Monthly Archives: February 2007

Nothing as tough to eat as my own words

It was only a few days ago that I wrote on Wendz’s comments that I don’t really go for blog competitions. But then B@dgerd@ddy nominated me for one. It is very charming of him and within the spirit of the competition, which is not for the big worldwide categories but for … oh blimey, the more modest I sound, the more those I nominated will feel put down and, obviously, I’m meaning to compliment them

Anyway, I am, charmed, accepting the invitation to be nominated and have myself nominated Pat and Murph and hope that they don’t mind, whether or not they join in. I rather like that fact that the blogs will be voted for in pairs so that voters will read them all and not just automatically go for the one they usually read.

Here’s the link –

This is not spam. Well, this is not bad spam. Leesa
is having a little contest called
“Battle of the Bloggers.” Please visit her
blog to see the details.
So if you want to nominate a blog for
this competition, please do so.

If you would like to nominate someone, please do so pdq as nominations close tomorrow.

Z likes it hot

While restocking the shelves in the shop cooler, my eye was caught by some fine red chillies (this was not at all painful as I merely looked at them). I was seized, unexpectedly, by a great craving and brought one home. I chopped it, with a small red onion and a handful of parsley (suppose it should be coriander, but I didn’t have any), fried them and added eggs for an omelette for lunch. I did taste the chilli, to check just how eye-watering it was, and it was fairly gentle at the end. I knew, of course, that it would be hotter at the stalk and took the precaution of removing the seeds.

I was given a clue when my eyes started to twitch, and then I sneezed. And this was just from the vapour.

Ooh, that was a good omelette. Even my teeth feel hot. I am very happy. Now, I’m munching oatcakes to cool my mouth down. I wonder what I will do this afternoon. I could do the ironing. Or potter in the greenhouse (this is what I am most inclined to do, except that it’s a bit chilly and dull and I like sun, even when I’m indoors. I could curl up with a book and a good dog. I could work of course, but … well …

Coffee first. I drank no coffee yesterday, nor yet today. I must keep practising my vices, or else I will become sweet and lovely, and it’s far better to keep ’em all guessing.

Ooh, pictures and everything

Right. I’ve made and eaten shepherd’s pie. I’ve made and eaten pancakes. Five pancakes. More were made, but that is the number I ate, myself. Now I can write again the rather over-explanatory post I nearly put up this afternoon.

It all came about because one photo was taken on its side, so I had to open iPhoto/Photobucket to swivel it. Both obligingly did it, but then posted it on its side again. I think the computer was overwhelmed by the twinkling of my touch-typing fingers, because it crashed and lost my post.

Right. This afternoon, after the rain stopped, the sun shone as if it was April. It was delightful. I went out to the greenhouse to prepare the propagators.

I can’t say it all again. Here are pictures.
The lighting units, used by the Sage to make propagators. He added the horizontal wooden bars. The trays, minus light fittings and wirings, hold the soil-warming cables.

I have tried all the alternatives but a peat-based compost is best. This compost uses alternative materials as well as peat and is supposed to be sustainable. I’ve tried other media to put the cables in, but the advantage of this is that, when the heaters are no longer needed, I can pot up plants using the compost. Once I used newspaper. Big mistake. It went slimy.

I cover over the cables. This is a very economical way of heating the greenhouse. Two double propagators hold 32 9″ x 12″ seed trays (30 cm x 22.5cm) or the equivalent in pots. I use two soil-warming cables, one uses 150 watts and the other 75 watts. I cover the framework with polythene to keep it warm and humid. One propagator is, of course, warmer than the other, which makes them suitable for a range of plants.

After I’ve covered the cables and watered the compost, to aid humidity, I cover it all with polythene, kept in place with sheets of perspex. I can’t remember where we got the perspex but it is, of course, recycled. We were given a big roll of polythene by a builder friend (he owned the business, he didn’t nick it) some years ago and it has lasted ages.

I do the potting here and this is where the plants that do not need heat will go. The Sage was given this staging by a woman whose husband has died – he had a big collection of cacti that, thank goodness, the Sage did not bring home – she found someone who does not dislike the spiky things. There are 3 sets, each 8 ft x 2 ft. The greenhouse is 10ft x 8 ft – they fit exactly. I plan to put chilli peppers in here, later.

I put seed trays of compost in the propagator to warm up, to sow in tomorrow or Friday (I’m in the shop tomorrow and I’m not yet sure if it’s half or the whole day). I also sowed lettuce seeds, but didn’t switch on the unit I put them in as they don’t need heat. I will, later, plant some of those in the other greenhouse and some outside – I’ll cut the indoor ones for the shop and when they are finished put in cucumbers; by then the outdoor ones will be ready and I’ll have sown more for succession.

I’ve just touched my chin. It is all sugary. Heh heh. Pancakes are soooo good. Once in a while…

Pancake Day

Oh blimey. So it is. It’s really not very convenient tonight, but surely it rather goes against the spirit of the season, to have Pancake Day pancakes on the wrong day. I mean, you can have them at any time but I never do make them – I used to make savoury pancakes sometimes, but they could be cooked ahead and then rolled or layered with a filling and baked. The sort you toss and eat with lemon juice and sugar are not that much trouble really, but they involve hordes of hopeful family standing around with plates, wanting their turn with the frying pan but not at the expense of eating time.

I went to a Roman Catholic school and, as you might imagine, they were very keen on the whole Lent experience. Smearing their foreheads with ash on Ash Wednesday and keenly Giving Up *Something* for Lent. We Church of Englanders found the whole thing a bit ritualistic and bemusing (yeah, I know, as is any religion) and I’ve never done it. I don’t see the point.

So it’s with no orthodoxical anxiety that I rather wish I could get away with transferring Pancake Day to tomorrow, just a feeling that my little boys will be disappointed if they don’t get their treat.

I’ll tell them that if they want them they can have them, but it’ll have to be early and as a first course as I’m going out at 7.15. I’ve made a pie that can go in the oven and they can eat after that.

I did remember to buy* the lemons.

*pick up from the shop. I do put money in the till sometimes, but I estimate.

UPDATE The Sage is in favour of procrastination

Turning like a ploughing ox

My word of the day – boustrophedon. Marvellous. It means writing alternate lines left to right and right to left, so that your pen – and your eye – doesn’t have to keep darting across to the next line but simply drops down.

It looks rather like this: Today
erutcel doog yrev a ot tnew I
all about the Queen of Sheba
tuoba nwonk yllaer si gnihtoN*
her specifically, except what you read in the Bible, the Koran and in Jewish history, but the speaker put together a very interesting lecture about the history and geography of the Sheban region (more or less, modern Yemen) as well as her visit to King Solomon** and her almost mythical place in art and literature since. Nothing remains of the ancient Sheban palaces and very little of the temples or dams (they had a clever system of irrigation) but I suspect that there is a great deal of buried history that archaeologists have hardly started to find.

A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the loss of my note book. I got a new one. And, unbelievably, I’ve left it behind, a calendar month after I lost the first. Fortunately, I realised at once rather than weeks later and I’ve phoned and they’ve rescued it for me.
I’ve never done such a thing before, I must be cracking up altogether. It’s age, darlings, I’m falling apart mentally and physically.

*it is really tricky to type and to read, hence very short lines; I’m not surprised it isn’t used any more.
Here’s a fuller explanation
**Legend has it that some malicious types wanted to portray her as a demon and so they tricked her into revealing her hairy legs. Solomon was not deterred and in his turn he tricked her into agreeing to sleeping with him.


I looked at the bedside clock last night, shortly before falling asleep. It read 00:45. When I next opened my eyes, some time after waking up, it said 02.10. The last thing I heard before falling asleep again was the milkman arriving, just after 6.

Unsurprisingly, I slept late this morning and found it hard to get up at all. Then the electricity went off. Too late, I remembered the letter received from the electricity maintenance company to say that the power would be switched off today whilst trees close to cables were cut back.

My day was entirely topsy-turvy, a perfectly acceptable state of affairs. I put on a dressing-gown (I never do this) and trotted downstairs to read the papers, then back up for a bath – the shower is electric. It was nearly 10 o’clock by the time I emerged, smooth and scented, recovered from sleeplessness.

It’s been a useful day, overall. Several panes of glass in the greenhouse had been broken in the gales and we have replaced them and put back others that had slipped. I finished cutting back the tall laurel hedge and once again resolved that it must never grow so tall again – how many times must I cut the beastly thing back to stumps before it takes the hint and just dies? I started cutting Al and Dilly’s privet hedge, which is about 8 feet tall, to waist height.

There’s a line between informal and neglected and we had crossed it. All I can say is that in the last three years we have had two family weddings (parties held here) and two babies, our gardener has finally become too old to work and I’ve concentrated on vegetable growing. But there are no more excuses and I must start to pull it all back together again. Unfortunately, it’s too much for us and it’s hard to know what to do about it. The sort of work we need done isn’t suitable for a jobbing gardener, what he’d do is what I can do myself.

Never mind. It’s after 6 o’clock and time for a drink before cooking dinner.

Z looks forward to sowing seeds

It’s been a quiet and fairly lazy day – which I think is a Good Thing.

The Sage and I sorted out the greenhouse staging. Two of the greenhouses have none, as plants are put straight into the soil, or in pots on the soil (this is actually the best way as it contains their roots somewhat – for early crops and not too rampant growth), but the third is where I raise all the seedlings.

It is, in fact, three 10 foot x 8 foot greenhouses end to end, with interconnecting doors. The middle greenhouse has electricity laid on, where I plug in soil-warming cables. These are buried in shallow trays – the sort you can put a growbag in – and the pots and seedtrays are laid on top, then I have a framework above, on which I drape clear polythene to keep the air warm and humid. It is makeshift and there is no temperature control – if it’s hot I take off the plastic and if it’s cold I leave the heat day as well as night – but it is the cheapest and easiest way to raise the number of seedlings that I do, using Economy 7 (cheap overnight rate) electricity.

The staging used to be wooden and homemade, but a few years ago the Sage found that a local business was going to throw away a lighting system, the framework of which he could see could be converted. I’ll have to take a picture of this, which will be easier than a description. And recently he was able to get hold of some staging that someone had used for their greenhouse-full of cacti, so at last all our slightly rotting wooden stuff has been disposed of. Well, no. I suggested we don’t break it up yet, just in case I can use it elsewhere. Blimey, I’m turning into a clone of the Sage. But, like many converts, worse, for he would have taken it apart. And used the wood as fuel, I expect. I think I remember N1gella L@wson once saying of herself, that she is extravagant but not wasteful. I rather appreciated the description.

Tonight, a simple meal. Lamb raised on our field: progeny of a few sheep, a hobby for the farmer, we don’t charge him grazing rent as they keep the ground in good heart, but it’s beautiful, slowly and naturally reared meat – we butchered it ourselves a while ago, as you may remember (no idea how much you take what I write to heart, I tend to remember this sort of thing once read). This is a loin of lamb, with which we’ll eat roasted pumpkin, garlic, shallot and red pepper and Egyptian new potatoes. Yes, I know. Zero food miles for the lamb* and the homegrown pumpkin**, whole lots for the spuds. Then we’ll have rhubarb, cooked with marmalade and topped with a flapjack*** mixture.

Tomorrow, back to a very pleasant grindstone. DV***, of course.

*There is an abattoir on the edge of the village.
**Only two pumpkins left. One butternut squash and one large Blue Hubbard. Time to cook them, tonight’s was just going a little soft inside.
***I only discovered today that flapjacks are pancakes in America. Here they are flat chewy biscuits made of rolled oats, sugar, syrup and butter, melted, mixed and baked.
****DV – Deo Volente – God Willing.

Spr1ng 1s here! Spr1ng is here! Life is sk1ttles and

L1fe is beer!

No, I haven’t been drinking; I’m just quoting. And today the pictures can tell the story, or most of it.

Yellow crocus

Well, I like snowdrops!

Won’t be long before the daffodils on the drive are out.

When I was a little girl, wild primroses were my favourite flower. I used to pick them and arrange them in a dish of water with moss to make it look as if they were still growing, for my mother.

Another crocus

I’m a fair-weather gardener, and today was perfect

The hawthorn is coming into leaf

This is the laurel still to be cut back. From this height…

…to this

It is true! I am a Monkey!

What animal would best suit your personality?


You are the class clown. The happy, friendly member of your group of friends. You are very much a sociable person and enjoy spending time with both friends and family alike. You maintain a well balanced diet and maintain yourself regularly. People around you lighten up as soon as you walk into the room. You bring a warm glow with you that is hard to ignore. You are the Monkey!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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Actually, when doing this quiz, I was a bit concerned lest I should turn out to be a Two-Toed Sloth.