Saturday 19 December 2009

George's showdown with the idiot Plimer

The other thing that did make me cheer with joy during this awful Copenhagen week was George Monbiot's showdown with the idiot Australian* climate denier Ian Plimer on Oz news show Lateline (ABC, Oz equivalent to BBC). Watch George destroy slimy-Plimer here and enjoy.

*of course, idiot climate deniers can be found in all countries, it just happens this one is an Aussie.

Failure in Copenhagen

I have to say I'm pretty depressed about the outcome, or rather, lack thereof, at Copenhagen. I didn't have high hopes for much, but thought developing countries might get something and there might be some effort for the world leaders to seriously deal with climate change.

However, as I predicted, the only so-called 'new' money is money has previously been announced, comes from aid budgets and/or is going through the bloody World Bank. And don't be fooled by the $100 billion announcement - this is just an 'aim' by developed countries, nothing has actually been committed. And $100billion isn't enough. The best summary of the failure in Copenhagen is from WDM (though I would say that, wouldn't I!). WDM gives a good overview of why it was a failure for developing countries (actually, for all of us), the bullying tactics and bribery developed countries used and the facts behind the finance figures.

The only thing that has cheered me a little is Patrick's overview today about some positive comments about the fact that Seed Laws in the EU are falling apart, and the fact consumers are not taking to GMOs. Perhaps gardeners should be the 'leaders' of the world?

Friday 11 December 2009

Copenhagen - real news

COP15 is on right now. I must admit to not being that hopeful about a genuine deal in Copenhagen. Too many industry interests will be getting in the way of actually doing anything about climate change; they must maintain their right to pollute you know. Yes, I heard that the UK and France might double the EU funding for developing countries. But I bet that a) it isn't new money and b) they will try and move it through the corrupt World Bank.

If you interested in keeping up with the news from Copenhagen, that is, real news, not corporation-speak, see:
And if you would like to read a sensible analysis of so-called 'email climate gate', read Myles Allen's excellent article from The Guardian.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Heritage Seed Library catalogue

My yearly catalogue from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL)  came today and I'm rather excited to see I'm listed as a HSL Guardian I'm not sure I really qualify for the honour, as I've never officially asked to become a guardian, I have just been saving seeds and sending them back.

 One of the seeds I've saved in the past, is the Pea 'Latvian' (Pisum sativum Latvian). This grew really well the first year I tried it, in 2008, even though the poor darlings were flooded a couple of times. Somehow they survived and I got a really good crop. Here is a picture of Pea Latvian in flower. Very pretty and very prolific. And wow, they might be small peas, but they were incredibly sweet and juicy (below right). They are currently my favourite pea. I grew it again this year, but because we had moved house and I didn't have time to get much in the way of growing done at either the lottie or at home, it was just a few in pots.

Other seeds I saved and sent back to HSL were Pea Robinson and Purple Podded Pea. Robinson is my next favourite, not quite as prolific as Latvian, with white flowers, but larger peas and very yummy. Purple Podded have a beautiful flower, similar to Latvian, however with amazing, well, purple pods! These are way prolific, fast growers and I even found I sometimes got late flowering on plants that looked dead near the root. However, if you don't eat them young, they aren't as yummy. So if you miss picking them young, best to save them for soup/stews in my opinion.

So, returning to this years catalogue. To have the best chance of getting the varieties of veg seeds you want from the HSL, you have to be quick. So I was. This is my list of 6 varieties (you can choose up to 6 as a member of HSL) that I hope to receive:
  • Kale Russian/Hungry Gap
  • Kale Madeley
  • Parsnip Kral Russian
  • Beetroot Dobbies Purple
  • Carrot London Market
  • Climbing French Bean Extra Hatif de Juliet
Kale Hungry Gap was the first ever Kale I grew, not knowing anything about Kale nor had eaten it prior to this. This variety is named for the fact it can be harvested during the 'hungry gap' period (roughly beginning of the year to April). I was told to use it like spinach in cooking so I tried that and it was great. Has a slightly nutty taste to it, more depth than spinach, though I remain just as fond of spinach. Kale, like spinach, tastes great if sautéed it in some butter and nutmeg. As you can see from my choices above, I'm now rather keen on Kale.

I've grown Parsnip Kral Russian in my previous garden. The reason why I've chosen it again, is that despite heavy clay soil and flooding, it still grew really well. So I want to try it again at my lottie where the soil is a lighter clay and therotically should be easier for Parsnips.

The beetroot choice? Because the description in the catalogue says 'looked amazing and had a knockout scent of honey' when flowering. So I want to test that out! Also, see how this variety compares with Beetroot Sanguina which I grew this year. Sanguina was great, dark, crunchy and juicy. Good in salads, and I used it when I made Forbidden Chocolate Brownies. I just want to see if another variety makes the Brownies taste different.

Well, it's getting late and I better get my list of seed goodies into an envelope. I'll try and save more seeds next year and send them back to HSL, that way maybe then I can feel that I deserve the honour of being listed as a Seed Guardian.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Guess who didn't get to go to The Wave...

I didn't make it to London for The Wave. Bollocky bollocks. My back has been bad recently so I was banned from going on the grounds that it was just starting to get better and therefore I was told that I couldn't risk sitting in an uncomfortable bus for hours and standing around for hours (because there is always lots of standing around before a march ever gets going...) and putting it out again. Hummm. Of course, the person who told me I should be sensible and stay home got to go and have all the fun. So since I cannot report anything, over to Kevin to tell you about it.

First, here is a groovy pic of him imitating a Pict. Actually everyone was pretending to be Picts, what was that all about? Oh, it was suppose to be a wave. ok.
Kevin reports:
I went to the Wave in London to add my voice to many others about our concern over climate change. I met up with World Development Movement (WDM) people on North Audley St before the start of the rally and tried to make sure that other Oxford WDM members knew where I was.

The rally was very slow to get going, and it took well over an hour just to get all of us out of Grosvenor Square. This gave Sam (OxWDM group chair) time to meet up with me with 3 friends of his, plus it gave me time to accept the idea of having my face painted. There were lots of people, plus the WDM Coal monster and a walking Earth constantly looking in fear at the Coal Monster.

It was very loud, with lots of noise being made, and whilst we were stuck in Grosvenor Square there was a sound system with loud music, once out of the square those walking with drums and trombones kept the noise level up, plus the expected chanting of "What do we want" and in this case followed by "Climate justice now".

Once out of Grovesnor Square we finally started to move along. I got to carry the head of the Coal Monster for a while and I'm sure I've ended up in lots of peoples pictures of the rally, possibly even on telly though I doubt the footage taken was that exciting. But the delay leaving Grovesnor Square meant that for many of us did not get the chance to circle Parliament House by crossing the river, it was after 4 pm by the time I got to Parliament Square.

Throughout the day I caught up with old friends and made new ones. I know quite a few of the active members from Sheffield WDM now, and allowed one of them to paint my face.

It was a good day, but whether the goverment was listing or not is another question... Here's me with the Coal Monster.

Saturday 28 November 2009

yay -o-yay it's garlic planting day

FINALLY! Finally it wasn't raining and I could get down to lottie and finish planting the remaining garlic. Besides those mentioned previously, I also planted some more common garlic, Solent Wight and Arno. Good bog-standard garlic, but not as exciting as some of the ones Patrick gave me. For instance, here is, from L-R: Irkutsk, Martin's Heirloom and Georgian Crystal, before going into the ground.

Pretty huh. For a list of the garlic varieties I'm growing this year, see my garlic varieties document. I'm trying to collate info about each variety, as it isn't that easy to find on the web. I've noted if each variety is a Hardneck or Softneck, and whether it is meant to be good for storing (mainly softnecks, but some hardnecks). I'll update it next summer when I harvest it all.

I was also excited to see that my first broad beans are pushing their way through the soil. It might be getting closer to winter solstice, but life still goes on.

So yay-o-yay I say. Garlic's in. Now just need the weather to give me another break so I can get the pear trees in. There's always more gardening to be done. I love that.

Friday 27 November 2009

Pear trees

Yay, my pear trees have arrived! The two I chose were Beth and Onward. I got them from Deacon's Nursery, but they don't have pictures, hence the links to somewhere else. They pollinate around the same time, Beth's a D and Onward an E, so I shouldn't have any trouble them pollinating each other.

I'm going to plant them in the front garden at home. The front gets lots of sun, being South-facing (that's like being North-facing in Oz or NZ), so I'm hoping they will do well there. Of course, they are only 1 year old maidens, so a few years before I actually get any fruit. Until then, I can dream of making pear juice...

Now I just need it to stop bloody raining so I can get them into the ground...

Sunday 22 November 2009

land for who?

Kevin came across this on Media Lens, and I wanted to post it here as I think it perfectly expresses the current policy of the Israeli government. Keep building illegal settlements and deny Palestinians their right of return. That's one way of changing the 'facts on the ground'.

A frustrated gardener...

Argh, it's raining. Again. In the last couple of weeks, everytime I've wanted to get back to the lottie to finish planting the garlic, it has been raining, my back has been out so I couldn't go, or it was sunny but I was at work!

I got up early this Sunday morning, thinking right, I'll get there before it rains this afternoon. It was clear and so I ate breaky and got into my gardening clothes. Then just as I was about to leave, the rain poured down. So like many other gardeners, I'm left to dreaming about getting my seeds in the ground, rather than actually doing it.

Well, I guess I'll get on with planning my lottie rotations for next year. Proof you can always be gardening, even if not physically putting your fingers in the soil.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

West Papua

One of the campaigns I support (and yes, there are a few), is the Free West Papua Campaign. West Papua has been under Indonesian occupation since the early 1960s. For a bit of background to the conflict, see the about page.

Earlier this year, the Red Cross was forced to shut its office and leave West Papua after its staff members visited prisoners in jail. Because you know, speaking to people is a potential terrorist threat, or something. A Indonesian human rights group based in NZ has an online petition asking for the Red Crescent to be allowed back into West Papua. I hope you will sign the petition.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Forbidden Chocolate Brownies

I made 'Forbidden Chocolate Brownies'. What do you think? 
I rather surprised myself with quite how good they are; I'm starting to get good that this baking malarkey. This recipe, like many other cakes I've baked recently (Lavender Cup Cakes, Coconut Cake) come from a wonderful book titled Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache

The recipies are mostly gluten-free, and the best bit, for me at least, each cake is based on using a vegetable as a key ingredient. The Forbidden Chocolate Brownies (that's what the author calls them) have beetroot as the veg. The beetroot makes the brownies really moist, and they taste amazing. And the 150g of chocolate helps of course!

Some good(ish) news from America

I was so happy to see on the front page of The Guardian this morning, that the House of Reps in the US finally passed Obama's Healthcare bill. Still needs to go through the Senate, but a promising start.

I honestly don't understand why anyone would be against universal healthcare. I would find it amusing if it wasn't so worrying that so many in the US appear to be against it. Or rather, the right-wing neo-cons and media have managed to make it appear like lots of Americans are against it. Their 'taking away our freedoms' and 'reds under the bed' mantra tried to make universal health care sound evil (as evil as onions?). Call it what they like, giving everyone access to health care is a GOOD THING.

I'm not sure what I think of Obama at times, but he gets brownie points from me for continuing to push for universal health care.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Angelic Garlic vs Evil Onion

I hate onion. I think it is evil and must be destroyed. It makes me sick. Literally. I mean, I eat onion, I'm sick. I'm allergic. Hence, I think onion is evil.

Garlic on the other hand... Garlic is wonderful. An angel of a vegetable. Gives flavour and delight whenever it is used. And of course, it doesn't make me sick. I love garlic.

The point of all this, is that today I got some garlic planted at the lottie. Thanks to Patrick at Bifircuated Carrots who gave me some wonderful varieties not easy to get in the UK, I have some really interesting garlic to grow for the coming year. Today I planted:
  • Susan Delafield
  • Estonian Red
  • Burgundy
  • Vekat Czech
  • Purple Glazer
  • Georgia Fire
  • Rosewood
He also gave me:
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Persian Star
  • Music
  • Martin's Heirloom
  • Metechi
  • Irkutsk
  • Silver Rose
  • Gypsy Red
which I hope to get planted in the next week. Ran out of time today, with the days getting shorter and all.

Also got some over-wintering Broad Beans sowed, Aquadulce Claudia and The Sutton. I have planted alternative rows of garlic and broad beans, viz:

I've done this in previous years and it seems to work well. The garlic grows down, the broad beans up, so not too crowded but making the maximum use of growing space.

It was a lovely day at the lottie. Mainly blue skies and the sun shining on us, just beginning to set as we finished up for the day. Kevin was helping me, the darling. Given gardening is my obsession, he is very sweet about helping out. Here he is helping with sowing:

Those jeans could do with some sewing too...

I also got the 2nd strawberry bed planted up. I 'inherited' the largest strawberry patch ever when we moved into Cornwallis Road, and the strawbs are really lovely and sweet. No idea what variety, but they taste good and are prolific, so I've transplanted some to the lottie.

I'm moving the strawberry patch from home to lottie because the current patch at home is in prime kitchen garden space, where I want to grow my salads etc. I may keep some strawbs at home too, because they taste so good and turn into wonderful strawberry ice-cream (yes, I make strawberry ice-cream).

Thursday 5 November 2009

Remember, Remember

the fifth of November! Just came back from Bonfire night at Stadhampton, a village a few miles South of Oxford. Kevin and I went with friends Jackie and Mark (the latter of lottie fame). Guy Fawkes/bonfire night is one of my favourite English traditions. I think because the warming bonfire and the big bangs and twinkling of the fireworks bring out the child in us all. Everyone, adult and child alike, oooohhhhs and aaahhhhs when the really big fireworks light up the sky, and there are giggles of delight at the flashing and twinkling ones.

I do find it amusing that we celebrate an event that failed! Then again, Australian's have a habit of celebrating explorers who actually got lost and died. Never quite sure how Burke and Wills got to be heros; I think being white men had something to do with it.

Anyway, bonfire night is good fun and I am suitably cheery. Good evening with friends and bright lights. What more could you want? Happy bonfire night to you!

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Black Mountains

Kevin and I decided this year that rather than give each other birthday pressies, we would go away for a few days. We chose to go to one of our favourite places in the world, the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are in Powys, just on the border of Wales and Enlgand, near Hay-on-Wye.

And here is a lovely pic of us in the Olchon valley, at the bottom on the English side of the Black Mountains.
You can see some more pictures from our holiday on my web album.

Monday 2 November 2009

Lottie beginnings

My allotment is on Cricket Road, Oxford. I took it on in November 2008, joined by my partner Kevin, and friend Mark who do quite a bit of the digging; though some credit should also go to Mark's friend Jason who is quite an impressive digger - I wish he would come more often...  This is the lottie when I first took it on:

As you can see, the allotment dream. A couch grass, bramble filled disaster area. Ho hum.

Kevin and Mark trying to tame some of the brambles and weeds:

Here is Mark (blue top) and Jason getting a bed ready to plant taties in May 2009:

One year on, end October 2009, this is where it is at:

We have managed to cultivate the 1st quarter of the plot, thereby meeting lottie rules, and getting a lot of taties in the process. The taties have all been dug up and being eaten, next in is some brassicas (to the left), winter salads, spinach and leaf beet, and preparing beds for garlic and broad beans (the empty bed to the right). In front in the first strawberry bed, with lots of daffs planted underneath that should flower in February.