Life, the universe and everything: all is (extra)ordinary


I whinged a lot during the year about this and that at the allotment – too much wind, too much rain, not enough rain, not enough sun, too many slugs, an invasion of dandelions and buttercups, too little compost, but even so – yes, even so – I have had a magnificent harvest, and it has made us, along with a few friends and relatives, and many of Graham’s workmates very happy.

Excess runner beans have been recycled into a surprisingly delicious piccalilli-type chutney; cherry tomatoes have become tomato chilli jam, or Chillied Out Tom, as Graham named it when making the labels. I’ve made only a few pots of ordinary jam since we do try not to eat much sugar – raspberry, strawberry, damson, and we have a freezer full of field (fava) beans that I’ve discovered convert into the most delicious bean hummus if, after cooking, you relieve them of their skins, and add lemon juice and garlic.

Today, over half way through October, and I am still picking peas, carrots, beetroot and courgettes, and the last of the summer lettuce. Then there are the winter crops coming on: various kales, leeks, caulis, cabbages and Brussels sprouts. This week, too, I’ve been making a new strawberry bed, planting out Elsanta, and Alice varieties, and ordering a few Flamenco which are ever-bearers – fruiting from spring to the first frosts. Then there were overwintering onions to put in, Radar, being a reliable variety, and also garlic beds to make.

I have routed the tomato jungle from the polytunnel apart from a few plants, and it’s a relief to see some space. While I was doing this I came nose to nose with a large toad, which was very pleasing, once we’d got over being scared of each other. Eat more slugs, please toad. I’ve planted out the tunnel’s raised beds with winter salad stuff including purslane, winter lettuce, bunching onions, chard and lamb’s lettuce. I’ve sown a few seeds in there too, just to see what will happen – some herbs, rocket, and various Chinese leaves and mustards. As it gets cooler I will cover those that emerge with fleece.

Otherwise, it’s been all systems go, tidying the plot. This afternoon I was taking down the runner beans and their canes, and digging over the bed, but I was doing it to the heady scent of sweet peas that are lingering on. I also have some jewel coloured nasturtiums growing in the corner of the polytunnel. They smell delicious whenever I open the door, and of course you can eat every part of them – flowers, leaves and seeds, so I’m hoping they’ll keep going into the winter.

There’s just so much to be grateful for in this extraordinary world of ours, though we’d do well to nurture it a bit more so it can continue to nurture us.



Three bees, two bees, one bee, gone bees?




There have been worrying reports this week that wild bumble bees are now catching  deadly diseases from domesticated honey bees. Numbers are declining  across Europe, North America, South America and also in Asia. You can read the Guardian article about the situation HERE. Then there are problems with pesticides that halve bees’ capacity to gather pollen. Last month the Guardian reported that:

“A two-year EU ban of three neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides in the world, began in December, following research that showed harm to honey and bumblebees. The neonicotinoids are “systemic” pesticides, being applied to seeds so that the chemical spreads within the plants. Over three-quarters of the world’s food crops require insect pollination, but bees have declined in recent decades due to loss of flower-rich habitat, disease and pesticide use.”

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

One thing is certain, without bees we will start going hungry. But if this is all too depressing, here’s a view of our Much Wenlock garden taken last summer where there were in fact very many bees. So for all of us who think that winter will never end, take heart. Summer will come again.


Weekly Photo Challenge: threes for more trios

@guardian @guardianeco

Making Eden: new patterns for living?


Is this how you picture the Garden of Paradise: that mythic, perfect place from which shame caused humankind to be forever banished? Probably not.

Personally, I do not have time for dogma founded on guilt, but I do have time for the Eden Project, one of Britain’s most ambitious Millennium schemes that in the year 2000 saw an abandoned Cornish china clay quarry transformed into a world-famous visitor attraction and charity. 

The photo above, raided once more from the Team Leader’s files, was taken that year inside the Rainforest Biome. This extraordinary Sci-Fi structure is  apparently twice as high as Big Ben, and planted with more than 1,000 species. In this  audacious new world, pests and diseases are managed with an array of biological controls, including bugs that eat other bugs, birds and lizards. It is an on-going experiment in life management.

The man behind Eden in all senses is Tim Smit, Netherlands-born, British entrepreneur. He conceived the idea while working on the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan also in Cornwall. Both these enterprises have not only enthused and informed millions of visitors from all over the planet, but injected millions of pounds into Cornwall’s struggling economy. Like an infinity of interlinked hexagons, it has been having a multiplier effect.

File:Tim Smit (6509919409).jpg

Eden’s creator, Tim Smit. Photo: Creative Commons (source Tim Smit)


And what is Eden Project saying to us?

plants give us our food, fuel, materials and medicines”

“plants are part of a wider ecosystem that provides our water and air”

“the natural world can be beautiful, relaxing and inspiring”



“In a changing world, we need imagination and enterprise; we need to foster our skills and talents; we need communities to get engaged in inventing new, more sustainable ways of living together.”


As a belief system to live by, I can accept all of these propositions. Now see the video of some Eden’s ideals in action:

Sydney Harbour Bridge reflected from the Sydney Opera: an unusual point of view



We have a copy of this photo on our landing wall, taken by the Team Leader some years ago. I suppose it’s a case of familiarity  making you forget to look at things with due care and attention. In fact, come to think of it, I may have scanned the slide back to front and upside down. But then that should be OK too for this particular challenge, and whichever way, I think it deserves a more appreciative audience. The man who caught this image by chance doesn’t seem to think that it’s up to much as a photograph. What do you think?


Fresh strawberry and rhubarb cordial

WP weekly photo challenge: fresh


Fresh to me means produce straight from  my allotment, pesticide-free and naturally fed plants. I’ll give you the recipe for the cordial at the end, but first I’m going to show off some of my harvest, which despite the burning heat-wave we’ve been having, and my erratic watering, seems  to be doing pretty well.  The strawberries have been delicious – warm off the stem, or made into ice cream. We even outfaced the heat by having some in a crumble (i.e. baked with a butter-sugar-flour crumb crust) and served with some Greek yoghourt.


And now the raspberries and blackcurrants are beginning to ripen which means it’s time to make jam with the raspberries and coulis with the currants, or Summer Pudding with both.



And then there are gooseberries to make into gooseberry and ginger chutney, and gooseberry fool, or gooseberry sauce to have with grilled mackerel.


On Saturday night, after a hard day’s picking, weeding and sowing, we had steamed artichokes served with crushed garlic in melted goat’s butter.


And on Sunday night, after digging up some Charlotte and Red Duke of York potatoes, picking French and broad beans and broccoli, I steamed the vegetables and dished them up with salsa verde and a few grilled rashers of Wenlock Edge Farm bacon. Bliss.



And now I’ve teased your taste buds to extremes, here is the recipe I promised you:

Strawberry and Rhubarb Cordial

4 sticks of rhubarb chopped

300 gm/10 oz ripe strawberries, hulled and cut in half

320gm/11oz caster sugar

1 litre/1.75 water

juice of 2 lemons

Place fruit in heavy based pan, add sugar and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add water and increase heat slightly. Cook for a further 15 minutes until the fruit is soft.

Leave to cool then strain through a sieve, pressing the pulp into the syrup. Add lemon juice and store in the fridge. To serve, dilute with chilled sparkling water, and add a sprig of mint if this appeals.

OR make a damn fine cocktail with some prosecco or other dry sparkling wine. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but I just know it will be wonderful – bellinis with bells on.


And finally a shot of the marigolds and sweet peas that I grow amongst my vegetables to make the bees happy, and me happy when they have pollinated everything else.


Happy summer to everyone who takes the

time to read my blog – lovely

people all of you.