Monday 21 June 2010

The Longest Day

the longest day

On the first day of summer, summer arrived. It's been lovely here today and the cold wind has dropped. So I managed to get outside and do a little work in the garden. Let's hope it stays fine for a while, there's a lot to do.

parsnip flower

I let the last couple of parsnips go to flower and hopefully, seed. Although it's usual to select the best roots for growing on to seed, preserving and enhancing the quality of the next crop, I don't think too much harm will come from saving the seed from these leftover plants from last year. Parsnip seed, like carrot seed has quite short viability. I'm hoping by having ultra fresh seeds we'll have excellent germination when I plant them next spring.

Also in the seed saving bed, some Forono beetroots. These are the long rooted sort, sometimes described as tankard shaped roots. I'm not sure of their security in the world, Suttons seeds are now offering a variety they say supersedes them and I've not seen them on offer anywhere else recently. Reason enough to start saving their seed at home, I think they're one of the best beetroot available.

onions and garlic drying

These onions are from sets planted last autumn, an overwintering variety. They've not done too badly although I think the soil is rather impoverished in this back garden bed. I may have pulled them a little early but I needed the space for cabbages. I also took up the Jolimont garlic. Not hugely impressed by these, I was hoping for much larger bulbs. The plants were beginning to succumb to rust so I didn't want to leave them any longer. Still there are one or two largish bulbs and I will save them for planting in the autumn - the rest will be devoured in no time.

The other 'special' garlic I bought for this season, called Arno wasn't planted until March. It's still growing well and looks as if it might be more rewarding than the Jolimont, we'll just have to wait and see. The maincrop garlic, that same old redskinned hardneck that came from a supermarket originally is doing its stuff on the other plot. I expect it will be o.k. although the bulbs are never huge.

And I'm still all trembling from the scary joy of having a young swallow perched on my finger. An evil cat had caught it and brought it in to despatch and luckily I got there in time. The trouble with saving birds from the cats is that the birds, even if relatively unharmed are so shocked and terrified by their experience it's hard to find a safe place to let them go to recover.

The little chap sat quietly in my hand for a moment while I tried to decide which nest was most likely to have been his home when he perked up and trustingly settled on my forefinger. The bird and I surveyed each other for some moments, as I cooed and smoothed his feathers and then, when the adult pair came swooping down to investigate he bravely took off and flew away with them. I hope he's strong enough to learn never to come too close to a cat again.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Another day


Rhizowen kindly asked after the ulluco. Here they are, five weedy looking clumps, all that came up after a disastrous end to last season and my best efforts at preserving the frost damaged and rotting tubers that I could salvage. I don't even know if I have the full set of varieties I started with, all I could do was trim off the damage and put the poor truncated stumps into pots with my fingers crossed. The foliage is showing some variation so I'm hopeful that a couple of colours made it through.

Other news today, I bottled the elderflower champagne. I'm not expecting a great year, but I'm hoping my dogged determination and grim completion of the task will at least produce some fizz in time for P's birthday in a little while. Here's a picture of a swallow he took last time he was here because some old lemonade bottles aren't that enthralling. If you can click through and view the bird in big, it's a quality shot.


The wind is beginning to drop now after several days of unpleasant gustiness. I really need to get on and finish the spring planting before the longest day.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Mostly pink

from the hayfield

After some days of rain a pleasant interlude. Next week, gales are forecast!

I took a walk around the fields today to see what was there before they're cut for hay - well, they will be cut for hay if ever there's a chance of it drying - and found this double flowered Ragged Robin plant. The sort of thing that might be the starting point for cross breeding to produce a plant for the ornamental garden although really it's pretty enough just as it is.

double flowered ragged robin

Unfortunately I have no control over when the field will be cut so the chances are that there will be no time for this unusual example to set seed, even if the seed would be fertile but perhaps I'll mark it tomorrow, just in case.

We're still well down on butterflies and moths this year compared to others but it was pleasing to see this 5 spot Burnet moth enjoying the buttercups.

5 spot burnet

Brambles, I hate them but the flowers are very pretty and just starting to bloom and who hates blackberries...

bramble flower

I was just too late to catch the stunning sunset last night.

pink sky

Wednesday 9 June 2010


Feeling a bit reflective. I've been writing this blog for over four years, and put in three years on the food blog and my energy is low. Is it time to hang up my internet connection in favour of something more intimate and physical? Just why are we all here anyway?

Still, there are always cats;


They're very naughty, have killed quite a lot of birds this spring which distresses me, an inordinate number of rodents which worries me not one bit and wake me more times in the night than a roomful of teething triplets but as cats go, they're not at all bad.


And then there's the wildlife, still wonderful plants and insects to find, photograph and identify. The one that got away today; a marvellous azure blue fly which was feeding with the bumblebees on the welsh onions. By the time I got back with the camera it had gone and I can't find anything like it in any of my books.

There's still the garden, which is slowly coming along. I did more rotovating today so that there will be space for the cucumbers, the golden sweetcorn and some other stuff like amaranthus but I still need to make more space for the rest of the tomatoes, quinoa (almost too late for this I think) and other plants planned for this year. As usual my ambition has outrun my ability to make it all come together.

And then there's the house, not really much improved from when we arrived in 2006. Still, I'm seeing the architect this week. Perhaps things will change.