Thursday, 31 January 2008
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
1. Create advertisement
2. Decide to place it in Chippenham, where it's quicker to drive to Newquay than go by air
3. Wait for a Blogger with a camera to spot it at the local train station
4. Et voila!
Click here for a further example ;)
Broccoli & Stilton Soup
I always go a bit mad after Christmas and buy loads of half price Stilton. I then have a problem at the end of January as it nears its Use By date. I usually end up freezing most of it, but last week discovered a forgotten 1kg bag of frozen broccoli I'd won last year (yes, won - Sainsbury's was doing a 5 a day promotion). Aha the perfect solution to my problem - lots of yummy soup :)
I started with chopping a large onion and browning it in some olive oil. I then added 1 litre of vegetable stock, the broccoli, a peeled and chopped medium sized potato, black pepper and mixed herbs to taste. This was simmered for 20 minutes and then whizzed into a smooth soup using a hand blender. At this point the recipe books tell you to cool the soup a little and stir in the Stilton. However, there was more than I wanted to serve at once, so this would give me a reheating problem later. So I put a thick slice of Stilton in the bottom of the bowl, topped up with the soup and stirred through the cheese. This worked perfectly.
ABC Wednesday is brought to you courtesy of Mrs Nesbitt's Place.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
I spent some happy hours at the National Trust yesterday buried deep in the archive of Bateman's, the house Rudyard Kipling bought to escape the prying eyes of his adoring fans. In addition to copies of some delightful letters he wrote to his children, I found the following lovely poem inspired by the garden at Bateman's in 1911. Whilst it evokes a time now long gone, there's also plenty of relevance for today. Judith also has a wonderful personal tale from 1911 related to this poem that you simply must check out for yourself.
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You find the tool- and potting sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.
And there you'll see the gardeners, the men and 'prentice boys,
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made,
By singing:- 'Oh how beautiful!' and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives,
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.
There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees,
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray,
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!
Monday, 28 January 2008
Sunday, 27 January 2008
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Friday, 25 January 2008
Phil over at Landscape Juice has also picked up on this story, but personally is still enjoying a good crop. He's also asking how's your crop faring?
Thursday, 24 January 2008
FREE chest today,
No, it wasn't an offer from the local plastic surgeon, but from Spalding Bulbs who appear to be trying to be the Readers' Digest of the gardening world. I made the mistake of taking up a free offer from one of the gardening magazines last year, where they were the supplier. Since then I've been bombarded with offers of useless free goods and the possibility of winning wads of cash. The chest in question turned out to be 2 - a free tool chest, and a treasure chest containing up to 20,000 pounds! BTW - that's their exclamation mark, not mine.
The offer is so tacky, you even have to open a little yellow plastic tool box glued to the letter to find out the size of the chest you've won. Surprise, surprise, I'd won not 5, 10 or even 50 tools, but the mega 100 tool chest, the largest on offer. I didn't know there were that many types of tool - does B&Q know?
Needless to say, I've now used their reply envelope to request the removal of my name from their mailing list. In spite of making me laugh so much, it's this kind of treatment that makes me stop being a customer, no matter how loyal Spalding Bulbs seems to think I am.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Monday, 21 January 2008
I'd like to know where the 'officially' tag comes from though - this article says that experts have come up with a complicated algorithm to work out that today's the answer. However, who these experts are hasn't been revealed. I recall that 2 weeks ago it was 'officially' the sickest day of the year (gloom was cited as one of the root causes of this too) and the day when most of us book our summer holidays - to cheer ourselves up was given as one of the reasons here. Confused? You bet I am.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
- Create advertisement
- Place in an obscure place, e.g. on a water tap shut off for the winter, by an allotment gate
- Wait for a Blogger with a camera on a breezy day to spot it
- Et voila!
Saturday, 19 January 2008
"Brummagem" first appeared in the 17th century as an alteration of "Birmingham," the name of a city in England. At that time Birmingham was notorious for the counterfeit coins made there, and the word "brummagem" quickly became associated with things forged or inauthentic. By the 19th century, Birmingham had become a chief manufacturer of cheap trinkets and gilt jewelry, and again the word "brummagem" followed suit--it came to describe that which is showy on the outside but essentially of low quality. Perhaps the term was something of an annoyance to the people of Birmingham way back when, but nowadays "brummagem" is usually used without any conscious reference to the British city. [Merriam Webster's Word of the Day Oct 5, 1999]
Further definitions from the same source include:
brummy/brummie n. 1 [1920s+] a counterfeit coin. 2. [1940s+] a native of Birmingham. brummy/brummie adj. [20C] second-rate, tawdry. From - Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (1998)
Some of the definitions closely match my feelings about the place - so did I decide for myself, or did I know about this subconsciously all along? I also wonder whether the 'second-rate' label definition is connected with Birmingham's claim to be England's second city. However, much is being done nowadays to try and improve Birmingham's image, especially in the city centre where the old Bullring Shopping Centre has been transformed into a Mecca for retail therapy. A lot of the buildings from my childhood have disappeared and I hardly recognise the place now. One of the most amusing examples of Birmingham's re-branding is the website, 'Birmingham: It's Not Shit' - which has been 'Mildly Sarcastic Since 2002' ;)
Friday, 18 January 2008
These are a maincrop variety, so it'll be a while until they get planted out on the plot. The spuds were accompanied by a letter from the supplier. I've put an extract below to see if you think they're fobbing their customers off this year:
'...Unfortunately due to the adverse growing conditions experienced this summer, our crops of Sarpo varieties have not grown fully to the sizes expected. As a result and to ensure we are able to satisfy the huge demand for these varieties, we have graded the seed potatoes on a smaller size... The size of the seed potatoes will not adversely affect the yield of your resultant crop - in fact farmers normally pay a premium for small seed potatoes! We do suggest that you plant the tubers closer together,... we suggest 12 inches apart between tubers in rows 18 inches apart. This will ensure that the tubers do not get too big during the growing season...'
Hmm, if the rest of my order's small tubers, I'm going to have to revise my plot plan much earlier on than usual!
Front Garden - 33
Side Garden - 30
Guerilla Garden - 30
GRAND TOTAL - 144
Last year's maximum - 1069, still some way to go then!
The double snowdrops in the back garden are beginning to show - I'll post a picture as soon as they're in bloom. I also found some strawberries in flower and daisies on the public land next to the house.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Problem #2 - I've run out of bricks to weigh the tarpaulin down
Solution - reuse loads of my plastic bottles filled three quarters full of water as brick substitutes
Problem solved :)
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Monday, 14 January 2008
NAH bought me loads of snowdrops 'in the green' for my birthday a few years ago. There were plenty for my front, back and side gardens. I also had to resort to a little guerilla gardening and planted some on the bank at the side of the house. I now do a weekly snowdrop count from when the first flowers appear just to see how they're multiplying each year. I'll be posting the results up of this year's census (plants in bud or flower only count, not those that have 'gone over') up on this site.
If you haven't planted snowdrops, then you might like to look here to find a garden near you for a good day out with them. I'd also like to add Lacock Abbey near me to their list, they have special snowdrop weekends in February and the setting is gorgeous.
Sunday, 13 January 2008
On the way home from Devizes last night, we encountered 2 deer in the road. We stopped the car so as to not spook them too much and to enjoy their magnificence. They were just a few feet away, the closest I have ever been to deer. They looked at us for a while and then in a single leap over the hedgerow at the side of the road, were gone into the night. A magical end to the day.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
The division into 4 main beds you can see was how the plot looked when I took it on in 2004. I then decided to sub divide these further into beds approximately 10 feet wide by 4 feet long - it makes the onerous tasks of digging/weeding etc seem much smaller when you're just doing a couple of small beds or so at a time! It also means that I don't walk on the crops when I weed or hoe them. There's a mulch path between each bed - mulched because I've used old compost bags as a weed suppresant and the mulch stops the bags from blowing away and me from slipping on them!
Producing the plan has also given me a scarily long list of jobs to be done for the rest of January through February, starting with manuring all the beds you can see highlighted in yellow on the plan. I hope the weather doesn't thwart my to do list!
Friday, 11 January 2008
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
It's a very timely topic as the Allotments4All forum has a current thread about a non-statutory allotment site under threat. The members have been very supportive and pointed out that The National Society of Allotments & Leisure Gardeners is a mine of useful advice and help, plus there is currently a petition on the government website about keeping allotments alive and well. If you are a UK resident or an ex-pat, I strongly urge you to follow this link and sign the petition. The deadline's March 27th 2008.
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
I was so delighted, I even made some month dividers using card and pictures from old magazines I'd put by for recycling. I then sorted through my seeds and put them in the month when they'll be sown. This means I can go straight to my tin and pull out the seeds I need each month. Any seeds used for successional sowing can be put back into the next month etc. I've even added some silica gel to the tin to keep them really dry. I'm so pleased with the result, I'm itching to get sowing straight away - hence the vegetable planner you can also see in the picture.
Monday, 7 January 2008
In addition to feeding the birds, I've just put up this bird roosting pouch picked up at my local garden centre for a bargain 99p. I've added my scrap tapestry wool ends to make it really cosy and tempting for the birds to nestle into. I've put it high up in my Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Himalyan birch), so it's out of reach of the cats. I've also put up some new bird feeders too - time will tell if these are squirrel proof, keep your fingers crossed!
All this is in preparation for the RSPB Garden Birdwatch on 26-27 January, their annual mass survey of as many UK gardens as possible. It only takes an hour, so if you haven't done it before, why not give it a try? The RSPB website has much more information, plus a guide if you need some help with identification. If you're looking for more regular bird survey work (including gardens), then the British Trust for Ornithology has plenty for you to get stuck into.
Last night was very stormy, so I had a quick run around the garden this morning to right all the blown over pots and ornaments plus putting back this cover over the garden bench before the next spell of rainy weather due later today sets in. I think I got off lightly compared to Gardenpunks last week and the summer storms last year.
Sunday, 6 January 2008
For the past few years, NAH and I have made a new family tradition - the big New Year Clearout. This involves tidying up, putting away and getting rid of anything that's surplus to requirements. As a result the first charity bag through the door in the New Year gets filled to the brim with clothes, books and anything else useful they might like to have.
We've had a couple of variations on the theme this year. Firstly NAH would like to use part of the garage as a workshop, so he's sold some of its contents through the intranet at work to clear some space. Secondly, we've fitted in a trip to IKEA to fetch home Billy (see picture - aren't IKEA's product names amusing!) to store my vast booklog - now over 50 volumes. A miracle happened during our visit - everything we needed was in stock and I didn't get into a bad mood. I just find the whole IKEA experience very annoying and so we keep our visits to a bare minimum.
We've still to complete our endeavours, but already I can see the floor by my side of the bed again, I can also sit down in my study and pretty well everything we own is in it's allotted space. Oh, and NAH is beavering away in the garage at the moment on one of his projects, so I think we've got things off to a good start.