Monday, April 24, 2006

Runner bean killer

I was away again this weekend, enjoying the sun in the wilds of Kent. And unfortunately, just like last weekend I arrived home to find something had eaten my runner and french bean seedlings.

Who was it? My flaming cat that's who! I'd put them inside to protect them from the slugs, only to find on my return that milo had been enjoying fresh greens as a complement to his very full catfood bowl.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A weekend of no gardening

For all the free time at the weekend (much of it spent in Wolverhampton), I did very little in the garden. This feeling of achieving nothing out on the plot was exacerbated by the fact that I broke our ageing garden bench (by merely sitting on it), and also a number of slugs and snails demolished my runner beans that were hardening up on the front steps. one step forward, three steps back.

Not to get too downhearted though, I did do lots of thinking (something I'm getting terribly good at), and even a bit of work on my book. (As an update to the book situation, the contract is now finalised and is currently being drawn up for me to sign. And I'm even more excited than ever...)

Making the most of the garden though, I did go out to enjoy a glass of wine in the sun yesterday. It's looking lovely out there, with a nice sense of order starting to appear. Kind of organised squares. And the rhubarb is doing brilliantly, and sitting very comfortably in the middle of the lawn. I knew there could be no better spot for it!

Now I just need to grow some more runner beans. At least there's plenty of time in hand.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Smilax Glyciphylla

I've been reading a book called, The life and times of John Nicol, mariner. A great little historical autobiography from the early 19th century about a Scotsman who travels the world many times because he's a sailor.

When he gets to the new colonies in Australia he talks of a sweet tea he drinks, like china tea. There's a wonderful moment when he mentions an old lady with a shrivelled face and white hair who everyone goes to see because she is suckling a child after just giving birth. Her 'fecundity' is because of the tea made from the Smilax Glyciphilla, or Sarsparilla as it's more commonly known.

I don't want to have kids when I'm ninety, or suckle them, but I think I'm going to buy some and grow it in my garden.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Food snobbery? Moi?

I was intrigued by this comment piece in the paper about food prejudice and snobbery between the classes. Unfortunately, I don't see the problem with eating healthily - and I also don't see how it's possible to bundle eating healthily, having enough money to buy posh produce and the questions of recycling into one argument.

I don't think I'm a food snob, or simply some left-wing liberal hippy (alright maybe a little), but i feel a lot of this argument is about education. I don't solely mean schooling here, although it's a good place to start. People should know from an early age about the benefits of decent food, particularly meat. And particularly how it's beneficial to the countryside and general landscape of modern life. Once more people want better quality produce, then it will become more widely available, and be cheaper too. Everyone will be a winner.

On another note, I also don't see why people who don't have space to keep recycled rubbish, such as people in tower blocks, should complain - they've got to keep their rubbish somewhere anyway don't they? Whether it's in a bin bag or an orange recycling bag? That's a nonsense argument if ever I heard one.

So I don't believe it's about being class-ist, or a snob. It's about being ignorant. And I thoroughly believe that if you don't have much money, you can still eat healthily. Things will just be that much harder for you. You just have to know the benefits of going that extra yard.

Monday, April 10, 2006


It was a funny old weekend for weather. We had glorious sunshine, then stormy skies, then rain. And I heard tales from my gran of snow storms, hail and frosts.

I couldn't keep up. And that also meant I actually did very little outside. However, I did put some canes in the soil just to get my brain thinking about planting runner beans. I also spent ten minutes sorting out my seedlings - which gave me great joy as my chilis are sprouting.

For some reason the sight of chilli plants breaking out of the soil fills me with more joy than any other veg plant growing. I suppose it muct be the exotic air they carry with them, and the fact that they're ultimately very cool. Or hot.

But I also failed to plant my tea seeds. I'm desperate to get my chinese tea plant on the go - so much so that I keep forgetting to do it. It's been almost a month now since I bought them. I'm not going to think about how many cups of tea I've missed out on because of this though.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Seedlings on the brink of death!

I came home last night to find my little baby seedlings desperate for water. I can't believe I forgot about them while letting them get hardy for life outdoors! I was mortified at their deadly poses, all limp and ready to enter the early stages of rigormortis. It's amazing how quickly the weather has turned and now things are needing watering again. Luckily they were happy and alive again after half an hour in water, but it was definitely a close call.

I promise I won't let it happen again. However, that thought of having to run back and forth to my garden with a watering can is already starting to make me uneasy.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bird Flu

Bird flu has reached Britain - it was always going to, so now at least, the waiting game is over. I'll be interested to see people's reactions. I know that our downstairs neighbour was particularly worried about the pigeons defecating all over her path a few months ago - and she made it very clear, over and over, that we had to do something about it (to the point where we did, actually, but my ears were bleeding by the end of it).

And I'm sure now I'll probably get an earful about feeding the birds in the garden. As I love having birds there, and we do live near a lake with ducks etc, I thought I should look into it. We're nowhere near Scotland, but it's worth being sure about things. Being realistic here: bird flu is transmitted by poo (at least the nasty H5N1 virus has been). And despite bird poo landing occasionally on my shoulders or head, like a gift from the gods, in day-to-day life only a few people in the community really come near it in any quantity. So, thankfully, the RSPB is sensible and tells you to wash your hands after feeding birds or handling feeders. It also offers advice about dead birds, and situations that might arise from your cat bringing home a bird for your delectation. (Now at this point I could have a rant about my belief that cats should not be free to roam outside, adding another unnatural predator etc, and be all smug about having a house cat, but I won't.)

Be careful, and cautious over cleanliness, and the risk is going to be minimal. Just like going to the hospital and washing your hands with the alcohol mix, it's a safety precaution. It's a case of remembering to be sensible - don't be crazy and think we're all going to die, because we're not.

Hopefully, DEFRA will be sensible about this too - at least it might take their eyes off the insane badger cull situation for a while . And hopefully we won't get crazy news reports in the tabloids, scaring all the dimwits left, right and centre, and hopefully the government won't do another Foot and Mouth disease fiasco and close off the countryside.

Only time will tell. But don't be scared, eat lots of fruit and veg, and keep well. It will be ok.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Raspberry canes

Sunday morning took me outside, photographing this little plant and sticking out my raspberry canes. (How I wish it were Sunday tomorrow again!) But there were far too many of them - a lot more than 10 at any rate, leaving me with little space to plant them all. Hopefully Asha will find a space for them. Share and share alike eh?

I also managed to dig a bit of a trench and fill it with paper bits and compost to get it ready for my runner beans. I didn't do that last year, and had a great crop, so it'll be good to see what happens in the summer. They're actually coming along nicely now too - once you get these things on the go there's no stopping them, and I'm finding it hard to keep up. I'm going to have to start off a load more seeds soon to fill up the space. There's so much to keep on top of it can really seem like a neverending task sometimes. Just got to look forward to eating it all.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Crystal Palace in Steamboy!

Slightly un-gardening related, but very related to my garden, this. Last night I watched Steamboy, the latest film from Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo, and there in all it's glory was the Crystal Palace. It wasn't in the right place - I think I'd be telling you a big lie if I said I lived opposite the Houses of Parliament - but they'd done a terrific job of recreating it's look, both inside and out.

Setting the film at the 1866 London Exhibition also actually makes sense, and even realistically allows for most of the Palace to get blown up, as in 1866 there really was a big fire at the Palace (not as bad as the 1936 one that ultimately destroyed it all though).

SO if you want to see what it used to look like 5 minutes walk from my house, watch Steamboy!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Very broad beans

Can't argue with this amount of growth can I? Even the second lot of seeds that I started last week are growing in the windowsill too.

ooh, just an un-garden related question here: I've put up these images with blogger's upload option, and it often seems to get upset and shift things around while pushing all my links to the bottom of the page. If anybody sees it looking daft, will you tell me? I can never understand the magical way it works.

Fruity growth

It's a beautiful day in Crystal Palace, aptly sprinkled with April showers. The garden looks great with the sun on it (despite it actually being a bit of a tip), and things are growing brilliantly. The rhubarb is looking just dandy, and so are my broad beans. Even my blackcurrant and blueberry bushes are showing green leaves! Tomorrow morning will hopefully be nice too, as I'll finally get around to sticking the raspberries in the ground. Then the fruit bushes will all be sorted.