By the Barrowload

September 6, 2012

One advantage of summer’s late flowering* is that I’ve managed to get my onions lifted on the requisite sunny breezy drying day.

onions drying

The red onions haven’t done too well, but better than the landlord’s, which all bolted early on in the season. The only thing more satisfying than bringing the harvest in by the barrowload is knowing that someone else’s harvest would barely fill a basket. Not, you know, that we’re keeping score or anything.

barrowload of onions

Somehow over the summer, despite having three sheds, the tide of junk, sorry, stuff that may well come in useful one day, has spread to the point where it was quite difficult to squeeze in the onion drying rack, but I managed. Getting the bikes in and out is quite interesting, and everything now smells powerfully of onion…

onions drying in shed

… I think these count as ‘nice problems to have’ though.

*now replaced by mizzling rain. Time to order more goats.

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String Em Up

October 3, 2011

I remember well the first time I ever tried to string up onions to store them. This was quite some time ago, before the internet had become the thing of usefulness it is now, and so I had to guess how to do it (or take a book out of the library to find out how, but I decided life was too short for that). I carefully plaited the dried leaves together to form a neat braid, tied a knot in the end, hung them up from a hook and later went to bed, satisfied at a job well done,  where I was woken some time later by the sound of onions cascading one by one onto the floor.

As a little light googling makes clear – and it seems obvious now – the first ingredient for stringing up onions is some string (the second one is onions). So, my onions having dried out as much as they were going to, I had a quick look online and decided to have another go. The instructions for these things always make it seem like a wonderfully logical and orderly process (see also: diagrams of knot tying, furniture assembly instructions) and the first two onions more or less worked as described, although once I’d added a few more it was looking less like something a Frenchman would wear around his neck while cycling and more like something you’d tie around a Frenchman’s neck to drown him.

Still I persevered and ended up with not just one but three* strings of onions that, while still not recommended for cycling with, do look quite fantastically rustic, instantly transforming the back of the shed door into something out of Country Living. Well, if you ignore the rest of the shed that is. So far there’s been no patter of falling onions so I’m chalking that one up as a result.

Coming up next on Town Mouse: weaving corn doilies, making marmalade and how to knit your own royal family.

*Strictly speaking, two and a half, if you’re the sort of tedious person who likes to keep track of things. With a spreadsheet. Cuh.


An Onion a Day…

August 30, 2011

August is almost over, and the plot is looking a little shaggy, though it’s not too bad considering the amount of rain we’ve had.  I do seem to have grown rather a lot of onions though:


(and these are just the normal onions, the red ones are still in the ground)

Now the advice for onions is clear: dry them out thoroughly to ripen them before you store them. According to the experts, the best way to do this is to leave them in the sun for a few days or (when my fellow Scottish residents have finished laughing and/or weeping) somewhere ‘warm and dry’.

The nearest we have to that is the shed complex – well, there is the living room, I suppose, but the other half prefers the garden to stay out of the house as much as possible for some reason. Now by London standards we have an almost unimaginable amount of shed space but somehow it seems to have spontaneously generated an enormous amount of junk (not to mention the fact that one whole shed is reserved for the swallows who are generating a healthy amount of guano in it at the moment). So my first task was to try and find some space, and my second task was to bodge together some sort of an onion-drying rack. Fortunately, among the junk I managed to find enough boxes of similar height, an old clothes horse and some garden netting so, killing two birds with one stone, I created this:


They probably won’t dry anyway, because half of them are bull-necked (too much nitrogen, apparently. I will never understand the finer points of soil nutrition) but I’m still quite pleased with my bodging efforts. I leave it to you lot in the comments to tell me how I could have done it better.


Knowing One’s Onions

July 25, 2010

My onions are ready!*

I planted red onions this year, the reasoning being that white onions were cheap and easy to get hold of, whereas red onions look magnificent and are clearly much grander and so would be worth the effort and the space of growing them. This was before we went to Tescos the other day and discovered that the only normal onions on sale were from New Zealand (to my New Zealand readers: I’m sure you Kiwis produce fine onions, but seriously, shipping (and I hope they are shipped – if we’re air freighting them then we’re all doomed) onions half way across the globe is just insanity).

Anyway, I’ve dug them up and laid them out and they do look glorious, but I’ve realised a slight problem. We do use red onions from time to time in cooking, but they’re not quite as versatile as their non-red cousins. And it seems a shame anyway to produce something so glossy and gloriously red and use them as the basis of soup. I’m not even sure, other than looks, what the differences are between red and normal onions. Are they sweeter? Stronger? Milder? Or just prettier? Maybe I should find these things out before I plant things. But where’s the fun in that?

Either way I have 26 of them busy drying in the shed. This will take a couple of weeks, I believe, and then, other than making them into a pretty plait and hanging them up rustically in my kitchen, I’m a little stumped. What, o Internet, do you recommend I do with them?

* Well almost – three have bolted, producing a magnificent flower spike each, of which more anon.


But Never Mind All this Flower Nonsense…

June 6, 2010

… I hear you cry, how is your veg plot getting on? Oh, all right then, I don’t hear you cry that, but pfft, it’s my blog and I’m going to tell you anyway.

Actually, with the rabbit menace gone, and after a spectacularly dry spring – so not so many slugs – things are looking pretty damn spiffy, thank you for asking.

Apart from my adventures with Bruce, the Australian burrowing French bean, I haven’t had a great deal of luck germinating my climbing beans, so a friend gave me some of his surplus dwarf beans seeds – ‘Ferrari’ – and true to their name they’ve come up bloody quick and reliably (er, are Ferraris reliable? I’ve no idea).

My red onions have a catch crop of salad between the rows (seriously, catch crop, how technical is that?) although a really experienced gardener would have spaced the onions so that they were at least a hoe-width apart. Oh, and not dropped the beanpoles on them when she was building their wigwam. Live and learn. And the parsnips are going great guns. I might have to experiment with transplanting them because thinning them just seems such a huge waste after all the effort I went to to germinate them.

Under the Cloche

View from inside the cloche. It’s not that it’s cold, it’s to keep the Savoy cabbages away from the butterflies. Time to get some netting, I think…

My broad beans are looking pretty fab, as broad beans do.

Squash plants, drinking at the Last Chance Saloon

And lest all this sound a bit triumphalist, here are my squash, which are now smaller than they were when I planted them out. Apparently coffee grounds are the miracle substance in the garden, repelling slugs, feeding the soil, and giving the worms such a caffeine boost that they work extra hard, so I’m saving ours from the compost heap and will be putting them directly around the squash.  I hope it does work, as we generate enough coffee grounds in a week to protect an entire field worth of plants but if not, I’m giving up on the squash. Any ideas what else to put in the cold frame next year?

Coming soon on TownMouse: how in three days time the entire garden was wiped out by SARS, or a plague of frogs, or crushed by a meteorite. But at least I’ll have the photos to remember it by.