Wednesday 29 July 2020

Eating our greens

We've had a great deal of rain, the pond is full
and all the water butts are overflowing.
We've been sitting it out in the greenhouse,
where the ginger plant has burst into flower.
The red hot peppers have yet to turn red.
Outside the flowers have taken a bashing from the weather and much of the early summer colour is over. 
It is looking rather forlorn.
But the vegetables have gone crazy. The compost heap is hidden under squash leaves so dense that I'm not sure whether or not there are any squash developing beneath.
But I can see them swelling nicely in the veg plot.
We are eating beans like there's no tomorrow.

Marigolds are left to seed freely throughout the veg plot in an effort to deter any unwelcome veg spoiling insects.
The peas from the seed swap have climbed skywards. They have turned out to be a funny, old-fashioned, wrinkled variety, not the sort of small bright green pea that you buy from the freezer. They are large and crop well - we like them! I'll save some seed to plant again next year. 
Lots of ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse.
The Murphy household is eating well!

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Raised beds - and almost raised voices!

The Pilgrim, copyright of Peter Murphy.
When Wee One and family were home the other week we ended up with three tents pitched on the lawn. They looked like a version of the three bears, Wee One's large, newly-bought second-hand tent, our old family tent, and the tiny one-man tent that Himself had used on his backpacking trips. How nostalgic he was about the latter! "It's great," he said, "and just as good as new." He went inside and lay down in the small space. I watched from the kitchen window as he crawled slowly and awkwardly back out. Should I go and help to extricate him? Oh, yes, our camping days are definitely over!
Every aspect of his backpacking had been a wonderful antidote to the stresses of his work. The equipment was very carefully chosen to be as light and practical as possible, the camping stove an ingenious object no larger than the palm of his hand. Maps were poured over, detailed plans made. I did the drop-off and collection at the end of some of his trips in various parts of the country, the Cleveland Way in Yorkshire,  the Brecon Beacons in Wales and parts of the South-West.

Bending to pick strawberries in our weed-strewn patch was just as awkward as crawling out of the small tent and it made me think how much easier it would be if we had a raised bed. Resistance from Himself - he saw carpentry work looming. But I measured up and got prices for wood from local firms. All were more expensive than pre-cut raised bed packs found on the internet. Early one morning a few days later this neat stack of four packs had been left inside the gate.
I had already cleared the ground and ordered 1.5 tonnes of topsoil.
First to be constructed was a double height bed, one bed set on top of the other. There is no problem going to be had with dicky knees here!
The remaining two beds have been set down singly.
In the autumn the task will be to sort out the raspberry canes.
When the beds were done Himself looked at them and said, "You could buy a lot of strawberries for that." Was I mad - almost raised voices! He'll never make a gardener. (He was right, of course, but that's not the point.)

Sunday 12 July 2020

Restrictions lifting!

Hurrah, the family have been to stay, we haven't been with them since Christmas. Wee One and family arrived first, a phone call on the morning of her birthday to say, "We're coming home!" They wanted to pitch a tent on our lawn, they had bought it second-hand and wanted to check that it wasn't missing any parts.  We got our old tent out of the garage and pitched it up as well, hopeful that they might like to have that as a back-up. We had lovely times camping when the children were small, but now our camping days are definitely over - knees and back not up to spending nights on the ground! Sadly, they were not interested in us off-loading anything much, but the sight of a pair of paddles and the old inflatable dingy, discovered while we poked about in the garage for the camping equipment, brought back happy memories.

Would our grandson be shy, he hadn't seen us for such a while? Not a bit of it. "Chase me, Nana!" Up and down the narrow tracks of mown grass beneath the fruit trees. While it is lovely to run about in bare feet bits do tend to get between the toes!

Even more fun to be had running through the long grass rather than along the narrow paths.

Quite exhausting!
Our elder daughter came home when the others had left and worked from our small upstairs office throughout the week. She is vegetarian and her trip was well timed because the garden is full of produce at this time of year and there is no need to go to the shops for food.
You have to like courgettes. Luckily they are very versatile!
I have two compost heaps in a corner of the garden next to the oil tank. (Rarely used as we have  solar power to supply an air-source heat pump and our general electrical needs.) One of the bays is full and planted with random squash and courgette plants. They will create a dense cover as they grow, far nicer to look at than a random piece of sheeting.
The left hand bay is steadily filling. The delphiniums that have been such a joy have now finished flowering. I've cut them right back to the base and the stems are in here to rot down. With a bit of luck I shall get another display of flowers in late summer.
We had our first outing since early March and went to the local hotel for lunch. First a poke around their walled vegetable garden to see what was growing.
Soil and plant envy as I looked at the neat rows. The building in the photo was formerly the swimming pool changing room. The pool no longer exists  and the building is now used as hotel accommodation. 
Then inside for lunch in the pickle section!

Saturday 4 July 2020

Busy, busy.

It's a busy month. This year's weather, a lot of rain, a good spell of sun and now a return to rain, has been good for my fruit bushes and the crops are heavy. I am outside picking when its dry and inside jamming, juicing and cooking when its not. I've made raspberry jam and a red berry jam mix of strawberries, raspberries and redcurrant. I always think of my mother when I'm picking raspberries. We had a large, unruly patch at home in which she would be lost from sight. If she wasn't in the house when I got home from school I knew that she would be somewhere hidden among the raspberry canes filling yet another bowl with fruit. I'm still using her old copper jam pan. 
The figs are ripening more slowly and not enough at a time to make jam, as last year.
I've used some to decorate this frangipane tart.
Make a sweet pastry case for a 20cm tart tin and chill while making the filling.
Ingredients for the filling
2 eggs
2 tbsp brandy
zest and juice of an orange
50gm unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp honey
50 ground almonds
2 tbsp flour

Beat together  the butter and honey, add the beaten eggs and brandy. Mix in the almonds, orange juice and grated zest and flour and pour the mixture into the pastry case.
Cook at gas 4 for about 40 minutes. Glaze with honey or jam while still warm.