Help!Send Rabbits!

July 21, 2010

Hungry ones.

Why we bothered chasing that rabbit out of the garden, I will never know. A week’s neglect has tipped the veg patch – which was the only part of it of more or less under control before – over the edge. Long days, warmth and plentiful rain means everything – everything – is growing faster than I can keep up. Peas, beans, salad – have I mentioned that we have a lot of salad? – potatoes, onions, and, of course, the weeds. Only the squash are sitting there looking pathetic. I’ve definitely got to think of a better use for the cold frame next year.

And talking of next year, I’ve been offered another plot on top of the ones I already have, as my landlord’s not keeping up with the garden either. It was that or grass it over, which seems a shame. I was thinking of being sensible and saying no, but then I thought hmmm, I could do maincrop potatoes and ordinary onions if I had more room, and I heard myself saying yes instead.

Maybe a goat’s not such a bad idea after all.


My Name is Disgruntled…

July 20, 2010

… and I may be a cycleholic*.

I’ve been off the bike for a week for various reasons, and I was very glad to get back on it this morning even though it meant 10 miles in the not-quite-rain. In fact, it would have had to be raining quite hard for me not to get on it, to be honest, as I needed a ride. I’ve had a tough week what with one thing and another and not being able to get on to the bike didn’t help. It’s not so much that cycling makes me happy, although sometimes it does, it’s just that it’s got to the point that not cycling makes me grumpy.

I don’t know why this should be. I’ve cycled for years and years, since I was a child – I never really ‘grew out’ of it – and there have been plenty of times when my bike has been my primary means of transport, but there have also been times when I could pretty much take it or leave it and the bike spent most of its time in the shed except for the occasional weekend spin. In London, a couple of miles a day down to the train station and back was fine – and cycling in London is a good way to clear your head as you have to be pretty focused – but I was just as happy to walk. But after two years of doing 30+ miles a week it’s getting to the point where I need the sense of freedom and release a bike ride gives me and if I can’t ride I’m not happy.

Of course, most addictive substances work that way – it’s fun at first, but after a while it’s mainly about getting a fix so as to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms. There have got to be some sort of safe cycling guidelines that stop you getting completely hooked. I’m trying to do what I can to keep it under control: keeping at least one day a week of cycling abstinence, making sure I don’t start cycling till after 11 in the morning, trying not to cycle alone, keeping track of how much I cycle in a week so I don’t exceed safe government limits. I also try not to spend too much time reading about cycling – and looking at pictures – on the internet, but I’m not doing so well at that one. So far, I think I’m just on the right side of the line – a heavy cyclist, maybe, but not completely dependent. I could give it up any time I wanted to, really. It’s just that at the moment I don’t…

*note, not a bikeoholic. So far I’ve resisted the temptation to buy more than one bike, although I’m still trying to think of a valid excuse for why I really actually do need a Brompton. Suggestions in the comments, please…

Waste Not

July 19, 2010

My mother returned home last night, and was driven back from the station by a friend. The journey went smoothly, but sadly they did hit a hare on the way back. The hare, fortunately, was killed outright and the friend, having stopped to check that it was dead and to observe a proper moment of sadness at the passing of such a magical and beautiful creature, then popped it in the boot to hang it for the pot.

This is, of course, the right and proper way to handle such a thing. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to start scraping hares off the road – even freshly killed ones – but it does occur to me that we might not be quite so diligent about avoiding pheasants in the future. They do say, after all, that if you eat meat you should be prepared to kill at least some of it yourself. And it doesn’t say anywhere that you can’t do it by hitting it with your car…

Spot the Difference

July 17, 2010



(I’m putting this up primarily for my own benefit, to remind myself that an hour’s weeding does actually make an impact. The rest of you just carry on …)

To those that Have shall be Given

July 16, 2010

Or, beware gardeners bearing gifts.

It’s that time of the year when anyone with a vegetable garden starts to look warily at the approaches of any of their neighbours with that generous glint in their eye. Show the slightest sign of weakness, the merest chink in your armour, and you’ll be fending off surplus fruit and vegetables, possibly with a stick. Because you’ve never really properly wasted food until you’ve started growing your own. Not only are you often groaning under a glut of something you never much liked in the first place (and generally only planted because somebody gave you a load of their surplus seedlings and wouldn’t take no for an answer) but this is stuff you’ve pricked out, nurtured, weeded, watered, staked, protected lovingly from frost and high winds and hot suns and heavy rains. You can’t just chuck it away  – and your family won’t forgive you if you serve it to them again (although what’s wrong with salad for breakfast, that’s what I want to know?). The only alternative is to give it away, and that’s harder than it looks. Already I’ve more or less carpet bombed the surrounding area with my lettuce, and I still haven’t made so much as a dent in the supply.

The strange thing is that for some reason – and please explain this to me in the comments box – home grown veg is only ever given away to other people with a vegetable plot. Nobody ever offered me stuff until I started growing my own, but the first seeds were barely in the ground before I was fending off bagloads of surplus cucumbers. This is madness. Non-gardeners love being given fresh home grown stuff, they actually think you’re being generous rather than desperate. It’s the fellow growers who know that actually it’s they who are doing you the favour by taking it off your hands.

My neighbour – who seems to have half a hundredweight of shallots at the moment  – has suggested she might put out a table with an honesty box on it, to try and get rid of the stuff to any passing tourists. She’s even suggested that my lettuces and I might like to join in. Oh, the excitement. It’s not that I think I’m going to make any money at it – it’s just that you’re never truly part of the rural economy until you’ve got yourself an honesty box. That’s how I’ll know I’ve arrived.

No Flies on Me

July 14, 2010

I don’t know if this is revenge on my earlier post, but we certainly seemed to be more plagued by flies than usual this year. It’s actually not too bad on the bike, as long as you move above a certain speed, but trying to do anything in the garden has become a nightmare. I’ve tried to cultivate a zen-like patience around them but then they just start crawling over your face. And it’s their persistence that really gets me. I’m beginning to suspect that I have my own personal cloud of flies which lies in wait for me just outside the door, ready to resume their favourite activity: driving me clean out of my mind.

This morning, for example, all I had to do was pick some (or rather as much as I could reasonably fob off on them) salad to take to my parents. I started off – bloody fly – carefully selecting a variety of – aargh, bloody fly – different types of – gerroff fly – lettuce leaves, trying to balance – I said, gerroff bloody fly – not harvesting too much from any one – sodding bloody fly – plant while not picking leaves that were too – AAARGH gerroff – big and therefore bitter and avoiding – I SAID GERROFF fly – ones that had been too munched by the slugs – bastarding sodding flies – or too small and assessing – AAARGH GERROFF YOU BASTARDING SODDING FLIES – which were in danger of bolting and picking out the – RIGHT THAT’S IT I GIVE IN FLIES YOU WIN I’M GOING IN YOU BLASTED SODDING BASTARDING FLIES.

Which is why my parents were presented with a whole cos lettuce this afternoon, torn up by the roots.

Midgies? Pah, I’ll take midgies any day of the week over flies*.

* Just one more in a long line of statements I know I’ll come to regret.

Going my Way?

July 13, 2010

I see more and more bikes in Bigtown these days – including a lovely looking bike locked up outside Greggs which I spent rather too much time drooling over on Sunday afternoon. This has thrown up an interesting question of country cycling etiqette. Now obviously if I meet a cyclist going the other way, I say hello and they say hello back or give a cheery wave. And if a horde of lycra-clad speedy cyclists whizz past me, they say hello too, because we’re like that up here in the country, and I say hello back. But today I was cycling out of Bigtown when I encountered another cyclist going my way. Not only that but she was nattily dressed in jeans and slip-on shoes – the very embodiment of cycle chic, making here something of a rarity round here. I overtook her on my sneaky shortcut through the industrial estate, and she then overtook me (hey, I was enjoying the scenery, all right?) on the road out of town. Now this road doesn’t really go anywhere except our village, and after a while the headwind started to get to her and I caught up and I found myself debating what to do. I could do what I’d do in London which is sit silently in her slipstream, but that would be a little rude not to mention a little unfriendly and there are few enough cyclists around that I’m going to irritate the ones I do meet. Or I could overtake her silently and start some sort of an unspoken cyclist pissing competition but last time I looked I wasn’t male and nor was she so I didn’t think that was going to work either.

Or I could cycle up beside her, exchange pleasantries, and end up riding the rest of the way home deep in conversation, which is what I did. And it was very nice too.

I really am going to have to go back for re-education before I next visit London, aren’t I?