First pickings

A medley of tiny vegetables and edible flowers straight of the allotment. They were delicious and gave us a taste of the treats to come. In the basket today was courgettes, peas, broccoli, spring onions, new potatoes, little gem and iceberg lettuce and nasturtiums. A bountiful basket of goodies that were delicately cooked, anointed with butter and savoured, almost reverently, definitely mindfully, each and every mouthful.

The allotment in June.

We’ve been busy at the plot of late and are starting to find our groove in the vegetable and fruit year. Every year is different, depending on time allowable at the plot, health and strength, heat or cold, rain and sunshine and pests. One really never knows how it is going to go, but fingers crossed there comes a point where one sees the weight of ones endeavours tip the balance of favourability towards it being a good year and I think we have just reached that point.

Before I start I will tell you about our failures, the carrot or parsnips didn’t take, the onions didn’t do any good, the beetroot was patchy. We’ve resown the parsnips and carrots, its not too late, we should get something. I have a few onions left, nothing worth mentioning, but enough to flavour a dish or two. This week I have sown leeks, a little late but they should catch up, enough peas for another row, some more mange tout, spring onions, lettuce and an all year around cauliflower for continuity and some more sweetcorn for the autumn. I’ve also sown swedes and coriander along with a little extra rainbow chard. Flower seeds have been popped in the ground, sunflowers finally put into their final place and nasturtiums nestle under the hazelnut tree.

Garlic has been lifted and is now drying for a couple of weeks, I might even have a go at plaiting some.

Lettuces are starting to do well, I should start to crop them in a week or two.

The Crown Prince pumpkins are telling me they would rather it was a little warmer, but they should do fine once it warms up and nestled in is some spring onions for salads.

Our mint is doing well, for the first year it is outstripping our notoriously high demand. Flowering thyme behind that and some rosemary. In another bed we have the most tasteless strawberries you ever did meet, I’m looking for a new variety for next year, if anyone has got any hints and tips on that I’d appreciate it.

The fruit patch which has goosberries, red currants, black currants, blueberries, two apples and one pear tree.

Apples are doing well,

And the pears look magnificent.

The blackcurrants are just starting to ripen, this rain we are having today will be wonderful for them.

The patchy beetroot, such is the trouble that happens when one is battling against the cold and racing for an early crop, but there are a couple of rows like this, so its not all lost and there will be some more for autumn.

The sweetcorn looks to be doing well. ‘licks lips and prepares big pats of butter’

I love these golden courgettes, they are just so pretty.

And soon I will be awash with them as I always grow too many, but there are always happy faces when I appear at our local pub with a few to give away.

Spuds are doing well. International Kidney, aka Jersey Royals to you and me, along with some Charlottes which are 2nd earlies. I don’t grow main crop because they take too much space up and I would rather grow more expensive items and buy a sack of spuds from a local farm. But the sweetness of a new potato straight from the ground is one of life’s simple pleasures.

The brassica’s. Oh so much here. Cabbages both winter and summer and cauliflowers, kale and brussel sprouts, chard and broccoli and purple sprouting. It will thin out as the summer goes along as we eat the summer cabbages and the early cauliflowers.

Peas, mangetout and broad beans.

Some of the peas are nearly ready to pick. Hubby had left the cover off so I think they have had a bit of a pecking from the local wood pigeons, but the covers back on now, so they should recover nicely.

Broad beans are starting to flower.

And the mange tout look very healthy, but have yet to flower.

We have runner beans and french beans, which I have to say are not enjoying the cold.

And then we have the greenhouse which is hubby’s piece de resistance this year. A two tier greenhouse no less. He has dug the borders out and replaced with compost and then planted the tomatoes in tubs with the bottom cut out, which allows the roots to find the dampness below. The tomatoes are grafted onto a strong root stock so they will climb and climb, covering the roof by the end of the season, enabled by a heath robinson structure of bamboo canes. Underneath we have a veritable smorgasbord of tasty treats.

Starting with marigolds, not for us, but for the tomatoes to help keep the whitefly at bay. It seems to work because we never have whitefly.

Followed with tasty lettuces, I think these are little gems.

Chilli’s dot between the plants.

Cucumbers are in the corners. One in a pot one in the border, it will be interesting to see which does best.

And last but not least clumps of spring onions.

I hope you have enjoyed your little walk around my allotment, it is our second year on this new plot. Although there are still a few big jobs to do, I feel that we are really starting to make it our own and enjoy its hidden charms.

Another Birthday!

We had planned to spend a lovely rural day at a local agricultural show, but the heavens had opened some 24 hours previous and gave no signs of abating, so we trotted off to Birmingham to wander around and sample the delicious delights of Fumo, an Italian styled tapas restaurant with delicious wines and cocktails, situated on the top floor of Selfridges.

We arrived on the dot of our booking and alas, the restaurant was full. No matter, the manager escorted us to the bar, gave us drinks on the house of which I had a glass of champagne (well it was my birthday!) and left us to chat for a short while.

Birthday Selfie

Shortly we were escorted to a lovely central table and after taking our time over the considerable menu ordered three or four things each. The menu is designed to have small bites of delicious treats and I chose scallops, a tagliatelle ragu, cheese garlic bread and a mixed salad. Hubby chose some lamb chops and monk fish wrapped in parma ham, and Son no.1 veered towards buffalo cheese and truffles, a carbonara dish as well as some of the antipasto offerings. We happily shared our dishes, enjoyed with another glass of champagne and a delicious glass of red, everything was delicious.

Birthday cake!

While we were relaxing having taken our time to order a dessert, this appeared. It was so cute and so unexpected, I loved it, and just as we were sharing it a round of “Happy Birthday’ struck up from a choir of seven that had appeared from behind me, a rousing chorus of melodious Italian men and women’s voices, headed up by the Manager that I had met earlier. They were very impressive and as they finished the restaurant erupted into cheers and whistles. It was brilliant. I was blushing as bright as any beetroot, but I did love it so.

Our deserts were equally good and we wandered back into Selfridges happy and content, having had rather a lovely experience on a very wet birthday.

Son no. 1

The tide of life.

You might have noticed that I haven’t been around for a while. Life became very complicated and I needed a little time to acknowledge the difficult feelings that came about. The gritty facts are Mother had her cancerous kidney removed in January and it all seemed fine, but after many X-rays the diagnosis was that the cancer had spread to her lungs. She was offered chemotherapy but has refused, instead wishing nature to take its course.

Ugh.

And that’s where my dilemma started. As a long time advocate of medicine, in particular medicine that has progressed beyond all recognition in the last fifty years, I begged her to see an oncologist, to take it a step further, just to see what they had to say. Bearing in mind that she had complained that she hadn’t understood the surgeon very well as there was a little difficulty with his accent and had seen her GP to have everything explained to her. I wanted her to speak to people who are right at the cutting edge of what would have been available to her. But she has quietly and steadfastly refused. And there is the rub, I know as a grown up, that I must allow her to make her own end of life decisions. But it is difficult and causes tears to spurt out of my eyes with astonishing speed. She is not in pain and continues as though nothing is happening. And long may that last.

At the same time.

Hubby has been suffering with lack of breath. We’ve had numerous emergency trips to the hospital, he’s seen many consultants, coupled with blood tests and X-rays. After many, many months while watching his condition worsen, we finally have a diagnosis of heart failure coupled with the news that there is nothing they can do. We’ve both agreed with the idea of ‘what do doctors know’ and he’s become much more active, walking to the plot instead of driving and generally pottering about a little more. Which can only be a good thing. We intend to have a good summer, doing what we do, pottering at the plot or photographing from a hide and generally tootling around doing stuff we enjoy, as I feel the swell of the waves gently take us back out to sea after high tide.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Mother’s Day

We had a lovely day last Sunday, son no.1 asked us over to his for Sunday lunch and we had a lovely day. The meal was amazing, the ‘ambiance’ was, for us, perfection, and we just had a day making memories, laughing, joking around, eating good wholesome well cooked food and playing.

Selfie in the kitchen while cooking.

The sharp eyed amongst you might have noticed the change in the colour of my bandana. In recent years I have become completely addicted to Hermes silk scarves which are ridiculously expensive but oh so very gorgeous. My excuse is that I need something to keep my neck warm so it doesn’t ache from the cold, not having the luxury of hair to do the job. I noticed this lovely yellow bandana, so perfect for summer, come up on the website, and hubby and son no.1 clubbed together to buy it me for Mother’s Day.

I shall treasure it always.

After lunch which was a juicy bacon clad chicken, sausage meat stuffing, crunchy roast potatoes with stilton and bacon brussel sprouts, carrots and proper gravy. Which was then followed by a lovely apple strudel and custard with just for added measure a blob of ice cream, we loosened our belts a little and played a board game called Root.

Son no.1 is an avid board gamer, I had a feeling this was going to be more complicated than scrabble! And so it was.

I was very happy to choose the cats.

Although I do believe I became a little bored at one stage. 🙂

Fortunately, hubby saved the day and won!, no matter how much son no.1 and I ganged up against him.

We talked some more and then wend our way home, happy and content to have spent such a perfect day with our lovely son.

Pottering.

As I wander up to the allotment I feel the unseasonal warmth gently seep through my winter woollies and many cotton layers and I smile. The weather may be unseasonal but it is very welcome and I’ll take my chances as to whether we will suffer for it in the long run. I am carrying seeds and seed trays, a flask of hot coffee and a few biccies to while away an hour or two at the plot while listening to the birds trill their happy song in the bright sunshine. It is a blissful moment in time and I look forward to the beginning of the allotment year all winter. We have brassicas sprouting, they were sown just over a week ago and will germinate in a lower temperature.Hidden underneath all of this netting to keep hungry pidgeons off a tasty snack is spring cabbage that I started in the autumn and has been overwintering tucked into a corner of the garden at home. Onions we planted in the autumn are doing well.As are the shallots. Hubby has planted the early and second early potatoes and our mint and rhubarb are springing to life. Looks like it’s going to be a good year.

February.

Wow, January was an even longer month than it normally is. It started well and the swimming was going great, until the 8th day when Mum was taken into hospital to have a cancerous kidney removed and I along with hubby’s driving skills looked after Dad so that he could see Mum every day. It is surprising just how much time that takes out of a day. She is recovering well and looks as perky as any octogenarian given the circumstances.

Along with that hubby was still having symptoms of various problems that he was waiting on results for. We are at the time of writing nearer to finding out exactly what is the problem with his heart, but his doctor would like just a couple more tests done.

And then I went into Atrial Flutter on the 13th January for 12 days or so, I just can’t remember. It was not fun. I’m on the road to recovery now and thats the main thing. I did a quick pop along to London this week to see an exhibition, which was just about to close, so if I didn’t see it, I didn’t know if I’d ever see it, considering I’ve been waiting 10 years or so to see these artists. It was scary to be on my own in London so soon after a bout of AF, but fortune can favour the brave and I had a most wonderful and magical afternoon and for that I am very grateful.

Today I went walking in the woods with son no.1. It was refreshing to get out into the winter sunshine, a moment to savour, one I wished, as all lovely moments, it would last forever.

Reading in Heels, January,2019.

  • After the busy time of Christmas and New Year we enter the gloomy part of the year. I find this year has been mainly damp and dark rather than the light, cold, crisp, days of last winter. So when Reading in Heels announced its arrival by the gentle tap on the door of our postie, I was a very happy girl.
  • Don’t you find the best part of any present receiving is the anticipation? I know I do. I gazed, shivered a little inwardly in excitement and dove in. I was not disappointed. Let’s start with the book, which of course is our primary objective. “The Outrun” by Amy Liptrot. Which is a Sunday Times best seller along with accolades from various newspapers. Reading in Heels tells us that this is a book that makes us think and reflect on life, it is brave, hopeful and moving. It is set in the sparse, spectacular and wild landscape of Orkney, this book makes you want to look up and around. It allows the power of nature and the world around you to inspire you a little more each day. Life affirming, poetic and honest, it’s a book that will stay with you. I can’t wait to start reading it to hear the rhythms of that space in time. Cost £9.99
  • Next we have a bar of Nucao Hazelnut, and very nice it was too, organic raw cacao with hemp seeds and hazelnuts. I hid that one from hubby and have been nibbling a small triangle or two at night while reading, which is very good for the soul in the middle of winter. Cost £2.69 for 40 grams!
  • A Skin & Tonic rose lip balm, which I’m using day and night as I’ve managed to catch hubby’s virus and my lips have become crusty and sore and I find this quite pleasant on them. It’s made from organic shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax. Cost £3.50
  • Along with two bags of tea from Supertea and a bespoke notebook, which are always useful.
  • I’ve cancelled my make-up subscriptions for the foreseeable as I have everything I need, along with my food subscription box as our cupboards are winter full. But this subscription is definitely a keeper, it’s the best £12.40 I spend all month.

    Thank you Reading in Heels, another lovely box.

    New year resolutions.

    As usual, I have a few New Year resolutions that are in the eat less, move more spectrum. My main resolution for the month of January is to swim daily. That is a big ask for me because I’m now swimming 40 lengths in an hour session, and I know I’ve done it, often ending up in bed by 8.30 p.m. as I’m just too tired to sit up. Along with this there is more dog walking to do, dog training sessions to attend and as soon as a space opens up a weekly swimming lesson – just for me! This I am very excited about, I’d love to learn to crawl properly and I’ve never had a proper swimming lesson, apart from the 10 weeks with thirty other children in my year for half an hour aged 12. Although our junior school did have a pool so at least we learnt to swim in our daily 10 minutes. So to have 12 adults and one trainer for an hour! Will be absolute bliss.

    As some of my regular readers know, I love a new project. At one time I used to feel guilty for not, in the traditional sense of things, finishing things. But not anymore, I accept who I am.

    Happy New Year everyone, have fun!