Archive for September, 2008

Bottled sunshine

“It is all very well to talk about ‘the fruits of the earth in their season’, and very nice too; but it is nice to be able to eat tomatoes in April, or pork in August. Of course if you buy these things from a shop you can eat anything at any time of the year, but then you find you have to catch the eight-thirty every morning and go and sit all day in a stuffy ofice to be able to afford to do so.

If you do not want to catch the eight-thirty what you do is you grow these things for yourself and preserve them.”

(John Seymour, The Fat of the Land, ch 8)

“Jams, chutneys and pickles embrace the seasons, but they also, in an elegant and entirely positive manner, defy them. They do so by stretching the bounty of more abundant months into the sparser ones. We shouldn’t underestimate this achievement. Over the centuries, wizards and alchemists have used all the power and magic they can muster to try and catch rainbows, spin straw into gold, and even bring the dead back to lift. They’ve failed of course. Yet all the while, humble peasants and ordinary housewives have got on with the simple business of bottling sunshine, so that it may spread a little joy in the leaner seasons… They call it jam.”

(Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, introduction to River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – Preserves by Pam Corbin)

The weather is starting to feel distinctly autumnal. I even slept with a hot water bottle the night before last, admittedly mainly because I’d been curled up in bed hugging it for stomach cramps, but the sheets have that crisp chill about them when you first get into bed. Part of me is almost able to get excited about curried parsnip soup, but since the actual summer was moderately dreadful (I am slightly puzzled when at people going around saying, ‘This summer has been TERRIBLE/A TOTAL WASHOUT!’ (delete as applicable) – I find it hard to believe they can’t remember last summer, but I accept it hasn’t been superb) I wouldn’t mind an Indian one as well, just so I can wear that pretty pink dress again…

Scientist Boyfriend’s mum’s new house has a garden full of apple trees, rhubarb and brambles so we went over for Sunday lunch yesterday, on the pretence that we enjoyed their company, but really so we could plunder their garden for edible goodies. I wasn’t sure you were supposed to pick rhubarb this late, but I was under strict orders to the contrary and now have two huge bags of the stuff. I also have lots of green beans that I want to freeze. Right now, I’d be quite happy never to eat another French bean again. But I’m sure that in the middle of January I’ll get some out of the freezer and think, ‘Ooh, these are nice! Wouldn’t it be lovely to grow some beans again next year!’ and get the seed catalogues out and the whole process will begin again.

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September 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm 3 comments

Garden successes and failures

Someone on SSish started this thread, and I thought I’d post it here as well so I can refer back to it more easily.

Things that have done well this year are:

rocket
cut and come again lettuces
strawberries (few and far between, but tasty)
tomatoes (so far so good)
most herbs
chillies, esp the indoor ones

Things that haven’t done so well are:

butternut squash and pumpkins – lots of flowers but no fruit, even with my hamfisted attempts to pollinate them myself
pak choi – all got slug-munched, but if I had been more assiduous with the beer traps they might have been okay
peppers – just would not grow from seed, had to buy plants (though all seem to be doing okay now)
blueberries – only one of 3 bushes flowered, but the berries on that one were yummy

I’m a bit anxious my peppers won’t ripen. Scientist Boyfriend mentioned that he saw some of those plastic mini-greenhouses in Woolworths for £5 so I might invest in some, though not unaware of the inherent contradiction of buying lots of cheap plastic things in order to free myself from the system of just buying lots of cheap plastic things. I think I also read something about needing to cut off the tops of the plants so the existing peppers can ripen, but I can’t remember where I read this or if in fact I dreamt it and it is, in fact, not true at all.

Next year: be more vigilant with slugs and research squash sex more thoroughly.

September 5, 2008 at 9:47 am 1 comment

Trip to the farmers’ market

I popped out to the farmers’ market on my lunch break and came back with a good haul, albeit mainly of meat. We’re planning on buying half a lamb from the chap we bought the side of pork from back in February, so we got some chops to make sure we like it 😉 and also picked up some sausages and stewing beef. Also came home with a couple of rabbits, which I’ve never cooked before, but apparently you can just substitute them for chicken in recipes.

Found some bread which wasn’t too expensive and saves me having to make some. All good.

And loads of apples. He didn’t have any spartans, which are my favourite variety, so I just got a big mixed bag, which has the benefit that I get to try lots of different kinds (I have a space at the back of my gardening notebook where I write down varieties of things that Scientist Boyfriend or I particularly like, although so far our putative orchard is just going to consist of spartans), but the unfortunate drawback to this plan is that I don’t know what kind any of them are.

And a bottle of gingery stuff. According to the skilled salesman’s patter, (I’m such a sucker for free samples and people who are genuinely enthusiastic about what they sell) it has a myriad of uses – drunk chilled, hot, with lemonade, with spirits, stewing fruit, frozen as ice cubes for Pimm’s.

Want Pimm’s now…

September 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm Leave a comment

Scientist Boyfriend…

… now with added root-vegetable-crisps-making skills.

I am a very lucky hamster. 🙂

September 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm 2 comments

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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."