentes, D - Serrano Tampequino, E - Hungarian Hot Wax, F - Anaheim

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


More pictures of China's BeeMan contest here.
Our bees have settled in and are very active foraging right now, but it's a small colony and we will probably have to feed them to get their stores sufficiently built up for the winter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stop the Rot

"The decay usually makes it's appearance in the form of a spot on the surface of the fruit. This should be scooped out and the hole filled with plaster of Paris formed into a paste to the consistency of thick cream by the addition of water.This will set quite firm and arrest further decay. The contents of the fruit-room should be examined at least once a week."
The Horticultural Notebook J.C.Newsham 1914

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Advice on Pruning

"Ye should prune and train wall-trees like the ribs of a skreen fan or ye fingers of a hand displayed." Anon. c.1700

*A very thorough book on the history and art of Verdant Sculpture can be accessed on-line by following the links at Hooting Yard.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Potato Blossom

Variety of colour in the flowers of potato No.21 - John Tom Kaighin x Negro y Azul.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Image Recognition

In order to track down Jeremy's forgotten cucumber (see comments below) I have employed Google's new image search tool. I just drag and drop my cucumber photo into the search window and - hey presto! Click on image to enlarge.

Cool as a . . .

"In the time of our English George the First , a want of courage was popularly imputed to tailors, insomuch that nine of these pusillanimous worthies were needed to make one man; and, as report went, 'Tis the opinion of our curious virtuosos that their lack of bravery ariseth from the immoderate eating of Cucumbers, which too much refrigirate their blood.' "
Meals Medicinal W.T.Fernie

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mud Poultices

After a full season of beelessness, this evening we housed a nucleus in our chicken-loud glade. And I got stung thrice on the head for my trouble. I remember my first ever sting when I was about five and by way of a remedy my mother pressed a spoonful of mud on it - a sort of poultice to draw the poison out. Unfortunately I didn't remember until a long while after I was set upon - too late to find out whether it's effectiveness wasn't largely dependent upon the presence of mother.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

"Restore the Honour of the Cucumber!"

"We need to restore the honour of the cucumber."
Spanish delegate Fransisco Sosa Wagner to the the EU Parliament

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Blue Pod Capucijners

Q departed Thursday, and just now the peas that I had hoped we would be eating during her stay are beginning to form. It rained today!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Tonight @ The Horse Hospital

We rescued one (stag beetle) from the water butt Tuesday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Drought of 2011

Less than 10% of the average rainfall for April following March with only 20% of the average and now a very dry May has meant that I've spent many an hour watering in my crops. The ground is bone dry everywhere else and much of the landscape around the South East is brown at the edges. Today they promise a shower. On the up side, slugs have not been a problem so far this year.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Six Chicks

They are two weeks old now (this picture was taken 8 days ago) and have their wing feathers. I'm certain that one Rhode Island Red is a male and possibly one Cream Legbar is of that persuasion. I don't like to count my chickens even after they've hatched but it looks like we have at least four future egg layers. Many an hour can be lost watching these little fluffballs. Official portraits soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Surrogate Mother

Doris is egg-sitting again! Sometime around May 1st or 2nd they should start hatching.
*Update! I was thinking of swans when I calculated the incubation dates, there are critters trying to tap their way out today - Monday April 25th.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's all happening!

The first radish seedlings have broken through the ground outside and all of the brassicas have germinated in the greenhouse. I spent the weekend debrambling and unearthing roots to enlarge the vegetable beds. Lots more to do. M. lopped off the tops of some shrubbery to allow more light through along the south border. And I sowed tomatoes seeds (10 varieties) in a tray on the dining room radiator.
4 Eggs today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is Sprung

This weekend just passed I sowed Cabbage seed Mammoth Red Rock & Savoy Piacenza, Brussels Sprout Sanda, Broccoli Waltham and Leek Monstrueux de Charentin in trays in the greenhouse and Parsnip Tender & True, Radish Sicilian Red and Blue Pod Capucijners Peas out of doors. AND potted on Peppers and Aubergines.

Leonora Carrington's painting of a cabbage (the alchemical rose?) which we saw last autumn in an exhibition entitled 'Surreal Friends' at Pallant House.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be Careful With a Spud

Soviet Accident Prevention Posters @ How to be a Retronaut

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Looking Up

This month is starting to look a bit more promising in the sunshine department. This is the third day in a row that we've woken to a blue sky. S. gave me a little lemon tree (pictured on the left) which she grew from a pip and it's been spending afternoons in the greenhouse where temperatures have been up to 20°. And the wild plum by the garage is in full bloom. The Met has now published figures for last month which show South East England to have had one of the dullest Februarys since records began.
Indoors, peppers and aubergines are forming their first true leaves.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Buds and Shoots

The soundtrack to accompany this picture can be heard here . Scroll down and click on 'Buds & Shoots', listen and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grey Matter

Here is what this week's weather looked like on Saturday. I have taken to screen grabbing these BBC forecasts and filing them away for some, as yet undetermined, purpose. But I've had the feeling that for many months now we've been shortchanged in hours of sunlight. It turns out I'm not wrong. The Met anomaly maps show (Click to enlarge and then go here when you still can't make it out) that our little corner of the country (circled) has been deprived over the past six months. Quick calculation - 50% of November's average 60 hours = 30, 30% of December's 37 hour average = 12+, and 50% of January's average of 45 hours = 23. That means we've had 65 hours sun in the past 3 months. That would be about 8 sunny days I guess - 1 day in every week and a half.
On a brighter note, I sowed many peppers and aubergine seeds on Monday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burn's Night Etiquette

'Burnish no bones with thy teeth for this is unseemly, neither belch thou near to a man's face with corrupt fumosity. Scratch not thy head with thy finger whilst thou art at meat, and blow not thy nose on thy napkin, where you should wipe thy hands, but cleanse it in the handkerchief. Fill not thy mouth too full, least thou perhaps of force must speak, neither blow out thy crumbs when thou dust eat. Blow not thy pottage nor drink, for it is not commendable; for if thou be not sweet in thy body, thy breath is corruptible. If you must spit, keep it out of sight; let it not lie upon the ground but tread thou it outright.'
Words of advice (predating Burns by a few centuries) in a little pamphlet of Scottish recipes 'Friends Cook Book' I got many years ago near Glencoe. There is also a helpful guide to measures. 1 1/2 Pints - 1 Lippie; 4 Lippies - 1 Peck; 4 Pecks - 1 Firlot; 4 Firlots - 1 Boll.

Happy Burn's Night and if you have to spit be sure to smear it into the carpet while your host is looking the other way.