Friday 31 July 2015

Plot to plate

In the spring I went to a seed swap and potato day where I bought a variety of early potato that was new to me but sounded promising. The varieties available in the shops are limited and not especially flavoursome so I thought it worth giving 'Isabel' a try.
I'm very pleased with the result. This is what I got from one plant. It's a clean crop with a good texture and flavour that holds it's shape well when cooked. I'm storing some of the tubers to plant next year.
The later varieties are still in the ground.
We eat well from the garden in summer, the peas and beans are all cropping, lots of broad beans which we like to eat while they are still small.

I've stopped growing tomatoes out-of-doors because the weather can be unreliable and ruin my best efforts. Half a dozen plants crammed into the greenhouse are keeping us well supplied.

Plenty of cucumbers but the courgettes are really weedy, we've not had a single meal from them yet.
No problems with the soft fruit.

But something rather strange has happened to one of my lemon trees, half the fruit is the normal shape but the remainder is not very normal at all!
When do you cut back your lavender? I'm always torn as to what to do, whether to gather the flower stems when the colour is still bright so that I can use it for decoration and give the bushes a good trim or to leave well alone, enjoying brushing through the stems until autumn, by which time the flower heads are no use and the bushes losing shape.

I've compromised and cut a few back but left the majority.
There are plenty of flowers to pick in the garden

but I couldn't resist buying these roses when I went to do my weekly shop. They are a lovely range of colours and I'll try to strike them as cuttings when the petals drop.
The coriander is setting seed
and various favourites have come to the end of their flowering. 'Raubritter' has given a glorious show but now the heads need to be cut off.
Other roses are blooming in it's stead.

There's been a fair bit of cutting back to do, 
from this
to this. 
I hope it doesn't prove to have been too drastic!
Other trimming is less extreme.
And even the topiary is giving me some hope!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Small gardens

Our daughters both live in flats and have gardens the size of pocket handkerchiefs. But what much-loved small spaces they are, somewhere out-of-doors that they can call their own.  The two gardens are very different, the one in London is up in the air with a fine view of chimneys.

 But Wee One's, here at ground level, is a veritable jungle. It has been created from what was formally a depressing patch of bare earth and rubbish. Her partner, Roman, has very green fingers and an eye for unusual plants!

'I want a jungle garden' Himself tells me.
And there's lots more plant life in the flat!

Sunday 26 July 2015


En-route to staying with our younger daughter, Wee One, we booked into the Ocean Hotel on the Isle of Portland. There it is in the photo below, looking like a scene from a prison movie! Well, what a strange experience this was! Do you know what Marmite is? It's a dark brown, gloopy yeast extract that comes in odd-shaped little jars and the marketing slogan states, 'love it or hate it'. I hate it. The manageress at the hotel told me a bit of the history of the isle. "It's like Marmite," she said, "people either love it or hate it."  'nuff said! 
 There is one road between Portland and the mainland, before it was built people traveled to and fro in small boats. Portland Harbour is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, built in the mid eighteen hundreds and used by the Royal Navy until 1995. It's now a civilian port and recreational area, used in the 2012 Olympic Games.
The hotel building occupies part of the site that was built for the Ministry of Defence, housing the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment. At one time three thousand scientists and administrators worked on the site which closed in 1995. Now it is a business centre - and rather creepy! We decided to walk to look at the lighthouses on Portland Bill that we could see from our bedroom window. "Be back before eight," we were told, "when the gate in the fence will be locked." Escape from Colditz wasn't in it!

There are three lighthouses on the Bill, only one of which is in use for its original purpose and is remotely controlled.

The others are holiday apartments and a bird observatory. At the hotel they told me that Marie Stopes (who founded the first birth control clinic in Britain) stayed in the white lighthouse and scandalised the locals with her parties and her two-piece bathing costume!
The rooftop terrace gave a good view  of any ships passing the southern tip of the island.

But it was a lot less windy one floor down in the restaurant!
Smoked duck starter.
Venison main.
It looked good. Could I get my knife to cut it? No chance. A quiet word to the waitress, a steak knife was offered. I pointed out that if a knife couldn't cut it my teeth wouldn't do much better. Back the venison went to the kitchen and out came a tender piece of chicken. I can't fault staff who pleasantly resolve a problem - but a properly prepared chunk of venison would have been a treat.
An indulgent pud can always put a smile back on my face.
We had a big, comfy bed but I couldn't escape that old MOD aura and the long corridors reminded me of stays that I've had in Russian hotels.  Ssh, don't divulge any secrets.
Or capture them on film!
The view from the hotel reminded me of an Andrew Wyeth painting.
Portland is famous for the quality of it's stone. It's a light grey limestone that has been used  to build some of our most important buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. It has also traveled to far distant places, being used, for example, on the UN headquarters in New York.
On our way back to the mainland we stopped at Chesil Beach.

A long wooden bridge took us over the tidal inlet.
It was imaginatively decorated with images of the wildlife to be found in the area.

What a space!
A shoot was in progress.
I had to go and see what it was all about!
A costume constructed from a children's toy.
He took MASSES of photos.
I wonder what he did with them?