Behind The Pots With Jack

Yes, literally behind the pots.

Staining the planters and myself in parts.

One day I won’t have to keep lifting these.

Well, Dear Reader, we’re having a short dry, warm spell so I had to tackle these massive planters. I have the area ready for both, they just needed some protection. I’ll fill them with pots, which could never be placed close to the wall due to a slope in the foundation, pots mean I can replace rather dig up or have to leave there. The garden looks pretty messy, but that par the course for this time of year, everything is being amended, repaired or just reworked. I have to collect stones soonish so it’ll be looking pretty spiffy in the not too distant future. The compost border, made with broom handles that were cut and then the cut pieces filled gaps caused by the uneven ground, no waste wood amazingly, will keep compost off the stones when emptying and keep stones out of the compost. I’ll still need to place sheets around, but this should look good and be functional. It’s either really interesting or extremely dull, there’s no middle ground here. It was strange to see it without the pots for a change, they’ve become such a vital part of the garden when you move them it feels like sacrilege. They’ll go back when the planter is in place. Tomorrow, hopefully, then I clean the matting in preparation for the stones. It’s a lot of work, but worth it.

My third generation saved seed chillies are being saved again.

The roses are still blooming.

I’m collecting free stones soon, need to clean everything up. A broom border for he compost bins.

The “Wild Garden” is cleaned again, soon to be planted for the last time. I hope.

I was gifted more unwanted dahlias and gladioli, they and the Spanish Bluebells are going into the wild garden, which will need a small fence to hold in the dahlias, I tied string to the arch for the other bed, but due to the wind they toppled and nearly torn down the arch. It’s a big garden when you have to shuffle anything around or dig anything out. I’m hoping that I’ll get the brunt of the work done this week and then I can just let the garden handle itself for a while because I need a rest from dragging and pulling, the weather is playing hell with my joints. Still, I won’t complain when I’m given anything and I’d hate to see them wasted. Nothing goes to waste in this garden as you well know, Dear Reader. I’ll be back again later, take care.

Advertisements

Broken Stem, Squash Leaf and Always Jack

I’m still eating much too healthy. Terrible, terribly tasty Espresso Steak.

The Sweet Dumpling Squash ripened.

HAH! I GOT THESE IN THE VEGETABLE BED!

I am not shouting, okay, yes I am, because I’m at forty nine squash harvested. that’s the greatest harvest I have ever seen and it may still get to fifty. I was standing in the kitchen looking out and irrationally decided to check the tomatoes, still growing, but hard to say with the weather how they’ll fare, on the way I instead decided to climb, literally, into the squash bed. The wind knocked them about a bit so there was some space freed from the twining vine type, therein, I, carefully balanced, espied a left over stem, must’ve been from the squash I’d cut, or so I thought, but as I lifted it, heavy I thought, it had a squash still attached and fully ripe. Next to that I spotted what I though was a damaged squash, it was squishy to the touch, but after careful inspection, squatted in the bed leaning isn’t the greatest vantage point as you can imagine, I saw a rotten leaf was atop another squash and just beyond that was the third, the fifth of the day. I’m elated.

The cleaned out bed sans compost.

The rested compost, about two wheelbarrows worth.

I, after learning from my folly last year, when I ended up with three filled bins, rested one bin during the Summer so I’d have it for Winter. Earlier than I thought it was ready to be spread onto the bed, I had composted the other half that still holds squash so the beds are getting a really heavy supply of compost. I’ll rest another bin soon and hopefully have it ready in the spring for the raised beds. You can see I’m getting ready for the next stage in the landscaping, heh, there’s a thin border around the compost as I’ll be collecting a trailer of stones for the garden, kindly donated by a friend, I have to fill it, but there are many helpful hands enlisted. Next year the garden will be at it’s best. There will come a time when the large scale projects are no longer possible, but by then I may not be as spry as I am now so it might be for the best. The work I put in pays off, I have it all down to a easy routine and it just chugs along. The compost is interesting as that bin has been filled up dozens of times over and what’s left is, what I suspect is better than the supposed “black” dry compost, a moist brown almost odourless mass of organic matter filled with life. The worms will go into he soil and continue to improve it, the microbes will break down what’s there and the soil will improve and improve. A far cry from the dry dusty, stone-ridden soil it started as. Much like, Dear Jack, it’s a work in progress, always and ever trying to be better, Dear Reader. I’ll be back again soon, take care.

 

Jack’s Eternal Garden


These need a little work, but look at how big they are!


My arms hurt.

I’m mostly done for the year, Dear Reader, though I say that while flowers keep re-booming, there isn’t a whole lot of exciting news incoming, I’ll probably type this over a few days. If anything thing seems off that might be why, or it might be my Winter Brain. I’ve been trying to take a harder stance on my histamine intolerance for Winter, every year it gets worse. I’m currently keep warm as possible, it really seems to help, I’m drinking a mixture of rosehip, hibiscus and a few other ingredients, it’s a tea marked pomegranate without any pomegranate, pre-made food remains a mystery, cold brewed, I’m on about two bottles a day, sometimes three. As this has mint, a diuretic which I’ve had issues with in excess, I only use this blend once and then go back to the rooibos. I’m not suggesting this will work for you, but I’m just following the general diet for low histamine, as I always have, it’s helped me leaps and bounds coupled with everything else. Try everything your own way, Dear Reader, just be safe no matter how natural a suggestion seems. I’m also keeping my dairy low, I’m drinking coffee, which is bad, but I have nothing else, the espresso shots never seem to bother me, but the lattes are every once in a while for a few months. It’s difficult to cut the diet any further, Dear Reader, I just keep it in balance for me, as you’d do with your diet, neither of us can exactly guide the other, we all have different needs after all and no diet can be tailored exactly for everyone.


One of the more interesting things I’ve collected this year.


Some of the dahlias took a hit with the storm.


The seaholly is still growing.

I have been thinking about the language we use regarding diet, which has become a problematic word in itself due to the numerous, and often dangerous, dietary fads. I’ve often referred to it as nutritional needs, rather than by the useful term of diet, so as not to dissuade or mislead anyone. I often talk about junk-food, I was eleven or so stone heavier only a comparatively short time ago, I’ve was heavier longer than I’ve been thinner, but I’ve recently thought about it as unnecessary food, when I want to eat something that will be of no benefit to me I think of it that way and it just seems easier to say no. Even the name junk-food is misleading as although it conjures images of trash it still fills you with a guilty glee and a tempting thought of sugary, fatty goodness, years of conditioning don’t fade that fast, Dear Reader. So, maybe if you’re starting, struggling or just in a place to improve think of foods as beneficial, instead of the stuffing sounding “healthy”, and as unnecessary. A re-framed idea can lead to different results.


Rough for now, but it never really worked that well.


It’s aged a lot due to weather, but still works fine.

The canna indica seeds have been saved. I’ll have to treat them like I did the water lotus, still going strong, gently rasping the outer shell until I hit the cream coloured embryo and then after night’s soaking and swelling, the seed I mean, how dare you, they should be ready for planting. Mind you, Dear Reader, this will be in the Spring. I start planning early, I know. I currently have a few larger projects in the works, donations are being made to the garden that in time should really elevate it even further. The whole garden is recycled, reused and was generally the trash that no one wanted turned into treasure that everyone admires. I did have a stroke of luck with the weather, an unusual one. There was a tree that might have toppled onto the greenhouse, a thin one, but long, I tried sawing it, but it could only get halfway, I hoped that the half cut would make it fall backwards if anything did happen. It didn’t, but it fell straight and hit nothing of importance, after a quick carve up and tossing away there’s now a lot more light for the greenhouse, which is welcome as the colder weather starts to come in. I’ll have to start thinking of the wormery, also still going strong, it’ll probably head to the greenhouse if it gets very cold, I might wrap it in bubble wrap to keep it warm for now. The garden has been a boon in that it supplies so much including little jobs like this to occupy the mind in the miserable dark months.

We had a storm, Dear Reader, an unexpected and severe one. It knocked off my greenhouse window at its worst. I’ve repaired it temporarily as best I could with what I had at hand, which was nothing really. It could’ve been worse, I left the door cracked open when the window went to allow the air to flow through rather than blowing out everything. I’ll have to get it fixed permanently, it wasn’t working properly as the frame is crooked so I’ll just leave it sealed. There wasn’t any real warning and the storm wasn’t expected to be this bad. I was awoken by my temporary window, everything is “temporary” here, Dear Reader, blowing in and needed to be sealed with tape. It could be much worse, but it’s not a pleasant way to start the day. Still, nothing was lost so I’m thankful for that. I’ll be back again later, Dear Reader, take care.

From Seed to Compost

Oh, this was tedious.

Tiny, bullet hard seeds.

Eh.

You think Jack would do that, Dear Reader, just start growing quinoa from seed even though he knew it’d be a pointless endeavour? You know me all too well, yeah, it wasn’t worthwhile as the seeds are just hard and bitter, as were the original, but, what’s important is the experience. The fact I took a seed like this and grew something, grew something that resembles nothing my garden has ever seen before, took it from harvest to fully, well, mostly, prepared even though the information on drying is sketchy at best. I’ve often said that I’m finally starting to live for myself and, well, if that means growing quinoa and just composting the seeds, it’s all part of the greater garden cycle now, so be it. Quinoa isn’t worth your while growing, unless you can get a specialised variety that won’t just be small, hard and bitter, and even then it won’t be polished and prepared like the store bought. Funny, this is the rare case of store bought being better. If you want to take a look at the guide I used here you go.

I wonder if I could grow corn next.

Jack’s brain never stops scheming.

Crab Apple Jelly is back.

I have been eating absurdly healthy food, delicious to boot, Dear Reader. I have plates piled with the best of fruits and vegetables, seeds and grains, starvation is never the answer to sustained weight loss. Neither are gimmicks or quick fixes. I’ve been trying to reinvent my wardrobe, well, what passed as a wardrobe, it’s a process of re-learning how to dress myself, and learning how to wear anything other than tracksuits, which is more difficult and stressful than you’d imagine. I’m mixing and matching, never being tethered to any one thing again is my goal. I’ve always had issues with clothing, hypersensitivity or some such, so comfort is my top priority, it is funny how you feel a little like you’re an actor in the wrong costume, no matter how well it looks on anyone else I feel as if I weren’t the right one to wear it. I’ll get there, though at a slow pace as the cost is pretty high, even with the off-brand clothes I buy it adds up. I’ll just have to take my time, this is the last time I’ll ever have to do this, as to weight gain, I have bones sticking out in places that I’ve never see bones before, that says a lot after, what?, nearly nine years or so, Jack is a raving success. For all that gets me. Ah, well, Dear Reader, I’ll just hope that one of you you win the lottery and sends Jack something for all his nonsense. Hope springs eternal and all that, take care, I’ll be back again, the garden isn’t done yet.

Just seven squashes left in the shed. Pasta Sauce.

I’m eating so much amazing food these days. Cottage Pies.

Buckwheat Flour Pumpkin Pie

Freshness Update: Even after two days in the fridge, aside from some shrinkage and sweating, the pastry and pie both remain delicious. You’d be best to let it rest overnight and there are methods to avoid shrinkage, but I have absolutely no experience with baked custards so I can only advice you look it up if you need a pristine pie. For Jack this is enough. I still have to test a freezer pie and when I do I’ll report back.

A mixture of Honeybear and Sweet Dumpling.

“Breadcrumbs”.

Wrap it up, toss it in the fridge, gets easy with practice.

Ah, Dear  Reader, this has been in the pipeline for, oh, three years or so. What? I get it done, eventually, heh. In all honesty the major difficulty with a recipe like this is twofold: Firstly I’ve never eaten, seen it in person nor heard anyone ever mention, Pumpkin Pie. So I have no frame of reference as to what it should be like. Recipes, like the one I based this on, never say anything about how it should turn out or taste, then they pose photos to further obfuscate matters, so the second problem occurs: I’m a stickler for details when I’m sharing something, I will wrack my brain to wring out every necessary description, step and variable. Which is exhausting. When large recipes sites fail to do this you’d think I’d give myself a free pass, but I never do, not that it really does anything tangible, I never know who uses these recipes outside of a few dedicated Dear Readers, but it is stressful, it’s why I often shy away from these kinds of recipes, but an abundance of squash forced me to reconsider and, well, here we are. If ever you feel that Jack deserves something for his work remember that a share, like, comment or a coffee really do make a difference. Anyway, onto the breakdown, no, not the break-dance. Stop doing the worm!

I didn’t realise it’d make five. I jut kept returning the scraps to the fridge.

Plop.

Trim the edge with the back of a butter knife. Always away from you.

Fix the edges with a fork.

A little about pumpkin and squash flesh variations. Pumpkins are more watery in composition, because they’re big probably, I just grow things, Dear Reader, I don’t quickly Google and then copy and paste, and fresh squash such as the kind I used are much drier. This is annoying because it reduces the cooking time, which can make it confusing for anyone making these, add to the fact these are individual pies and you’re better doing the double test of a knife  coming out clean and a press for firmness. For the most part, aside from the sweetness naturally present in the flesh, you’re okay with any squash or pumpkin, but do make sure that you’re using the flesh and not the fibres that surround the seeds. You’re making a dense, cream custard not an abomination. The taste isn’t all that much with the squash alone, between the sugar and spices, and whatever topping you decide on, I wish I’d had some whipped cream, you’re going to find them the main cause of taste. As an aside: I’m really not huge into sweet treats anymore, it’s part of the lifestyle, so if at any point I seem less than enthused about any of this just remember I’d never share I recipe I wasn’t happy with and willing to eat myself. I just can’t muster the energy to care all that much about sweet things. The work of eating as I do is draining at times, Dear Reader, but know the recipes when they appear will be great and this is no exception.

Buckwheat bakes fairly grey in pastry, don’t over bake.

Leftover apple thingy.

You’ll have some left over. Hard to guess at this perfectly.

Squash and milk.

All the rest.

Look at me, Dear Reader, and hearken: I don’t know what baked custard is. I was flying by the seat of my pants, thanks to the lack of description in the original, and many others. You’re pouring a mixture of vegetable, fruit really, but anyway, sugar, milk and eggs into pie shells. That isn’t anything like the food I grew up on. Pumpkin pie is this strange concoction from America. With the quick bake, again probably freshness and dryness, I was weary. It looks odd, feels strangely firm until you cut it. When I ate some, hot, but much better cool, I’m freezing two as a test I’ll update whenever, it wasn’t a lot of things, bear with me, it wasn’t mousse, it was too dense for that, it wasn’t baked cheese cake, it was creamier and lighter than that, it wasn’t mashed squash, it was too sweet and gently spiced for that, it really is just it’s own textural experience. If I had had more chances to try foods way back when I may have a better descriptor for it, but as it is, to me at least, it isn’t a lot of things, but it’s really delicious. The pastry might be a little harder than you’re used to and the taste is stronger if you more accustomed to wheat flours, I’m so long at this this is the norm to me so I can’t approach in the other direction in my write up. But, for a dry flour, it yields a delicate pastry, the slightly drier texture always suits me with a moist filling, moist but not soggy, it doesn’t look that was, but it’s firm and just dissolves on the tongue. But it doesn’t look like it should, which is what cause me such confusion eating it. A really interesting taste too, the spice is just there enough, the sweetness is just right, you could top it with more sugar if you’d like it sweeter, or ice-cream say, a double melting delight.

I made way too many.

It looks like custard from a packet, then again, so does blended squash.

They cooked fast and didn’t brown much, the pastry would’ve been burnt if in any longer.

Firm to the touch and just melts in the mouth. Strange.

Cut hot because I’m impatient.

As for the assembly, it’s all really simple once you’ve made the pastry, which with practice is simple. I’ve frozen two, as I said, wrapped in cellophane and tinfoil as per directions, somewhere, and I’ll update with the results of the freezing. As I say I just don’t want this much these days, it’d be fine if I could store them guaranteed, but even then I just feel better without all this unnecessary food hanging around. I’m not on my best form today, so if I’ve missed anything or you have any questions about this recipe just ask below. I’ll be back again soon, Dear Reader.

Ingredients

Pie Crust

440g Buckwheat Flour
200g Butter, Very Cold, Cut into Cubes
2 Chia Egg (2 Tbsp Ground Chia in 6 Tbsp Water for 10 minutes in fridge)
2 Medium Eggs (60-65g in Shell)
60g Caster Sugar
4 to 6 Tbsp Ice Cold Water (Only if Needed)

Pumpkin Custard Filling

750g Steamed Squash Puree
140g Caster Sugar
2 Tsp Pumpkin Spice (More as desired)
2 Medium Eggs (60-65g in Shell)
25g Butter Melted
175ml Full Fat Milk

Makes five 6 inch tarts.

Method

1. Add the Butter, Flour and Caster Sugar and crumble together with hands until it forms a lumpy, dry breadcrumb like mixture.

2. Add the two Eggs, Chia and Chicken, and then mix with a fork without water. You shouldn’t need it.

3. Dust lightly with flour, knead into a ball and then form into a flat disc and place in fridge for 2 hours.

5. Grease the baking tin with Butter and scatter with Buckwheat Flour, shaking out the excess.

6. Divide dough into five parts, take o part from the fridge as needed, keeping the others chilled, roll out the Dough into a circle and place over the baking tin, trimming the edges as needed. Prick the bottom with a fork.

7. Blind bake, with baking beads or rice in crumpled greaseproof paper, for 10 to 15 minutes at 180c (Fan). Remove from the oven and remove the rice and greaseproof paper then bake for another 5 minutes or until centre is dry to the touch. Leave to cool in tins.

8. Pre-heat the oven to 200c (Fan) and add the Squash and Milk to a food processor and blend until smooth, then add the Sugar, Eggs and Pumpkin Spice, blend until uniform and smooth. Finally blend in the Butter until mixed. Pour into the baked shells.

9. Bake the Pies for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 180c (Fan) and bake for a further 15-25 minutes or until pies are firm to the touch. Bake for longer if needed, but cover with grease-proof if the top starts to brown too much. When ready test with a knife and if clean leave the pies to cool completely before cutting.

Barrels of Jack

I just planted some expired seeds. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I mean, how, what…I’ll dry it then, I guess.
Birds, bees, Butterflies and Jack.
Remember the random yellow strawberries I transplanted? Ta-da! I should pull that nettle.

I’m following this guide, which unlike far too many other guides out there isn’t just a cheap copy and paste job with stock photos. I was gifted very bitter quinoa and some expired seeds, then I threw the seeds in a pot for giggles and they just refused to die, three plants started, three plants were transplanted and they just kept growing, in the heatwave, in the cold spells, until today, yes, today Dear Reader, Jack works fast, Dearest Darling Jack as you are wont to call me, saw an infestation of worms had taken the quinoa over, then after careful examination it turned out that the quinoa seeds had sprouted in places as they’d been ready to harvest for a while. So, I grab a secateurs and get to work, taking the heads and removing leaves. The heads are drying in a paper bag in the shed, I’ll keep you up dated, the next step involves removing the hull or chaff, no idea. Lot of work for little reward I’m told, but I have to see this through. I squeezed a flower? Seed pod? and quinoa popped out. So, I guess we’ll see.

 The tap splutters, but as long as the barrels stays dry that’s fine.

The magical angle.

Should this even work so well?

I’ll get to you soon!

I mentioned the barrels a lot, didn’t I? Yeah, when it comes to projects like this they tend to take over my attention completely. You know I sealed them, successfully thankfully, with epoxy, and had to connect two via some hose. No I will not buy hose when old hose is plentiful. We had a heavy rain and one was filled, but the hose wasn’t draining, the barrel was nearly full, so I twisted the hose and viola: Water drained rapidly into the second. Now, anyone else would’ve been happy at that, but with the placement of the hole it meant that a lot of water wouldn’t be collected, so I smartly pulled the hose out and almost drowned myself, I quickly shoved it back in, that’s a too perfectly airtight seal, but I won’t complain. Then the water stops as the angle is wrong. So I just move it a bit until it drains just a bit and stops. Then, seriously, I’m a terrible story-teller, I go and fetch the huge bucket I collected rain in because I knew I’d end up screwing around with the barrels, and tested this new angle, the first barrel was almost entirely full, well above the hose, but once I filled the rest it drained! That means I can collect a huge amount of water with losing out to empty space, you lose below the tap-line, the barrels are curved at the bottom, so nothing can be done there, but the top was another issue, now it isn’t. It’s all angles and gravity and all a fluke, but a really useful one. I’ll connect the final barrel soon.

Phlox, I think. The stem warped a lot.
Whatever these are they smell wonderful.
Plant your parsnips late it seems.
I tilted the pot to allow frequent draining and it’s getting clearer.

I’m a water expert now. Heh. I don’t have much more to relate, Dear Reader, I’m currently trying to vary my wardrobe, which sounds easy, but when you have difficultly buying clothes in your size and have spent years over-weight and unable to dress yourself, well, it leaves scars. Currently I’ve found another Tall store, Bad Rhino, and really have found their clothes a great fit. I’m only dressing for myself and I have to wear clothes that are comfortable, an elasticated soft-buckled belt has worked wonders. It sounds easy, but I have no frame of reference for any of this, for a long, long time I wore just one colour of tee-shirt and baggy tracksuits, it was traumatic, not in the dramatic sense we often assign to those kinds of ideas, but still an ordeal, I just feel like an impostor, like I’ll wear jeans and they’ll be wrong somehow. I’m working on it gradually, teaching myself to have a selection rather than being trapped in just one style. Stress hasn’t exactly left me a roguish devil, Dear Reader, if I lose any more weight I’ll just be gaunt and haunted. As it is I’m aged, more than my years a bit, but I’m healthy and I’ve been through so much it has had to wear on me, so now I want to wear comfortable, varied clothes, to enjoy my garden and to pester you about new projects. I’ve earned it, I just wish for an end to all the waiting on surgeries, soon I say often, to whom I don’t know, but soon. Until later, Dear Reader.

Carrot and Squash Diet

A little flyaway, a little purple sun.

They’re purple through in some cases.

That’s forty four.

Dear Reader I seem to be eating nothing but squash and carrots, that might be hyperbole, but I certainly have been eating a lot of fresh food and that’s never a bad thing. I harvested the first of he purple carrots today, they’re not quite what the photos claimed, but then again are any plants? The touched up or outright fabricated photos you get on seed sites can be very very misleading, but despite their rough exterior and spotty colouration they have one very admirable trait: They’re deliciously sweet. Much like yellow beetroot they really shock the taste buds with their sugary, extremely tender flesh. The skin was thicker, but you couldn’t notice it after roasting. I’ll be getting a batch of these again, this year’s were just roughly tossed into a pot, but I should have a good supply, still more flyaway left too. As for squash, well as you can see I went out for fresh air and came back in from the evening’s cold, laden with a squash per pocket, gently cradled as I’m always convinced that I’ll manage to drop one, I, well I have, but instantly caught it. When it comes to squash my reflexes are unparalleled apparently, Dear Reader. I didn’t see these growing as they’re so dark and were concealed in amongst the foliage and vines. A short post, which might be last last big update of the garden as the weather is taking a turn for the worse. Then again, Dear Reader, I say that lot and it never seems to hold true. We’ll just have to wait and see. Take care.