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Garden Update – First Cucumber

Digging new garden beds is hard work, especially when you’re turning over a field that hasn’t been used in years. On the one hand, the weeds were deep, making breaking down the sods a back-breaking chore. On the plus side, the soil is in wonderful condition and, as it has been rested for several years, I suspect it is rich and fertile. Read more

Nothing Gold Can Stay

It feels like only a few days ago that my garden was awash with golden dandelions. All of a sudden the golden flowers are gone, only to be replaced with white seed heads. These incredibly intricate seed orbs have always been a fascination to me. When we were kids we used to blow them apart to tell the time – whatever number of blows it took to take all the seeds off the stem was inferred to be the current time. It never worked, of course, but that didn’t stop us from blowing flower after flower, in effect helping nature to spread the seeds and thus ensuring more dandelions the following year. Beautiful and effective. Read more

Of Bees & Apple Blossoms

Bees amaze me. The amount of work they do is incredible. I keep some chilli plants in my sun room. I recently read that when keeping fruiting plants indoors where there are no bees you need to cross-pollinate the flowers yourself by gently sticking the tip of your finger into each flower in turn. The process takes a bit of time, but my plants are small and I only have a few of them, so it really doesn’t take too long. Then I look at our apple trees, completely covered in blooms. I can’t imagine how long it would take if I had to cross-pollinate all those individual flowers myself. Thank goodness for the bees, who tireless make their way from bloom to bloom, ensuring my tree is heavy with delicious apples later in the season. Seeing the bees enveloping the stamen with their tiny legs, clinging on as they extract the nectar for honey, is really quite fascinating. Read more

Ground Elder Pesto [Recipe]

Ground elder is growing profusely in our garden at the moment. It is quite an invasive plant and can be very hard to get rid of once it takes hold. I only recently discovered that the leaves are edible. They taste a little like parsley but with the bite and consistency of spinach. Rather than bemoan the fact that my garden was full of weeds I decided to get inventive and use this natural bounty to make some tasty meals. Read more

Forces of Nature

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s weed is another man’s wildflower. Dandelions are in full bloom at this time of year. To me, they are beautiful – a sea of gold as far as the eye can see. All parts of the plant are edible – leaves, petals, seeds and even the roots. They are an all-in-one superfood and they’re free, yet we’re mowing them down at a rate of knots. Quite apart from their beauty and their use as food, dandelions are incredibly important to plant life in general. They are a key source of food for bees in early spring when they are just coming out of hibernation. Bees are essential to growing food and vegetables as they cross-pollinate flowers, enabling fruits and vegetables to develop. To me, perfectly manicured lawns devoid of daisies and dandelions are lifeless and insipid. I prefer my garden to be wild and free. Give me a host of golden dandelions any day. Read more

Planting a Greenhouse

I tend to divide vegetables into three broad categories – those I love, those I can’t abide and functional vegetables that I’m nonplussed about in their own right but which are essential flavour builders, such as carrots and celery. I guess I’m quite lucky in that there aren’t too many vegetables I don’t like. Swede (rutabaga), or turnip as we always called it when we were kids, is one of them. Boiled onions (especially if swimming in a white béchamel sauce) and puréed carrots will both send me running. But for the most part I love vegetables and I try to eat as wide a variety as possible. Read more

Building a Polytunnel

In our village almost every house has a small greenhouse. Sometimes they are sturdy constructions made with metal frames and glass or hard plastic windows, but mostly they are hand-built with frames made from either off-cuts of wood or PE piping, covered with a sheet of thick, clear plastic. Read more

Man in Motion

Whatever about me being a big kid, Arūnas is an even bigger one. He doesn’t do stationary – he likes to be on the move. Despite the motion blur you can still see the determination on his face to get higher and higher. It’s all part of his boyish charm, I guess. Luckily the swing was well cemented down – otherwise there probably would have been an injury. Read more

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