Blooming food

Some time ago a friend accused me of not liking flowers because I mainly grow food plants. I was a bit surprised that he should think this, especially looking round my garden at the moment at the amazing range of blooms that are in evidence. If you are ever concerned that planting fruit, herbs and vegetables will mean you can’t have a beautiful garden, think again…

And those are only a selection taken in about 10 minutes… there are also (or have been or will be) passion flowers, nasturtiums, pot marigolds, climbing French beans, potatoes, raspberries, comfrey, red currants, blueberries, squashes, mint, chokeberries and more. I don’t really select for the flowers, but if you do, you can ensure an amazing variety of colours and forms and still enjoy a delicious harvest.

Blooming marvellous

The past two days have been lovely… visiting The Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. It’s nearly a year since we were last here, but both gardens had different highlights. I’ll let them speak for themselves. First, Eden:

And then Heligan:

I hope you have had an equally glorious weekend.


Three Things Thursday: 20 April 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, fantastic flowers. The carnivores are growing great guns in the limery – some are busy producing new leaves or pitchers, but the Sarracenia leucophylla is concentrating on flowering, The deep red blooms are each atop a very long stem, towering above all the other carnivores.

Second, back to blankets. I need a bit of mindless crochet for a while to take my mind off politics, so I have got out the squares and yarn that Wild Daffodil sent me and have started creating a new charity blanket.


The colourful ones were donated and the brown ones are mine

Third, getting arty. After being inspired by some of Pauline’s doodling, I bought myself some yupo paper and alcohol inks to play with. I haven’t had much time yet, but I had fun splashing some ink about to see what it did. Since I made these, I’ve bought a few new colours and some thinner, which should allow me to get some more interesting effects…. and I haven’t even started doodling over them yet, which is the plan

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week. What has made you happy this week?

Three Things Thursday: 19 January 2017

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain (note her new self-hosted web site) here are my Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, antibiotics. It’s very rare Chez Snail that any of us take antibiotics – we are generally quite healthy and we don’t go rushing to see the doctor with every cough and sniffle. With excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics, various bacteria are building resistance and therefore becoming untreatable. I’m pleased to say, however, that when required they mostly still work. In fact, this week it was Max who was in need – the poor little chap developed an abscess on one of his anal glands, resulting in a very swollen and sore bottom. However, a shot of antibiotics from the vet and a subsequent course of tablets and he’s pretty much mended…

Second, Muraya koenigii. My recent interest in Indian cooking has led me to start investigating growing some of my own exotic ingredients. I was so happy, therefore, to discover somewhere I could buy a curry leaf plant. They apparently make great house plants, so this one will live in the house in winter (needs to be above 15ºC) and in the limery in the summer. I do hope it thrives, as I have lots of recipes that include curry leaves.


curry leaf plant


Third, the kindness of strangers (and friends). The Sixty Million Trebles group on Facebook was set up as a project to make blankets for charity (at least half going to refugees). However, it’s so much more than that and full of kind people. On Sunday the organisers set up a ‘Solve My January Blues’ event for the group. You could post up a request to cheer you up in the depths of January (the group is based in the UK, although we do have members worldwide) and members tried to help. I do find January a bit glum, so I asked whether anyone would send me a hand-written letter. Well, wow – what a response… I’m all smiles after only four days, look…


lovely letters and cards

And a bonus smile… these flowering in my garden today:

So, those are 3+1 things making me smile this week – what about you?

Floral felting

This weekend the weather here was dreadful – high winds and driving rain, a typical British summer. But was I downhearted? No I was not, because I spent two days felting. I went to Aberystwyth Arts Centre to attend  course by the fabulous Ruth Packham, learning to combine wet and dry felting. It was a lovely informal course, with everyone choosing a plant or flower to make and Ruth helping us to work out how to achieve our goal. All the wool we used was British and some came from the Cambrian Mountains, making it very local.

Arranged, to coincide with an art exhibition entitled Flora, the course focused on making plants and flowers in felt. In fact, we didn’t exactly stick to the remit, so as well plants, between us we also made a caterpillar, a dragonfly and some coral. I really didn’t want to make a flower, so I chose to focus on something smaller, taking my inspiration from the capsules produced by mosses:

and look at all this that the other participants did…

We also each took home a porcelain flower from the Flora exhibition. For one of the exhibits, visitors are asked to record their first flower memory on a small card, and then to exchange the memory for a ceramic flower. The idea is that this particular exhibit changes over time from a collection of flowers to to a collection of memories… isn’t that lovely? The artist responsible is Clare Twomey:


June Bloom

Mixed weather so far this June, but I’m delighted to report that we have some very welcome flowers starting to appear.

These ones mean that there are potatoes developing underground:

Potato flower

Potato flower

And this bodes well for a harvest of peppers:

Pepper and flower

Pepper and flower

And this is the first of the runner bean flowers:

Bean flower

Bean flower

And this means we might have limes in the winter:

Lime flower

Lime flower

Just waiting for squash and courgette flowers now. Currently, our main crops are lettuce and rhubarb.

What’s doing well in your garden right now?

Super snail!

Exactly a week ago, a lovely snail square arrived from ‘Young at Fifty‘. However, in order to include all the elements, she’d had to make the square a bit bigger than the standard ones for the Masterpiece. Over the past week, therefore, I’ve been working on creating a special part of the blanket.

I made some flowers (you may have seen some of these before):

An abundance of flowers

An abundance of flowers

I crocheted a wide border around the square, so that it’s the size of four of the standard ones:

A big square

A big square

And, once it’s stitched into the blanket, I will decorate it with some of the flowers:

It will end up looking something like this

It will end up looking something like this

What do you think? I’m really pleased with it.

Flowers in the rain

I want some additional embellishments for the Masterpiece, so today I have been playing around with flowers. They are great for using up scraps of yarn. I think my favourites are the roses because they can be varied by stitching them together more or less tightly, but I’m rather fond of that pale yellow daisy (not so much the darker one).

Crochet flowers

Crochet flowers

I have to confess, though, that the title of this post is a bit of a lie because it isn’t currently raining in west Wales. In fact today we have only had 7mm of rain so far!

Tomato troubles

I am generally hopeless at growing tomatoes. I thought that it was just me, but my neighbours have given up even trying, so at least I have some company.

The problem is that, over recent years, we have suffered from very wet summers and it has been impossible to control the spread of grey mould (Botrytis) in the greenhouse. The tomato plants have grown well to begin with, but then the grey mould arrives and attacks the stems and leaves and any tomatoes that do set are doomed to rot before they can grow and ripen and after a relatively short time the plant collapses. The problem also affects peppers and chillies, but seems to be less severe with them.

Baby tomatoes and the flowers that will turn into even more

Baby tomatoes and the flowers that will turn into even more

This year, however, is different. It has not been a wet summer; in fact, the last time it rained here was 23 days ago, and over the past two weeks, aside from a little sea fog, we have had sunshine. This means that the greenhouse needs constant ventilation and the plants therein require regular watering, but the grey mould does not stand a chance. So, for the first time in ages, here is abundant tomato set, (I’m growing Gardener’s delight this year) and I have high hopes for a good crop.

A length of rigid pipe and a large container were all that was required to collect water from the washing machine.

A length of rigid pipe and a large container were all that were required to collect water from the washing machine

Of course all this sunshine and dry weather means that we have nearly used up all of the rain water from our stores, but this has encouraged us to set up a simple system for collecting the water from the washing machine. Collecting the water this way means that it can be used to fill watering cans or bottles and be transferred to where it is needed in the garden or to the toilet cistern without any difficulty… and the tomatoes, courgettes, beans and potatoes are certainly welcoming it and I’m pleased to have discovered how easy it is to collect this additional source of grey water.

We’re all going to die!

Well, it’s true, we are. I know that the spring is the time that, traditionally, we start to think about birth and new beginnings, but life is a cycle and so it seems appropriate to consider both ends of life.

I have been thinking quite a lot about dying for about four years now – since my brother-in-law died. He was only 43 and it brought home to me that I wanted to make some plans for my own death and funeral. There are several reasons for this.

First, I don’t want to burden my family with choices when I am not around to help them. Arranging a funeral is the last thing you want to do when you are recently bereaved – you have to choose a location, whether to cremate or bury, a celebrant, what music to have, who will say things and what, where to get the ‘order of service’ of printed… on and on go the decisions to be made. And once it’s over you can’t do it again – you have to get it right first time. I want to do some of that planning in advance, so that it isn’t a case of other people having to make snap decisions.

Please don't put flowers on my grave... or, indeed, a headstone!

Please don’t put flowers on my grave… or, indeed, a headstone!

Second, in my life I think quite a lot (you will have noticed) about the choices that I make and I’d like my death to be the same. For example, I don’t like cut flowers – both because they decay around the house and because, in general, commercially produced flowers are an environmental and people-care disaster. So, I really wouldn’t want flowers at my funeral. I’d also like to be laid to rest in a sustainable way – some sort of coffin or shroud that would decompose entirely – no headstone, but a tree or two would be nice, preferably in a natural burial site.

But, before I die, I’d like to have a say about what happens at the end of my life – how I’m cared for (if it’s necessary), how I die (if there are reasons to make choices) and, similarly , where I die. And I’d like my family to know about this – both in terms of having talked about it and having some written guidance.

I really don't want to end up somewhere like this!

I really don’t want to end up somewhere like this!

So, at this time of new life, I’m starting to write a death plan (it’s one of my Permaculture Diploma Designs). There are loads of resources out there – everything from a simple free guide produced by the BBC to more complex templates for a ‘living will’, such as the one available from the Natural Death Centre. I’ve already written a will, but I plan to update it, and I have in place Lasting power of attorneys for both ‘health and welfare’ and ‘property and financial affairs’, but it’s the more personal things that I want to address; and I want to do it soon, whilst I don’t feel under pressure.

Whilst it might seem depressing to think about dying, there is lots of evidence to suggest that by doing so and by talking about it we reduce the stress and can have a better death. And since death is an unavoidable consequence of life, I’m all for improving it!

Changes in the way society views dying and death have impacted on the experience of people who are dying and bereaved. Our lack of openness has affected the quality and range of support and care services available to patients and families. It has also affected our ability to die where or how we would wish. Dying Matters

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