A right old caper

Years ago I planted some nasturtium seeds in the garden… I have never needed to do so again, because they self-seed every year and I continue to get them growing all over the place. They provide a riot of colour, good ground cover and they are edible. The leaves can be added to salad or used in cooking (nasturtium leaf pesto, for example) and the flowers are also edible and look stunning as a garnish. The seed pods too are edible: until now I’ve never harvested them to eat, although I have eaten them elsewhere.

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today’s little harvest

Today I had a bit of a headache and decided to go out in the garden. Looking round I noticed the abundance of nasturtium seeds. So I picked some – it didn’t seem like many, but turned out to be about 140g. Consulting the River Cottage preserves book, I found that to make a couple of small jars of “nasturtium capers” I only need 100g, but that they do have to be soaked in a light brine for 24 hours before they are pickled with peppercorns and herbs. I, therefore, can’t actually pickle them until tomorrow. In the mean time they are soaking and I no longer have an excuse for not getting on with some work…

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24 hours to go

 

 

Sunny gardening

Us Brits are well known for being weather obsessed, so you will forgive me for telling you that the past few days have been glorious. The weather has been lovely and so this weekend has been all about planting. I had intended to complete my sketchbook contribution this weekend, but the timing of the good weather made it ideal for planting some of this year’s crops. The forecast for next weekend (when there are two bank holidays) is poor, so crafting is much more likely then.

In the past few days I have (whist wearing my new apron) potted up tomatoes and sowed lots of seeds: squashes, courgettes, a variety of purple sprouting broccoli that sprouts in the summer, chives, parsnips, asparagus peas, various lettuces, mizuna and rocket. I’ve cleaned out pots, weeded and removed brambles. From the shed I retrieved a plastic bin with a lid and filled it with nettles and water to turn into nitrogen-rich liquid feed – it gets stinky, but it’s good stuff and it’s free. And I planted a whole raised bed with potatoes and netted these to prevent Max (who I think is some sort of potato hound) from digging them up and eating them.

I’ve also been admiring the growth of other plants in the limery – lettuces, melons, lemongrass seedlings and carnivores:

The sun has gone in now, hence finding the time to write, but I am feeling very satisfied with my activities. What have you been up to this weekend?

Sowing and growing

Life is flourishing in the limery. Seeds that were sown a few weeks ago are developing  nicely into young plants – lettuces, tomatoes, sweet peppers and melons:

I sowed more seeds over the past few days, including the first ones outside. The latter is a pea variety called “Carouby de Maussane”, a mange tout with red flowers that is going to grow up the pea obelisk that Mr Snail created (I think most people use them for sweet peas, but I prefer to grow edibles). A few days of sunshine has given me the chance to weed one of the raised beds and that’s where the peas are.

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only planted yesterday, so no germination yet

 

Unfortunately one of the things that is flourishing in the limery is the cluster-fly population. I really don’t want to use chemical pesticides, but the flies have arrived before the carnivorous plants are doing their stuff. However, the recent sunshine has encouraged pitcher growth and so I’m hoping that soon the Sarracenias will be munching their way through the flies. I grew some from seed last year, so I’m especially pleased to see one of the youngsters producing a vigorous pitcher already. The sundews are also showing signs of growth; in particular the Drosera dicotoma looks like it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future (I think of it as living fly-paper). The Venus fly traps are growing too, but never really earn their keep apart from providing interest!

Amongst my favourite seeds to plant are the squashes, but I’m hanging on for a few more days so they don’t get too big before it’s warm enough to plant them out. And then there’s beans and borage and all sorts of herbs…

Three Things Thursday: 23 March 2017

*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*

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

First, a new vaark for a new friend. I made this little creature on Sunday and on Monday it went in the post to make a new friend smile:

A new vaark ready for the world

Second, seed saving. Last year I saved seeds from the melons that I grew. The variety, Green Nutmeg, came from the Heritage Seed Library and so it’s particularly pleasing to have a new generation germinating this year. I have loads of these seeds, so if anyone in the UK would like some, just let me know and I’ll put a few in the post.

Green Nutmeg melon seedlings

Third, a rare carnivore. I have lots of sundews and pitcher plants in the limery, and whilst they present some challenges, they generally seem to be doing ok. The Venus Fly Traps are a bit more of a challenge, but I have three small ones. My favourite carnivore, though, is much more tricky to care for. The Monkey Cup can’t stay in the limery over winter as it’s too cold – it has to come and live in my office on the window sill. I’m very happy, therefore, to be able to return it to the limery this week and to note that it’s getting bigger and looks really rather healthy:

Monkey Cup (Nepenthes ventricosa x talangensis)

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

The Limery Awakens

We are just at the start of our second full growing season in the limery. Last year saw amazing successes with sweet peppers (capsicum) and a fairly healthy tomato crop (the last of which have on just ripened up in their box!). Now I’m starting to nurture this year’s crops (including at least one new one) and some of the carnivores are beginning to wake up…

As always, we are doing our best to reuse… the writing on the milk carton plant labels from last year has been cleaned off with meths, the padded packaging from around the new chicken feeder looks like it will make cosy trays for seedlings, none of the plant pots are new, we water the seedlings from a plastic milk bottle with a perforated lid and my dad’s propagator is doing it’s stuff for yet another year. Only the seed compost, seed potatoes and the seeds are new (in fact some of the seeds are from last year, plus we overwintered the pepper plants).

I do love the promise that spring holds.

Three Things Thursday: 9 February 2017

*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*

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

Before I get started, though, I have to say that I could probably have listed thirty things this week, but here is just a tiny selection.

First, a mend by Alfred. One of the things we don’t have skills for Chez Snail is metalwork. However, we know a man who does. So, on Saturday, whilst I was crocheting, Alfred, who I was staying with, mended our Kelly Kettle. This much-mended item had finally got to a point where we could do no more – the rivets had failed so that water poured out and the anchor for the chain that allows you to tilt the kettle without getting burnt was detached completely. Cue, Alfred, who braised it for me and now it’s back in use.

In days gone-by this is the sort of thing tinkers did – travelling round the country mending pots and pans – now that’s a profession that could do with resurrecting.

Second, germination. Only tomatoes so far, but what a delight it is to see the first shoots emerging from the soil. Plus the potatoes are starting to sprout.

Third, the kindness of people. I know that I wrote a whole post on the get-together in Manchester over the weekend, but I’m still smiling about the fact that 31 people came together to craft for charity – between them, they covered all the costs and raised some money too. They laughed, they chatted and they created. And then they went home and shared the love on social media.

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crafting a better world

 

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

Investing in the future

Today I planted the first seeds of the year.

  • Two types of chillies: Pyramid and Romanian Yellow
  • Two types of sweet pepper: Corno di Torro Rosso and Sprinter
  • Two types of tomato: San Marzano and Veepro Paste

They are in the propagator and I have my fingers crossed for fabulous harvests in the limery again this year.

The labels are made from old milk cartons and are in their second or third year of use; the modules and pots I’ve owned for years; and the compost is made in England from wool and bracken.

When the rest of the world gets me down, sowing seeds always brings a smile to my face.

Making food

I love this time of year in the kitchen – a time for enjoying the abundance. So today I’ve been chopping and peeling, beating and stirring, boiling and baking…

I harvested the last melons, extracted the seeds so I and others can grow more next year . Now we have a large bowl of juicy melon, which I think we’ll mix with raspberries.

I used some of our tomato harvest along with a big tray of cherry toms from one of our local organic farms to make yet more jars of passata:

I made  granola – this has become a regular make these days as I never buy breakfast cereal:

I used my excess of home-produced ricotta and our abundance of eggs to make baked New York cheesecake including some home grown bilberries and red currants. I made two – one of which will be going to a barbecue with us tomorrow:

And finally I made dog biscuits,

Now that was a productive day!

Sow far sow good

Regular readers may have been wondering about the limery… well, now it’s time to plant seeds, the wide windowsills have come into their own. It’s lovely to know there’s plenty of space to give our crops a good start in life.

Already germinated and growing are broad beans, melons, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, oregano, parsley, sage and salad leaves (we are eating these – they are cut and come again). Planted today were leeks, courgettes, winter squash (five varieties), garlic chives, kale, runner beans, French beans and sunflowers. There are also potatoes chitting and the two citrus trees (one orange and one lime) are growing well and will be good to move outside once the risk of frost is over.

I cannot express how happy I am about all this – everyone needs a limery!

Busy hands

Somehow, I haven’t managed to put fingers to keyboard for nearly three weeks. Although I haven’t been writing, I have been “doing”. So as a gentle return to blog posting, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to…

I’ve finished the hoodie – several times! First, I decided it was too short. So, I put a stripy border on it, but it looked like an afterthought (which, to be fair, it was). I unravelled that and worked a new border in the mixed yarn to match. All done and worn a couple of times before Sam decided to eat the wooden toggles off it when I left it on the bed. New glass toggles bought, and attached and I’m hoping that’s the last time I need to finish it! Of course, as soon as it was completed it for the final time the weather warmed up and it’s been in a cupboard since!

With the warmer weather and all the lovely space in the limery, I have been busy with seed sowing. The peppers, chillies and tomatoes planted earlier in the year are growing, but now there’s lots of pots and trays that we’re watching with avid interest for the first signs of green shoots. Amongst other things, I’ve planted melons, broad beans, coriander, oregano, parsley, courgettes, lettuces and mizuna. There are potatoes chitting and the perennials, including the passion fruit, are growing well. The sunny days have been accompanied by frosty nights, so only a little salad has been sown outside for the time being.

On the craft front, I’ve learned how to crochet star stitch and made a dishcloth to practise; I’m working on a pair of stripy socks; I’ve made another crochet snailvaark; I’ve made several mousevaarks from old socks and given several of them away as gifts; I’ve tested out a crochet pattern from my new friend, Danielle, at The Make It Shop; I’ve sourced jute for my crochet bird roosting pouch kits (on sale soon); and I continue to add a row here and there to the crochet sofa cover.

And then, I’ve also carried on with my letter writing – using real pen and paper. If you’d like a real letter from me, send me your postal address and I will write to you (can’t promise how soon though).

And then, I’ve been doing the laundry, because I’ve finally started sorting the vintage linen hankies and other bits and bobs I’ve been given. I’ve washed and ironed some of the handkerchiefs and I’m currently in the process of describing them and photographing them ready for listing on etsy. It’s very time-consuming, but I really want them to find homes where they will be treasured.

So what with all that and the swimming and working (yes, I still do that too!), the last few weeks have just slipped away…

However, more regular blogging will now resume!

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