Two Tulips Are Nice, But Thirty are Better

Clever birds.

Alyssum returns.

I keep forgetting the name, but these are neat.

The hydrangea that can’t decide whether to go dormant or bud.

I have been scouting prospective seed potato suppliers, Dear Reader, which is a grand way of saying I’ve been looking at online Irish garden centres as I keep missing my chance to pick a variety of seed potatoes and shallot sets and end up going with whatever I can find. I found one that does a flat rate, they say you can purchase ten plant or a hundred and only pay a very cheap postage, yes I was tempted, but no I didn’t, thank you! They also had some offers on bulbs, there was a BOGOF on black parrot tulips, which I have two of, they’re really unusual, frilled edges and a wider shape than the usual tulips, they were a jumbo packet already and getting double for the price of one was a steal. So, I have been planting, on days when the weather permits, barely at best to be honest, windy and wet has been the only weather these few weeks, over forty bulbs, I bought two other kinds, went into seven pots, which went into the long wooden planters and after a dust up with crows uprooting them they’re now under a fleece and, well, there’s still a lot of space left in those planters. All things in time. I’m currently flicking through the garden centre and compiling a wish list for next year, if hope bought flowers I’d have filled the garden already, I have an irrational urge to buy bamboo and they have it in stock.

The black grass stands out when stoned in the ground so I thought it’d work in a pot too.

A ladybird tower, probably ornamental, but I hope it’ll work.

I still can’t properly photograph shoots, but a tulip for your viewing pleasure.

Garlic.

As far as food goes everything is mostly stuck on repeat eats, there isn’t much new in shops, if anything there’s less and less, probably has to do with Christmas season, but that doesn’t get me my cereal, does it? It’s tiresome walking through the gluten free sections of the supermarkets, grateful as I am for them I’m tired of the repeating products and sheer volume of deserts and disguised deserts. One thing I really wish we had was a proper farmer’s market, we have a two stall one once a week, but it’s mostly the usual foods, glad to have fresh carrots and parsnips, but my carrots were fresher and sweeter, Dear Reader, that’s not bragging, but it does spoil you I tell you that. I still have parsnips growing, whether they’ll produce a proper root is anyone’s guess. A sad truth is that the coffee beans I buy are he most varied food I have, the rest I’ve eaten for many years, the same foods over and over do take a mental toll. It’s why many efforts at healthy eating tend to fail, as for Jack, I have a two foot scar across my abdomen and I’m still raging for the rest of these surgeries, you have no need to fear for Jack relapsing. I’ve never faltered in all this time, I’ve been angry, miserable, many negative things, but I’ve never been a failure. I have to remind myself of that at times.

I hope my fig tree will return next year.

Indoor mini roses, so cheap.

I grew them outdoors last year, after a Winter inside and a hardening-off.

The re-potted older snowdrops.

I’ve been looking through old photos o the garden, back when it was mostly trees and weeds. The sheer volume of hidden rots would probably have thwarted any attempts to plant in the soil, but I knew that at the start and it’s why the garden is awash with pots. There are even hidden stumps, one of which I need to tackle again, hopefully for the last time and hopefully it’ll be attractive when I’m done. I’ve said it often, but it really bears repeating: You can do so much with very little space. The garden isn’t that large, I know people with much more space, but it’s been planned and thought about deeply, everything in a pot can be moved and that wasn’t a mistake that was the knowledge of many plants getting too wild or just never growing in the soil. It should look even better next year, I suppose even when I’ve added all I can the established plants will improve year by year so hat may always hold true. For now I’m engraving plastic markers, cleaning up where I can and hoping for a warm Spring. Until later, Dear Reader, take care.

Honeysuckle berry, probably poisonous…tasty looking though.

When the Winter appears Naru’s angel reemerges from the greenery.

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Toothed Onion

Setting up feeders where they won’t spill seed all over my garden.

Early Irises I guess.

And Lilies according to my notes…

Apparently the Hungarian word for garlic means something like Toothed Onion, I’ve planted Fokhagyma garlic and can’t find much about it. All the better, Dear Reader, I like a mystery as you well know. I’ve grown garlic a few times, once or twice successfully and other times freak weather patterns have destroyed a harvest. I’ve never had this much experience and have never planted so much, so it should be interesting. Where you are will change how you plant so the following ideas, I can’t in good conscience call it a guide, are only for Ireland. Garlic isn’t fussy, but it takes about a year so you can imagine a lot can go wrong in that time. I’d already amended the the bed with worm castings, even the worms are still in there, I think they’re confused, it’s a much bigger bed, and now I turned the soil, then, I know, it takes some effort, I fed the whole bed with comfrey tea, used a broom handle to push a trench into the soil, I left enough space, like for onions close seems to do just fine and some people say it works better, I have limited space so who am I to argue, I also have a shed full of onions for the second year running so there must be something, as an aside I don’t really rotate crops, but I heavily amend the soil and keep it turned frequently, it’s worked so far. Two rows of evenly space garlic are covered over, then I took out a dead pot of basil, the roots rot away and the soil is just nice and dry, and topped that and marked the spot. Now I wait.

Roses are in their final bloom.

These are daffodils for sure.

A friend bought me the garlic for planting.

You can buy me bulbs too, just click here to buy me a “Coffee“.

The rest of the work has mostly been clean up. I’ve been removing spent plants, emptying pots, refilling pots, find more space than I have flower to fill. I have covered the beds, bed really, beds when I divide it next year again, that’ll keep the weeds down and let all the compost I added rot fully into the soil. It was really easy to dig again this year, the spade just needed a gentle nudge to go into the soil, I’ll dig it a few times before planting again. I have so many little jobs to do, things that have to wait until it’s the right time, like pruning the roses, which then create other little jobs, when there isn’t anything to be done I’ll make work. Winter gardening is rather dull and uneventful, but it gives you time to really prepare for the coming year. It’s also the time to research, Dear Reader, to research what? Why anything that pops up. I’m looking into attracting ladybirds, I could buy them, but they’re really expensive and might just fly away. So instead I’ll look at those bug houses, that might not work, I do have one, maybe it’s in the wrong spot, and also look into flowers that attract them. Like I say, Dear Reader, you find work to do. Until later, take care.

I’ve wanted to plant a lot at once for a while now.

Beds are ready for Winter.

Rice Flour and Puree Savoury Waffles

The Venn diagram of “What Do You Eat?” and “How Did You Lose The Weight?” is a circle.

Here’s the recipe.

Well, this is surprising to us both, Dear Reader, I had left over squash puree, those Uchiki Kuri are a worthwhile buy, there’s little waste for the size. I found out they’re grown in poly-tunnels, which makes sense after the disappointing sweet dumpling, sweet, but not bountiful. I’ll just have to strike it rich or stick to bush type squashes. What was I supposed to be talking about? Oh, waffles, yeah, I do tend to waffle on, I just…hmm? Heh. I was talking with a Dear Reader, Joëlle, who, like many of you puts up with Dearest Darling Jack, and we were lamenting the dryness caused by rice flour. Now I have had experience baking with rice flour and with Pureed vegetables and fruit, thanks to a recipe from Cooking Without Gluten, that taught me more than the entirety of most blogs have, which in time became my recipe here, sources are important, as is gratitude. So, rice flour is pretty awful. Though it is great for flat recipes like waffles, I have tried out some purees and waffles to no success, but today I managed to hit the right ratios. What happens was really a surprise, the puree took away a lot of he inherent dryness, and the waffles themselves managed to crisp and firm up after cooling, it’s usually the disappointing reverse.

You shall be curry. The buns are here and the bread here.

Rice flour batter looks velvety and is actually just lumpy at the best of times.

You can just see the outer crust being slight less done, hence the flip.

That’s me fed for a while.

So, soft, savoury, because I swear sugar is detrimental to good free-from waffles and I’m using less and less sugar these days, waffles that are really just made with junk and easy to hand ingredients. Sometimes you get lucky, Dear Reader, this should work with any moist pureed vegetable, but you’ll have to experiment, I have enough for a while. In truth, Dear Reader, I’m not sure that I ever really sought to become a food blogger, I just wanted to share what I had learned and what I had to do to accomplish all that I have. If I’m honest at times the blog was a danger to my diet as sugary sweet recipes are the most common free-from ones to be found. Cake was not the curative I needed. You can tend to seek recipes that will please your readership and the most likely candidates are going to be sweet rather than savoury. Once I stopped chasing this ambiguous goal of success I freed myself to really learn all that I could, not that I’m not glad that I’ve challenged myself in various ways over the years, my numerous forays into vegan baking and egg replacement have been a valuable asset, but if you keep making sweets you will fall and no one will be there to pick you up. No matter how great a blogger I could be, not that that’d been a possibility, I know myself and a viral star I will never be, so I switched gears and focused on my health, whatever that entailed would be shared here and I would no longer look for recipes for you, but rather recipes for continued health, popularity be damned. And, well, nothing much changed, the blog’s stats continue to rise each year and there is a lot of support, which I’m grateful for. What I’m getting at is that there’s more than one way to be a food blogger and there are more recipes than you’ll ever know. The post is heavy, but the waffles are light. I’ll be back again, Dear Reader. Take care.

Ingredients

75g Rice Flour (White and Brown Blend)
50g Steamed Squash Puree
1 Medium Egg (60g-65g in Shell)
15ml Olive Oil
1 Tsp Baking Powder
Water as Needed

Makes 4 Waffles. Can be frozen.

Method

1. Turn on Waffle Iron. Mix everything, expect the Water, together in a jug, then add Water until a loose, but lumpy Batter has been formed. It should be just thick enough to spread slowly. batter has been formed.

3. Add enough Batter to warmed Waffle Iron to fill the plates thinly, spreading as necessary, close the iron and cook for 7-10 minutes until waffles are golden brown and the bottom is cooked. Remove with a rubber spatula and flip over, leave for a further two minutes to cook the bottom. Remove and let cool for a few minutes, Waffles will crisp up slightly more as they cool.

Two Years Until Dinner

Espresso Steak has become a go to meal.

I tell you honestly, Dear Reader, there are times that things go almost too smoothly when preparing a meal and you just have to slump and just marvel at the happy accident that produces something so delicious, it’s that or maybe Jack is just a good cook, why knows? I love the espresso steak for its simplicity and for the sheer endless potential flavours, I change my beans after every bag, going back to old favourites on occasion, and each blend brings something different. The quinoa that has fought me with it’s blandness at every stage has found a place mixed with a nut or seed butter, a little sweetness and a goodish splash of water, it helps add some creaminess to the quinoa, which is indeed a worthwhile addition to any diet, but one that takes time to find the right preparation. I’ve been eating it for, oh about eight years now, in these last few months I’ve enjoyed it more than ever before.


I found this monster when I was disposing of the old stalks.

Now, there is a trend these days for faster and faster preparations of food, I want to take it in the opposite direction! One part of this meal took two years to come to the plate. How? Why patience! Heh. Jack is willing to wait, I waited for that first harvest of a heretofore unknown vegetable and found harlequin squash the greatest fruit I’d never known, I’m doing that on purpose, it’s fruit, but prepared as a vegetable, it’s reverse rhubarb, so the second year brought many tests to really learn harlequin’s traits, that year of growing and eating taught me that it could be crispy, I thought I should’ve tried it as balls of mash, so after another growing season, harvest and waiting here we are, what has taken at least two years, maybe three even, and I am truly sorry you can’t taste it, Dear Reader. It was crispy and crunchy on the exterior, like it had been bread-crumbed, or battered and deep fried, inside it was piping hot and creamy. All it was was harlequin mashed, from the freezer even, salt, pepper and a mist of olive oil, baked, nothing else. I really love this squash, it should be the standard variety the world over. The day I can’t get the seeds is the day I start hybridising my own delicata and acorn squash!

These are already down, but it was wet so I didn’t get a photo.

I have so many tools that somehow eventually find a use. Nail punch worked here.

No more mega dahlias trying to tear down my arch, which is now about half honeysuckle, which has even set fruit, which is poisonous if I remember right. I’ll run a rope or plastic clothesline through the eyelets. The dahilas are really prone to tumbling, they don’t actually take up much of the garden where they’ve been planted, but when they fall, like potatoes, which are being grown staked next year, they cover everything. I hammered these into the ground and they’ve made a neat box shape and will hopefully hold the dahlias upright, we’ll know in less than a year. Gardening really does take time, and patience and some ingenuity. I’m always on the lookout for new bits and bobs in the DIY sections, more often then not I have little to no idea of what I’m looking at and have to Google it. I’m learning a lot, Dear Reader, and it often works well for me. These dahlias belonged at an Uncle, they must have been trendy at one time, I see the same ones occasionally, so I want to take care of them in his stead. The living need to give me plants because the dead are everywhere in this garden! Don’t leave Jack, Dear Reader, I’ll feel haunted otherwise! Until later, take care.

Cherry Scented Greenhouses

Next year these should be even better.

Not that they’re not great already.

What’s that, Dear Reader? I keep talking about next year every year? Welcome to Gardening 101: Everything is in constant flow toward the uncertain future, we make the effort now and hope for favourable results at some unknown date. That sounds bad, but really it’s a wonderful thing to know that each year brings something different and new. The roses above were both gifts, rejects really, from gardens where they weren’t allowed to really develop properly. They’re nearing their third year, I think, so they’ve been moved which is rough on the plant, left a year with feeding and care, and have improved and now they’ll be pruned back and all new growth will allow them to really flourish from this point on. That’s a lot more cheerful sounding, isn’t it? I joke about rescue roses, but I’m serious about taking care of them. There are roses here with a lot of history. Mostly from dead people’s gardens, sadly garden’s end up neglected as it isn’t always a given that the next generation will tend to them. When Jack’s time comes? I’m spraying everything in undiluted comfrey and God help whomever has to get in there.

 Cold is turning these mini roses two toned.

I always talk of investing in the garden, if I spend money on a hose then that is my means of watering for the next few years, if I seal a barrel with epoxy that’s a guarantee of collected rain water. It can add up and I do tend to wait for sales or necessity, you can get a lot of equipment out of season cheaper, though free is still the best. I was lucky to snag a pump backpack sprayer that was going to the dump, unused!, that’ll mean I can spray feed everywhere next year. I have had to take out the old mop to clean the greenhouse, but today a mixer attachment came, it lets me spray washing-up liquid, or any soap, mixed with a jet of water, it can last for about five minutes before it needs refilling and then I can stop the mixing and just use water. It wasn’t expensive, but came with mixed reviews, I’m happy with mine, I managed to clean the greenhouse, again I had already mopped the outside and inside, and rinse it all without stopping the flow to the hose. Anything that let’s me manage the ever growing garden is a must have. Being able to clean the paths and wash away dust, mould and grit from the greenhouse is a great help. I pile up supplies little by little. As far as expense goes, gardening can be extreme, but smart management and ingenuity can really make a beautiful garden on a shoestring budget. A friend and I were recently discussing the best wait to pilfer discarded buckets. Sadly it wasn’t possible…yet.

I have to buy more, they’re so cheap.

I cut this to the ground, moved it only a few months ago and it’s in bloom again.

I’m still stopping and starting, I have to wait for the weather to be halfway decent and then wait on plants to finally die back, having both conditions to occur in the correct order isn’t an easy prospect. I have a list of jobs and am slowly adding to it whilst ticking off others. It can be surprising all that is accomplished within any given year, all those small labours add over to something grand in scope if not in scale. Once the last of the plants die back, Dear Reader, Jack will have to layer up and tackle the garden clean-up in earnest. For now I amble, potter and idle as necessary. I’ll be back again later, take care.

Patient Pond

Buy them and then find out germination rates.

Ah, Dear Reader, we’re now at the stage where I wait for decent days and in the interim I think up ways to kill time, so here I am!…Let’s talk about my adventures in aquatic gardening. Of course this is a Jack On a Budget endeavour, which, honestly is most of the garden. I think I prefer it this way, had I the means to purchase a pond and the space to have it install I think I’d have lost something. Even if I did have that kind of money I’d probably still do it this way. I started with an idea: What if I made a pond in a bucket, after a lot of Googling I decided I’d buy some Water Lotus seeds and after buying then had to look up how to germinate them properly. I often say you learn a lot doing this and you really have to. Germination rates are low, the seed casing needs rasping, careful as you can’t damage the embryo, soaking with frequent water changes and generally a huge amount of uncertainty and fretting. Excitement too, but a lot more fretting.

Two would make it outdoors and only one survived.

So, looking at the dates I filled the pond in mid April, so they started sometime in March. I had to dig the vegetable bed deep to get really heavy clay for the bottom, the pot is a rubber planter with drainage holes. I added stones, but I found that you’re not supposed to cover the plants, I rectified that and they did spread so I guess they were okay. They’re really slow to progress and you can’t exactly tell if they need hardening-off like plants usually do, they’re hardy in time, but these were delicate plants just sprouting, I think they were hit with cold, but once they’d started to establish the heat came and really let them thrive, it rather since there’s only one.

They’re a common sight now, but back then this was incredible. Still is really.

Watching a shoot with a leaf slowly unfurl was a really wonderful experience, I really like water features, there’s something really calming about them. Less so when the heat clouds the water and you have to figure out that replacing water helps clarify it. I honestly thought it’d die at every stage, in time it just kept putting out leaves, small at first, really insignificant, but after some gentle liquid feeding, comfrey tea is still an incredible natural fertiliser, the lily pads started to get larger and greener. Over time it has spread itself and re-rooted. It hasn’t flowered which isn’t that surprising, if it see the Winter through and starts again in Spring I hope it will eventually flower. You have to have patience for gardening, you can spend months, if not years, at a project and have it all fail in a single day. Successes are sweeter for it, not that you’ll see that in a moment of failure.

I really should’ve put it in the centre. Live and learn.

For now I keep the water level higher and hope the tubers will keep safe nestled beneath the soil and stones. You can see in the bottom of the picture where it has re-rooted, funnily the of-shoot looks much strong than the original growth. I still don’t know very much about water lotuses, but as long as it lives I’ll be learning something and if I have to restart I will. If it succeeds, well, Dear Reader, I may just have to invest in a few more “Ponds”. Until later, take care.

Eating Winter

I’m eating well today at least.

Three types of beetroot and two carrot varieties, that orange carrot is from the third planting of carrots, it’s been a really incredible year for carrots, Dear Reader, beetroot has struggled, but it is doing better in the second, sadly smaller, planting. The white beetroot was really sweet, I thought only golden beetroot was supposed to be sweet, maybe it was the frost we had. The Winter is creeping in and I’m still trying to manage my depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I’m not going to start offering advice, I have enough to mind in myself, Dear Reader, nor am I looking for any advice of concern. We both of us, Dear Reader and Dearest Darling Jack alike have but one job here: To enjoy the garden’s journey. For me it’s a matter of preparing for next year and this year’s colder spells, you, well, you have to put up with these aimless ramblings. You may learn something as I’m still learning so much from the garden.

I only planted four or so tigernuts, but still, I expected more.

Whether it was the extreme cold and heat or something else the tigernuts didn’t flourish, but I have enough to save and try again next year. I’m not even using these, they just isn’t enough to bother. I’m patient I can wait a long, long time. I’m still sticking to my lowered dairy intake, staying warm and drinking daily cold-brewed hibiscus tea. It seems to have helped, I’ve also upped my fibre, even though I get a lot I still haven’t been getting as much as I used to since my cereal changed a year or so ago, I’m supplementing my cereal with chia seeds. The facial burning and swollen throat have all but vanished, I’m just doing what’s recommended in a way that fits my dietary needs, Dear Reader, take from it what you will. The problem is that these kind of changes occur so gradually and take such a long time and strong dedication that by the time you reach a worthwhile place you hardly notice it due to the gradual realisation of the full effect. This kind of lifestyle takes a huge amount of will, it’s easy to overlook that it too takes a toll so other kinds of self-care are very important too. Hence these posts.

You can see the “tiger stripe”.

I had a heart-pounding experience recently, Dear Reader, as jaded as my readership is surely they’re excited? No? You know me too well, Dear Reader, but my heart was pounding as I carried the entire wormery, which has gotten much too heavy, stepping on a single concrete block, over the high rise of the greenhouse door, am I the only one with a raised greenhouse?, onto another block, one foot reaching out blindly while holding onto the wormery in both arms like a treasured child and walking through the narrow door, somehow well all, worms and Jack, made the journey unscathed. The frost came a day later so it was the right time, there are worms in the upper levels being hit by the cold so I’ve wrapped the whole in garden fleece for now. I tell you, Dear Reader, my core strength and balance have improved so much with the healing after the surgery. I’m nothing special, but I’m not stumbling on air these days.

Why does the earthiest vegetable look the most like candy?

The pond has had its first freeze, the leaves were dying so they’re okay, it’s the tubers as they’re apparently known, I’ve never had a pond, a bucket planter for the uninitiated, or ever managed one, but I’m learning, that need protecting, I’ve filled it to the top, stopping up the holes for draining, the lower water level let the plant put out leaves that sat on the surface so I guess I did that right, and I hope the freeze will keep the water above the bottom warmer, unless we get extreme cold and the whole thing freezes it should be okay for next year, I hope so, Dear Reader, of all my projects this has been a favourite. I can always restart, but I’d rather not have to. Next up the drill returns, well, again, I had to put up a bird feeder, I want broom handles to fence in the dahlias, like the roses, but with a hole to run a strong string through, knots slip whereas holes will keep it neat and tight. I have no idea how many of the absurd ideas that flit through my mind actually make it to my Dear Readers as I see them, I hope you’ll hang around long enough to see them put into practice. The whole garden has been one huge experiment, I could walk you over every inch and tell you of the ideas I had, the things I’ve tried, successes and failures both, and we’d be there a very long time, let’s keep that for another day, Dear Reader, until then, take care.