Beating Around the Bush

July 19, 2017

Alert observers around here may have noticed in recent days a cyclist going even more slowly than normal along one stretch of road, sometimes even on the wrong side of it, paying more attention to the hedgerow than the (fortunately non-existant) traffic. The cyclist, for I am she, has been looking for that damned gooseberry bush ever since I first met gooseberry man and has been seriously beginning to wonder if he and his gooseberries were an elaborate, if disappointingly quotidian, hallucination.

Today, I thought I’d give it one last go. I’d even googled pictures of gooseberry bushes to be sure I knew what to look our for. I cycled down along the stretch of the road where I’d see gooseberry man at effectively walking pace, peering at every bush. The whole way down the road, and nothing. Crossed at the crossroads, picked up speed, glanced over to my left and bingo.

Gooseberries

Please tell me these are gooseberries …

Of course by this time I was running late so I didn’t have time to stop to pick any, and besides, I actually have no idea how to tell if they are ripe. A quick further google suggests that they are ripe when they are neither too soft nor too hard, which leaves me none the wiser. I shall have to go down and give them all a squeeze tomorrow.


Reaping What I Sow

July 18, 2017

One of the great pleasures of growing your own veg is being able to magic up a meal out of the garden when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to have gone shopping for a vital ingredient of the meal you had actually planned.

beetroot harvest

Of course the meal in question is usually some variation on the theme of ‘random veg frittata’, but this is usually pretty delicious, so I’m not complaining.

In fact, though I’ll undoubtedly come to regret saying this, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the veg plot so far. Despite radical neglect from me, and the attention of the hares, it does seem as if the whole no-dig and plenty of organic matter approach has worked remarkably well. It’s all a bit unruly and I can barely get to my peas to harvest them but they are growing better than they did in the old plot.

lush growth in the veg plot

As long as I can find them while they’re still sweet enough to eat straight from the pod, then that counts as a win. Peas rarely make it to the kitchen in this household.

peapod

And my neglect of some of the wilder corners of the rest of the garden has also reaped an unexpected reward. I decided to leave some of the wild raspberry canes when I noticed they were producing fruit, and as a bonus, one of them is producing yellow raspberries, which are absolutely delicious.

Now I just have to work out how to incorporate them into the rest of the garden…


Turning Left in July

July 17, 2017

garden open sign

I do like it when plan and the weather forecast come together. As regular readers will know I am trying to do a new route on my bike each month so I was interested to note another garden was due to open this weekend – not too far away, along a lovely little road for cycling, and crucially advertising tea and cake for visitors. It was described as a hillside garden, which interested me because our garden is on a side of a hill too, and I hoped to pick up some tips for creating a more sheltered space.

turning left

The forecast – St Swithin notwithstanding – played ball on Sunday so off I set in gorgeous sunshine. Stopping for a few refreshments on the way (the wild raspberries have been incredible this year and I spent a good few minutes just shovelling these into my face. I also encountered some peach coloured ones which were even more gorgeous but I had scarfed the lot before I thought to take a photo).

wild raspberries

I have cycled some of this road before, but never from the new house, so it was a satisfying mix of route finding and rediscovering old favourites. It was a fairly gentle uphill gradient, and into a stiffish headwind, but I knew I’d get all that back in spades on the way home. And besides, I was going to have to earn my cake.

road ahead in July

It was only as I found the turnoff to the place itself that I remembered the ‘hillside’ bit. And noticed the road switchbacking up the side of the hill in question. And added one more stretch of road to the short list of hills that have defeated me in the area … still, it was worth it for the added kudos among the garden visiting crowd of having cycled there. And the slice of cake the size of my head that I ate with my tea.

hillside garden

Anyway, it turns out the answer to mixing a hillside site with sheltered spots is to have about two acres to play with and plant lots of trees. I shall just have to keep visiting gardens until I find one that’s a bit more to our scale.

garden vista

More garden porn below.

veg plots

I always make a beeline for the veg plots on these visits

sundial

steps and flowers

Next month will be a bigger adventure, with more cake, if all goes to plan. And the month after that too …


Happy St Swithin’s Day

July 15, 2017

A friend, whose birthday it is, reminded me that today is St Swithin’s Day

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

About that …

harebells in the rain

Today it stopped raining just long enough for our afternoon summer ride but – crucially – not long enough to not drench me on the ride out and the ride back.

Obviously, this is just a legend,* and not weather forecasting – because even up here it never actually rains for 40 days in a row – but it does have a grain of truth in that by mid July the weather does seem to have more or less settled into the pattern that it will follow over the rest of the summer (and here’s a slightly more scientific argument to back me up). Which means we can look forward to another 40 days of hopefully checking the weather forecast for the odd sunny day here and there, while the part of my Twitter timeline that lives down South bangs on about how hot it is.

Speaking of legends, I have now cycled past the spot where gooseberry man was three times, and seen no sign of any gooseberry bushes. I’m beginning to think I made it up. Can you get pop up gooseberry bushes?

* Incidentally, I always thought that the legend came about because St Swithin gave his cloak to a beggar, and then the sun shone for 40 days so he didn’t need it, but I appear to have completely made that up because according to the internet, it was St Martin who went around giving out cloaks, St Swithin was just a bit choosy about where he was buried.


Exciting Food Miles News

July 14, 2017

On a somewhat frustrating shopping trip this afternoon* I passed a man burrowing in a hedge who turned out to be foraging for gooseberries. We’ve been enthusiastic pickers of raspberries and blackberries, but gooseberries in the hedgerow is a new one for me, and I was all set to pick a few of my own on the way back, but it turns out that it’s much harder to spot gooseberry bushes in a hedgerow when there isn’t someone picking them, and by the time I had worked out I had overshot I was buggered if I was going back down the hill to look again. Watch this space. Or, you know, don’t.

I also forgot to take out any cash, which means our planned expedition to the community-owned pub in New Nearest Village has had to be postponed. We’ve only lived here almost a year, and have yet to manage to actually get to it.

On the other hand, the stars (pound coin, need for eggs, remembering need for eggs, eggs actually present) have finally aligned and I have managed to buy eggs at the New Cottage That Sells Eggs.

Cottage that sells eggs

New Cottage that Sells Eggs. I feel those screeching tyre marks tell a story …

And they say cyclists don’t contribute to the local economy.

* The shiny new Aldi, which has an entrance off the cycle path, thus saving a frustrating wait for a standard Bigtown Issue toucan crossing which is designed on the assumption that people like nothing more than standing on an island in the middle of a four-lane road, breathing in fumes, and which also doesn’t require you to cycle past the exit of the KFC drive thru, but which does require a certain level of athletic ability, doesn’t sell pine nuts. Or Guardians. And now for the life of me I can’t think why I thought it might. Nice cycle parking though.


Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while


101 Uses for a Brompton: Ferrying Cake

July 8, 2017

I’ve long argued that the rural economy around here runs largely on tray bakes and our local summer bike rides are no exception – since we’ve started providing home baking as part of the package, numbers have gone from strength to strength.

There’s just one problem: much as I love my cow pannier bag, it’s exactly the wrong shape for carrying cake tins, so everything I bake has had to be robust enough to handle being stuffed into it sideways. There’s a reason why cyclists are so fond of flapjacks, which are effectively indestructible. This week, though, I was experimenting with iced lemon cupcakes* which meant a more civilised conveyance was required. I’m pleased to report that the cakes made it down intact, and the leftovers were also safely carried back up the hill to home, where I suspect they will not last long.

cake tin in Brompton Basket

*top tip: lemon curd combined with icing sugar makes a wonderfully quick and easy lemon icing**

** top tip no 2: don’t try and eat the surplus with a spoon when you make too much though. A little goes a loooong way