Wednesday 30 September 2009

Free Time

How lovely it is to have some free time. My friend's wedding went without a hitch, although the day before when I went to help with the flower arranging wasn't quite as much fun as the day itself. I spent a total of five hours sitting on the M25 that day, instead of calmly arranging the beautiful flowers the bride had chosen to decorate the church and wedding venue. Garden Girl helped me put green sticky tape around the little tubes providing water for the roses which adorned the end of the church pews, while Garden Boy played with some small church bells and did some colouring in. The other helpers however had done an amazing job, building an archway for the end of the aisle and some beautiful window and table decorations. No-one there that day had any experience in flower arranging and yet they did a wonderful job. All the flowers came from the Convent Garden Flower Market where my friend went with her mum in the early hours of the morning. It sounded absolutely amazing and I hope to have the opportunity to go myself one day.

On the day itself Garden Girl did an amazing job carrying the offertary to the front of the church. I must admit I was terrified the whole time that she would drop the glass jug, spilling wine everywhere but she took every step with such concentration and so carefully I shouldn't have worried.

Since the wedding Garden Girl has turned three. She was a little bit disappointed when she found she still needed her booster seat to reach the table at breakfast time. So many people had told her what a big girl she would be when she was three that she was expecting to be big when she woke up on her birthday. But the disappointment was alleviated when she banged her head on the fridge door which she has never done before, so happy that she was now at least a little bit taller, she enjoyed the rest of her birthday.

So while we have been preparing for and celebrating these events the garden has been saying goodbye to summer and autumn has definately arrived. The trees overlooking the garden at the back now have as many yellow and orange leaves as green ones. The tomatoes and cucumbers have been dying off and have stopped producing fruit but the pumpkin and some other squash have been getting bigger. There is an unsurprising air of neglect out there as well, following my recent lack of activity, so this week I am harvesting vegetables for storage, removing the dead plants and clearing the ground.

With the recent frenzy of activity over and me feeling a little bit closer to healthy I should be back into my usual rythmn of enjoying the garden and blogging. Garden Girl and Garden Boy are certainly enjoying the return to the garden and I am enjoying the luxury of free time.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

I am Still Here!

I have very little to report because I have spent very little time in the garden since my last post. However, I thought you might be wondering where I had gone so I decided to say a quick hello. The cold I brought back from Norfolk was a rotten one and then early last week I also caught a tummy virus so unfortunately I neither spent time in the garden nor was I able to eat any of the lovely vegetables we harvested last Monday.

By the end of the week when I had recovered from the tummy virus I was still full of a cold but was also very busy with relatives visiting to celebrate Garden Girl's third birthday, which is fast approaching. She is very excited about turning three and asks me every day if it is her birthday yet. I hope it lives up to her expectations.

The garden meanwhile is starting to look like a jungle and needs some serious work but I am helping a friend get things ready for her wedding this week so I doubt I will get much opportunity to sort things out this week. It is such a shame the longer summer evenings don't last until October! But, I am looking forward to getting outdoors again next week when my diary is relative free and the garden will be a priority. 

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Powdery Peas

We thought we would have a last weekend camping before autumn really kicked in so we headed to North Norfolk for a couple of nights and some seaside fun. We drew butterflies in the sand, built sandcastles, buried shells and went bird watching. It was a lovely end to the summer but unfortunately we have all come back full of a cold.

Feeling a little worse for wear we headed into the garden yesterday to harvest the weekends produce and also to tidy up a bit. We got our first harvest of sweetcorn which has grown really well. Garden Girl and Garden Boy loved helping me unwrap the corn which were like little parcels. We had an abundance of tomatoes, marrows and cucumbers and even a couple of strawberries for our Little Garden Helpers.

We also felt obliged to harvest all our peas which have been disappointing. It was our own fault as we left it too late in the season to sow them and the didn't put the supports up early enough. A lesson learned for next year. So what went wrong? Well, one of the varietes seemed to have suddenly dried up before they really fattened up and the other, on our return from Norfolk, was coated in a white powdery substance. We are not sure if these ones are safe to eat as we have no idea what the coating is. Has anyone seen this before?

Garden Dad also worked on after the rest of us had retrested indoors for a hot cuppa, and he dug over some ground so we can plant some broad beans which hopefully we will feel well enough to sow one day this week. Though I must admit we have been languishing indoors this morning, building towers and colouring in. Maybe tomorrow, after another nights sleep, we will feel fitter and more energetic. In the meantime at least we have some delicous veggies to help our recovery.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

A Cheeky Magpie

Garden Boy currently loves nothing more than moving things, the smaller the better, from one place to another. The game is even more fun if there is a container for him to put the things he his given, or which he quietly takes, into. This makes tidy up time in the house newly efficient. Garden Girl doesn't feel like she is being singled out to do the job and I have two helpers instead of one which is an unarguable improvement. In the kitchen Garden Boy can be handed a pile of potato peelings and will be entertained for a good ten to twenty minutes putting each individual peeling in the bin for me, while I get the dinner prepared uninterrupted. Garden Girl, never wanting to be left out, will usually join in and for a short period of time we all work harmoniously humming along happily to Fun Kids radio.

In the garden however, this game is causing havoc. Garden Boy has always been quick to pick the tomatoes and strawberries before anyone can stop him. He knows now to only eat the red ones, although he will still try his luck with the green ones if there are no red ones left. Recently however, he has taken to picking them and placing them in empty plant pots so that we will come across tomatoes, days or even weeks later, ripening on the vine, somewhere in the garden. He will also pull up the white plant labels and neatly gather them all together in a plant pot. Tidy, but not very helpful for someone who can't tell a Brussels Sprout plant from a cabbage plant or even a weed.

Little piles of stones litter the garden, leaving a telling trail of Garden Boy's movements and pots are filled with leaves pulled from unsuspecting plants. I also cannot put down the bowl I am filling with vegetables when I go outside each day to harvest the vegetables. If I turn away for just one moment it has all been deposited tidily in various plant pots or in piles around the garden and I have to go vegetable hunting. Every day there is a little surprise waiting for me in the oddest place; a carrot buried amongst the lavender or a pile of stones topped with a beetroot for maximum artistic effect.

Garden Boy carries out these activities with a determined, serious walk and a look of total concentration such that it is hard to interrupt him, but when I do challenge him, his face breaks out into a cheeky grin and he giggles knowingly. His laughing eyes tell me he is going to enjoy watching me try to find all the bits and pieces and he switches his energies to chasing me around the garden as I try my hardest to retrieve his hidden treasure. Garden Girl loves a good chase and will usually join the fray so that most days we end up in a heap giggling in the garden. One of many reasons why I love my garden.

Monday 7 September 2009

A Winter Less Bleak

Yesterday I suggested that our winter cropping vegetables might not be quite as successful as our summer ones have been. However there are a few exceptions to this.

Having determined early in the season that all the Brussels Sprout plants had died apart from one which then turned out to be a weed, you can imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my cabbages turned out to be Brussels Sprout plants. (I hear your giggles but in my defence they look very similar when they are young plants.) They appear to be doing well, so if nothing else we will have our Christmas Day sprouts straight from the garden, a target I had set myself at the beginning of the year.

The pumpkins we planted are also growing and flowering well so I am hopeful that they will fruit in time for Halloween. I would really like to be able to carve a home-grown pumpkin for our Little Garden Helpers. It will make it that extra bit special for all of us.

So with fingers crossed for some successes it isn't quite as gloomy in the garden as I painted yesterday.

Sunday 6 September 2009

A Bleak Winter

A weekend or so ago Garden Dad dug up the remaining early potatoes, somewhat late in the season. The crop was a bit disappointing. We expected to get quite a small crop from the ones we had planted in potato sacks but we had hoped for more from those we put in the raised beds. Garden Dad believes that the poor crop resulted from mediocre mounding up. As a result he has decided that next year he will continually add height to the raised bed in the area where we plant our potatoes and simply fill the bed with additional soil each time. In the meantime we have our main crop potatoes to eat through, though with similar looking harvests to the early variety, I doubt we will have any left over to store for the winter.

I also recently dug up our first turnip only to find a wormy like creature nibbling its way through the heart of the vegetable. Much of it was inedible, with brown holes evident everywhere. I decided not to show Garden Girl the little grub for fear that she might not want to eat turnips. Unfortunately a lot of the turnip leaves look like they have been feasted on so I am doubtful that this turnip was an isolated case.

Our cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli also look like they might have grown too tall and are showing no sign of fruiting. I fear they bolted in the hot sun. Our leeks look spindly and weak and are showing little signs of growing into strong vegetables to feed a hungry family through the winter. It looks like we might be facing a winter with a poor selection of home-grown vegetables though I hope I am wrong.

Friday 4 September 2009

An Obsession

Since starting to grow our own vegetables I find it increasingly difficult to walk past fields without discovering what is growing there. I compare the quality of the crop with our own and find it very frustrating when I cannot identify what is growing. Walking back to the car from Heartwood Forest last weekend I could glimpse the lands of a local nursery through the trees. I was straining to see the crops, stretching and twisting my neck to get an extra glimpse. But my obsession goes further than this. I am now drawn to any plant that looks like vegetables. While we were in Norfolk we visited Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden. This private Garden contains numerous rare and beautiful plants, but I found myself imagining I was walking through a Giant's vegetable patch, turning the Gunnera Manicata into Giant Rhubarb or Squash. Other giant leaves I cannot name resembled spinach and carrot leaves. Garden Girl loved the idea as we wandered paths, careful not to be trodden on by giant shoes and hiding under tree canopies to protect our heads.

I see vegetables growing everywhere and I notice things growing in the hedgerows and local parks far more. I am re-educating myself on the names of different trees and flowers that I must have known as a child but haveforgotton in adulthood. With two sets of eager ears to pass the information on to, I am having fun as I learn. When we started planting in April I would never have guessed at how much the garden would spread itself into other parts of our life. My good friend Zooarchaeologist warned me way back at the beginning of year that the garden would become an obsession and she was right. The garden is an obsession, not just for me, but for the whole family. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Campaign Beetroot: Assault Wave One

Campaign Beetroot was launched last Thursday evening with my first assault on the family tastebuds. We had friends visiting for dinner so I opted for something simple and made a root vegetable stew, incorporating the beetroot. I used carrots, potatoes, turnip, spring onion, beetroot and fresh tomatoes with seasoning to taste, then I added a can of cannellini beans to make it stretch a bit further. I served the stew with wholemeal rice, roasted shallots and roasted tomatoes.

Only Garden Boy left some food in his bowl, but he ate a large amount without complaint, so I think it counts as a win. Our guests might well have just been being polite but the said they enjoyed the meal. Garden Dad ate it without any complaint and Garden Girl cleared her plate. She did need encouragement to stop talking long enough to chew a mouthful of food but this is nothing unusual and there wasn't a single suggestion that she didn't like it.

Battle conclusion; Win for Beetroot.
Strategy for Assault wave 2: Beetroot and Chocolate Cake