Friday, 5 February 2016

Exercises in hope


I've often said how difficult I find it to start writing without a relevant picture to hang my words beneath. Finally something turned up although I'd rather the cats hadn't done it (and thank goodness they couldn't get it through the cat flap).

The winter is horrible, no matter this is one of the mildest I've ever known and that on most counts my life is pretty good, there's something about grey skies and my life style choices that don't mesh and the sooner it's over the better.

On a moment of slightly more manic exuberance I did buy a lot of seeds from Thompson and Morgan, even though I despise them, who had a whole load of cheap packets. Just 99p each made it worth my while to pick up various exotics and ornamentals that would ordinarily be left behind to allow for more odd vegetables to be collected. There was a list on the site of these bargains but I can't find it now. Somewhere under special offers I think, you may be more lucky than me. At any rate some of the cheap things I bought are still listed at that price so just search for your favourites and you may get lucky.

I'm now waiting on three types of banana, some sensitive plants and lithops to come up. All things I've grown before that have been lost by the wayside of too many relocations and unexpected cold snaps.

Also in this first batch of seed sowing some oca seeds, bought from Cultivariable and from their out crossing project, seed type OC-14-2x08x05 x OP ( whatever that resolves to and written here because I always lose these things). These along with some others yet to start will, I hope, form part of my contribution to the Ocabreeders project this year. The seedlings, if they come up, are only part of my commitment as I've promised to create, tend and protect a bed of many of the Guild's germplasm, something which is nagging at me more and more urgently as the year trundles on and getting started never seems to happen. I'm hoping that some volunteers will appear to help me look after these valuable babies, so if you fancy a week in Normandy doing a bit of light hoeing (ha!) please contact me so we can make arrangements.

So, now the blogging baton has been picked up again perhaps it will keep running for another season. Happy growing, everyone.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


medlars and mulberry leaves

Medlar time of year again. Unlike some years when I've picked the fruit in a snowstorm the very mild weather this year has kept the fruit maturing on the tree only to be brought down with a bump in recent gusty winds.

Luckily they're pretty hard and landed softly on a bed of leaves from the beech and mulberry tree losing their lovely coloured foliage at the same time.

Rather than give you a repeat recipe - we'll probably make these into jelly again - here are the links to previous years and how we used the crop then.


2006: Medlar jelly
2007: Medlar and Quince jam
2008: Medlar butter or cheese

fb header nov

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

bit of a test....

testing testing, one, two, three.

Saturday, 10 October 2015


Yet another picture heavy, content short, post.

humming morning glory

October swept in with barely a ripple and as usual for the time of year I'm fighting the traditional plunge into the salty seas of blackest depression. Better aware than usual of the triggers it's a more equal battle this time but strength sapping. Only the really rather excellent weather is keeping my head above the water.

giant achocha

I grew a couple of the 'giant' achocha from Realseeds this year. One poor plant was subjected to stress tests in the form of being pot bound and neglected, the other was popped in outside on the end of the bean row and has, after a slow start, finally found its feet. It's growing beautifully but only just beginning to form pods.

It could be argued that the larger immature fruits are a good thing with achocha since mature ones strike me as insipid and unappetising but although they're easy to prepare the taste is much the same as the smaller sort. As a crop I can only see them as subsistence food but will keep growing them for the extravagant attractive vines and the benefit to insects.

It seems unlikely I'll get good seeds before the frosts so it's never likely to become a pest in the garden.

exploding cuc

The same cannot be said of the exploding cucumber achocha. The plants in the garden this year are all volunteers from a couple I had last year. It's almost impossible to save the seed casually and touching the pods scatters them everywhere. It looks like we'll have them for several years to come.

ja flowers

A testament to persistence are these Jerusalem artichokes which have managed to come through several years of abandonment in a stony waterlogged corner of the garden. The intention is to rescue them this winter and start a new bed, better tended, but we'll see. The flowers are on a selection of the old Fuseau variety and there is another more knobbly red-skinned sort that never flowers.

morelle de balbis

On mature reflection I've decided the vila-vila (morelle de balbis) are something else that I'd rather didn't become established as a weed. They are so very beautiful but seem very hardy and able to tolerate poor conditions. The fruit are pleasant but fragile and prone to splitting when ripe and picking them is painful and fairly unrewarding. Although I was going to try to be active in a project to grow out and select for less thorny specimens it's probably not something I have the energy to carry out effectively. They'll be planted as deer scarers and ornaments until they start to be a problem and then probably not at all.

ridge cucumber the size of a melon

Like their cousins the courgettes the ridge cucumbers finally overwhelmed me. I now have a plot covered in melon sized cukes, looking like yellow torpedoes of doom. At least there'll be plenty of seed to harvest from these.

Still a few butterflies about even now. There was a Wall a couple of days ago and it was really good to see a couple of Small Coppers sunning themselves on the nettles yesterday.

small copper underwing

Friday, 25 September 2015


I seem to have lost the ability for coherent thought. So here are a few photos with captions.

equinox sunset through the oak tree.

The equinox has come and gone, hardly a surprise but it signifies the end of the season for France. Soon the hunters will be out in force, the mushroom gatherers are already an army, the deer are in rut and I need to light a fire every day. The swallows slipped away in the last couple of days and I hardly noticed tied up in the twisted convolutions of my own brain.

melon harvest

The melon is harvested and will be consumed for breakfast tomorrow when the master of the house arrives. It smells delightful and I wish there were more of them.

vila vila harvest

The viciously spiky Morelle de Balbis or Solanum sisymbriifolium which is almost impossible to pick fruit from has revealed a useful trait. When the fruit is fully ripe and the horribly prickly husk has retracted then the berries fall to the ground. Put a clean piece of plastic or, in my case, corrugated iron beneath the plant for easy retrieval and vila-vila is your salad.


The cats, well, one of them brought in this poor squirrel. I'm not sure how they caught it or killed it, it was unmarked and apparently without any illness. A great mystery and a worse pity.


The pumpkins were harvested and are now curing in a quiet back bedroom. A few Sweet Dumplings and  Muscade if it matures in time to come.

And there are still butterflies, I saw five Peacock, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Copper on the sedums today, with several varieties of Whites about the place. There's still hope.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Untitled by design

anemone flowered dahlias

I have the stinking headache but each time I step outside to see if the blustery sunshine will help clear my head it becomes galeforce torrential rain and I'm forced to retreat back inside quickly. But there's nothing much else I can do either, a friend suggested eating a chunk of root ginger would cure it. I agreed to try it but actually faced with the prospect I can see chunks of a different sort  in my future so I'm giving that a miss for now. What better time then than now to sit down in front of a flickering screen and catch up with the blogs?

stormy september

And talking of the weather we had some massive storms one of which took the electricity away for more than 12 hours. Not so great for the slightly unwilling hermit, being without internet was really quite a challenge.

handful of hedgehogs

Autumnal weather does bring some foraging opportunities though. Hedgehog mushrooms are one of the sorts I'm generally comfortable to eat and although there have been few of my other favourites, the chanterelles, there have been a couple of good sized puff balls.

puffball on the griddle


There's still a bit of pretty wildlife about. There were loads of peacock butterflies around in the sunnier climate of yesterday as well as small torties, commas and whites. I'm fairly certain there were other sorts too but the combination of headache and poor eyesight made it impossible to identify them on the wing.

speckled wood

big horn deer

The deer are in rut again. Noisy for most of the night but rather splendid to view from a distance.

The garden? Yes, it's still there, thank you for asking but I think it will have to wait until another day.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The end of summer

autumn is coming 2

Some wonderful August weather went out with a bang and a splash of thunder and some really heavy rain. The weather is slowly picking up again but I think the high temperatures are now a thing of the past, it's cool, showery, no longer summer.

three chanterelles

The rain has prompted a small flush of fungi. A few chanterelles, some parasols and one cricket ball sized 'Giant' puffball have been found along with some hedgehog fungus at a reliable spot known only to us. I found a few past it ceps today as well but I'd rather have had more chanterelles.

sunflower stormy sky

The flower garden is looking autumnal too, the only sunflower finally breaking its bud and showing a small sunny face for the bumble bees.

I've mistimed my harvest of peas and beans for drying, they weren't quite ready before the rains came but now they've been beaten to the ground and soaked they are beginning to rot before they can be dried. I still hope to have a reasonable harvest of Carlins and Irish Preans, not as many Starley Red beans as I'd hoped and enough seed to save from the other beans being grown out. Will there be any interest in seed swapping this year I wonder.


The tomatillos have produced an abundant crop. I'd like to leave them a little longer to fill out and ripen more fully but it's a pleasing harvest to come.

I've been spending a bit of time as a volunteer administrator for the Guild of Oca Breeders, looking after their social media feeds on twitter and facebook. Media feeds thrive on followers so if you'd like to help us please come along and join in on one or both places. Hope to see you there.

trifetti pepper