Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Lammas - First Harvest

The wheel is turning again and we reach the month of August.  Traditionally this marks the festival of Lammas or the celebration of the first Harvest - there's more information about the festivals on the The Goddess and The Green Man website as well as lots of other sources out there for those that are interested in such things. For me it's a chance to pause and think about what we are growing, what we might want to grow in the future and which seeds we want to save for next year (yes I still make such plans).It's also a chance to be grateful that we have the space to grow our own.
This year it has also, wonderfully, coincided with the first ripe tomatoes from our garden plants - just 3 but hopefully there will be a few more in the next couple of days so that I can incorporate them into the weekend's meals.

Happy Harvest.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Weekend of two halves!

A wonderfully damp start to Saturday gave J a chance to play in the shed and potter around after recovering from the heat on Friday and gave me a chance to potter in the kitchen concocting a variation on the Green Risotto from a couple of weeks ago. It meant I could use up the courgette, peas, onions and beetroot leaves from last week's harvest as the week had been far to hot for any serious cooking and I didn't want anything going to waste. Given that I had extra veg available I reduced the rice to 3/4 of a mug and used bought-in bouillon powder to replace the onion powder. A quick stir of feta cheese just before serving and we had the rainbow harvest on a plate.

Climbing beans doing what they do best
Cheery sunflowers
Sunday was a potter up to the allotment to restock the supplies and do a bit of weeding before coming back for a quick lunch and a chill out - at least that was the plan but we had a bit of a mishap with the phone line when J tried to clear up the storm damaged clematis. Still the lovely folk at BT came out this morning and fixed in so my internet and emergency button are now back in working order and all is well. 

courgettes and apples
Beets, berries, peas and flowers

sunflowers, rudbeckia and cornflowers

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Seedlings and seed-heads

After the horrendous heat of mid week today has been much cooler and rather wet so a blessed relief for both garden and gardeners.
We've reached that time of year when we are starting ear-mark plants ready to collect seed for next year or to leave to stand for decoration and wildlife food. Poppies, nigella, cornflowers and hollyhocks are all seeding beautifully now, and soon the early sown beets will join them. However we're also sowing biennials and late cropping veggies - extra beets, salads, kale and in hope of a long season, some dwarf french beans.  As of this morning the beets and kale are doing well as are the wallflowers but no sign of the beans -  there's still time though so we won't fret yet.

Nigella seed-head just about to burst

Poppy heads just waiting to pop

Wallflowers for next year

Kale for winter

Beetroot for autumn salads

Friday, 26 July 2019

Buds and blooms of High Summer

For the first time in years, possibly ever, it looks like we are going to head into August with colour in both the front and back gardens. They've always looked great in May and June but then the flowers tend to taper off as the summer heat rises and August arrives. This year however we seem to have finally cracked it - the dahlias left over from the Blooms for Bees trial a couple of years ago are already blooming again, joining the lavender, violas, gaillardia, petunias, scabious and hollyhocks in joyful abandon. In the last few days they are being accompanied by a second flush on the roses and new buds on the rudbeckia, summerina, monarda, achillea, fuschias and anemones which should all come together to make a lovely showing over the coming weeks. Sadly our neighbours lovely clematis fell foul of the storm earlier in the week and had to be cut right back so now we'll need to untangle the dead foliage from our porch over the weekend. I shall miss it's purple-y shade and the sparrows will miss the bugs that it harboured. It's a hardy beauty though, so should grow back over the summer and autumn ready for spring flowering. In the meantime we'll just have to make do with these lovelies.

Gentle Hermione

Mystery pink

Dark Lady



Sunflower Little Leo

Rudbeckia Marmalade


Evening primrose

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Dabbling done for this week

As the extreme heat has largely stopped play outside today I finished off the watercolour pictures I have been dabbling with this week. I ended up painting a second version of the landscape as I managed to flick ink onto the first and wasn't sure how well I could cover it up, so here I give you the finished articles.

This is the original - as you can see I attempted the bird after all - not quite as bad as my first few attempts but definitely more cartoony than I'd been hoping for!

The second one was done more or less on one sitting and is definitely more "inspired by" the original photo than a faithful copy.

Meanwhile I'm trying to decide whether this attempt at a hare - yes really!- is more kangaroo, donkey or Bottom's Ass from Midsummer Night's Dream....

Ahh well I enjoyed playing and it kept me occupied out of the sun, back to the drawing board next week.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Beautiful Butterflies

In a very thinly disguised effort to block out the horror that is the current state of UK, indeed World politics I had a potter around the garden this morning before it got too hot and took lots of photos of the life I could see out there. This was a really joyful few minutes as well as a potentially useful one as, for the next few weeks, the latest Citizen Science project is in progress - the UK's Big Butterfly Count. Launched last week by the Butterfly Conservation Trust it's a chance to take a snapshot of the butterfly population across the country in a way that no individual study could really manage. It's also a fun thing to do for both adults and children and as it runs for another couple of weeks there is still time to download the count sheet and join in.
In just 15 minutes I clocked up half a dozen little Gatekeepers, a Peacock, a Small White and a couple of Large Whites. I also had the added bonus of lavenders full of buzzing bees, hover-flies and other critters and a much happier mind!

Three's a crowd for these Gatekeepers

Gatekeeper on Verbena

Buff Tailed Bumblebee (I think!)

Lavender full of buzzing

One of the solitary bees I think

Peacock just before take=off

Small White 

Monday, 22 July 2019

Dabbling again

So a few weeks ago what I thought was a rook but now think might be a crow landed on the fence at the hospice car park as I was leaving. I took this photo thinking it might make a good subject for a painting one day.

Today it's been a bit warm for playing outside or being too domestically minded so I started dabbling again and have got this far. So what? Well now I have a dilemma - the reason I liked the scene was the rook/crow but I'm worried I'm going to spoil what it is turning into a fairly decent landscape by attempting to add the bird. So I need some courage - to add a bird and hope it doesn't end up looking like a stuffed penguin! In the meantime I think I'll just let it sit and dry properly...

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Rainbow Harvests

With friends and family celebrating Pride this month, marking with joy and colour the rights of everyone to be who they are and love where they will, it seems fitting that the allotment has suddenly burst into a thousand and one new colours as flowers bloom and fruits and vegetables ripen.

Penstemons pink

Sunflowers orange, red and yellow

Peas purple and green, raspberries red, courgettes yellow and onions brown

and Cornflowers blue

to brighten the house and the heart.
Even the creatures have joined in

Perfect peacock butterfly
Restless Robin

Stripy caterpillar
Hope your weekend was filled with colour too.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Gift of Beauty

Back in autumn/winter 2017 I came across a book, not unusual for a librarian and book-addict admittedly, but this wasn't just any book, this was a gift to the soul, a true work of imagination and sublime art, it arrived at a truly traumatic time in my life and over the last 2 years I'm not the only one it has spoken to and I certainly can't be the only one to draw comfort from it's pages, to revisit the words, the pictures and the whole feeling of peace that the work creates and I know I have mentioned it here previously.

Created by illustrator and artist Jackie Morris and writer Robert Macfarlane The Lost Words was a reaction to the removal of certain nature words from the 2007 Oxford children's dictionary and the effect it had on me and countless others has been palpable. It's pages conjure the fleeting beauty of bluebells, the delicate joy of wren, the majesty of raven and even the glimmer of starling and the sheer joy it gives is testament to the magic of the spells written and creatures conjured from its pages.

Since these two magicians came together their work has taken on a life of it's own spawning crowd-funder campaigns right across the country to ensure schools, hospices and care-homes have copies to share with their pupils, patients and residents and leading to new spells being created on hospital walls by Jackie and another magician of the natural world - Alison O'Toole. Jackie herself explains how that came about on her own beautiful blog but the magic hasn't stopped there. Now, new joy has been born in the form of The Spell Songs a glorious combination of musicians, wordsmiths, art and love for the natural world - they've toured and will even be doing a Prom later this month and just this week my own copy of their wonder-filled CD arrived on my doorstep. The haunting Blessing and strident Heartwood resonate around the house as I write this and will be played again and again in the weeks to come. But fret not if buying the book or CD is beyond your means right now, because they've also posted the beauty onto the 'Net - allowing it to run free for everyone to hear, watch and benefit from. Jackie has even allowed us to take a walk with her on a recent podcast from Folk on Foot, to share in the surroundings that help produce those glorious illustrations and to listen in to a bit of the magic that has sprouted from the seeds she and Robert planted. I'm not sure if their creation is what they hoped it would be but I hope they realise just how much it has meant to so many people. I hope that wherever they go and wherever they read, conjure and perform, the words "Thank You" are uttered over and over again and if you haven't yet come across the magic then click on one of the video links below and enjoy!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Green Risotto

Fridays pickings turned into a very tasty Saturday lunch - although next time I might plan for a cooler day before making risotto!

There was enough here for at least 3 and probably 4 people depending how hungry/greedy they are feeling.

What went in:

2 small onions finely chopped and lightly fried
11oz/300g mixed peas and broad beans
c. 3oz/75g chopped washed spinach beet leaves
1 and 1/3 mug of arborio rice
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
3 teaspoons leek powder
black pepper to taste
c. 2.5 pints/1.5litres  boiling water 
4oz cubed feta

How I did it:

used all of these

used about half of this
After first liquid get a bubble on!
just add feta!
I tend not to do the traditional stir after each ladle of liquid when making a risotto so I added the peas and beans to the fried onion along with a small handful of chopped leaves and the rice, gave everything a gentle stir to warm them through and then added the herbs and leek powder before topping of with enough liquid to cover to the top of the pan. 
Another stir and set the gas heat to medium to get a good bubble on and then put a lid on for about 10minutes.
I kept checking back in and giving a stir every 5 minutes or so until the rice had absorbed most of the liquid and then topped the pan off again, added more leaves and repeated. I tasted the rice once it had absorbed the second pan full and then added about another half pan full, the rest of the leaves and a good grinding of black pepper - I like my risotto quite soft so the amount of liquid you eventually add may vary - keep testing.
Once the liquid has been absorbed I turned the heat right down and added the feta. A good stir and then off the heat and serve.