Just a quick post. The sun was perfect today and in my back and forth trot I noticed that a new star had appeared in the garden, the little mystery flower that does indeed seem to be a tulip, at least according to my notes and Google searches. It closed very quickly, but I managed to catch it in a, albeit blurry, photo. I was too busy planting more potatoes, filling pots and planting more dahlias for perfect capturing. What makes this little flower somewhat special, along with the gorgeous pink hyacinth behind it is that the pot they’re planted in has the cancellation letters from those dark times, see the Journey page for more information, so I’m pretty pleased that a flower that looks like a tiny twinkling star has appeared above them. I was joking that since we didn’t know what kind of flower it was before it opened that maybe it grew from the letters. It seemed a fitting way to put those days behind me. Just throwing them away, burning them or defacing them didn’t seem the best way, planting something above them felt cathartic as they rot away life moves on above them. Okay, see you later, Dear Reader.
How many ways can one greet you, Dear Reader? Do I need to start with a hey? A hello? A yo? Or do I just get directly to the important parts? I have no idea either, that’s why I’m typing this out. Whew. That’s the introductions over. Today we’re going to talk about soft, moist and, almost, velvety compost. What? Heh. This is in part a gardening blog, I suppose. As with everything it’s rough and ready, but I do like to keep you up-to-date on any experiments in the garden. You can always skip over these posts so I’ll just carry on talking to my Devoted Dear Readers who put up with me. Now, I’m sure I mentioned, no idea when, that I’m trying shredded, rather than just torn, paper in my compost as there was a problem with the whole mass becoming solid and almost unstirrable, I’ve been picking paper out of the beds where I used the last batch. Had to us it as it was getting to be a problem. Starting fresh I’ve tried a new route and how did it fare? Really well, the compost stirs easily and has a much better feel, hard to put it properly. It’s like stirring thick porridge, the whole feels less solid. So, as you see above, I’m keeping a bin full of shredded newspaper, cardboard, whatever will shred and layering the bins properly. I’ll keep doing this as it’s just about the same amount of work as the old way and the long-term looks better. I’m saving the world, right? This is what so many talk about but never do because here is no credit for it, no great applause. But, here’s where Jack gets odd: There is, it’s in the life in the soil, the worms, the insects, the microbes I can’t even see, and it’s in the soil where vegetables will grow. The light and loose soil that will let plants flourish. It’s the pleasure of knowing that each year that passes will bring better and better yields, brighter, healthier flowers. Nature is repaying my work, as with all things worthwhile it takes a long time and is all too easy to overlook. Or maybe I’m just an oddball playing with dirt.
I put down a couple of trays of flower seeds, roughly filling in and scattering, too much fuss with flowers leads to disappointment, and as they have germinated I decided to put down a few cabbage (Golden Acre) seeds. The weather is getting warmer, but it’s still uncertain, so slowly does it. Thankfully this year I know a lot more than I used to and I know that rushing will leave me with large spaces of time where nothing can be done. So, experience has given me the kindness of knowing that it’ll all get done in time. That seeds will start only when the weather suits, no matter how soon I put them down. That squash seeds need high heat and impatience leads to rot and loss. Most important of all is that a little can go a long way. I have only put two seeds in each pot as last year I put five or more and ended up with cramped seedlings that needed extensive thinning. I’m doing this for the joy of it all, Dear Reader, I answer to no one and I’m learning that I can do it and should believe in my self more. I walked through the garden today, cleaning a little here and here, as it wasn’t warm enough to do much and I saw so many shoot of green, some old friends making a return visit, some new making their first appearances. Even a few oddities, the garlic that died seems to be returning, the two solo bulbs have started to produce leaves, they’ll be interesting to watch, whether I’ll break the secret of the solo bulb is anyone’s guess. I still have space and plenty of plants waiting to be planted and replanted. I was gifted a purple asparagus crown that has started indoors and will need hardening off before it goes out. The rose cuttings will need potting and the bay laurel, dormant for two years is finally starting in earnest. I was looking at the tires that didn’t do very well last year and they seem to be better now the bulbs have been established. There is work to be done, but it’s enjoyable more and more each year as my experience grows. Until later, Dear Reader, take care.
I’ve been preparing for a birthday all day today and I’m really tired, Dear Reader. I’ll have photos of the birthday cake, made with Buckwheat Flour, and the Lemon Meringue Tart, the base was the only thing bought and isn’t gluten free. They turned out well, when I set my mind to it I can bake pretty well. Naturally since the sun was shining I took to the garden for a while too. I’m honestly sure that stones breed while in the ground because I never seem to stop hitting them whenever I start prepping the beds for planting. I decided to make use of the space between the paths, for pea picking, someday, this weather is dire, and planted onions. It’s a lot large when you start planting. There are three rows of onions there. Yes, that’s pink yarn and the hair pins, once for pinning strawberry runners, are great for keeping it in place. I then scattered the peat and sawdust, that the bulbs I bought today came packaged in, to keep it dry. Drier at least. The cheap corms and root sections were back again so I got some Button Snakewort (Liatris spicata) and Crimson Pirate (Hemerocallis). Yeah, like I know the Latin names off and didn’t just copy and paste. Jack is good, but not that good, Dear Reader. The shop was so hot that the Crimson Pirate had already started and is a healthy green. The snakewort is in between the red hot pokers. With a purple rose because I have no sense of colour matching.
The climbers are doing well too. I had some of the button snakewort, what an awful name, Kansas Gay Feather is a little better, hard to remember either, spare so I popped a few in beside the jasmine and honeysuckle, the honeysuckle has jammed it’s roots everywhere in the bucket. It’s so dense, thankfully also bottomless. The clematis isn’t suffering for being a cut off section of root and in a pot. It’s really surging into a lush plant again. It’s still a little slow around here, but I get a little done at a time when the weather is fine so I can’t complain all that much. I’ll see you later, Dear Reader. I’ll bring cake.
Jack is really starting slow this year Dear Reader, but in truth though I often get an early start the seeds will only germinate when the weather is consistent so it doesn’t really change much, aside from my mood, which is black as the weather unless the sun graces us with its presence for a short while. I managed to get a little done today at least. The potatoes are down and fed. I went on my yearly expedition to the discount store and stocked up on feed and slug pellets. The different in price, even between the two discount stores is amazing. I also found shallots, red sun, a very large sized set of sets, red hot poker crowns, I really like them for some reason and a purple rose that better be purple unlike the Waltztime that wasn’t. It took three baskets and didn’t cost much at all. I’m a heavy handed feeder, but it pays off in the long run. When everything is one fifty you can’t help but buy, right?
Funny story, I was browsing the internet reading about pumps for rain barrels, I have an old irrigation pipe now that needs to be affixed to the wall, so I was curious if there was anything cheap that could help with filling watering cans and maybe let me use a hose. There wasn’t, but I did see a hose attached to what looked like my tap. If you’re new then you might not know that my rain barrels were all made with no idea of how to make them. They’re barrels, drilled with a bit I got for free, run-off pipes made of old hose, guttering, some adapted and some new, and a fermenter’s tap. All rough and ready, but they’ve stood the test of time. See the taps are all the same as they fit handily and it turns out that the weird shape at the end is to allow a hose connector. I had no idea! How embarrassing, how could you not know that, Dear Reader? Shameful! Heh. So I popped out, grabbed a few adapters that were left around, snapped off part of the inside and attached a hose section, clicked it on and turned on the tap to see water spurting from the hose! Yeah, I can fill watering cans, the pressure is just high enough for that, without having to centre them dead-level under the tap. It’s funny how even the earliest experiments I tried in the garden have stood the test of time.
It’s early yet, but I’m making progress. There’s a bit of colour cropping up here and there and I can see new buds started on the recently moved roses. The area where they were is now flat and gravelled over. The Summer bulbs are starting too, they’ll be very slow growing, but I’m glad to see the small ones are still alive. They should look much better this year after division. Okay, that’s it for now, Dear Reader, take care.
You just can’t get enough of Jack, can you Dear Reader? Well here I am, splattered with sunshine, trailing in the Spring and making progress towards getting started. We’ve had really good weather these last few days so you can be sure that I’ve been making the most of it. I have a lot of jobs to do, now instead of getting flustered I’m taking them a little at a time, slowly chipping away at my work load. You know I noticed that I no longer feel ill and unable to eat or drink after working myself like, well, Jack. The diastasis recti was affecting me in way I haven’t realised until now. I’m afraid I don’t have anything that exciting to report. I’m holding back on seed planting, though I just put down a few saved flower seeds as a test, until I’m sure the weather is staying warm. I have plenty to finish so I’m in no hurry.
I have to re-pot strawberries, which seems to be an endless task. Sadly the strawberry barrel wasn’t a success. I managed to salvage the strawberry roots and have re-potted them in a large pot. The roots on the yellow strawberries are thick, but very short so they’re going in slightly smaller pots. As for the barrel, well, I was at a loss at first, but then I had an idea. You can see the final result below. A few neatly split pots sit over the gaps where the holes were in the full barrel. It’ll be a nice show-piece, needs a very large plant to make use of all that root space. A lot of the garden is staying the same, when things are going well I’m happy to leave them be.
I seem to be doing nothing but shifting soil from pot to pot. Emptying ones to refill them, throwing away dead plants and using that soil to fill pots for other plants that are being moved. I feel as if I’d emptied and refilled the wheelbarrow hundreds of times. I’m slowly filling pots for seedlings. It’s fiddly work and there will be quite a few to fill. Thankfully the herbs just go into their final pots, so will the chillies. Peas and beans are going in the soil once it warms. Squash have larger pots for starting in due to their huge roots. It’s wonderful to be tired, really beat, but not in pain, not sick and worried about strain. I’m still being careful, but everything seems to be doing well. The garden is done for me and me alone, I’m just going to take it at my own pace and enjoy it. See you later, Dear Reader.
Original Quinoa Flour Bread Recipe here.
A Dear Reader, yes, there are a few of you, happened to name me as part of their inspiration for a wonderful recipe, which you can see for yourself here. They also set my brain in motion. See, one of the things that I’ve found in my style of cooking and baking is that I’m very much out of the norm. I’m not getting into this in a big way, but I have often wondered what it would’ve taken for me to, well, fit in. I honestly think it would’ve been detrimental to my recipes, my readership and just generally to the blog. See, if I had followed the idea, erroneous idea, don’t care too long at this, that all free-from baking requires gums and starches, well, I’d have starved, end of. See, I also thought that that was the “correct” way, having learned in time it’s the common way. Is it correct? Depends, nutritionally lacking foods made from bits and pieces that photograph well or can be sold commercially are so ubiquitous that I can take a shot at them and hit everyone. They’re bad, but there are so many shades of grey that it would take a lifetime to go through them all. But what’s important is that if you made Jack’s style a brand say. Jack’s Diet! From Fat To Jack! Etc. Then you’d see it differently, no longer an aberration, but actually a contender. But, that’d entail gatekeeping, lying, sponsorships, shady ones, some are fine, not complaining here just saying, because that’s why the gum and starch side is seen as the only side. It’s not that good, but a starving coeliac isn’t fussy and brand loyalty builds a great defensive line of buyers. I’m hitting the tinfoil hat threshold here, but it’s backed up simply by the blog here. You see recipes made with skill and craft that no one else has. I’m not bragging, if I was I’d be doing a much better job. I’m just reiterating for what feels like the millionth time that there are many kinds of free-from baking and cooking. Try different things out, write posts differently, be yourself, Dear Reader. I no longer care about acclaim or glory. With my scar came a sense of freedom. The free-from world is a mess, the fact I struggle to find recipes, to find ingredients to just find clear information speaks to that. What can be done? Yeah, that’s a huge order, just be open-minded and really look at what you’re eating. I’m not going to wreck my good mood breaking this down again and again. Nor do I want to attack anyone. Let’s talk bread. Let’s enjoy these posts, what more needs to be done?
Baps are here.
You know I can never understand why quinoa flour is so ridiculously expensive. I keep an eye out on Amazon hoping for a new start-up, which is what this was, that has a cheaper bag of flour in stock, marked as Gluten Free, not naturally gluten free, containing no gluten ingredients or any of those sneaky terms. Not to say that it’s that cheap, but by comparison to a bag less than half the size for more I’d say it was okay. It’s actually a really nice flour, not paid for this, but I have to mention it for anyone struggling to find any. Oh, it’s gone. Sorry. It lasted a few days at least. See? I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s difficult. I’ve found that free-from flours can vary, but rarely by a great deal. Sometimes you get one that’s off colour or just doesn’t work as well. This one is, as I’ve said, a really good quality flour, no bitterness coming through either. Grinding your own leads to a very uneven texture without a very good grinder. So, once every few months I splurge and then bake up a storm. The reason I have so many of these recipes is that I bought a batch of six bags for a pittance that were going out of date very quickly.
You know what irks me? Every bags says how it replaces wheat flour, no, no, NO! And that they have a lot of recipes, which they never do. Seriously, how daunting is that to someone trying these out for the first time. You know, way back in the beginning, when I bought quinoa for the first time it had no clear instruction on how to cook it. Ditto amaranth, kaniwa and, I think buckwheat was rough too. Even rice tells you to boil and drain and that’s just wrong. Steam it, always perfect. But complacency is a dangerous thing, Dear Reader, I was miserable in the beginning and I was damned if I was going to eat terrible food forever. Yes, I too ate gummy loaves and loved them, more fool all of us, Dear Reader. Here I am, with crispy quinoa loaves and springy buckwheat baps. See? What the companies rely on is the idea that you can really only get this kind of bread with some kind of special ingredient or by buying their brands. I figured out all of this myself, through stubborn determination and by eating a lot of nasty bread. I’ve talked about the breads in numerous posts so I won’t rethread old ground again. These turned out really, really well.
It turned out to be a rather pleasant day, hence my buoyant mood, I am so buoyant , you shut up! So I went out filling potato pots, getting them ready in advance and decided I should move my poor exposed Canna Indica to a larger pot as it really needs the space. A bulb that cost a Euro and thirty nine cents, yes, I remember, I rooted through a bulb bin and found it in amongst tiny plants, should’ve been easy to move. As you can see the solid mass of roots and new growth argued otherwise. So, I re-potted it by literally placing the whole mass, moved by those nigh unbreakable stems, they’re like ropes, into a pot lined with a little soil which I filled in. Tedious and will be repeated for other established plants like the strawberries. Still, it’s amazing what can be grown in a pot. You’ve seen the sunchokes. You just have to try, I suppose, Dear Reader, you really never know what you can accomplish if you never start. Okay, I’ll pop off to hope for good weather, there are still pots to fill, empty and work to be done. Until later.
I sure hope I don’t choke…WHAT AM I DOING WITH TEN KILOGRAMS OF SUNCHOKES?! Yeeaahh, Dear Reader, I have to admit that I did think these were artichokes when I started and that I really wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing with them, I was going to leave them in the pot, but curiosity got the better of me and, well, here we are. If nothing else I’ve enjoyed growing these, there’s no way I’ll put any down again, they’re really thirsty plants and if they get into the soil that’s that because they’re extremely invasive. But, see, here’s the thing: We’re often told to go out there and try everything, which usually means go cause trouble, go be a nuisance, be selfish and be abled bodied enough to actually do what you want. To those who can’t do a lot for various reasons, well, we tend to get left behind. So, here I am, living, not the life I’d have asked for, but an interesting one none the less. While I’m here I’ll tell you how to store your sunchokes, they don’t last long out of the ground, these might be wasted, but I treated them properly, they deserve that. First is to make sure not one single bulb stays in the soil, seriously they’re fiddly, but one nub will regrow an entire plant. Imagine if they were potatoes, a shame. Then wash them, I used saved rainwater, dividing and cleaning in the ever cooling weather. Then pop them in a mesh bag and let them dry out somewhere. I have mine in the shed. I think they last a few weeks, maybe more, some aren’t so hot, but the majority are fine for storing.
I think these are something of a gourmet tuber. Hah. Prolific as they are I guess the limited storage time would make them harder to sell cheaply. I do really hope that someone will take a few at least. They make a great privacy fence for the Summer, dying back for the Winter and letting in light. I don’t know what made them grow so much, I had about ten or so to start, if even that. They were fed with comfrey tea, but I think they just grow like this. They can reach ten feet, mine were about seven in a pot. They actually only go so deep and leave a space at the bottom for rooting, rather like potatoes. Which, as you can see above, are starting to sprout. This year’s weather has been terrible, but I hope by the time they’re ready for planting it’ll be better. Who knows? I’ll see you again later, Dear Reader.