Brighten

If the start of your day is anything like mine (wet, windy, miserable) then you will definitely be needing something to lift your spirt. Here are some autumn crocuses (or should that be croci?) to, hopefully, do just that.

Six on Saturday

Six on Saturday, here we go again. Admittedly it has been a few weeks since I dabbled, but I’m sure I will pick it up again; the subtle nuances, the intricacies. Just like riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, I can only ride a bike in a straight line, as long as there are no cars, or other bikes, or pedestrians to distract me or I will wobble and fall off. Which is not good news for hopping back on the mega-tandem. However, I’ll do my best. I do remember that I have to name-check the illustrious Prop, our mentor with a dubious tulip affliction. Check out his blog and you will be introduced to folk from across the known universe, who have been more loyal to the cause than I have been of late. Shall we proceed?

First, we have a cyclamen which, along with assorted violas and primary coloured primulas, were bought to titivate the planters at the front of the house. I can just imagine them, waiting optimistically in the garden centre, dreaming of who will buy them and where they will make their loving home. Well my dearios, I’m afraid you drew the short straw. You will be living in the teeth of the evil northerly wind, where the sun has retired for the season. I am sure you will do your best.

Next, we have the rough tree fern, Cyathea australis, which has enjoyed the recent damp weather. Since it came to live at Chez Nous earlier in the year, it has outgrown two pots and is still curling out new fronds. Hopefully it will over-winter without too many dramas.

Onto a slack cosmos, both in habit and personality. My favourite annual has not thrived for me this year, with just this one plant flopping about popping out the odd flower as it felt fit. Not that I am complaining. At this time of year, you can forgive most slovenly behaviour.

The teasels have passed through their bee-magnet stage onto the goldfinch-larder stage, and we have already had the joy of watching these beautiful finches feast on the seeds. Again, these are in the front, Frozen North, garden, which wouldn’t seem the ideal place for a snooze. However, it appears that the snails in these parts are well ‘ard, not only cocking a snook at the cold wind but also at the thorny bed it has chosen to rest on.

Now an impatiens. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that until it flowered I wasn’t sure which one. The label just said impatiens, and I can’t blame the label because I wrote the label and I’m pretty certain that it said a lot more than that in the past. Now it is doing its floriferous thing, I am pretty certain that it is Impatiens flanaganae. It is doing very well and is perfectly pretty. I will now complete the label, so we don’t have this uncertainty again. Probably later today, or maybe tomorrow ….

Shall we finish with love? There are just two leaves left on the Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, and this is one of them. A love heart.

That is your lot. As Woody Guthrie said “take it easy, but take it”. And stay safe and well, my friends.

Radio Gaga

I have been under-sharing recently. This is not because there has been nothing to report, quite the contrary, a whole fleet of excitement buses have been passing by. The result of this procession has been a lack of both the energy or the wherewithal to fill you in on the sordid details. Actually, there is little, if any, “sordid” at all. I just wanted to keep your attention.

On this rainy day in North Devon, whilst listening out for Grumpy Cat timer to tell me it is time to put the bread in the oven, what better occupation than to recount one of these adventures? If you are sitting comfortably …….

Last Sunday I was on Toby Buckland’s morning show on Radio Devon. Not as someone wondered, possibly one of my loving family, in the Crimewatch section. Yes, little old me, on t’radio! I was flattered to be invited; concerned they had got me mixed up with someone else. After some initial technical shenanigans whilst setting up, and having ascertained that it wasn’t imperative to be wearing clothes as no one would see me, we were all set to go. When Toby announced the upcoming Garden Guru section, I thought, that will be nice to listen to whilst I’m waiting for my turn. Then I realised he was talking about me.

For some reason, perhaps our gas-powered internet wasn’t up to the job, part way through I went a little (and I quote Caroline the Producer) “Dalek”. A quick flip of my chosen disc and a transfer to ye olde telephonium and we were back to humanoid, an interpretation anyway. I blethered on for a while, mostly nonsense, rarely about gardening, before a large hook came and pulled me off centre stage. It was all over in the blink of an eye. Toby was nothing but charming, fun and, to be honest, was just as daft as I am. And I mean that in a very good way.

Perhaps I should have warned you; you could have listened live and felt my pain. But I was worried that I would say “bottom” or burp or become Monosyllabic Mona. As far I remember I didn’t. I may have said bottom. However, if you wish to hear my not so dulcet tones you can, due to the wonders of our modern world, catch up with Toby’s Show. I’m sure you will want to listen to the whole programme, but if you are late for your extreme macrame class, my piece is at approximately 12.25pm. At the very least you should get a good dance out of it.

Either or Or

I am of the opinion that there are some who focus on the flowers and others that can only see the weeds. Can this be cured? I’m not sure. Perhaps it is just the way people are made. Usually I am a flower spotting kind of gal, but not always.

In the picture above, some might see a rusting chiminea, stuffed full of broken-up oddments of wood, standing next to a galvanised bin. Today, I chose to see a happy ginger monster, mouth crammed with giant twiglets, waiting for his friend Oscar the Grouch to come out to play.

It is not always this way. And sometimes it takes a little effort. But at the moment I am determined to see the flowers and not the weeds.

Rainy Day Cooking – Tomato and Courgette Loaf with Tomato Chutney

Raining again, so no gardening for me today. I’d put aside a recipe that had caught my eye in the weekend Guardian. Tomato and courgette loaf with tomato chutney, “well that sounds delicious” I thought, perhaps I should give it a go. As luck would have it, I had a couple of manky/well-matured courgettes lurking in the nether regions of the fridge, just waiting for an opportunity to shine. Even better I had a fair few of the other ingredients. I decided not to attempt the chutney this time, considering it best to concentrate on the loaf and hopefully, with a prevailing wind at my stern (no sniggering in the cheap seats Mr K) my creation would be ready by lunchtime. Delayed slightly, but also buoyed-up, by a re-run of Star Trek “The Next Generation”, I boldly went where no cook had gone before. In our kitchen anyway.

As always, the recipe, or approximation of, will appear in normal text, my interpretation is in italics.

Tomato and Courgette Loaf (sans tomato chutney)

First make the chutney…..

Not doing that so blah, blah, blah, skim and skip straight to ……

Heat the oven to gas mark 6, something about preparing your loaf tin.

Turn oven on, as so nicely requested, oil loaf tin.

Put grated courgettes and half a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and steep for 20 minutes.

Grated? Sounds like hard work. I’ll grate them in the food processor and then I can give it a cursory wipe it out and use it for the cheese later. Please note that I was reading ahead, as all good cooks should do when attempting a new recipe. Courgies duly grated (no not corgies, rest assured no royal dogs were harmed making this loaf) and set to steep. Ponder on “steep” for a moment, consider it a rather wonderful word. Say it out loud a few times.

Mix flour, baking powder, bicarb, garam masala, caster sugar and salt in a large bowl.

All easy except for the perennial wrong sugar problem, used demerara which of course wouldn’t go through the sieve so just tipped it in the bowl and stirred it around a bit. Not sure why we need sugar in a savoury recipe, but it seems to happen a lot these days. Of course, I could just leave it out, but I am by nature a follower of rules (again, quiet back there!).

In another bowl, whisk eggs oil and yoghurt, grated cheddar and coriander.

As I didn’t have Greek yoghurt, I used soya yoghurt. To my mind, one word in common is good enough. Although sometimes it is less than one. This often ends messily. Best not dwell that. All whisked to perfection.

Tip steeped courgettes into a clean tea towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.

Tipped steeped courgettes half onto the tea towel (clean) and half onto work surface (cleanish). Scoop wayward gratings to where they belong and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze murky green liquid into the sink. Quite satisfying.

Stir the courgettes and egg mixture into the dry ingredients and 150g of the reserved chutney.

Oops

I said……

I heard you! It seems I needed the chutney after all. Too late now, what to do? What is red and a bit liquidy? I know, red pesto! It might work. I know, there are absolutely no words in common with tomato chutney, but at least it is a similar colour. And it is all I’ve got. Stir all the stuff together with a jar of red pesto and hope for the best.

Transfer to the lined loaf tin and arrange halved red and yellow cherry tomatoes on the top.

Lined? When did you say that? Oh yes, I see. Quickly line tin, carefully spoon in mixture and arrange cherry tomatoes prettily on top. I only have red, but that is definitely acceptable. Compared to other “adjustments” it is small beer. Place in oven.

Drizzle the loaf with the final tablespoon of oil and bake for 40 minutes.

Take loaf out of the oven and drizzle with oil. Put back in. Set grumpy cat timer.

Cover with foil, lower temperature to gas 5 and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Easy peasy, except the skewer bit, so I use a knife. Bit wobbly, put it back in for another 5 minutes. That will do. Probably.

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes.

What, you have got to be joking?!!!!

Naturally I did wait, restraint is my middle name, and very nice it was too. We ate warm slices of the loaf with label-free homemade soup from the freezer, most likely tomato and carrot, and our cockles were warmed.

Back to my roots

Today’s predicted “fair” weather transpired to be “a fair amount of mizzle” or even “a substantial amount of gloom”. Still there was light to be found in this dreary day.

A couple of months ago, myself and Mrs Bun took some rose cuttings. As we couldn’t find a pot of quite the right dimensions, we pushing the prickle stripped stems into a gritty soil, cossetted in a customised litre milk bottle. Mrs Bun can be very creative, and not just in the cake department.

Five new rose plants is more than enough for most mortals, so I shall be helping out by taking one or two off her hands. And who wouldn’t want a little piece of this action …..?

Anger

I am hopeless at defending myself. I am the submissive, roll over on my back with my legs in the air, type. However, when it comes to my own, it is a quite different matter. Yesterday, I found out that some (I am struggling to find an adjective adequate enough to describe them, so please feel free to fill in your own special word at this point) ……… person had attempted to defraud my Mum. I was very angry. I am still very angry. It is now sorted, thanks to my brother and the bank. There is no excuse for this vile practice and I want revenge. Quite stupidly of course, as it would do no good. But still I am very angry.

My Mum is quite alright, because she is a strong woman. Although a little daft on ocassion. I like to think I take after her.

The Moment

A lot of people enjoy the autumn; look forward to it even. Not me. I don’t like it at all. Unfairly, of course. I struggle to appreciate this season for itself, in its own right. Instead I consider autumn merely a herald of the coming gloom and doom of winter. Blighted by the company it keeps, I suppose.

Today I studied a golden bee, feasting on a seed-swelling sunflower, taking advantage of the few unpollinated flowers left at its disposal. It was a moment of peace and reflection. Which was a mistake. The morning, up to that point, had been spent defending plants from the over-exuberance of the Nancy Nightingale autumn clear-out. This consisted of my shouting “NO!” as the secateurs/fork approached the innocent party, executing a right shoulder judo roll and throwing myself between NN and the victim. All done in slow-mo. I really should demand danger money. I may have scuffed my new boots. Several “still life in the old dog” cosmos and a “merely resting” pot marigold undoubtedly hit the compost heap during in my bee distraction. No matter, they are after all hers to do with what she wills. And at this time of year it is tempting to throw in the towel, get rid of the ragged and half-spent, look forward to spring perfection. But in doing so we miss out on the moment. I must try harder, after all the moment is all we can be sure of.

Am I warming to the autumn? Perhaps. But on a glorious day like today, who wouldn’t? Ask me again at the end of the week. I will keep practicing.

Six on Saturday – Slack

I haven’t been here for a few weeks, but possibly you were. What did I miss? Anything much? Any scandal or intrigue to report? Of course, I’m talking about Six on Saturday. For the few sorry folk that haven’t come across this mega-meme, there is no need to feel embarrassed. If you pop over to The Prop’s site, you can study all the intricacies and many codicils attached to this world famous weekly event. For the more impatient here is a précis: Six. On Saturday. I have been a little slack for a while on the blogging front, but rest assured I have been very taut elsewhere. Let us see if I can remember how it is done.

First, we have Helichrysum bracteatum, the strawflower. It is one of my feeble attempts at front of house bedding this year. Too tall, not floriferous enough; but on its own, in its own right, it is rather lovely.

Now onto Dahlia ‘Verone’s Obsidian’ which I believe is one of the honkas. I’m a little confused as to its real identity. This its first flower to bloom successfully and even that is a bit wonky. A little more honking and a little less getting scoffed by snails would be nice.

Next Hedychium ‘Pradhanii’, the only flower worth a public showing. Pots have been shuffled recently and this stunning ginger has unfortunately found itself in direct rotary washing line range. Each time our matching “his and hers” lederhosen whizz around in the breeze they whack this poor beauty in the mooch. I should move it really. It makes sense.

Onto someone looking very guilty “It wasn’t me guv, I just sat down for a rest and the big hole was here already”. I believe you.

Now Heliotropium arborescens ‘Chatsworth’ purchased a few weeks ago on a birthday visit to Atlantic Botanic nursery with my old mucker Hero. I have grown this Cherry Pie fragrant lovely before, but it didn’t make it through the winter. Fingers crossed for this one.

And finally, Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’; pure dazzling pink furry joy.

All done. I might try this SoSing again, it wasn’t too bad after all. Take care, my friends, I’ll see you in the gloaming.