Showing posts from February, 2014

Salad Days: Famine and Feast

Here we have two identical trays with identical amounts of compost, the same number of pea seeds in each and all lovingly watered with the same amount of liquid over the past few weeks.

I have no idea why there is such a dramatic difference between the two trays - the 'famine and feast' of this month's Salad Days post.

So whilst I lament on the reduced number of tasty pea shoots for my salad, I'm also mulling over the dangers of drawing too many conclusions from home-grown gardening experiments and trials. Repeatability is key, but how many of us do that in our gardening lives when something doesn't 'work' first time?

The replacement tray is coming along nicely.

How's your salad faring this month?

Book Review: Rosehips on a Kitchen Table

My latest book review is aimed squarely at foragers and foodies alike.

Rosehips on a Kitchen Table is as attractive on the inside as it is on the cover and serves up 56 recipes using fresh produce which have either been gleaned from the wild or pulled from the plot.

It's divided into four main sections (after an introductory section called Rich Pickings), covering over 20 different kinds of produce:
Gleaning - wild garlic, nettles, elderflowers or berries, blackberries, rosehips and sloes. Grow Your Own - recipes for rhubarb, sorrel, rocket, chillies, Jerusalem artichokes and chard.Gluts - a section to turn to when your harvest runneth over with broad beans, tomatoes, strawberries, runner beans, courgettes or root vegetables. What on Earth do I do with This? - designed for those more mysterious items delivered in veg box schemes and includes celeriac, gooseberries, beetroot, quince, Brussels sprouts and kale. (I would have put Jerusalem (f)artichokes here as well, but that'…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #35

You want everyone to keep the allotment site tidySo you have some very helpful notices made so plot holders know what's whatArrange them prominently so they can't be missedWait for a blogger with a camera to spot the notice is now more of a 'do what I say, not what I do'Et voila! This notice has been on site for years looking quite normal, but has fallen victim recently to the stormy weather. It's a very minor casualty compared to what some parts of the country are experiencing (and my allotment neighbour whose plot currently resembles a lake), but it felt good to see some storm damage which made me smile for a change.

And some sunshine!

My Favourite Books - the Grand Reveal

Further to last week's post, a great deal of cogitation has gone into today's list. They're not necessarily the best books, but I've derived a great deal of pleasure from them all. If you're interested in finding out more about a particular book, the link is your better bet as I've written more about why these books have a particular resonance for me.

I've divided the list into categories to make this post a bit more readable.

Formative books

These are the books which have helped to shape the way I am and my thinking.

The Cat in the Hat - one of the first books I read and I loved it's sense of fun, use of language and the realisation that being quirky and different is a good thing to be.

A Town Like Alice - I read this as a teenager initially for the strong love story, but it's a multi-layered book and I especially love its premise that an individual has the power to shape a place into something much better. I've realised lately that I've neve…

GBBD: Spring Blooms

The constant gales and driving rain have thwarted my plans for this month's Garden Bloggers Blooms Day. My idea was to show you this forthcoming new stamp issue and match the stamps with the blooms in my garden.

Today's weather means I'm stuck indoors instead. The trees are howling and I daren't go under them even for a quick snap of the snowdrops. A quick gallop around the garden earlier in the week confirmed I have 3 out of the 6 featured flowers in bloom at the moment - primrose, snowdrops and lesser celandine, with the daffodils and blackthorn well on their way too. I must add some dog violets so I can claim all 6 next year.

As you can see the hyacinth experiment* I started in January has indeed resulted in stumpy flowers. Whether this is down to the alcohol used or other factors is hard to say. This experiment merits further investigation, though whether I can stand a kitchen constantly smelling of stale booze is another thing - perhaps my choice of cheap cooking …

Seasonal Recipe: Roasted Squash Soup

Remember my Bucket o' Squash? We've been munching our way through them steadily these past few months. Our favourite version du jour is a warming soup to keep the rain at bay. These small squashes have good keeping qualities so they still count as seasonal fare.

I've found roasting them first makes it easier to prise away the flesh from their skin and scoop out the seeds. I pop a couple in the oven on a Sunday alongside the roast, so I'm not using up too much energy in their initial preparation.

I'm also using the tops of my leeks instead of onion - their mildness complements the squash beautifully and it means I can use the greener tops of the leek, rather than adding them to the compost bin. A good dose of home-saved coriander seed adds some warmth and adds a subtle citrus tang too. It's one of my favourite winter flavourings.

The following recipe serves 4 comfortably.


2 small squash or equivalent cut from a larger cousin, about 500g (1lb) uncooke…

My Favourite Books

It all started with a Saturday evening tweet from Lazy Trollop...

I have managed 30! You?
— Ms B (@LazyTrollop) February 8, 2014 The link pointed to list on Amazon called 100 Books to read in a lifetime - the kind of list to ponder, argue over and agree it's a very strange list. Various people joined in the conversation - Arabella Sock, Patient Gardener and Lucy Corrander to name but 3.

We're yet to top Lazy Trollop's revised count of 33 out of the 100 and Catch-22 was considered unreadable by most of us - I'm the only one to own up to having managed to finish it. Sharp-eyed Lucy spotted the vital evidence that the list was indeed American in origin - the substitution of Sorcerer instead of Philosopher in the listed Harry Potter book was the giveaway.

A fab Chinese meal out with friends* and a day later I returned to Twitter to find the list still under considerable discussion. I suggested we come up with our own list, which was taken up enthus…

Be Mine - A Snowdrop Valentine

One of my best birthday presents ever was when NAH gave me 1,000 'in the green' snowdrops just after we'd moved here. They form the basis of my annual count, which I've oft blogged about. It's all about making sure they're the present which keeps on giving :)

I hope NAH's reading this because now there's the chance to fulfil mine and many a gardener's dream, by merely buying one further bulb.

Tom Mitchell - he of Evolution Plants fame - has a rather fine snowdrop for auction on eBay. It's very special because it has yet to be named. That's what the auction winner gets to do - the right to name it,* as well as owning a single bulb ready to bulk up in their garden.

It also forms the perfect flower for Valentine's Day, because there's a clear inverted heart marking on the flower's inner segment. Who could fail to be charmed by such a token? Not me.

I've always thought of snowdrops as a symbol of hope as they bloom when winter i…

I Love February For...

... the return to the light

I really struggle with February. It's tucked in right at the end of winter and it's usually remorselessly dull and grey without the brightness of Christmas to cheer it up.

When I commuted to work in Bristol, it was the fourth month in a row when I started out in the dark and returned home in the dark.

And then, right at the end of the month, I'd look out of the train carriage window and realise I could still see things when we were coming into Chippenham.

You have no idea how glad I felt at that moment.

GBMD: Everybody is a Genius

Spotted at Kew Bridge Steam Museum whilst celebrating NAH's significant birthday last year.