Marital Harmony Returns

by earthwoman on July 6, 2014

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I have written often of the frustration of the Rotovator.  Our particular torment comes in the form of a very old and cranky Mountfield M1 Gardener:

I am beginning to hate the rotovator. It offers so much in the way of pain free cultivation but its always such an arse to use. It weighs a tonne, requires repeated muscle wrenching yanks to even hint at a splutter and then when you finally get it started it roars for a matter of seconds before choking its way to a pathetic end. Then the process repeats.  
Oct 2011

I went back to the old fashioned method of forking over the soil while Lynn continued off and on, to wrench her arm out of its socket trying to get the thing to spark.
Mar 2012

This year we treated ourselves to a secondhand Honda tiller which we were told would actually start, first time. Of course I didn’t believe it. What petrol motor with a pull cord actually starts first time? We’ve tried the M1 Gardener umpteen times, and don’t get me started on the Stihl petrol strimmer, both have resulted in near dislocations and marriage-threatening arguments.

This weekend was a revelation. I tipped petrol into the Honda tank, flicked an assortment of switches and then grabbed the cord for a tentative pull. I wanted to start gently so I could gauge the tension before beginning the heavy duty yanking. To my complete surprise the engine spluttered and more importantly remained on. No shoulder wrenching yank-athons required.

What joy! Marital harmony may have returned to the plot. I can choose to use the tiller on a whim without risking the next 2-3 hours spent arguing over the position of the choke cable and who’s turn it is to pull the blasted starter cord.

Yes, my new Honda tiller is a dream come true, if a little bouncy.

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The Annual Broad Bean Giveaway

by earthwoman on June 1, 2014

The beans have been tremendously successful this year which can only mean that the Annual Broad Bean Giveaway will be more challenging than usual.

Broad bean glutThis event sees us sneaking from neighbour to neighbour trying to catch them unawares so we can thrust a carrier bag of un-podded and usually unwelcome beans into their hands.

Typically the neighbours are one step ahead of us and have closed the curtains, plunged the house into darkness and feigned longterm absence.

One may wonder why I grow so many unpopular beans. I don’t much care for them myself actually, but it’s hard to turn your back on the singularly most success crop and besides I do so enjoy the groans when I put them on the teenagers dinner plates.

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Where there’s Muck

by earthwoman on May 11, 2014

Years of following a haphazard compost cycling routine has resulted in two full heaps of uncomposted matter.

20140511-133055.jpgI was always supposed to fill one side of my pallet compost system, before flipping it all over into the other side and starting the process again. This disciplined rotation would result in an annual harvest of beautiful, crumbly, loamy compost but somewhere along the line I got confused (or lazy) and chucked my kitchen waste into alternate sides.

Faced with nowhere else to tip my waste I had to face my rubbish mounds head on.

There followed a morning of complex muck juggling. Trying to balance piles of manky brassica stems and steaming grass sods until I could unearth some good stuff from the bottom of pile number 1.

I was rather pleased with what I uncovered. There was indeed some real composted stuff at the bottom of the heap and it was ready to be transferred to the squash bed.

With the first forkful I released a remarkably shiny silver teaspoon but the second fork filled me with joy.

20140511-125356.jpgThe removal of the second forkful revealed my long lost Messermeister Vegetable Peeler.

You may not have heard of the Messermeister peeler. For some unfathomable reason they are unavailable in the UK. I had to acquire mine from the US. They are by far and away the worlds best peeler. I brought this one rather tentatively into my new relationship. It’s the sort of gadget you can’t risk losing and I was sorely tempted to create a pre-nuptial agreement to ensure that the peeler came with me in the unfortunate instance of a relationship catastrophe.

This particular peeler went AWOL about two years ago but now has returned and I am so happy.

20140511-125409.jpgThe handle appears a little worse for wear. The soft outer coating appears to have decomposed rather successfully but the blade is as sharp as ever. A little TLC and this peeler can reclaim its spot in the kitchen drawer ready to see us through our dotage.

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Hitting the Water Table

by earthwoman on February 3, 2014

We made a flying visit to the plot this morning to deposit the kitchen compost and to rescue the last few Brussels.

Compost has become a bit of a cottage industry at our house. I have a production line that starts by the kettle with a little repository for tea bags, moves down to the lovely silver caddy on the kitchen floor and then out into the back garden where it can go one of 3 ways.

In the garden we have a large galvanised dustbin, two bokashi buckets and a multi-tiered wormery. I haven’t quite worked out the optimum route for all our waste but the initial plan was to send everything to the bokashi buckets for high speed Japanese fermenting and then on to the wormery for compost production.

I hoped the worms would produce enough soil for me to replace the bank that has slipped into the neighbours garden but they only seem to devour at the rate of 1 lettuce leaf per week.

That’s where the galvanised bin comes in handy and in truth I may as well be bypassing the bokashi and the wormery and ditching all our waste into it.

Anyhoo, we waddled on to the plot with bin and bokashi buckets in hand and I decided to dig trenches to tip it all in. That way I could plant my summer squash into a moisture retaining environment and hopefully grow championship worthy whoppers.

It’s hard to imagine that the soil would need assistance with water retention. I hit the water table at one spades depth and found myself stuck, steadfast in a squelchy clay puddle.

We considered ourselves lucky though as our neighbours on the opposite side of the plot have had to return their usual seed order and panic purchase rice.

20140203-085410.jpg

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Port and Sloe Gin Production

by earthwoman on December 22, 2013

Most of the sloes had gone by the time we got our foraging heads on. We had to endure multiple blackthorn puncture wounds in order to get deep enough into the hedgerow to secure some berries that the birds had missed.

I still bear the scars from that day and the experience has left me wanting to squeeze the very marrow from my hard won sloes.

20131222-163812.jpgThey initially went into bottles for the traditional sloe gin but now two months later I am decanting the gin and don’t feel the sloes have reached the end of their useful lives.

Thankfully Permaculture magazine has provided me with the perfect recipe for semi-sozzled sloes. Sloe Port.

I bundled an approximate dollop of sugar and healthy slug of cognac into the drained bottle of gin soaked sloes and topped up with a bottle of bargain basement merlot. In a couple of months I should be rewarded with a very interesting bottle of port.

Either that or a bottle of pink salad vinegar.

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The Importance of Labels

December 10, 2013
The Importance of Labels

We ran out of tartare sauce today. I don’t know what you are supposed to do in that situation. If I run out of lager I’ll substitute a bottle of Merlot but I don’t have a ready made substitute for tartare sauce. With salmon on the plate, I had to think on my feet and [...]

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Cavalo Nero Kale Crisps

November 28, 2013
Cavalo Nero Kale Crisps

This is the first year of growing Kale. It’s taken me about 40 years to acquire the taste but I’ve now found the recipe that boosts this brassica into top spot – Cavalo Nero crisps. I force fed the vegetable loathing teenager a crisp, hoping to recreate the last force feeding photo opportunity, but it totally [...]

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A Room of One’s Own

November 3, 2012
A Room of One's Own

I’ve always considered the allotment shed to be a home from home but the recent crop failings and resultant low morale has led it to be more of an irregular holiday home and our lack of attentiveness became apparent today. Opening the shed I discovered my boots had been used as a rubbish receptacle, I [...]

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