No let-up!

If you are in the U.K., you may be forgiven for thinking this post is a moan about the incessant rain. However, as it appears to be doing my garden some good – ah, the sandy loam is coming into its own – I am singing the praises of this:

I took the bedraggled tomato plant out of the pot which had served it well for the past half year and added the green tomatoes to a chutney I am making in the slow cooker. What is left is rampant parsley and I love parsley.

I recently saw it listed as an alternative to coriander leaf, which is particular music to my ears. I don’t like coriander leaf at all but now I have a potful of what I really do. So, parsley has been liberally sprinkling over our ‘Indian’ food all weekend.

The rhubarb in the background of the above photo is on the wane, although I managed one last stalk the other day when I accidentally knocked if off the crown. Since it couldn’t feed the root it might as well feed me.

Beyond the camera, the chard and nasturtiums in the raised bed are responding to the continued moist environment with gusto. And the caterpillars are no doubt as happy about that as I am about the parsley.

Posted in Gardening, herbs | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

A-buzz about something

Yesterday, we went to see what was on offer at Leeds Light Night, where the city centre is lit up in more or less interesting ways. With a tired and cantankerous child in tow, we ended up in the University of Leeds School of Music drinking coffee and eating ice cream and would have got no further if I hadn’t insisted.

The light installation there was interesting enough but what fascinated me most had nothing to do with light and a lot to do with textiles. The university art gallery must have been taking advantage of evening footfall to keep its doors open!

Eventually, though, we found a light exhibit with which we could interact. It came with information about pollinators, those insects which both charm and feed us.

The light above the information panel above represents a flower. Elsewhere in the garden there were larger versions, which buzzed when a person walked under them. So we unexpectedly got to be bumblebees, though the flowers had no pollen or nectar.

Posted in Days out, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Not the only one who can’t tell the time

Yesterday, I came out of class at 1, thinking it was 12. I then missed a meeting, turning up an hour late because I thought it was 1:30 when, in fact, it was 2:30.

Feeling a bit of numpty, I went into the garden for the first time since Monday when I got home. And I was greeted by none other than a flowering tomato plant. I planted it sometime in July, so its timekeeping makes mine look exemplary.

There are only two more weeks before it will be too dark after work to enjoy the garden. I’d therefore better try to get out a bit more, as it is so grounding.

NB After I had posted the above, WordPress congratulated me on this being my 1, 337th post. I’m not sure what the significance of this number is but perhaps someone at WP thought since I have trouble with numbers, I would be delighted.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Boxes full

Yesterday evening, I picked up three boxes of glass jars from a grateful lady in North Leeds. Since her husband had stopped driving, she had built up quite a collection in the garage and would undoubtedly have loved me to take the lot.

For better or worse, I couldn’t fit more than about half in the boot of my car. And there is nowhere for me to store those I’ve acquired, so they will have to live in the front room until I can create some space in the shed. Or the loft maybe?

In any case, my theory is that I won’t run out of glass jars any time soon. Which means there are no excuses not to preserve, preserve and preserve.

In turn, this meant that today I could pick the cooking apples and start turning them into blackberry curd (there is apple in the recipe). I find curd the easiest of all the preserves to make, although it is also the most expensive due to the eggs and butter it requires.

Fortunately, there is no lack of apples. Many are very small – presumably unfertilised – and the rest would probably have been bigger if I’d been more ruthless when thinning them out. Oh well, a lesson for next year, should the tree be similarly laden.

Posted in forest garden, Good for the environment, In the kitchen | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

It is what it’s supposed to be

As the apples on my daughter’s tree were falling off in September, I asked her to pick them before they were all lost. They were on the small side, or rather they were much smaller than the one we sampled before we actually bought the tree. They also didn’t have the texture we’d expected.

Hopefully, this year’s experience of Scrumptious apples was because the tree had only been planted in January. On the other hand, my Ribston Pippin, which is in its second year in the garden, was less prolific but its one remaining apple,

picked this evening, tasted exactly as I expected it. I know it might have been better for the tree to have been spared a crop this year but being on an M26 rootstock, I just couldn’t resist.

Seems like a certain brown rat can’t resist the apples either, albeit the ones from the Orleans Reinette at the back of the garden…. At first, I thought I was looking at a female blackbird, as I watched from my bedroom window, only to see a rat’s head emerge from the undergrowth.

So, now what do I do!

Posted in forest garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Sutton Bank and beyond

Regular followers of my blog may have noticed that I write less frequently about my garden these days. The reason for this is primarily because the forest garden needs very little work, which in turn frees me up to enjoy it as well as other hobbies and interests.

Not that I would forego an opportunity to take a day trip to Helmsley in North Yorkshire, in any case. Especially as we were in need of some quality bread flour, which I either buy direct from the farmer nearer Driffield or from Hunters of Helmsley, which must be my favourite delicatessen in the universe.

The day started gloomy, although I would prefer to describe it as atmospheric. Certainly, Sutton Bank, which necessitates a 140 metre climb with a gradient of 25% to reach the top, looked like a scene from an Arthurian film.

On the approach to Sutton Bank from Thirsk.

However, at the top the cloud suddenly dispersed and as we approached Helmsley at the foot of the other side of the bank, the sun came out. At least briefly.

Taking a shortcut through the graveyard, I noticed flowers growing round some of the gravestones. The stones were too worn to read any inscriptions but I’m sure the occupants would be pleased with the display.

Sadly, our favourite bakery is now closed. It being market day, it did have a presence at the market but we arrived too late for much of a choice. Still, my daughter enjoyed her day out, with school being closed for teacher training – cheese straws from Thomas the Baker make all the difference to her world.

Posted in Days out | Tagged , | 8 Comments

One cane many fruit

Never having grown raspberries before, I had no idea how many fruit I would get this year from the one cane my mum gave me for my birthday. I’m not sure I’ve ever picked them at the farm where I volunteer, so this autumn I am both surprised and pleased.

I won’t, however, be making any jam from the harvest this year. I could have saved them all up as they grew and ripened in dribs and drabs but some were eaten before I even saw the buds for others. In fact, the cane is still growing, although I would be surprised if fruit came off the newest branches now.

Posted in forest garden | Tagged | 9 Comments

Ripe enough?

Do you have difficulty deciding when crops are ripe enough to pick? As a general rule, yes I do, except in the case of fruits such as raspberries and strawberries.

A case in point is the fat hen which decided to join the forest garden this year. I took one plant out about a month ago, as its seeds were starting to drop off, but there was a second which came up later than the first, so I left these seeds.

However, I read somewhere about the seeds being ready once they turned black. Indeed, they had started to do that. In my opinion it makes them look less appetising, although the proof will be in the pudding – or more likely bread – when I try them.

In the meantime, there is some fat hen in the salad mix that I got with my vegetable share from the local organic farm this weekend. I wonder if this was a deliberate addition…

Posted in edible weeds | Tagged | 2 Comments

Harvesting begins

One minute the fennel seeds seemed not to be ripe, the next moment they were starting to fall off the plants. Now, I don’t want my garden to be full of nothing but fennel and I think a herbalist might be interested in them, so before it got dark, I nipped out with the secateurs and collected them in.

The plants got blown down in the high winds at the start of the summer and I nearly cut them down, thinking that was them done for. Glad I let them live on.

On the other hand, the crocosmia growing with them will have to come out. It is covering up a number of strawberry plants and if I don’t stop it, it won’t be long before it encroaches even further into the garden.

I’m not sure what type of tree the fennel and crocosmia are growing with. It was a present from a friend when I moved into the house in November 2009 and she now thinks it could be disposed off, as it is possibly not native to Britain. However, I do like it and I think the robins do to.

The hazel I planted close to my conifer is almost as tall after only about seven months in the ground. I have no idea how long it will be before I can harvest hazel nuts from it but I was pleased when I noticed a mature hazel tree in communal space very close by with ripe hazels on it. Does that not bode well for the future?

All the more reason to get the crocosmia out!

Posted in forest garden, herbs, trees | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Elephant in the wood

Today, I’ve managed to use up all my energy on a walk through local woods, so gardening will have to yet again be postponed. I did however pick some tasty apples from our village community garden and some amazing rosehips as well as discovering new paths

which led to new curiosities. I can only imagine the bricks in the next picture must have formed part of a building – if only there were signs up to explain the history.

Fortunately, there are signs indicating how a wooden elephant comes to be looking out over the canal. One of the bargees crafts such and there was evidence of his skill elsewhere along the towpath, though it was too soggy to keep getting my camera out.

Posted in Days out, foraging | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments