Wednesday 26 December 2012

The odd tuber

Peruvian Tubers of Old Normandie

I've been watching the harvests of other more dedicated growers of Peruvian root crops as they publish their results throughout the autumn with some anxiety and anticipation for the outcome of my own lackadaisical efforts to keep a minimal stock in hand for next year.

Finally the moment has come and I've emptied the small pots of my hopes and counted the yields. The photo is above.

For scale the smallest ulluco pictured, the tubers to the right of the screen, are about baked bean size (that's a navy or haricot bean if you're unfamiliar with the term). There were a few rice sized tubers as well which I didn't photograph and a few chewed ones which might grow but didn't look very pretty. Overall I have to say that my total worth of ulluco is no greater than it was when I first obtained some tubers from Realseeds some years ago and the diversity has reduced. They sent me 3 or 4 varieties and I seem to have only the one, admittedly pretty pink spotted, sort left.

The mashua, labelled, is the one left of the several sent to me by Rhizowen earlier this year. I'm glad to have brought it through but there's nothing to be proud of there and nothing to eat either!

And so to the oca. Over the years I had accumulated five varieties, two which I obtained from New Zealand via Waitrose, a white one from Realseeds and two fairly similar pinky white ones from a kind swapper who's name escapes me for the moment (but I'll look it up when I can). It seems I only managed to put one of these into a pot last spring but we've had a mild autumn here and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to find volunteers in amongst the detritus of the vegetation which was last year's failed crops.

By the way, there's no way of assessing the quantity of the crops from this exercise as the pots and culture for each example were all different; similar only in the lack of attention given to them.

Other roots, the hopniss, tuberous rooted peas, chinese and jerusalem artichokes await closer investigations although I was reasonably confident that I had enough propagation material of these in October. Unfortunately while we were away we've had a plague of mice and all bets are off.

So once again, I've scraped through, holding on to these novelties for another year. I'm still not convinced that as they stand they're worth growing for anything other than eccentric interest and I'm definitely not dedicated enough to contribute much to the very laudable efforts of others to breed adaptations better suited to European environments but my options are still open.

Thursday 20 December 2012

The End of the World


The shortest day and the end of the Mayan world, at least according to popular internet memes unsupported by rigorous academic study. Whatever, for this little weasel the time has come.

I'm really surprised a cat managed to bring this evasive small predator in and wonder if it was already ill or had been discarded by some other hunting animal. They didn't want to eat it but left it with the post on the mat, identifying where many other unsolicited offerings are made.

We had never seen such a creature so closely before, they move so quickly in the wild and are very shy. You can never be sure quite what you've seen, just a flash of rusty brown that might be weasel, stoat or even a red squirrel in a hurry although the preferred habitats are not very similar. To find one on the edge of a built up area seems very unusual but I suppose this was hunting the same small rodents the cats do.

You can read more about weasels here, including the worst joke in the world.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The wheel turns

sweet dumplings on a windowsill

 And another year is nearly completed.

Today I received, chose, completed and returned my Heritage Seed Library catalogue and order form. As usual the selection came down to picking through the back stories and trying to establish which were most plausible but I was pleased to find a French bean with connections to Caen (so local to us)  and another which will be good for Caribbean cookery.

Getting back my bread making mojo

On a housekeeping note, I've closed the Stripey Cat food blog, ostensibly so I can organise the recipes into book form but more accurately because I've become very depressed and disheartened with life and couldn't find enough cheerful things to write about.

Even so, from time to time I still have small cooking successes I'd like to share so they're going to be appearing here when they happen.

I have a new sourdough baby and together we're revisiting the skills needed for bread making. The loaf above is one of the first successful constructions to have come from this and I hope, with a little more experimentation, to have a foolproof base recipe that will happily take additions and variations in the near future.

There are also some pictures to come from my only pop-up restaurant date this year but I have to talk Paul into downloading them from his camera before I can see if they're worth publishing. Hope to be back with them soon!

Monday 1 October 2012

The Naked Blogger

pale marigold

Pay attention, I will say this only once.

Today is the occasion of my fifty third birthday. It's a bit of a shock to me, I don't much want to reveal it. So here I am, doing just that as a sort of therapy. I'm not sure it's working all that well.

There was a lot of other stuff, but you know, I don't think I'm ready to share that.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Sex and Death

butch noisy deer

This time of year a red deer stag's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, or at least procreation of the species by impregnating as many of the graceful does as he can gain control of. All through the evening, late into the night, and again in the hours just before dawn they bellow their challenges and assert their magnificence with huge hormone fueled roars which echo and reverberate around the farm, ricocheting back from the dense walls of the trees until the fields begin to resemble a war zone full of sound bombs.

The chap above is an anomaly, he has a voice to compare with any of the other competing beasts but he seems to be entirely without horns. Who knows what accident of breeding or health has put our man at a disadvantage. He seemed feisty enough when I took the picture, yelling his head off in the hope of picking a fight but I wonder how he fares with the females, who must take a full head of antlers into account before choosing a mate?

deer girls run away

It seems ironic then, that at the moment when mating is taking all their attention and all the deer are ragged with exhaustion from the long nights on parade that the hunting season starts at this time. 

We have been advised for this year that Mondays are the designated days for hunting within the forest and picnics and walks on these days are strongly discouraged. There are also special hunting days where whole areas are signed off limits for a day at a time to avoid accidents to civilians.  Fine warnings for the townsfolk who come out for rejuvenating fresh air at the weekends, more difficult for those of us who live within the forest boundaries and cannot simply cease to exist for one or more days a week.

The number of deer taken are limited of course, the forest is a National park, owned by the state and quite strictly regulated. The hunters too are supposed to have joined local groups, undertaken training and follow rules of the hunt but it's not too comfortable to hear shots near to the house more or less any time between the end of September and the beginning of March. The hunters don't just hunt deer of course, but look for duck, rabbits, wild boar and other more recondite prey like coypu, badgers and foxes, just for the sport of it.

Although responsible sportsmen are restricted from shooting with 100 metres of a dwelling I suspect few around here realise I'm in residence. Consequently, I'm going to keep lights on all night and light fires on Mondays even if they're not needed, just to give them a clue.

And maybe I'll renew all the Chasse Interdite signs too.

Monday 17 September 2012

Digging the dirt

Sarpo Mira harvest

I once got into an argument on Twitter with someone or other over Sarpo potatoes. Don't look surprised, you know you're not.

Basically he was sounding off long and hard about what a fantastic potato they are, cheap to run, blight resistant, perfect for organic and all the rest of the shpiel about how it was going to save the world while I was saying that although I appreciated the blight resistance and its hardiness as a plant, in any ordinary year with ordinary care it performed no better and was no better foodstuff than most of the other varieties we grow here and prefer to eat.

It seems we're both right.

This year, this sorry year, where conditions for all my vegetables have been poor, the blight as bad as usual and my motivation to keep on of top of things at a significantly distinct low it's the Sarpo Mira that have been really rather impressive.

They have grown well in poor fertility soil, they have tolerated a frankly appalling level of weed encroachment and their resistance to blight has been totally stunning. If the Irish had had them in the 1840s there might have been no famine and all history would have changed.

Yields were good if not great. They're not immune to voles as you can see from the picture but the plant foliage was still functional even after a season that had stripped the rest of the field of its leaves and the tubers are sound, free from blight decay. They keep well and cook o.k.; more commodity than gourmet but potato is something that is often used as a filler rather than the star.

If you aim for self sufficiency in potatoes it is worth having a proportion of your crop made up of these Savari Research Trust conventionally bred varieties and if you've a little money to spare you might take part in the crowd sourced funding drive to get new cultivars onto the National list.

We had unmentionably small yields of Red Duke of York, the Stroma barely any better, a few good Shetland Black but two regular favourites, the Pink Fir Apple and the British Queen, haven't even returned their seed weight in crop. Particularly disappointing as we had planted more rows of these which are so good for cooking.

Which is not say that all the other varieties were write offs.  The Ambo, which is nearly as tough as the Sarpo Mira produced a fair amount although it was hit hard by the blight by August and the surprise performer was Arran Victory, a very old and consequently less blight resistant sort that held out to the bitter end and provided nearly as much in weight per row as the Sarpo.

Arran Victory

Wednesday 12 September 2012



The end of summer is now upon us. Not that it ever really got going, but there have been some splendidly hot and sunny days in the last month which have caused some sort of recovery in the garden and my soul.

stormy weather

But this is how it looked today at about lunch time, the picture is entirely unretouched, it was that dark out there.  And then it rained, and now it's not looking so bad. The forecast seems to suggest another dry week starting tomorrow. This is a good thing as there is still a whole meadow to cut at the far end of the farm. It's been proved to me that I'm a true feeble wimp. The scary field that I was afraid to traverse with the tractor in case we both fell sideways was licked into shape in a few hours when the man arrived and took over.  So my ambition for the next short while is to take most of that final field and show it, and the tractor, who's boss.  Wish me luck.

Small onions

The onion patch quickly succumbed to weeds and neglect early in the season when I lost my gardening mojo but I'm pleased to report that there are quite a lot of small but perfectly formed bulbs up there hiding beneath the metre high magentaspreen and thistles.  Even if we only make a couple of jars of pickles from them it's an encouragement to try again and a testament to the hardiness of vegetables.

Sweet Dumpling

Many pumpkin seeds this year didn't even germinate. From the four surviving Sweet Dumpling plants it looks like we'll get 10 or so fruit. The bought in Uchiki Kuri plant had a terribly slow start and didn't really begin to grow until the end of July but now, if the weather stays warm, will probably make three squashes. The single plant of Moschata seems to have missed flowering entirely. 

It's not too serious. Although we usually have many pumpkins and squashes of several varieties they are often lost over winter to inadequate storage as we have too many to keep them all in the warm. The Sweet dumpling are a good size for couples as well, just enough to share as a side or for one each as a main course.

sun baby tomatoes

Although the outside tomatoes quickly gave up from poor management and blight the greenhouse toms, just a handful of plants in tubs made from supermarket carriers, have kept me in fruit for a few weeks now and still have more to come. The Sun Baby above were really impressively sweet to begin with but either they've coarsened or my taste buds have atrophied because they don't seem quite so lovely now.

The Black Prince tomatoes below are sturdy and reliable with several more trusses beginning to ripen. The harsh conditions meant the beefsteak and continental types haven't done so well but they've still produced a few pounds of tomatoes for salads.

Black prince tomatoes

And so to the chillies.  These have been more successful than usual because I remembered to start the seeds in the early part of the year before I lost all hope.  The Lemon Drop are doing well, the Jalapeno only so so. It took some words of advice from Rhizowen to get conditions right for the Capsicum pubescens, more popularly known as Alberto's Locoto which I had from Realseeds. They are plants from higher altitudes and need a cooler environment to set the flowers. As soon as I moved the plants from the greenhouse they started to make fruit. Now that's a useful plant and perennial too.

rocoto locoto

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Above us only sky

above us only sky

I'm getting rather tired of the continual exhortations to go foraging, do wild rambles, get back in touch with nature by eating it. From being a mildly eccentric nerdish thing to do it's become so mainstream that it's practically Disney and, although it's unlikely that the countryside will become entirely barren at the depredations of Sunday supplement hunter gatherers, every edible native plant that's taken is removed from the food chain of local fauna which might reasonably be assumed to have prior right.

Easy for me to say,  living as I do on nearly 25 acres of ancient meadows surrounded by a national park. Foraging for me is easier and more convenient than persuading myself to leave my bed in the morning. It's iniquitous to want to stop people from towns having the odd day in the sun and enjoying a return to nature, but having such accessible countryside all around has built my understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment and a horror of greedily stripping an area of any particular plant life.

25 acres

Every responsible wild foraging guru will advise their followers never to take all of a crop but of course, how many times can a population be halved before it becomes unsustainable?  The maths is inexorable.

Indeed, how many people actually enjoy their booty when they get away from the glamour of the celebrity who's using hogweed or ramsons as his flavour of the week. What's it all for?

morning glory

If you really want to get a grasp on your food and sustainability then put yourself down for an allotment or just get a few window boxes. For every success you enjoy (and you will) there will be balancing failure that will help you understand how fragile the growing world is and probably improve your opinion of farmers too.

The natural world is even more delicate than your managed garden and humans more damaging than slugs and caterpillars. Give it a rest.

blackberry picking

And so, with typical inconsistency, on to blackberry picking!

Well, we view the brambles here more as a threat than a promise. They are tremendous resources for many insects and small animals but they're so quick spreading that they can easily overwhelm meadowland and young coppice killing all that they swamp. For the one or two kilos of fruit we can use in a year there is more than enough to have plenty left over and it's quite unlikely that it makes any appreciable difference to the menace at all.

Pick your berries on wasteground or buy them in Waitrose, then make this jam.

Seedless Bramble Jam

1 kg blackberries (or raspberries if you're that lucky)
900g sugar
4 sterilised 400g jam jars and lids

Swill the fruit around in a big bowl of warm water to rinse off dust and insects then scoop out gently with your hands into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan to stop the fruit burning before it releases its juice and set over a gentle heat to simmer and become soft.

If you want a clear jelly then you'll need to put the softened fruit and juice into a jelly bag and allow it drip for several hours but I prefer to use a mouli food mill to separate the seeds from the pulp. It's quicker and keeps more blackberry goodness in the jam.

When you've removed the seeds by your chosen method weigh the liquid. You'll need a ratio of 4:5 sugar to liquid. Therefore 1000g liquid will take 800g sugar.  My berries produced about 1200g liquid so I used 900g (it's not an exact science!).

Put juice and sugar back into the pan and stir to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a fast boil. With occasional stirring it'll take about 10 minutes to reach setting point. I use the cold plate method, a teaspoonful on the plate, allowed to cool and checked for set by observing the wrinkles made when you push it with a finger, but if you'd rather use a sugar thermometer 104C is a soft set.

Pour into the warmed jars and seal while hot.


By the way, I'm not sure how many readers here have also read my food blog, the Stripey Cat Food Diary. I'm still in two minds whether to resurrect it or not. I feel most of what I needed to share about vegan cookery is now done and my personal interest in food is at an all time low but that will change again.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Maybe the last days of summer

The wonderful weather finally broke and we've had some stormy interludes but it's still excellently warm and when the wind slows down and the rain ceases there is still joy to be had in mooching around the place, just looking.

speckled wood

There is a late summer flush of speckled woods, one of the prettiest small butterflies in my opinion, and the local subspecies seems much more brightly coloured than the ones pictured on British sites.


There's also more soft fruit than might have been expected. The autumn raspberries are just beginning to come on line, there are late strawberries to pick and plenty of blackberries and despite my complaints earlier in the year some sloes too, enough to make a bottle or two of Patxaran for xmas. So although I'm lonely and there's a lot that's wrong with the world, not least the late summer fly invasion, it could be worse.

Sunday 19 August 2012

50 shades of shame

late summer

Oh my, I said, as my inner goddess chewed my lip to a bloody pulp, it's so long...

Since I wrote on this blog, but that's o.k. because I've been having a life. First, I had visitors, a party with my husband to celebrate our marriage, and then I've been horribly, horribly ill. Which is a shame because the weather has finally kicked into full summer and what should have been trips to the beach and long afternoons catching up with each other in the shade has turned into hacking coughs, recalcitrant high temperatures and snivelly noses.

Today, after having stayed on an extra five days to nurse me through the worst, Paul has gone back to the UK, the weather remains overheated and I'm very much alone for the first time in nearly a month.

swallow baby!

However, the good weather, and Paul cutting the long meadow grass, which sends no end of crickets and small flying insects straight into the mouths of the swallows means that the last brood of the year is feeding well and looking mighty fine.

These funny little babies sensibly hid well down in the nest when I went in to photograph them but for whatever odd evolutionary purpose popped right up with mouths opened every time the flash went off. Extremely strange but I didn't stay to exploit it for long as the parents were getting more and more anxious, trying to bring in the next meal.


We've been chasing some strange butterflies too, now that the weather has finally perked up enough to encourage any flying insect to show its face. We're very short on the smaller varieties this year, common blues and coppers, but have been plagued by an unidentifiable large brown and orange creature that never stops and can't be photographed.

Luckily this dragonfly, the common Golden Ring, Cordulegaster Boltonii, was taking a rest in the sun this afternoon, so I snapped it instead.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

It's a beast

Under the hood

I've always had a fear of vehicles with big wheels and steam engines scare me silly. A tractor has aspects of all of these things so living with one is a big learning curve and I'm finding it somewhat gut wrenchingly scary. A fifty horse power tractor is so powerful, I can't imagine what being in control of the bigger ones is like and I'm so aware of the damage I can do by missing a turn or misjudging my line.

I'd never driven a tractor before this one arrived. My extreme youth spent on and around farms means I'm not unfamiliar with them but opportunities for driving lessons when you're six years old are few and far between. My experience was all about riding in the trailer with the feed sacks, something that is severely frowned upon by Health and Safety these days.

The controls are easy enough although the clutch needs all my strength when engaging the power take off for the tools. There are  four gears and two gear ratios, high and low, although for the farm I only need the low option effectively turning it into a four gear machine. The higher ratio is for road use when head spinning speeds of 25 mph are achievable. A separate stick selects forward or reverse. Plenty of levers and settings for the front hydraulics to control the bucket and more levers to raise and lower the back tools. I've only really used the grass topper shown although we have some other implements for fancier work.

The real problem is my inexperience. We have wonderfully flat land on the whole, a few rutted places and just a tiny slope  at one end of the lawn area but all the time I'm driving I'm petrified of turning the tractor over. Never mind that I have a heavy cutter behind and a heavy bucket held low in front, the slightest incline and I'm sweating and trying to use my comparatively puny weight to counterbalance the slope. I've spoken to other amateur tractor drivers and they confirm the same feelings. It just feels dreadfully out of control.

The silly thing is I've watched Paul bounce and jounce the thing across all the bits that scare me and from the ground there's no problem apparent at all. He's done some other things that are frightening but you wouldn't catch me trying them in the first place!

I suppose I'll just have to keep working at it until familiarity breeds some contempt but in the meantime my adrenaline is running high every time I climb into the driver's seat.

By the way, if you'd like to get one of these for yourself, I can offer no better advice than to contact Danelander if you're in the UK or France. They have done us proud and have an excellent customer service attitude which has helped us no end as we learn about the equipment. Highly recommended.

original art formed

Thursday 19 July 2012


Just like the Red Queen the weather forecasters keep promising jam tomorrow. Today, they say, is the last twenty four hours like this - windy, chilly, showery and more suited to a good day for late October than the middle of July - for at least a week, maybe even the rest of the summer. Humphhhh, is all I have to say to that.

wet windy 19th July 2012

I sprayed the tomatoes and potatoes liberally for blight again yesterday. It rained all night but there was still enough blue on the foliage this morning to give me hope that the dread disease will be checked long enough for the drier conditions to take hold. If the promised improvements don't arrive I don't know what I'll do. Cry, probably.

marbled white

Still very few butterflies, one of the most profuse this year, previously notable by its rarity, is the Marbled White, a very pretty little thing. Also seen today a Comma but nothing else identifiable.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Stinking Roses

lousy garlic harvest

Realising that the rust attack on the garlic meant the plants had stopped growing, it was obvious that the time had come to pull the plants and see what could be saved. The bulbs are tiny; the picture has by chance a crown cap from a beer bottle in it but that's a clue to the scale of the crop. I've trimmed and cleaned the outer leaves and have left quite long stalks in the hope the drying bulbs will pull a little of the goodness back into themselves as they dry. It'll make plaiting easier too, if that seems worthwhile at all.

Paradoxically this pathetic harvest has made me feel a little better about the garden and I'm marginally more inclined to keep fighting the blight on the potatoes and outdoor tomatoes, to plant out cabbage seedlings that are languishing in pots and maybe even start some autumn vegetables before it's too late. However, in fear of a false dawn I make no promises there. I'll do what I can, but for this year, I'm not a gardener, just one of my many other personas and she doesn't like to get her hands dirty at all.

The elephant garlic has stood up to the poor conditions rather better seemingly able to withstand the rust and equally more robust in the face of sodden cold conditions. The bulbs are as good as I might have expected in a more normal year. A few are very good indeed.

elephant garlic

However, does anyone know how to break the dormancy on the little bulbils that are produced between the cloves? It seems such an obvious and intentional way of propagating the plant.  Last year I found this article which seemed to answer all my questions but despite carefully snipping the bulbil coat and replanting them immediately after harvest nothing came up at all.

Thinking hard about it, and noting that the plant multiplies readily from the individual cloves anyway seems to indicate that these bulbils are a back up method of  reproduction, perhaps only of use in time of drought or inundation when the main bulb has been destroyed. In that case, some form of stress needs to be be brought to bear but should it be heat, damp or cold - and does anyone have the slightest idea what I'm on about?

A hope is arising that the summer might yet recover. There is talk of the jet stream moving, that more settled and warmer weather will result and the excessive rainfall and chilly temperatures will be no more. I'm not sure whether there is a basis in science for this hope or if even meteorologists have succumbed to wishful thinking but if we all hold our breath together perhaps we can influence our environment and bring back the sun.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Pictures today

sparkly track flowers on painted lady blight on ambo Also spotted, some ringlets and a marbled white butterfly but they didn't stop for pictures.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Any Similarities are Accidental

tulip tree 2

My aunt was a very keen gardener and her garden was full of interesting plants and ambitious design. One of her treasured projects was a tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera which grew bigger and bigger and bigger on one boundary of her plot but couldn't ever be persuaded to flower to her great disappointment. This tulip tree is in my garden in France and has flowered regularly for the last 10 years. Every time I see it I think of my aunt and hope she knows of it and feels my gardener's pride. 

Unfortunately, although it's a good year for tulip trees the weather hasn't really improved enough to bring on the vegetables particularly. The humid conditions have encouraged nearly terminal rust on the garlic and slugs on the seedlings to such an extent I've resorted to pellets even though I would prefer to avoid them.

Today is dry and with regular warnings of Smith periods from Blightwatch for the Channel Islands (the closest area they cover to me) I'm trying again to give a prophylactic spraying of Bordeaux mixture to the potatoes. The later varieties are making some tubers now and if I can keep them blight free for a few more weeks we may yet have a useful crop. I can hope anyway.

The runner beans are running but the other beans aren't really making much growth, the sweetcorn seems to be at a standstill and the courgette plants only just beginning to flower. I've never known a year like it and the longer range weather forecasts are all pretty gloomy for the rest of the year.

small wild flower - common cow wheat

The different conditions are producing some different vegetation. I'd never noticed this little flower before, a semi-parasitic weed of ancient woodlands called Common Cow Wheat or Melampyrum pratense. It is the food plant of the Heath Fritillary butterfly and if there were any butterflies this year it should be heaving with caterpillars but again, the weather is against it. I can't find a definitively good source about the plant to link to so I suggest you use your favourite search engine and read several entries to get a fuller picture.

I told you we'd had rain

The unusual conditions did bring on an early flush of ceps, I spotted these from the cab of the tractor when grass cutting, but it's small recompense for all the waterlogging everywhere else.

tuliptree 1

Sunday 17 June 2012

It rained and rained and rained

grey skies

The weather remains unsatisfactory and while it's so warm and wet I'm in some fear for the potato crop. Two days ago in a dry 12 hours I sprayed with Bordeaux mixture in the hope it would have time to work and dry onto the foliage. Later that day the rain came down harder than ever. I think the exercise was pointless.

Not that there's much crop to save so far. The Swift potatoes, normally extremely reliable very first earlies have provided just one or two tubers per plant and those were sluggy. Even the leafy parts of the plants were destroyed, a total failure for the first time ever. The Red Duke of York are making a little more weight but they are also falling prey to slugs. The soil is sodden and it's like pulling them from sinking sand.

The sweetcorn and pumpkins are now planted out but looking sulky and slow, the greenhouse tomatoes and peppers doing only o.k.

And of course, the deer were back the other night and took the tops off the onions.

However, at least this summer we won't be depending on local farmers to cut the grass and with our new best friend here we can start to manage the land in the way it needs. To begin with we'll be attacking patches of noxious docks and proliferating nettles and brambles but as time goes on we hope to encourage the ancient hay meadows here to achieve their full potential and clear up a lot of years of neglect at the same time.


Wednesday 6 June 2012

If there's nothing positive...

holding the moon

No sooner did I start to relax in the summer sun than it was cruelly removed again. I don't believe a word of it but the forecast for Friday tells me to expect snow. I mean, come on, give us a break.

dog rose

Time continues but everything is slow or going backwards. I've planted out the beans but I'm holding back on planting out the sweetcorn for a few more days. We might not get snow but we've lost the corn to hailstorms before now and so I'm not keen to take chances.

windy sunday

In other news I continue to be irritated by this broken travesty of a system for blogging. For a few days I imagined it had become better but this entry has proved me wrong. It even messes with the perfectly acceptable HTML image links provided by Flickr and the whole thing just makes me mad.  I don't like typing along the bottom of a text editing window.  If it wasn't for the pretty good spam filtering here (and my own lethargy) I'd move to Wordpress and be done with it.

So time to button my lip and wait for better times.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Title tba

Not sure what to call this update. There's nothing much of substance in it and yet I feel the need to mark my presence in the world.

mock orange
 The lovely weather has definitely morphed into summer. This is marvellous and has made me much happier. Unfortunately, the very high temperatures give me another excuse to shirk on work in the garden, it's just too hot out there for most of the day.

The replacement beans and sweet corn are just beginning to sprout. I did put up a couple of bean wigwams on some land Paul cleared while he was here and hope soon to be able to plant out the Painted Lady runners and a mishmash of climbing French beans, Carter's Polish which impressed me last year and some Cosse Violette which are part of my ongoing search for the lost purple bean of my youth.  I'll probably start another half dozen climbing beans to extend the season and there are some bush beans, Royal Red, nearly ready for a row of their own.

 I've also got a batch of Striped Bunch half runners but I have to clear the land for them in the back garden where they are isolated from other beans and also from the depredations of deer. To plant out with them I have the Dutch Cappuciner peas that came from the Heritage Seed Library this year and survived mouse attack in the greenhouse. One lonely Moschata pumpkin makes the set for the patch which is sharing with the soft fruit until a new fruit garden can be made for it.

I'm disappointed that the other pumpkins, Whangapararoa Crown and some Sweet Dumpling are yet to germinate. I don't think the seed is too old but they do seem very slow and if they're not up in a couple of days the worst will have happened.

 raven fluffing

The fluffy girl cat managed to choke on something yesterday evening and has hurt her throat. Her meow, always a bit reedy, has gone altogether and she has had some wheezy breathing over night. I've been worried enough to consider taking her to the vet although I could see no obstructions but she had some breakfast and seems happy enough so I'm hanging on to see if the irritation passes by itself.

crow moving

Crow is looking skinny and rather seedy too but that probably comes from lying in the long grass waiting for mice to pass by. He is still the best hunter of the three and the most demanding of my time waking me at all hours of the night for no particular reason I can see.

rook resting

Big fat Rook on the other hand never seems to trouble himself over much. As long as he gets a good cuddle when he wants it, and he'll jump right up and take it, he manages life with dignity and gravitas.

swallow 2008

Just for the record, our only pair of swallows have successfully raised their first brood of the year. The strongest baby came out for a flight a few days ago and for the last couple of days there have been four young swallows practising their flight and enjoying the sunshine. It's remarkable how the parents managed to find enough food for them all during the terrible weather of April and May but they did it. I hope the babies grow strong quickly and learn to look after themselves in a wicked world.