Category Archives: tools

I say! tomato…

Title – just for ‘mid brother come blog critic’.

Once in a while I stumble across a fruit or vegetable variety we have grown and think … ‘this is the one’.The’Cuore di Bue’ tomato we are growing in the polytunnel this year is superb, and less temperamental than ‘Marmande’, which has been my ‘beefsteak’ tomato of choice to date.  Well no more.

This delicious ox heart tomato is a weighty fruit with dense flesh and not too many seeds,

which makes it ideal for slicing, in salads or … for making tomato sauce.   So that is what I did in the afternoon whilst the rain bucketed down outside.

Europe has a heatwave – we have torrential rain.

Still, the inclement weather gave me the opportunity to make up a big batch of sauce which we can use on pizza or pasta.  I’m always pleased when I find a recipe that uses considerable quantities of produce; this one called for 5lbs of tomatoes; 3 medium onions; 8 cloves of garlic and a variety of herbs – all of which I could source from our kitchen garden.  Big tick.

Using up 8 cloves of garlic was handy.  Our considerable garlic crop was lifted a few weeks ago and we’ve been drying the heads in trays undercover in the dutch barn.  As I was helping out on our smallholder association stall at a local agricultural show, we cleaned the largest bulbs and I took along a basketful.

I managed to sell quite a number but then diminished our profit by purchasing a vintage, blacksmith forged, garden line winder from my fellow smallholder who had brought along a selection of old tools.

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be making my fortune from selling our produce.

Reading this week: The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom.






what a difference a day makes…

DSC_0324Northerly winds brought the cold down from the Artic. An inch of snow fell on the hills overnight.  Nighttime temperatures dropped below zero.  In the valley, we didn’t escape either.

DSC_0326Over the years of growing our own fruit and vegetables, we have become used to checking the weather forecast, particularly during the spring.  The weather can turn on a sixpence.  Some things we can’t do much about; I’m hoping the cold snap hasn’t affected the early damson and plum blossom.  However, in other areas we can take a little extra care.   Simple preventative measures like a covering of fleece look after the tender plants.

DSC_0330After all the hard work of raising plants in the propagator, it would be a shame to lose them at the final hurdle.


DSC_0270Especially as the extra specimens are so useful for bartering…



long live the ‘oignon’…

Oh dear, there seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle across the channel concerning some changes to spelling.  Too late for me I’m afraid. It took a great deal of effort to learn French the first time around so now I am immune to the changes – OIGNON it is.

However on the subject of longevity – here is where I am open to change.  Storage of our onions has never been as successful as the shallots.   We still have good solid strings of shallots in the lean to –

DSC_0009and not an onion in sight.

In my experience the red and white onions don’t store as well as the brown. Even so we do take quite a hit with spoiled brown onions,  so I’m always on the look out for an onion with superb flavour AND good storage capability.  This year, at the local Potato Day, I picked up a bag of ‘Jagro’ and ‘Jet Set’ onion sets alongside the potato tubers.  I can’t find a huge amount of information about ‘Jagro’ – though at the event it was described has having ‘excellent flavour and good storing’.  ‘Jet Set’ is a recent introduction and seems to have favourable reviews – some comments even describe it as ‘outstanding’.  We shall see.

For the first time I have sown the sets in modules rather than directly in the soil.

DSC_0008The idea is to give the onions a head start in growth rather than having the sets rattle around in the potting shed or risk planting out into saturated soil.  I use multi-purpose compost and push the set down by a third into the compost.  I’ll plant them out in about a month’s time.

The lovely OH has also been hard at work – amongst other things he kindly cleaned and sharpened all the tools:

DSC_0003DSC_0001The tools are now looking GORGEOUS!


goodbye old friend…

1-DSC_0610About a decade ago I was given a Sussex trug.  I used it to carry around my hand tools.  One fateful day, whilst working on a friend’s garden, it came a cropper.  Though I shouldn’t use the passive tense because the truth is I ran over it with the car.  I had forgotten to load the trug into the boot when I had packed up.   Since then the trug has languished in the lean to cowshed, near to, but not quite with, the scrap wood burning pile.  I may have had thoughts of trying to repair it – construct another handle perhaps.  But I didn’t.  The Sussex trug is a lovely thing but to replace it with another authentic item would have been very pricey.

This year the Sussex trug has been firmly supplanted. The lovely OH sourced another version for me as a Christmas gift.


It is a sturdy thing, made in wood, by volunteers at Age UK Exeter ‘Men In Sheds‘ workshop.  The volunteers renovate old garden tools and equipment and construct new items like my trug.

Here’s hoping it gives many years of service!



DSC_0621I have been shopping for a special celebration.  I found some lovely things not least the soft apricot coloured mallow, (Sphaeralcea ‘Childerley’), which has grey, green leaves and is good for a full sun position.  Orange brick backdrops can be tricky for planting but apricot/grey/green is a spot on combo so I know that this plant will look lovely in its final space.

DSC_0622Of course it is a given when shopping for others that you chance upon something for youself.  In fact shopping is no fun at all unless you bring back an item or two that stays with you.

brades catalogueI found a vintage Brades trowel and hand fork.  Made from steel with wooden handles, probably in the 1920s or 30s, they are both well worn and homely. The Brades trademark was established in the early 19th century by William Hunt who built a forge at Oldbury near Birmingham.  Ultimately the company was bought and subsumed by Spear and Jackson in the 1960s.

I don’t need another trowel or fork as I have several pairs of sturdy stainless steel ones.  However at £4 each the Brades hand tools didn’t break the bank and I thought they needed to be set amongst working tools rather than languishing in a bric a brac store.