Posts in garden
The Garden

I've decided this year will be devoted to the growing of children only. It is strange not to have peas or beans in the ground, not to be doing my morning rounds with my cup of coffee in hand, and not to be fighting semi-naked children over the strawberries. Its fortunate then that the new house has a simply gorgeous garden already, filled to the brim with flowers and herbs. 

 

IMG_2815.jpg

 

IMG_2808.jpg

We have a rowan arch and ferns taller than Ellis.  The front garden is full of roses and seasonal bulbs are everywhere.  Its magical to live in a place with so much history inside and out.

And the flowers...oh the flowers.  I used to look enviously at people who had posy bushes in their gardens, now I have 2!!

IMG_2796.jpg

 

IMG_2792.jpg

 

IMG_2787.jpg

 

The kids love it as well and will play for hours outside. Its walled, so even my most adept escape artist is safe...other than Georgia's new found taste for gravel.

Their favourite activity has to be the sand and water table. I'd always been quite skeptical of such artificial contraptions in lurid pink plastic, opting instead for an old butler sink full of dirt, but it was G's birthday present and they both love it.

IMG_2794.jpg

 

Unfortunately, this has to be heavily supervised or she does this to herself

IMG_2799.jpg

or he does this to her.

 IMG_2444.jpg

 

Either way, time in the garden equals time in the bath tub...simply underlining the point that the growing of children is quite enough this season.

Glimpses

IMG_2214.jpg

This is the view from my washing line.  I liked hanging out washing at the old house.  I actually think I might love it here. The only problem is that its quite a posh neighbourhood, so I feel like I need to be dressed to hang out my washing...flip flops and jammies doen't seem to cut it.

-----

IMG_2210.jpg

I swear I cleaned this room mere moments before this photo was taken. Kevin thinks I just make up the cleaning so it seems like I do something all day.  I think its lucky he's still alive after 10 years. 

-----

IMG_2212.jpg

Theo sleeps in a baby hammock. All day.  He loves it.  Except between the hours of 4pm and 3am, when he doesn't.

-----

 

IMG_2207.jpg

We eat a lot of eggs.  A lot.  Well, I don't really eat that many.  Its because when I lived in Calcutta there was a flood and I was stuck in my accomodation and all they served us was eggs for two weeks.  Deep fat fried, curried eggs was my breaking point.  Of course I get a child that loves to eat eggs above all else.

-----

IMG_2193.jpg

IMG_2189.jpg

Georgia loves Theo. As in Hugo the Abominable Snowman "I will love him pat him and squeeze him and call him George" sort of way.  

-----

 

Ellis loves him to, but I am less worried about Theo being literally smothered with love. 

-----

IMG_2215.jpg

My life is filled with Lego.  We've graduated to itty bitty lego.  Is it wrong to hate it? It'd suck it up with the vacuum, but then I'd have to listen to how all the pieces are missing. 

 

 

How Grows It

redflow 

In case I haven't mentioned it, its been wet. Oh, you knew that? I'd maybe said something? Well, despite the wet, the garden is actually coping quite well.  

I can only guess it has something to with expectation.  I wasn't going to grow anything this year (except, of course, a gorgeous wee girl), but a few seeds were sown to fill the empty expanse of space running the length of the garden.  I didn't particularly tend them, didn't particularly expect much of anything. 

As if to prove some stubborn point, my veggies are astounding.  Growing and producing in spite of the rain and my neglect. They are not unlike my dirty dishes, ignore them long enough and the pile just keeps growing. 

- Over 6 kilos (12 pounds) of strawberries were picked.  At least a further kilo or two rotted on the vine. Its mostly been jammed and most of those jams have been eaten or given away...hopeless, I know. 

- The peas are going and growing. I managed successional sowings so we'll be in peas for awhile.  we shall soon see if its possible to get sick of eating peas off the vine 

- We have a 20ft long pumpkin plant. Lots of flowers and one fruit has set, possibly more. 

 - Courgettes (zucchini) are on their way. I'll have 3-4 next week to eat, and then probably thousands more. 

- Surprise of the year has to be the sunflowers. We've planted them every year, but this year has been the first that we've had any of the seeds grow.

- Runner beans are producing as well. I don't particularly like them to eat, I just love their bright red flowers and excessive opulence of production.  

runners

Benign neglect wins again. 

****** 

Sorry for the limited postings this week.  Its been "one of those"...not bad, just very very busy and rather odd.  

Shivering With Anticipation

Many of you have something to answer for...I've seen your blog posts.  I have had the conversations.  I know you've been picking berries, making pie, cooking jam, whilst we wait

shiver with anticipation

And wait

And wait

I've written about the microclimate before.  Its cold in my back garden.  It rains a lot.  While everyone else is making ice cream, I am usually still eating soup. 

You know what, I don't usually mind THAT much. I like the cold.  I don't mind the rain.  I love the moodiness of my chosen homeland. Except for this time of year when there is the horrible lag between other's tales of strawberry jammy-ness and my own green fruit.

But, soon we will be having our breakfasts straight off the plants...if the children and birds don't get them first.

When Inspiration Strikes

As any parent of small children will tell you, when inspiration strikes, you gotta move on it OR ELSE

16Jun2010_9362.jpg

So when I saw this post from Angry Chicken, Ellis was out and Georgia was sleeping for the first time in weeks on her own in bed. I seized that inspiration and ran with it.

16Jun2010_9366.jpg

Literally.  I ran out into the garden and grabbed some paint left over from painting Ellis' ikea table. I also had a big sheet of plywood that we inherited with the house that had been laying across the roof of the shed. A couple of coats of paint later and we have a 7 foot long outdoor chalkboard. Of course we LOVE it.

Untitled-1

Ellis loves to write with wet chalk, as my upstairs windows will tell you. But its messy, so this is the perfect solution. The spray bottle was a BIG hit and we did all eventually get a shower.

16Jun2010_9364.jpg

Fun, easy and cheap...my 3 favourite things!

Summer...In Spite of the Weather

A few weeks ago as I walked into town, it was sweltering. I was sweating.  The sun was beating down on us. Ellis complained he was too hot.  The temperature at the time..66F

Needless to say, we're not having a promising summer thus far. Its cold.  Its wet.  Its Scotland.  One certainly doesn't move here for the weather.

In spite of the cold, we are just going about our business of pretending its summer.

We continue to spend most dry minutes out in the garden.  Yes, sometimes it has been huddled in blankets with hot cocoa, but one thing you learn when living in a country-sized rain shadow -- seize the sunny moment. 

No matter what the weather is telling us, we are looking for other signs of summer...the wild strawberries have taken the slightest shade of pink.  This then resulted in a 25 minute-long explaination to 2 three year olds that they STILL needed to wait for them to be bright red before they could be eaten.  ("They'll make your tummy sick if they aren't ripe,"  was the winning argument for 2 boys who both recently had the D&V bug).

But at least one of our seasonal rituals has returned.  This weekend, we held our annual snail race. Twenty snails entered the race, but the vast majority were disqualified for going the wrong direction and climbing on top of competitors. It is so wonderful to see the change in Ellis.  Where last year he was a bit fearful of the snails, this year, he was chief (gentle) poking officer. 

Snail Race 2010

In the end, it was a close one, but once the enormous snail from the compost pit decided to go, there was not stopping it.

Snail Race 2010
Unashamed Love of Asparagus

What is it about spring vegetables?  You see, my very favourite veggies in the world all live their short lives in the springtime: purple sprouting broccoli, broad beans and asparagus.

asparagus

growing up, we had an enormous asparagus patch.  My father has always been equally besotted with these sharp green spears and he would send us out to collect them by the bucketful.  It was always a sad day when we couldn't find any more edible spears amongst the asparagus forest.  Being a meat and two veg kinda guy, he liked them steamed with butter.

asparagus

As I cook my own meals, I have to say that there are really only two ways to eat asparagus: grilled with a bit of oil, salt and pepper or paired in some way with eggs.

eggs

It must be the smooth creaminess of eggs that sets off the sharp fresh taste of the asparagus. Add some bacon, goats cheese and whole hazelnuts and you have culinary heaven (a fact that Tantie set me on to).

Now, I suppose I should give a recipe here, but truth be told, I usually just wing things like this...sometimes its more of a frittata with potatoes, sometimes I go the whole hog and actually use shortcrust pastry.The number of eggs usually depends on the size of the pan.

But here goes:

Asparagus, Goat's Cheese and Bacon Pie (ala Tantie):

1 bunch of asparagus - about 7 spears (We don't grow our own because for the last 4 years we've been saying that we're gonna move soon...and we're not putting one in this year because, we're gonna move soon)

4 large eggs

3/4cup (1800ml) milk

1 cup (100g) of hazelnuts

1/2 cup (100g) soft goats cheese

3 rashers of bacon (I like smoked)

dash of nutmeg

salt and pepper

shortcrust pastry (I get mine from the butcher as its better than anything I can make)

-----

:: Line a large pie tin with the pastry or if you want to make a frittata, oil and line the bottom with 2-3 layers of thinly sliced potatoes

:: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and whole hazelnuts.

:: Finely chop the bacon.

:: Roughly chop the asparagus into good sized chuncks (3cm/1in pieces)

:: Add the bacon and asparagus to the egg mix

:: Break up the goat cheese and  fold it gently into the egg mix

:: Pour into pan and bake for 45min in 360F/180C preheated oven. Top should be lightly brown and the eggs firm.

TIP: I usually underestimate the number of eggs to use, because in these kind of dishes its always easy to whisk up another egg and a bit of milk and pour it into the pie if its looking a bit dry.

asparagus fritata

Small Miracles by Default

Alfred Austin said, "Show me your garden and I will tell you what you are".

Most days my garden would tell you that I err on the side of laziness.  Rows and digging are left behind for a more cottage garden, laid back approach.  There is no real order, no real plan...just plants growing next to things that won't kill them.  Most years I am slightly surprised we get anything edible amidst this mess.  But benign neglect serves us plate after plate of beans, squash, herbs and lettuce every year.

At this early point in the season, my inattention has served us well yet again... We inherited a plastic compost bin with this house.  The first year we lived here, I diligently mixed and activated my compost.  But I got bored.  The compost bin filled and I did nothing.

Fast forward 2 years and all spring long sorting out the compost bin has been one of those I have been meaning to get around to doing...but never did.  Until yesterday.

In a fit of "I must be a better person" angst, I pulled the plastic off.

  092705_1096

I was completely expecting to have to start again after digging out a container of disgusting slimy mass.  However, buried under 3 feet of dried shrivelled and un-decomposed matter was:
092705_1100

A dark black heap of sweet smelling compost had been waiting for me. A quick sieve and a bit of heavy duty mixing, 100L of the black gold is ready to grow food. Making something out of rubbish is nothing short of miraculous. 

So yesterday, at least, I followed Margaret Atwood's advice "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt". I did...my own.

Earthsoup
dirt

Ilove spring.  The flowers, the trees, the birds...everything coming back to life after a cold and miserable winter.  But the colour that most represents spring for me...the deep brown of dirt.

This time of year, we can not escape it.  If we are not tracking it in from the endless trips to the garden to plant something, we are knocking over one of the 8 crates of seeds that inhabit our living space because we don't have a green house, or I simply carry it around for ages in the cracks of my fingers: to work, to the store, to my friends.  It doesn't matter how hard I scrub it is always there.  You see, we live in Scotland...its not exactly known for its warm sunny weather and dirt + water= mud. Lots of it.

The garden itself is "earthsoup" in the words of Mary Oliver (only recently discovered and currently favourite poet). After an hour in the garden, she describes how I feel perfectly in her line from the poem Swamp,"I feel not wet so much as painted and glittered with the fat grassy mires, the rich and succulent marrows of earth."

Coming into the muddy house, with muddy paw prints leading us through the rooms on a treasure trail to one sopping, dirty cat or another, nothing is as tasty as a cup of tea...except the idea of roasting fresh fennel, steaming fresh broad beans, sprinkling fresh sage and devouring fresh salad...and I can ignore the muddy season, accept the dirt and curl up with a cat and a tea and dream of summer bounty.

P1070430