Waiting for the sun

Spring has unsprung here in Scotland. Last week I'd started an entry about sunshine and gardening and daffodils jumping out at you from every corner. But now? Snow! Sleet! Rain! All the daffodils have been flattened by wild winds.

Dr G and I had been busy getting the garden sorted but it's looking a bit rough now. Grrrr. At least these little leek seedlings were safely inside.

P1010828_2
If you're scared of carbs LOOK AWAY NOW!

Hehe. We planted some potatoes in old compost bags… great if you don't have much space. Of course the poor buggers have probably drowned or frozen to death now.

P1010791
I'm slowly getting to know the local wildlife. There's a cranky robin, two feuding blackbirds, some extremely destructive rooks  P1010804_2 and swarms of Eating Disorder Pigeons. The EDP's like to hang out in the field behind us.

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Meanwhile inside Crooked House there is still crookedness to admire P1010820. After replacing the stinky carpet we've been laying low on the home improvement front. The walls are blank and furniture is sparse but I have a SPICE DRAWER so I don't care.

A shallow drawer under the hob/stove/whatever you call it in your country was just the right size for a dusty collection of useless spices. I stuck a shoe box lid in there to keep them tidy. After decades of rummaging I have to say this made me spew with happiness! I'm actually using them now I can find them. I tried turning the labels down so you could just see the lovely spices, but then I sprinkled cumin on my porridge instead of cinnamon so am reconsidering that idea.

P1010807_2
This is the kind of minutiae that blogs were made for. Mwahaha.

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The Great Lanterns

Our beginner's luck in the garden has run out. I should have known better than to crow about the tomatoes and salad leaves so much!

Gareth had carefully nurtured three pumpkin plants from the seed packet with a view to carving his very own pumpkins this Halloween. They were truly thriving for awhile there but I think we started the process about 2.5 months too late so now we've run out of daylight hours for them to grow.

So here are the results of the pumpkin harvest with a matchstick for scale!

Pumpkins

Maybe we'll draw some faces on 'em with markers and they can spook the sparrows.

I've never been one to apologise for not blogging because it sounds bloody ridiculous, like you're some sort of media baron with slobbering fans are hovering by the computer clicking reload all day long when in reality everyone has 100 other blogs to read not to mention jobs and lives and stuff. But my efforts this month have been shambolic and I just wanted to say it's not because I'm wildly busy and/or have nothing to say; I do, but I can't seem to get the words out in the right order. I've got three drafts on the go of equal rubbishness. I'll have another crack on the weekend.

Hope you all have a rockin' weekend!

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The End of Summer

Have you seen the tomatoes? Do you want to see the tomatoes? Come closer! Let me show you the tomatoes!

I'm hoping that this tomato hysteria means I'll get all the excess exuberance out of my system now, so if I ever become a parent I won't bore folks to death by shoving dozens of blurry photos of my shriveled offspring in their faces. Here it is sleeping. And here it is screaming. And here it is screaming from another angle. Here it is screaming with snot streaming out its nose. Isn't it stunning?

Seriously, the tomatoes are ace. They've turned the greenhouse into the jungle.

Tomato Jungle

I can't believe we grew enough stuff to fill a bowl. I wish you could smell how good this smelled. Also shown: a few kickarse little chillies.

Behold our wonderous bounty

Five months of labour has produced approximately two punnets of cherry tomatoes. It may not be time and cost effective but it's been excellent learning something completely new. And the mind-blowing taste made it all worthwhile. If you think I'm exaggerating just ask Gareth. I think I've mentioned before in the six years I've known him he has only ever used three different phrases to positively describe anything in life: food, holidays, hot chicks, concerts, books, thrilling sporting events, etc:

  1. Pretty good!
  2. Not bad!
  3. Alright!

But when he ate a tomato straight from the vine on the weekend he actually paused in his tracks and said, "Whoa. That is amazing."

!!!

Now summer is most definitely over and things are happening on the farm behind Cow Poo Manor. Namely, the complete destruction of the Cow Poo Pile!

Sunday morning:

Poop scoop

Sunday afternoon:

Poo begone!

Indeed the mound was not just for decoration. They ploughed it all into the fields once the hay had been harvested. Now they've put in something else (gee I'm down with the farmer chat). I spent Tuesday evening watching seagulls chase the tractor.

Giving chase

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O Bountiful Harvest

The first home-grown tomato. Behold this wondrous bounty! Enough to feed a family! Of fleas.

Baby-tom 

Love its bulbous face and jaunty green hat. It's begging to have eyes and mouth drawn on it. But too late… it's been scranned. That brief moment was quite delicious. But after all those careful months of watering and feeding and gently shaking the plant to help the pollen it felt like you were eating your own children. Sweet, delicious children.

Even better was the wee fella I picked yesterday from the weirdo feral plant (we have four tomato pots in all). I don't know what the hell breed this one is; some sort of cherry tomato. It was a cast-off from Gareth's dad; a mere stick at the time. Now it is taking over the greenhouse. In the past week it's gone from three little green blobs to dozens of little green blobs. It's taken root beneath the pot and is shooting extra arms all over the place, threatening to choke its neighbours. Nature! What a beast.

Anyway. The other day there was a chef on the telly waxing lyrical about summer tomatoes, groaning and guzzling with seeds and juice splashed over his face. Nothing like fresh off the vine, blah blah foodie piffle blah blah. But this cherry tomato from the beasty plant… holy moly. I'd absentmindedly plucked it off the plant as I was watering it, and actually staggered backwards at the taste, it was so shockingly sweet and tomatoey, it made my eyeballs hurt. How could something so small be so powerful and good? I wanted to ring up the newspapers and parade around town with a megaphone, sharing the news of this moment.

Oh man I had other things to report but it's 11.15PM and my brain has closed up shop. Think I am coming down with something. Non-swiney, mind you. Will just hit publish instead of faffing about any longer. Apologies for abrupt ending! Hope your week is treating you well.

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Why gardening is like weight loss

Wee-greensWhile shoving a few seeds in pots and washing bugs from the crevice of lettuce leaves hardly qualifies me as a gardener, I’m finding this growing malarkey so addictive and relaxing. With all that learning and bumbling error, gardening is a great metaphor for life. But I know most people come here for the lard busting chat, so it’s time for another episode of… Dodgy Weight Loss Analogies!

It’s best to start small
I nearly went beserk on my first visit to the garden shoppe – OMG obscure berries and fancy tomatoes and potatoes with girly names! We should get chickens too! And keep a goat in the bathroom!

It was just like the old dieter’s mindset: Must lose 2 kilos, revolutionise lifetime of crappy eating habits and do 5 gym visits by Sunday!

So I slowed down – starting out small meant less chance of falling into a defeated heap two weeks later. I internetted “easy plants for absolute beginners” and settled on salad leaves and herbs for my debut.

Knowledge is power
If you’re out of your depth you can’t be afraid to ask for help. In this case it’s been my father-in-law, gardening blogs and “The Kitchen Gardener” by Alan Titchmarsh – a very straightforward book that explains the basics in gentle, encouraging tones. Whenever a plant does something weird or looks close to death our mantra is, “Ask Titchy!” The good thing is, the more you learn the more confident you become and eventually/hopefully you’ll get bold enough to test your own thoughts and ideas.

You gotta get dirrrrty
You could shove seeds in the ground then admire a la distance while hoping for the best. But if you want sexy results you have to get mucky. You have to nuture your babies, water them regularly and patrol for snails. As with lard-busting, it all boils down to time, sweat and toil.

From little things big things grow
At first it looks so pointless and insignificant – a broken pot, some dirt and £1 packet of seeds. Then you spy a tiny hopeful shoot pushing through. Then suddenly a few weeks later you’re greeted with a lush spray of poncy salad leaves. Just like when you start your healthy quest, a brisk walk and forsaking Pop Tarts for porridge can feel like it will never amount to anything. But give it time and patience and those small efforts sprout into bigger rewards.

Mind your own business
It’s easy to get Garden Envy when the neighbours are retired and have more time and fancy equipment and fancy flowers and whatnot and all you have is a rusty spade and a half-dead strawberry cutting. I was no stranger to lard-busting jealousy either – She’s losing weight faster than me! She’s got a personal trainer! She doesn’t have to work! Rah rah rah!

But you have to focus on your own situation and budget and channel that energy into making the most of the tools you have to hand. You might have a second-hand DVD instead of a personal trainer… but you still have YOU and your own imagination.

PERFECTIONISM IS FUTILE
Holy moly this is a lesson I need to learn. So often I’m frozen into inaction for fear being undeserving or doing something wrong or rubbishly. But the gardening is showing me that it doesn’t bloody matter if you cock up. It’s more fun to let go of the outcome and plunge your hands into the soil. What’s the worst that could happen? The plant might cark it but you only lose a few hours of your time or a few pennies for the seedling. Failure is your friend. Embrace ineptitude!

Some things are beyond your control
You can be diligent with your diet or pamper the hell out of your plants, but sometimes the weather turns nasty or a pheasant craps on your head or a snail gnaws away at your resolve. But at least you’re DOIN’ IT, baby.

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Freshly Baked

This weekend at Cow Poo Manor: a fresh delivery…

Fresh-manure 

… accompanied by a strong breeze which wafted right through our kitchen window. It was just the ticket for a hangover.

(ETA: The Pile is about 300 metres from the house – this was the first time I'd ever caught a whiff!)

I read an interview with Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame where he said, "If I never drank alcohol again I wouldn’t be in the least bothered… You could be spending your money on crisps, couldn’t you?"

I feel exactly the same about booze. And yet I ended up quietly rat-arsed on vodka when I met the lovely former House of Sport colleagues on Friday night (if any of you are out there, HELLO! It was rockin to see you). I got home just as Gareth arrived back from a thrash metal gig. He said he was hungry so I said, "I KNOW, chips and curry sauce!"

Next thing it's 2AM and we're watching Twenty20 Cricket highlights and I'm waxing lyrical about how good chips and curry sauce and fried rice are together; how I was a fool to mock Gareth for the combination all those years ago; how the nubbly texture of the rice balanced the slop of the sauce; how it was oh so wrong but somehow right… this is why I don't drink very often; it always leads to trouble.

Then Saturday 1PM; finally functional enough to make some vegetarian sausage rolls…

Sausage-rolls
Whoops, conjoined.

Tastes amazingly sausage-like but no animal parts here whatsoever… just nuts, oats, herbs, breadcrumbs, etc – recipe here at Green Gourmet Giraffe. Best sausage roll ever! Aside from Cornucopia Bakery in Braddon, Australian Capital Territory, OZ.

Next up: stumbling around garden, giddy at first sign of actual tomatoes.

Tomato
Currently the size of your pinky fingernail!

Also a sudden glut of roses out front that we have no idea how to look after, in the most daggy coral colour that reminds me of old ladies I have known. 

Rose 

Then we headed off to Carnoustie to see more good friends and their herd of children and dog. Went for a walk and got chased by frothing German Shepherds. Then curry – proper; not the drunken chip kind. Then almost falling asleep into a glass of wine.

Today, a kayaking party at the lake for two of the kids' birthday. I didn't partake because I cannot kayak for shit. I know you have to do it more than once to improve but I choose not to improve with ten eight-year-olds as witnesses!

Then we had a BBQ. Then the kidlets toasted marshmallows and when they ran out of marshmallows they just toasted anything they could find. So here we have a delightful fusion on a stick: strawberry, cherry tomato, cocktail pork sausage and a Terry's Chocolate Orange segment.

Kebab

Now salad and leftover snag roll then BED. Hope you all had a good weekend!

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Salad Days

Less than four weeks ago these little green whippernsnappers were floppy and uninspired. And planted really crookedly by some flaming amateur.

Start

Despite their snug quarters and my long history of killing plants, they're actually doing pretty well now!

Progress 

Check-me-out

So are the herbs, despite repeated attacks.

Snack

The rocket plants were reduced to shreds by the same boofheaded creature but after a week in the greenhouse ICU, they were back from the brink!

Rocket

NB: Rocket means arugula in the American language. Rocket is also a Scots word for a crazy person. Try it on your friends today, ya mad rockets!

The greenhouse also features a random pile o bubble wrap and this stunning portrait of Urquhart Castle.

Art

This flower has nothing to do with our efforts, it just appeared on Friday. It's a biggun. Does anyone know what it is?

Flower

Today I finally chopped down some salad. That is once I'd removed the stray feathers and dodged the leaves anointed with pheasant crap. But there was plenty of goodness left. Oh YEAH… it was tasty! And the rocket was the most peppery and delicious I'd ever eaten. Much better than paying 99p for a withered bag of supermarket stuff. I go through about three bags of various salad leaves a week so this is GREEN GOLD, baby!

Salad

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Friday Link Feast #4 – Active Recovery Edition

Mornings are brilliant, if you can get past that having to wake up and get out of your scratcher thing. Mornings mean you get a fresh start every twenty-four hours.

This is painfully bloody obvious now that I think about it, but nevertheless an opportunity I'd been ignoring. Recently I gawked up the ceiling the morning after a particularly rubbish day and thought, I could do something differently today. Doesn't have to be important or perfect or loud or dazzling, but it could be different. It could be better than yesterday. Why the hell why not?

Anyway. Here are some links to things that have lit up my world lately.

  • Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal
    The title is self-explanatory. It's a journal that you systematically dismantle. Every page has a simple instruction – punch holes in this page, set fire to this page, rub dirt on this page, sew this page, scribble on this page, chop out this page and mail it to a friend, etc etc etc. I bought it back in 2007 but was too scared to mark it; I couldn't decide which pen to use, for goodness' sake! But now the time for mindless destruction. It's great.
  • Jazz Apples.
    Not to be confused with jazz mags. I bought a bagful just for the amusing name but they are sweet and crunchy. Normally I fall asleep halfway through eating an apple because they are so bloody boring, but not so the Jazz Apple.
  • The Black Dog Books
    Kylie May, are you out there? I've been trying to hunt you down to say a huge thanks for sending two wonderful books – I Had A Black Dog and Living With A Black Dog.

    They are both picture books, the first about depression and the latter designed for someone who knows a depressed person. If you struggle with depression and can't put the fuzzy bleakness into words, these are the books to shove into a loved ones arms. They take all of ten minutes to read but are funny, insightful, helpful and full of hope.

  • 8 Steps To Conquer The Beast Within
    This Martha Beck article about tackling your demons was in an Oprah magazine I'd bought for purely the cupcake recipes. But months later I felt compelled to read the non-cupcake pages, as I feel the same guilt for an unread magazine that I do for a shriveled carrot in the bottom of the fridge – the object has not fulfilled its destiny because of my laziness and neglect. Turns out every article resonated, and this Beck one mega useful, particularly the Lifeline Graph exercise.
  • My Tiny Plot
    It's been eight whole days and my brand new herb garden is not yet dead! I'm devouring all things gardening and Gillian's blog about her Bath garden is the dogs' bollocks. That's Bath as in the City Of, by the way; not a garden full of bath tubs. Although that could look very cool.

Note: I didn't end up finishing this until Monday, but let's not spoil the alliteration!

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