Tag Archives: beans

A New Direction

We watched a few episodes of Diagnosis Murder this morning and ate a substantial brunch. I’m beginning to get used to this relaxation, though I’m definitely going to have to curb my portion size.

I am going to be on bean salad tomorrow, and can only guess at the horrors that will open up as I start eating “sensibly”. That, in my experience, means eating things you don’t like because they are good for you. It’s good, because you eat less of it if you don’t like it. However, would you rather live to be 70 on a diet of chips, pies and chocolate, or would you prefer to live to 80 on bean salad and virtue?

Seventy is a bit close now, so I’m thinking of interlacing a certain amount of salad with the pie and chips.

Tonight it’s home made beef pie. Tomorrow it’s seafood spaghetti and the day after it’s fishcakes with rice and vegetables. Wednesday is sweet potato and chickpea curry.

I’m starting overnight oats for breakfast again and salads for lunch.

I’ll give it a week. I can mange the healthy evening meal, with the odd takeaway, and the overnight oats. But a week of lunchtime salads will be plenty. Man is not meant to function without cheese and pickle sandwiches and pork pies. But he’s not meant to function in shirts that strain at the front with the curve of a galleon in full sail.


Overnight Oats with Fruit

The featured image is a picture of my lunch – quinoa, chia, pumpkin seeds, beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn, dill and spring onions, plus a mango and chilli dressing. Since I actually read the instructions on the quinoa and found out that you can use it straight from the packet lunches have become very simple – tear open a few packets, open a few cans, chop a smidgen of veg, mix. It’s very easy.

Lunch left me full and feeling virtuous. What it didn’t do was leave me feeling like I’d had a good meal.

I suppose that persistence will eventually pay off.

Before that I’d been to hospital for the regular blood-letting. It had been a bit thick last week and they decided another test was needed. If they had to rush about before work, deal with car parking then queue for a slot before being stabbed in the arm multiple times they might not be so keen on all these tests. As the needle slid in through the bruise left by last week’s test, all these things come to mind.

Then, to add insult to injury, the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

They put the signs up on the new shop today – my first day of proper work in the new shop. It’s looking good, though if you look hard enough you can see that fat bloke with the camera who gets in so many of my shots.

Collectors World, Wollaton Road, Nottingham

Collectors World, Wollaton Road, Nottingham

The final highlight of the day was sorting a thousand crowns for an export order, including brandishing an eraser in the vicinity of a few of them to make minor improvements. It’s a funny old world…

Charles and Diana Crowns – a marital mistake enshrined in numismatic form. It’s like me having a coin struck to commemorate my diet.

Had a good morning in the garden this morning helping Julia out. The group put up a shade shelter yesterday using the existing posts and a bit of camo netting. They will now be able to eat their lunch without the fear of sunburn or aerial reconnaissance.

A few final touches were required, and that’s where I came in. It’s good to feel useful, even if it was my height rather than my design skills that were needed – as you can see from the photos, it’s a bit of a stretch for one of us.

Julia did some painting and other bits while I took photos and swept the tearoom floor. That’s my place in this marriage.

One of the ongoing jobs is to make the entrance to the garden a bit more colourful and inviting. There was a decrepit barbecue in one of the sheds, with lots of rust and a selection of holes in the bottom. With a bit of vision (think “drainage” holes) and some surplus paint it is now a bright and cheerful herb planter.

The morning was, apart from the company, a bit dull. This was an impression that was further reinforced when I drove past Trent Bridge at 12.15 – they had the lights on for the Test Match. I’d hate to think of the bill for that lot.

Working in the garden

Julia needed a willing workhorse this morning. When she couldn’t find one she had to do with a mithering fatman.

The task was sawing pallets up to make garden benches. Julia has a video on how to make a bench from a single pallet. Unfortunately our pallets aren’t the same size as the ones in the video (8 slats instead of 9) so there’s an element of mix and match involved.

There are some excellent benches on show, but we’re aiming for functionality rather than upholstery.

I will take some photographs when we get one together. With no electricity and a blunt hand saw, this might take some time. The fact I’m not allowed to be an official volunteer isn’t actually helping either. It also doesn’t help when you have to evict a family of magpies before starting. We aren’t sure why they like it in the polytunnel but the first job of the day is always to chase four protesting magpies out. Over the years we had a few birds in the polytunnels on the farm, but never anything like this.

Fruit and flowers were looking good, and the rain stopped for a while.


Escape to Derbyshire (Part 1)

As I was sorting laundry this morning (another day off – we really are spoiling ourselves) we had a postal delivery for Number Two son.

“Why don’t we nip up to Sheffield and give it to him.” I suggested. (Having already suggested Stoke on Trent, which is usually a winner, and Bakewell as days out, I was becoming desperate at the thought of another day of housework).

It worked, and Julia texted him to arrange it. After waiting for a reply and wondering what would happen if she rang him in the middle of a lecture, she finally rang him. Me? Well, to be honest, at 10.15, I didn’t think there was much chance of catching him in the middle of a lecture.

I was right. What actually happened was that we woke him up.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we popped up to Sheffield, got caught in traffic,  dropped off the letter, took him to lunch at KFC, lectured him on the importance of eating properly (yes, I know…) and did various parent things.

I also took a photo of one of the gardens in his street. The one with Virginia creeper growing up the telegraph pole was quite impressive but the one with the beans was more interesting.


The garden next door to the beans had a fine display of fuchsias, which was a coincidence as we’d been eating fuchsia berries from our garden this morning. I’ve eaten fuchsia berries before and not been impressed but these are supposed to be juicy and delicious. To be fair, it’s been a poor year, and they aren’t in a great position, but they didn’t seem any different to the others I’ve tried. Interesting idea though – plenty of flowers and a claimed 300 berries per plant. It’s the one in the header picture.

After that, having cunningly secreted the postcode of the Riverside Herb Centre in my shirt pocket, I entered the details in the satnav (I’m finally moving into the 21st Century) and set off. It was a visit of mixed results, with virtually no plants available. Fortunately there is a shop selling a variety of products, including oak-smoked rapeseed oil. I’ll cover that in a later post, once I’ve decided what to do with it. I checked on the internet and the main suggestions are to use it for salad dressing. It doesn’t seem very imaginative.

We also bought black onion seed, garam masala, beeswax hand lotion and a packet of ginger creams. They will probably appear in reviews on the other blog.

After that, well that’s going to be Part 2.



The one with the failed experiments…

Overwintered runner beans

We planted the beans just before a rather windy cold spell. The overwintered plants, which were a bit soft after a winter at rest, seemed to suffer more than the new plants, though neither of them looked particularly good. As the season drew on the old plants came back to look every bit as good as the new ones.

In terms of yield it’s difficult to say because the group tends to mix the beans and even if we can prevent that we can’t tell what has been harvested unofficially, which has happened several times. You can tell that when you leave with beans on the plants and return next day to empty plants.

Judging by eye I’d say that yield was similar in size and total weight and the only difference between the three-year-old plant and the new one was that we saved pennies on seed and didn’t donate any nitrogen back to the soil when we took the roots out.

The half-manured bed

There was a definite difference in number of fat hen plants and their size – loads more plants and they were round about twice the size on the half that had been fed.

We had several losses due to wind/cold (see above) and couldn’t count the crop properly (also see above).The plant that appeared to do best was on the mid-line between the two treatments, and that was probably because its neighbours had died and left it with more room and light.

The Accidental Permaculture Bed

This was the same bed as the half-manured bed,  but when the fat hen started growing and a crop of self-seeded rocket showed itself we decided to see what happened.

What happened was that the fat hen grew so well that it began to interfere with the beans. This was more noticeable at the manured end, where the plants were thicker and taller.

I cropped it severely once it was established, taking several crops of salad leaves and making two lots of soup. I actually put some in the freezer, which was fortunate, because one weekend someone (I assume someone from the Allotment Group) ripped all the “weeds” out and left me with nothing for a group the following week. We had the frozen fat hen and it tasted just as good.


Fat Hen from the freezer – not something you find in Tesco!

That was demo salads for about fifty, six or eight lunchtime salads for me and soup for around forty – not bad for a weed that grew by accident.

The rocket is still cropping though it’s getting a bit strong now and the beans are also continuing to produce.

We grew the beans on a frame that crossed lower down than normal, producing an “X” shape and allowing the beans to dangle in the open for picking. It worked reasonably well, although it would have been better if I’d managed to cross the canes lower down. Note to self – next year step back and look after getting the first few canes up.

So there’s three that didn’t quite work out for various reasons, though we did learn a few things. Due to the advent of the Allotment Group we have lost a lot of land and may well lose the raised beds too so my experiments and learning might focus on different subjects next year as I retreat to the polytunnel.

Sheds, moths, beans…

The big news of the day is either one of two things, and I’m not sure which is better.

We have our first new recruit for the Screveton Shed after I emailed round the bread group. That feels good and makes it seem like a proper group.

The second is that when we got home there was a hummingbird moth feeding on the Red Valerian in the front garden. It flew away as I tried to get to my camera so yet again I have no photograph. I’ve always been slightly ashamed of the Valerian as it’s a bit of a weed growing in the cracks between the paving in the front garden. It drifted in from somewhere about five years ago and started taking over. I had a major session of hacking it back earlier in the year. Later I dead headed extensively, which produced a second flush of growth. It’s a good thing I did or there would have been nothing to attract the moth.

As it is, a minute either way and we would have missed it.

(A confession here – all the plants in the front garden are growing between the cracks- though the allysum and marigolds are descended from plants I actually planted. You can grow a lot of stuff without much soil, though it wouldn’t work for carrots.

I don’t have a picture of the moth and I don’t seem to have one of Red Valerian, but I do have one of a curly bean I picked today. Here it is.


The Unprogress Report

I really did mean to write a progress report to tell you what’s been happening, but I haven’t actually made a lot of progress.

The tea is looking a bit better, though it’s in a mixed condition – some glossy green leaves and a few scorched brown ones.

The hollyhock growing from the compost bin is looking taller, though it’s an accident rather than something I can take credit for.

The blewits still haven’t shown any inclination to form mould so I’m wondering whether to wet them again or to stick them in the fridge to try and jump start them. The grey oyster mushrooms are still in the fridge because the polytunnels have been so hot most of the time I thought I’d delay trying to grow them.

The experimental bed, also known as the accidental permaculture bed, showed the benefits of organic matter in the soil as the fat hen grew quicker and taller in that section. The beans, meanwhile, don’t seem to show any benefit from it. The trouble there is that cutting winds just after planting the beans out set them all back and killed several so I’m not convinced we’re seeing a true result.


Failed bean experiments – note lack of fat hen in the bed on the right!

Same goes for the experiment with saved runner bean plants. After planting,the cold winds caused havoc, as with the other beans, and seemed to do more damage to the old plant than they did to the new ones. The old ones have recovered and are looking a bit better than the younger ones but there’s not a lot of difference. I’m going to try and measure the yield, but as someone has already helped themself to some beans we might struggle to get a proper figure.

We also lost the fat hen out of the accidental permaculture bed when some mystery gardener weeded it all out and we’ve had a bay tree taken from one of the polytunnels, which is extremely annoying, to say the least.

There’s probably other stuff I should report on too, such as the willow water (er…haven’t actually done anything about that), the calendula hand cream (er…ditto) …you get the picture….

So, no progress, enough good intentions to pave a fair-sized road and still no Lapsang Screveton.

I will just have to take comfort from the words of George Bernard Shaw.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.


Beware – introspection in progress!

I suppose it’s time to admit a few things.

The willow water, for instance, has not proved to be a success. I took two sets of mint cuttings, putting one set in water, and one set in willow water. After around five days the ones in willow water started to look a bit sickly. When I took them out, the bottom couple of inches had been eaten away. I’m going to say that my experiment indicates that standing in willow water doesn’t make mint cuttings sprout roots quicker. The ones in water were much healthier and hadn’t been eaten away at the bottom.


One on the right is Willow water

It might be too strong, as I’ve just seen someone recommending that it should be diluted to half strength. I’m going to try this when I take cuttings on Monday. This time I’ll use rosemary.

I’ve also managed to kill the kiwi berries and badly scorch the tea bushes; it’s just been too hot in the tunnels and I haven’t been active enough in shading things.

Finally (which isn’t the final confession – just the last one I feel like making at the moment) the accidental permaculture bed is having problems. You may recall that we improved half the bed by layering it with pig manure, wood chippings and used paper towels. The half that was treated has grown a massive crop of fat hen, which is now interfering with the beans. The half that wasn’t treated has grown a sparse crop of fat hen and allowed room for self-sown rocket. The beans? So far the runner beans have been uniformly poor due to a week of cold winds that coincided with them being planted out. We probably put them out too soon, but we wanted a good show for Open Farm Sunday.


Broad beans and French beans have been good

Actually – more confessions while I’m in the mood – the New Zealand spinach I used to fill gaps all died in the cold wind and the four-year-old runner bean plant is looking sickly, as are the year one  plants (see above comments on cold winds).

My experiment design skills are clearly leaving something to be desired.

However, it’s easy to be negative. And it’s easy to take the wrong attitude about failure.

I don’t want to get into pseudo-science here but I know people who are frightened of failure. To me it’s either of no consequence or it’s a step on the way to something else.

As Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He has so many quotes on persistence listed that I don’t know how he found time to invent things.

I have failed many times. The failures listed above don’t even begin to cover the mistakes I’ve made. Occasionally I have a night where I can’t sleep and all my failures come back to haunt me, many in painfully sharp detail. A few dead plants don’t even make it into my top thousand failures.

I learned a long time ago that it’s better to think about the future than the past. I’m going to plant beans later next year. I’m going to move the kiwi berries outside. I’m going to design a new willow water experiment.

Not only that, but I’m going to plant wild garlic this autumn, get some peach trees and train standard gooseberries.

I’m going to spread my wings and do a thousand things, including misquoting lyrics from musicals.

And I’m going to concentrate on remembering the things that went well. Like the good beans, or visitors who think we’re doing a good job.


Smiling visitors mean we’re doing something right



Filling in the gaps

I’ve been filling in the gaps today, with rows of spring onions, beetroot, radish and various salad greens appearing all over the raised beds.  So that we have at least something green by the weekend I’ve also planted out the New Zealand spinach that was originally meant to be part of the container growing demonstration. I It was slightly disappointing in the container but having just read how to plant it whilst  searching for the link, I’m amazed I managed to get anything at all. I also have a few things off the market (mainly lettuce).

It’s good to fill in the gaps, but I have a confession to make. I’m not that fond of salad. Spinach is OK but lettuce is tasteless, radish is pointless and beetroot is downright unpleasant. Thoughts like these are a disadvantage when it comes to growing your own.

Fortunately I love beans, peas, courgettes, nasturtiums and horseradish, which are the other things I’ve been planting.

My Good King Henry, comfrey, bamboo and pampas grass are all refusing to show but the rhubarb seedlings are looking good and I’ve just been re-potting Cape Gooseberry seedlings.


NZ spinach on the edge of a broad bean bed


Salads in an unused corner

I’m now starting to worry (after finding out about what I should have done with the NZ spinach) that there’s a lot more I need to learn and that I need to fill gaps in my knowledge as well as the physical gaps in the beds.