Thursday, May 14, 2009

Simply washing up

John Bull, Watching Televisions Washing the Dishes Washing-Up Up Magazine, UK, 1950
John Bull, Watching Televisions Washing the Dishes Washing-Up Up Magazine, UK, 1950

Washing dishes has been much simplified. Actually as with washing clothes I have discovered that it has been made specifically complicated and that as a result we would do anything not to wash up.
Initially families needed little crockery and a set of 6 plates would have been sufficient for most. Washing up liquid was soap based and it was a daily ritual in which women cooked a meal and quite often men would help their wives do the drying of the dishes. At that time, some conversation would take place about all kinds of subjects after which the adults would sit in the main sitting room, he with a book, listening to the wireless etc.

Washing up liquid became a detergent and with it harsher on hands. It was effective and to make hands softer when doing the dishes, someone invented rubber gloves to enable the lady of the house not to have to touch the dishes or water or detergent. As television became more popular, and washing up became a chore, someone invented a machine that would do the dishes instead. Good plan, thereby cutting out the gruesome chore of washing up. With it however came the need for electricity, a more intensive chemical product to wash the dishes and more crockery.

I used to use the dishwasher a lot, with 3 children and poor health at one time it was a necessity. One day, the dishwasher got blocked and we were forced to do the washing up. I noticed that using ecover washing up liquid, the need for gloves was superfluent. If it was kind to the environment it was also kind to my hands. I seemed to use less crockery and everything washed ended up in its rightful place in the cupboards, ready for its next use. We timed the amount we spent together doing the dishes and it never amounted to more than 20 mins. The dishwasher at best used to take 139 mins to do the cycle.

You can make up your own mind about how it fits in with your family but as adults we quite like to have a chat over the washing up of dishes and it helps to bring the day to a conclusion. There is no longer a smell of dishes in the dishwasher and I am wondering what all the fuss was about, why did I ever want a dishwasher. Oh yes, for convenience......

Not using the dishwasher has resulted in savings of rubber gloves, dishwashing tablets, electricity and maintenance on dishwasher. Strangely it feels liberating.....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Edible flowers

Viola Cornuta
Viola Cornuta "Violet Flare" (Horned Violet), Evergreen Perennial

There are many flowers that we usually cultivate for their ornamental value but surprisingly some can make a wonderful addition to your salad bowl. It makes a green salad look very special indeed.
Here are some to try raw.

Violas are pretty with pastel colours, they are easy to grow and have a delicate flavour.
Borage- pull the blue flower away from its hairy base.
Calendulas - rip the flower apart and spread the petals in your salad.
Chives - break the purple globes up and spread the petals in the salad.
Nasturtiums - these have a strong and peppery taste but add very pretty orange colours to the feast.
Rocket - when the plants start to bolt, leave them in the ground, strip the leaves and the flowers as they have a really hot peppery flavour.

Later in the season courgette flowers offer an opportunity to be fried in a tempura base.But I am ahead of myself here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Planning for food

Last week we created tee pees to create growing areas for climbing plants, beans, cucumber, marrows and sweet peas. The starting point is very much to find what is available in the surrounding garden that may lend itself to be reused in a different way.;making something new out of something old and giving it a second lease of life. Whilst creating the raised beds, we reluctantly had to cut down an aged clematis that had got out of hand but this year, the dead stems provided just the right material to weave into the tee pee structure.

Creating a small forest garden has meant investing in some plants, shrubs and trees and most of that work has been going on over the last few months. As the growing season gets seriously under way, I seem to be in the garden every day, checking on the seedlings, plants and herbs to see what is available, where there are gaps and if anything is in competition with the garden.

Today has been a day of transplanting cucumber and courgette seedlings into larger pots, harvesting some herbs for tonight's omelet, shoring up the potato plants, and marvelling at the peony blooms, planting gladioli bulbs. Awaiting in the wings are sweetcorn and small seedlings of the heritage bean varieties; lazy housewife, bi colour and trail of tears. I am switching to heritage seeds in an effort to grow our own and collect the seeds at the end of the growing season. This will mean less dependency on hybrid seeds and some experimentation will go on with regards to yield and suitability in the garden.

The purple sprouting broccoli plants, phase one, are setting seed which has prompted me to sow next years crop. Its a busy time, the strawberry plants are showing flowers and gooseberry clusters, raspberries, cherries, apples and pears are forming on the trees. Amazing what variety a small space can provide.

Evenings are still chilly and are spent spinning a yarn from Devon Alpaca and merino whilst knitting a nice shawl to cover shoulders later in the year. A woman of a certain age must have a shawl! I am planning to spin and knit sufficient yarn to make 6 pairs of socks, 1 sweater, 1 shawl and a couple of hats and gloves. The garden will also provide some plants that will help me dye the yarn. A lambs fleece of texel/dorset has been promised by the end of May.

Some painting is going on. We make it a priority to engage local craftsmen so the windows have been made by a local carpenter and fitted with double glazing. The window replacement program is ongoing and very much depends on funds. The priority windows were the ones that had rotted and were unable to open as well as the ones that, when closed, had the ability to make the curtains blow into the room, all indications of draughts. Maybe next winter we will be warmer!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pigging out

Brown Pig
Brown Pig

The biggest waste factor in our shop is bread that really has to be fresh to sell. The boys are crying out here for fresh bread.....instead of yesterdays rolls in their lunch box or, bread pudding, bread and butter pudding or even a mean pear bread and butter pudding made with stale croissants ( really yummy). As I am intolerant to bread it really is a challenge.

I spread the word that if anyone had a pig, I would be happy to provide some bread in return for a couple of sausages at the end of the journey. Fair exchange: the pig gets to indulge in day old bread and eventually, the boys ( who are not vegetarian) will be the happy recipients of great sausages.

As we pay for commercial waste by the sack loads it seems fitting that not only the local chickens have a treat from the shop but the 3 Old Gloucester spots get a treat too. Little do they know!

The pigs have a take away bucket that gets filled daily.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Salads to come

My preferred way to grow lettuce is to start with some seeds and when they have small leaves, I transplant them into above trays. At the same time, I start off the next batch of interesting leaves. The aim is to eat leaves, not only because they are delicious but my lettuce leaves require taste, colour and texture to tempt the taste buds.

Above our the following :
Lettuce Aruba, purple oak leafed lettuce.
Mustard red frills, tasty, good and ruffled leaves
Black seeded Simpson - large crunch hearting lettuce
Reine de Glace a lettuce that continuously provides leaves, pick outer ones as the rest grow.

In the seed pot at the moment :
Merveille des quatres saisons
Summer rocket.
Green oak leaf

Just finished:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Blooming May

The clematis is in full bloom, a perfect hideaout for a few bird houses in its leaves.
Tulips and wallflowers bring a burst of sheer colour to the potager. I grow them in pots as the slug are keen on them.
Pansies to bring smiley faces in a small corner of the rockery.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Painting with vegetables

Rocket leaves, not only beautiful in leaf structure but makes a mean salad, as well as a tossed green with pasta.
Sprouting broccoli ready for the picking. Just in the hungry gap. Splendid leaves for a risotto.

Red Chard provides a fabulous display of colour contrasts between red and green.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Honesty - hanging on

My grandmother used to say that plants arrive in people's gardens, quite often the ones they need in one way or another. The newbie on the horizon is this splendidly beautiful plant, called honesty. Honestly, I had no idea but as it grew it developed the most spectacular purple flowers.

Common honesty is an old-fashioned dual-purpose plant, grown partly for its fragrant bright flowers in spring and early summer, but also for its unique seed-heads, oval and translucent, gleaming with an eerie silver light and coveted by dried-flower arrangers. It is properly grown as a biennial, and makes large, well-branched plants in its second year, after which it will seed itself freely around the garden. However, smaller plants can be grown as hardy annuals from an early sowing, with a smaller flower display, but very good compact seed-heads.

The gift of honesty for me is has been to really look at my life, with honesty, to accept the limitations and to marvel at the beauty that surrounds me.

And if you look closely, there is a small snail hanging on. This too is a reflection of how personally life has been over the past few months, simply a moment to hang on in there, waiting for the skies to clear, for the sap of spring to rise, for my health and energy levels to rise too. For some people the beginning of spring is the moment when the daffodils arrive but for me, it happens when I feel the need to go out, take pictures and marvel at how nature has the ability to spring back. I want to spring back too and to do that, like a plant, I need a sunshine.

What does your garden say about you?

Come and walk with me around the garden over the next few days.