Tag Archives: vegetables

2447.  A lethal posy

Anthea had always been a keen gardener. Now in her retirement, if the weather was fine, she was out pulling weeds, or planting seedlings, or watering the vegetables. Her garden was admired not only from the street but by the many neighbours who profited from Anthea’s generosity. Not only would neighbours benefit from boxes of fresh vegetables left on their doorstep, but bouquets of gorgeous flowers arrived if there was a happy or sad occasion.

Anthea knew fairly fast the tastes of neighbours. Charlene had pollen allergies so lilies in a posy were out. Gloria and Dick detested broccoli. And so on.

Now it so happened that one family of neighbours moved away. The house was bought by the nastiest couple imaginable. When Anthea welcomed them with a box of fresh vegetables, all they could say was “About time”. The husband (or the male in the relationship) had an obsession with drones. Anthea wasn’t the only one on the street to detest the invasion of her privacy with the neighbour’s wretched drones going here and there.

Enough is enough. Anthea whisked up a delightful salad from the greens in her garden. She included quite a few chopped up foxglove leaves – by mistake of course.

As Anthea said to Prue at the funeral, “Let’s hope any new neighbours are a lot lovelier.”

2327. Cucumber pickle

Marlene lived alone. She was a spinster. It’s not that she had anything against having a family; it’s just that the right person hadn’t come along at the right moment. She was now in her late seventies, and she lived a very ordered life.

Marlene had a small garden. A little portion was reserved for growing flowers. She grew only those flowers that could be cut and put in a vase. The rest of her garden was devoted to vegetables.

Of course, she needed to grow only a few vegetables. For example she grew two cucumbers, one squash, two celery plants, two tomato plants, and so on. It meant that her packets of seeds were good for several years, provided she kept them in a dry place.

This year Marlene sowed two cucumber seeds. Neither came up. She tried a couple more. Nothing germinated. She tried half a dozen more. Nothing happened.

“I’ll give it one more chance,” said Marlene. “Maybe these old seeds are passed their use-by date.” She sowed all twenty-two remaining seeds. “Maybe,” thought Marlene, “there might be one or two seeds that are still good.”

Nothing grew. There was nothing for it but to buy a new packet of cucumber seeds. Marlene sowed four seeds from the new packet. Within a week the seeds sprouted. And so did all the other thirty-four cucumber seeds.

2319. Triumph over rejection

I knew this would happen. It was inevitable. Right from the start. Bad luck has been my lot in life since the day I was born.

I’m a potato. Not a potato head you nincompoop, but a potato. A real potato. When we potatoes got dug up I was saved from getting sliced in half by the spade only by the skin of my teeth.

Let me tell you what abysmal thing happened to me. I was the first to be put into the potato bag. I thought, “Oh goody! Look at me! I’m first!” And then everyone else came after me. “The losers,” I thought. Mrs Sadie Brown did all the cooking and brought our bag home and put it in the pantry. Would you believe! She took out and used the potatoes at the top first. Off each potato went on an adventure and I was left grovelling at the bottom of the bag. Eventually I was the only potato not used. You have no idea the feelings of rejection a potato can have.

Next thing I noticed was that my skin had gone all wrinkly and my flesh soft and spongy. “Yuk!” said Mrs Sadie Brown as she threw me out the window. “That potato is good for nothing!”

This is true. This is the pits. She threw me out the window into the vegetable garden. I was left sitting among the unpleasant company of Tomato Jaune Flamme, Cucumbers Oriental Soo Yoh, and Lettuce Merveille des Quatre Saisons.

But guess what now? All the other potatoes got eaten. I’m sprouting.

2308. Back in time

For goodness sake! I only wanted to go to the supermarket to get a few things, so I jumped into the car and set out for the few miles to get there.

I swear that every ten yards or so that the car travelled, everything went back in time by several years. The style of the houses and gardens changed; the other vehicles were ancient models. Before long there were carts being pulled by horses along a dirt track. I still seemed to be driving my modern car but no one noticed.

The style of clothing changed, as did the hair. Everyone wore hats! Good gracious! I swear that boy is wearing what I would call knickerbockers. And there is a group of children racing with hoops.

Oh but it’s changed again. The industrial factories have given way to pasture land. I must have gone back quite a few centuries by now. There goes a knight on a horse exactly like I imagined they looked like. He was possibly on his way to join the Crusades. And here is the village market in the street.

I parked my car next to the communal well and walked along the stalls. I couldn’t see what I wanted, so I asked.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m looking for a few things but I can’t find them. I need to buy peppers, tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, and possibly some teabags?”

The man looked at me as if I was from outer space. He said a few things in what sounded like a foreign language, so I said “Speak proper English, you Bonehead.”

What a fool he was. I held up a couple of carrots indicating that I wanted to buy them and gave him a two dollar note hoping that would cover things. He took one look at my money and went berserk. Other stall holders joined in. Some threw eggs at me. I barely made it back to my car.

As I travelled home the time gradually moved forward again, and as I entered into my gated community I thanked God I was once again safely ensconced in the enlightened twenty-first century.

2053. Dora didn’t have a cat

When Bridie went shopping for stuff for the evening meal she had no idea it was all a waste of time. She would be dead as a doornail when the time came for her to peel a potato. She’d be sprawled on the kitchen floor, potato peeler in hand, and surrounded by four uncooked chicken drumsticks haphazardly lying on the kitchen linoleum.

Luckily the cat would spend the next few days enjoying the drumsticks, because Bridie and her medical event weren’t discovered until Wednesday and she had dropped dead on the Monday.

Dora from next door had made the discovery when she noticed that Bridie’s kitchen window had not been shut for the last two days. Bridie had always been careful with security. One had to take special care when one lived alone. Rather foolishly, when Dora discovered the two-day dead corpse she phoned for an ambulance! As if the ambulance people could work a miracle and bring a completely dead (as a doornail) corpse back to life!

Dora had been just about ready to go into town when she thought she had better check on the open kitchen window next door. The discovery of course threw a spanner in the works. It was now late afternoon and Dora still hadn’t got anything for the evening meal.

When Dora went shopping for stuff for the evening meal she had no idea it was all a waste of time. She would be dead as a doornail when the time came for her to crush a couple of garlic cloves. She’d be sprawled on the kitchen floor, garlic press in hand, and surrounded by three unchopped carrots haphazardly lying on the kitchen linoleum.

Fortunately Dora didn’t have a cat; fortunate because cats don’t eat carrots.

1917. Tit-for-tat

I mean, what can one do? The next door neighbours have been very kind. When my little girl was ill and I had to spend a lot of time with her in the hospital, the neighbours came over and mowed my lawn. Wasn’t that kind? I am a keen gardener and my property is not exactly tiny, so the lawn takes over an hour to mow. But that was no trouble to Nadine and Todrick, and what a lovely surprise to get home and see the lawn all shipshape.

Now it’s the end of the harvest season and the shops haven’t messed around in putting the price of vegetables way up. Tomatoes especially are a hideous price. So I picked the last of my tomatoes just before the cold weather set in, and I’ve been ripening them in a turkey dish sitting in the sun on my dining table. When they are all ripe I’m going to put them in a bag and take them over to Nadine and Todrick’s by way of thanks.

At least, that was the plan. My mother came in to baby sit my little girl while I went job hunting. It’s almost impossible these days to be a parent and look for a job. Once a job is found it’s easier to settle into some sort of routine. But looking for a job is erratic and hit-and-miss.

Anyway, when I got home my mother had kindly cut the tomatoes up and had made a green tomato pickle. That was sweet of her, but the taste is atrocious. I couldn’t possibly give the neighbours a jar of this pickle so now I’m all at sixes and sevens as to how I should thank them for their kindness.

Oh thank goodness! There is a God after all! I have just heard that Todrick is in hospital and gravely ill. Nadine spends all her time at the hospital of course. It will give me the opportunity to mow their lawn.

1824. Lockdown and the end of the golden weather

Miles ago, in fact last October 16, 2019, I posted a little piece about how I was digging up my front lawn for a garden. I promised progress reports, and one appeared on November 19 and another on February 12. With winter fast approaching in the southern hemisphere it’s time for a final report. So this report covers the lockdown and the end of the golden weather.

A Lombardy poplar tree blew over on the property in a summer storm, so I was able to use it to make little twig fences around the four garden patches. It looked semi-medieval (kind of rustic I thought). In fact it was to stop the dog from walking on the gardens and peeing on the peas. The dog was well trained and never once ventured across the twigs onto the gardens. High fences for climbing peas, beans, and blackberries were also constructed.

Before long there were poppies and petunias, dahlias and gladioli, cosmos and sweet peas. You’ll notice from the pictures that I have mainly white flowers and red flowers. This is a phase I’m passing through. Don’t worry, I’ve been passing through it for twenty years and will once day get over it. Anyway, red and white look very lovely, so for the time being I’m sticking with them. At least people know what colour flower seeds to get me for my birthday!

I wasn’t expecting much from the newly planted thornless blackberries, but we got several desserts from them including one big blackberry pie! Roll on next year!

There was a bumper crop of peas, beans, shallots, tomatoes, turnips, leeks, zucchinis, and capsicums (bell peppers). The photos show just a small portion – the freezer is full! It wasn’t a good year for potatoes and cucumbers. There’s never telling why. The silver beet (chard) kept going to seed.

The sunflowers provided cheer and enough seeds to hopefully feed the wild birds through winter. I’ve just got to make an artistic bird feeder.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the lockdown because there was so much to do and so much space. I am at that age where my nanny-state government wouldn’t let me go anywhere lest I die. What a consolation that they cared! Fortunately the landlord’s daughter-in-law was the pharmacist and sent prescribed life-prolonging pills via the landlord, and the farming neighbours on all sides plied the house with eggs and meat while we provided them with vegetables. You had to check the mailbox daily because you never knew if someone had stuffed a leg of lamb in there! All was a blessing because there was no money coming in for two months!

The dog walk was a regular fixture – demanded by the dog in sunshine or rain. He likes a daily swim in a nearby lake – he thinks it’s his duty to clear the lake of geese and ducks.

For 8 weeks on these walks we gathered enough wild mushrooms for a decent side dish each day. (Eight weeks is enough!) I also made pickles and chutneys and soups for canning and freezing with stuff out of the garden.

I’ve been going to a local farmer’s sheep-shearing shed with spade and buckets. By going underneath the slats in the shearing-shed floorboards, I can fill the buckets up for the garden with sheep manure that had dropped through the gaps in the floor over the years.

The landlord/farmer asked if we would like two dying trees (lawsoniana) for firewood. So a good deal of several weeks was spent cutting them down, chopping them up, and stacking them. Still haven’t quite finished.

The landlord also asked us if we would mind knocking down an old house on the property and smashing it to bits. It’s quite fun! I go there nearly every day to wreck away. The problem is the old house is plagued with fleas. So don’t come driving past while I’m standing in the open-doored garage throwing all my clothes in the washing machine before coming into the house! Your mind undoubtedly boggles!

These days the garden is looking tired.

I have scattered thousands of poppy seeds along the sides of the road outside my gate. If luck would have it the roadside next spring will look like Flanders Field. I’ve also sown nitrogen-fixing lupins in the gardens. They look quite pretty so it seems a shame to cut them down and dig them in, but that is a job to be done this week.

Here’s a picture of the sad and lonely last dahlia of the season.

Thus ends the closing days of autumn; the end of the golden weather. This final photo is taken today through my office window! I’m feeling rather pleased!

1804. Hilarious

It was hilarious! Old Farmer Cedric was a fanatical gardener. He’d gardened for years on the same plot of land next to his house. If the truth be known, it wasn’t his land. The land belonged to the Town Council. It had been put aside for a park, but as the years went by everyone forgot it was meant to be made into a park. At least Old Farmer Cedric’s garden kept the place tidy.

No one knew exactly what he did for a living. He was out in his garden most days so the presumption was that he didn’t have a job. In fact, the presumption was that he didn’t need a job. Some people are like that. They have money coming out their ears.

Old Farmer Cedric always collected his own seeds. He would sort them into little jars. There were seeds of all sorts of vegetables and all sorts of flowers. He was so proud of his seeds. He would bring them all out on trays and place the trays on the ground as if they were a museum display. He would do that even if he was going to use just the one variety.

One year a wag – it was so hilarious – replaced some of the seeds when Old Farmer Cedric wasn’t looking. The wag took out the real seeds and replaced them with some weed seeds! Everyone waited to see what would spring up. And all he got that year was weeds. It was hysterical.

That was the year the church didn’t get any flowers at Easter and Old Farmer Cedric’s family had nothing to eat.

1746. The kindness of strangers

A terrible tragedy has hit the country; some crazed idiot, for the past three weeks, has somehow poisoned some of the fruit and vegetables that can be purchased from the supermarket. Each week it has been a different fruit or vegetable sold in two shops each time. It seemed to cover the outlets throughout the country at random.

The first week it was Granny Smith apples from two outlets at opposite ends of the country. The second week it was cos lettuces. The third week it was cucumbers. Who knows what it will be for the fourth week. So far eleven people have died. No one is buying fresh fruit and vegetables the length and breadth of the country. Everyone is purchasing tinned fruit and tinned or frozen vegetables and meat. Thank goodness the meat is untouched.

But all that is not what this story is about. This story is about what happened to Freddie, and the story of the poisoned food is but the backdrop for Freddie’s yarn. It’s nice to have something positive to tell at a time when such a horror has taken over the news.

It was one of those weeks when Freddie didn’t have much money to go on. He’d been to the doctor and the dentist, and his car needed attention. Suddenly he discovered that there was very little left over for the groceries. He had a cat and a dog. Buying food for them was his first priority. He could always go without if needed, but a pet should never have to. The trouble was that Freddie could have bought food for the dog and cat as well as a little for himself if he’d been able to buy vegetables; but he had to buy some meat for himself to be safe. He placed a pork chop in his trolley and proceeded to the check-out.

Oh dear! As luck wouldn’t have it, Freddie had just enough for the cat and dog food, but not enough for his pork chop. The man in the line, directly behind Freddie interrupted, and said he’d pay for the pork chop. And he did!

Such kindness! It’s times of tragedy that brings people together. Freddie couldn’t believe the kindness of that stranger. Such a lovely man.

Did I mention he had the loveliest of smiles?

1730. The plot continues

Sometime ago I didn’t exactly promise but said I possibly might give a running report on my garden. So here it is with pictures. For those of you who don’t have the slightest interest in my electrifying private life, there will be the usual story tomorrow – far more coldly objective but just as true.

Thus far, our summer has been fairly cold and cloudy and windy.

You might remember, last September/October I started digging up bits of the lawn for gardens.

We made tall fences for climbing beans, thornless blackberries, and sweet peas. The blackberries will take three years to mature, but already they are laden with hundreds of yet-to-ripen (yet-to-be-stolen-by-birds) berries.

We made little fences out of poplar twigs around each garden. People say “It looks very French!” but basically we did it because the dog knows it is not allowed to step over these fences!

The cold, wet weather meant the bush beans got some sort of fungus and I pulled them out. I planted some more bush bean seeds, but the wild rabbits came in and dug most of them up! However, it has been a fantastic year for peas and capsicums (bell peppers). I have frozen a good dozen batches of peas, and lots and lots of my second favourite soup which is Peapod Soup made out of… (you guessed it) peapods!

With the colder summer weather the mâche (corn salad/lamb’s lettuce) lasted longer than usual. We now have lettuces and cucumbers coming out our ears so there’s salads salads salads. The zucchinis (courgettes) are being harvested. Swedes (rutabagas) and silver beet (Swiss chard) have been producing. The globe artichoke season is over – we devoured over 60; the Jerusalem artichokes and Chinese artichokes are coming along! (None of these three types of artichoke are related – same word, different plant). Broad beans (fava beans) are finished and frozen. Corn is in flower, as are the sunflowers, dahlias, petunias, cosmos, and sweet peas.

Incidentally our Number 1 favourite soup is Jerusalem artichoke soup! Potatoes were pathetic this year, as are beetroot (beets). Borsch is a nice winter dish so I might have to buy some beetroot. Here’s my freezer – it’s already full!

The cabbages have gone berserk and I’ve been making piles of cabbage stews for winter. Cauliflowers are coming along. Celery and celeriac are producing. We’re letting the leeks go to seed to collect. And besides, the leek flowers look very pretty in the garden! The flowers are slightly bigger than a tennis ball.

No onions. There are two things we have never been any good at growing: onions and spinach. We have no idea why. No matter where we’ve lived it’s always the same – onions and spinach don’t like us. But the garlic and shallots have been harvested and are drying in the sun (since removed to the wheelbarrow to facilitate quick removal when it rains!)

Having got a new lawn mower for my 70th birthday (the birthday I share with Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day) and a long garden hose for Christmas, life is much easier. The house water is rain water, but the garden water we share with the farm animals which is pumped to troughs and our garden tap (faucet) from a creek. So we don’t have to go easy on watering the garden. Here’s a trough just out the kitchen window!

And tomatoes! I almost forgot! Lots and lots of tomatoes! And I’ve taken to making wine, but so far haven’t used anything home-grown in the process.

Here endeth the report. Oh! And lots of rhubarb!

Also been making pickles, chutneys, jams, and stuff.

Incidentally, the best book is one I found in a second-hand shop in Asheville, North Carolina. It cost a dollar. It’s got everything you need to know about growing, canning, pickling, drying, and freezing. It’s called When the Good Cook Gardens. It was published by Ortho Books in 1974. I believe it’s available on Amazon.