Thursday, December 27, 2012

Smashing Pumpkin

This splendid pumpkin is a Golden Delicious although it isn't teardrop shaped as they normally are. But just look how thick the flesh is, a very small seed cavity! I've found a website which has a few hundred varieties to choose from - KCB Samen . I may have to find a bit more space in the garden next year for a couple of Yuxijiangbinggua.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Four Eggs!

Egg judging at the Poultry Club of Great Britain Annual show via The Guardian. Below is our take for today. The dark bespeckled one is Miss Havisham's first ever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Spiritual Parts of the Tea

"The Jesuite that came from China, Ann.1664, told Mr.Waller, That there they use sometimes in this manner. To near a pint of the infusion, take two yolks of new laid-eggs, and beat them very well with as much fine sugar as is sufficient for this quantity of Liquor; when they are very well incorporated, pour your Tea upon the Eggs and Sugar, and stir them well together. So drink it hot. This is when you come home from attending business abroad, and are very hungry, and yet have not conveniency to eat presently a competent meal. This presently discusseth and satisfieth all rawness and indigence of the stomack, flyeth suddainly over the whole body and into the veins, and strengthneth exceedingly, and preserves one a good while from necessity of eating. In these parts, He saith, we leave the hot water remain too long soaking upon the Tea, which makes it extract into it self the earthy parts of the herb. The water is to remain upon it, no longer than whiles you can say the Miserere Psalm very leisurely. Then pour it upon the sugar, or sugar and Eggs. Thus you have only the spiritual parts of the Tea, which is much more active, penetrative and friendly to nature. You may from this regard take a little more of the herb; about one drachm of Tea, will serve for a pint of water; which makes three ordinary draughts."
Receipt from The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Published by his Son's Consent 1669

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Last of the Late Late TPS

Wednesday night's -3° finished off my TPS experiment for this year - an early August sowing. But two of them show great promise I think just for the sheer number of tubers set. And they look big enough to save (see coin) and plant out in the spring!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

... And No.4

Minus 3 last night and staying frosty until Friday. Rime over all and water is frozen within the greenhouse. I put a duvet over the bees and a curtain in the hen house.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cauld Frosty Morning No.3

The ice was about half an inch thick on the hen's water bowl this morning and the ground is crunchy. The cab driver the other night told us this will be the coldest winter in 100 years. I'm not sure where he gets his information but I'm thinking I might construct a styrofoam surround to help the bees retain warmth throughout. Hmmm, I'll just put the kettle on and give it some more thought...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Late Late TPS

Back in August I decided to test the viability of the seed that I had collected from some of last year's potato fruits. They germinated quickly and I potted a dozen of them on and on and on... Then I moved them into the greenhouse late October to see how long I could keep them going. Now after the second night of hard frost I decided to start to dismantle this experiment. I'm hoping that some of the tubers are big enough to set out in the spring (that is a 1 inch grid) and the little ones I'll taste test tomorrow. There are four more which I will grow on until they show signs of expiring.
The top row are grown from seeds of last year's No.11 plants. Each one is unique. The two outer ones have very white flesh and the one in the centre is quite yellow fleshed. The far right one has lovely markings on the skin. Below are offspring of No.6 plants.
The one on the left has a white ring around a very purple centre, the third one over has yellow flesh and the other two are flecked with magenta/violet marks in white flesh.

(as always, click on picture to see it properly)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Potato Harvest

Both Roseval and King Edward which I grew from bought tubers had to be lifted mid-August due to continuous attack of blight. It would have been a magnificent haul if they could have been left to bulk up for another month as the average tuber count per plant was over 10, so about 400 from just 36 plants. The potatoes that I grew from TPS fared better and I left them in the ground until early October. Below are three that did very well and I will be growing again next year. Of course the Landrace seeds are a mixed bag so very unpredictable but I'm going to save a few of these tubers to grow on as well. And the bottom picture is a selection of some of the ones that I've grown on from saved spuds of previous Tom Wagner trials.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Comparing & Contrasting

Beetroot grew reasonably well - not brilliant - this summer in spite of the weather, slugs and my neglect. I guess there are enough to see us through the winter. I think that 'Cylindra' may possibly be the better keepers so we've started making our way through 'Rhonda' first, but as to taste they are much of a muchness.

Squash 2012

One grand-daddy (21 lbs.) and a whole lot of under-achievers!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Ah... this not Happiness?

Yesterday, sat in the sun with the hens and shelled my bean harvest. Today, went for elevenses in the woods at Mrs. Bun's truck/café.

Monday, October 01, 2012

First Egg!!

The months of waiting are finally over, Miss Moneypenny has laid an egg.
Image via AgenceEureka

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Comparing Apples to Cucumbers

"Young broods of swallows come out. Cut 171 cucumbers; in all 424 this week. Sweet moon light!"
Gilbert White in The Natural History of Selbourne September 10 1791

Cucumbers were late in coming this year but now abound and they are all mine to eat as him-indoors won't touch them. As for texture and crunch, 'Suyo Long' could be likened to a McIntosh (Boy Scout) apple, 'Kyoto 3 Foot' a Granny Smith, 'Hmong Red' a Cox Pippin and 'Kaiser Alexander' an Egremont Russet.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teapots of Note - No.2

"It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!"
Jerome K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat

The 'Stay-Hot' pot, with inbuilt cosy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


From bottom left clockwise - Miss Brody, Miss Moneypenny, Miss Havisham, Miss Wilberforce and Miss Marple. I'm hoping eggs are just a few weeks away now. Monday I took 7 litres of honey from the bees.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Clear Tomato Soup

"Cut in thin slices 1 lb. fresh tomatoes, and put into enough ordinary clear soup for, say, six people; simmer gently for 1 hour, strain through a clean cloth, re-boil, and serve with fried croutons, about two-shilling-piece size, piled with stiffly whipped cream, one to each person on a separate plate. The cream softens the acidity of the tomatoes and greatly improves the flavour."
Agnes Jekyll A Little Dinner Before the Play

They are coming thick and fast now.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

BlackCurrant Harvest

"The Black Currant, by it's viscid, sweet, aromatic juice (thickened over the fire), makes a 'robb' of capital use for relieving sore throat, or quinsy. This old-fashioned 'robb' or 'rob', is an inspissated fruit juice mixed with honey, or sugar, to the consistence of a conserve, and is to be preferred before the berries themselves."

Meals Medicinal by W.T.Fernie, M.D.

I didn't realize until recently that it is still unlawful to possess, propagate or sell the black currant bush in many states and inspectors are ordered to condemn and destroy any that they find. This would account for the absence of black currant flavoured product in Canada during my childhood - the exception being blackcurrant pastilles imported from Britain (yum!). This year we've put away 4 bottles of schnapps and a jar of jam.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wet Wet Wet

This photo sums up 'summer' in the garden so far. In the greenhouse I'm growing mushrooms and mould, outside I'm battling potato blight, the slugs ate all but half a dozen carrot seedlings, red currant and cherry fruit was nonexistent and I don't think there will be much honey. On the plus side, I haven't seen a cabbage white in three months! Nor have I had to spend any time watering the garden. They say it's all going to change this weekend and we will have bright sunny weather just in time for the olympics. Hmm, I would have wished it contrariwise.
My well camouflaged helpmeet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lambs to the Slaughter

Well I kept these seedlings in the greenhouse until I couldn't put off transplanting any longer. They looked big enough to fend for themselves, able to survive a few nibbles. But, voilà, the slugs are operating in much the same way as the fox - killing, beheading and leaving the spoils strewn around uneaten! Grrr!
And this from B. in the morning's epost.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hairy Glandular Trichomes!

More potato flowers. This to show the more hirsute varieties, particularly 'Boy's Pig'which has little hairs on both sides of the leaves as well (click on picture to enlarge). The hairs or trichomes on potato leaves release phenols and phenol oxidizing enzymes which react to form a sticky substance which hardens to entrap small-bodied insects. I think the first round makes them woozy then in the struggle to escape, they disrupt a second type of trichome which releases polyphenol oxidases. These oxidize the phenols into quinone and it hardens like cement around the feet of the unsuspecting creature. So, more hairs = less aphids! I will save seed from this one particularly furry plant for next year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Tomatoes

Jaune Flamme from the greenhouse.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Solstice Update

The TPS potatoes are all flowering now (see below)and peppers and tomatoes are fruiting. Perhaps the first taste will be in two or three weeks?
Beans are very slow to get going (the double whammy of slugs and cool weather), only now beginning to curl around their support.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Things That Like This Weather

1. Spotted Aleppo 2. Red Deer Tongue 3. Moroccan Little Cress
4. New Red Fire
and 5. Escargot

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Saturday we picked up 6 little pullets about 8 weeks old. Great fun to have feathered friends in the garden again.
Pictures soon...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Front Gardens of Note No.3

(yes, they are plastic)

Monday, May 21, 2012


... as I Made It Weak For the Queen Mother

Take 18 quarts of spring-water, and one quart of honey; when the water is warm, put the honey into it. When it boileth up, skim it very well, and continue skimming it, as long as any scum will rise. Then put in one Race of Ginger (sliced in thin slices), four Cloves, and a little sprig of Rosemary. Let these boil in the Liquor so long, till in all it have boiled one hour. Then set it to cool, till it be blood-warm; and then put to it a spoonful of Ale-yeast. When it is worked up, put it to a vessel of a fit size; and after two or three days, bottle it up. You may drink it after six weeks, or two months.

The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight, Opened (1699)

We performed a shook swarm Sunday and housed the colony on fresh foundation, leaving two bait combs for the varroa to make their way into. I scraped away a bit of honeycomb and pollen stores for our consumption from around the capped grubs that we had to bin. A little taste of things to come.

Friday, May 18, 2012


It's fiddlehead season in New Brunswick where I've spent the past week. We canoed up the Nashwaak River, picked and cleaned 35 pounds of them and what we couldn't eat fresh are blanched and packed in my mother's freezer. Enough to see her through the next winter I think.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


I've just cleared the weeds from the back bed and readied it to be this year's bean field. I've been finding all the potatoes that I missed digging last fall. And a lot of seedlings that, but for me, would be trees one day. I guess it wouldn't take very many years of neglect for this lot to remove all trace of my attempt at control.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Welcome to Britain

Dr.K has brought round a rooted cutting from her father-in-law's pomegranate tree in Greece. I think that right now it must be feeling a little sorry for itself. I have no idea if it's possible to get one to fruit (or even live) here as I've certainly not seen any around, but I'll do my darndest. Here are a few foreigners that are thriving in spite of the deluge...
* Dr. K has an exhibition of her prints coming up May 2nd to 6th at Stoke Newington Library Gallery!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Umbra Sumus

Friend Paul Bommer has a show of new work opening tonight. There is a good selection for viewing on the wonderful Spitalfields Life blog and while you're there have a look at the silkscreen print he did to illustrate Christopher Smart's "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Front Gardens of Note No.2

One I took earlier - in Yorkshire. Oh yes, and I'm very chuffed to find this here blog on this here list!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pathetic Fallacy

Q's departure today was accompanied by torrential rain. The garden is awash and rain barrels full and every green thing looks greener. During her four week visit she has begun work on a requiem for our hens. Once it's recorded in some fashion I will most certainly be posting a link here. And although I have been silent this past month I have made some progress in the garden. I dug a new bed and filled it with potatoes, planted out shallots and just put out cabbage and lettuce seedlings. The tomatoes are now in need of potting on again and popcorn seed has germinated! The bee colony has trebled in size and very soon we must perform a shook swarm. Whew.
Above A fragment

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seedling Update

On the left are potato plants grown from TPS - Tom Wagner's varieties 'La Pan', 'Boy's Pig', 'Minnie's Pig', 'Boys Will Be' and 'Land Races' - already in need of a second potting on. And on the right are Aubergine 'Slim Jim' and Peppers 'Chinese 5 Colour', 'Serrano Tampequino', 'Corno del Toro', 'Fish' and 'Anaheim'. All sown February 12th.
Today I sowed tomato seed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday, March 09, 2012

Flannery's Chicken

"When I was six I had a chicken that walked backwards and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax."

Flannery O'Connor

Nemo-Portrait/SelfPortrait by artist Mary Britton Clouse from The Animal Gaze Returned. The Pathé film of Flannery O'Connor's chicken walking backwards can be viewed here.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Back to the Future

"Away they glided, slowly, silently, the people in the boat sitting absolutely still. It was part of the river spell, deep down there between the hills. One had to climb quite a long way up to reach modern transport levels. The main road with its angry speed, the waiting railway..."

Adrian Bell Men and the Fields

We're back home after four beautiful quiet days on the canal and my aubergine, pepper and TPS seedlings survived my absence!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sunny Sixteen Degrees

I peeked in on the bees yesterday. They were very busy foraging and returning with at least three different colours of pollen in their baskets - white, lemon yellow and goldenrod. There is still a fat heavy frame of honey stores and the queen is laying again as I saw both eggs and grubs.
So the colony seems to be in rude health and, hopefully, will expand this spring to full size.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

R.I.P. All My Hens

The thing I didn't think possible happened last night. Fort Fox was breached and all the chickens slaughtered. I salvaged the bodies of the three young ones and spent the morning plucking, cleaning and eviscerating. Woglinde's first egg of the season came out intact (see below). The shell of Flosshilde's was too soft and it got scrambled in the poop chute. All that's left is a big pot of Brunhilde soup, a meal of Flosshilde au Vin and Woglinde is in the ice box for a later date. So tragic. We must rethink our defenses before getting more.