Tag Archives: gardening

Parcels, Plants and Popinjays

It was a reasonable day at work. We didn’t have many parcels to do and the ones we had were easy to pack and went to simple addresses.

We had several customers and a sprinkling of phone calls plus a couple of late orders.

You couldn’t really ask for more.

Until early afternoon. I’d just spent half an hour loading details and photographs onto eBay when I pressed the wrong button and, as you’ve probably already guessed, wiped it all.

So I had to plod through it all again. It’s not a good feeling doing it twice. Unfortunately, and I really hate to admit this, my last act on Monday afternoon had been to wipe it off too. In other words, I ended up doing it three times.

There must be a way to stop losing my work like this, but I still can’t work out how to do it. I’m adding new pieces to old listings so it isn’t as straightforward as starting from scratch.

I don’t feel bad about making mistakes, but I do feel bad about making the same one several times.

Things became more light-hearted when I started answering comments. I noted, whilst doing this, that I had made a couple of typos when adding tags. Writing THree Little Birds isn’t particularly amusing, but mis-spelling foraging as faraging did bring a smile to my face.

Foraging is, as you know, collecting wild plants for food. Faraging, possibly derived from the name Farage, is a word just begging for a meaning. It has several if you check it up but they are all made up by people like me. Well, like me but without the sparkling wit…

Faraging should, I think, be a word that indicates the ability to build a career on a single issue and a dash of personality, but free of the taint of actual ability, a bit like a modern reality TV star, and I think we all know my view of them.

There is a Seventeenth Century quote which I used to use in my re-enactment days – “Loud voices and empty words. So quoth the popinjay.”

It could do with some rewriting, but I think it conveys the general idea.

I’m going to start using it in that context and see if it catches on.

If it does, and I become rich and famous as a result, it will be a prime example of faraging, and I will become a noted farager.

There are many examples of names being used this way – Boycott, Quisling and Adonis are other examples. These are known as eponyms, which I should have known really, as I have seen the word eponymous often enough. It’s strange how some things pass you by.

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Streptocarpus grown from leaf cuttings

The photos are two of the four streptocarpus plants Julia has grown from leaf cuttings. She did it a few years ago to prove she could. As you can see, she succeeded.

The Fading Sky

As I sit at the table to type I look out at a strip of pale blue sky under a layer of cloud. The cloud is touched by light along its lower edge but after that margin of hope, is grey and dead. This has been the pattern of the day, grey with a little brightness, and as I write the illuminated stripe is fading and the blue is becoming grey.

Last night we remarked on the richness of the sunset. I have pictured it before so I decided not to bother with another set of photos, but now I regret that decision. There will be other sunsets, but it’s foolish to squander them in the same way I did when I was an optimistic youth.

Julia is muttering in the kitchen as she uses an wok and a spice kit to produce linguine with prawns and rocket (arugula). It would be unkind, and unwise, to draw parallels between this and the opening scene of Macbeth, but the sky, the muttering and the spice kit are all inclining me to that sort of thinking.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

The prawn linguine with rocket is subtly different from the version suggested in the kit. I didn’t feel the need to order liguine, for instance, as we have plenty of spaghetti and it’s near enough the same. We didn’t have rocket either because I pressed the normal button in my favourites whilst shopping and ordered rocket and baby leaf salad. This gives a slightly different effect and was the subject of some of the muttering.

Although the greens were wrong, it wasn’t me who stirred them all into the meal instead of strewing half of them artistically on top.

It was quite like last night’s experience – a few substitutions and a tasty meal. We’ve made this sort of linguine before, though the seasoning with the spice kit is much better. I am torn when it comes to seasoning – professionals do it better but they use more stuff, including more salt. I try to steer clear of salt.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Tomorrow we will having chicken pie with roast veg and the night after it will be the Iranian Vegetable Stew with the spice kit. Then it will be Thursday night – vegetarian stir fry followed by a new delivery of groceries from TESCO. This week I’m going to make sure I prepare a proper menu, as I’ve been relying on luck and repeating last week’s shopping for the last month.

We started lockdown by being organised and eating a lot of vegetarian options but over time we have reverted to more meat and convenience. We have also started eating fish and chips every week, though that is partly due to wanting to support the local chip shop, rather than a desire for takeaway food. We were already moving away from takeaways before lockdown, but it has certainly helped us stick to it. Our diet is healthier as a result and we are spending less.

I wonder what my diet will be like this time next year. If it’s still healthy I will tell you. If it isn’t, I’ll pretend to forget to tell you.

The teasel is from the front garden – we think they must have seeded from bird seed. The day lily is from the Mencap garden when we visited today to feed the wormery and do a few other jobs. Yes, this a ‘day off’ for a married man. The food has already been covered.

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

 

Getting Better

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This isn’t the post I said I was going to write, you’ll have to wait for that. This is the post that covers what I did today after posting the previous post and making breakfast.

We had people in on Monday to dismantle the sheds and associated ivy/brambles/honeysuckle at the back of the garden. It has been a great aid to security, privacy and wildlife over the last thirty years, including highlights such as the fox cubs and breeding blackcaps. There’s never a year goes by without at least one nest in it and this year it is great tits. It’s difficult getting anyone at the moment as everyone wants work doing after lockdown and it’s two or three weeks before they can get back to finish off. This fits in well with the great tit family which should be fledged and away by the time we destroy their habitat.

When it’s all done I’m going to plant a mixed hawthorn and blackthorn hedge, which should provide a good habitat over the coming years.

For the moment it’s left a bit of  a hole in the fence and though we’ve plugged it, it isn’t very elegant. As the house is home to a curious beagle I was going to make a better job of it today, so after breakfast I set off. I’ve just been told to increase my dose of Methatrexate to the maximum level. It seems to be working as I have use of my hands and my feet are a lot better too. However, it does mean that I worry about the effect of suppressing my immune system.

When I got to my first call in search of stout stakes and chicken wire I was presented with a queue of people which was positively festering in a shopping centre with the micro-climate of a tropical butterfly house. To be honest, it’s just the atmosphere a virus needs to spread, so I left.

The next shop I tried had a longish queue and I tried two builder’s merchants too. The queue at one of them contained more people than I’d ever seen in the shop before (I used to be in regularly when I was a jobbing gardener and it rarely had more than six people in. There were 18 in the queue. All these queues were outdoors, but after my activity on Monday when we took the shed down my knee is still a bit tender and doesn’t respond well to a lot of standing.

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Water Lily

Before returning home I went to Aldi where the usual bunch of idiots managed to get into my social exclusion zone, including one of the managers who entered via the exit as I was leaving and was so close I could feel their slipstream. I bought ripe avocados, which were made an excellent lunch.

After that I emailed the lady behind us to say I’d be a day or two later than planned with the fence, clipped the front hedge (I said my hands were better – I couldn’t have done this two weeks ago) and dead headed the poppies.

I tried to order the posts and wire I wanted online but, just like a supermarket, they take the order and then, as you pay, tell you that two items are out of stock. I was only ordering three items, so I wasn’t impressed.

I had to take Julia to hospital for a scan as a follow-up to the pre-lockdown episode and, when I returned there were two emails and a brown envelope for me (marked as being from the Tax Office).

The news is that the lady behind us has offered to do the patching of the fence, which will save me a lot of hassle because I’m working Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They could find no immediate fault with Julia, though they may find fault later after properly examining the results. The Tax Office want to give me £16 back, as I have over-paid.

This is all good, and a welcome lifting of the gloom that has been gathering around me over the last few months.

The second email was from a local literacy project (I emailed them last night to make sure I actually volunteered  instead of just intending to volunteer, as I so often do). They  aren’t doing much at the moment, but will be in touch when they are ready for more interviews and training.

Then, just to settle myself down after all this happiness, I spent an hour on the computer arranging tomorrow’s grocery delivery. This is an improvement on last week when I actually forgot to do it. Fortunately we had plenty in to last an extra week.

Only a few repeated photos, I have no new photos to share.

Changes…

Has anyone changed either the title or the page of their blog?

Things have obviously changed since I started blogging (has it really been three and a half years?), though, as at least one person pointed out in the beginning, I was a bit erratic at the best of times.

We are no longer running a Care Farm, I’m not cooking, we don’t get out as much…

You name it and it’s all changing.

It makes sense to change the blog to reflect these changes.

I’m thinking of changing the name of this one to reflect the fact it’s about the thoughts of a grumpy old man who spends his time sorting piles of junk.

With Julia I will then start a new blog based on her gardening.

Does anyone have any comments, or any experience of changing blog names or addresses?

All views and advice will be welcome.

Watching TV and Reflecting on the Unfairness of Life

I’ve just been watching Countryfile Autumn Diaries on TV whilst writing up the second post about our visit to Stoke. I’m fuming. I often fume, as you have no doubt noticed, but this time I’m having to hold myself back from throwing something at the TV.

It seems that many of our common garden plants are poisonous. Knew that.

Garden soil contains bacteria which helps cure depression. I’ve written about that more than once in this blog.

They also showed us a group of men who get health benefits from working together in a garden group (a sort of Men in Garden Sheds). Knew that.

Darwin was an expert on earthworms. I’ve blogged on that too. I can also tell you that he was related to the Wedgwoods of Stoke, which I visited yesterday, and that he noticed the activity of earthworms when discussing how all the pottery waste was pulled down into the soil.   They didn’t tell you that on TV.

Then they visited the worm farm where I bought our wormery.

So there you are. I’m sitting at home unemployed, and possibly unemployable, and those idiots are getting paid lots on TV for talking about stuff I already know. There’s something wrong with the world.

If I’d been able to find something to throw there would be something wrong with my TV too.

It’s not even my specialist subject.

Talking of which, Tim Wonnacott managed to make three errors in thirty seconds yesterday when talking about Princess Mary tins.

I’m not saying I’d be any good at presenting TV shows, or that I’m always accurate, but it does seem like money for old rope when all you’re doing is talking about stuff I already know.

The District Nurse

I got up around 8.00 today, which is late but not unforgivably so for an idle town dweller with nothing much to do. It gave me plenty of time to wrestle with plumbing, socks and trousers and do a spot of gardening before breakfast.

It was sort of gardening anyway, going over the joints of the paving stones with a flame gun. It’s far better than weedkiller and easier than hand weeding. The hedge looks like it needs a tidy, which reminded me I was planning some drastic pruning. If I get it cut back in the next two days I can get all the waste in the garden bin ready for the first collection of the year on Friday. Privet really isn’t good for compost.

This time next year I’m hoping to have a new permaculture based front garden. I was hoping to start this year but I haven’t felt up to doing much so far.

Granary toast for breakfast and some uplifting reading on WordPress, including this, this and this. I usually drop in here and here too, but I’m working slowly today. Apologies to those not mentioned, I’m just finding it harder to get round these days.

It was time for a walk then, as I’m trying to get more air and exercise. With a bad leg (not sure what is causing it, but sitting down all day isn’t helping) I’m struggling to do more than a few hundred yards, but that was just right to get back in time for the district nurse.

She provided me with a few bags and the phone number to get more plus help and advice. She also took blood pressure, heart rate and temperature readings with equipment that looked decidedly old-fashioned compared to the kit in hospital. All is as it should be. Finally she accepted that I was able to monitor my own bottom for signs of pressure sores, which was good. I’m a man, not a baboon, and such display is, frankly, neither necessary nor welcome.

By then it was time for lunch, shopping and a drive home.

I’m feeling tired now. Well, I’m convalescing so it’s allowed.

A good time for quiz shows and blogging, I feel.

Triviata

Yes, was surprised it was a real word too. I was looking for a title that denoted an accumulation of trivia and thought this was about right so checked it up to make sure if it was already taken, and yes it was. Shakespeare introduced 1,700 new words into English, but these days it’s not quite so easy.

There is also a Trivipedia, but no trivicumulation. I’m going to think about that…

I think it can be defined, in my sense, to denote a jumble of trivial news of the sort that makes up conversations between spouses or posts on blogs about normal life. Well, you may discuss world politics or philosophy with your spouse, but we tend to discuss children, what we did during the day, and housework. Or, more precisely, why I have done no housework.

So, his morning, after a day on the road yesterday, I drifted into consciousness just before 7.00 am, looked at the day outside and went back to bed for a while. Feeling energised I then sorted out books for charity, selected clothes for the Salvation Army (they seem to have been shrinking lately) and took a faulty kettle back to TESCO. It hadn’t been expensive but even cheap kettles are supposed to keep the water on the inside.

It’s surprising how long it takes to return a faulty kettle to TESCO. First you have to find someone to accept it, and at our branch that means going and standing at a shabby, anonymous counter at the back of the shop as everyone ignores you. Then, after finally intercepting a passing manager, you have to wait and see if they can find a replacement on the shelves or in the warehouse. They couldn’t. So I accepted a refund on my debit card.

Lunch was soup (Pea and Mint from TESCO) with fresh bread. Yes, I know I should make my own but I wanted something quick.

Blogging next – reading posts and adding bits to some posts I’m mulling over. I still have another post on Crowland Abbey to polish  (you have to ration these things out ) and a few others to develop.

Finally, gardening. I’ve been putting it off until the warmer weather came, and the warmer weather has come. As I have plenty of time this year, it really is time to get on top of the job. It’s also time to add some permaculture design and  wildlife to the garden.

I’m alternating TV, computer and cookery now. Julia is out at a meeting and when she returns she will be expecting meatballs. I’m still looking for a meatball recipe so “relaxed” and “well prepared” are words that don’t currently apply to me.

It will be different tomorrow – the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry is already done.

Meanwhile, I’d better focus and stop browsing. I’ve just been reading this. It’s cookery, but not as we know it.

Readers of a nervous disposition may be better not clicking the link.

 

 

Writer’s Block

A proper post on writer’s block would, I suppose, be blank.

What I really mean is that I’m having trouble concentrating and writing anything coherent that has a chance of being interesting for people to read.

Got up, complained about knees, procrastinated, ate breakfast with wife, avoided washing up, watched TV, moaned about weather…

It’s not riveting stuff is it? I’m hoping it’s just the normal dull stuff that everyone does. You do all have mornings like that don’t you, it’s not just me? If you don’t, please don’t tell me. It’s bad enough that I’m having a bad day without finding that I’m the most boring man on WordPress.

I’m supposed to be planning, but that didn’t go well either.

The 50 new recipes I’m planning to make by the end of the year have ground to a halt because I have limited enthusiasm for poorly seasoned veggie burgers. It’s the fault of the recipe, but that doesn’t make them taste any better. The Mark 2 version with double seasoning, plus lime juice, lime zest, Henderson’s Relish and half a teaspoon of chilli powder is still bland, though a definite improvement on Mark 1. I may have to resort to using salt, but if I do that I might as well just buy them from a shop.

The killer CV (resume to those of you living in the New World) lives only in my imagination because I’m leaving job applications until after I’m sorted out health-wise. There’s no point getting a job interview if you then have to tell people you’ll be needing time off for medical reasons as soon as you start.

Then there is the redesign of the garden. We’ve neglected it badly for the last few years and it needs some serious attention. It’s an embarrassment. So I’m going to avoid talking about it.Yesterday I bought one of those tools for weeding between paving slabs without bending down. Tomorrow I may get round to using it. Then I will have to decide on the future of the slabs – they aren’t very permaculture…

Finally, fitness and diet.I’m doing more walking and birdwatching so that’s going OK. The diet seems to be working too, but when you think of the failed recipe experiments that’s not a surprise. I suppose some good is coming from those veggie burgers…

 

 

The coming year

Today I have been thinking of the coming year.

We are having a casual January to clear the farm and to set things in perspective. In February I will have to start doing things…

I’m likely to have more time on my hands in 2017 because, as Julia has pointed out in a kind yet firm way,  I’m unemployable. Age, size and lack of formal qualifications are all against me, and that’s before you consider that I’m rude, lazy and look like I’ve dressed in the dark. When looking at job adverts I have noticed that these qualities are not often requested.

On the other hand I do have my own tools and an estate car. If there’s nothing in prospect by spring I can always go gardening again, though I will be more selective with my clients this time. No gardens with steep slopes and steps, for instance.

Extra time is not all bad, as it will give me more time to shop and cook, resulting in us eating food that is better and cheaper. We will also probably lose weight, particularly me if I am doing more gardening. Time, I think, to rearrange our neglected garden on Permaculture principles. I might be poor but I’ll be healthy, and full of fibre.

Work-wise I need something to keep the wolf from the door for the next nine years, at which point I will be able to draw my pension.  Just nine years? Where did it all go?

I’m currently exploring a range of dead-end options to occupy my time until that day arrives.

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One of my favourite farm photos – think in terms of stormy weather or pots of gold.

(To be continued…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeds and flowers

A good garden may have some weeds.
Thomas Fuller (1608-61)

We’ve had a couple of sets of volunteer gardeners helping us in the last few weeks.  As  a result, the beds are spick and span and weeded and pruned to within an inch of their life.

That’s not, as you may have gathered, my way of gardening.

I’m now having to travel further for my nettles and there is no chickweed or ground ivy at all. It will come back, but for the moment my tour of the edible garden has been reduced to a shadow of what it once was.

At least they didn’t try to weed the buddleias out this year. We’ve had to stop people doing that twice before. My view is that if it’s six feet tall with two inch wide stems, I have seen it and I would have removed it if I wanted it gone.

All in all, despite the pain of the missing foodstuffs, I have to say that it’s very good of people to give up their time and that the majority of the garden is much improved as a result of their work. (There you are, I don’t moan about everything, do I?)

Despite the clay and the wind and the lack of budget the beds are actually looking good this year. We will have to move some things around and do some drastic culling at some point but it’s now looking like a garden.  The periwinkle that started out as a 50p rescue plant from the “almost dead” bargain area of a garden centre is now threatening to take over an entire bed after just two years and has already contributed cuttings to a dozen other beds. The ice plants from the same place are also thriving, though not to the same extent. They do have one advantage over the periwinkle though, the leaves taste of avocado, cucumber or citrus, depending on the day. So at least one edible plant has survived the massacre.

And for the sake of symmetry, let us finish with another quote from Thomas Fuller.

One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.

Sounds impressive but ignores the existence of ladders.