Monthly Archives: June 2010

Life in the kitchen garden

I spent much of yesterday afternoon and evening sorting out the greenhouse.  There were various plants that had neither been sold nor planted and needed to be put on the compost heap or planted out, there were other plants that had to be put in their final pots and there were a lot of weeds.  It was too warm to work in there continuously and, when I came out for a breather, I surprised a very small bunny frolicking among the artichokes.  It scampered away and vanished over the wall – no, don’t be like that, not the fully-built part but the bit where there are only the foundations.  We put some wire the other side but a small rabbit could get underneath that.

The Sage was out, so I left it, because it wasn’t a one-person job to block the way, and when he did return, we found that the rabbit was back.  It was a dear little bunny and we really didn’t want to shoot it, our fortitude in that direction has been tested to its limits this year.  So we separated and drove it gradually in the direction we wanted it to go.  There are various bricks and suchlike around and, looking at the bunny, I didn’t look where I was going, so I’ve now got rather a lot of bruises and grazes.  We did the job however, the rabbit left the garden and we’ve thoroughly blocked the way it came in.  It won’t be a problem in another week or two when the wall has been built up a few more courses.

Today, we spent some time clearing a badly overgrown bed that used to be my herb garden.  It’s choked with tansy and nettles, mostly.  It had also, being thoroughly out of hand, been used to dump canes and pots and things…the worst of the clearance has been done, but I have to take everything down from stumps to ground level and then cover it with old carpet and leave it for a couple of years to kill the weeds.  But we did find, under a winter savoury bush, a partridge nest, with eight hatched and two addled eggs.  There had been a pair of French partridges in the garden and Dilly saw the mother with newly-hatched chicks a few weeks ago.

When I went for a rake to clear the cut weeds, I found the friendly brown bantam in the new bed by the wall, keenly scratching for insects.  The entrance, while awaiting its gate, is normally blocked off but I’ve been using it so had left it open and she didn’t need a formal invitation.  I left her, she was doing no harm – later, she moved round near where I was raking, so I dug up a patch of ground for her to rootle in.  She was asked to leave for her supper later on, which she did reluctantly.  She was a perfect guest and will be invited in future.

I haven’t finished planting out the bed, but a couple more goes should do it.  I might get out early tomorrow morning.  The greenhouse is looking good though.  The front field was cut yesterday and baled at once – it wasn’t a very good crop but not as bad as we’d expected – anyway, it was very dry so whether it’ll end up as hay or haylage, I don’t know.  I’m going to go along and glean the bits left to use as mulch in the greenhouse.

Which reminds me, I took a picture of the first cucumber in full flower yesterday.  Here it is – as ever, you are first in my thoughts so I’m sharing it with you.

I’ll share the cucumber too, if you happen to be here when it is cut.

Yes indeed, it is small.  But it will grow quickly.  As you see, the present mulch is newspaper, which is working fine.  But dried grass will be more attractive and smell nice and, like the paper, it will soak up water and let it out again, thus keeping up humidity levels.

Yes, I know that tomatoes are happy with a drier atmosphere.  But, for this year at least, I can only cope with one greenhouse at a time.  So the tomatoes will have to compromise.

Interestingly, there is a shade of colour on some of the outside tomatoes, the bush variety named Maskotka.  I kept them indoors until June and then put them out in pots – last year they cropped before any of the greenhouse varieties, too.  Maybe I should try keeping a plant or two indoors for a really early crop.  I sowed all the seeds of my nine varieties in March.

Longest day

Sorry about yesterday, I didn’t remember to post until I was nearly asleep.  But I had to tell you about the honey.  And here are a couple of pictures.

As you see, Al is starting off in the simplest way, cutting the honeycomb into a bowl, melting it over warm water, letting the wax rise and then lifting it off and then rewarming and filtering the honey.  There’s all sorts of equipment he can buy, a centrifuge and so on, but this will do him for now.  He says that this amount at a time is very simple and manageable and a lot less messy than he expected.

Nothing else to write about now, apart from biking into town to go to the bank and get some vegetables, nothing’s happened here.

Oh, by the way, today is the last day of the English asparagus picking season, so if you want some, hot-foot it to the shops to get it, right now.

A long day

Particularly as I didn’t make use of any part of the night for sleeping. And now it’ll hardly be dark at all, I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight either. Anyway, I didn’t waste the time, I spent several hours writing a complicated letter, which saved time today. Or, actually, yesterday, now I notice the time. Anyway, I’m in bed.

The Sage was particularly pleased with his Father’s Day present from Al: the very first jar of honey from his bees. He was awfully touched that Al gave it to him. All this swarming that went on earlier in the summer has turned out to be a bonus, for there is quite a demand for queen bees with a starter colony of workers and they are quite valuable. Al has had several enquiries and has sold two. At this rate, it’ll only be another five years or so before he recoups his outlay on hives and equipment.

I’m all right now, thank you, though

I’ve had a lazy day imposed on me by a bad headache, so nothing much has happened.  I went back to bed after half an hour up this morning, slept the morning away and then came back down again, feeling a bit better, because I’d promised to look after the children for Dilly.  However, I couldn’t do anything much, so fetched them some food and reclined on the sofa with them watching television.  I know,  terrible granny.  We watched Horrid Henry, Ooglies, Shaun the Sheep and Scooby Doo.   I remember vastly preferring cartoons to educational children’s programmes such as Blue Peter when I was a child, so I have no bad conscience about it at all.  That is, it didn’t stop me reading or playing outside or doing other things, and I mostly avoided having friends anyway and lived nearly a mile from any children I did know, so wouldn’t have seen them anyway.

Dilly was going with her sister Dala (I’m going to forget what I’ve called her sisters; let it suffice that Dilly is the oldest of three and they all have the same initials) to order Dala’s wedding cake.  She entered a competition in the local newspaper and won £300-worth of cake.  So she booked an appointment and asked Dilly to go along as a back-up.  She wasn’t at all sure that it wasn’t one of these things where you get a voucher that commits you to a big additional payout.

They found that this lady does the cakes from her home, which is full of accessories and decorations in every drawer and cupboard.  She was delightful and enthusiastic and showed them everything, and then they started to design this cake on the computer.  It became beautiful and elaborate and lots of things were discussed, but price was never mentioned.  In the end, D & D just relaxed and went along with it and had fun.  Finally, they agreed on a three-tier cake and then she checked the price.  “Oh dear,” she said. “It comes to £311.  Oh well, never mind, we’ll call it £300.”  Delivery is included, a distance of more than 20 miles.

So, not everything is a scam and some offers aren’t too good to be true.

Anyway, about Dilly and her sisters – it so happened that their parents have the same initial letters, so they thought it would be rather jolly to use them for their children too.  Of course, this meant that all three daughters’ correspondence arrived addressed to ‘Miss D L Surname’.  “Wasn’t this a nuisance?” I asked Dilly once. “You never knew who should open the letters.”  “Not to me,” she replied. “I was the eldest, so I assumed that all letters were addressed to me.”

Z embraces the vuvuzela

Yes, really.  I’ve come to get the fact that those who are moaning are, let’s face it, grumpy old darlings and so I’ve gone the other way.  I don’t mind in the least being old and I love being part of the grey community (though I’m only a little bit grey, and only on my head at that) but I’m not going to be grumpy or complain about the “youth of today” or anything like that.  So, I’ve listened to vuvuzelas until they embody the spirit of jollity.  Wonderfully, with my change in attitude, they don’t even give me a headache any longer.  So I’ve switched on tonight’s match.  I wish they had had the Algerian team introduce themselves as the English did though – I am completely non-partisan in these matters and appreciative of Good Play.

A terrific music lesson this morning.  I had to leave a bit early in fact, as I had a meeting with the Head, but the first part of the lesson was playing djembe drums and the class ended up playing two different tricky rhythms (one in 3/4 and one in 4/4) simultaneously, really well.  And then they added the agogo bells and it sounded wonderful.  They really concentrated – at this stage, three bars in one rhythm and the fourth in another – and no one made any mistakes or played up and I, not playing at this time (sometimes I do join in but it seemed mean to take away a drum!), applauded enthusiastically at the end.

Anyway, darlings, I’d hate to take you away from the football, so I’ll let you go.  Have a lovely evening, and please do something entirely frivolous.

Bringing on the wall, Day 39 – Pillar of Dave

Dave brought along his camera, with its wide-angled lens, to take a picture of the whole length of the completed wall.

Today, I didn’t add much to the next section.  I was putting in some plants, a mixture of flowers and veggies.  A work in progress, as you see – and, although some of them are perennials, they will be taken out in the autumn, even those that are to be put back in the same place, because the whole bed needs to be thoroughly manured and, so far, I’m just putting in a few spadesful under each plant.

I’ve just realised that the pic is on the huh.  My photos are always on the huh, I don’t do straight.  It’s not the wall, which is totally upright.

These are the few bricks that I did lay, and you’ll see that (it being a joining-up section) even if I can’t do upright, I can do level.

Dave, of course, is both upright and on the level.  He laid a few more bricks, but I was slaving in the kitchen by then and, as I went out after lunch, I didn’t take a picture of the finished section.  I’ll do it in the next few days, before our next work morning.

This afternoon, I went with Weeza, Al, Squiffany and Pugsley to the theatre, to a production of Snow White on ice.  A mixture of ballet, skating and acrobatics, it was both remarkable and very enjoyable.  Dilly was working today so couldn’t come (not to waste the ticket, Al shut up shop early and joined us) and so she is going tomorrow with her sister Deepa.

Afterwards, we scooped up Ro and all went out for a meal.  So the Sage had a double treat – a peaceful afternoon and dinner out.  He thanks you for your birthday wishes.  Now, I shall join him in bed for a cuddle before sleep.

All them phootoos is on the huh*, I’ve just noticed.  Heh.

*As we say in Norfolk

Second Post

That’s what happens, you see, when I write early.  Vote early, vote often, as the saying goes.

Actually, “as the saying goes” (pronounced ‘goos’ or even ‘goo’) is, itself, a saying around here; amongst the older residents, that is.  Usually attached to something that isn’t a saying at all.

Anyway, what I have returned to say is that I’ve just got back from a parents’ evening at the school and my lovely Sage has cooked me my dinner.  I feel most awfully cherished.

It was the parents of the new pupils for September, and I spent an hour and a half bobbing up to strangers and engaging them in conversation.  A couple of other governors were there too, doing the same thing and at one point we all chatted together for a few minutes.  One of them said that she was never quite sure about volunteering to come in for things, she didn’t want to be intrusive.  I said I knew how she feels – “I don’t come over as diffident, but I have to make an effort not to be,” I said.  She told me that I don’t come over as diffident at all.

I know I don’t.  I don’t here, do I?  I’m confident and can talk a bit too much and have social skills and am not at all reticent.  Well, I’m not saying it’s put on, and I’m not saying that I’m shy, because actually, people who are really pretty brash and then say, coyly, “of course, underneath it all, I’m terribly shy” really quite piss me off, because I’ve been shy and I couldn’t possibly have done it then – and I like being outgoing better than I liked my many introverted years, and I don’t mind that I’m laying myself open to judgement because it’s a sign that I’m not afraid to be humble (a lot of shyness is actually pride, or at least it was with me) – however, it does mean that I have to be sure and do it constantly, or else it looks as if I don’t care or am uninterested.  When, in fact, I’m not quite confident that it’s appropriate for me to leap in and ask.

I’m getting better at it.  I really do try very hard.

Anyway, tomorrow is the Sage’s birthday, and he will be 74.  He doesn’t think of himself as ageing at all, and nor do I – that is, I know he is but he isn’t to me.  He’s just the same as ever, and I love him as much as ever.  His kindness and care when I was getting over my operation was, yet again, a revelation to me – after all these years, he can still surprise me.  And, after all these years, one can still be surprised to fall in love all over again, with the same person – even if you’ve loved him all along.  Which is rather more convenient than falling for someone else, of course.

Z is a bit frustrated

So many websites are designed the wrong way round – that is, not from the point of view of the user.  In my case, I don’t want to have to click through a lot of pages of things I don’t want, I want to put in what I do want and have only things that apply come up.

So, the first things they ask are, contract or pay as you go.  That’s fine, and so is maximum and minimum price.  But then, what matters to me is what I get, not what make of phone or network – that is, there may be some I don’t want, but I don’t want to be restricted to being shown only one.  But I’m not offered that, it’s one or all.   And I’d like to say from the outset whether calls, text or internet are most important, so that then I can be shown a range of options, starting with the ones that are most likely to interest me.  Instead, I get lots of pictures of phones and then have to look at any one I like to find out what tariffs are associated with it, then save it for comparison.  If, instead, I could just cross off the ones that aren’t suitable, it would be much simpler.

The Sage is far more dextrous than I am, far better at fiddly jobs, except when it comes to phones or computers, when they have to be idiot-proof.  So he’ll have to be able to have a go and see if he can use it, so we’ll have to go shopping together.  I can’t see that happening today.  Or tomorrow.  I was free this morning when he wasn’t and I’m not free this afternoon.  And tomorrow’s not possible at all.

I suppose I should have started all this earlier.

By the way, how come no one has disagreed with the odd expression that *we* are all “addicted to oil”.  Surely we’re simply dependent on it?

I thought I might try to get involved with the football.  Not that I mind in the least who wins the World Cup – I’m not being snooty about it, but I find it more interesting to see who plays well and has the most appealing players, rather than what country they come from.  But it’s giving me a headache.  I haven’t managed to sit through a match yet.  I suppose I should be glad to have more time to research phones.  I understand that the television networks are looking into an option to block the sound of the vuvuzelas, which would mean I have no excuse to ignore the coverage any more.

Hawk from a Harnser

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned yet that it’s the Sage’s birthday this week.  No, of course I haven’t bought him a present yet, what do you take me for?  One of those sorted people or something?  I’m going to get him a new mobile phone.  I know, a bit dull – but honestly, he’s not easy to buy for.  I struck lucky last year, when I had the genius idea of a little collector’s cabinet for his vestas (matchboxes, not scooters or anything Roman or waspish) and was able to buy a dear little one on eBay.  He really likes my phone but – and I’m not being rude or anything, honestly – it would be wasted on him.  I mean, the purpose of an iPhone is only slightly to make phone calls.  And that’s all he wants to do, he doesn’t even want to take photos or send texts, on a phone that’s simple enough even for him or me to use.

Anyway, his birthday – it’s not a particularly milestone sort of age, except that, at last, the Sage will have been married for half his life; in terms of years, that is.  And in September, I’ll have been married for two-thirds of mine.

App of the day – Speed Anatomy, which is highly entertaining, especially when you find how little you know.  Rather splendidly, it’s just a quiz, which doesn’t give you the opportunity to actually bone up on the answers first, so you have to try to remember the bits you’re clueless about next time.  There’s a lite version to try first.  I like it so much that, having mostly mastered it (v hazy on the brain, which won’t surprise you) I’ve just bought the Speed Bones too, though I can’t yet get through the parts of the vertebrae.  In fact, I’m not sure how I’ll ever learn them.  It was hard enough learning to tell an axis from an atlas (in bone terms, darlings) without the Transverse Foramen from the Anterior Arch.  But I daresay I’ll have a lot of fun trying.

Roll your sleeves up and participate

I know you’re all pacing the floor, unable to relax until you know that the Sage is safely home with me – well, he is, so you can.  I cut the lilac hedge, it having finished flowering (isn’t that just begging to be translated into Latin?) and mused that I might finally be starting to grow up, because I gathered up all the cuttings into the big green wheelbarrow instead of leaving them to the fairies.  Having done that, I swept the part of the drive where the cutting had been done, which was even more remarkable.  Truth to tell, I only did that to check whether the Sage would notice the job had been done, because he had been going to ask Friend with a Chainsaw.  He did notice, of course.  He’s so observant.  It might not seem remarkable to you, that a hedge cut back by 12 or 18 inches is noticed, but I’d not see it, possibly not for a week or two.

Tomorrow, I’m going to a lecture about Stanley Spencer – in preparation for this (I know, darlings, you think that I’m ever spontaneous, but you may be surprised) I visited Cookham last week to see his paintings in his home town.  And, indeed, the home town too.  I have to remember to get there early as the AGM comes first.  I shall be happy to sit, mostly anonymously, in the audience and not on the stage giving a proper actual-factual written speech, which I’d done for four years.  Not a continual four year span, you understand, but ten minutes at a time, four times, annually.  I have agreed to propose a proposal, but it only involves raising my hand at the appropriate time.

Afterwards, Weeza has promised to help friends with the organisation of their house-move, so she’s leaving Zerlina with us again for the afternoon.  Tilly will be very happy.   What’s nice is that the happiness lasts, she has been very cheerful and affectionate all day today.  Her sight and hearing are so much poorer in the last few months that she can tend to withdraw into herself.

The title of the post has nothing to do with the post, except that I’ve just read it on Roses’ blog.  And it encapsulates the art of life.  That’s what life is for, darlings.  As Weeza, with her London Ways, would say, JFDI.