Monday 31 March 2008


japanese quince

Finally we had a good day in the garden on Sunday. The grass got cut and I discouraged many of the brambles that were ensconced behind the greenhouses and threatening to entirely cover the glass as soon as the weather warmed up.

These things are tough and were even rooting in the Japanese quince debris in the gutter and snaking their way into the greenhouse by way of the glazing bars. They're not gone though, the gap between house and fence is too narrow for my womanly form and so the roots are still firmly in the ground, biding their time until my back is turned.

And after that, and treating my substantial wounds gained in the pursuit of victory, I managed to plant the square metre bed with some easy plants for the summer.


There are, from the top left:
radishes, rhubarb chard, carlin peas
crimson flowered broad beans, mammoth onions,carrots
wild rocket, lambs lettuce, turnips.

We're hoping these will be able to look after themselves to an extent because the time has come and it seems that I may finally be going back to France.

I'm really not sure what to say about this - I have been waiting and wanting and hoping nearly all winter and now that it is almost with me the old panic about leaving my projects here behind is stirring. It would be so nice to put my roots down properly somewhere.


Wednesday 26 March 2008

Cat blogging

Look at this poor old cat. Those eyes look awful. We don't think they hurt him, they're just useless lumps of jelly that allow him no sight at all.

His life revolves around his heated mat, his food and water bowls, his litter tray, all of which places he can usually find his way to and from if there aren't too many obstacles. In the evening his treat is to be groomed and stroked for half an hour in the company of his people in front of the reassuring sound of the television.

He's on three, maybe four, types of medication. Neo-mercazole to combat his hyperthyroidism, Fortekor to help his kidneys and amlodipine besilate for his high blood pressure. We also have some Periactin, actually a sort of anti-histamine but it works in small doses as an appetite exciter and when he's off his food we try to encourage him back to eating with a quarter tab of that and some favourite cat snacks.

He's drinking a lot of water, and his coat is coming out in handfuls. Our dear old cat, who has been our friend for 16 years now. I hope his quality of life is enough for him.

Friday 21 March 2008

I am this evil

You Are 78% Evil

You are very evil. And you're too evil to care.

Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.

Monday 17 March 2008





17 out of 26 seeds sown have germinated, not bad for old seed, although there's not going to be much of a crop for eating this year, with luck there will be plenty of seed to sow for next year's harvest.

Already looking too tall and weedy I meant to put the seedlings out into the greenhouse today but a cold cold night is forecast and I don't want them to freeze. I'll have to nip the tips out in a day or two when one or two more nodes have formed, but didn't they do well?

Saturday 8 March 2008

Give peas a chance

carlin peas

Sometimes I shock myself.

Just recently I've started reading a blog by another foodie - David Hall on bookthecook. David is keen on regional cooking and did a post about Carlin Sunday, the Sunday before Palm Sunday in the xian calendar which in the north east of England is celebrated with a dish of hard little black peas called carlins. Other names for these, just to add to the confusion are Maple peas, Black peas or Pigeon peas. There is an interesting site about beans here. David created a recipe but admitted he had been unable to source any actual carlin peas.

And that's the reason for my shock - because I had a packet of Carlin pea seeds from the Heritage Seed Library which I requested last year and then failed to sow. In fact when I went to look I had two unopened packets although Gaia knows how long the second one has been in storage. And so I commented on his blog "I'll try to get them in the ground this year and hopefully we'll all be able to see what happens."

There's a task set that I might have avoided! The peas are having a short soak in an attempt to break their dormancy and then I'll be planting them up later today. A photo blog will follow.

Regular readers - do I have any? do say! - may have noticed a new link in the sidebar exhorting them to Buy my work. There's not a lot there at the moment but I'm really having to diversify and explore every avenue to raise some income, so if you feel like supporting a struggling artist, do take a look.

Thursday 6 March 2008

She says Shi So

Perilla frutescens is in the UK most often found as an ornamental bedding plant in many a civic beautification scheme. Looking a little like a cross between a coleus and a basil the Victorians loved it, a colourful annual that seems to have been easy to breed into various outlandish forms sufficient to guarantee its inclusion in many a seed catalogue without further benefits but in the Orient it is an essential cooking herb. There are purple and green types and the size of the leaves and even the scent varies from cultivar to cultivar which provides huge scope for local preferences.

There are varieties of the plant in the cuisines of Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia and in China it is used as a traditional medicine for strengthening the immune system. Essential for colouring umeboshi plum pickles it is used in many other dishes from to salads and kimchi. I've even found a recipe for a cooling drink made from it on this lovely Japanese blog

I can't grow perilla. Since I can't grow it, I can't take pictures of it but if you need to know what I'm talking about here is a picture taken by Stephen Buchan which he has kindly allowed me to use:

© All rights reserved Stephan Buchan 2007.
Image © All rights reserved Stephen Buchan 2007.

and here shows a Korean version. I'd like to grow it because it would be marvellous to have that extra edge of authenticity in my cooking and because it would be an asset in the herb garden, being so ornamental and all that.

I've never understood why I find it so hard to get the plants to grow for me. Each year I buy fresh seed and try another variation of the many published methods for ensuring a successful germination. Nothing happens. At all. It doesn't help that none of the people I've spoken to about this have anything like the problems I do. According to them it's as easy as anything and they have absolutely no trouble.

I was beginning to wonder if I was cursed and did in fact start this blog entry purely for the release of having a right old whinge about it when I found this site which may finally have provided the clue I've been looking for. It says:

NOTE: One of the challenges in growing Perilla is to handle the seed germination issue. Perilla seeds have dormant characteristics and seeds will not germinate during this period. The dormant period can begin any time just after the fresh seeds harvested and may end, unpredictably, in 1-2 years. Seeds will have good germination after this dormant period finished. Therefore many experienced farmers prefer to use post-dormant old seeds than pre-dormant fresh seeds in planting. It has been reported that the dormant period can be broken and shorten if seeds kept in a low temperature, 35-45 F, for at least 1-3 months. Therefore it is suggested to seal seeds in a bag and store it in a refrigerator(not freezer) if not to be planting soon.

Oh the relief. It's not me! Well, not for another year anyway.