Archive for September, 2007

Gratuitous garden photos

Argh, have just spent ages faffing about with photos, unsuccessfully, and fully expect to publish this and find about 10 posts, all with pictures of strawberry plants and my jungly garden… which would not be good.

Anyway, here is my measly haul of blackberries from yesterday, which I now can’t make into jam, as I couldn’t get any wax discs or a funnel. (Could probably live without the funnel, wax discs rather more necessary for mould-prevention purposes.) I did contemplate just melting some wax on top from a candle, an idea which Scientist Boyfriend didn’t dismiss as ridiculous, but then I remembered that all my candles are scented, which kind of put the kibosh on that plan!

These are my strawberry plants, which I have refrained from naming. All happily in their pot, but now I look at them in the harsh light of a photo, I realise that one has slightly more room than the others. Oops.

Lastly, here are some photos of my jungly garden, which I include to shame me into doing something about it, especially as you can see over the fence and get an idea of how lovely next door’s garden is!

I did spend ages pulling up all the weeds from the gravel alongside the path, the whole time thinking: “No! Don’t go there, Hannah! You’re condemning yourself to a lifetime of grubby fingernails, bad backs, holes in the knees of all your trousers and getting twitchy at barbecues cos you want to deadhead your host’s roses. Is this the future you envisaged for yourself? No? There’s still time, if you want to escape… You can just… walk… away…”

Needless to say, I stuck at the weeds. Now I need to clear the only useable bed so I can put something useful in it next spring, and, erm, find the rockery….


September 30, 2007 at 4:44 pm 2 comments

Of soft fruit and eggs

Today has been a good day for local food!

I frogmarched the boyfriend to the garden centre on foot, despite the temptation to drive and not have to carry the plants back. (This turned out to have the unintended bonus of stopping me getting carried away and buying loads of bags of compost and random plants.) I bought four wee strawberry plants, two Honeoye, an early fruiting variety, and two Hapil, a mid-season variety. Tomorrow, I’m going to put them in my ginormous pot to get established for next year. I’m really, inordinately excited about this, silly as that sounds – my first foray beyond herbs. I’m even tempted to name them, but that’s a bit daft…

On the way back, we went to the PYO/Farm Shop for the first time, only to get honey (which they don’t make there but comes from Sandhurst which isn’t too far away) but I was really excited to see that they didn’t just have strawberries and raspberries, but also a huge range of other seasonal veg. We’ve both resolved that we should make a weekly trip to get the bulk of our fruit and veg there. We’ve been really lazy and just got everything (except meat) at Waitrose, cos it’s all local(ish) veg and very ethical, but even so, it still doesn’t really compare to things from just down the road. We do have a market, but it isn’t very good for fruit and veg – all iceberg lettuce and Dutch tomatoes and suchlike – and our farmers market is only monthly, and during the week, so it’s not a viable option for general everyday stuff.

It does seem silly, though, that in order to get the most local veg possible, we have to drive (or we don’t have to, but not even I am committed enough to walk 2 miles with an enormous bag of spuds!), whereas Waitrose is in easy walking distance. Funny old world we live in…

I also picked up a leaflet about why local food is important. Hey, guess what – it cuts down food miles, it tastes better, you get a better range of seasonal produce, you can talk to the producers and it helps the local economy! Awesome! Okay, okay, sarcasm aside, (I didn’t really need convincing) it has put me onto a fantastic website which I’m now going to shamelessly plug. This is a county-by-county directory of farms which sell produce directly, including ones with PYO and box schemes.

We also picked another load of blackberries, though again it was a bit disappointing. Perhaps ‘load’ wasn’t the right word. Typically, the best-looking ones were either too high up or in the middle of nettle beds – a couple of times the bf lifted me up so I could grab some juicy-looking ones that were 8ft off the ground!! That would have been interesting to explain to curious passers-by!! We don’t have a fantastic haul, but I should have enough to make a few jars of blackberry and apple jam. When I’ve got some preserving sugar, a funnel and some wax discs….

Lastly, we called in on a lovely lady who freecycled us some crockery when we first moved in and who keeps hens, and bought 6 huuuuuge eggs from her over the gate. They’re proper muddy eggs, from happy hens who wander around in a garden about half a mile away. Hurrah!

September 29, 2007 at 6:52 pm Leave a comment

Allotment excitement

Have just gone on the waiting list for an allotment. Hey, in 5 years, I might even get one!!

September 28, 2007 at 3:34 pm 1 comment


I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, or just because I’m getting greener, but I’m feeling very autumnal at the moment, very in tune with the changing weather. I spent most of this month in Morocco, and while I had an absolutely amazing time, now I’m home I feel like I’ve missed out on something. I’ve missed the best of the blackberries, judging by my measly haul yesterday, and I’ve missed the frenzy of bottling and jam-making etc. I left while the summer veg was still at its height, and I’ve suddenly been plumped back in England at the time when you’re facing the prospect of eating nothing but carrots and parsnips until April.

Have been spectacularly lazy today. Had a brief telephone interview for a job with a wine merchant, but I don’t think it went very well – stumbled a bit on my lack of any wine knowledge more sophisticated than ‘mmm, that’s nice’ and ‘eww, that’s going to make me feel rough tomorrow’. Shame, as the job sounded really interesting and the guy was really nice. Ah well. Sure something will turn up. Otherwise, I spent most of today avoiding a) washing up and b) going to the shops in the rain. I did briefly contemplate leaving the scone-making detritus outside in the rain…

Went a bit squash crazy in Waitrose. Bought a gem and a spaghetti squash and have sod all idea what to do with them! Also rang the council and found out I can get a really good deal on a composter. £13.95 for a 220l and £18.95 for a large, plus £5 delivery, which is much cheaper than I’ve seen elsewhere. (Water butts are cheaper in the garden centre though.)

Does anyone know anything about composters? There’s only the two of us, and our garden is basically a big patio, so I don’t know a) how much compost we’ll get, or b) how much we’ll be able to use. I assume it’ll be fine for using in containers. I had thought of getting a wormery, but they’re just so expensive, and also I heard you can only put about a day’s worth of kitchen waste in each week, so in terms of cutting down landfill waste it wouldn’t be that effective. I’d say we were a fairly typical household, so how much compost would two people’s kitchen waste make? Will I be able to use it? Am I going to have to ring my dad and have another ‘gardening for dummies’ conversation?

Ooh, and someone on INEBG said that ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’ was on special offer in WHSmiths, but I trekked there in the pouring rain and it wasn’t. *sob* And I was so excited, cos I was gazing longingly at it yesterday, but decided not to buy it, as it was quite pricey and I don’t have any money.

September 28, 2007 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

Book recommendation

In addition to the sewing machine and two extremely useful kitchen gadgets, a turny-handle whisk and a mini grater, my wonderful boyfriend bought me this wonderful book for my birthday.

As you may have guessed, it’s in two sections, one about growing vegetables and one about seasonal cooking. The gardening bit has lots of handy hints for the novice gardener (although most of my gardening advice still comes from my dad, usually after a panicky text message, or an emailed photo accompanied by the question ‘What’s this?’ to which he replies ‘a weed’). It covers things like crop rotation, companion planting, storage etc, and has a directory of plants with guides to propagating, planting out, care and harvesting. The part has lots of recipes arranged by season, and a section at the end with several recipes for bread and some sauces and salsas. Coriander experiments aside, I haven’t actually grown or cooked anything on the advice of the book yet, but it has been good bedside reading and given me lots of ideas for what may be feasible to plant next spring.

The landlady paved over our garden, so I only have one small square bed (currently full of weeds and a rogue mint plant) and containers to play with. I’ve managed to scrounge some old wooden wine boxes off my dad, which with a coat of varnish and a few holes drilled in the bottom should prove excellent places to grow some salad and maybe squashes next summer. Am also
picking up plant pots in charity shops like nobody’s business.

I gather you can plant some varieties spinach over the winter, which I’m quite attracted by the idea of. Growing spinach is going to be one of those things like using dried pulses – a green thing I’ve started doing not motivated primarily by environmental concerns, but just because it makes life a lot easier. I’m sick of buying enormous bags of spinach and cans of beans; you always have to eat them before they go off, which means you have to think of 400 creative things to do with spinach, or adzuki beans, eat nothing else for 3 days, and then you’re so sick of them you don’t want to eat them for 3 months. (And, believe me, I ran out of things to do with adzuki beans very quickly.) Beansprouts are the same. Maybe I should ask the boy for a sprouting kit for Christmas…

September 27, 2007 at 11:47 am Leave a comment

The Great Coriander Experiment, Part 4

Once upon a time, I bought a coriander plant from a supermarket. It thrived for about a week, then started to look sickly. I fed it some coffee grounds as an experiment (someone on selfsufficientish said they were good fertiliser). It shot up to about 2 foot tall and then flowered.

A few months later, I planted some coriander seeds in some washed out yoghurt pots. I just used the seeds from the supermarket, again on advice from someone on selfsufficientish. They didn’t germinate. I googled coriander in a panic, and some snooty gardening website told me I should have planted a variety grown for leaf. The seeds went mouldy.

I went to the supermarket to buy some more yoghurts, but bought another coriander plant instead. It was a much posher supermarket, so I thought it might be a better quality plant (I noticed a distinct difference between a cheap supermarket basil plant and one I bought from a garden centre). It thrived for about a week, then started to look sickly. I went on holiday for three weeks, leaving it in the care of my boyfriend. The plant went mouldy.

Sighing, I returned to the supermarket to buy some yoghurts and got some proper seeds from the hardware shop. I have just planted them. Fingers crossed, everybody…

September 26, 2007 at 9:31 am 1 comment

Internet finally connected, rejoining 21st century

Whoaaa, sorry for the epic pause! I moved back in July and it’s taken this long to get the internet up and running – unbelievable in this day and age. Anyhoo, can’t give a massive update now, as I’ve just got back from my cousin’s wedding and have to return my bf’s suit that he hired, as well as deal with a sinkful of washing up and get some food in, but here are some photos in lieu of news, and I shall fill you in on my craft projects and the garden and the other green things I’ve been doing this summer, all in good time.

Here is the cross stitch sampler I’ve been making for my parents’ wedding anniversary:

My beautiful new sewing machine, before I spent hours cleaning it.

September 24, 2007 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

Most recent ramblings

September 2007
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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."