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.