Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Curiouser and curiouser

Once upon a time I had the idea of having a corner of the garden inspired by Alice-in-Wonderland with a huge chair surrounded by oversized plants - sunflowers and dahlias for example - to make one feel they had just taken a sip from the bottle labelled 'Drink Me'.
Maybe that time has come, while sorting my new seed packets I have noticed a bit of a theme...

As always, click the pic to biggen. Or nibble a bit of the small cake with the words 'Eat Me' beautifully marked in currants.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Squash 2017

Well, the crop of 2017 (minus two Canada Crooknecks that we've already eaten) doesn't exactly make my chest swell with pride. Though the Violina Rugosa front and centre is a fine thing.
Still, there's always next year ...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Popcorn Harvest

It's been a good summer for corn - mind you, never enough sweet corn to really satisfy as I can't spare that much space. But we've this Dakota Black popcorn for the long winter nights in front of the idiot box. And it tastes remarkably better than anything you get at the cinema. Because popcorn makers buy by weight and sell by volume, industry research is all about achieving the biggest flakes, never mind the taste just add more butter and salt.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Foraging


I bagged a Beefsteak Fungus and some Chanterelles on our weekend walk. The latter so delicious I only remembered to record them with one bite to go. The fungus is more challenging or 'interesting', and possibly just a bit too glibbery texture-wise. I also collected enough sloes for a few bottles of gin and a bag full of rosebay willowherb foliage which I will ferment and dry to make 'Ivan Chai'.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cucumber Numbers

Here are half a dozen that need eating now. That's about 6 and a half feet of cucumber. And there are a dozen more near this size on the vines. And I've already eaten or given away at least another half dozen ...
I put 4 vines in the greenhouse and 2 outdoors. That's 4 feet of cucumber from each vine - so far. There are still more forming.
Now, I've got this recipe for cucumber sandwiches from an old book my mother gave me when I left home called 'New Dinners for All Occasions' by Elizabeth O. Hiller, 1920. "Pare 1 slender cucumber, cut in slices crosswise the thickness of a silver dollar. Marinate with French dressing. Let stand in a cold place 15 minutes. Shape thin slices of white bread in small rounds a trifle larger than the cucumber, spread with mayonnaise, cover half the slices with a slice of cucumber, cover with remaining halves, press edges and sprinkle top side with paprika."
If I make the thickness of a silver dollar to be roughly 1/8 inch, then these 6 will yield me 624 such sandwiches.
Note to self for next year: Get a pickling variety, a later variety that stores, and perhaps just 2 in the greenhouse.

An embarrassment of cucumbers

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Salade Ni├žoise


Hooray, beans are back on the menu. And these 'Early Risers' are so sweet and tender. I've written their praises before and I shall go on growing them forever. I can't keep up with all the lettuce which is starting to want to run to flower in this heat.
Still importing potatoes, olives and anchovies though.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Der Grosse Rasenstuck

All-night rain has filled the water butts again, soaked the earth and has made weeding quite pleasant. I thinned the carrots and did a final thinning of beets (lunch).
Meanwhile I have just finished reading Richard Mabey's terrific book 'Weeds', the story of outlaw plants - considered culturally, historically and botanically. It looks like there may indeed be fundamental gene complexes shared by many 'weed' species which predisposes them to fast growth and adaptability. So, John Ruskin wasn't far from the mark when he said
" A weed is a vegetable which has the innate disposition to get into the wrong place ... It is not its being venomous, or ugly, but its being impertinent - thrusting itself where it has no business, and hinders other people's business - that makes a weed of it."


"What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet
."

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Monday, June 26, 2017

Selfies

Due to my laissez faire method of gardening, I get many things self seeding. Chiefly amaranthus, lettuce, chard and nasturtium. Several generations on and possibly having crossed with some local pigweed, it's a joy to see the amaranthus emerge unbidden in plain green or wine red or a hotch-potch of dappled and infused intermediates.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hottest June

Here is what the weather looked like yesterday. Which prompted this lamentation on the MetOffice site ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Solstice Stocktaking


On this, the hottest day of the year (so far) - 32° - a look at how things are progressing. I was late sowing - April 10th for tomatoes, courgettes, squash and cucumber. But even so, cucumbers are ready to cut now, courgettes just a few days away and black cherry tomatoes have formed and will ripen in another couple of weeks I guess. Early riser beans are 6 feet up the poles and charlotte potatoes are in bloom behind them. The corn is as high as a pygmy goat's eye and there is lettuce aplenty and still pickings of chard and kale from last year. No rain in sight so lots of watering to be done...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hugelkultur

A couple of new garden projects this year - a wildflower meadow and hugelkultur. Two weeks ago I constructed my first Hugel and have now begun to Kultur it. I achieved a height of about 3 feet and it's about 10 feet long. So, perhaps not as high as is optimal, and it will settle. Though I can add to it in the fall. I've started it off mostly with bush beans and a few cucumber and courgette. I will be adding some chard, spinach and nasturtiums soon and perennials later.
Anyway, Ta-Da!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Winter Projects

Before leaving for Canada I did a little garden DIY. I built a half-timbered mock-Tudor birdhouse and constructed a wattle containment for the 'hedgerow' that I'm trying to beat back control. Happy to report that a pair of Great tits have set up housekeeping in the nestbox and I hear a chorus of peeps from within every time an adult flies back with it's beak full. Impossible to get a photo of entry or exit - just a blur.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sectioned

Just eating up the last of last year's squash. After a two and a half month winter sojourn on Toronto Island I've spent the past few weeks playing catch-up in the garden. Trays of seedlings are now coming along in the green house and most of the beds are weeded. Not so many weeds this spring due to the lack of rain, and I'm already siphoning grey water into the rain barrels. Oh, maybe it's too soon to start moaning about dry weather.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Higglety & Pigglety


I realize that I haven't even immortalized them here with a photo or description. My two Exchequer Leghorns who hatched June 5th along with two brothers that were later transported back to the farm. Here they are at a few weeks old and then again at three months.

Higglety's Egg

Higglety laid her first egg on Friday. Small and slightly pointy compared with Blanch's Grade A extra large. I guess Pigglety will start laying very soon as well.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Psychedelic

This past week I spent in New Brunswick where the leaf colour was 'mind-blowing'. I'm not sure I've ever seen quite such a spectacular display. Photos don't do it justice. It's more like wandering around in a Franklin Carmichael, Tom Thompson or A J Casson painting.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Parsley...

... is gharsley.

Ogden Nash Further Reflection on Parsley

The parsnip, children, I repeat,
Is simply an anaemic beet.
Some people call the parsnip edible;
Myself, I find this claim incredible.

Ogden Nash The Parsnip


Celery, raw,
Develops the jaw.
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

Ogden Nash Celery

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Late Early Risers

"The most productive early pole bean I have ever grown. The huge long flat pods are produced at about the same time as the bush snaps are ready and continue producing all summer long. The long pods keep their excellent texture and flavour even when quite large. Highly recommended!"
From Heritage Harvest Seed
I concur. Started producing early July, these just picked September 17th.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grape Harvest

This is my first grape harvest. Last year the birds or squirrels made short work of them while my back was turned. I got about 8 lbs. of very tiny, but perfectly formed grapes and spent a day reducing them into about 3 litres of what can best be described as 'slops'. Even using pectin-infused sugar and boiling it up to 'jam' on the candy thermometre, I couldn't bully it into setting.
Ah well, it's not bad dribbled over yoghurt. Next year I'll make wine.


*Footnote - Injury added to insult! The hour of squeezing grapes between my fingers has resulted in contact dermatitis. Grrr.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Leopard Slugs

On Saturday just enough dampness drizzled out of the overhanging cloud to moisten the ground. And that was all the invitation the slugs and snails needed to have a night out. I took this picture of the group congregating at the chicken feeder and, as they are rather well camouflaged, I have outlined the ones I can see. Mostly leopard slugs (Limax maximus) and the odd snail. Apart from that spritzing it has been bone dry since June. Click on picture to enlarge

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Blanche

Not only is she our star layer (5 or 6 eggs a week over the past year, right through winter!), but she is also quite photogenic. Four of the six Leghorn eggs that we put under Doris in May hatched and it looks like two are pullets and two are cockerels.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Swell

Pollinators at work on a male flower (c) and female flower (r)

The recent warm weather has kickstarted the squash. The vines had been rampant and lots of tentative fruiting, but finally some look determined to go through with it.
'Anna Schwartz' Hubbard on the left, 'Black Futsu' moschata (top) and 'Oregon Sweetmeat' (bottom)

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Mrs.

This is the third female stag beetle I've found in the garden this week (different sizes). She spends 6 or 7 years underground and then comes above ground for a couple of months to mate.
Her final act before she dies is to make her way back to the place from which she emerged where she buries herself into the ground about 12" down and lays her eggs.
I just saw a male 'flying' around tonight ...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Alpine Meadows

Just back from a week in the mountains following the Annecy Animation Festival...

(the big picture)

(and the detail)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Here in Canada

'Robin's' eggs look like this.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter Arrives

Snow in the night amounting to a couple of inches, gone by noon.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Or Be Electrocuted

Back in September I took part in a group art exhibition in Bruges. And for that I produced a silkscreen print - 3 colours plus spot hand colouring - in an edition of 35. Fits neatly in a standard 30 x 40 cm. frame.
Click on image to read and get in touch if you are interested... a snip at £50.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Oca 2015

Just dug up my oca crop. I find them to be really beautiful objects with their intense, luminous colour.
If only I had protected the foliage in time, before mid November when we got 2 days of light frost, they might have bulked up a lot more through this unusually mild December*. Just by putting a few back in each year I've been getting a good supply. They don't seem to be affected by any pests or disease (so far) and are happy to go on growing in the same corner year after year.

(click on picture to see it in close-up splendour)

* The average daytime temperature on the winter solstice was the same as it was on the summer soltice!