More Magic

June 30, 2011

I was, I have to admit, in a bit of a grump this afternoon with my vegetable patch. The miserable weather and constant rain has taken its toll with my French beans looking particularly pathetic, and the slugs have simply picked off my squash plants one by one; the last survivor bit the dust last night. The weeds are flourishing and I’m beginning to fret about the fact that we’re going away for two weeks in July – I mean, what was I thinking? I’ll need a machete on my return. And the stuff that’s going well is not much comfort – we’re back on the salad treadmill in a big way.

But the rain has brought one comfort – no cabbage white butterflies so far and no sign of their offspring either. And as I peered through the net to check that none had snuck through my defences I saw this:

They’re still tiny, and they’ve not quite achieved all their fractal glory, but my romanescos are sprouting. I was, I have to admit, a bit surprised even though it was me that planted them – they always look like such splendid things it’s hard to imagine them appearing in my vegetable plot at all let alone looking as promising as this. Although, having said that, I note that strange purple smudge on one of the florets. There’s still time for it to develop some grim disease after all.

Purple Potato Eater

June 29, 2011

We woke this morning to bright sunshine and a cheery weather forecaster announcing the arrival of high pressure to most of the UK, using the special BBC meaning of the word ‘UK’, ie. England and parts of Wales.* Naturally, no sooner had we put the laundry on than the sun went in, the heavens opened, and we soon found ourselves joined by a small wet cat for a day spent indoors.

I did, however, manage to stagger out to the potato patch to dig up these (I appear to have got my seed potatoes muddled up while planting):

Edgecote Purple really is extremely purple. Enough to brighten anyone’s day, however miserable the weather…

* As a Glasgow-based letter writer to the Guardian yesterday pointed out, the nearest thing we’ve had to a heat wave this summer has been slightly warmer rain

It is an Enduring Mystery to Me…

June 28, 2011

… why I can spend so much time and effort digging organic matter into the soil in my veg plot, fretting about nutrient balance and nitrogen deficiency and other things and end up with the same clay-clodden stone-ridden compacted soil as I started with, whereas two and a half years of not very effective weeding of my cobbles seems to have resulted in about an inch of wonderfully crumbly loam generated apparently out of thin air, albeit with the addition of much moss, rain, fallen leaves, weeds and undoubtedly swallow poo.

This summer’s project could roughly be summed up as ‘find the cobbles’ with a side order of ‘where’s the gravel drive gone?’ while we’re at it. While, logically, it would undoubtedly have been less work to have kept on top of the weeding before it got to this stage, I find that psychologically it’s actually easier to let something like this get completely out of hand and then turn restoring it back to the bare stone into a project. It’s just more satisfying to see a completely finished bit emerge from the weeds around it than to see a fairly weed free but not perfect expanse of cobbles every day. I know. It was the same when I worked in IT – who ever wanted to do maintenance? So much more fun to chuck it all out and write something shiny and new from scratch.

Ideally, I should now be carefully interplanting the gaps between the stones with a mixture of creeping thyme and chamomile that would keep the worst of the weeds at bay while producing a wonderfully fragrant carpet underfoot rather than letting it all go back to weeds again

I’ll leave it to you to guess which of these alternatives actually happens.

By the way, the little hole in the cobbles above is another mystery to me. I can’t tell if it was a natural formation in the stone or whether something might have caused it to wear a dent in just such a place. Any ideas?

Coffee, Cakes and Cycling

June 24, 2011

A bit of filler here (quite literally), but I have to flag it up. The world of cycling can be quite tribal, with the roadies not talking to the mountain bikers and the cycle-chicstas not talking to the lycra-clad ones – and that’s before we’ve even started on the H word. But there’s one thing that I think all cyclists can agree on and that’s the importance of cake. Whether you eat cake in order to cycle, or whether you cycle in order to make room for more cake, whether you’re a member or not of the CTC*, there’s no doubt that cake and bicycles are made for each other.

Which is why Patisserie Cyclisme fills such an important niche in the cycling blogosphere. Cafe reviews by cyclists and for cyclists – what’s not to like? With so much out there that divides us, it’s time to celebrate what it is that unites us. What better excuse can there be this ‘summer’ than to get out on your bike and find a cafe to review? And remember, (for those of us who care): cake (or bacon) fetched by bike has zero calories, as every schoolgirl knows.


It’s a Kind of Magic

June 23, 2011


Mouldy old Moulton part + scrunched up tinfoil + a little oil + plenty of time + lots of patience


= very satisfying.

Flaming June Continues

June 22, 2011

‘It can’t keep it up when it rains like this,’ I told the other half. ‘It won’t rain long.’*

‘Don’t issue it that sort of challenge,’ he warned.

Fortunately, it did ease off before the wood piles floated away completely.

You’re probably wondering what the level is in the ford right now, aren’t you? So are we …

… but that would involve leaving the sofa.

Note: for those of you yearning for pictures of mouldy old Moulton parts, they’re coming, they’re coming.

*But then I’m generally a glass-half-full sort of person or, in this case a glass-brimming-over-and-then-some …

Flaming June

June 21, 2011

I stepped out of the shed this afternoon, where I had been quietly pursuing my new hobby of rubbing rust off things, and startled a young man who was standing on our bench squinting off to the the south through some sort of instrument. Turns out our landlords are investigating putting solar PV panels on the shed empire, which has the south-facingest roof in the grounds. Good news for us, as we’d get money off our electricity bill, good news for them, as they’d get the feed-in tariff, and good news for the planet…

… although the whole plan would seem a hell of a lot more plausible if we weren’t having one of those kinds of summers.

I think you know the kind I mean.