Tag Archives: vegetables

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.

1671. Garden Progress Report

I had written earlier that I might perhaps post the occasional progress report on the state of the garden. So here are a few pictures.

Here is a fabulous Globe Artichoke – one of 32 artichokes grown from seed on the window ledge. The cat kept sitting on them, but they survived. The dog is on patrol. Apart from the artichoke at the back there is Silver Beet (Swiss chard) to the dog’s right and some leeks. Beyond the dog’s tail is rhubarb.

Here is a close up of the same artichoke. Multiply all those flower heads by 32!

We (nearly) always eat artichokes as nibbles. We boil the artichoke head (like a cabbage) and make a sauce (any sauce or mayonnaise). Then we sit around talking about the weather while we nonchalantly break off a petal, dip it in the sauce, and suck out the inside of the petal. When all petals are done we argue about who’s getting how much of the artichoke heart. These days many people throw away the petals because they consider an artichoke is just for the heart. But I think the petals are the best bit!

Here is a picture of the four gardens I dug on the front lawn. Everything is starting to grow beautifully. Apart from sweet peas, dahlias, petunias, and moonflowers, and various herbs, there are turnips, beetroot (I think some countries just call them beets??), celeriac, cape gooseberries, tomatoes, capsicums (bell peppers), leeks, cucumbers, peas, and loads of beans (both climbing and bush). We also have a number of thornless blackberry bushes. Things are bigger than the photo looks! Everything’s just starting to grow and the snails and slugs are loving it!

The grass is growing like billy-O and I spend every second day (when it’s not raining) trying to keep it under control. Here is my lawn!!!!

It would be ok if I had a ride-on but all I’ve got is a crummy old push mower that’s lost one of its wheels, and those back hills can get a bit much (ha ha!!) I have to push the mower while holding it on an even keel. Nonetheless, the lawns get mowed in a cloud of Nitrolingual Spray.

All the stories and music and stuff gets written in the room which is the second window looking to the left of the open garage door! So here is my office and the view out the window.

There’s more to the garden “out the back” but that’s probably enough for one day! We’ll finish with a photo of the dog.

Thanks for reading. You’re all most welcome to pop over for an artichoke nibble or two – and a wine of course!

1650. A vegetative state

As usually happens here on this blog when an extra round number appears, something slightly different happens. Today, to celebrate story Number 1650, we shall look at aspects of my vegetable garden.

Although humility goes hand in hand with gardening, one could perhaps be excused for showing a little pride in one’s harvest. At least occasionally. So with a great deal of self-effacing non-aggrandisement, I submit four untouched photographs of me standing in front of four of my gardening successes. There could easily be a lot more, but modesty prevents over exposure.

Here is me standing in front of a couple of turnips. As you can see, harvesting one would’ve been adequate for my needs.

Here I am standing in front of a prize cauliflower. As can be seen from my shirt, these photos were all taken on the same day.

Let the size of my watermelons speak for itself.

Finally, here is a globe artichoke. It was late in the season; hence it’s quite small compared to ones gathered earlier.

To aspire to continued success this coming spring and summer, I have extended the vegetable garden by digging up my front lawn! It is now all ready and waiting for the date of the (hopefully) last frost to pass – which here in New Zealand is usually around October 25th. Here are a few snapshots of the work in progress. I just might post the occasional picture throughout the coming season to show progress!

Cheerio for now! And if I don’t appear too often on the blogs this coming antipodean summer, it’ll be because I’ll be out on the front lawn weeding.

1615. Garden measurements

Vincent had spent just over six weeks measuring the garden he was intending to dig. He had driven stakes into the ground and outlined the garden with string. It was going to be huge.

It’s huge, said Vincent, because apart from the regular vegetables I also like to grow plants that crawl and take up a lot of space. Pumpkins, for example. One plant takes up an enormous amount of ground. And watermelons.

People walking by would stop, not quite in awe but at least in admiration.

It’s going to take me a long time to dig, said Vincent. If you’re going to do something it pays to do it carefully and properly. They taught us in the military to mind the 5 P’s: Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. There are always detractors ready to scoff. Just wait until they stand at the fence on a hot day with their tongues hanging out wanting a slice of a cool cantaloupe.

How Vincent could talk for hours to the people passing by! No wonder it had taken him six weeks thus far to measure up the plot he was going to dig. In fact, he was such a blabbermouth it was a wonder he had managed to drive in the seventy or eighty garden stakes measuring the perimeter of his proposed garden.

The day always ended the same when in the evening the hospital nurse came to gather up the stakes and bring him inside.

Music 284-298: A Ninth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches

Hi Everyone

Here is the Ninth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches – both audio and printable – for the pianoforte. There will be eleven suites altogether.

Click on a title in the first list to listen, and click on a title in the second list to download the written music.

Thanks

Click on a title to listen
1. Weeding the garden
2. Carrots
3. Asparagus
4. Artichokes
5. Peas
6. Potatoes
7. Onions
8. Radishes
9. Lettuces
10. Cucumbers
11. Cauliflowers
12. Beans
13. Turnips
14. Leeks
15. A break from weeding

Click on a title to download the written music
1. Weeding the garden
2. Carrots
3. Asparagus
4. Artichokes
5. Peas
6. Potatoes
7. Onions
8. Radishes
9. Lettuces
10. Cucumbers
11. Cauliflowers
12. Beans
13. Turnips
14. Leeks
15. A break from weeding

1568. Dangling carrot

(The opening sentence to this story was a comment made earlier on this blog. Nitin suggested it could make an interesting opening sentence, so here it is!)

“Sometimes they dangle a carrot in front of you only to stick it up your bum.” Oswald was surveying the carrots at the supermarket. His wife, Kitty, had already filled a bag with half a dozen carrots for purchase. The sign said:

CARROTS! 30 cents each. Two for only 65 cents.

“They do that all the time,” said Oswald. “Trick the dumb buyer into believing there’s a bargain. They dangle a carrot in front of you only to stick it up your bum.”

Kitty emptied her bag of six carrots back into the supermarket carrot bin. It wasn’t the price she was worried about. It was the thought of eating a carrot that had… that had… you know what I mean.