First Harvest

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The bucket experiment is producing some mixed results.

The peas that were doing so well have been munched by snails; the tomato plant has a few very small fruit on; the leeks look like spring onions; the garlic looks great but I need to work out when to harvest it and I am not sure what the kholrabi is doing.

I went out to check on the buckets this afternoon, and although they are small there are beetroot ready to harvest.

beetrootI am going to cook them this afternoon, and the leaves may just end up in my salad this evening. I am happy with this first harvest, and at least I know that beetroot grows happily in the bucket.

Freedom is Bliss

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I am approaching middle age (apparently), but don’t feel much different to the day I left school, bar the odd creak in my knees.

I don’t know where the time went. It seems like only yesterday, I felt a sense of anticipation as I walked out of the school gates for the last time. A big adventure lay ahead of me, life loomed large, and whereas some of my classmates were intent on getting married and having children, that was something that was not even on my radar.

In the words of William Wallace “freedom” awaited.

Roll forward more years than I want to count, and I am still trying to work out what I want to be when I am a grown up, and things have not gone to plan – assuming that there was ever a plan in the first place.

That fleeting sense of freedom was squashed under the weight of jobs I hated, but had to do because I got on the property ladder. My parents, particularly my father, were old school and of the opinion that you got a job, any job, regardless of what it is because you have bills to pay.  I can’t say that I disagree with that, but it does mean that the rat race awaits the unsuspecting, and you spend the rest of your life pedalling for all you are worth just to try to stand still. There have been many days when I have sat at my desk, feeling like I was walking up a hill in a force 10 gale, with a plastic bag over my face, struggling for breath. I hated every second of every day.

I have more freedom now, but no spare cash. I work two days a week in an office to pay the mortgage, while my pet sitting business takes care of the bills. I have more time to myself, and do not get up every day with a sense of foreboding.

I would dearly love to have the money to travel more. It is the one thing that fills me with a joie de vivre. I love just wandering, having no idea where I am going to end up or what I am going to see, or who I am going to meet. I was in Singapore for a few days earlier this year, and each morning I left the hotel, map and camera in hand, with only a vague idea of where I was heading. That is my idea of bliss.

The Three Queens

 

 

 

 

The Three QueensLiverpool is a maritime city. Perfectly sited for the Americas, built on trade and commerce and home to the White Star Line (Titanic, Olympic and Lusitania), the city is famed for its maritime connections.

175 years ago, the Cunard Line was started, initially to deliver mail across the Atlantic, but then transporting passengers emigrating to look for a better life in the new world.

Although the company is no longer based in the city, to celebrate the 175th Cunard Anniversary, the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth met in the Mersey and sailed in formation into the city where they performed a series of manoeuvres near the Cunard Building.

On a freezing morning, thousands of people lined the banks of the river to watch as the Victoria and Elizabeth sailed into the estuary to meet the Mary who had sailed from the city to meet them.

Queen Mary 2

It was a spectacular site. They were so close to the banks of the river, you felt like you could touch them. This was certainly a fitting celebration not just for the Cunard Line but for the city.

Herbs

I was cooking yesterday, and as I was popping some fresh thyme into the pot, realised that growing vegetables is all well and good, but they sometimes need a helping hand in the flavour department. What they need is herbs.

I have a bay tree in a pot that I rarely use, but I get through quite a bit of thyme, basil, chives and coriander and I can’t believe that I haven’t thought about growing them. Basil and coriander won’t last through the winter, and they may even struggle with the British Summer, or lack of, but thyme should be happy all year round as will some of the more hardy herbs like chives and lemon balm.

There is something so special about fresh herbs. The taste and vibrancy that they bring to a dish is unsurpassed. I hit the internet, and pretty quickly into my shopping basket popped, lemon balm, lemon grass, thyme, basil and chives. I need to get a bucket to grow them in at the weekend.

I have never used lemon balm, but I believe that it makes a wonderful ice-cream; lemongrass is just gorgeous; chives are great with soft cheese (something I want to have a go at making but no, I am not getting a goat); basil I throw into pasta sauce or eat on a salad of mozzerella and tomatoes; thyme is fabulous with mushrooms or in the veggie cottage pie I made this afternoon; coriander goes into anything vaguely Asian.

At this rate, they yard will be full, I can’t get out there

 

Thinking Aloud.

A horrible thought struck me yesterday as I stood and admired my garlic (yes, I have become one of those people who can’t stop looking at their handiwork). Should a miracle happen, and I actually get to harvest some of the veggies I am nurturing, I need to find something to do with them.

The kholrabi and dwarf beans were planted at the weekend, so it is only the cauliflower and turnips to sow and the tomato plant to put out. I had pretty much given up on the aubergines, there was no sign of life at all, so I thought I would probably use the pot for cut and come again salad leaves.

I went out to check on everything this morning, to find that the kholrabi is already showing, there are a couple of beans and shock, horror a single aubergine is popping a tiny green shoot above the soil.

Assuming that I get crops from all my pots, I am going to be very well fed. I have been hitting the cook books, and internet for ideas. I am not the most inventive cook, so quite honestly need all the help I can get. “Cream Cheese with Beetroot stack and Beetroot salsa” sounds good to me, as does “Kohlrabi, Apple and Creamy Mustard Salad” but hopefully two recipes won’t be enough.

One thing I do know, is that I need to put in some herbs. I do have a Rosemary and a Bay Tree, neither of which I use, but some lovely thyme (great with mushrooms, cheese and beetroot) would be fabulous, and perhaps some parsley. Some more research is required I think.

Peas, Garlic and other things

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The peas are continuing to do well. In fact, they are positively thriving. It won’t be long before I have to build them a wigwam as support.

PeasThere is sign of life in the leeks – just, and the Elephant garlic is doing fabulously.

Elephant Garlic

I am going to go tomorrow to get a couple more buckets and plant the kholrabi and cauliflower, but it will be a little while before the rest of the seeds can go in. I cheated slightly and bought a tomato plant. It is starting to get a bit leggy so probably needs a bigger pot.

The weather has taken a turn cooler, and this week we have had pretty much every weather condition known to man – sun, wind, rain, sleet and in parts of the country there has been snow. It is hard to think that it is now May and summer is supposed to be around the corner.

Back soon!

Signs of Life

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In the last week, signs of life have started to appear in my veggie pots. The peas are doing particularly well, the two garlic cloves are pushing their greenery above the soil and the beetroot is starting to appear.

I find this rather exciting. I am not known for the abilty to grow things, and to have got this far is a bit of a miracle. There are some other seeds I need to pop in, but have not had chance to, but will in the next couple of weeks.

My main problem, is keeping the cats out of the pots. For reasons I really do not understand they love to curl up in a plant pot and I am trying to work out how to stop this ….

IMG_1750I am so tempted to water it an see what happens!

Planting

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Just a brief update.

I have planted Aubergines, Peas and today popped in Elephant Garlic. Yesterday, I bought some Baby Beetroot and Cauliflower seeds both of which I chose as they are suitable for small spaces. I need to buy some more buckets tomorrow and plant the Turnips and Leeks.

I can’t wait to see the seedlings start to pop through the soil. I have a horrible feeling that I may be obsessive about watching them, and as I have absolutely no patience it is going to be murder to wait until I can harvest something.

Patio Gardening

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If you have a good memory, you may recall that quite some time ago, I announced my decision to try growing vegetables in a raised vegetable planter. For various reasons, life being one of them, nothing happened.

Fast forward, and I have finally put the plan into action. A few days ago I order some organic vegetable seeds: Aubergine, Leek, Pea, Dwarf Bean, Kohl Rabi (my favourite), Turnip and Tomato – and they arrived yesterday.  This morning, I bought some large buckets and compost and have made a start.bucketA bucket may seem like an odd thing to choose to plant into , but they are large and incredibly strong and I should be able to move them about if I need more or less sunshine hitting the vegetables.

I used a corkscrew to make holes in the base to allow for drainage, then filled the bucket with multi-purpose compost, popped in some seeds and watered. The first seeds to be planted were the Aubergine, and I think I may be taking a risk with these. They are suitable for growing in a covered, unheated environment and I am trying to grow these outside, but then the whole thing is an experiment, so why not?

I am not the most green fingered person in the world, but I come from a gardening and vegetable growing family, so I am hoping that some of that has rubbed off. I am going to take the tomato seeds to Mum’s and start them off in her greenhouse, but the Leeks, Turnips, Peas need to go in about now. Then in April I will put in the Kohl Rabi and in  May I will sew the Beans.

I am quite excited about the experiment (is that sad), and I would be happy to get something to harvest, if not be able to feed myself from the garden.

Pass me the Coathanger

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BridgeI have to admit to ambivalence. I would never have considered what we were about to attempt and have always had a bit of a thing about heights, yet here we were suited and booted and ready to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I was in Australia as an incredibly generous birthday present from my friend’s husband. Carol and I started writing to each other when we were 13 through an international pen pal scheme organised by our schools, and we have just celebrated one of those annoying birthdays that end with a zero. This trip, without her knowledge, had been 12 months in the planning.

While we were out to dinner, Carol’s husband broke the news that the climb had been booked for us as a “treat”. He said that I changed colour!

I tried not to think much about it beforehand, it was booked and that was that. I had no nerves on the day of the climb and my major concern was whether it would be too strenuous (I am not the fittest person around) but I need not have worried.

The day dawned bright with a threat of showers. It was warm, but not too hot, and we had been booked to climb at twilight. We arrived at the climb centre, completed the short medical questionnaire, and then changed into not so natty jumpsuits before getting the rest of our kit and receiving some instruction.

Off we set. The first, and most difficult, challenges the four completely vertical ladders that delight in cracking your kneecaps. Once you have worked your way up them it is a walk up an arching stairway to the summit.

We stopped a couple of times on route, partly to admire the view and partly to give the group ahead time to celebrate reaching the top. As the sun began to disappear setting the sky on fire as it did so, a full moon became visible in the near cloudless sky and a cruise ship, guided by pilot boats, left its berth to head out to sea.

Down below, in the streets of Sydney, people were charging about like headless chickens, the constant streams of traffic, people on foot all heading home after a day at work, or out shopping. On top of the bridge there was a stillness, a peace, respite from the noise and the people, the stresses of day-to-day life.

To climb at twilight was perfect. The heat of the day had dissipated. We had a period of daylight, a period of darkness and that magical time in between.

All too soon, we had the descent to tackle, and we headed through the failing light towards the city.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was an experience I will always remember. It is one of those experiences that you don’t expect to mean much but which unexpectedly turn out to be something delightful and life affirming.

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If I ever get back to Sydney, there is no doubt I will make the climb again.

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