Monthly Archives: December 2013

Ghosts of Blogs Past

7-A-Christmas-CarolWhen I was young(er) I flitted around the villages and enclaves of London.  On one occasion, squiring the wife of a States-side work colleague of the OH for the afternoon, we visited the Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury, (48 Doughty Street).  My companion bought a copy of  ‘A Christmas Carol’ and down in the cellar of the building, Dickens’ great grandson signed the book for her. In jolly Dickensian style, champagne and cheese were being consumed in quantity, though sadly, not by us.

The ghosts at the centre of Dickens story tug a chord.  Occasionally I drift through the internet looking at other blogs that I find interesting.  Some of the most compelling hang in the air.  No goodbye or signing off.  It’s as if the author has just popped out.  A particular favourite of mine is the Deptford Pudding, (www.deptfordpudding.com); the last blog entry is dated August 2012.  I chanced upon the blog some 9 months later.  It is an excellent read. I wonder why the author stopped? I feel slightly unnerved, bereft. So to cheer myself up, look what Father Christmas has bought me – garlic!

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Okay, so I have to help Saint Nick out on the present front – but it’s the thought the counts.

There is a tradition of planting garlic on the winter solstice and harvesting on the summer solstice.  My timetable is never that precise so the garlic was planted on the 17th by the OH.  Close enough.  So… cultivated garlic, possibly originally derived from Allium longicuspis, a species native to Central Asia. The plant has been used in far eastern cuisine for thousands of years.  I expect the Romans introduced garlic to Britain.  Of course, this being Britain, there’s no reason to rush in waving a lot of garlic at your potage.  So it didn’t really take off as a seasoning for the masses until, well, the 1970s* – that’s the lure of chicken kiev and garlic bread for you.

(*my husband tells me that this is NOT TRUE and that garlic was used extensively as a seasoning in Medieval Britain)

We have both hard and softneck varieties for planting; they are cultivars  of slightly different species, (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon and Allium sativum respectively) and, according to the RHS, the softneck stores better than the hardneck. I’d better hunt out my twiddly plastic end labels, though this year the OH has knocked up a spreadsheet, which given the AWOL nature of my labelling, is a very good idea.  Courtesy of T&M we have planted Provence Wight; Messidrone; Solent Wight; Wight Cristo; Lautrec Wight; Carcassonne Wight; Iberian Wight; Germidour; Edenrose; Bella Italiano; Chesnok Red and Early Purple Wight.

DSC_0368compressedPlus Elephant garlic, which is not garlic but related to the leek – though not according to the judge at the 2006 allotment show who disqualified my elephant garlic entry in the ‘other vegetable matched pair’ category on the basis that it This season’s garlic, elephant garlic at the rear     was garlic.  NO IT’S NOT.

I’ll get over it….eventually.

So all I need now is a stripey jumper, a beret and a rickety old bike – or is that onions?

Reading this week: Discovering Welsh Gardens by Stephen Anderton, (because the library wants it back).

The first cut is the deepest ….

yusuf_cat-stevensAhh, Yusuf / Cat Stevens – a wonderful singer-songwriter.  But I’m not here to indulge my late 1960’s youth.  No, no, I can’t put it off again – well I could… but therein lies trouble. I should have done it last year – really, really should have.  Best laid plans and all.

Anyhow, apple and pear tree formative pruning.  The trees were put in last year and I should have pruned just after planting, but I didn’t, because it’s all a bit scary pruning top fruit for the first time and I was probably so impressed that they all got planted that I didn’t get round to pruning. So here I am one year on and I had better get on with it.

We don’t have any true tip bearing varieties – so that makes it a bit easier.  What I should have at the end of pruning is an open goblet shape with about 5 main branches and the new growth reduced by about a third to an outward facing bud.  So I trundled off into the orchard to have a bash. But just to prove that it has been done – a before and after.

DSC_0354compressedDSC_0356compressedBefore and after shot of apple Winter Gem

 

 

 

 

Whew… well better get on with the other pruning I haven’t quite caught up with – like the summer raspberries canes that should have been cut right back at the end of fruiting (the ones that fruited that is)….

Reading this week:  Turned Out Nice Again: On Living with the Weather  by Richard Mabey.

Deck the Halls….

DSC_0328We have arrived in December – hurrah!  As it takes me ages to do anything remotely craft related I have decided to start early this year with the festive decorating.  First of all a quick recce of the holding has thrown up some lovely hips, haws, & berries.

As I DSC_0325like to start simple and …okay simple is as far as it gets with my crafting, I’ve decided to attempt a wreath for the front and back doors, stuff some jugs full of winter foliage and create something, (as yet all a bit hazy), for each of the mantelpieces.

Then of course thereDSC_0342 is the christmas tree bringing the wonderful pine resin scent to the house.  This I shall, in time-honoured fashion, hang with every single bauble we own – along with the multi-coloured fairy lights.  They twinkle, (modern electronics for you).  Bliss.  Though I do draw a line at tinsel.  You have to stop somewhere….

DSC_0329DSC_0353To the left the red hips of the dog rose…..to the right the juvenile leaves of common ivy.

 

 

 

Reading this week: Holloway by Robert Macfarlane; Stanley Donwood & Dan Richards