Late yesterday evening hubby's Dad left this world for pastures new. It was very expected, he was 89 and had his fifth stroke last Sunday. Hubby was able to be with his Dad as he very gently slipped away.
Even with all the rain we have managed to get almost up to date at the lottie, ignore the lack of hoeing. There is only so much you can do.
Over the weekend, we managed to put all of the Runner Beans (3 varieties) and Climbing Beans (2 or was it 3?) varieties in. We had already put the frames up, so that once we felt we were past the risk of frost they could happily jump, they were so ready to jump, into their prepared bed. Yesterday, hubby spent many hours working in the greenhouse putting our lovely tomatoes in. 3 pots each of 7 varieties. Thats all we could do up the plot yesterday as it was raining all day. If you notice we use small buckets that we have cut the bottom off, this helps with the watering and gives the tomatoes just a little bit more soil to spread their roots in. It certainly seemed to help last year as we had magnificent tomatoes, our plum tomatoes were admired by all who saw them. We have had our ears and eyes tuned to all weather forecasts as well as tuning into the met office on the net at regular intervals. So this morning, hubby was up the plot by 7.30 a.m. with me in fastish pursuit at 8.30 a.m. (Unfortunately ten minutes after I arrived at the plot, hubby had a phone call from his Fathers nursing home and he had to dash off) I carried on and I planted Courgettes, Butternut Squashes and Cucumbers. Cucumbers, which will be climbed up the bamboo sticks. Then I planted Dill and mint and chives. (although the chives had a very poor germination rate, so I'm not overly hopeful on what might happen with these) I also planted on some spare courgettes, (no piccie) for Anna and whoever else would like one on Tuesday night.
Then, I planted my experimental secret weapon against the white fly into big pots. A bucket will be placed in the greenhouse and then the rest will be deployed at the first sign of whitefly on my cabbages/brussels etc. My Marigolds. And then a quick update on some of the veg at the plot. Our onions, japanese, normal, shallots. ( I think the garlic perished.) The start of carrots, parsnips, beetroot and radishes. Radishes are used to mark out where the parsnips are as the parsnips have a very slow germination rate. So, If anyone wants any radishes, (French Breakfast) they are lovely, just give me a shout as I have lots! Cabbages, cauliflowers, purple sprouting, kales, brussels. (that could do with a bit of a hoe) And last but by no means least, Peas. Then we had a few spots of rain and I thought I had better make tracks, but I've been home nearly an hour and its still dry. There really is nothing more I can do, I can't really hoe as the land is too soggy and all I will achieve is to compact the soil by walking on it around the plants.
Don't these look so beautiful, like precious jewels. They are very young blackcurrants. Potatoes doing nicely, although there is a very slight worry that they may have just a touch of the dreaded blight. I am going to have to watch them very carefully over the next few days. If the weather dries up and humidity lowers we should be okay, if it doesn't we may well be in trouble. And my first glove. I am very pleased and am already thinking of a second pair and what to make them out of, should it be something like the softest of cashmere's, or maybe some silk could work, or maybe a mix of the two. I could lengthen them so that they were nearly up to my elbow, or even longer. Oh the possibilities! The baby birds seem to be doing well, not that I've peeked, but as I was potting up in my shed today you could hear just how busy the parents were providing for their young. They never stop.
We have a busy weekend planned, its the last push to get most of everything in. Toms are ready to go in, over half of the runner beans were planted today, the climbing beans need planting, I have courgettes, cucumbers etc etc to plant out this weekend. I managed to hoe all of the carrots this evening. It is recommended that any work to do with carrots is done in the evening as the carrot fly (she who is to be feared) doesn't like flying in dusk/dark so its the best time to do it. Apparently, the carrot fly can smell carrots being disturbed over 1 mile away and will home in on them.
At the moment, well quite obsessively, to the state that I am most probably slightly dehydrated, I have been knitting today. And have just completed my very first thumb. The pattern was found on Ravelry, it is Picot Edged Cashmere Gloves by Susan Chang and the wool is (absolutely gorgeous, I've totally fallen in love with it) Schoeller & Stahl, Limbo Color, colour number 2539, purchased from Web of Wool.
I might, just might shorten the thumb by one row, but I'm going to wait until I've finished the glove before I fine tune it. I think its pure gorgeousness.
Giddy, giddy with excitement I am. Honestly, I cannot convey the joy I feel within, its felt on so many different levels. Tonight I went to Tuesday night knitting, proud and eager to show off my picot edge, when my knitting friend and regular blog reader Carie also known as Knitted Bear came into the shop. We were standing with Anna and Rachel and casually bantering about wool and colours and colours and wool, when, Carie said, "I have something for you". "For me?" "Yes," she says and pulls out this wonderful book. "For me?" I think I replied, in slightly squeeky tones. "Wow" Then I said, "have you read my post about a slight nudge about b'day prezzies". She said "No"... I said "oooh No, Keep it for my Birthday" She wouldn't hear of it. And then she said that she thought I needed a little cheering up. Aaaaw bless.
I've never read any of the Yarn Harlots books, I read her blog regularly, but had not yet managed to acquire any of her books and I've been wanting to for so long and I had to tell Carie that this, was the One Book, (I just love the title) that I really, really wanted.
Which means my sneaky little friend, that there was a reason for asking if I was going to be at Tuesday night knitting! That it was well planned and executed and that you have carted it to work and back and whats more, remembered to put it into your bag before the dash to the train station. But mostly, it was a very caring and extremely generous act, so rare to find, (I'm leaking now) thank you.
I'm sorry I couldn't resist it, I wonder how many hits I'll receive with that title!
Last year, after we had managed to put up My Shed, hubby quickly attached a bird box for me, it was very late in the season and we had no takers.
Today as I was sat there slurping my soup, I heard this rummaging and ever so soft chirruping and I thought, "Oooh, we have babies" and quietly crept around to the back of the shed and found we have indeed got babies. So I positioned myself some feet away and waited for the perfect shot. I won't show you the outtakes, there were many.. I believe its a Great Tit, its certainly quite a large bird (for its type) and has just a little bit of difficulty squeezing through its front door.
Magic Beans! Well I hope they will be. These are the runners and climbing beans that are desperate to get into the ground. I looked at them carefully and I think they may have just been caught with a touch of frost last night. They are going in the greenhouse tonight so are they are nice and snug, just in case. Lettuces that are being grown as a catch crop where the beans are just about to go. An Iceburg lettuce. I've not grown these before and from the way that they are coming on, they will be very good. And a tiny, tiny pea pod. Such excitement!
According to the Met Office, there is a risk of ground frost tonight. Which doesn't surprise me as the skies are very clear and it feels cooler. The air temperature is predicted to be at 4C which means a ground frost is likely.
I must be becoming something of an experienced gardener... as my memory has told me not to jump into action planting tender plants until nearly the very end of May. We often have a hard frost after long and hot balmy days which we take to mean that summer is at long last here and lets face it, in some years that is it. (Take April last year for instance!)
Our little plot is at the top of a gently rolling slope, which means a frost being heavier than air it will roll away from us. Last year for instance we had a late hard frost and many peoples potatoes and beans were damaged, ours were fine as the frost had sloped off down the hill away from us. It was quite spectacular walking up the hill the next morning to go and inspect our crops and looking at the progression of damage and how the land lies in relation to the damage. (I do understand if your version of spectacular is not the same as mine!)
I found it very informative. It really stood me in good stead, when the gentle banter came about in the summer, about lack of rain and how it runs away from you down the hill and how dry our plot would become. (although How exactly, one or two of the old boys managed to squeeze this gentle banter in with all the rain we actually had, defies even me!) I was able to reply that "at least I'm not in a frost hollow... how badly were you damaged? didn't touch us at all". They normally laugh and realise they have met their match...
Anyway enough of this bantering, I shall not risk planting my beans for another few days and go and do some weeding and constructing of bean frames instead.
I'm afraid I haven't got piccies. But I have finished two pairs of Fetchings in different lengths and My So Called Scarf in Malabrigo (dusty). I love, love, love, the way the stitch pattern looks on this scarf. I hate, hate, hate, knitting it. It makes my fingers and hands ache. (and it used to make my brain ache as well!) I think its because my hands are only used to simple knitting and this is slightly more involved.
I also have another problem with it. The cast on is lovely and neat, I did a long tail cast on and its fine, (well I'm happy with it) but the cast off, well, first I cast off on the plain (front) side, I didn't like that and it made it look lacy at the end. Then I tried to cast off on the purl side using a purl cast off, I didn't like that. So then I have cast off on the purl side but with a knit cast off. (is this making sense!) and although it doesn't seem as lacy, (although it does a bit) its made it flair out.
And then I realised, I actually don't know very much about casting off.
Hubby and I have had a bit of a weird weekend. We have both been waking up with headaches feeling a little washed out and quite tired. Nothing you can put your finger on, but enough to annoy you. So basically we have done nothing all weekend apart from sleep. (which is why I'm up at this hour as I've slept all afternoon)
Just as hubby was about to slink up the stairs early yesterday evening, he had a call from the nursing home his Father is in and he had to dash down there (an hours drive). His Dad's much better today, it was just an infection needing antibiotics. The last couple of months have been quite exhausting in one way or another.
I haven't even been grocery shopping this week, so it was a sort of ready steady (without the speed element) Cook! menu this evening. Fortunately there were sausages (in the freezer), an onion, spuds, and a butternut squash (don't they keep well in the fridge) that had been there for weeks. Some frozen chicken stock, tinned sweetcorn and a nice piece of fresh ginger.
So we had, sweetcorn and ginger soup followed by sausage casserole, (with carrots and tinned toms) mashed spuds and roasted butternut squash. And there is enough soup left for my lunch and enough sausage casserole for the boys tomorrow.
As we haven't been down the plot to work, hubby went to water tonight, I must get down there tomorrow and plant some beans, (after I've done my five day, seven day and as far as I can see weather forecasts!)
The results came back yesterday, Auntie Vi died of Bronchial Pneumonia. Gawd blimey, it was so sudden. She had lunch with her friend and then a few hours later was found. Her family and friends said she had been chesty for a while, as my regular blog readers might remember Mum and Dad had been staying with Auntie Vi when Dad was taken ill. I think she was chesty then, but at that time was still able to get around and cluck, cluck over her guests (as she loved to do). If only we had known.
My Dad is so lucky, or as in one of my favourite sayings, "Therefore but the grace of God go I" He had bacterial pneumonia, I wonder how or if this was related. It was touch and go for him at one stage.
I can't get to the funeral, and although recently I haven't seen Auntie Vi more than twice a year, most summer holidays as a child were spent with her and my Uncle, what with them always living by the sea. She gave All us kids, (there are lots of cousins) Good Times.
I went to Birmingham today (I'll do that in another blog post) and on the way back, just sat there still, on the train, memories came flooding back, I think I must have just got over the shock, it was nice to have all the memories flooding back, yet upsetting at the same time.
Son no.2 starts his GCSE's today. We as a family are relatively calm at the moment, (lets see how we are in a weeks time!)
He starts his exams with Religious Education, (which he chose as a subject to take) although he is a practising atheist, (he often, even daily at times, throws religious questions at me, I believe, he doesn't and as I'm the only one that believes in the household I receive all of the religious questions, which can be slightly off putting over your cornflakes!) his grades are predicted to be very high. Which in some ways pleases me, he might not believe any of it, which makes him question it and therefore he learns. There is a wry irony to this.
He will have a scribe and a laptop because his handwriting is simply unreadable and it was felt that such a bright student shouldn't lose marks just because it would be nearly impossible to read, therefore mark his work.
The hours spent gaming have stood him in good stead. He touch types at 35 words a minute, which for someone who has never had formal training on touch typing is really quite quick. I wonder how fast he would knit...
Me, well I'm looking at my bank account. We have a written formal and signed agreement (in duplicate!) on a pay a certain amount per grade deal. You have to be that orderly with this child, give him an inch etc. I reckon, if he does as well as his revision suggests he might, I may well be bankrupt by the end of the summer. I'll have to get a bucket, blankie and dog (I can definitely do the dog bit) and sit outside my local yarn shop begging for money for wool...
Or in other words, my precious runner and french climbing beans are really quite high to still be in 3 inch peat pots and are crying out to be put into the ground. But, will we have a frost or even a risk of a frost before the end of May. I am too nervous to risk it at the moment, which is why I am constantly checking long term weather forcasts.
I made these for the Girls at Tuesday Night Knitting.
They seemed to like them. Well the plate became bare, which is always a good sign.
So I'd better write the recipe down before I forget.
230 grams of desiccated coconut 150 grams of golden caster sugar 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence 2 large egg whites.
Whip the egg white a little just to break it down and then mix together all the ingredients, it needs to become a firm texture.
Place in bite sized balls on a baking sheet which has oiled greaseproof paper on it. Pop in oven which is has been prewarmed to 180 C and cook for ten minutes, check after nine. So that they are slightly singed to a nutty brown. Take off tray and allow to cool on wire rack. I reckon they would be quite nice dipped or drizzled in melted chocolate as well.
It was hubby's birthday yesterday and I made these for him. I didn't make the buttons, I just made the buttons into cufflinks, I can't even claim it was my idea, (thanks Girls!) but he was tickled pink with them and promises to wear them to a client meeting this week. (which will be the next time he wears a double cuff shirt)
There was going to be socks, but about a month ago, when I delicately asked if he'd like a pair of socks, he was perhaps not in a receptive mood so declined my generous offer. But then, last week, he moaned that I hadn't made him a pair. I cannot knit socks that quick, well I can, but not nice, summery, cotton ones. So he is going to have to wait. (To be honest the knitting bug has left me at the moment, I think its because the plot is taking up my thinking time. Although I have just ordered subscriptions to a couple of knitting magazines this morning, so it is still burbling away in the background.) I tried reasonably hard (a day in Stratford upon Avon, a day in Leamington) to buy him something else, but the plain fact is, he doesn't actually want anything, so we decided to keep it simple this year.
There was going to be cake, but then hubby didn't want cake this year. So these went unused. A bit cruel I know, but son no.1 and I giggled like school girls when we saw them in the shop and just Had to have them and knew of the perfect victim, who unfortunately didn't want to play.
So, after a trundle around to some car boots, we sat and drank wine, whilst chatting to the chickens and dogs, went to bed for a couple of hours when the wine and the heat took their effect and later ordered a Chinese meal. It was nice.
Hubby in "I love my Dogs" mode. (three out of the four dogs) The dogs just ignore the chickens, and the chickens ignore the dogs, this took quite alot of dog training on my part. (especially with the terrier whose not in these pictures) Buff Orpington Three Black Rocks Lilac Araucana Wellsummer
I'm making a pair of Fetchings at the moment. Well, I was until I threw them down in disgust half an hour ago because I have run out of wool on the last two rows (well three if you include the bind off) on the last thumb.
I have made these in exactly the same yarn (although a different colour) twice before and I knew it was going to be tight, but even with gathering all scraps and knotting (I can hear the gasps) them together, its just not enough.
Ugh, and, I had shown them to my Mum (the grateful, what was soon to be keeper) earlier.
My tension must have relaxed over the course of my rather young knitting career.
I don't think I have any scraps of the bamboo yarn that I was using. Although I'll have a rummage in better light tomorrow and there is a dim lightbulb blinking at the back of my brain that indicates that indeed there may be a scrap of something hiding somewhere. They don't have to be perfect, as they were, (which is why I was using a bamboo mix and therefore washable) going to be used as gardening Fetchings to keep Mum's joints warm.
And I was going to show you all, just how clever I was, (yeah right! (she can't even buy enough yarn!!)) because one was cabled with a cable needle and one was cabled the way Carie had shown me, without a cable needle. And we would have ummed and aahed about what I perceive to be a slight but quite interesting difference and why that would be so..
I love our Araucana's Eggs, she's laying nearly every day at the moment so I am able to eat them in quantity. There are two resons I love her eggs so much, firstly, they taste richer than the other hens and secondly the yolk to white ratio is extremely generous, there really is very little white to yolk. As you might be able to see in the picture below, which has three Araucana's eggs in it. Also they are smaller eggs which can be nice and they are so pretty. We had hoped to have a hen that lay blue eggs, sadly you can't tell by looking at an Araucana which colour egg she will lay, ours turned out to be more of a khaki green, but I still get excited by that.
A line up of our hens eggs, the Araucana's egg is at the top. Hubby is so much better than I at distinguishing who has laid which egg. I, normally under test conditions, (we are quite a sad family) can guess the Black Rocks, the Buff Orpington (lovely bird that one, my favourite, the Queens mums as well) and the Wellsummer, although she doesn't produce as speckly an egg as she once did, off course I can guess the Araucana's and by deduction I should be able to guess who the Buff Sussex is, but to be honest, I've normally become confused and sit looking at it. Just another piccie to show you the various colours. Considering they are four years old, (industry kills off egg laying birds after 18 months) they are still laying well and five out of the seven are laying nearly every day at the moment.
This is son no.1's absolutely, without a doubt favourite salad and as soon as the weather turns warm, he begs me to make it for him. So of course I have varied the recipe a little over time.
The original recipe and the one I have taken piccies of today, although I did add a second packet of feta cheese, (the original recipe requires 9 oz) as this is demanded by the hungry hoardes is..
1 medium red onion 4 limes 1 medium to largish ripe watermelon 2 packs of Feta cheese. 3 - 4 tables spoons of Extra virgin olive oil. I medium jar of Black Olives bunch of flat leaf parsley bunch of mint, chopped black pepper.
Slice the onion into half moons and steep in the lime juice whilst you prepare the watermelon, cutting it into nice chunky triangles. Break the feta up. Add them to a large bowl or a large platter can look nice. Tear of leaves of parsley and chop the mint up and scatter over. Pour the onions with their juices over, add the drained olives and black pepper, drizzle olive oil over, toss gently.
This makes a lovely, sweet, salty, sour and very refreshing salad, which is delicious when the weather turns warm.
A variation we have tried and agree we prefer, we use watercress, which adds a peppery/spicy note. We then don't add the parsley and mint and we like to use olives stuffed with anchovies and sometimes a little salt mixed in with the lime juice can be very nice, it just depends on how salty your feta is.
I know that I am probably the last one on the planet (in knitting circles) to find out about this book, but find out I have. Yesterday, Son no.1 and I took ourselves off to Coventry for some R & R. We had lunch at The Noodle Bar, which is yummy, (and they do rice noodles for me) and then off to look around gaming shops for him, wool and bookshops for me. I found "The Friday Night Knitting Club" written by Kate Jacobs. Well, as soon as I saw the front cover I was hooked! I read the first page of the story, it made me smile, as images of a certain wool shop and its owner floated through my imagination. I've had a quick scoot around the net and their making a film about it! Wouldn't it be lovely, if we (as in Tuesday night knitters) all went as a group to see it.
I'm just off to the plot, if the weather keeps fine. My knitting has sadly been pushed to one side as the demands of my vegetables grow. April is one of the busiest month of the allotmenteers calendar. If you can get through April, (well its really end of March to mid May) with limbs and back intact, without having lost it all to the weather, you should be in with a chance of having decent crops, at least in something.
I'm slightly concerned that my courgette seeds haven't sprung into life as yet, so I may need to 'check' or in other words wiggle a pencil around in the pot to see if the seed has rotted or has germinated. (or even if the mice have had another free feed!)
I've more pea plants to put in, which will be done hopefully today, depending on how soggy the ground is and I suspect I shall find a few other little jobs up there.