How Very Different from the Home Life of our Own Dear Queen

March 21, 2011

As I believed I may have hinted on twitter, today is my birthday and the other half baked me a cake. A triple-layer chocolate Devil’s food cake with coffee icing, no less, and no candles because, well, there wasn’t room, such is my vast age.

Now normally, I pay a little more attention to the background and surroundings when taking my photos, but I only remembered I wanted to take a photo of the cake when we were about to eat it and it’s like hippos and water: you should really never get between the other half and a cake* so I had to take the picture quite quickly without removing all the background clutter and artfully placing the cake on a clear surface because that would have taken too long.

So here it is, the unexpurgated, annotated town mouse household as it really is. I really should get round to tidying up a little, one of these days.

I have one or two items of birthday swag which may serve to enhance this blog (and no, they didn’t include ‘100 interesting things to post on your blog instead of banging on about gardening and bikes all the time’. Sorry. Maybe next year). Details to follow.


*Not that he in any other way resembles a hippo, I hasten to add.



March 20, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, as you may recall, I went potato shopping and managed to under cater on the seed potatoes (which would be a first for me and garden-related purchases). I duly went back later in the week, and followed up a couple of recommendations: Pixie (from the landlord) and Shetland Pink (from Ragged Thread). Assuming that Shetland Pink is the same as Shetland Black – and the description was pretty similar – I’ve got a handful of those as well, and all of them are now chitting on the windowsill awaiting something that resembles spring. I have high hopes for my potatoes this year…

Coming to get you...

…although on the whole I prefer my seed potatoes to look a little less animated.

When You’ve Got a Hammer

March 18, 2011

Nearest Village’s music evening is fast approaching and I noticed the other day that there were no signs up yet on Noticeboard Tree about it. A sign had been put up, apparently, but it had vanished without a trace. Naturally, we assumed this was sabotage from some other rival village jealous of our musical talents, but nothing daunted, another sign was procured and today I cycled up to replace the missing one.

Closer examination of the remaining surviving sign (which has been advertising the Monday night country dancing classes for the last six months) suggests where we might have been going wrong: putting a notice up around here requires sterner stuff than mere drawing pins. Perhaps channelling Luther, the Country Dancing people had nailed their sign up to the tree and closer examination of the tree suggested they were not the only ones who’ve done this. In fact, as some of the nails are much higher up than would be really practical for either nailing or reading purposes, I suspect that notices have been nailed to that tree for many decades now, if not centuries. Who knows how many announcements that tree has seen for country dances, fairs, village shows, witch burnings and the like.

I didn’t have a hammer, or any nails, so I had to make do with half a dozen drawing pins in the hope that the sign will stick around until next Friday. If not, I’ll be back and so will our sign – let the people of other, lesser villages do their worst, we’ll advertise our music night if it kills us. Or, indeed, the tree.


Kim‘s comment has reminded me of this photo, suggesting the tree is not always the innocent victim in these matters – there are some trees you don’t want to risk leaning too close to…



March 17, 2011

An exciting parcel was waiting for me on the kitchen table as I got back from a mercy dash to Tescos on the bike (well, okay, ‘dash’ is perhaps not the word…especially in that headwind) It was from Cameratiks in Edinburgh and it contained my camera, almost as good as new. Among the many helpful pieces of advice I got from you lot when I first lamented the loss of my camera, was one from Ross of Magicroundabout suggesting I try an independent camera shop. There was nothing of that sort locally but a happy accident when I was looking for something else pulled up Cameratiks’ website (I found another one in Glasgow but rightly or wrongly, just couldn’t entrust my beloved camera to an outfit who had no idea how to use an apostrophe) and I gave them a ring and then last Wednesday sent my camera in for an estimate. It feels a bit wierd just posting things off on spec but the camera wasn’t really doing anything sitting looking pathetic on the counter in the kitchen so I decided I might as well. With commendable speed they rang back with a quote and then let me know they’d fixed it so I paid – a lot less than a new camera would have cost – and back it came to me. Hurrah. It even has the dent dinged out of it, and, according to the docket that came with it, the sand removed from its innards (which might explain the jamming. Sorry camera, I will take better care of you from now on). What can I say? I am beyond pleased.

There are so many things I need to document now that I can again – potholes and fingers and above all badger poo – but for now here are a few garden shots for you to look at. It’s so nearly spring!


March 16, 2011

This is just to say that we have a stripey red squirrel in our garden

And you don’t

Never Mind the Width

March 15, 2011

Larry the Leek, RIP

I don’t seem to have much luck growing leeks. Last season I harvested precisely one (albeit a magnificent one). This time around, I planted the leeks indoors in an attempt to prevent them from forming a slug’s lunch and then transplanted them to a seed bed with the intention of moving them on when they were the size of a pencil (as instructed by my mother’s tame leek-growing expert). I was successful in so far as all my leeks survived their infancy but something – possibly an over-crowded seed bed – meant they didn’t do too well at the whole ‘size of a pencil’ thing. My potatoes were harvested, the soil readied for the leeks and still they sat there looking – at a stretch – the size of one of those tiny elegant little pencils that you used to get in the spine of your pocket diary. Time passed, and in the end I decided that, if you squinted a bit, they might have reached the size of one of those stubby little pencils you get in bookmakers for filling in your betting slips, and that would have to do.*

The biggest leeks I could find

Time passed, winter came and, well, stayed, and my leeks didn’t really get any bigger. I’d earthed them up, and watched them anxiously, and was pleased to see that they survived the snow but still they really didn’t resemble anything so much as rather beefy spring onions (while my spring onions had to be carefully examined to make sure we weren’t about to stir-fry chives. Or grass). And now it’s March and the leeks need to make way for the peas and so the time has come to put them to the chop.

Real Leek, for Scale

Picking the very biggest, they don’t look all that bad … at least until you place them side-by-side with an actual full size, shop bought leek (apologies for the quality of the photograph, the phone has been pressed into service as a camera). And those were the biggest. The rest, well if you can imagine a bed full of slender HB pencils with green leaves sprouting out of them, you’re about there.

I’ve got another couple of weeks’ grace before I’ll have to make space for the peas, but I wonder now whether waiting will make any difference. I don’t know whether they’ll put on a growth spurt when (if) the warmth comes in the spring or if they’ll just flower and become inedible. Maybe I should just rebrand them as baby leeks – or giant spring onions – and have done with it.

Clearly I’m not going to be winning any leek growing competitions any time soon

*No doubt proper grown-up gardeners have in their shed a standard metric pencil for the purpose of leek size comparison, or, if they’re really old school, a standard imperial pencil, not holding with any such new-fangled nonsense as the EU.

Nice Problem to Have

March 14, 2011

The weather for the last few days has been wintry, and the forecast for the week ahead is to be miserable but today, for one day only, we had a little glimpse of spring.* Both my cycling buddies made it on the papershop run, for the first time since last September (AND we even saw another cyclist), and, getting out into the garden to do some long-delayed clearing up I was cheered to find that my crocuses and anenomes, which I had given up for dead, were actually just lurking under a hard winter’s worth of leaves and debris. So it was all good, and at lunch time I lured the other half out of his cave and onto the bench with stories of warmth and sunshine and birds singing and everything. After all, now that he has his new baby netbook computer, he can be on the computer and outside at the same time. It’s almost as good as being in the cave, only sunnier.

Which turned out to be a problem. As soon as the bright March sunshine hit the screen, half of it went black and stayed black until it was rebooted. He tried again and it happened again except this time the entire screen went black. There didn’t seem to be anything obvious about it online but an email to Samsung was promptly answered with the suggestion that he boot it in BIOS mode and see if it happened then. Well, I say promptly, but obviously not so promptly that the sun was still shining when they replied. So now we have to wait until the next sunny day to try again. By which time, if the Met Office’s forecast is anything to go by, it will be out of warranty. Of course having said that, a computer which only stops working when it’s very sunny isn’t too much of a liability to have around here, and it gives him a nice excuse to remain in his cave…

*I notice after going back through the archives that we had snow right up to the end of March last year. Gah.