Packets of positivity

Now that the days are getting lighter, I’m going to sow a few sweet peas in pots in a sheltered spot to plant out in Spring.

I used to sow sweet peas in individual root trainers but now I sow a few in a deep pot, the kind in which I start the dahlias off. The don’t mind the cold but I protect them from the worst of the rain until they are ready for transplanting.

Something to look forward to next Summer.

Summer 2019: Purple Patch

Homegrown harvests are good for the soul and this week they are purple. After a really busy term, including a month of GCSE examining, where I was tied to a pc for 10 hours a day,I am more than ready for whole days spent out of doors in the garden, which, I admit was somewhat neglected. Yesterday I cut back some of the lavender to allow the eldest son to get his road bike out more easily.

Some of this will be used to make lavender sacks to stow inside pillows to aid sleep when the nights are hot and sticky.

Some will be stored in the pantry to make lavender scones.

The odd sprig has found its way into a homegrown posy.

The rest will be added to homemade pot pourri . It really is the gift  that keeps on giving.

Early in the week we gathered a bumper crop of black currants from our two garden bushes which resulted in a tasty black currant fool and a delicious cordial. Fruit fool is one of my faves of high summer. I don’t use a recipe but combine about 100g sugar with every half a kilo of fruit to make a purée – sometimes strained through a sieve, sometimes not and then stir some of it through equal amounts of whipped cream and natural yogurt. Chill and serve  in pretty glasses.



The sweet peas have finally started to bloom after a shaky start. I think they needed more water early on but the cottage garden pinks have done exceptionally well this year.


Sweet peas and thyme-roasted tomato soup

Comfort cooking and gardening never fail to cheer up a grey day.

Spring is peeping out from behind the curtain but thoughts of summer are on my mind today. Lunch was a thyme-roasted tomato soup – lighter than the hearty tomato, red pepper, chilli and butternut squash one we tucked into at the weekend. I sweated down a red onion and a couple of fat garlic cloves in olive oil, added the roast toms, a glug of passata and seasoning and blitzed it with a swirl of cream. Simples.

A quick jaunt to see my mate Tim at Bradfords to put the world to rights and order the annual bulk bag of compost; an hour in the (pretty bracing) fresh air pulling up the weeds which have germinated since the snow. Both set me up nicely …….and informed me that my knees are not what they once were. The sun put in a brief appearance so I sowed a few pots of sweet peas to stash in the greenhouse (held together with gaffer tape, since the great hurricane of early February). Wonder how long I can resist the urge to sow in earnest?

I’ve abandoned root trainers for sweet peas. They cost a fortune and take up too much space in the shed, which has become a road cyclist’s pit station. About ten seeds in a deep pot does the trick for me now This year I’ve sowed Wuthering Heights, Beaujolais, Our Harry, Kippen Cream and Nimbus. I sow enough for the half an acre plot of my dreams – just in case my ship comes in but what I can’t plant will head to the school flower patch where I’m on a mission to spread the gardening love.

Not a bad way to waste a few hours of your school hols. Now where’s the ibuprofen gel?

Sweet peas, the great shed debate and living the Regency life.

Yes. It is over a month since my last post. Despite living almost entirely in a parallel Jane Austen universe, (courtesy of a return to my directing roots) I have manged to achieve a moderate amount on the plot.  Much as I would like to create the impression that work on the plot is continuous and organised, like most things around here, things happen eventually.

And so, I turned down an invitation to go dancing in Devizes with Aled Jones and the Jane Austen Dancers (coming soon to BBC1) and opted instead for clearing away  two half tonne bags of rubbish from the allotment, planting raspberry canes,  and supervising the  spreading of my Mothering Sunday gift….half a tonne of manure.

Today saw a second sowing of sweet peas in clay pots to go with the ones I started off back in October in the cold frame. With any luck they’ll soon be looking like these we enjoyed at Stourhead last Summer.  This year I’ve opted for four highly scented varieties  – Maracuna, Lord Nelson, Painted Lady and Black Knight.  I ordered them in plenty of time from Sarah Raven’s online store – not known for speed of service or readiness of communication though they have been considerably more communicative since I mentioned this on Twitter. Mmm. Wonder why?

Meanwhile the shed debate continues on the plot.  I think we’ve cracked it by resiting the playhouse on the allotment, freecycling the redundant one, putting a new superdelux model at the bottom of the garden (how much will it cost?) and building the chickens a permanent run. At least that’s this week’s idea – until the assistant gardener gets back from Leeds with another scheme.

Sometimes I think the Regency life would be easier – though I’m more likely to be scampering about the countryside with my petticoat six inches deep in mud than covering screens and playing the piano.

Bramble jam…

before the brambles were no more

I don’t mind the odd bramble as I am particularly fond of blackberry jam.  But this week bramble jam has seemed somewhat less attractive.. It has been one of those frustratingly unproductive weeks that crop up from time to time. Last Saturday after spending a couple of hours hanging around a football pitch, one of the prerequisites of the mother with sporty sons, I headed over to the new plot for an afternoon’s clearing. The aim was to clear away a mass of dead brambles and expose the boundary of our plot (See picture). Three hours later I smugly headed home in the drizzle leaving a large bonfire pile to be lit later in the week. Reader – do not be smug!

Two days later I was the chastened owner of a massive packet of part-consumed antibiotics and a leg that would do justice to a sunburnt elephant….despite jeans, boots and gloves of industrial thickness. Ho hum – the best laid plans and all that!

So not a lot of  gardening this week, although one of the apprentices received fab half-size gardening tools for his birthday and we still managed our long-awaited trip to see Oliver!  A day in London is a treat and does wonders for those of us who tend to take the countryside for granted.

The enforced rest has given me time to potter a bit in the garden and find a site for the arrival of our hens. I swopped some raspberry canes (Autumn Bliss) which were superfluous to needs for a tray of seedlings and have at long last sowed my sweet peas. I have a huge selection this year including Daphne, Terry Wogan, Rhapsody, Miss Willmott and Chalie’s Angel. I’ve got my hands on some root trainers for the first time so we’ll see if they make any difference from the usual cardboard tubes.

Who knows? The bonfire might happen tomorrow – although gardening with the aid of a stick is not a good look for a woman of my middle-aged years!!

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