Thursday 25 April 2013


Back in France on what must be the hottest day of the year so far. No time to get comfortable though, the weekend promises cold rain into next week. So I've been out there in the midday sun trying to catch up on all the stuff that's been on hold until the good weather comes and hoping it's not too late for stuff to catch up.

The overwintered oca tubers are now in. With luck I'll have half a dozen plants of each colour to plant out in a few weeks and with a following wind a fine harvest in the autumn. I can hope so.

I also had enough ulluco for 18 pots of individuals to plant out and crop and a bigger pot of petit pois sized tubers which I hope will form the basis of a tub that I can bring in for new seed tubers for next year.


Spring foraging for a handful of greens for my supper tonight I found nettles (of course), new growth on the Good King Henry, winter cress flower buds, hop shoots and the flowering stems of some overwintered purple kale so I shan't go hungry.

It also seems as if winter hasn't been quite so grim here even if there was lot of snow. We have bluebells already despite dire warnings in the UK of a late start to the show because of the slow spring.


No bloglove yet, it's too sunny to stay in and read but I'll add some later when I'm cosy with a wood fire and a whisky.

Tuesday 23 April 2013


lesser celandine

This bloglove challenge is getting a bit patchy. Sorry. In my defence I think the improved weather has tempted the bloggers away from their machines and back into real life, at least there was a dearth of blogs over the weekend to choose from.

Celandines in the garden and at last the trees are beginning to show their leaves. I'm off to France tomorrow and hope that the late start in the garden there won't have too many ill effects.

Some more bloglove posts:

Oats growing in Canada under lights. It's not the way it's usually done but it seems to be working.

Fascinating post about the diary of Kate Parry Fryes who wrote of her experiences campaigning for Women's Suffrage.

Idiot Johnson sings for his supper. Buy the album. He doesn't take comments but you can find him on twitter.

horse chestnut

Friday 19 April 2013



For a long time on this blog I did an occasional update on our kittens as they became cats. They are fully grown up now but still very important members of the household so I dedicate this post to them. None of them wanted their pictures taking and I apologise in advance for the rather basic snaps.

Raven, the fluffy girl cat is still as light as a piece of dandelion down, she doesn't jump but flies through the air and is wonderfully soft to the touch. In the evenings she likes to snuggle between us on the sofa to watch the television and take advantage of our protection as the boys tease her something rotten and she has no sense of humour about it. They only have to look now before she starts to growl at them although she has no real aggression, she just runs away if they persist.


Crow is still the slinkiest naughtiest cat but just recently he got into a fight that he clearly didn't win. He came in, shocked and shaken and hid for twelve hours. He didn't want to be checked over, I feared he had been hit by a car, and stayed in the dark beneath my desk until late into the evening. Then he perked up again but a few days later a horrible pustule burst from under a wound on his forehead. It smelled disgusting and I thought it would need a trip to the vet but after I'd swabbed it out with salty water it cleaned up well and started to heal. The hole is nearly all gone now but you can still see the patch where it was in the picture.


Rook now weighs nearly 8kg, far too much, and we've taken to calling him BigFat. He doesn't care but everyone including the vet is agreed that he's at risk of diabetes so in theory he's on a diet. Unfortunately, it's not working very well and I think he's actually gained weight since it was started. He's not exactly greedy but his method of waiting until the others have finished and then cleaning their bowls combined with almost continuous inactivity helps him keep the bulk in place. I'm hoping that the summer in France will give him more exercise and more things to take his mind from dinner.

Bloglove today:

Kerstin talks about motherhood and doughnuts.

Emma, she of bloglove challenge fame has got the bug.

Botany Photo of the Day has the Purple Filbert today and is worth checking out everyday for lovely images.

Thursday 18 April 2013



And they said it couldn't be done. On the 8th of April I ignored the very sensible suggestions from Realseeds on how to grow their Salsola and planted some in a pot to leave in the darkest dampest corner of my north facing bedroom window. I'm pleased to say that this is just as good as starting seeds outside at this time of year and a considerable comfort, at least I know that something is going to grow for me.

Liscari Sativa  (Wiki calls it Salsola soda) is a funny little salad plant, salt tolerant and often likened to samphire but better suited to garden cultivation than that salt marsh dweller. The Wikipedia entry is somewhat rambling and imprecise but talks of the commercial uses of this plant which has a long history of being burnt to provide soda ash for glass making and soap. It was particularly important in Italy for making Murano Venetian glass in the 15th century. Fascinating as all that is, I'm just going to eat mine if they ever get big enough to harvest.

Bloglove links:

Ottawa Gardener is eating her wild vegetables, which some might call weeds.

The Cuban currency system explained. I wasn't able to leave a comment but I am grateful for this article. Cuba is a country which I have a great interest in and wish a much better future for.

Stuart and Gabrielle are extremely busy (and considerably more productive than me.)

Tuesday 16 April 2013


houston b&w 2008

That's a new word. Anyway, for the last couple of days I've been slipping into a depression, mostly without identifiable cause and probably just needing to be sat out until the moment passes and I can see the future again.

I couldn't even find a picture of a black dog for illustration, Houston, above, was abandoned on the farm a few years ago and we eventually found her a place in a refuge in France. I wonder what happened to her sometimes but I wish still more that something bad has happened to the people who callously left her in the forest all alone.

Too miserable to leave comments but here are some #bloglove links. Step along and say something nice from me.

Nick is doing dandelions. I like the roots braised in a splash of soy sauce.

Celia is cleaning out her spice cupboard  and other mustinesses. I should do that.

Vegetable side dishes in Sicily.

Sunday 14 April 2013



It really seems to be a proper spring day today, a little bit windy but warm with it, sunny, mild and the bees and butterflies are beginning to show themselves. We even cut the lawn in the back garden. It's true that we didn't see the magnificent Swallowtail in the picture above though, that was taken in France way back in 2003.

The pictures have always been a big part of this blog. I am by no means a photographic genius, I still get my F stops muddled with my extended octaves and bokeh is what happens when I try to watch television without my glasses on but modern digital cameras really take the strain of deciding what settings are needed quickly enough in most cases that quite dramatic photography is possible.

I'd still like to be able to understand the principles involved, and I do to some extent but I don't have the feel for them that allows for sufficient fluency at speed and just prefer to be able to get on with it without having to stretch my brain for merely mechanical facts.

Canon Digital Ixus 330, bought in 2002 still working 2013

The arrival of my first digital compact camera, a Canon Ixus 330 with a magnificent 2 megapixels of resolution in October 2002 really brought me the opportunity to explore photography as an art form. It removed the need to pay for film and development and meant that experiments were possible because chancy shots were cheap and painless to discard if they didn't work.

It was even better to discover that this little camera was so sturdily built  that it's still going strong even now and I keep it as a useful backup. The Swallowtail was taken with this camera, admittedly with Paul behind it but that butterfly was a real tease and required a long reach to get it in the frame. We've never managed a better shot of one even though we now have far more advanced and expensive kit.

These days I use a Nikon D40 originally chosen by Paul for himself. He's since replaced it with other more recent models but this camera with a Nikon 18-200MM F3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR DX lens does nearly everything I ask of it and manages the close-ups of flowers and insects interspersed with pictures of birds flying away and long shots of the vegetable patch extremely well. I've grown to love it so much I've just bought it a camera bag after several years of toting it around in a carboard box. Here it is, snuggled down in lovely orange luxury.

Nikon D40 in cheap but cheerful Amazon basics camera bag

Bloglove today:

Laura is hardening off her chillies in Sweden .

Langdon is eating Devil's Club aka Oplopanax horridus.

Sophie has been to Whitmoor Common.

Saturday 13 April 2013



This is a Kingcycle although unfortunately that link to the inventor doesn't actually tell you very much about these recumbent bicycles. You might take a look here at Dave Larrington's blog for a few pictures of the same model in action.

This particular bike was bought new in about 1994 and Paul used to ride (and race) on it regularly before he took up with me. He was still riding it to work each summer until quite recently but in the last few years the roads have become so pit holed and the other road users so careless that he stopped because it had become too dangerous to use.

However a renewed interest was born this spring and he's been doing it up for the last three weeks. It's now ready for road testing. There are very many technical details that I'm not competent to to comment on but if you're very anxious to know ask away and I'll try to get some answers for you.

Of course, I'm not so keen on cycling but in the course of our researches we came across this sort of thing which might be the motivation I need if anyone feels like making me a gift.

And what goes around comes around. Please check out our bloglove for today:

Moving time again for the Reluctant Memsahib.

A marvellous Grape Liqueur at the Cottage Smallholder.

Rose has a wonderful Dandelion Vegan Blog and I hope she'll continue for a long time.

Friday 12 April 2013


choc orange cookies

I made these cookies and now I'm having to hide them so there will be a few left for the master of the house when he gets home from hunting.

Several days ago I planted seeds and each day, like a child waiting for Christmas I look into the propagator and come away disappointed. Nothing to see yet, so I'm drumming my fingers and chewing my nails and waiting, waiting some more for something to start.

To fill the time, take the bloglove:

Mmmmm, chocolate chip orange cookies. Don't make them too thick or they'll be chewy rather than crunchy.

This is a clever way of making a permanent bed with a wood based core. I tried leaving a comment but don't know if it registered or not.

The Throwback at Trapper Creek has the polytunnels I desire.

Thursday 11 April 2013


slice of life

I think it might be possible to push this post naming schema a little too far. Not much of interest to report today, a vampire took my blood in the name of medical science and we're all holding our breath waiting for warmer weather next week.

Still, the bloglove never ends and here are three more worthy entrants for your consideration and approval.

Going bananas on the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog.

Gwenhwyfar  wins a war in her new garden.

Neill has taken a look at the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculanium exhibition (website here)

Wednesday 10 April 2013


Last night we went out with our usual group of veg*n friends to Blah Blah Blah which has relocated to Twickenham. It was  our first visit to the new spot and we wanted to see how it compared to our memories of the old place but I've more or less given up on my potential career as a restaurant reviewer because I found that where things are good I think little of it, it's what I expect after all, and the things that annoy the most are generic problems with nearly all restaurants, things like lack of imagination and focus in the menu, ambience problems of one sort or another, the other customers or lack of them.

So I'll refrain from launching into an unprovoked attack on an establishment that was very nearly flawless in what it set out to do and just say that the best dish for me was the Mogo chips (that's cassava) served with a tamarind dip. Easily the most edgy dish on the menu. Don't take my word for it though, go there and try some for yourself.

Now, since Google decided to do away with their useful RSS reader I've been trialling Feedly as a replacement and all was going fairly well as long as I just stuck to reading what was served to me but I have to say there are a lot of niggles under the surface to do with feed management and control.

Probably the most annoying thing that happened is that I couldn't add a new feed directly to my collection so went back to Reader and added it there. Some clever interlinking means that Feedly picks up the Google feed list and updates its own. However, in the interests of tidiness while I was on Reader I marked everything read. Big mistake. That also filtered through to Feedly and I lost my entire reading stream. It's made worse because there seems to be no one place on Feedly where I can view my feeds as opposed to the stream emanating from them. Anyway to cut a long and rather tedious story short, I'm not quite happy with Feedly and so still open to suggestions for a better RSS reader if anyone has one.

 And now for the Bloglove roll:

Tea with dried limes from Taste of Beirut

The spinach is in  at Plants and Stones, I like the look of that variety which is available from Vilmorin.

Wildlife through the eyes of my forebears is a really thoughtful and saddening article on Wolf Tree Farm. I couldn't see a place to leave a comment but the entry is well worth reading.

Tuesday 9 April 2013


baby ulluco

These are four little ulluco starts that I was sent in a swap earlier this year. As you can see they are strong stem rooters and part of my new strategy with these rather difficult to perfect tubers will be to earth them up deeply in September or October. I'm hoping this cover will hasten the initiation of the ulluco and provide extra frost protection  for the forming tubers. My pessimism leads me to suspect that all that lovely loose earth over some delicious starchy roots will be a mouse and vole new starter home billboard and the problems will merely lurch into another area.

I have some tubers of my own saving to plant too, but they're not started yet. Don't think it's too late but I'm beginning to get twitchy about the very late start to the season caused by the dreadfully cold weather. If we don't have a wonderful Indian summer then we're doomed.

Bloglove today:

Horrible vandalism is a problem on many allotments. So sorry for people this happens to.

A vegan recipe that I must try Vegan Basil Chicken although not everything this chef cooks is vegan.

Renae is in Northern Virginia and has been eagle spotting.

Monday 8 April 2013


My visitor arrived and so it seemed rude to shuffle off into a corner and write a blog when there was real life to be lived.

We did take a trip to Ryton Gardens to see what was coming up now the spring has begun to slowly warm everything up
Garden Path by Jeannie Hart
but actually not all that much was showing that had more than a hint of what was to come. Which was a little bit disappointing. We drifted around, enjoying the unusual sensation of sun on our backs and I was again reminded how useful it would be to have and how much I would like a polytunnel to extend the seasons.

Now we are back to our usual numbers and can slip back into normal routines. Here are a few of the blogs I missed reading over the weekend.

Bloglove roll:

Brams is investigating some Chinese 'broad' beans. I didn't leave a comment there because Wordpress hates me.

Karl is out for a duck .

A Kitchen Herbwife has lots and lots of recipes for nettles.

Friday 5 April 2013


Actually I don't think seeds are embryos are they? I'd better look it up.


Well, yes they are, but the seed includes the embryo so it's more complicated than that. Shrug, whatever. I'm in an awful rush today because I've had nearly a week to clean and tidy the house for an important visitor this afternoon and I've done nothing, nothing at all. So now I have four hours to do it all in and I'm blogging instead. Which is also my excuse for the dodgy snap of peanut seeds from Franchi above.

These aren't really my seeds.  I bought them as part of a xmas present for the man, who loves his coffee and peanut butter biscuits so I bought him the seeds to grow his own. But I expect bringing up the babies will devolve to me and I'm quite looking forward to it. It must have been more than 20 years since I last grew peanuts from a handful of raw monkey nuts unusually available in the local Safeway in Worthing. It was a good summer and the plants did well in my small but perfectly formed cold greenhouse. It wasn't a great crop but it was a happy time so peanuts have good vibrations for me.

I'll be keeping these under glass too unless we have a heat wave. They take a bit of space as the seed heads burrow into the soil around the plants so it will mean big pots but I'd rather do that than risk losing everything to slugs and the cold.

Today's links for #bloglove :

First, Niles who is trying an entirely carb free diet for reasons I'm not quite sure of. Wouldn't do for me at all.

Lucy is pond planning for wildlife.

and Joan is making her own miso, which is very inspiring and I must try it myself because we eat a lot of miso here.

Thursday 4 April 2013



The Christophine, chayote or mirliton to give it but three of its names is a Caribbean vegetable that excites the same sort of responses that Marmite does. In the Deep South of America they have become embedded into Cajun and Creole cuisine as inextricable essentials loved by all, in Australia they are despised as the Dunny Vine and considered a food of last resort or a prime con artists material for imitating more valuable fruits.

For the heritage varieties of Louisiana there is an excellent site at which is full of advice, recipes and pictures of interesting traditional selections. Unfortunately, the advice is suited to a warmer climate than Northern Europe but the love and enthusiasm shines through and it's a good resource for general information.


I've been unable to locate an equivalent Australian site.

I'm not sure where my Sechium edule specimen above originated but it was bought in a shop with many vegetables from the Indian sub-continent so it's probably from somewhere over there. With luck it will sprout from that rather forbidding closed end and make an interesting climbing vine with the possibility of more fruit at the end of the year but mostly I'm just growing it for amusement.

Bloglove roll:

The Old Foodie has a recipe for Choko which seems appropriate for today.

Marcia Bonta writes a nature article a month and this one is about frog spawn in a vernal pond.

I found Cathy Ashley via Emma's blog and stopped to comment on a link to a book of whacky recipes for making dye and so on but this article on changes to the tax credit system will be of interest to anyone running a low income business.

Wednesday 3 April 2013


Opressed as I am by a devastating feeling of doom over the coming season I was encouraged by my fragrant husband to splash out on some new stock to try to get back that growing feeling again. He paid too, so that's alright.

There are many new seeds, and I really didn't need any of them since I am overwhelmed with sad half-empty little packets rattling lonely and unloved around my storage boxes, but more of them later. I also secured some starts for Yacon. I did have the potential for these back in 2009 when a very kind correspondent sent me a plant and some eating tubers from Germany but an overly casual approach to winter storage stopped me before I ever got started and I've been too embarrassed to try again until now.

Yacon starts

Here are the little babies, sent from Realseeds . The picture is a bit blurry and the tips a bit wet just after I'd unpacked and given them a drink but you can see all three have shoots and I'm hopeful for three good plants, two more than promised!

The little bit of Yacon I've eaten was interesting enough. My worry is that like the Jerusalem artichokes the indigestible inulin will make us fart. However they seem a prolific crop and I quite like the idea of reducing them to a sugary syrup; vegans don't do honey and so all forms of self sufficient concentrated sweetness involve long simmering processes to concentrate the loveliness.

Our bloglove links for the day:

Rhizowen picks his moment to harvest his yacon.

Diamond Geezer does Little Holland House which looks absolutely stunning, although more arts and crafts than horticulture.

Antipodesgirl is Pushing up Daisies and sounds nearly as cold as I am.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Share the love

celandine lesser

Emma Cooper, who is a very kind and giving person, has had another good idea.  She's suggesting that we all make an effort to comment on each other's blogs this month. It has dual benefits, downhearted bloggers get a bit of appreciation and spammers get pushed off the page.  I'm going to try to join in, although I think 5 comments a day might be a bit much for me so I'm going for 3. Because I read a lot of blogs they won't all be gardening blogs, I'll include a few cooking writers and maybe even one or two of the more off the wall places I like to look at. Whatever, I'll link to them each day and perhaps you'll find something of interest there too.

And because I'm going to write a links post each day this month I should try to get something out about the garden too.


We went back to France just before Easter and discovered it was bitterly cold in Normandy too. In fact, we had snow on the second day although that had melted away into an almost balmy spring warmth by the afternoon. So much to do and very little time to do it in.

onion patch

The first digging was completed though, on a patch which has been covered with black plastic for nearly 2 years now. It dug over relatively easily with a fork, was full of worms and has now received 200 onion sets and 50 shallots.  We also put in a short row of Swift first early potatoes. Ran out of time and space for garlic though. I'll do a few in pots but it looks like we'll be buying our supplies this year which is a pity.

And now those links:

Emma's second day of blogging for this month.

Patrick talks about the loss of Google Reader (which I use and find essential)

Michelle keeps fantastic stats on her vegetable patch in rather more equitable temperatures than I have here.