Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Autumn seems to be drawing nigh

I have today tried to up date this diary blog of some of the events that are important in the lives of Captain Sensible and his Sweetpea. Life is not always a bowl of cherries so the warts are not entered but they do seem fewer than in days gone by. But always expect the unexpected! Every day there is so much to do and still I / we do not get all of the projects and tasks started or even finished. There are so many ideas for what could be done with our lives and in our daily tasks but "beggars cannot be choosers" and time and money don't seem to appear! So we get on with what we can .... The weather seems increasingly autumnal though today it has been 22°C in our verandah and out of the wind! Shorts still prevail but the chill is beginning! Yet, the sun is very warm if the wind were to stop blowing!

The garden is demanding and needs attention to clear and tidy the vegetable beds for the next stage. We would like to make them into raised beds in order to perhaps save some wear and tear on our backs. Also we think this would help with drainage as the water table is about 10 -15 cm below the ground level. The higher soil would drain more effectively. The problem this year was that the heavy clay soil became saturated for too long and the frosts were insufficient to break down the soil. Waterlogged soil has become like baked clay! Round bricks of solid earth are interspersed with the stones and this year a certain variety of weed has prevailed and caused mayhem!

However, the crop of Charlotte potatoes has been relatively good. We sowed double the quantity of tubers and have harvested from June. I should think we have sufficient potatoes until the end of September. Tomatoes have been iffy but there are some reasonable red ones and loads of yellow / orange cherry tomatoes. Courgettes have barely fruited. We ate one pumpkin whilst it was small thinking it was a round courgette and now there is just one pumpkin, a small variety, growing slowly. The beetroots whilst small have come on well. The leeks that I sowed in March are struggling and we have just bought some more to plant to grow overwinter. The shallots rotted before they could grow. The red onions were abysmal but we've had a few. The garlic has produced very small bulbs but we surely do have enough to see us through the winter. They are now hanging in a nylon holey bag in the woodshed. The carrots are doing well and the 5 parsnips look healthy on top but I suspect have no real root worth eating! The mangetout peas, French haricot and beurre beans were quite successful but finished too early! Radishes started well and then did not get enough water. Summer spinach went to seed before it had produced edible leaves. The best thing was the cut and come again lettuce. Highly recommended.

In the flower department, the sunflowers are still struggling to grow but have now flowered. they are sweet and only about 20 cm tall. The nasturtiums and ipomoea look lovely on the wire fence. The costas did not grow but one of our fuschia bushes has risen like a phoenix and seems content. Sweet William plants appeared from last years scattered seeds! The honesty did not appear. Is it a bi-annual? The white peonies lasted for one week, the yellow Loosestrife and St John's Wort,and the hollyhocks have given much colour. Also a wild form of impatiens (busy lizzie) I transplanted 5 years ago has really seeded and flourished near the gateway. The roses are blossoming. The ancient climbing rose was much affected by the building programme but it seems to be generating more roses and growth. The new "Golden Showers" rose brought from England is also doing well. I bought one of these for my cousin Anne when she moved to Taunton and always admired it. I expect she will like a cutting as she has moved house yet again.

August 23rd and we have finally cleared the potato plot - they are now resting in a wooden box sandwiched between some dry hay and I have weeded what once was the onion section. Once the beetroots, carrots, tomatoes and leeks have been harvested then this section will need to be dug and given some manure. Although, I have just read that the potato plot for next year should not have any manure on it over the winter and I have just read that one should keep some veggie plot without manure for salad crops etc. This needs more research.

Captain S has been strimming the outer edges of the lawn, around the base of the trees and the perimeter fences. He has also helped me to weed the potato plot and indeed did the main digging of the final three rows. As a result he has done too much in one day and is pooped!

The blackberries are in abundance. I like to wash and drain them and poach them in butter, shaking the pan almost continually for about three minutes. I have made a kind of coulis / compôte with them, but today it was blackberry crumble with very little sugar. Delicious!

Our dinner was a portion of salmon value 1.50 euros with a little leftover feta cheese to create a cheese sauce using maize flour and milk, then sliced pre-cooked potatoes on top, baked and then grilled all to make a fish pie served with carrots cooked in honey and courgettes panfried in olive oil, butter and Herbes de Provence. All the vegetables were from our garden and therefore it was a very economical meal served with 1/4 filled bottles of wine left from our dinner with The Chef!

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